Monday, June 27, 2005

Improve the World, Be a Crank

Several years ago there was an article in the Readers Digest called This World Needs More Cranks. It advocated shaming those who do wrong.

I don't remember a lot of details of the article, so I will give you the gist of it as I remember it. The article gave an example of a little old woman who was a "crank." When she rode the bus she reprimanded the people who didn't pay their fare. "I paid to ride this bus, you should pay too. If no one paid, we wouldn't be able to take a bus at all because they couldn't afford to run them," she'd chastise. Well, of course this little lady got sworn at by some of her "victims", but the interesting thing about her was that when she was on board, people started paying their fare whether she said something or not. When she wasn't on board, they were back to wanting a free ride.

Several weeks ago I was reminded of this article. I was sitting in a bus shelter when 2 junior high boys got off a bus. I have no idea what set them off, but they went from appearing fine to incensed with anger in about 2 seconds. One boy picked up his skateboard and with all his force hit the bus shelter glass. Since I was in the shelter, I was particularly glad it didn't shatter. They walked off swearing loudly. After a few minutes they returned, bad attitude in tow. Me, I was still in the shelter.

One boy again bashed his skateboard against the glass. Then he walked to where I was sitting and bashed the glass right beside my head and screamed "did that scare you?" Immediately I thought, "this world needs more cranks." I jumped up and walked out of the shelter. He didn't expect that, - I could tell because he immediately sped up his gait.

I didn't have a clue what I was about to say, I figured I'd find out as soon as he did. "Excuse me," I yelled after him. He walked on, cool - but still picking up his pace. "Excuse me, excuse me, I'm talking to you," I yelled politely. He ignored me and kept walking. I yelled again, "Excuse me, are you a coward?"

Put off by his lack of appreciation of me, I yelled, "You are a coward! You are a coward! You won't even stop to hear what I say." Evidently he was tired of me following him, because he turned around and swore at me. "What do you want?" he demanded.

I replied with conviction, "You are going to be a horrible person when you grow up if you don't change your ways now." He swore, rolled his eyes and walked off.

I don't pretend to think that I helped this boy get closer to being a respectful person, (ok, so maybe I do, just a little bit). However, what if we all put a little shame on the people who are so disrespectful of people and property. I think if we all used a little crankiness at the right moments, we could curb many undesirable traits we see so prevalent in our culture.

As for that young man, we meet regularly on Tuesdays at the shelter for a few minutes. His head drops when he sees me and he peeps out from underneath his hair. I can nearly read his mind think, "the crazy woman is here--please crazy woman leave me alone." He acts respectful and I never pass up the opportunity to smile politely at the poor child.

After my initial communication with this kid, I came home and asked Gordon the ends and outs of a citizen's arrest. I got pretty excited to learn my "rights," but I ended my lesson from Gordon by saying, "tell your friends at work if it comes over the (work) radio that a middle aged chubby woman is sitting on top of a teenager, come quickly, it's me."

So with this, I encourage you: Stand up! Be counted as a crank.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

Me in my everyday clothes. I know, I look kind of dowdy here, but it's the best I could do after all my homemaking duties. Posted by Hello

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Friday, June 24, 2005

Gordon and Valerie Posted by Hello

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Stephanie and John Mark Posted by Hello

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Hannah and Lucy, June 2005 Posted by Hello

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Rachael and Deborah, 2004 Posted by Hello

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My Stairsteps in a Canola Field Posted by Hello

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Deborah and her Daddy Posted by Hello

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Today Deborah graduated from kindergarten. It was a beautiful ceremony. The theme was Graduating Bear Style. There were lots of bears; bears dressed as students, bears holding balloons, bears having a tea party. I had never been to a kindergarten graduation before, so I was pleasantly surprised with the cuteness of it all. The children marched in slowly. Deborah obviously was very sensitive to protocol. It appeared she wasn't sure if it was acceptable to smile. All the children seemed so sombre -- none of them were smiling, or at least they weren't a good part of the time.

