We’re empty netters now

It’s amazing how a little dose of parenthood can change your perspective. I suppose this is true in regard to human children too, but I’m thinking about the parenting of adopted insects.

For Big Man’s birthday, we got him a butterfly kit. This is a plastic cup of caterpillars and some mysterious earthy substance that we assumed was their food.

The caterpillars looked dead when we took their plastic habitat out of its box. At that point, our emotional attachment to them went no deeper than figuring out how to return a box of dead insects for a full refund.

The caterpillars were not dead; they were sleepy from their long, dark journey from the caterpillar factory. With a little light added to their world, they came to life, eating the mass of brown stuff and growing at an impressive rate. At the moment we discerned the change in their sizes, our emotional attachment to a cup full of bugs began.

They were supposed to climb to the lid of the container and there attach themselves for cocoon construction. We all gasped with awe at baby’s first steps as one, then another, began the climb. They must have been still a little hungry, because one after another they came back down for a snack, putting us all on an emotional roller coaster as they went up and down without attaching themselves to anything.

At last one of them hung from the lid and began the transformation. There was rejoicing throughout the land. One by one, they all followed suit, with the exception of one confused late bloomer. We wrung our hands over him, speculating upon whether he was ill or just daft. Finally, he joined his comrades and we all breathed easier.

We transferred them to their netted nursery. How long was it supposed to take them to be (re)born? No one knew. Days of doubt followed. One morning, there was a real, live butterfly clinging to the netting, his cocoon an empty shell. More rejoicing ensued.

It’s so hard to get children to smile for the camera.

Another butterfly appeared, then another and another. All but one had emerged victorious. While we waited and worried about the last, we cut up tangerines and carefully set the fruit inside the cage for food. I busied myself making our babies happy and comfortable, careful not to let anyone escape.

This made me realize that if a cousin of these precious creatures had flown into the house from outside, my wife would be chasing it with a bottle of Windex and a fly swatter. She’s not fond of insects, except the ones that are family.

We prepared ourselves for the worst regarding the remaining cocoon. Just when we had given up hope, there was movement. The butterfly struggled, but could not free himself. It was heartbreaking to watch him entangle himself deeper in silk and cocoon wreckage.

My wife prodded me to help him. With a toothpick I tore away his sticky fetters. I freed him, but alas, his wings were malformed. At my wife’s bidding, I set our poor Tiny Tim down next to the fruit, so the doomed child might live out his days in comfort.

The day came to send the kids out on their own. All but one found their way out into the open air. The last stayed by the fruit. My wife was convinced he was refusing to leave his wounded buddy. He might have just been hungry. The next day, the injured one expired. We gave the last healthy butterfly another chance to go. Having a clear conscience, he did not stay for the eulogy.

I wonder where the kids are now. Have they stayed nearby or are they off to see the world. I hope they don’t come home to visit. We don’t like insects in our house.


When not driving the family taxi, I write books sometimes

There was a time when I used to post twice a week. That might not seem too ambitious to those who post every day, but it was a quick turnaround in my blogging world. Then, I scaled back to once a week, then once a month. Now, I post when I can get to it and I have something to say I haven’t already said before.

When I started blogging, I had one kid, a toddler. Now that kid can dunk a basketball, and his two brothers aren’t far behind. I spend a lot of my time in the car, going in circles. I do lots of little circles, from school to home to a different school, to a practice field, back to the first school, back home, to a third school, back to the practice field, to a gym, to a different practice field, back to one of the schools (I hope it’s the right one, because I can’t remember which kid I’m picking up), back to the gym, and back home—and then probably out to get pizza because nobody had time to make or eat anything. After that, I try to figure out which kid is missing and where I should have picked him up.

For better or worse (I can’t decide which), I still have my day job.

Another thing I’ve been doing since before I began blogging is writing other things. Some of those things come to something, and some don’t. And some are still in flux. A piece of writing making its way out of flux and into something is this:

Everyone who buys the book gets a back cover too! It’s a special service I provide to my readers.

If all goes to plan, this book will be out next month, which for those of you reading this old post years into the future, is May, 2023. In anticipation of that sublime but unspecific date, here is a marketing blurb. In my world of hungry boys, this would be a snack to hold you over until dinnertime.

