Okay, what are the odds of this? Today my kids were screaming at each other as I tried to get ready to take them to Vacation Bible School. I don’t mean that it’s odd that they were screaming nor that we were heading to VBS, let me explain. No, let me sum up. Anyway (or anyways if you are from Manitoba), my daughter runs in to “tell” me–read here tattle–that her brother had gotten water all over the kitchen, but she had cleaned it up. I went out, did the obligatory lecture about messes, proper things to use to wipe up messes, proper way to hang wet stuff used to clean up messes etc. Then we left for the morning.

Fast forward to the afternoon. We get home, get on the swimsuits, and get ready to beat the heat at the pool. I help smear on the sunscreen and go to the sink to wash my hands. The water isn’t coming out of the tap, and I can’t figure out why until I get blasted by a jet from the squirty-thing (what is that thing called? spray hose?). Not sure what happened, I turn the water off and on again. Another blast from the jet spray. Soaking wet, I turn the water off again and inspect the spray hose. It has been clamped into the “on position” by a rubber band. “JACK!” I screamed. I made him come into the kitchen, clean up the flood and take the offending rubber band off the sink. Another lecture about proper behavior, blah blah blah.

Later in the afternoon, I called my sister who lives in another country. She, too, has a tween-aged boy (in addition to several other kids). In the course of our conversation, she informed me that her son played a trick on her today and put an elastic band (in our country a rubber band) around the spray nozzle of the sink to get her wet. She left it on to get him wet while he did the dishes after supper, but she kept forgetting, turning the water on and getting blasted in the belly by the son-designed water propulsion system.

What are the odds of that? I was speechless. Two cousins, two thousand miles apart, pulling the same prank on the same day? Were they calling each other? Emailing? Reading the same “Nasty Tricks to Play on Mum” book?

I guess I’ll have to file that under the “Things that make you go hmmmm” category. Like the matching birthday cards I used to get every year from my mother’s sisters who lived in different states. Either they bought all their cards together at the same store when they went to see Nana or they were so sympatico they thought and acted alike across the miles?

I guess the old saying is true: Great Minds Think Alike. Or is it: Fools Seldom Differ?

Running on empty

June 23, 2005

Today, for the first time in my life, I ran out of gas. Literally. I was driving the kids to Vacation Bible School (fortunately on an empty residential street) and the car began to lose power, all the warning lights turned on, and it rolled to a stop at the stop sign. What a strange experience. The low fuel light had been on for days. I didn’t pay any attention to it because I always reset the trip odometer every time I fill up the tank, and it told me I had driven about a hundred miles. Too soon for a fill-up.

Fortunately, the driver who pulled up behind me at the stop sign pushed my car across the road to a little parking lot, and then kindly went to the gas station to get me a gallon or two to get my car started and get me to a filling station. As I explained that I didn’t know what was wrong because I’d only driven a hundred miles, my son confessed to having reset the button when I unwisely let him stay in the car to listen to the Cubs game while my daughter had violin lessons.

The car started up right away with the gas our Good Samaritan provided. I gave him two dollars (mostly change) which I had borrowed from my eight-year old because I had no cash. We made it to the gas station, filled the tank (forty dollars, yikes!), and went on our not-so-merry way.

I was thankful, because not only had the kind stranger been willing to help, but my father-in-law offered to come get us, and my new and very dear friend called, said she was nearby and offered to take the kids to VBS while I tried to solve the car problem. I may not be rich in money, but I have a fortune in friends and family. Their love and unselfishness touches my heart.

Several hours later, as the children sleep and I ponder why I’m still awake after midnight (it’s genetic, I’m sure), I wonder how much my life is like my gasless minivan. I trusted that I had enough fuel to get me to my destination. I wouldn’t believe the low fuel light because I always reset my trip odometer. Somewhere in the event is a lesson that I may be running out of fuel, coasting on spiritual vapors, relying on what I’ve done to take charge instead of trusting the warning lights installed by the manufacturer. I’m physically out of gas now, but it bears reflection. Tomorrow when I’m fueled up on coffee.

Driving Miss Crazy

June 21, 2005

As I drove down the road today, I passed a home with a pile of garbage at the edge of the driveway in preparation for trash day. Perched atop the waste pile was a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe looking a little sad without its front wheels. It’s funny how a discarded toy can send me down memory lane.

Suddenly five or six years melted away. I could see my son, now nine, small enough to fit in a little self-pedaled car. He had a regular trek, navigating his vehicle around the circuit of the kitchen, family and living room. The day I’m remembering, I must have gone upstairs to put his baby sister down for a nap. He met me at the bottom of the stairs with his round smiling face and sweet baby voice. “Mom! Guess what! The dog pooped on the floor, and I drove through it with my car. But don’t worry, I cleaned it up!” He grinned proudly at his accomplishment.

