Category Archives: Snags

A Beer by Any Other Name…

I was fixing lunch for my six year old son, Snags, the other day when he asked me, “Mom, how did you and Dad name me?”

“How did we decide to name you Snags?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.  “Where did you get my name?”

I thought this was an interesting question.  I wasn’t sure what prompted his interest, but I figured he deserved an answer. 

The larger truth is, we just liked the name Snags.  The details behind that larger truth are what I explained to Snags.  But maybe I shouldn’t have.

“Well,” I said to him, “When your Daddy and I were in graduate school together, we knew a man with your name, and he was a really nice guy, just like you are.  So right away we kind of liked the name.”

“And then one day,” I went on, “You’re Daddy and I went out to lunch at a restaurant in the city.  This restaurant made their very own brand of beer called Snags Ale.  They even had coasters they served your drinks on.  They’d bring your glass of iced tea or soda or beer, or whatever you ordered to drink, and put it on a coaster that said Snags Ale.  Ale, by the way, is a kind of beer.  Anyway, when we saw the coaster it reminded us again how much we liked the name Snags.  And I even took one of those coasters home with me!”

“And now,” I said, “We even have these glasses, like the one you are drinking out of that we bought from that very same restaurant, and the glass as you can see, says Snags Ale on it.  So you have drinking glasses with your name on it!”

That is when Snags interrupted.  “So let me get this straight,” he said.  “You named me after a BEER?!”

“Well, uh… not really,” I stammered.  “Remember, your Daddy and I liked the name Snags.  There was that nice man at graduate school.  And OH! also there is a character in a movie with your name, and it’s a good movie too, and so when we saw the coaster with the name of the beer on it, it just reminded us that we liked the name Snags.  So you see, we didn’t really name you after a beer.”

“Actually,” Snags said, “You kind of did.”

I guess now that the truth is out I have nothing left to do besides wait for the day that Snags is given a homework assignment to research his name.  I can see his classmates standing up to report that “I am named after my grandmother, Mary…” or “I am named after my great uncle Paul.” 

So now I’m thinking, that to avoid the inevitable meeting with the principal when Snags stands up to report that his parents named him after a beer, I am going to teach him to recite this: 

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Snags.
What’s Snags? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a beer. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a beer
By any other name would taste as good;
So Snags would, were he not Snags call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title…

Or maybe I ought to just leave well enough alone.

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That Ain’t No Cat

I was in the sixth grade, when a male classmate, David, asked our music teacher if she had a pussy.  I don’t recall how much sex education we’d had at that point in time, but certainly we’d had enough to realize, at least on some level, that there was some kind of forbidden sexual connotation to his question, and the class sat and watched in fascinated horror as the teacher turned from her seat at the front of the class toward the boy.

She asked him to repeat the question, (WHAT DID YOU SAY?) and feeling emboldened by the barely suppressed nervous giggles of his classmates, he did. She was not amused.  Nor was she placated when he insisted that he was talking about a cat.  Did she have a cat?  A PUSSY cat?

David was sent to the principal’s office.

He was, I suppose, the kind of boy who, had this been the 1950s, would have been considered a bad boy.  The kind of boy who girls might like, but parents wouldn’t like at all.  He might have been like Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days, or Danny Zuko from Grease, or even Eddie Haskell, from Leave it To Beaver. Except he had big blonde hair, and this was 1979.

David, as it turned out, liked me.  Or more specifically, he liked my chest.  There were few girls in the sixth grade with a stack like mine.  He asked me to be his girlfriend.  I think I asked my mother if I could have a boyfriend.  I don’t remember what her verdict was.  But I remember going to the pool one summer afternoon and seeing him there.  He tried to kiss me.  I was a good girl, and he scared me.  He talked about my boobs too much.  That made me uncomfortable.  I hated my boobs.  In all truth, I still do. I avoided him after that.

A few days ago, my son Snags was bored.  Bored, bored, bored.  Bored out of his skull.  He played Star Wars LEGOs on Xbox.  He got bored.  He played Star Wars LEGOs on his Game Cube. He got bored.  He moved on to Star Wars LEGOs The Complete Saga on his Nintendo DS.  He got bored.  He built some ships with his Star Wars LEGOs.  And what do you know?  He got bored.

I suggested that he play outside.  He said it was too hot.  I suggested he go outside and ride his bicycle.  He didn’t want to.  “I don’t want to change my shoes,” he said.  He was wearing Crocs.  He was too lazy to kick them off his feet and switch to tennis shoes.  I suggested he go outside and ride his scooter.  His eyes widened with interest, but just as quickly returned to normal when he realized he couldn’t ride his scooter wearing Crocs. 

