What not to wear

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Uh, duh, Mom.

Yesterday, I told Lillian she was going to Grandma and Grandpa’s for dinner, because I had to sing at church. She immediately ran into her room and started stripping. Shoes, socks, off. When she came out with one arm still stuck in her dress, I asked her why she was changing.

“I just wore this dress at Grandma’s house on Saturday! I can’t wear the same thing there every day!”


I should note, that also yesterday, when looking at our summertime family portrait, she commented, “Why am I wearing that in that picture? That is a bad outfit for a picture!” I’m in trouble.

Love notes

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Weekly, Henry is charged with some creative writing assignment using about half of his spelling words. This week he saw two: one was make a comic using seven of the 15 words, and the other was to write a friendly letter using eight. The comic wasn’t so bad. There was initial complaining, but Henry didn’t have high expectations of the comic being a brilliant tale. He gets comics. They are just a tidbit of fun.

The letter, on the other hand, was a completely different story. No different from last week’s story, which also stumped him. Henry, up until this point, has struggled with creative writing. Last year I had him write in a journal each day, the 20 minutes before lunch. I’d give him a topic and say go. He struggled and complained and did the absolute minimum possible to get me off his back.

Now, in school, there’s someone else reading his work. So there’s another element of pressure for him. His MO has been to do the minimum. If the assignment is write a story using eight words, you can be darn sure that story is not going to have a sentence more than eight. In most cases, he’s been able to use more than one word in a sentence. He’s all about conservation.

He finds the task difficult. Not because he’s not creative. He is pretty much an all-around hilarious and quick-witted kid. The task is difficult for him because his brain has some kind of automatic siphon that filters out words he cannot spell. Which, in third grade, boils down to about 99.999% percent of the English language. So he’s stuck with a list of seemingly unrelated spelling words and the puddle of words he’s confident (or at least semi-confident) he will spell correctly.

I’ve watched him become almost paralyzed in this processes during these first weeks of school. We always get through it, with a few thought starters from me. And I will say, in some cases, even I would have had a tough time coming up with an actual story using the word list. Henry likes good stories. His expectations are high. But yesterday, we turned a corner.

Richard originally helped him with the assignment. Half way through, Henry approached me and said, “I hate this letter. It’s a baby letter. Like a love note or something.” And before my very eyes, he tore the paper in half. “I want to start over.”

Well, that in itself, was a first. Re-doing something on purpose. So he sat down and wrote this letter to his brother …

Dear Clifford,

I promise we’ll play baseball when you get older. I hope you do not strike out. I can’t wait until the moment when you’re in your uniform. That’s a while from now. But now you’re barely human and we keep in a cube in the cellar. That doesn’t mean I do not like you.

Love Henry

That’s my boy! The spelling words were: we’ll, strike, moment, that’s, human, cube, cellar and doesn’t

A mile in my shoes

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Today I put on a pair of shoes I bought when I was pregnant with Mary Claire. That was 14 years ago. There they sat, on the sale rack at Hudson’s or Marshall Fields, whatever store it was then. Calling my name. I couldn’t fit my fatter-than-normal pregnant feet into the shoe, but I knew they would fit postpartum. The just had to. They were still kind of expensive, even at half off. But I loved them. So, I bought them anyway, stashed them in my closet and looked forward to (hopefully) wearing them someday.

And wear them I did. These shoes have taken my feet miles. They were the one pair of shoes I’d pack on trips. I’d wear with jeans, dresses, shorts even. Who cared. I loved them. And my feet loved them.

They saw me through years of work and play. I was wearing them the day I ran over my foot with an office chair while hurriedly making last-minute changes to an important speech my boss was making. I’m sure I fractured a bone in my foot. But I just tightened the laces, and hobbled (in absolute pain). I remember my co-worker telling me I was crazy. And I was. The show (and the shoe) must go on. And we did.

Hey old friend

As time went on, the shoes just got better. Laces were replaced. The leather darkened with age.  I oiled them, polished them and loved them. But then, finally, they just got too out of style. So I had to put them away. But I kept them, which is not like me. I’m really good at clearing out my closets and getting rid of the old.

Well, lo and behold. Oxford lace-up shoes are back in the game. So, this morning, when I put on my jeans, I reached for those sweet shoes that I dug out of the attic just a few weeks ago. I put them on.

And I think my feet sang. Or at least I did. (No surprise.)