Monday, December 31, 2012

Dare to Be Different

Day 326
My middle son beats to his own drummer.  My husband and I joke that he employs his own percussion section. 

So, when for the third year in a row he asks for his ears pierced for his birthday, I relent. 

“Mom,” he explains, “you’re always telling me girls can do anything boys can do, so why can’t I get my ears pierced?”  He has a good point. 

I take him to Claire’s in the mall because really, where else do you go?  He sits statute still in the chair by the front door, a show for passing shoppers. 

“You ready?”  He nods his head and grins. 

When the earring pierces his lobe he doesn’t flinch.  Instead he breaks out in the biggest smile.  I know this was the right thing to do. 

The next day at school, he causes quite a stir.  “Is that real?” one teacher asks when she sees me in the halls.  “Oh, yeah,” I laugh.  “It’s real.” 

For weeks, F. cleans and turns the stud just like the salesgirl at Claire’s instructed him to do.  This alone amazes me.  The child refuses to clean his room or even wear clean clothes on a regular basis.    

We count down the days until he can remove the stud and start wearing earrings of his choosing.  If you haven’t gotten it yet, F.’s not the wallflower type. 

He spends several days contemplating his earring choices for his annual school photo.  When the day comes, the flu keeps him home and he misses the photo altogether. 

“No worries,” I tell him.  “You’ll get another chance at picture retake.” 

For the photo retake, he settles on a three-inch hanging Santa.  Santa sits perched on his earlobe and the words “ho, ho, ho” fall down his ear as if a ladder that Santa climbed up to get to a chimney.  It’s as awful as it sounds.  But it’s also perfect.  It’s F. 

“How was the picture?” I ask when he arrives home. 

“She made me take it out,” he says matter-of-factly.  “So I did.” 

I take a minute.  “Did she ask the girls to take out their earrings?” He shakes his head no.  “Did she tell you why?”  Again he shakes his head.   

I’m not mad.  I’m steaming.  To me, it’s much bigger than removing a piece of jewelry.  To me, it’s about telling my child that there’s something wrong with the way he chooses to be.   

I call the photographer and explain that while unconventional, I, as his parent, think it’s fine that my second grader wear what he wants for photos.

I’m raising an individual here.  I don’t expect you to tell him that there’s something wrong with being who he chooses to be.” I think of all the other kids who might be wanting to stand out or struggling to find their way.  Does the photographer take a pass because one has pink hair or another wears a ripped shirt?  It’s a bigger issue than just my kid.  I get on my soapbox and rant just a little.      
“I want the photo to capture who he is,” I say.  “And this is him.  My child.”  

The photographer agrees to re-take the photograph if I bring F. to their studio.  I do. 

Here’s the great thing about raising a kid who dares to be different.  I don’t worry about peer pressure or bullies.  I don’t worry about him fitting in.  He finds his own way by creating his own unique path.  And kids respond.  They flock to be around him.     

“Mom, you want to come see this picture?” she asks before loading the photo into their files.  “You know you can see the earring, right?” 

Yes, I think.  You can see it.  From space.  

Hot Chocolate Kindness

Day 325
It snows so infrequently in Cincinnati that when it does you grab your sled and head for the hills.  Pronto.

“Now?  Can we go now?” A. asks. 

“Still in pajamas,” I say and take another sip of coffee. 

He stomps out of the kitchen and returns a few minutes later wearing his winter coat, boots and mittens.  “Now?  Are you ready now?”  His face looks so hopeful that I put down my cup and head upstairs to get dressed.

“Give me ten minutes,” I call over my shoulder.  This sends A. running to tell his brothers. 

I throw on some long underwear, pull up my jeans and tie my hair back.  I’m not pretty but I’m dressed.  With five minutes to go, I run down the stairs to boil water for hot chocolate.  We bring enough to share. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dodge Ball Daddy

Day 324
The little dark-haired boy bows off the karate mat and pulls his dad into the circle to play.  The dad, a shy man who speaks with a foreign lilt, holds the boy’s younger brother in his arms and struggles to balance the child while simultaneously being dragged back onto the padded floor.

A. recently started taking bi-weekly karate lessons.  Each class consists of karate instruction, a game and a talk on a character trait.  These little talks are worth the monthly tuition price. 

