Wednesday, September 12, A list

*Is had a bit of a stomachache when she got home from school. Was it the heat? Is she sick? No way to know ’til tomorrow. She’s feeling better- sleeping now. Before she goes to bed every night, we go over good dreams- a list of good things to dream about, in case she has a bad dream, she can remember our list and grab some material for a good dream right away.
Tonight, Isobel had a different list for me…*

“Mom, I have a different list.”
“Okay.”
“My number one favorite thing is you and Dad.”
“Awww…”
“Then, hanging with other friends.”
“That’s nice.”
“And small animals.”
“Of course.” I tell her to hang on a second and I bounce into the kitchen and grab a notebook.
“And pink, soft, sparkly things.”
“I’m not surprised.”
“Ha! And swimming and Biggie’s!” (her fave restaurant)
“Good choice…”
“And my birthday.”
“Mmmmhmmm. Aw, that’s a nice one…”
“And… well, my room, and my bed.”
“Three more and we have a list of ten!”
“My whole entire house… and my toys.”
“I can see that.”
“Food and drinks.”
“That’s funny, Is, don’t you have a favorite food or drink?”
“No, just put food and drinks. I like food, and I like drinks, so put it down.”

*I comply.*

“And the last one… the last one, is Snuggles.” She holds up her starting-to-get-beat-up rainbow dog toy that she sleeps with every night, and kisses it.

*That’s it, Isobel’s 10 most favorite things at 7 years old.*

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Monday, September 10- on boredom

*Isobel, like most kids, will sometimes come to me and complain that she’s bored. I used to try and point her to things she could do, or offer to teach her to clean the toilets (she always demurred, hmmm…) anyway, I try to distract her, or tell her to find something else to do.
About a year ago, I shared an epiphany with Isobel that I’d had when I was around 10. We were visiting my aunt for Christmas, and I went up to her and told her I was bored. Now, this aunt was a professional journalist, tall, slim, and imposing, with flame-red hair and icy blue Irish eyes. She smoked constantly, and had a modern house full of books. She had a sheltie and I just loved her. But I complained, as all kids do, and what she said to me stuck with me forever, and I haven’t been bored since. She said, “Boredom comes from within,” turned on her heel and walked away, leaving me there with my mouth open and my mind blown.
Now, when Is comes to me with boredom troubles, since she knows the story, I tell her, “Boredom comes from within,” and leave her to it. She usually finds something else to do.
Not today.*

“Mom, I’m bored.”
“Boredom comes from…” I pause, because Isobel holds up her hand to stop me.
“Look, Mom, I don’t want any of this ‘boredom comes from within’ stuff. I’m just bored.”
“Want to learn to clean the toilets?”
“MOOOOOOOOOOOOOM….”
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Sunday, September 2, A Butterfly Death

*A few weeks ago, my friend gave me some caterpillars to watch for her while they were away. The bugs were supposed to make chrysalides and become beautiful Monarch butterflies that we could then release in her pollinator-friendly garden.
The first one hatched as we watched in awe, and then with mounting concern as the thing flopped around on the bottom of the jar, unable to right itself. I carefully poured the hatching butterfly and all the other chrysalides (all but 1 were on the floor of the jar) into the butterfly net habitat I’d bought in case they hatched while my friend was still away.
The butterfly, whom Isobel named Beauty, managed to climb up the side of the netting, where she hung for a day or so. Her wings were misshapen- curled up at the edges and stuck together. We decided that Beauty would be Isobel’s first pet. Yes, Is had been begging for years to get a kitten, but her first pet ended up being a disabled butterfly. Life is what happens when you’re making other plans, right?
Isobel and Beauty were the best of buddies- Beauty liked to sit in Is’s hand and just hang out and flutter a bit, then go back in her habitat and climb on leaves and enjoy sugar water.
3 days ago, the other one hatched. The other 3 chrysalides didn’t work out- 2 died and the last was a hideously deformed monster that only lived for a few minutes after emerging… who knew so many things could go so wrong with butterflies?
A lot, as it turns out. The new butterfly, named Shippy Whippy, can’t fly- it fell down the stairs yesterday when we released it, instead of gracefully flying away to enjoy an outdoor life pollinating the flowers. We returned Shippy to the butterfly habitat after I caught it as it flapped pitifully in circles on the ground.
Beauty died yesterday. When I broke the bad news to Isobel…*

She came over, looked at Beauty, who was sort of tipped over on the floor of the habitat, and asked, “Mom, are you sure she’s dead? She might just be sleeping.”
“Okay,” I said. “Should we just leave her there for a while?”
“Yes. Maybe butterflies are really heavy sleepers.”
“Okay.”

