Posts in the Carolyn Category

Published 1 year, 11 months ago

“Dad, where is the core of the house?” the youngest asked me this morning, as I made his lunch for school.

I might’ve answered differently if he’d asked me what, but this was specifically where.  Still, I wanted to be sure what he meant, so I asked what he meant by “the core.”  It turned out that, as I thought, he wanted to know the location of the center of the house, like the core of an apple.

I didn’t ask why he wanted to know.  I try not to, in cases like this, although sometimes I say something like, “Why do you ask?  It’s okay that you want to know, I’m just curious about what led to that question.”  But I try to reserve that for questions that seem like they could lead to dangerous activity—e.g., “What would happen if I jumped off a roof?”  (Which, to be clear, I don’t think he’s ever asked, but if he did, I’d answer his question seriously and then ask why he wanted to know.)

This time, I just said, “It’s a good question!  Let’s figure it out.”

First I had him determine which was wider, the living room or the dining room.  He counted off steps and determined the living room was wider.  Then he counted the steps across the front hall (such as it is), and then added up the steps from the three spaces.  They had been big steps, so it was 18 steps across the house.

More steps were taken to measure the house front to back, at which point we figured out that the center was somewhere in the  main stairwell.  (Also the only stairwell.)  But then I threw the curveball: we’d measured the house side to side and front to back.  What else had to be measured?

He thought hard a moment, and then he got it.  The slow-blooming grin on his face was priceless.  Then he laughed.  “How am I supposed to count steps from the basement to the attic?!?  I can’t walk in the air, of course!!”

So we counted the floors and their heights in our heads, and considered that the roof’s peak was a bit higher than the attic ceiling, but that the attic and basement had lower ceilings than the first and second floors.  In the end, we decided the core of the house was probably the step just below the first landing of the stairwell, about two-thirds of the way across it.  He sat in that spot, looking pleased and maybe a little smug.  Then he slid down the stairs, telling me his head felt weird when he thought about how he was sitting in the exact center of the house.

A few minutes later, he’d hauled out the deluxe snap circuit set his uncle had gotten him for Christmas, and was building a circuit of his own making.  Once it was completed, we talked about current flows and why the fan went slower and the light came on when he opened the switch, and the light went off and the fan sped up when it was closed.

And then it was off to kindergarten.  As we walked up the street, he asked why a leaf had moved closer to the door when he slammed it shut instead of being blown further away, so we talked about fluid displacement.  The conversation lasted until he spotted a friend getting out of a car, at which point he ran off to compare outfits.  (Today was Pajama Day at the school.)

I love talking with him about the world and how it works, because it lets me see the world through new eyes.  I felt the same way when I had the same kinds of conversations with his sisters.  It’s a cliché that a small child constantly asking “Why?” is annoying and exasperating, but not to me.  I never, ever want them to stop asking why.  I will always answer their questions, or tell them I don’t know and we’ll find out together.  The internet makes that last part much, much easier than in the past, admittedly.

I have another reason to always give an answer, though.

If I always answer my childrens’ questions, I teach them that questions are okay, that questioning is a good thing.  And more importantly to me, I teach them that they can come to me with anything, and be taken seriously.  Kat feels and acts the same, thankfully.

This has been a real advantage with our eldest, as she moves through middle school and into her teenage years.  She knows she can be honest with us.  More than once, she’s come to us with serious situations in her peer group, and known that we will listen, take her concerns seriously, and will act as needed.  She’s… well, I don’t know if she’s exactly comfortable discussing the biological ramifications of growing up, but she’s able to do so without hesitation or shame.  Because she knows I’ll take her seriously, and listen to her, and not tell her she’s wrong or inappropriate.  A lifetime of answering her questions about ice and airplanes and the Moon and the color of the sky taught her that.

Always listen.  Always give an answer, even if it’s “I don’t know.”  Always take them seriously.

Because one day, that open door may give them a place to go for help and shelter, right when they most need it.

A St. Baldrick’s Appeal From Carolyn

Published 5 years, 3 weeks ago

I’m turning this post over to my eldest daughter, Carolyn, who has a favor to ask of you.