“We’re going to play a game where you’ll need to exhibit self-control,” A.’s karate instructor explains. “Can anyone tell me what self-control is?” 

“Doing what your mom says?” one offers.  His answer lifts up as a question. 

“Doing what you should,” another says with more confidence.

“Not hitting your brother?” A few parents watching from the chairs chuckle at this.  I don’t because I know the truth behind the statement.  It’s my son who gives it.     

“Yes to all of those,” she smiles.  “Self-control is the ability to control your own behavior.  When we play this game, you’ll have to use self-control to make sure no one gets hurt.  Understand?” she asks looking the kids in the eyes.  “We’re going to be playing dodge ball.” All the kids cheer.   

I tap the dad holding the infant on the shoulder.  “Excuse me.”  Tap.  Tap.  “Can I please hold your baby?”  Because you’re playing dodge ball.  With a baby.   

He looks at me with an odd expression.  I’ve seen him twice a week for the last month but we haven’t really talked. 

I don’t think that’s important.  What is will be his introduction to the American tradition of dodge ball.  With a baby.   

“The baby?” I ask again and hold out my arms. 

If he’s thinking it’s not a good idea to hand his baby to a stranger, he changes his mind when the first ball flies past.  He quickly hands me the child then uses both free hands to protect his head from an incoming.  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Stroller Struggle

Day 323
When I became a parent, I thought new equated to better.  Friends with toddlers graciously passed along gently used baby clothes that I folded and tucked away in the back of a drawer.  Only new clothes for my darling, I’d think.  Only the best.  
Ah, how things change.  Nowadays, I’m happy if the clothes my boys pull on in the morning are clean.  Stain-free and rip-free?  Be still my beating heart.

I’d like to say I wised up to the lesson that kids thrive with the basics: food, clothing, shelter, and love.  The truth?  I was worn out and keeping it simple keeps me sane.  (It takes a lot of effort to keep kids clean and well versed in Chinese flashcards.) 

With my baby in the first grade, it’s been years since I’ve purchased any baby items.  But it looks like the trends continue.  Everything’s bigger, better, brighter. 

I tell you all this only to give context to what I see tonight.  We’re out celebrating the season when I hear a grandparent struggling with the max daddy of all strollers.  It is the newest, fangliest model with everything by the looks of it but a landing pad. 

Which is wonderful except when there isn’t a ramp but a flight of stairs separating you from the rest of the fun. 

“May I help you?”  I ask.  Without waiting for a reply, I gently lift the front wheels while the grandmother steadies the stroller handle.  Together we walk the stroller down the stairs to the ground below.  I give a quick wave and jog up to join my family.   

Here’s the truth: We all need a little help.  Accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness but instead a sign of strength.  When someone accepts help, he’s strong enough to know that he can’t always be everything to everyone. 

Another truth?  Those new strollers are very, very heavy.        

Thursday, December 27, 2012

From One Angel to Another

Day 322
Each December, the boys and I pick three angels off the Giving Tree at church. 

“Because we’re angels?” A. asks sweetly.  He throws his theory out to the universe in hopes that Santa is listening. 

“Nice try,” I laugh, “but no.” 

We pick three because three boys live in our house.  Each boy chooses another to buy and wrap presents for during the holiday season.  My hope is they’ll learn that giving is as much a part of this holiday as receiving. 

“This boy wants long underwear,” I. says, reading the wish from the backside of an angel.  “That’s kind of sad.” 

The angels also give us pause to talk about how lucky we are and why it’s important to be thankful. 

“Why do you think that’s sad?” I ask, a question designed to get him thinking. 

“Because that means he doesn’t have any,” I. replies.  “But I think toys would be more fun.” 

I agree.  Kids and toys go together like Christmas and Santa.  So that’s what we agree to do.  Wrap up a box of toys with a pair of long underwear tucked in for good measure.  

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Day 321
This week, friends and families in Sandy Hook say goodbye to little ones who only days before were writing lists to Santa.  I can’t imagine this grief.  The emptiness these families are feeling must be paralyzing.    

As if hearing my helplessness, a high school friend forwards a national sympathy card and asks if I want to sign.  It’s a small gesture, so miniscule in the vastness of this tragedy that I nearly decline.  How can one name lessen this hurt?  But I click through to read it anyways. 