Ms. Long told stories about each child. I was nearly embarrassed by her stories of Deborah. She said Deborah was the girly girl of the class. She loves to dress up and be very lady like. Then she said, "Just to prove my point, right before we left our classroom to come out here, Deborah put on more lipstick." Deborah had snuck some blue lip gloss to school for the occasion. Please know that I don't encourage this. It seems to be innate for her. I thought to myself now everyone thinks this is the way Deborah's mom is. Then it came time for me to go accept my rose from Deborah and I'm sure I shattered everyone's illusions of Deborah's mom. I'm just glad I hadn't worn a sweat suit.

I was reminded today of Deborah's first day of school. I knew her teacher's name, as I had met her when we enrolled Deborah. But just to give Deborah opportunity to talk about kindergarten, I asked her her teacher's name. She pondered a second or two and then burst out, "Oh I remember now. Her name is Miss Tall." I thought it was terribly cute that she called Ms. Long, "Miss Tall."


Monday, June 20, 2005

First day of flooding. Deborah is in pink in the center. Posted by Hello

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Day 2 of flooding. Hannah is next to the water. Posted by Hello

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Flooding in Edmonton's River Valley

This may be boring to all of you, but it's rather exciting up here. Our North Saskatchewan River has broke free and jumped its banks. (I lifted that quote from a Rich Mullins song --"the Cimmeron broke free and jumped its banks." Yes, that's poetic for, it's flooding. It's really cool, because it's not even raining. Our river is fed from the mountains, and the mountains' streams are causing overflow down the river.

The kids and I went down yesterday to check it out. Many logs were floating swiftly down stream. We just returned from our second gawking excursion and the river is still rising. These pictures are of the same location, one taken yesterday, the other today.

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Psalm 50:23 "But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me."

--Gordon, I'm thankful for Gordon, my husband. We don't always see eye to eye, and sometimes we fight, and sometimes I wish he'd not treat me like a child, ...... But I'm still thankful for him. He is a "family man" and since it's my family, I find that very attractive. He is intelligent, honest, hard-working, an excellent daddy, a good provider, committed and faithful.

--My Children, I'm thankful for my children. I have 5 and they represent two separate litters. Stephanie and Christopher are my first litter and Rachael, Hannah, and Deborah are my second and final litter.

Stephanie is 20. Her life turned me to God and I will never get over the impact she had on me. I didn't know it was possible to love so much and so deeply. In 1 Corinthians there is a man mentioned whose name was Stephanus. Stephanus "refreshes my spirit" Paul wrote. Well, my Stephanie refreshes my spirit. She is sensitive, funny, Godly, idealistic, good and pure. She is quick to see the good in others. Now that she is a woman, I find her an absolute blast to hang out with. She is a lot like me, but a ton wiser than I was at her age. I'm thankful for her and for her wisdom.

Christopher is 16. Over the past two years, I've watched him become more and more manly. Subsiding are the fantasies of being a super-hero, and surfacing is a man. For a number of years I thought Christopher was "off." I worried that he was a few fries short of a happy meal. He was the sweetest and gentlest child I ever knew. I called him my "Little Gentle Man." But I worried that he just "didn't get it." He went a number of years thinking he was invincible. He thought he could fly, beat up anyone, fight any bear in the woods and win, and that everyone trembled when they saw his brute strength. One summer we forbade him to play his superhero roll. He wept and wailed, "but I'm not playing, I really AM a superhero." Yep, I imagined sitting in the psychiatrist's office with him as we learned more about delusional behavior. But fortunately Christopher now has a grip on reality. He is a good worker, he is thoughtful and kind, sensitive and good. He too is committed to God, and I'm thankful for all he is and all he is becoming.

Rachael is my Dykstra child. She is the most like my husband's side of the family. She knows more than a typical 9 year old. (Read between the lines, she's a know it all.) She is full of life. I love how her eyes sparkle, they smile every bit as much as her mouth does. She loves to read and loves physical activity. She is well rounded. She laughs easily at my corny jokes. She is a very good worker; she's the one I count on to help me most. Rachael is beginning to read the Bible regularly and I'm thankful for her and her love for knowledge. I am thankful for Rachael.