Emma and her parents share recurring dreams, in which they are a different family, living 100 years ago in an unfamiliar place, and heading toward tragedy. When Emma’s parents discover their dream family actually existed, it becomes clear that these visits to the past are more than mere dreams—they are playing an unseen role in this historical family’s lives. As the century-old history of this troubled family materializes, it reveals the truth that the impending tragedy spells doom for both families. Only five-year-old Emma has the power to avert disaster, but it will require extraordinary courage against overwhelming evil for Emma to save both families from destruction in The Other Place.

I’ll come back with more between now and publication, but if you get tired of waiting, you could always check out my other books by clicking the “This guy should write a book” tab at the top of the page.

Meanwhile, I’ve still got lots of work to do, and lots of kids to drive around town, so wish me luck.

Mouse visits now by invitation only

Nine years ago, I wrote about our first encounter with a mouse in our house. Our old, indoor cat was happy to take on a new roommate so long as it meant no interruption to his busy sleep schedule.

That cat, beloved, despite his universal indifference, has long since departed this world; may he rest in peace. Since then, we have been adopted by a youthful, indoor/outdoor cat, who is anything but indifferent toward mice, birds, and, to his periodic detriment, skunks.

Smokey, the new cat, is a top-notch mouser. It almost seems a shame, to him, that we have not been plagued by mice since he joined our family. It would make his sport perfect if he could have some indoor hunting available on rainy days so he wouldn’t have to get his toes wet in the pursuit of happiness.

Most cat owners can take comfort in the idea that their sweet little killers will help keep mice away from their homes. We were quickly disabused of this false security when Smokey began bringing mice home with him. Fortunately, these visitors were no longer in any condition to cause havoc by the time he brought them.

Not until last week.

Saturday night, Smokey showed up on schedule at the back door. It seemed a routine end to his evening until, after letting him in, we realized he’d brought a friend with him. This was a very healthy and able friend, the only impediment to his extraordinary vigor being that he happened to be held in a cat’s teeth. This condition was soon remedied when Smokey set him down and invited him to play another round of Chase.

Treats in the fridge for Dad, and under the fridge for Cat.

The mouse was game, and also significantly heartier than most mice who drop from cats’ mouths. Smokey might have grazed him in batting the right paw, but by the time the cat realized the left paw bat was a swing and a miss, the mouse was under the couch.

Thus began the humans’ night of playing Cat and Mouse with a cat and a mouse. We closed off the back room and commenced lifting every piece of furniture as the mouse juked the cat from one hiding place to the next. It turns out these games are not well suited to people, and the fun rapidly diminishes, though you might not be able to tell it by the steady increase in volume of their voices.

Eventually, the mouse took sanctuary in the underworkings of the minifridge wherein Daddy’s precious beer is chilled. Neither man nor beast could get him out. I picked up the fridge and set it outside. Mice don’t have fingers strong enough to pop the tab on a beer can, or the cat might have been in a lot more trouble.

Next day, the fridge came back inside—to our knowledge, without a mouse. The beer was saved, and so was the cat.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the clogged lint screen

My wife thinks I’m not as romantic as I used to be.

To this, I agree.

Also, our 15-year-old clothes dryer doesn’t dry clothes as fast as it used to.

Maybe we are both clogged with lint. Or maybe our heating elements are burning out.

After 19 Valentine’s Days, 19 of her birthdays, 19 Christmases, 16 wedding anniversaries, and 15 Mothers’ Days, it can become challenging to come up with fresh bursts of romance. 

Lately, it has taken lots of time and effort to keep that old dryer limping along. It’s had its triumphs and failures. It makes more noise now than it should. So do I.

We both wore out our belts.

Cards have sure changed since my youthful days of flaming romance.

I prepared to buy a new dryer, but my wife said no. She said these new computerized dryers have too many sophisticated parts that could break down and be expensive to fix.

Sure, they look flashy and seem full of promises, but they would most likely be unreliable.

She would rather stick with the dryer she understands—the one she knows where to kick when it acts up.

The one I can keep running, imperfectly, but consistently.

She gets annoyed at the old dryer’s many flaws, but she knows eventually the clothes will come out warm and dry, and comfortable.

We both get annoyed, but we are the only two who know all the old jokes, and understand why they are still funny. We couldn’t laugh so hard at anything else.

Even after all these years of hit or miss holidays, my wife is still a very attractive woman. I have little doubt she could have much more than a new dryer if she wished.

But I have even less doubt that she cherishes warm and comfortable things that she knows exactly where to kick.

I may have slowed down, but I never moved the target.

There must be something romantic in that.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the young lovers, young and old alike.