That’s when I see that at last count over 2.4 million people have signed the card making it the largest single condolence card in history.  One plus one plus one doesn’t seem so small anymore.    

Will it bring these children back?  Will it erase the last week?  Rewind time?  No.  But maybe, maybe, it will let those hurting know that one by one, we care.  Together that equates to something.       

Candy Cane Caper

Day 320
I love how my boys attack every new activity like it’s their job.

Today, we meet Kasey at the Blue Ash Library to pass out candy canes to unsuspecting strangers and to wish them a happy holiday.  I’m excited for the boys to meet Kasey since we’ll be teaming up in the future as part of her yearlong project.   

Lots of kids turn shy when meeting someone new.  Not mine.  A. tells Kasey and her mom about his school.  F. chats about what he wants from Santa.  I. talks about what books he likes to read. 

Some of this comes naturally.  They are children of a talker.  Some of this confidence comes from our year of reaching out to strangers.  It takes bravery to approach new situations without knowing the outcome.  This year has stretched their confidence as well as their capacity to be kind.   

Kasey holds a bag of candy canes.  Decorated with googly eyes, noses and pipe cleaner antlers, they peek out of the top of her bag, reindeers itching to fly. 

Ours are not nearly as impressive.  We twisted pipe cleaners on our canes in the mad dash of our school morning before the bus arrived.  They look less flight worthy and more in danger of getting a DUI. 

I hand our candy canes to the boys and try to give as little direction as possible.  I want them to figure out how kindness works by doing. 

I. walks purposefully through the library, handing candy canes to people he sees.  When he runs out of people, he places canes in library carrels, tucks some in between books, balances one on the copy machine, another on the coin return of the vending machine. He creates a treasure hunt of candy.
Kasey, a holiday elf of goodwill and cheer, stations herself by the front door.  “Happy Holidays,” she smiles.  “Want one?”  She tilts the bag towards unsuspecting strangers whose faces break into smiles.   

What a perfect example of how something so simple can bring so much joy.    

Stamp Stamp Stomp Stomp

Day 319 
“Mom, I need to bring stamps to school,” F. says. 

I look up from the pot I’m stirring and wonder why all last minute requests seem to come while I’m making dinner. 


F. nods his head yes.  As part of a class project, each student will write a letter.  Tomorrow they’ll address and stamp each one to send.  F. has written to his best buddy from preschool, a boy whose mother and I vowed to keep in touch when preschool ended and the boys started different schools in different towns. 

We haven’t spoken in two years. 

Sigh. Life gets away from you like that.

I’m thrilled he’s writing to Nickol and including photos from our recent trip to the beach.  I laugh at the idea of Nickol and his mother looking through the pictures.  None are of F.  All are blurry close-ups of fish. 

I turn down the stove burner and open my wallet.  “You need one?” I ask, pulling out receipts hoping to find a lone stamp tucked behind my Macy’s card. 

“I need to bring a couple.  Because you know some kids are going to forget.”

“F?  Is this a random act of kindness?” 

A sly smile slides across his face.  “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.” 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Let Me Have It

Day 318
I messed up.  I admit it. 

I wrote down two instead of three and arrive an hour early for a scheduled cookie decorating class I am meant to lead.  Because I need to grab my kids off the bus at four, I can’t fix the mistake.    

I do the only thing I can.  I call the activities director to apologize. 

“I’m so, so sorry,” I start.  “This was completely my fault.” 

“Yes, it was,” she huffs back.  “It’s completely unacceptable.” 

“I agree.”  This sets her back a bit.

“Absolutely unacceptable,” she says again.  Again, I agree. It’s hard to yell at someone who’s agreeing with you.   

I don’t tell her that I’m disappointed, too.  I don’t tell her I’ve spent hours baking and mixing icings, gathering sprinkles and copying recipes to share.  I don’t do anything but hold the phone to my ear and let her yell. 

Sometimes it’s the only way to let a person get her anger out. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mr. Rogers' Helpers

Day 317
Like the rest of the nation, my thoughts find themselves in Sandy Hook.

Mr. Rogers said it best.  "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

I think of the twenty children who died that day and want to do something to honor them.  I want to remember the brave teachers who hid children in locked closets and bathrooms and kept their fears at bay by reading stories.  I imagine their forced cheerfulness and singsong voices that masked their own fear.  I want to honor these heroes, too. 

