Goodbye, Ned

One day early this summer, my daughter visited me in my office. I showed her the spider that had taken up residence in the corner of my window. We were about to leave for vacation, and we worried that he might be swept away by the cleaner while I was gone. Hoping to avert such a disaster, my daughter made this sign for the spider, whom she named Ned.

We had big plans for Ned. When we got back, we were going to make some spider-sized furniture and maybe hang some pictures to make him feel more at home.

Alas, when we returned, Ned and his cobweb were nowhere to be seen. When my daughter found out, she gave me this look:

I left the sign where it was, hoping he might find his way back home…Every morning when I get to work, I’ve been checking to see if he’s come back, but there’s never any sign of him.

Today I finally accepted the fact that, like this beautiful, too-short summer, Ned is gone for good.

We miss you, Ned. It was nice knowing you.

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I’m the Worst. Mother. Ever.

I cringed all day whenever I recalled the lecture I gave to my daughter as I dropped her off (late) to school this morning.

Worst Mother Ever:  (in an accusatory voice) What were you doing upstairs when I was calling and calling you to come down?

—Guilty silence—

W.M.E.: What were you doing? You were reading weren’t you?

My daughter: (mumbled, barely audible, sheepish response) Yes.

W.M.E.: You’re not allowed to read in the morning anymore! Got it? NO READING ALLOWED! Now you’re going to be late for school, because you were…READING!”

Poor, poor kid…and it’s only the fifth day of school.

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Mutual Bafflement

My husband and I split up on Saturday. It was just for the day, but what caused us to go our separate ways was something that has always divided us and that reveals how very different we are.

My husband loves nothing better than to camp and hike in the great tick-ridden, mosquito-filled, venomous-snake-laced outdoors. I too adore nature. I am enthralled by the writings of naturalists such as Loren Eiseley and Annie Dillard. I am awed by nature photography and documentaries. I am stirred by poetry that celebrates the seasons, the starry firmament, or the miracle of life in all of its myriad manifestations…But Lord knows I certainly don’t want to actually be in nature.

I can’t fathom it. Why would you subject yourself to the hassle and discomfort of camping, if you weren’t homeless? Why would you want to gnaw on dry, uncooked food fished out of a hot, sweaty backpack? We’ve progressed so far beyond this! Flushing toilets, hot showers, comfortable beds, refrigeration, microwaves, air-conditioning, couches! Why would you give that all up on purpose?

…Which brings me back to Saturday. My husband decided it would be the perfect day to go on a hike in the Blue Ridge. I decided it would be the perfect day to take a daytrip to visit my parents and sister in Arlington. We knew the boys would want to go hiking, but we weren’t sure what our daughter’s preference would be. We presented her with the two options, never dreaming that we would be inflicting an agonizing Sophie’s Choice moment on her. Honestly, she looked like she was going to cry as she deliberated out loud.

“I really, really want to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s, but I really, really want to go hiking too!”

“Well,” I reasoned, bewildered by the fact that this was actually a difficult choice, and trying to make the decision a little easier for her, “I’m planning to take you to their house over Labor Day weekend, and that’s only a week away, so maybe you should go hiking.”

“But that’s SEVEN WHOLE DAYS,” she wailed.

Finally, we decided to put the poor girl out of her misery by flipping a coin. She went on the hike.

In Arlington as my sister and I drove to Harris Teeter to pick up some groceries, she asked me what my husband and kids were doing.

“They’re going hiking,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

Hiking?! What do you even do on a hike?” she asked.

“Well…I guess you drive to a mountain, find a trail, and then walk up to the top.”

“Why would you do that?” she asked, sincerely mystified.

“I have no idea. It’s not as if they’re being chased by Nazis.”

“Huh! I just don’t get it.”

“Me neither. That’s why I’m here, and not there.”

At that moment my husband called. He and the kids had gotten back from the hike and he was checking on my whereabouts.

“Ask him why he went hiking and if he really thinks that’s an enjoyable activity,” my sister urged.

I relayed her questions to him. He was rendered speechless. All he could muster was a: “Hunh?!?!”

“Oooh, gotta go,” I told him and hurriedly hung up the phone, because just then I witnessed a real spectacle of nature! I saw a flock of little birds taking a dirt bath in the mulch rings around the trees by the grocery store parking lot. I hung out of the window of my sister’s air-conditioned car and took a picture with my camera phone:

Ahhh, nature!

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Praying Mantis

She is a predator. She stalks her prey with stealth and ruthless cunning. Once she has set her sights on her victim, (often smaller members of her own species), resistance is futile. She will bite the head off a victim who struggles, even that of her own mate.

So unrelenting is she, that she can even get a praying mantis to crack a smile:


“She always captures her prey!”

And speaking of praying mantises, check out this little one in training:

Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend!