Hanging with Logan

It’s that time of year when we start to hear the familiar whir-whir-whir of Logan’s battery-operated tractor. Lately, I’ll often find myself looking out the front window to see him cruising a wide circle between his yard and ours. He drives round and round the trees out front, and I understand from what his mom tells me, that he’s been busy chasing imaginary stray cats out of our Maple tree.

I worried last fall that Logan would grow up too much over the winter, during the long, cold months when we tend not to see much of our neighbors. I wondered if he would outgrow that sense of trust and excitement he had last summer whenever he’d catch sight of us. But spring arrived, and although Logan is taller and talking more, he’s still cute as a bug and full of wonder, and still thinks we’re some of the coolest people around.

Friday night, I wandered next door to hang out with Logan’s parents and a couple of other neighbors who were sitting around enjoying the beautiful weather. I chatted with the adults for a while, but eventually ended up blowing bubbles with Logan. He handed me his extra wand and we competed to blow the biggest and the most bubbles. Then he wanted me to blow all of the bubbles. He waited for them to land in the grass and then stomped on them, making himself giggle. The more bubbles I blew, the faster he stomped them, and the harder he laughed.

When he got bored with stomping on the bubbles, he began to chase them around as they floated in the air and tried catching them with his own bubble wand. Finally, we ended up in a “sword fight” with our wands. He was giggling so hard by then, he could barely catch his breath.

Afterwards, he asked his daddy if he would build a bonfire in the back yard. When his dad said that he would, Logan turned excitedly to me. Jumping up and down and swatting his thighs with his hands, he shouted, “Tee, you come-a bonfire?”

I had some things to do at home, but I promised Logan I’d come back for the bonfire if I could get my chores done before it got too late. I left him as he continued making the rounds with his invitations. “Jo, you come-a bonfire? Erbody come-a bonfire!”

We’ve been insanely busy here at home this weekend, tearing carpet out of the three upstairs bedrooms so the new carpet can be installed tomorrow. As I was working yesterday, I heard the high-pitched whirring of Logan’s wheels again and went to the front door to see if I could catch a moment with him. We’d found an old Fisher Price multi-tool in Jake’s closet while cleaning things out. Jake used to love pretending to build and fix things with it. I thought Logan might like to have it.

Just as soon as I could get to the front door, Logan had disappeared already. His dad was busy doing yard work on the side of their garage and I could see the tractor parked in their driveway, but no sign of Logan. No worries. I knew he’d be back around again soon enough.

I went back to working in the bedrooms. It was a beautiful day and all of the windows were wide open. It wasn’t long before I heard the hum again. This time I followed the sound to our back yard. I walked outside onto our deck and saw that Mark had opened up the big double gates so that Logan could drive in and out. I rested my elbows on the deck railing and looked down to see Mark strolling the yard with a shovel, and Logan wheeling around, pointing out spots of doggie doo for Mark to pick up.

Logan

I asked Logan if he was being Mark’s helper, and he responded in his little toddler voice, “Yeah.” But before he could say anything more, his attention turned to battling the barrage of kisses Lucy was laying on him. He hit the “gas” pedal to escape her wet, slobbery affection and was off once again to his own yard to help his dad. I never did manage to give him the toy tool I meant for him to have, but I’m sure I’ll have another chance again soon.

The cold and snow may have arrived a little too soon, but

… if we look closely enough, we can find reasons to smile about it.

It was really cold all this past week. Colder than it should be for November. And we got some snow, though not nearly as much as some other places around the country! I wasn’t quite ready to stop taking my lunch-time walks around the pond behind the office. Word has it that the walking path, even if cleared of the snow gets too slippery to safely walk it, so I didn’t walk last week. But so far, I haven’t succumbed to the desire to stay burrowed under the blankets when the alarm goes off, so I don’t feel too bad about missing my mid-day walks. And I keep reminding myself that some morning exercise gives me a huge energy boost for the day. Plus Florida is only 84 days away. There’s motivation right there to keep that extra layer of winter fat from appearing.