My name is Carolyn Maxwell Meyer and I would like to tell you about something going on in my life, and about my sister, Rebecca.  My sister Rebecca is 5 years old and loves to play with our little brother Joshua who is 3 years old.  We all like to sing, dance, and play with friends, but we do not live a normal life, because Rebecca is undergoing treatment for a rare brain cancer called anaplastic astrocytoma.

To help Rebecca and all the other children with cancer, I’m raising money for childhood cancer research during the St. Baldrick’s Shave-A-Thon.  I’m captaining my Elementary School team, Roxboro Cares, and shaving all my hair off my head to raise money for childhood cancer research.

Did you know that kids’ cancers are very different from adult cancers?  And childhood cancer research is extremely underfunded?  So I decided to do something about it by participation in the St. Baldricks Shave-A-Thon.

Now I need your help.  Will you please make a donation?  Every dollar makes a difference for thousands and thousands of children, including my sister.  All infants, toddlers, school aged, teens, and young adults fighting childhood cancers need your help.

Having a sister with cancer sometimes makes me feel like I’m alone in a dark room and no one will come and get me out.  Please donate to help raise money so other sisters never have to feel this way.

If you can help support Carolyn’s efforts, either by donating to her directly or to the Roxboro Cares team, we would all be most grateful—almost as proud as we are of Carolyn.

Life’s Rich Tapestry

Published 10 years, 1 month ago

Human beings say, “It never rains but it pours.”  This is not very apt, for it frequently does rain without pouring.  The rabbits’ proverb is better expressed.  They say, “One cloud feels lonely”…

The past few weeks have been a bit more intense than usual.  It all started on Inauguration Day, in fact, though that’s pretty much just coincidence.

It all started with a cold.  Carolyn stayed home with a terrible cough and a slight fever, which meant she got to watch the inauguration with us.  A couple of days later, she was fine, and Rebecca was sick.  Nothing unusual about that, of course: you have two kids, they pass germs along to each other.

In Rebecca’s case, though, it didn’t seem to get better.  By the time, a few days later, she spent most of an afternoon sitting very still on my lap, whimpering softly, her skin burning with fever, Kat started to suspect a common but serious childhood illness.  A trip to the doctor confirmed it.  The child in the next examination room had the same illness and was unlucky: two inhaler treatments had little effect, and he was sent to the hospital.  Rebecca fared much better: one treatment and she was much improved.

That was lucky for us all, because we had a long road trip ahead of us.  The night before Rebecca’s doctor appointment, Kat’s mother died after a very long and difficult illness.  We had known it was coming, thanks to the hospice nurses.  We had known for a very long time that this is how it would one day end.  Most of the mourning had been done ahead of time, to be honest, but at the same time it’s never easy to lose a loved one, no matter how much you may have prepared.

We needed to be on Long Island by Sunday night.  Plane fare was far too expensive, even with the bereavement discount.  So we packed up the nebulizer, treatments, and everything else we needed to drive eleven hours to our hotel.  Pennsylvania, as anyone who’s made the drive will tell you, goes on forever.  It’s an even longer forever when you have to make extra stops, as will happen with four people, two of them children.

A very good friend of ours watched the girls as we attended the graveside ceremony, and we spent the next couple of days with Kat’s family as they sat shiva.  And then we drove back to sit our own.

I had to be in Boston the following week for client work, and while a great many awesome things happened on that trip, it was hard to leave so soon after everything else.  In the middle of everything else, really.  I left on the second day of our two-day shiva; the rabbi finished his prayers and remarks and five minutes later I was pulling out of our driveway to catch my flight.  And of course the illnesses, traveling, and general upheaval in our lives had pretty well shattered both girls’ sleeping patterns, and I couldn’t be there to help.

The day after I got back, Kat finally went to the doctor to see about her sore thumb.  It turned out to be broken.  She’s wearing a brace now.  Two days after that, I quite unexpectedly suffered an anaphylactic reaction to a food I’d had many times before.  It was the whole works, too: sore stomach, tightness in the chest and throat, dizziness, itchy hands, and, so my wife tells me, a blue tinge around the lips.  It was a new and wholly unwelcome experience, I assure you.  We’re not completely sure of the ingredient that caused it, but there’s a very strong candidate: avocado.  So no more guacamole for me, it would seem.

All that knocked me even more offline than usual, which is why further writings about HTML5, CSS3, and other topics of note have persisted in collectively playing the parts of Sir Not-Appearing-On-This-Site.  I’m hoping that by getting all this off my chest, I’ll clear up some of the blockage and get things moving again.

So how about you—what’s the first month-or-so of 2009 been like for you?  If it’s been similarly stressful, unload and lighten the burden.  If it’s been good, tell us about it so we can all share a little bit of uplift.  I know I could use a little!

Cake Fake

Published 11 years, 1 week ago

As dinner came to a close, Carolyn asked if she could have yogurt for dessert.

“Sure, sweetie,” I said.  “What flavor do you want?”

“Banana.”

“Okay, sure.  Go ahead and get a cup from the refrigerator.”

“Banana cake!”  She started giggling.

“Wait, I thought you wanted banana yogurt.  We don’t have any cake.”

“I know,” she said as she walked into the kitchen, “but I want some banana cake.”  Judging from her tone, this was the most painfully obvious fact in the world.

“Um, okay.”

She came back to the table, yogurt cup in hand, and started wrenching back the foil top.  With the way clear, she picked up her London cabbie spoon—a gift we brought back from one of our rare trips away from her—and splunked it in.

“This is banana cake,” she said gleefully.

“Wow, you got banana cake?  Cool.  It’s pretty handy that it comes in a yogurt cup like that!”

She leaned toward me and said, conspiratorially, “I’m just pretending it’s banana cake, but it’s really banana yogurt.”

“Ah, got it.”

“Banana cake!” she chortled once more.

I looked across the table at Kat and said, grimly:  “The cake is a lie.”

Deer Trap

Published 11 years, 3 weeks ago

As we drove from preschool to dance class, a gentle snowfall blurred the more distant houses and cars like a thin fog.  Jack Johnson was quietly serenading us when up ahead, without warning, two white-tailed deer appeared from a treeline on the right and darted into the street, their hooves skidding slightly on the slick pavement.

“Oh, look, sweetie!  Do you see the deer?”

“Deer!? Where?” I could hear her leaning out of her booster seat to peer through the front windshield.  Within moments, the does made it off the pavement and bounded across the half-shoveled sidewalk to vanish into the subdivision.  Brake lights winked off and cars sped up to reclaim the precious, precious seconds lost to this sudden intrusion of nature into late-afternoon suburban routines.

“Did you see them?”

“Yeah”, she said distantly, still craning to look.  “Where did they go, Daddy?”

“They ran between those two houses”, I said, gesturing toward the driver’s side window as we passed the spot.

“Do they live there in those houses?”

“No, sweetie, deer live in the woods.”

“Then what are they doing in between the houses?”

“They’re probably looking for food in people’s yards.”

Silence fell for a moment.  I spared a half-glance toward the back seat and caught a glimpse of her in my peripheral vision, a half-formed vision of intense concentration.  In my head, I quickly ran through everything I knew about deer from my years of rural living, preparing for the expected questions about what deer eat and when they sleep and where their houses were.

“Yes?”

“Why did the deer cross the road?”

Growing Up

Published 11 years, 9 months ago

“Daddy, when will my baby brother or sister get here?”

“Soon, sweetie.  We don’t know exactly when.”

“Tomorrow?”

“No, probably not.”

“The tomorrow after tomorrow?”

“Probably not.”

“But when my baby brother or sister comes, they will be a baby.”

“Yep.  A tiny little baby.”

“I were a little tiny baby a long time ago.”

“That’s right.  Everyone starts out as a baby.”

“Even Mommies and Daddies were babies a long time ago.”

“Everybody is a baby and then everybody becomes a big kid.”

“You got it.”

“And then everybody grows up.”

“That’s right.”

“And then everybody dies.”

A late afternoon breeze quietly rustled a few leaves above our heads.

“Yes, sweetie.  Everybody dies.”

“You will die.”

“Some day.  But probably not for a long, long time.”

“I will die?”

A bird chirped in a nearby tree, fell silent, and then chirped again.

“Yes, Carolyn.  Some day.  But not for a long, long time.”

“Yes?”

“Where will I go when I die?”