In a last ditch effort to get him outside, I offered to walk with him to the nearby playground.  “I’ll push you on the swings,” I said.  That was something I knew he liked, and so finally, he thought that sounded like fun. An escape from his boredom.

As we started up the sidewalk toward the playground, Snags said to me, “Mom, there’s this thing called a pussy…”

Sixth grade music class came back to me in a rush. I wasn’t ready to give a sex talk.  Snags is six years old, not sixth grade. And this was summer vacation.  I couldn’t send him to the principal’s office.

I didn’t want to hear any more, but warily I said, “Yeah?”  I waited, with dread, for him to go on.  

“Yeah, there’s this thing called a pussy and I don’t know the rest of what’s it’s called or I can’t remember what it is exactly?”

What should I say I wondered.  Should I explain that boys have a penis (which he knows) but that girls have a, um…  No.  I can’t, I thought.

But before I could decide how to respond, he went on…

“And this thing called a pussy… something, it grows in a pond!” he said.

I died with relief right there on the side walk. As I lay there dying, my sixth grade life flashed before my eyes.  I saw my music teacher point David toward the door.  I heard her reprimand as she sent him to the principal’s office.  My final words, right before I died for good were surprisingly strong for a dying woman, and nearly shouted with joy: “PussyWILLOW?  You mean a PussyWILLOW?”

“Yeah!  That’s it!” Snags said, all smiles.  “A pussywillow!”

And then a miracle happened.  I was brought back to life and we walked on.  To the playground.  And the swings.  Where Snags wasn’t bored at all.

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Stuck in a Pile of Baby Parts

I don’t know how it happens that I am always the one that gets caught, like a deer in the headlights, with the hard questions.  With questions like, “Mom, tell me everything you know about babies!”

My first thought, when Snags asked me this two nights ago was, as always: “Where the hell is your father now?”  Followed by, “Why don’t you go ask him?”  But once again, I held fast.  I sat there, rooted to the spot by my panic, and trying to stall.

“Um… what do you mean, exactly?” I asked Snags.  “I don’t know what you are asking.  Tell me specifically what it is that you want to know,” I added, desperately hoping for some clarification.  Because I know a lot about babies.  I know they pee and poop, cost a fortune in diapers, and cry and cry and cry and keep new parents awake ALL.NIGHT.LONG, but I had a feeling that wasn’t what Snags was asking.

I was right.  It wasn’t.

“Tell me,” he said, “like how babies are made and where they come from and all that.”

And ALL THAT?

I don’t know if Snags heard the little part of my brain that up and died a screeching death as it wailed in horror, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Not THAT!” I think the sound was so high pitched that only dogs could really hear it. When it happened, I didn’t hear anything myself, but I felt it, and a few seconds later I heard some dogs barking outside.  I went blind soon after that.

My eyesight slowly returned as I thought to myself, “No, this is not REALLY happening, is it?” But there sat Snags with an look of eager anticipation on his face that would surely have landed him a spot in a Heinz commercial if they had come knocking at that particular moment.

Only they didn’t.

So I asked Snags for a bit more clarification and he said: “Well, I mean does God build the babies by putting two halves of them together, like the left side and the right side?  Or does he build them by taking all the parts, like the legs, and attaching them to the stomach, and then does he screw on the head like this?” (pantomimes screwing a head on to a baby – note it had a LOT of threading, because he had to turn and turn and turn that invisible head onto the invisible baby).

“Ah,” I said, nearly crying with relief and understanding.  This was less about HOW babies were made than it was about how babies were MADE.   I almost laughed out loud.

“Well,” I said cautiously, “I think that babies actually grow, kind of like a plant, from a seed.  I guess God gives a seed to a mom and a dad when they really love each other and then it grows into a baby.”

Snags seemed happy enough with that explanation.  He didn’t ask how the seed gets into the mother.  When he does ask that question I am going with one of two answers: “Go ask your father!” or “She eats it.”

Still, Snags had one more question. 

“Well then,” he said, “The thing I don’t understand is, if babies grow from a seed, how come they have this line down here?” (pointing to towards his perineum).

“Hmmm…I don’t really know,” I said.  “Maybe that’s just how the seed grows into a baby.”

“Or maybe,” Snags said, “Maybe that’s the medicine hole.  If a baby is in its mommy’s tummy and needs medicine but closes its mouth, maybe there is a hole there and they could still get medicine to the baby that way and then it closes up when the baby comes out or however it gets out.”