Hannah is 8. She reminds me of me when I was little. She is thoughtful and sensitive. She cries when I cry. When she was 3 we were in the van. In the lane coming toward us was a motorcycle parade. A policeman on a police motorcycle was on the side of the road, stopping traffic for this parade. I was so touched by Hannah's 3 year old sensitivity when she said, "Oh that is so sad. They won't let him in." That is Hannah! She is artsy, tender and loves lady type things. (Presently she claims to be a tom-boy, but believe me, she may be active and tough, but a tomboy she's not.) I am thankful for Hannah.

Deborah is the baby of the family (in more ways than one). She is 5. She's stout and tall. I think she may end up the biggest of the girls. She looks like me, I think. She is very social, loves people, has lots of friends. She is polite. She still sucks her thumb and makes little effort to give it up. "It tastes so good," she says. She has just learned to read and we are all excited about that. She still loves to be held and cuddled lots. I am thankful for Deborah.

--I am thankful for my church, my pastor and his wife, and all our friends there. Our church is presently going through a hard time. A lot of people have left and maybe more will be going. But I know my church is Christ centered and I take great comfort in that.

--I'm thankful for God's gifts to me in the form of the Bible and prayer. These are our roadmaps in these troubled and confusing times. I'm thankful for the guidance.

--I'm thankful for the freedom and beauty of my country.

--I'm thankful that our needs are met and that my children's needs are met. Not long ago I read about a man visiting Brazil. At a red light a little girl about 4 years old came out to wash his headlights. This was a modification on the windshield washer's job, but she wasn't big enough to reach the windshield, so she washed the headlights instead. He gave her some money and drove on. He cried out to God, "God why don't you do something about that?" He sensed God respond with, "I am. I created you." The story was a heart wrenching story and I have yet to get it out of my mind. It could have been my children in the streets washing headlights for a quarter. I'm thankful for our met needs. (I wish I could reconcile in my mind why we have so much and others so little. Nonetheless, I'm thankful for my children's needs being met.)

--I'm thankful for the experiences and revelations I've had over the years that have shaped me and brought me closer to God.

--I'm thankful that God continues to take me deeper in my relationship with him.

Psalm 50:23 "But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me."

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Nature and the Present

In 1875 John Muir asked "what is the human's part in the mountain's destiny?" I read that question last night and took a little bit of time to think about it. I remembered what Wordsworth said, "Let nature be your teacher," and Psalm 19, "The heavens tell of the glory of God." I suppose everyone could have a different answer for John Muir's question, but for me, the answer is simple. Nature can teach me about and point me to the glory of God. I very much desire to be a good student in God's classroom of nature.

Annie Dillard wrote, "I have experienced the present purely through my senses." The "present" has much to offer. Right now, I'm at my picnic table enjoying the birds, the sunshine, the trees. This is my favorite way to begin a day. My trusty coffee mug, Bible, notebook, and most of all, an attitude of quiet and stillness to capture the present. My greatest enemy during my morning quiet time is getting caught up thinking about the work that needs to be done out here; the garage needs paint, the garden has weeds, the grass needs mowing, the feeders need bird seed. It is a constant mind battle to train myself to refocus when I start thinking about those things instead of what God wants to show me in His creation.

I'm nearly 40. I so regret that I didn't learn to appreciate nature with all my senses 20-30 years ago. But unfortunately this lesson is a relatively new one to me.

Every thing I love about nature, I realize now, is grace. Anything "grace" is undeserved, unearned, and unmerited. Grace is "bonus." All the birds have a different song. That's grace. God could have easily given them no song or made them all have the same song. I'm thankful for the gift of grace in the songs of the birds.

In bloom in my garden right now are yellow day lilies, purple cornflower, white irises, deep pink peonies. God chose to give us multiple colors to enjoy. That's grace.

Psalms 66:4 "Everything on earth will worship you: they will sing your praises, shouting your name in glorious songs." What is my part in the mountain's destiny? or the birds', trees', flowers' destiny? My part is to follow their lead and worship the Creator with them.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Check this out.

This video is always good at making me smile. You have to have media to run it. Watch it to the end, because it keeps getting better. The quality is poor, but still captures how amazing it is.