*Today, we got Beauty ready for her funeral. I sprayed her with a few coats of lacquer- Is wants to keep her body in the butterfly-shaped trinket box I bought to serve as her coffin. But, she doesn’t want to bury it- she wants to keep it in her room. I said okay. Is had a few questions while we prepared Beauty…*

“Mom, I’m really sad.”
“That’s okay, babe. It’s totally normal to be sad when your pet dies.”
“But, I don’t want you to try and cheer me up.”
“Okay. Can I just sit and be sad with you?”
“That would be okay.”

*She put her head on my shoulder and we sat a step down from the box Beauty’s body sat in, drying after the first coat of lacquer.*

“I wonder what it’s like to be dead.”
“I guess we’ll all find out eventually.”
“I bet it’s like sleeping, but never waking up.”
“That sounds AWESOME. Sign my ass up right now!” I slowly tipped over on the steps, eyes closed, next to Beauty’s box.
Is laughs.
“No! Mom! There’ll be no more hugs! You won’t be able to read any more books!”
“Wait a second. No snuggles? No more hanging out with you and Dad?”
“Nope.”
“Ah, then forget it.” I straightened up and turned Beauty over for another coat.
“Mom… And when you’re dead, the birds eat your blood… And you have to hang out in a coffin that’s hard, like Dracula, and there’s not even a blanket.”
“Oh, no way. I’m out. I’m gonna live forever, then.”
“Me, too.”

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Friday, August 31, after bedtime

*We went out for dinner tonight and stayed out late. On the way home, while trying to spot wild beasts as we drove through the deep dark woods (which Isobel calls the ‘deep duck woods’), we started talking about what time we all go to sleep.*

“So, Daddy goes to bed the latest, and Mom goes to bed earlier, and I go to bed the earliest.”
“That’s right.”
“And so I get the most sleep, and Mom the middle, and Dad is last.”
“Okay, that sounds right.”
“Mom, there’s always a sleepy self in everyone.”
“Hahaha, yes, that’s true.”

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August 1, 2018, Spherical Earth

*Is is home today with a cold, watching a movie by Universal Pictures. Between sniffles, she points at the curvature of the Earth in the opening credits and says how pretty it is…*

“Yes, baby, it’s gorgeous. Hey, did you know some people think the Earth is flat?”
“What? Grown ups?”
“Yep.”
“But… you’re not flat. And you live on the Earth.”
“That’s true.”
“So, how could the Earth be flat? How would it spin?”
“It’s not flat, some people just think it is.”
*Is shakes her head disbelievingly.*
“Wow.”
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July 31, 2018, After Now

*You know when you try to explain something to your kid when you’re trying to do something else at the same time? Yeah, like that.*

*Today, Isobel is sick. She’s got a terrible summer cold, snotty, coughing, miserable. The doc said yesterday to just ride it out and treat the symptoms- so she’s got some meds on board and is feeling a little better, just tired and not herself. Sometimes when she’s not feeling well, I like to surprise her with a new toy or movie. This morning, I had Amazon open looking for something when…*

“Mom. When I’m sick sometimes you give me a new toy.”
“Yes.”
“So, can I have a new toy? I’m sick. Please?”
*I relent.*
“Okay. What would you like? Under $20.”
“A stuffed animal!”
*Of course. Because we only have 75,000 other stuffed animals.*
“Okay, hey Amazon has this thing, where you can order it and get it the same day. Want to try it?”
“WOW! We don’t have to go out or anything? I don’t want to go out.”
“Nope. They’ll deliver it right to you.”
*I sort it and she picks out some huge, fluffy, white kitty. I click the button and like magic, it’s on the way.*
“Okay, it’s on the way.”
“Really? When will it get here?”
“It says before nine p.m.”
“That’s past my bedtime!”
“Yep, but it’s the best they can do.”
“Okay.”
*Is goes off to curl up on the couch with her iPad, and I start doing whatever housekeeping shit I am trying to keep up with. A few hours later…*
“Mom! Let’s check for the kitty!”
“Okay.”
*We go outside, no kitty. Now I’m cooking dinner and I try to explain…*
“Babe, it might get here after dinner. I have to go cook. Let’s check again later.”
“But you said it’ll be here by nine!”
“Yes, and it’s only five now. So… that’s how many hours?”
*She trails me into the kitchen.*
“But, I guess it’s four. But four more hours? When will it be here, though?”
“After now, Is, since we just checked. We can check again before dinner and after, and then before bed if it’s still not here, okay?”
“Okay. After now?”
“After now. Later.”
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May 21, Opening Morning Bananas

*Every day, Isobel likes to have a banana as part of her breakfast. This morning, around seven, I turn around while I’m making her lunch, to see her struggling to peel open a banana from the stem end.*

“Hey, Is, look, I used to peel bananas like that. But if you turn it around and open it from the other end, it’s way easier. I saw a monkey open it like this on a video a while ago. See?”