I pretended to ignore his comment about how babies “get out”. 

Instead I said, “You might be right.” And I pondered two things: a misplaced umbilical cord, and the pillow I made in Home Economics in 7th grade.  The pillow was made by sewing three quarters of the way around on the reverse side of the fabric.  Then the pillow was turned inside-out (or right-side out as the case may be) and stuffed with pillow stuffing. The small opening was then stitched shut by hand, leaving a bit of a seam.  Not unlike the perineum, I suppose.

Lucky for me, it was bedtime at that point, and Snags didn’t ask anymore questions as he settled down to sleep.

I however, had a question.  Actually, two: Where the hell WAS his father?  And why, once again, was I the one stuck with the baby questions? 

Okay, I admit, there was a third question:  If God really did screw our heads on, why can’t we turn them all the way around, like an owl?

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Pandas Have Fingers

My six-year old son, Snags, wants to take Karate.  He was interested in doing so even before the movie Kung Fu Panda came out, but now that he’s seen the movie twice (once at IMAX!) he’s even more excited about the possibility.  I think he will be disappointed when his first lesson doesn’t turn out to be full of jumping spins with karate chops and kicks and “HI-YA’s!” thrown in.  It’s true, I’ve never taken karate myself, but being a child of the 80s, I have seen The Karate Kid, and I know Snags will end up waxing on and off, sanding floors, and painting a bunch of fences before he’s allowed to get a good side kick in.

This evening we were sitting around the house, doing nothing much but subjecting ourselves to the ear bleeding horror that is Kidz Bop 9, when Snags suddenly ran off to the kitchen where he dumped out an entire box of 24 Crayolas and started drawing something.  He returned a few moments later with paper in hand, the page covered with a neatly drawn brown cross.

I’m not sure if it was something he heard in Kids Ruin Perfectly Good Songs Kidz Bop 9 or what, but Snags was suddenly in the mood to draw pictures about, and look at pictures about religion.  My husband and I were in the mood to play dumb, so we pretended that we didn’t know what a cross was. We wanted to see how Snags would explain the symbolism behind the cross, but he wasn’t in the mood for explaining.

“Is it a plus sign?” My husband offered. 

“No!” Snags said.  “A plus sign is for math and for adding stuff.”

“Well then, tell us what the cross means,” my husband said.

But Snags wouldn’t talk.

“Is it a cross like ‘across’ the street?” I asked.

“NO!” Snags cried, before adding in exasperation, “You need a bible!” and running off to find one.

He returned with not one, but two bibles.  He demanded that I search through the table of contents of his Precious Moments Bible for “Jesus” and read about the cross for myself, but I couldn’t find “Jesus” listed anywhere.  I did find “Malachi” (page 826), but he, as you probably know, is from Children of the Corn, and that movie was too scary to be telling a young child about.  And besides, I don’t want to give Snags any ideas, you know? I don’t need him leading some neighborhood uprising of kids with scythes.

Since the Precious Moments Bible yielded nothing, or at least nothing that I felt like reading to him, Snags turned to the other book he’d brought, Bible Stories for Children.  He flipped through the pages until he found a drawing of Jesus on the cross with the two thieves crucified on either side of him. 

Still playing dumb, my husband deduced from that photo that Jesus made crosses and sold them to people.  Snags, totally exasperated with us at this point, announced that we needed to go to church every Sunday so we, his parents, could learn about the cross.  Because clearly, HIS efforts to educate us weren’t working.

I thought we were done with the whole discussion but then we walked into the kitchen where I found another drawing on the kitchen table.  “Oh,” I said proudly, as I pointed to the drawing. “What’s this?  Kung-Fu Panda?”

Only… it wasn’t. 

“Uh, noooo,” Snags said.  “That is a picture of Jesus when he was a baby. Kung-Fu Panda has fingers, if it was Kung-Fu Panda I would have drawn fingers on him.”

Clearly, I stood corrected.

I’m ashamed to say it, but I laughed out loud.  Hard.  But I couldn’t help it.  As if I’d entered a time machine, I was immediately taken back to one of the funniest episode of Friends I’d ever seen.  It’s the one where Joey and Chandler are babysitting Ross’s infant son, Ben.  Only they lose him, and then they find themselves in a situation where they are flipping a coin to determine which baby is Ben.  Joey calls heads because “ducks have heads,” leaving Chandler to ask “What kind of scary ass clowns came to your birthday?” 

