Category Archives: Childhood

Chicken Craps

I’ve always hated group projects.  Feel free to judge me on that character flaw.  When I was in middle school working on one such group project, I freaked out when someone started to color the dog on our poster purple.   Come on, people.  Have you ever seen a purple dog?  I also got a little annoyed when people put the colors of the rainbow in the wrong order.  ROY G BIV.  It’s not that hard.  So it was a running joke that my poor future children would be traumatized when I criticized their art.

I guess I’ve kept that side of myself pretty well locked down…until last week.  On Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving I was at my parents’ church with the kids.  Nati made this:

Turkey Craft

Nati: “Look! I made a chicken!”

Me: “Wow! I’m so proud of you! But I think maybe it’s a turkey.”

Nati: “Yeah.  Miss Cheri is a good teacher.  She shows us how to make craps.”

Me: “Crafts.”

Nati: “I like making craps.”

Me: “You mean crafts.”

Nati: “I want to show everybody my chicken. They’ll be so proud of me!”

Me: “Yes they will…but it’s a turkey.”

I guess I’ll have to work on taming that beast to spare my budding artist.

When we got home that night, Yohannes was inexplicably watching Spy Kids 3-D.  Towards the end of the movie, a computer animated flying pig showed up, presumably from one of the previous movies.

Nati looked wide eyed at the TV and said, “Whoa! A flying pig! I never knew that pigs could fly!”

Clearly this is why you are not supposed to let toddlers watch TV.  Shame on us. For those of you who are similarly flawed and allow your children to watch Dora, here is a little treat that my brother-in-law Pierce showed me on Thanksgiving:

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving with turkeys and crafts.

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A Confidant

When I was in elementary school, I had a classmate who told her mother everything.  And by everything, I mean she told her mother when she had a crush.   I was extremely jealous of her because I didn’t feel that my mother would respond well if I told her about my crushes since I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend.

As I got a little older, I was still envious of that relationship and began to experiment by telling my mother about important things I was feeling (like crushes.)  I was surprised to find that she was remarkably receptive.  She didn’t scold or judge me, although she did encourage me not to date until I was 30.

As a married adult who blatantly disregarded that advice and no longer has crushes at the crux of my existence, that relationship has continued to grow to depths beyond anything I had ever hoped for. I am honored to have my mother as one of my closest friends and confidants who still mothers me when I need it, and grandmothers my children like a pro.

Happy Birthday Mom! You are the best!


Fear

I have many fears.  When I’m out in the open, I sometimes fear that gravity will fail, and I’ll float off into space with nothing to grab onto (but really, if gravity failed, what good would it do to grab on to anything?)  Each time I walk out the door, I fear that I forgot to put my pants on (I’ve never forgotten to put my pants on, but I dream about it all the time.)  When my family is asleep, I fear that they’ve stopped breathing, so I poke each one of them until I see some obvious movement and then I freeze and hold my breath, hoping they won’t actually wake up.

On top of these niggling fears and hundreds more like them, there are four things that scare me to death, and I remember the exact moment when I became afraid of each of them.

1. Heights

When I was about seven years old, my little sister Hannah was four.  At the time, our house had a porch with a concrete wall a few feet high going around it.  Because our house was built on a slope, the drop from the outside of the wall was much farther than it was from the wall to the porch.  Regardless, my older sister Rebekah and our friends and I would often play on top of the wall, climbing around without a care.  One day Hannah finally decided to brave the wall.  I remember her standing  on top of it, walking boldly around the porch, and my eyes kept dropping to the ground so many feet below her. My first thought was, She could fall! My next thought was, I could fall! And I’ve been afraid of heights ever since.

Things this has kept me from enjoying: The climb up Mt. Kenya, climbing to the tops of trees with my friends, breathtaking views, and being around anyone else who is in a high place, ever, at any time, regardless of the circumstances.

Things I hope to enjoy in the future: Rock-climbing, skydiving, and climbing trees with my kids.

2. Small Spaces

When I was seven or eight, Rebekah and I were playing one time when she suggested we play a trick on Hannah.  We had a sleeping bag, and she wanted me to crawl into the bottom.  Then she would get Hannah to come and get in the sleeping bag, and I would scare her.  So I crawled into the bottom of the sleeping bag.  When Hannah’s feet came wriggling in through the opening, my first thought was, She fell for it!  My second thought was, I’m buried alive! I freaked out and started yelling until I had clawed my way back into the open air.  I’ve never tolerated closed spaces since then.

Things this has kept me from enjoying: A multitude of practical jokes, caves, and too much cuddling.

Things I hope to enjoy in the future: Spelunking.