*She hands me the banana and I press open the other end, and magic! It opens right away. She looks from me to the banana, and back again and says…*

“Mom. When did you learn to do that?”
“I don’t know, last year, year before? Why?”
“So, you were, what, forty-eight?”
“Um, I guess so.”
“So, you were not smarter than a monkey until you were forty-eight.”
“Huh. I guess that’s true. I’m probably still not smarter than a monkey.”

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May 11, First think in the morning

*I get up at either five thirty or six in the morning. I grab a shower, then head into the kitchen to start breakfast and make Is’s school lunch. Is usually gets up at twenty to seven and wanders into the kitchen soon after. Friday, I was standing at the sink, cooking Is’s lunch and drinking my tea. I hadn’t really used my brain yet; this is all automatic setting stuff I do in the morning. When I turn to ask Is what she wants to eat, I catch her standing in the middle of the room, in sun rays, wildly waving her arms. It’s that time of year when the sun streams through the northeast-facing kitchen windows before seven in the morning.*

“Um. Is, what are you doing?”
“There are so many of them!”
“Of what, baby?”

*At this point, I think, o shit, sugar ants… But no. She starts waving her arms again in the air, batting at invisible things like a cat does.*

“What is this stuff?”
“What stuff, baby… oh, oh, it’s dust! It’s just dust motes in the air. You can see them because of the way the sun is shining in here.”
“I want them out of our house!”
“Ha, dude, nobody has a dust-free house.”
“But what IS it?”
“Dust? It’s made mostly from our dead skin cells that slough off… and bacteria we bring in from outside, and stardust from comets and meteorites.”
“What? That’s crazy.”
“I know! But it’s true.”

*She runs away, I think to go to the bathroom, but she returns with the crappy little plastic microscope I bought her years ago for looking at leaves and whatnot. She holds the microscope in the air and looks through it.*

“Is, what are you doing?”
“I’m gonna see which is which!”
“Um…”
“I can’t tell!”
“Haha, of course you can’t, not like that. Okay, lets have breakfast and I’ll tell you all about how microscopes work.”
“Okay. Can you make me some oatmeal?
“Of course.”
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March 31, 2018 – the Navigator of the story

*Isobel is watching ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events,’ while I am attempting to finish my paper for Philosophy (Descartes and dreams, what fun!). Anyway, she stops the show on her iPad, looks over at me working on my computer, and says…*

“Mom. It’s nice they have a navigator telling the story, so you know what’s happening.”
“What?”
“A navigator. You know, he tells the story so you know what’s going on.”
“Oh, no. Not a navigator. A narrator. A navigator is a person who finds directions for a trip, usually using maps, and decides the way to go. A narrator is a person who tells a story, like they talk through a movie, so you can follow the plot.”
“But a navigator tells the story.”
“No, baby, the word you want to use is narrator. But in a way, I guess a narrator is like a navigator- they both help you find your way. In a story or a movie, the person talking over the acting is usually a narrator.”
“Okay. I almost got lost in this movie.”
“Very cool. Enjoy!”
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March 19, An Apple’s Way Of Life

*Every day Is comes home from school and has a snack, then does her homework, then she can play or do whatever she likes. Today, I was cutting up apples for her snack (she requested apples with peanut butter and some popcorn), when I noticed that the apple had a scar. Isobel had two long scars on her leg from previous hip surgeries- one along the bikini line from several open reductions, and one on her outer thigh from a femoral osteotomy and subsequent hardware removal. Most of the time she’s fine with her scars, but sometimes she doesn’t like them. I told her that scars are just a way that you can see how strong you are- that you were stronger than whatever gave you that scar, and now you’re healed. So I pointed out the apple’s scar.*

“Hey, Is, look at this apple- it has a scar!”
She looks. “Just like me!”
“That’s right.”
“Huh.”
“I’ll be done making your snack in a minute.”
“Should we eat it?”
“Sure, it’s fine. It’s just a spot where the apple rested on a branch or something, that’s why there’s a scar in the skin.”
“So it didn’t do anything to get the scar?”
“No, I don’t think apples don’t do much except grow, right?”
She smiles and leaves the room to put her homework on her desk. From the other room she calls to me, “Hey, apples don’t even have a way of life!”

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