I explained to Snags, as my husband hid his face and his own laughter behind the open refrigerator door, that I wasn’t laughing at him or his drawing, I was simply laughing at how wrong I was.  And apparently at how much I missed at church over the years.  I never knew the Baby Jesus didn’t have any fingers. I hope they talk about it at church this Sunday.  And I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with Malachi.  If it does, I’m gonna have to send that Panda after him. Because he’s got fingers.

 

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Three Mysteries of Fame

We are Roman Catholic.  There was a long period of time in my life where I went to church every Sunday, most notably, when I was a child and had no control over my Sunday mornings.  In my college years I didn’t attend church very regularly, but started going again when I met my husband and continued to do so for several years after we were married.

After Snags was born, our attendance at church lessened, and by the time he was a toddler, we all but stopped going and turned into C&E Catholics, those folks who only cross the threshold of the building on Christmas and Easter.  The main reason for this wasn’t a lack of faith, but rather a lack of ability to keep a young boy from misbehaving out of boredom for one single hour on Sunday mornings.  Snacks and books and toys failed to help much in that environment, and I was tired of “attending” mass out in the foyer, chasing Snags around and trying to keep him quiet while counting the minutes until we could leave, because really, this wasn’t what church was supposed to be about.

Now that Snags is older and better behaved, we started going to church again.  He is interested in attending CCD (Sunday School for those who aren’t Catholic), and making his First Holy Communion.  I’ve told him those things are only possible if he behaves like a Saint during Mass.  He wants to sit right up front, in the very first pew, so he can see everything that goes on at the alter, but I tell him he has to be really, really, really good in order to sit there, and I am reserving that, like a prize, for the day he can sit quietly through an entire mass and stand and sit at the appropriate times along with the congregation.  We can not sit up front if he refuses to stand when everyone else stands.  We cannot sit up front if he continues to play with the kneeler, opening it so it crashes down on top of my foot like he did a few weeks ago.  The sudden eye watering pain of that made me nearly curse out loud, and cursing in the very front pew of a Roman Catholic Church is certain to get us excommunicated or struck by lightning.

We didn’t make it to church this Sunday, and that’s, if not a sin, at least a shame.  Because over the past few weeks, Snags has been singing the hymns he hears at church as he does things around the house.  You can hear him singing church songs while he builds with his LEGOs or as he’s playing with the hose in the backyard, or most recently, while taking his bath.

The only problem is, he doesn’t always get the words to the songs right.  Last week my husband found Snags singing the memorial acclamation, the words of which go: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith…”  Only, Snags was singing, “Let us proclaim three mysteries of fame…”

The three mysteries of fame that I cannot grasp are as follows: 

1. How did Keanu Reeves become a star?  He is the worst actor I’ve ever seen, and his monotone proclamation of “Sir, I love your daughter…” in the movie A Walk in the Clouds, is certainly proof of this.

2. How did the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon become a hit? Why did it win an Academy Award?  It was terrible.  People flying through the air, fighting with swords.  That’s totally impossible, not realistic at all.

and

3. Why does Madonna, who was born and raised in Michigan, affect a fake British accent when she feels like it?  And why don’t the talk show hosts call her on it?

Bringing up the name Madonna reminds me of the real Madonna, Mary, the Mother of God.  And how, when I was a child, and for many years into my teens, I thought the beginning words to the Hail Mary were as follows: “Hell Mary, full of grace…” For the life of me I couldn’t understand why there would be curse words in a prayer.  It didn’t make any sense to me, and I knew deep down, it was just wrong.

My misunderstanding of the beginning of the Hail Mary is perhaps proof that Snags comes by his misunderstanding of the memorial acclamation naturally. You can have faith that he inherited his inability to hear the words correctly from me.  Or maybe he simply misheard the song because I was muttering curse words after he dropped the kneeler on my foot. 

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Beauty School Dropout

“PLEASE mom,” my six year old son Snags begged.  “Please let me give you a make over. Please?”

I tried to convince him to do something else, clean up his toys, get ready for bed, read a book, even sit idly and watch TV, but he wasn’t interested.  He only wanted to give me a makeover.

“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” my husband said. 

“Why not?” Snags asked. 

“Because,” my husband intoned. “Boys don’t give makeovers.”

But we all know that’s not true.  There are plenty of male stylists out there.  All you have to do is watch TLC and you’ll see Damone Roberts, the makeup artist on 10 Years Younger. Or Nick Arrojo cutting hair on What Not To Wear. Other’s come to mind as well.  Vidal Sassoon, Toni and Guy, Ken Paves, and surely more I’ve never even heard of (which, incidentally, is why I am not listing them here).

