Thursday, April 04, 2024

All things bright and beautiful

I took the kids to the park the other day, on the first day of the year that was due to be rather warm (around 80°F/26°C). I don't know if I should be slathering my kids with sunscreen before spending hours outside in January (especially considering the fact that we rarely get snow here), but I do know that I should be slathering my kids with sunscreen when the warmth of the sun feels like a punishment rather than a caress. 

Especially because my children all inherited a ridiculously fair complexion and tend to burn. I'm always forgetting that about them because, well, I simply don't burn as easily as any of them. But on this particular day, I remembered (gold star in mothering for me!) and broke out the sunscreen. 

As I was rubbing this "lotion" on Phoebe she started sniffing excitedly. 

"Mmmm...mmmmm...mmmm!" she moaned with Pavlovian desire. "This lotion! Mmmmmm! This lotion mates me wanna doe pool! Tan we doe pool today?"

It's jarring to think that in spite of not being able to really speak last summer, Phoebe has lasting memories of going to the pool (triggered by a strong olfactory association with sunscreen, apparently).

The kids got a little bit sandy at the park. Benjamin and Zoë buried Alexander clear up to his neck. When he broke out of his sandy sarcophagus, he announced, "That was evil! That was pure evil!"

"Whatever!" Zoë shrieked, defensively. "You wanted us to bury you!"

"Wait a minute," Alexander said, taken aback. "Doesn't evil also mean awesome?"

"No," Zoë said, rolling her eyes. "That's wicked."

"Oh," shrugged Alexander. "Evil. Wicked. What's the difference?"

I'm just glad that he had enough socio-emotional intelligence to realize that he and Zoë were experiencing some kind of break down in communication, rather than rising to her level and escalating things to a full-blown argument. Once she also realized this, she was able to simmer down and move on with her day as well. And they remained buddies. 

Wouldn't it be great if everyone would be so quick to assume a break down in communication rather than ill intent? From my experience—which honestly includes some brushes with ill intent—most issues in life are due to innocent communication barriers rather than nefariousness. 

I'm slowly reading my friend James Goldberg's new book Tales of the Chelm First Ward right now and it's delightful. Satirical, it's true, but filled with so much truth. At one point (during a Sunday School discussion) the discussion leader wonders to himself about two particular sisters who voiced two astoundingly different conclusions about the topic: "She and Sister Peretz might be in the same room now, but he doubted they were ever hearing the same messages.... was it even possible to teach the balance of gospel truth when everyone fixated so much on whatever already spoke to their own neuroses?" (pp. 56–57). 

Oh, the characters in this book are all so delightsome (and, to me as a member of the same church, relatable)!

Anyway, I think very often we can sitting side by side in the very same sandbox or on the very same pew at church, seemingly engaging in a single experience...yet we experience that experience on such a personal level that we might forget there is room for...variance. There are miscommunications, misinterpretations, misunderstandings. 

Or perhaps only alternative communications, alternative interpretations and alternative understandings. 

Perhaps the thing we're really missing is compassion for our own and others' neuroses.

Anyway, I'm proud of my kids for working out their funny misunderstanding, for forgiving each other, and moving on with their day. 

I can't remember what day it was, but we had left the leftover wedding cupcakes on the table unattended (intending to eat them for dessert after they'd warmed up a bit (buttercream frosting is better more at room temperature than at refrigerater temperatures)) and Phoebe stumbled upon them and went to town. She unwrapped half a dozen and took little nibbles and licks of icing from each one. She was having a grand ol' time!

I put those several cupcakes on a plate and took them and Phoebe outside to continue their messy...interaction.

Phoebe was delighted. Here she is wrapping her sticky fingers around my neck:

Was it that same evening we found a frog?

Benjamin caught it, of course, and then showed it to Phoebe and she immediately knew she needed a turn holding that creature. The problem was that she wasn't entirely sure what it was. From its erratic form of locomotion—hop, hop, hop—she assumed it was a bug. A big one!

"Please tan I hold that bid, bid bud, Benny?" she asked. "Me want hold that great, bid bud! Benny, please! Benny, please tan I hold that bid bud? Me want hold bud! Please me hold great, bid bud?"

"This is a frog," Benjamin told her.