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Big Guy aka Christopher Michael Posted by Hello

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Big Guy

Christopher left this morning. This is the dreaded time of the year that I abhor. Sadness so large I feel I will drown in my own tears. A giant lump in my throat that won't go away. Should I speak about the lump, it explodes out my eyeballs. I spoke to my mom earlier. She wanted to know how Christopher was this morning. I told her that in the area of our departures he is "parentified." When we are about to say goodbye, he always takes the bull by the horns and is manly and mature. He hugs me and tells me he loves me. He acts the comforting parent role, I the falling apart child.

But that aside, I thought I'd share a few of the funny or noteworthy things Christopher did while he was here. These are written in present tense, that is because I wrote them as they happened, but am just now blogging them.

** "Big Guy" is what I call Christopher. I am here to tell you that Big Guy's math is no better than his spelling. He is in the process of baking a coffee cake. He doubled the recipe. He just checked it in the oven, and as he looked at it he said, "I swear, I don't know what I did." The cake is swimming in oil. Rachael just asked when the cake would be ready, and Christopher replied, "Well Rachael, the way it's looking, when Jesus comes back." (Incidentally, the cake turned out to be a scrumptious one. Very well made. My comment about Christopher's math was out to lunch.)

**We are having a very lazy Sunday evening. He and I were sitting side by side on the sofa when he said, "I sure miss Ned and Ted." I asked who Ned and Ted are and he said, "They were my imaginary friends from 5th grade."

**I asked him about a girl that I knew in Arkansas years ago when I still lived there. I asked if she was cute. He tried to be kind and said, "Well not in an attractive sort of way." You got to love someone so kind.

**After returning from West Edmonton Mall, he was talking about how expensive the clothes were. He told me about a pair of jeans for $70. "Whuuut? I paid $3 for these," he said pointing down at the jeans he was wearing from Goodwill. "And about those Abercrombie t-shirts, I can do the same thing with a white t-shirt and a marker."

**Christopher had diarrhea last night. He slept in the bedroom closest to the bathroom. When he got up this morning he told me the bed had sand in it. He asked who the last person to sleep there was. I told him it was me. He asked when I slept there and why. I told him about 5 weeks ago because I was mad. (The sand was from my socks which I left on because my feet were cold.) Christopher laughed really hard to learn that Mom loses it and becomes irrational.

**Christopher came to see me at work. He hugged me when he got there. I am so proud of him. I loved that he wasn't embarrassed to hug me in public.

**We have a man in our church who has a corny sense of humor. Probably no one under 35 could appreciate it. I quite like the guy's humor. However, Christopher did not. When we got home he said, in the trying-to-be-gentle sort of way, "Don't you think he's kindda a goober?"

Christopher blesses me so much more than I could ever express in words. I love who he is. I love his kindness, his gentleness, his sense of humor, and his way of viewing the world. I love that he is a bold Christian. I love that he loves me and that we can talk so easily with each other. I am so glad God allowed me to be his mother.

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

My Kids are Special (I know yours are too, but this is my blog)

The clouds are low and heavy, white-gray poofs, heavily laden with water. Thunder is rumbling in the distance. This is a nice place to be, here at the picnic table on the patio. It's cool, probably around 60. The lilac trees are shedding tiny petals -- the water in the birdbaths have a floating garden on the surface. Lucy is romping around with her squeeze toy. When the kids tease her and play like they're going to steal it, the fur on her neck stands up. She's quite attached to her little toys.

The girls are enjoying the new swing Christopher concocted for them on the Maple tree. They look so carefree and innocent with their hair flying in the breeze. Their teeth dominate their faces from their happy smiles.

My girls are very unique and filled with idiosyncrasies. The clothes they are wearing right now capture an element of their personalities. Rachael, who has on a t-shirt and denim shorts, is sitting on the new swing spinning round and round. She has a lot of tom-boy in her. She's carefree and her swinging pattern is capturing that perfectly.