So the furnace kicks in daily. We’re wearing winter jackets and gloves and I’m making good use of my new car’s remote starter and seat heaters. Oh man, I love those seat heaters! They work fast! I can totally deal with the time it takes for the car to really warm up, as long as my butt is hot while I’m waiting!

I’ve been working hard to keep my focus lately only on that which is right in front of me. I’m so done with that tight feeling in my chest that I now realize comes from worrying every moment about what’s next, and how difficult it might possibly be. It’s amazing – truly amazing – how much calm I now feel when I refuse to disaster-fantasize about events that might (or might not) happen, or about how to deal with certain people.  I’ve done this my whole life, and now that I’m starting to know better, I’m constantly wondering why it took me so long to figure it out. I guess I can appreciate that it took me all those years and experiences to be ready to understand this concept.

I think the winter will be a good test of this new mindset. I think it’s a matter of constantly finding reasons to smile. Like when Mark looked out the window and said, “Logan’s been over here.”

After spending so much time with Logan this summer and feeling really great about how comfortable he’d become with us, we worried about seeing our little toddler-friend over the winter. We wondered if we’d lose all that ground we’d gained with this once painfully shy little guy. I wondered how Mark knew Logan had been over when we weren’t around. “Look out the window and see,” he said.

001b

If not for the snow, we wouldn’t have known that Logan still plays out in the front yards, even when it’s this cold. I think maybe Logan and his dog, Gracie were here. And it did make me smile.

Chalk Season

Tee! Yay down!

Logan motioned for me to stretch out on the driveway. His mom had just finished making Chalk Logan. Several Chalk Logans, actually.

Logan1a

Now he wanted to make Chalk Terri. He’s the only one who could even make me consider sprawling out on my back on our asphalt driveway – even if I was wearing my new boots and was at risk of scuffing them up. He’s just so dang cute!

In the end, he decided he would be the one to lay on the black top and I should make another chalk outline of him. He wanted this version to have his arms raised up high above his head. I happily accommodated and added my drawing to the collection of Logans already populating our driveway. Logan added his own flair to the outline I’d created.

Logan3b

Our driveway’s always covered in chalk these days. Mark introduced Logan to the idea of making chalk people a couple of weeks ago. And as tends to happen with toddlers, this fascinating new idea is to Logan, the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now we have two containers of sidewalk chalk in our garage, which is usually open if someone is home. Logan knows he’s welcome to help himself to the chalk whenever he’s outside. He knows exactly where to find it and knows that either Mark or I is always willing to come outside and pway chalk with him. In fact, I think Mark takes a special pleasure in making sure Logan’s clothing is covered in layers of multi-colored dust before sending him back next door to his own house where bath time is Logan’s parents’ problem!

Oh, but if Kacey is home from school for a few days, the rest of us are chopped liver. Logan loves Kacey!

Used to be there was a time when Logan was so shy that he would only converse with us while holding his mom’s or dad’s hand, and hiding behind their legs. Over the past summer, Logan grew more comfortable with us. I think the chalk had a lot to do with it. We all have now earned our own special Logan names – Mahk, Tee, Jake, (that’s an easy one,) and Kee. (Brad isn’t around often enough and I’m not sure he has earned a nickname yet.) Every one of us, at some point, has been beckoned to pway chalk. And we’ve been rewarded. Logan has opened himself up to us and has found his way into our hearts.

Last week, Logan helped Mark dig up onions from our fading vegetable garden. Mark loosened the soil with a shovel. Logan pulled the onions out and then hurled them out into the grass in the backyard, rotating his arm above his head and letting go, baseball style. He doesn’t have enough strength yet to do any damage to a bunch of onions! When they were all pulled, he and Mark collected all of the onions in their arms and brought them up on the deck. Logan knocked on the patio door that day to get my attention and proudly held up an onion with dirt still clinging to the bulb. I came to the door and signaled my approval from the other side of the glass. Logan’s little chubby cheeks beamed with pride.