"Oh!" she said delightedly, kicking her pitch up into almost indiscernible frequencies, so overcome by the cuteness of such a tiny frog, was she. "Please me tan hold that tiny little fod? Me want hold tiny fod! Please, Benny! Me want turn holding tiny little fod!"

He went to put it in her hand, but it wisely jumped onto her shirt instead, which startled her. Fortunately (for the frog, who seemed to value its life), Phoebe was satisfied with that amount of holding (Phoebe doesn't always have the...gentlest...touch).


Here's Phoebe the night before Andrew left for his conference:

She blocking the door and telling him that he won't be able to leave without giving her the password.

Joke's on her because he left through the garage...while she was sleeping.

Here she is stomping around in her rain boots with a cute little ponytail:

Here's Benjamin bringing home a bouquet of flowers he collected on a walk through the neighbourhood after a stormy night:

And here he is bringing home a deer shed he collected while tromping around in the back-backyard:

Clearly my children bring home a grand assortment of treasures.


It is only April 4 and already our garden has been quite successful this year. Just look at this harvest of radishes (and there's more where that came from)!

Last year our radishes never developed nice juicy globes like this. Although they put up big leafy greens, underground was nothing but a long, spindly tap root. It was a little disappointing, but we made the best of things and enjoyed those peppery greens with our salads. 

So we were delighted to have actual radishes this year!

We put some in our salad last night. I reserved a few slices to offer to Phoebe while I was preparing them. 

"Here, Phoebe," I said. "Try a radish."

"Thanks, Mom," she said, taking what I'd offered her. "But this is not a...radish. This is a tiny, little apple."

"Actually, it’s a radish…"


"I think if you eat it you’ll be surprised by how  un-apple-like it is," I challenged her.

She popped a piece in her mouth and exclaimed, "Whoa-ho-ho! That’s a spicy apple!!"

"Right, so that's a radish, not an apple," I said.

"Have you ever tasted an apple like that before?" Miriam asked her.

"Yes, do!" Phoebe said decidedly.

"So you still think it's an apple?"

"Yes! A tiny little apple!"

Sure, kid. Keep on believing!


Last night I was just trying to fall asleep when I heard all sorts of commotion on the front porch—scuffling and scraping and a few little thunks. 

I lie there—suddenly wide awake—listening and trying to convince myself that it was just an animal. But what did "just an animal" mean? Did it mean a fox? A raccoon? A coyote? A bunny? A bear?

We have those around here, you know—bears. That wouldn't be a great thing to have on the front porch.

And what about people?

People are animals, too. 

That's potentially just as scary as a bear. 

Maybe even scarier.

I know I just expressed my hope in human nature—that humans are neurotic rather than nefarious—but sometimes those neuroses tip people into nefariousness, don't they? 

These are the kind of thoughts I have when I hear noises at night. Usually I can poke Andrew until he wakes up and ask him to investigate these matters, but Andrew was at that conference, so I had to do my own investigating. 

I peeked through the curtains, didn't see anything.

Of course, I didn't have my glasses on, so...I'm not sure why I thought that would help anyway. But my line of sight was blocked by a big bush, anyway. So I sneaked my way down the stairs to check things out and found... opossum slurping away at a little pot of yogurt.

I'd forgotten that Phoebe had eaten a yogurt outside in the afternoon (and thus forgot to clean up after her). She can open the fridge in the garage and thus can get her own snacks while she's outside playing. She thinks it's awesome-possum.

I think it's less neat.

But the possum seems to also think it's awesome, so clearly I'm outvoted here.

I was able to go back to bed, resting assured that there was no burglar nor bear out there, and knowing that Phoebe's would-be-wasted yogurt was not, in fact, being wasted.


  1. As a poster child for possible skin cancer, I can tell you that you 'should' put sunscreen on every. single. day. I don't. But my right arm gets more pre-cancers than the left and it is from riding as a passenger in my mom's car while she was supervising us on our paper routes, not from sunburns on the beach. If one part of your body is more colored than your bum, you are probably getting sun damage.

  2. Phoebe is such a big gir with the ponytail! Btw, where is this cool park with so much sand?

    1. That's a volleyball pit at Pinckneyville Park. :)