“Nobody knows, sweetie.”

“Will I go someplace new?”

“Nobody knows, sweetie.”

“Then what happens to me when I die?”

“Nobody knows that either, sweetie.”

“Nobody?”

“Nobody.”

“Why not?”

“That’s just the way things are.  Nobody knows what happens before we’re born or after we die.  A lot of people think they know, but nobody really does.”

“I were someplace else before I were born?”

“Maybe, sweetie.  I don’t know if you were somewhere or not.  I don’t think you were.”

“Did you take pictures of where I were before I were born?”

“No, Carolyn.  It isn’t someplace we can take a picture of.  There may not even be a place at all, so there’s no way to take a picture of it.”

She leaned forward slightly on the bench beside me, intense thought written in her small frame.  The chirping bird flew off to some other part of the yard.

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“I will not die until after I’m all done growing up.”

“Good.”

Good.

That’s Pretty Old

Published 12 years, 4 months ago

“Do you mean how old is Bear?”

How old is Bear, yes.”

“I don’t know, sweetie.  How old do you think he is?”

“Sixty two.”

“Sixty two?”

“One.”

“Oh, he’s sixty one, not sixty two?”

No.  Bear is sixty two one.”

“Sixty two one.”

“Right.”

Honestly, the most impressive thing is that she knows any numbers above fiveteen.

Hospitality

Published 12 years, 5 months ago

Carolyn’s been eating a lot of ice cream and watching a lot of videos the past few days, and we’re sort of concerned that she’s going to get entirely too used to both.

This is all happening because on Thursday, she had her tonsils and adenoids surgically removed.  I imagine that it’s never easy for a parent to have a child go into an operating room, but it seems like there’s something extra difficult when it’s a little girl who’s not yet three.  I know that much younger children go into operating rooms every day; my sister underwent her first operation at the age of six months.  As I grew up, visiting hospitals became a regular feature of my life, and I have little fear of hospitals or doctors to this day.  Needles, yes.  Those terrify me.  But not hospitals.

It’s just as well, because last Tuesday, I ended up in the emergency room with a broken big toe.  This was the result of an unfortunate interaction between my foot and the island in our kitchen, and at first I didn’t even think it was serious.  There wasn’t much pain, no swelling or discoloration, and I could still move my toe just fine.  One of the lessons I learned as a child is, “If you can move it, then it must not be broken”.  Turns out that’s wildly incorrect.  It’s entirely possible to move a broken appendage and not even have it hurt that much.  At first.  Eventually, though, the toe stiffens up and it starts to hurt like there’s no tomorrow.

So I went on crutches two days before my daughter went in for surgery, less than a week after Kat came off crutches, which she’d been issued after breaking an ankle a few weeks back.  She’s still wearing an Aircast most of the time.  It’s been a laugh a minute in our house, let me tell you.  (Though I must admit I’m jealous of her Aircast.  It totally looks like a jet-boot from Star Trek, right down to having what look like little reaction boosters on the back.)

So now Kat and I are hobbling around, whereas Carolyn is just about back to normal.  In fact, she was running around laughing, singing, and playing pool within a few hours of the surgery.  We figured we’d have to go back to signing with her while her throat healed, but nope, no need.  The original plan was to keep her in the hospital overnight for observation, but about six hours after surgery, the doctor told us to go home.  They’d never seen anything like it, they said, and especially not in a child so young.  Sometimes I think she just might be a superhero-in-waiting, kind of like the invincible teenager on Heroes, most of which I watched on the emergency room’s TV while waiting to have my foot examined.

I suppose most every parent thinks their kid is super, but seriously, she’s an ironclad trooper.  In a weird way, I’m inordinately proud of her, which is kind of like being proud of her for having brown hair, but there it is anyway.  I fervently hope she rebounds just as powerfully and positively from all life’s injuries.

Anyway, given that she’s technically in recovery and we’d already planned for cold soft foods and lots of videos, we just went with the plan.  Now we’re all caught up on recent episodes of The Backyardigans and have been through most of her Signing Time videos (her choice!), and are starting to think about how to wean her back to one show every third day or so.  We’re currently hoping that going back to pre-school does the trick.  Wish us luck.