I forced a smile and went to look. The poop that he had smeared across the dining room carpet with the wheels of his Cozy Coupe was now completely ground in by his “clean up job.” For once, by God’s grace, I didn’t get mad and yell; I was able to appreciate that he was trying to help. It took me a long time to clean up the carpet, the car and the cloths he used to wipe up the smears. I’d like to think I was able to see the humor then; I know for a fact I can see it now. In fact, when I reminded the kids (now eight and nine) about the incident we had a hearty laugh.

As I write this down, I wonder how often I, like my son, have managed to smear poo all over the place. Sometimes I do it because I’m a sinner living in a sinful world–just like a pig in mud. Sometimes, though, I’m trying to clean up the mistakes I’ve made–of relationships, plans, you name it. I have to hope that when I do it to be helpful–mess up as I try to clean up–that God looks at me with the same patience and amusement that I felt for my son that day. Maybe someday He and I will look back on the messes and the attempted cleanup and laugh. He’s probably already laughing, but I hope then to be able to laugh with Him.

From ABC to DAD

Dear Daddy
I am now six. I an off to celebrate my birthday. I wish you were here. I love you a whole good day.
Dec. 23, 2002 3:29 p.m.

RE:Wilo
MSG:You bd my wake up page at 6? I need help
Nov 19, 2002 11:47 p.m.

Re: ABC
MSG:Okay tell her I love you
Nov 11,2002 3:48 p.m.

RE: Dear mommy
MSG: I love you (Jack). I hope you are feeling good (Al). G’dnight.
Nov 9, 2002 7:57 p.m

Father’s Day Eve

June 19, 2005

Guest blogger today:

“Daaaaaaaad!” my nine year old son yells from his bedroom about 10:00 last
night. Entering his room, I see him sitting bolt upright on the top of his
bunk bed, eyes as big as saucers. “I hear bugs in here.”

Jack has had this fear of bugs for a long time, and for the record, I have
done everything in my power to hide my own little….um,…concerns…about
bugs from my children. So he did NOT get this from me.

“Jack, it’s fine. You’re just overtired. Lie back down and close your eyes.
It’s probably just the hiss from your radio.” Oh, had I been right.

A few minutes later, I hear his cry again, this time with much more panic
and passioin: “DaaaaaaAAAAADDDDD!” I run into the room “What?! What now?!”

Jack was trying not to hypeerventilate. “It’s a HUGE bug! I felt it on my
arm…”

“Jack, you’re wearing long sleeved pj’s. For you to feel it, it would have
to be the size of a chicken.” Big sissy I thought with more than a little
sense of irony. “Here. I’ll leave the hallway light on, and I’ll keep your
door open. If there’s a bug in here, it’ll come to the light.”

A few minutes more pass before another blood-curdling scream: “DAAAAD! Oh
DAAAAAADDD!!!!”

I’d had it by this point. I stormed into his room ready to commit genocide.
“Jack, what the…” I never finished that thought because at the moment
Jack screamed “NOOO!” he swung a tennis racket at my head.

“JACK!!!. Put. That. Down. If. You. Hit. Me. I’ll. Kill…”

“Look!!!” Jack pointed to the wall by my head where a moth the size of a
bird had indeed landed.

oh god don’t scream don’t scream, I told myself.

After a little chasing, a little shooing, the moth left his room and flew
to places unknown. It took about an hour to get Jack settled down and
asleep. I had nearly forgetten about Mothtra when I settled on the couch
with my book and book light on.

You can imagine the rest.

Yeah, that bird found the light and flew into my face just as I was dozing.
I slapped at it, and my hand actually stung. And I swear this is true–the
sound of that moth hitting the wall couldn’t have been louder if I had
thrown the dog.

The only good news is that the kids were in heavy REMs so my girlish
screams didn’t interupt their slumber.

I guess there are some good lessons for fathers. First, the sins of the
father truly are passed on to the children. Second, patience and empathy
are much easier when you share phobias with your children. Third, some
things, like the ability to scream really loudly, must be genetic. Finally
and most importantly, when a child plays ball in the house and knocks out
his window screen, any bug that enters the abode will not limit their
torment to that child.

Happy Father’s Day to you dads and to all of you who have one.
Scott J. Carbonara

The other night a friend and I went to hear an acclaimed writer give a reading at our local bookstore. (Anderson’s–the best!) After he spoke, he had a Q & A time with the audience. Someone asked him “What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten about writing?” He shared two things: write every day and scrap every sentence that you think is the greatest thing that’s ever been written. Good advice.

He continued to speak about his writing and said if he could write, anyone could. Then he said, “No one has worse grammar than me.” My friend and I laughed. Startled, I realized we were the only ones laughing. Was it his joke on the audience? Or is it proof that editors are the ones who actually do the writing? A question for the ages.