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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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!

Enhanced by Zemanta

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!

The First Day of School

The First Day of School

My mother is tired of this world
She is silent and impatient
With the inexorable gravity
That encumbers each step and
Forces surrender to the waiting bed

I’m a middle-aged woman now
Struggling to look jaunty as I run
So as not to shame my children
Riding past me on the school bus

Just a moment ago at the bus stop
My son crouched to whisper
In his sister’s ear, “In Kindergarten
You have to pay attention to your teacher
And listen to every word she says.”

These words are weightless and indissoluble –
As indelibly engraved upon his heart as on mine
These are my mother’s words, flitting now
Like butterflies on the school bus
Lumbering up the hill.


When I was a child, every morning before I left for school my mother would say, “Pay attention to your teacher. Listen to every word she says.” On my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten, as we were waiting for the bus to come, I was shocked to hear the very same words of advice coming out of her older brother’s mouth. I hadn’t even realized that I’d been echoing my mother’s words to my own children. After seeing all three of my children onto the school bus for the very first time, I started off for a run. I ruminated about the passage of time and the way in which words can be both weighty and weightless. They never age, and they can outlast us all.

Enhanced by Zemanta

My Brother is Special

In which it is revealed how truly smart my brother Teddy is…

If you happened to read my “Golden” posts a couple weeks ago, you’ll know that my mother thinks of my brother Teddy as “the smart one” of her four children. It’s important to note that in Korea intelligence is measured on an entirely different scale. We’re not talking remedial summer school, or even second-choice college material. We’re talking “not widely understood to be in line for the next round of MacArthur grants.” The collective Darwinian term my father favors for these unfortunate people is “Stragglers and Weaklings.”

When we were little, we didn’t have any toys. Consequently, I played with sticks and mud. My brother, on the other hand, was far more resourceful. He would fashion elaborate launching devices and real working mechanical vehicles with soup ladles, pots and pans, and rubber bands. Glimmers of his future brilliance were already emerging, but then he’d do something that would make my mom worry that she’d been too old when she had him, or that she had drunk too much Mountain Dew while he was in utero…


Teddy's 1st BirthdayMy brother graduated from one of this nation’s finest universities with highest honors after four straight years on the dean’s list. He went on to law school where he became the editor of the law review. After passing the bar and going on tour with his band, he became a highly successful software engineer. Now he’s the owner of two businesses. But he didn’t always show such promise, and there were many times throughout his childhood when my parents must have broken out into cold sweats when they contemplated his future.

Teddy was three when we moved to a tiny little town in the deepest, darkest heart of Pennsylvania. My parents desperately needed to find some kind of childcare so my mother could go to work. This was back in the days before preschools were as plentiful as mushrooms after the rain. The only option in our little town was a preschool for kids with learning delays and disabilities.

Certainly any suggestion that their cherished and long-awaited son might actually meet the criteria for such a school would have been unwelcome to my parents to say the very least. This was how we knew my mother was desperate when she took Teddy, (short for Theodore, which means Gift from God, by the way) to the preschool to be interviewed.

The preschool director liked to put her young prospects at ease by warming them up with a few confidence-building, throw-away questions. She threw my brother the softest ball in her arsenal, “So Teddy,” she asked, “What color is the sky?”

Suddenly, the light was extinguished from his eyes, and a dull expression fell over his face like a mask. He gazed around the room disinterestedly, revealing what my sister likes to refer to as his “necklace of dirt balls.” “I don’t know,” he answered.

“What color is the grass?” the director gently probed.

“I don’t know.”

There was no need to continue. “You can start on Monday,” the director said brightly, ruffling Teddy’s hair.

Mother and son walked home in silence. Deeply troubled, my mother looked sidelong at her beloved boy and finally asked, “Teddy, what color is the sky?”

“Blue,” he answered promptly.

“What color is the grass?”

“Green,” he said, without a moment’s hesitation.

“Why didn’t you say that to the lady?”

And suddenly the dull mask: “I don’t know.”


Teddy was so smart, he figured out how to game preschool admission at the tender age of 3!

Enhanced by Zemanta


For me, no summer is complete without a visit to Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet, Virginia. This weekend my  friendy Wendy came for a visit and we managed to squeeze in a trip to the orchard before the start of school…

Years ago, my writer friend shared a gorgeous poem with me, and I’ve been waiting for the perfect day to share it with you. Today is the day! You can read it here:  From Blossoms, by Li-Young Lee.

Enhanced by Zemanta