Hannah is in pajamas. Unfortunately, they don't match and unfortunately the seldom do. She comes home from school and puts on her pajamas. She was wearing pajamas this morning and I told her to get on day clothes because friends were coming for lunch. As soon as they left, she went and got on her pajamas again. A few years ago Stephanie and Christopher told me that their little brother Nick (on the other side of the house) always changes into pj's when he comes home from school. I thought that was the cutest story and said, "I bet I'd like Nick." Two years later Hannah is faithful to do the same. Maybe Nick's habit endeared him to me because it reminded me of Hannah, but long before Hannah dreamed up such a comfortable idea. She's my home-maker type. She loves to do homemaking type things. She likes to bake, sew, quilt and decorate. Furthermore, she likes looking at decorating magazines. Several years ago, I heard an argument in the backyard between the neighborhood children. I stood at the window trying to overhear. Suddenly over all the other voices, Hannah belted out, "SO! My mom makes homemade bread AND homemade candles." Hannah is the only child I know who would use that as ammunition during an argument. She has just joined me here at the picnic table with her book. (All my girls love to read and I love that.)

Deborah has had an ecru lacy floor length dress-up dress on all day. She's a girl of girls, but she's tough. Her friends and next door neighbors were over today. They are petite and fragile little people. Deborah is a whole head and shoulder above them. She's also the tallest girl in her kindergarten class. This isn't a source of insecurity for her. "Yippee, I'm the tallest girl in my class," she proclaims proudly. Deborah discovered an ant hill today and took Kalyna and Nadia to see it. An ant got on Nadia. Kalyna and Nadia both began to scream. I went outside and put out that little fire and came back in . As I walked in, I said, "Everyone else's kids are higher maintenance than mine." It's so true. Gordon and I produced some tough kids. Once when Rachael was about a 1 1/2 years old, she cut her hand on a handsaw. We wouldn't even have known it if she'd not calmly brought her bleeding hand to Gordon saying, "Gucky Daddy, Gucky".

My girls love the outdoors and anything in it. They love collecting bugs and they have never met a dog that scares them. Deborah just brought me a catapillar in a purple plastic cup. "Mom what do catapillars eat? I need to feed Greeny." My little girls amuse me.

Christopher has just built another fire in the fire pit and all the kids are gathering to roast marshmallows. Christopher brings the male element to the family when Gordon isn't around. He trimmed the Maple (you heard that delightful story, please comment. He's feeling stupid wondering if you all think he's a disrespectful wretch), he built the tree swing, and he spread out the mulch on the gardens. I'm really going to miss him. He leaves on Wednesday and I'm already feeling the heaviness that comes with that annual occurrence. He's been a delightful and well rounded addition to the family.

I'm going to go join the others around the fire. Rachael just bounded over as Christopher popped a perfectly browned marshmallow in his mouth. "Marshmallows are made of pig fat," she knowingly declared. Christopher sput and sputtered, and finally swallowed.

I will join all these delightful folks for some roasted pig fat now.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Heebie Jeebies

On my last post, Ret commented that she had the "heebie jeebies" for months when her daughter got lice. I don't hear the expression "heebie jeebies" often anymore, but I smiled as it conjured up another memory of the time lice attached itself to some of the heads I love.

In the south, I hate to admit, lice is an annual threat (or reality) if you have children in school. I don't think I ever had it, but when the notes went home from school that it had be spotted, we had to do the delousing ritual anyway. Perhaps Rit (the special shampoo used to delouse) has improved over the years, but when I was a kid, it was like washing your hair with acid. The finished product was very dry hair that was anything but manageable.

Both Stephanie and Christopher had it at least once. Christopher had really blond hair as a baby. When he was 18 months old I was giving him a bath. Out of his wet hair crawled a giant louse. Right out there in plain sight on his adorable fair skinned face was a bug. I searched his head and found more. Thankfully they were much smaller and less brazen.

Afraid of it being an indictment on my mothering that my sweet baby had lice, I loaded the kids up and to WalMart we went to secretly buy Rit. I think I've mentioned before that I had "image issues." I nonchalantly meandered through every section of WalMart trying to get the nerve to go to the pharmacy department. My 2 darling children were in the cart that I gingerly pushed.

Finally we were at the intersection of the medicated shampoo aisle. I coolly left my cart and strolled down the shampoo aisle. In my way of thinking, it didn't look like we "needed" Rit if the cart wasn't with me. As I was quickly trying to find what I needed, I heard 5 year old Stephanie yell out a friendly hello. Before I could reach her she yelled out, "GUESS WHAT! WE HAVE BUGS IN OUR HAIR." I approached the cart and all the passing customers extended a kind, knowing smile.

That's one of my lice stories. Now for the one that captures the phrase "heebie jeebies."

All my nieces and nephews had lice, matter of fact I think the whole bloody school district had it. My mother had the heebie jeebies about all the grandkids having been in her house right before the news broke that they had lice.

One afternoon I went into her workplace. She was sitting at her desk with a "consumed" look on her face as she stared at her desk calendar that was flat on the desk's surface. She barely greeted me - a cool hello was all I got. Quickly she looked back down at her calendar. Puzzled, I asked what she was doing. She showed me a tiny circle she had drawn on her calendar. Then she showed me a piece of lint looking stuff that was inside the circle. "You see that right there," she said pointing to the thing that looked like lint, "I scratched my head and it fell out of my hair. I drew a circle around it. If it crawls outside the circle, I'll know it's lice." I started laughing and I think at that moment she saw the humor of her little lead circle and she laughed too.

That is my lice "heebie jeebie" story.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

My Sister, the Worrier

Yesterday I was talking to my sister. Her emotions are all over the map these days. Her oldest child graduates this week and will soon be leaving the nest to begin a new life as a college student. Stacie is one of the most devoted, dedicated mothers I've ever known. Yet, as only a mother can be, she is overwhelmed with feelings of having robbed Melody. "I just wanted to be a perfect mom. Was it more about me than Melody?" she asked. "Should I have given her more freedom? Should I have....?"

She began to recall memories. Through her tears, one of the things she recalled was when Melody got lice in elementary school. This was one of her examples of it having been about herself rather than Melody.

Admittedly, Stacie use to be a chronic worrier. When Melody had lice (every other kid in the class did too) Stacie worried that they'd never get the lice out of the house -- the they were permanent "carriers."

As Stacie relived this episode, I was carried away in thought by a different time when she was overcome with irrational worry.

She and I were visiting in her living room when my nephews and two of their friends dropped by. The friends had an uncle in California who had died of aids two years earlier. Stacie was visibly uncomfortable. When the teenagers went to get drinks in the kitchen, her eyes were darting all over the place.

When they left, Stacie shut the door behind them and walked purposefully to her kitchen and began to search through drawers for the tongs. I was unaware of her problem, so I was engaging in a one-sided conversation. I followed her to the kitchen and sat down on a barstool. She started boiling water and filling the sink with soapy water. Having found the tongs, she stuck her behind out to create a bigger distance between her body and the glasses. With her butt sticking way out, she lifted each glass with the tongs. Careful to keep her arm perfectly outstretched, she put the glasses in the soapy water. Then she began scalding them with boiling water. I just watched, assuming she needed to do this before she could have peace of mind.

When the glasses were washed, we went back and sat in the living room. She still couldn't engage in conversation. She seemed a million miles away. Her gaze was directed to the wall and she was totally unresponsive to my stabs at conversation.

Finally she blurted out, "You don't think we'll get aids do you?"

My delightful sister is a recovering worrier. Last night as we spoke, she was tearful when I remembered this story. I started laughing and reminded her of it. It must have been good for her, because she laughed too and I think that was when she stopped crying -- at least for a little spell.


Christopher has a blog

Christopher has got on board the blog train. Check him out, but don't judge him harshly for his spelling.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Yesterday while I was at work, young son Christopher (small town boy incarnate) went for a walk. When I came home he showed me a skinned up elbow and said, "Hey look Mom, I got hit by a car today." I looked at his arm which looked like it had a large rug burn. I started frantically asking what happened, did you get a license plate number, were you in a crosswalk, did the driver stop????

Christopher explained what happened: No he wasn't in a crosswalk (growl), no the driver didn't stop (growl growl, mother bear style), and no he didn't get a license plate. I was quite worked up about this but Christopher was laughing. I was ranting about calling the police, but there was nothing they could do since we knew nothing except it was a black SUV. Finally I said, "Why didn't you notice anything?" He said, "Mom, I just wanted to get across the street so that wouldn't happen again." He may be a small town kid, but when it comes down to it, he ain't stupid.

He'll be using the crosswalk from now on.

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