I purchase twenty children’s books and donate them to a local pediatric clinic. 

I want to remember.  I want to be one of Mr. Rogers' helpers.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Day 316
“Today we gather to say good bye to Winn Dixie,” I pause.  What do you say about a bird you’ve only known two weeks?  “He was a good bird.”

“She,” F. corrects.

The boys and I gather around a freshly dug, shallow hole in the side butterfly garden.  We pick it thinking Winn Dixie will want to be surrounded by colorful wings when the weather turns warmer. 

We’ve lost pets before: frogs, lizards, hermit crabs, fish.  The loss of Winn Dixie hits harder.  I.’s been inconsolable all morning and the mention of buying another bird sends him into another fit of sobs. 

“You can’t just replace her,” he cries, stretching out the words so even they sound like they’re crying. 

“No, no,” I backtrack.  “We could never replace her.”  I drop the subject. 

I.’s been the one to dig the hole and fashion a gravestone out of a flat rock from the garden.  He arranges dried twigs from the summer flowers in a half circle around the stone, an embrace of a spring promise of blooms. 

“She loved when you’d play your recorder to her in the morning before school.  I’ll always remember her bobbing her head to the music,” I say.  I. smiles sadly. 

I hope our small ceremony starts to heal I.’s broken heart.  I want him to grieve.  I want him to understand that death is a part a life. 

“Any last words?” I ask. 

“She was a really pretty blue,” A. says. 

“And, she really liked Taylor Swift,” F. adds. 

Tears wet I.’s face.  “I really, really loved her,” he whispers.

Straightening Out Priorities

Day 315 
There never seem to be enough hours in the day.  That’s doubly true for the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Can’t Santa change that?  Maybe make days 30 hours long instead of 24? 

When a call to help comes from the school to volunteer a few hours to sort canned goods into holiday food baskets, I admit that I think about taking a pass.  Oh, the shopping.  The baking.  The holiday card addressing.  My to-do list seems to grow as the days leading up to December 25th zip past in a blur. 

But I don’t.  Because the shopping, the baking and the card addressing can wait.  It all can wait.  If I don’t help needy families in my community then no matter how much Christmas cheer I buy or bake, I’ll have missed the real reason of the holiday. 

I’m trying hard to whittle it down to the basics: The holidays are about family and friends.  It’s about helping others.  It’s about being fortunate for what I have and not being wistful for what I don’t.    

The rest, the baking and shopping, can wait.  And if it all doesn’t get done, that’s OK, too. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Strong Branches Make Strong Girls

Day 314
Sometimes people need help.  Other times they need help getting the word out.

That’s what I’m doing today.  Consider this a call to action.  Girl style.  

Remember Kasey?  My new friend who introduced me to World Kindness Day?  She’s collecting gifts this holiday season to give to girls aged 7-12 from The Women’s

The Women's Connection located in Price Hill helps support women and girls in the Cincinnati community “find the strength, pride and hope they need to overcome life’s many challenges.”  Building strong girls?  Sign me up.  

As part of her yearlong kindness project (that I’ve been lucky enough to join the fun), Kasey is collecting items girls might like for the holidays. For a momma of three boys, the idea of picking out fun hair ribbons and nail polish is like Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza rolled into one.

Requested items include (but are not limited to):  
  • hair ties
  • headbands
  • lipgloss
  • make-up
  • stuffed animals
  • decorated socks and gloves
  • scarves
  • hats
  • funky jewelry
  • nail polish

If you drop items in my mailbox before December 18th, I’ll get them to Kasey.  She’s going to wrap and deliver the items before the holidays. 

If you don’t live in Cincinnati, drop your items in the nearest Toys for Tots donation bucket or leave on the doorstep of your local Boys and Girls Club with an anonymous note.  Then stop back and comment where you live and what you dropped. 

Kasey’s calling her project The Community Giving Tree.  Let’s see how far our giving tree’s branches reach.      

Sweet Like Friendship

Day 313
When did it become passé for adults to throw birthday parties? 

I’m not talking about when we usher in the big ones.  Those are like a changing of the guard, an orchestrated hooray that says, “Hello, new decade!”  Or, “Forty is the new thirty!”

I mean the little birthdays that sneak up on us or slide past unnoticed.