“Alright,” I sighed.  “Let’s go.  But makeup only.  No nail polish, no hair gel, and NO SCISSORS,” I warned as Snags took my hand to lead me up the steps.  When we got to my bedroom I saw that he had already pulled out my makeup case.  Dust from powder and blush tinted the bed sheets from where he had sat opening the various containers he had found.

I washed my face, dried it, and sat down.  The first thing Snags applied was blush.  All over my face.  I looked like I had gotten a dirty sunburn.  He put dark purple eye shadow on my eyebrows.  Then two shades of lipstick on my lips.  One color on my top lip, a different color on my bottom lip. Brown eye pencil was next, followed by even more blush.

Hair barrettes held my bangs back so he could apply the finishing touches.  Close your eyes, mom, he said, pressing something (a tattoo?!) to my forehead and laughing.

“Oooh! You are looking pretty,” he said.  “Dad is going to be so jealous!”

When he was all finished he ran to grab a mirror.  He showed me his artistry with glee.  “Do you like it?” he asked.

“Wow! I said, as I looked in the mirror.  “Wow,” I said, again, nearly speechless.  “I look nice,” I lied. 

I heard my husbands words in my head again, “Boys don’t give makeovers.”  I think what he really meant to say is “Six year old boys don’t give makeovers, very well.”

Here, take a look for yourself.  You be the judge…

Later, when I said I was going to wash my face, Snags didn’t complain.  “Well, okay,” he agreed.  “And, mom, you can take off that snake tattoo on your forehead. I don’t want people to think you are weird.”

Which is good, because I don’t really want people to think that either. Although I realize, it might be too late for that.

 

 

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The Choking

Have you ever seen a person choke?  If you’ve seen it in the movies, or on a sitcom, it doesn’t count.  You have to see it in person to understand how truly frightening it is.  And when it’s your own child who is doing the choking, it’s much, much worse than anything you can imagine.

Snags has choked twice in his life.  The first time it happened he was a baby, six, or maybe nine months old.  He was eating Cheerios for the first time.  He was eating them in his car seat while we were driving when he started to choke.  That event scared me so badly that I didn’t feed him Cheerios again until he was 3 years old.

Snags choked again last night.  On an ice cube (of course, I didn’t know it was an ice cube at the time).  My husband and I were at the deep sink in the basement, filling water balloons for the Kindergarten picnic today.  I had sent Snags upstairs to get ready for his bath, I told him I’d be up in a minute.  Two minutes later he returned to the basement looking ill.  He had his hand on his throat in the universal choking sign, and his face was red.  We asked him what was wrong, but he wouldn’t answer. 

Sometimes I ask Snags a question and he doesn’t answer, either  because he doesn’t hear me, or because he is thinking about something, usually Star Wars, or more recently, Speed Racer, and he’s lost in his own world.  Or maybe, sometimes, he is just being stubborn.  On those occasions, I repeat my question, louder, usually by yelling my question over and over until he finally does answer.  And then he’s always bothered, wanting to know why I was yelling.  Because, I tell him, YOU DIDN’T ANSWER ME.  If you hear me ask you something, then answer me.  Answer me the first time I ask you a question.  If you don’t, then I end up yelling.  I do not, in general, speak rhetorically.  At least not to six year olds.

So last night, when he wouldn’t answer, I started to yell my question, “Snags!  What’s WRONG? ARE YOU SICK?  ARE YOU CHOKING? ARE YOU OKAY?  WHAT IS WRONG?  ANSWER ME! He tried, he really did, but his hand was on his throat and his eyes were wide and terrified and he could barely make a squeak.

As the realization that he was choking hit me, the only thing I could think to do was to hit him on the back.  And as I did so, my husband yelled something.  I thought he was yelling at me to stop.  He was reaching for Snags at the same time I was. I thought he was trying to pull Snags away from me so I wouldn’t hit him.

Here’s the truth — in a moment like that, there is not time to sit down and calmly discuss the situation, decide who will do what, which method will be better. You do not coordinate your actions, you simply act. 

After the fact, I realized my husband wasn’t yelling at me to stop, and he wasn’t trying to pull Snags away from me.  He was yelling the same questions to Snags that I was.  He was trying to turn Snags around so he could do the Heimlich maneuver on him. 

Luckily that wasn’t necessary.  Either my hitting Snags on the back dislodged the ice cube, or the ice cube melted enough to go down.  Maybe it was a bit of both.  Snags started to cough and wretch and gag and that’s when I grabbed a trash can and bent him over it, thinking I shouldn’t have hit him on the back, I must have been wrong, he must merely be sick.  I was yelling, “ARE YOU SICK?  ARE YOU GOING TO THROW UP?” But he wasn’t. He was okay, but he was scared.