3. Bodies of Water

When I was about eleven years old, my family was getting ready to go back to Kenya.  We were going through orientation at Black Rock Retreat, and the youth (which I barely qualified as) had our own class.  On one of the days, we went tubing.  Everything was fine, until we came to a (very) small waterfall that we didn’t know was coming up.  My tube flipped and dumped me under the water.  I was probably only under for a few seconds, but it felt like minutes. I distinctly remember reaching out my hand toward what I thought was the surface and hitting solid rock.  I felt trapped.  My only thought was, I am going to die.  I resurfaced shortly after that, and the rest of the tubing trip was uneventful…or would have been if I had finished it.  I started to have a panic attack as soon as we started going again, so one of the adults had to walk me the whole way back.  We didn’t have shoes, and I got stung by a bee. A few weeks later, my family went to the beach.  My parents literally dragged me, kicking and screaming into the water to help me “get back on the horse.”  Although bodies of water still scare me, my heart doesn’t start pounding at the sight of deep mud-puddles and shallow pools like it did between the tubing trip and the beach trip. Thanks, mom and dad.

Things this has kept me from enjoying: Being near rivers, being in rivers, driving over and/or through rivers, being near the ocean, being at the beach.

Things I hope to enjoy in the future:  Scuba diving, going on vacation to the beach without staying up all night worrying about tsunamis, letting go of my child’s hand when I’m near a river, and not counting the number of people in the ocean obsessively to make sure no one went under (this includes not only my own family, but also everyone else in the water for as far as I can see…I inherited this lovely habit from my mother.)

4. Spiders

When I was about twelve and in sixth grade, my sisters and I were home-schooled in Kenya.  During that year, we spent a lot of time with a few of our neighbors, and we all made “pets” out of the spiders that lived in the web-lined holes in the ground.  This involved sticking long pieces of grass down the hole and irritating them and baiting them until they came up to the surface and reared their angry paws at  us.  Much squealing was involved.  Rebekah was always a little uneasy about our new friends. One time, I was using a slightly shorter piece of grass to coax a spider out.  When it angrily came to the surface and lunged at me, Rebekah threw a rock on it and killed it because she thought it was about to bite me.  My first thought was, She just killed our pet!  My next thought was, Maybe it did almost bite me.  Ew, that thing is gross.

Things this has kept me from enjoying: Life, if I know that a spider is in the house with me.

Things I hope to enjoy be able to do in the future: Dispose of spiders by myself without hiding behind Yohannes and screaming, “Get it! Get it! Get it!”

But I have realized that Nati feeds off of my fears.  Yohannes and I recently had an animated discussion about a mouse that ran across the floor.  Yesterday, Nati heard a noise and thought a mouse was somewhere in the vicinity and insisted on being carried because he was afraid.  I don’t want him to also fear heights and small spaces and water and spiders. I want him to climb trees and play with bugs and hide in the cubbyholes and (maybe) swim in some very tame streams.  How can I put a lid on my own neuroses while still teaching him a healthy respect for danger?


F is for Fruitcake

When I was in Mrs. Clements’s third grade class at RVA, I had a hard time with math.  I understood everything perfectly well, but I just wasn’t fast enough.  You know…multiplication tables and all that.  We had these timed quizzes and if you got all of the questions correct, you got a star beside your name on a little chart on the wall.  I saw the beautiful shiny lines of stars next to my classmates’ names and coveted them.  But I never, ever, ever got all the questions right, because I NEVER finished the quiz on time.  Except for once.   On this particular day, we had a substitute teacher.  I finished my last problem just as the time was up and couldn’t believe my luck.  But when I got my quiz back, I had gotten one wrong!  It was something ridiculous like zero times zero.  No, seriously.  That was the problem.  Zero times Zero.  And right below the problem, I had written my answer.  Zero.

I couldn’t believe it!  I was right!  I had gotten 100%. I would get a sticker!  But when I showed the teacher my answer, she said she couldn’t give me credit, because my zero looked like a six.  I explained to her that our  real teacher (I know, I apologize to all subs) had never taken issue with the way my zeros looked, but she wouldn’t budge.  And I never got a shiny metallic star next to my name on the chart.  I didn’t feel heartbroken. I felt betrayed. I felt persecuted.  (My family tells me that my account of my childhood is somewhat biased toward the “persecuted” side.)

Recently, I had to take a math placement exam.  I had taken a practice test and brushed up on my trigonometry (thanks, Yohannes!), and the kids were asleep (it was 12:30am), so I decided to go ahead with the actual test.  72 questions, 100 minutes, and no calculators allowed.   I never got to the trigonometry.  It was the good old multiplication and long division that did me in.  I was figuring out percentages and balancing equations, but I just couldn’t move fast enough and only finished 50 out of 72 problems.

But I know trigonometry! And Calculus!  I KNOW WHAT ZERO TIMES ZERO IS!  I WANT A GOLD STAR!!!!  My brain simply cannot comprehend that I could have failed at this, but it has been eight long years since I’ve cracked open a math book.   And the last time anyone timed me at multiplication and division without a calculator? Yep.  Third grade.  Elementary math refresher course, here I come!