My friend Martha asked me several weeks ago to bake a special cake for her birthday.  “I haven’t had a birthday cake in years,” she confessed.  “And I’m taking matters into my own hands.”  Just like a woman.  We know how to get something done, don’t we?    

“Send the bill to Bobby,” she’d laugh whenever she called to talk about the ingredients or decorations.  

Oh, honey.  Don’t you know I’m not going to charge your husband?  Consider it my contribution to your party because we’re friends and that’s what friends do. 

I cream the sugar and butter for three minutes to assure air bubbles lighten the batter to the consistency of a cloud.  I add the eggs one at a time, blending each one until the batter turns a golden yellow.  I sift the flour to remove any lumps.  I want this cake to taste as good as friendship.  Sweet and wanting another slice.  

Hi Ya!

Day 312
It amazes my friends when they learn that I can sew. 

“Like buttons?  And hems?”  Their astonishment knows no end.

My mom was a talented seamstress who fashioned Halloween costumes and prom dresses with the same care and finesse as Diane von Furstenberg might design a gown.  She’d layer fabrics and line skirts, creating something from nothing. She’d manage to combine a top from one pattern with a skirt from another to create one-of-a-kind wonders.  I’d sit for hours on a stool by her sewing machine and peer over her shoulder in utter awe as she’d thread the fabric through the needles.

Today, I can happily wander a fabric store for hours: leafing through pattern books, examining notions, fingering fine silks and fluffy fleece.  Unfortunately, my current sewing projects are limited to an occasional Christmas stocking or a teddy bear sleeping bag.  And sewing patches.  Let’s not forget the patches.  

With three Cub Scouts and a Cub Scout leader husband, each month I sew on a fair number of patches.  (For all your novice patch sewers, buy yourself some clear thread.  Since the woman at the Cub Scout store introduced me to it, I’ve become unstoppable.)

I try to sew them on the boys’ red felt vest as quickly as they get them.  This isn’t to showcase my sewing skills but rather to hide my housekeeping ones.  We’re been known to lose a few patches in the mess we like to call “home.”

Tonight at karate, A. tests and earns his yellow belt.  The teacher congratulates him and awards him a studio patch to be affixed to the front of his white uniform.

“Sorry, ladies,” she says to my friend and I, “these don’t iron on.” 

“I can’t sew,” my friend confesses and laughs in frustration. 

“But I can,” I smile. 


Monday, December 10, 2012

Let Me Count the Ways

Day 311
Saying you love someone is different than telling them why you love them. 

“I love you,” I say, smiling into my oldest son’s eyes, “because you are kind and loving.  You are a good friend and brother.  You always try to do what’s right.”  He blushes at my words just as he squares his shoulders and sits a bit straighter in his chair. 

“Why do you love me?” A. smiles. 

“I love you,” I laugh, “because you bring joy to every ounce of life.  You find the fun in living.  You hug with all your heart.  You love with every bit of you.” 

“That sounds about right,” he nods in agreement. 

F. patiently waits.  At eight, he struggles with being cool and being hugged.  Which wins depends on the day and if his friends are watching.

“You,” I wrap my arms around him and wait for the push back.  Instead he settles his weight and leans into my shoulder.  “You,” I kiss the top of his head, “amaze me with your creativity, your imagination, and your smarts.  You see the world in a different way and I feel lucky when I get to see it through your eyes.”    

I realize after I utter the words that my reasons I give for each boy vary as much as the boy. 

Even though they are different and the things they bring into my life are different, it’s important for them to know that I love them each with all my heart.  No exception.   

It’s not nice (or right) for parents to pick favorites or choose sides.  That’s not in our job description.  Our only job is to love.  Unconditionally.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Day 310
Sitting in my warm, dry home in Cincinnati, it’s easy to forget that families on the East Coast still suffer from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. 

We can do something about that. 

A sign.  A flyer.  And the donations start flowing in. 

Kids and families from my boys’ school send in things listed as essential by the Red Cross, then add a package of disposable diapers, some laundry detergent, a case of Olay.  (We are in Proctor town.) 

I think people want an outlet to contribute.  Sending soap to school in their child’s backpack is an easy way to help and to teach kids that there’s a larger community outside of our town walls that needs our help.  

I drop the items to a local charity with trucks heading east.  The items will be in hands by noon tomorrow.   