When Snags started to cry, I started to breathe again. I wrapped my arms around Snags and held him.  I looked up at my husband with wide eyes, and he looked back at me, his eyes just as wide.  Witnesses to the unbelievable.

When we asked Snags what he had choked on, he said it was an ice cube. The weather’s been hot and Snags had been filling glasses with ice cubes and munching on them.  Yesterday afternoon he thought it was funny to give me a cold kiss on the cheek, the cold from the ice he’d been eating and dripping on his lips.  I didn’t like him doing this because he was also dripping water from the ice cubes around the house, leaving spots of water on the floor.  He kept spitting the ice cubes into his hand and then putting them back in his mouth and sucking on them.  This time, though, it all went wrong.

We’ve come to an agreement, Snags and I, that he won’t eat ice cubes anymore.  I’m even thinking about taking the Cheerios away again.

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Caterpillars and Moths Indoors! Oh, My!

It all started several weeks ago as I was walking my son home from school and we came across a caterpillar crossing the sidewalk. 

“Look, Mom,” Snags said, as he pointed at the caterpillar.  “I wish I could keep it.”

I thought about it for a minute.  What’s the harm, I thought.  “You can,” I told him.

Snags was surprised.  “I can? I can keep him?  Really?”

“Sure” I said. “But I’m not picking him up.  If you want him, you pick him up.” 

Snags bent down and picked up the caterpillar, gently cupping him in his hands.  Two seconds later he shook his hands violently apart and threw the caterpillar to the ground.  The caterpillar must have moved in his hands. The caterpillar’s feet (are they even called feet?) felt weird, they tickled Snags hands, startling him into throwing the caterpillar down. Smack on the pavement.

But he picked him back up and tried again.  This time we managed to get all the way home, caterpillar still intact, if not a little stunned (and bruised?) by hitting the pavement a few moments earlier.  I found an empty bean dip jar and washed it out then poked holes in the jar lid with a screw driver.  Snags picked leaves from the cherry tree in our yard and put them in the jar along with the caterpillar, giving him an instant home. 

Snags named the caterpillar Rex. Rex Racer. Named after Speed Racer’s brother.  Because… caterpillars are fast?

My husband, who thought keeping a bug in the house on purpose was nasty, was about to get even more disgusted the next day.  For that is when Snags found more caterpillars, this time in our yard, on our cherry tree.

Snags was excited as he emptied out a green plastic bin from his old train table and started collecting caterpillars in it.  The sides of the bin were high enough that the caterpillars had trouble crawling out.  The plastic was smooth, so there was nothing to grip to boost them along.  He collected a bunch of caterpillars and he shared them with one of the little kids across the street.  After Snags collected another seven caterpillars to keep for himself, I made him stop.

I agreed that we could put the caterpillars, Rex included, into one of our empty aquariums.  We took an old mesh hamper and cut it apart to make a mesh top that would let in air for the caterpillars.  We put in plenty of cherry tree leaves, a couple of branches wrapped in a wet paper towel, and the caterpillars, and set the whole thing on the dresser in Snags’ room.

Every morning we added fresh leaves to the aquarium and watched as the caterpillars happily munched their way through the leaves. A living version of Eric Carle’s book . Every evening we would check to see if any of the caterpillars had made a cocoon.  For a week or two nothing happened.  Then one night I found one of the caterpillars inside a curled up leaf, with white, silky, thread like pieces starting to form around him.  By morning, it was a full cocoon.  Within a week all the caterpillars had formed cocoons, save one.

We stopped adding fresh leaves to the aquarium and we left it alone.  I wondered how long we had to keep the thing.  I looked up caterpillars online and learned that we had captured Eastern Tent Caterpillars, which turn into moths.  And I read that the moths, if they were to emerge at all, would come out of the cocoons in about three weeks.  When you got too close to the aquarium you could smell the leaves, and something else, something…off.  Maybe it was the caterpillar poop at the bottom of the aquarium.  Since I didn’t want to disturb the cocoons, I left everything alone.

Then, a couple of nights ago I walked in Snags room to check the aquarium.  Something was different.  Something was new.  Something, that looked like a furry teeny tiny bat was sitting on a branch.  It was a moth!  Snags just knew that it was Rex.