It’s a small, small effort for a much larger problem but it beats watching the news every night and feeling helpless.  

Veterans Day

Day 309
It’s important to teach my boys that the freedom we enjoy in our country is protected by the bravery and service of our armed forces.  Without the sacrifice of past and present servicemen and women, our lives would be immeasurably different.

I learned this lesson early. 

Each November as a high school student at Culver, a military school founded on the ideals of order and honor, I was required to attend an all-school memorial service for Veterans Day in the chapel.  The somber service included hymns and prayers and ended with a reading of every graduate who had served our country. 

It’s a long list.  Culver graduates from the last one hundred years have served in every branch of our military and in every major war. 

From the chapel, we walked in silence to the Memorial Legion.  Boys in military dress presented arms.  Girls wrapped in shin length camelhair coats huddled together against the cold.  More words were spoken. 

In the chilly Indiana air, we listed as 21 shots rang across Lake Maxinkuckee.  The echo of the blasts filled us with reverence. 

We understood.  These men and women did important work.  They sacrificed for us. 

I can confidently say my Culver friends stop and pause on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  It’s ingrained in us. 

As I sit in a filled auditorium of the boys’ school at a ceremony to honor our veterans, I’m filled with a sense of hope.  Girls and boys sit attentively listening.  They stand together as a school and sing the National Anthem.  They show respect to our soldiers. 

Signs and posters decorate the halls welcoming and thanking.  This is F’s.  He wants you to see it. 

They understand.  And are thankful.    

Monday, December 3, 2012

Heal Your Heart

Day 308
Once a month, our church invites kids to spend their Sunday afternoon completing a community service project.  This year, A. is old enough to participate.  With his brothers off raking leaves, he and I head over to find out what today’s project is.

The organizers pass out large white candles and handfuls of miniature gold pushpins.  Each child is given simple directions to decorate their candle which will be given to someone in the congregation who lost a loved one this year.  The idea is each candle will be lit throughout the holiday season to remember and honor the one who passed. 

I think it’s a lovely gesture and a wonderful way to teach children that simply because someone isn’t physically with us they still can live in our hearts. 

Chaz lost his mother over twenty years ago.  Months after exchanging our vows he turned to me at dinner and said, “I never got to dance with my mom at our wedding.”  The comment was so unexpected.  We hadn’t been talking about her.  I don’t even remember talking about our wedding.   

It made me realize that the grief of losing his mother was always just below the surface of our lives and able to show its heartbreaking face at the most unexpected moments.   

Big life events and holidays are especially hard.  I know he ached for his mom at the birth of each of our three children.  Would love to have shared with her news of that big promotion at work.  Would love for her to watch the boys rush down the stairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa left under the tree. 

Would love for her to see the man he’s grown to be.  But that’s not possible. 

“Do you like it?” A. asks holding up his candle for me to see.  He’s arranged the pushpins into a smiling face.  I imagine the person who receives this gift crafted with the purest intentions.   

“I think it will make someone very happy,” I say. 

So for all those who will receive a candle decorated by these kids, may your light burn bright.  May its glow heal your heart.   

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Army of Blue

Day 307
As part of an annual Cub Scout service project, the two older boys and Chaz spend the afternoon raking leaves.  Money raised will go towards helping support and build schools in Honduras.    

The idea of an army of pint-sized soldiers in blue uniforms makes me smile.  I wonder how many raked-up piles of leaves proved too tempting to not jump in.  At least once. 

Or in F.’s case, take a well-deserved union break. 

“There was this little old grandma,” I. tells me, back home and shoveling in cookies two at a time.  Raking works up an appetite.  “She had so many trees,” he manages between bites.

“How many?” I ask.  I’m a girl who likes details.


“That’s a lot of trees,” I admit, impressed. 

“Her pile of leaves was as big as three cars and as wide as a door,” F. expounds.  

“Wow,” I say, wondering what is the proper response to such a thing as fantastical as a 15-foot leaf pile.

The boys each take a last handful of cookies and throw themselves into the cushions of the couch for a well-deserved rest.     

Chaz and I continue to talk in the kitchen.  He tells me how proud he is of the boys of how hard they worked.  He purposely says this loud enough and within earshot and I watch their smiles appear.  Who doesn’t want to catch a slip of a “private” conversation on how great you are?