Did you know that moths have fur, or what looks like it anyway, on their heads?  I didn’t.  I guess I’d never really seen one up close at all.  I’d seem them hanging around my porch light outside at night, like teenagers outside a 7-11, but I’d never actually SEEN one, not like this.  I thought it was kind of cute.  My husband thought it was disgusting.

In the morning, Snags decided that we should let the moth go free. So we carefully carried the aquarium down the stairs and out onto the front porch.  We opened the lid of the aquarium, but the moth was holding fast.  I took a bunch of pictures with my camera and was pleased to find that if moths have eyes, they are so tiny that the flash of the camera doesn’t leave them with red eye in their photos.  Eventually I prodded the moth off the mesh lid of the aquarium and took some photos of him (or was it a her?) on a leaf.  He/she/it did not like that.  Rex the moth flapped its tiny little wings rapidly and stuck out these pointy things on the top of its head, all defensive, like it was trying to scare me away.  Moth, I thought, I could crush you with my thumb.  Give it up.  You don’t scare me.  But Snags and I must have scared the moth.  It flew off.  It flew up, up, up, where it landed, I kid you not, on Snags’ window screen.  As if we would open the window and let him fly back in. And although the moth stayed there on the screen for hours, we held firm.  We did not open the window to let it back in. You can’t go home again.  Not if you’re a moth who hatched from a cocoon in an old aqaurium in MY house.

Days have gone by and the moth has moved on.  It’s not hanging on Snags’ window screen.  And just this morning, a second moth has emerged from one of the many remaining cocoons.  Right now this new moth is playing dead.  I assume that is another defensive move.  If I go up and open the aquarium lid to try to take a picture of it I bet it will fly out of the aquarium right into my face.  So I’m going to leave it alone for a while, wait and see how many more moths emerge.  And when they do, we’ll set them free.

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Filed under caterpillars, life, moths, parenting, Rex Racer, Snags

Field Day

Field Day.  Did you have this when you were in school?  A day, or maybe only half of a day, dedicated to being outside, on the playing fields around the school, participating in track and field events?

God, how I hated field day when I was a kid.  I remember elementary school and the annual field day.  It would be blistering hot outside and we were forced to participate in competitive sports: relay races, the 50-meter dash, the long jump, broad jump, an obstacle course, and then for fun, a tug-o-war.  But the teachers kept score.  They had stop watches and clip boards. The fastest runners, the best jumpers, they won medals and the praise of the teachers around them.  The rest of us?  Me?  The loser(s).  I wasn’t fast enough to win a race, couldn’t jump far enough to win a medal.  So I’d trudge from event to event in the hot, hot sun with the added burn of shame on my shoulders, not good enough, not good enough.  No medal.  Not a winner.  Not good enough.

And then, like to rub it in, I got to stand there as they built the teams for tug-o-war.  Not fat, but somewhat chubby. Chubby enough to wait and wait and wait until they were running out of students and were looking for the anchors of the team.  Here’s a hint.  Just because a girl can pinch an inch, doesn’t mean she’s a hulk.  It doesn’t mean she can pull your entire team of skinny high jumping fast kids from the brink of the mud puddle.  So you shouldn’t all turn on her when she doesn’t whip out bionic arm powers and fling you all across the fields to the parking lot, away from the puddle.  Get over it already.

No, I haven’t.

That was 1976… perhaps. 

And now, it’s 2008.  And my son’s elementary school does field day.  “Oh, no!” I think.  Not that. Anything, but that.  All the old feelings of inadequacy come storming back.  I don’t want my son to feel that way.  I don’t want field day to be a bad memory for him too.  I keep my mouth shut, but I shudder at the thought.

Parents are invited to watch the field day events.  If participating in them isn’t bad enough, I think watching from the sidelines will be even worse. I can feel like a loser all over again even when I’m merely a spectator.

But I go anyway. 

And who knew there were 20 different ways to hold a relay race?  Field Day.  It would be more apt to call it 20 Ways to Relay Day.  There is the 911 Frog Relay where you pick up a large rubber frog wrapped in white bandages, and you run across the grass to drop him inside the hula hoop with the red tape in the shape of a hospital cross. And the Hamburger Relay where you run over to a desk masquerading as a grill, pick up a spatula, and slip over bean bags pretending to be hamburgers before you run back and tag your team mate.  Then there is the Water Relay where you dip an overturned Frisbee into a bucket of water to fill it up like a platter, move as quickly as you can across an expanse of grass (with minimal spillage) to an empty bucket where you dump the Frisbee full of water.  The team with the most water in the bucket wins, uh, nothing.  But the kids get wet and they have fun anyway.  Nobody is keeping score.  Not the teachers. Not the 5th graders manning the stations. Not at the beach relay or the water sprinkler relay or the obstacle course.  Not the kids who are covered in mud and don’t care.  And not me.  I’m just watching.  And not feeling like a loser.

I catch the gym teacher and casually mention how much better this is than when I was a kid.  “Competition,” she says, “Who needs it?  This is just for fun.” 

“Besides,” another teacher chimes in.  “These kids,” she says, tilting her head at the running kindergarteners, “They can’t really follow rules.  They cheat.  It wouldn’t do any good to keep score.  This is just for fun.”

Just for fun.

For fun.

FUN! 

Later in the evening, when my son is home and the mud from the field has been washed off, we’re talking.

“Mom,” he says.  “There is a game called Dodge Ball.”

“Yes,” I say.  “I know.  We used to play that in gym class when I was a kid.  Why?  Is your class playing Dodge Ball?”

“No,” He says, sounding relieved.

“Do you know how to play it?” I ask.

“I think people throw things at your head!” he says, alarmed.

“Well, they throw balls at you, but they aren’t supposed to throw them at your head,” I say. “Maybe at your chest or your legs.  Definitely not at your head,” I say, and he audibly sighs.

He sounds relieved.

But then he offers a new twist on the old game: “I know what would be fun,” he says. “Dodge Cinderblocks!”

My eyes widen in alarm.

“You,” I say, pointing at him for emphasis, “Will NEVER be in charge of field day!”

And that, I think, is one game I won’t ever play.  Even if it is for fun.

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Filed under humor, kids, Kindergarten, life, parenting, Snags

3 A.M. I Hate You

Why is it that kids always get sick in the middle of the night?  What is it about 3 a.m., anyway? 

3 a.m. is the time of night morning I tend to wake up for no discernable reason at all, and then struggle to get back to sleep as my mind makes up lists of things to do and stuff to worry about and just generally races around like someone on speed until the sun peeks over the horizon in the morning.  At that point, right after Snags wakes up and bounces into my room demanding breakfast?  That’s the point that my mind settles and says “Okay, I’m done thinking.  Why don’t you go ahead and drift back off to sleep now…” Only Snags is standing at my bedside announcing each passing minute of my digital alarm clock…

Mom, it’s 5:56.  5:57, 5:58, 5:59…

I’ve taken to telling him that nobody is allowed to get up before 7:00 am, but to no avail.  He’s up and he’s not willing or able to go back to sleep for another hour.  And my brain is so exhausted from the 3 a.m. thought fest that even 7:00 is too early.  I need to sleep until 10:00. 

But there is school and work and 10:00 is just not possible.  If I’m lucky, Snags will wander downstairs and watch cartoons until 7:00 when he comes back up the stairs and demands breakfast.  Which he could get himself.  It’s not like I cook the kid a hot meal every day.  But you know how it goes, Rice Crispies taste better when poured into the bowl by mom…

Three a.m. this past Monday wasn’t so different.  Except for the vomiting.  Yes, that woke me up.  Snags ran into our bedroom and announced that he thought he was going to be sick.  I told him to run to the bathroom.  He did, where he proceeded to vomit, once, a small amount, into the toilet.  As he should.  But then, for some inexplicable reason, he argued with me about needing a towel and when I didn’t give him one, he decided to vomit again, a lot more, right there on the bathroom floor, NEXT to the toilet.  Apparently turning his head was too much effort.  Or the vomit in the toilet bowl was too gross to look at.  Like road kill.

That’s when the screaming commenced.  My screaming.  At poor, not feeling so well, Snags.  For vomiting on the floor then crawling through it and spreading it around when really, all he had to do was turn his head slightly to the right and aim into the toilet bowl, and for God’s sake, stay STILL.  I swear to you, if I had done that when I was a kid my mother would have beaten my backside with one of my dad’s belts.  Think you don’t feel good now?  Stay right there until I come back.  Now get UP and bend over!  Smack…

Instead I just stood there and yelled.  Then I cleaned up the vomit and took the offending clothes and towels to the basement where I scrubbed them out in the deep sink and threw them into the washing machine.  To run twice.

Then I took a can of Lysol and sprayed down every door knob and faucet and light switch in the house.  At half past 3 a.m.

Snags went back to sleep after that, and I lay awake in bed wondering what on earth compels a child to vomit on the floor next to the toilet instead of in the toilet he is kneeling in front of.  And I felt bad for the yelling.

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Filed under kids, life, parenting, Snags