Yesterday after a chalk session with Mark, Logan wanted to come inside our house and check things out. This would be a first. His comfort level with us has thus far been limited to interactions out in the yard. Coming inside the house would be a big step for him. He wanted his mom to come inside with him, but she refused, clearly worried that we were encouraging behavior that might later become a bother to us. (We’re not worried.) Mark told Logan he could come in without Mom if he wanted to. Logan was hesitant at first, but curiosity got the best of him. Soon he was climbing the half flight of stairs to our main level and pulling Mark down the hallway and back, asking him to explain whose bedroom was whose and where the snack cupboard was. Logan sampled a variety of crackers from our cupboard before his dad came to bring him home for dinner.

Logan wasn’t happy, and he clung to Mark in protest. Mark laughed but told Logan he had to go home for dinner because we had places to go. Logan crumpled his eyebrows and pursed his mouth. He crossed his arms over his chest fiercely, but allowed his dad to carry him home for dinner, his little body held stiff like a toy soldier against his dad’s embrace. Even in tantrum-mode, Logan is cute!

I think we’re going to have to plow a path in the snow this winter between Logan’s house and ours.

In Logan’s World

It was gorgeous outside today. The weather pendulum swung back toward summer again.

I was just winding down after dinner when I heard a little boy voice right outside the open living room window. I peeked down from the window sill and saw our next-door buddy, Logan contemplating our concrete bird bath. He likes to throw the landscaping rocks in there. Let’s them plop in the water and then giggles at the resulting splash. If his mom doesn’t stop him sooner, he’ll fill the thing right up before he runs off to find something else exciting to do.

“Logi!” I called out the window. He looked over one shoulder and then the other, but not up. He didn’t seem to realize I was talking to him through the window screen. And he’s so bashful! The sound of my voice so near sent him running back to his own front yard where he face-planted himself between his mom’s knees as she stood talking with Mark and Logan’s dad.

I wandered barefoot outside to join them. Logan cast me a shy smile and then craned his neck, looking up at his mom.

“Mommy! Wann get me?” he pleaded.

“Okay,” she said and he took off running around the locust tree. Logan’s mom, Susie chased him around a couple of times before the game ended and she came back to join the adults. Logan continued to hang on his mom’s legs, stealing shy glances at me now and then. Finally he worked up the courage to ask me to play.

“Tee! Wann get me?” I was surprised. Logan likes us, but he likes us to keep a respectable distance. He usually doesn’t invite me to get too close. Except for that time he threw a tennis ball at my head when I didn’t realize he was playing catch with me! Good thing my reflexes were quick that day!

“Sure, I’ll play,” I agreed. Logan giggled and began to circle the tree again, checking over his shoulder to be sure I was chasing. He hadn’t gone far when he dropped to the ground and rolled forward in the grass, his toddler legs and feet curling up in the air behind him with the momentum of his fall.

“Whoa!” I said. “You okay, buddy?” I asked as I scooped him up by the armpits and set him upright again. He giggled and said, “yeah” and was off and running again in a split second. He hadn’t gone maybe fifteen feet when his body dropped and rolled in the grass a second time. This looked suspiciously intentional and I scooped him up again, this time swinging him high up in the air before standing him up in the grass once more.

Over and over we chased and there was no doubt in my mind now that Logan was purposely hurling himself on the ground so that I would scoop him up and swing him around. Eventually I wound up swinging him higher and higher, and twirling him in circles until we were both dizzy and he began to tire out. He feigned an injury after one fall and I picked him up and held him in my arms, him facing me so he could point out his owie. And “anahr one” and “dis one” and so on before he wriggled out of my arms and back to the ground.

I tried to join the adults again when Logan was done being chased and done pointing out all of his owies, but soon he was beckoning me again.

“Tee! Wann draw chalk wif me?”

sidewalk_chalk

Google Images

He scampered into the open garage and soon returned with his bucket of sidewalk chalk. Next, I was being directed to make a rainbow, a fish, a jack-o-lantern, flowers and a tree. The driveway was quickly covered with colorful chalk drawings. He’d watch me create and then he’d add his own flair of colorful lines and circles to my etchings. The fish needed pink eyes, he said. The rainbow needed white lines. The tree needed to be circled. Every drawing became a combined effort between Logan and me.

The sun began to set. Logan stopped chalk-drawing abruptly and stood up straight like a little tin soldier. He pulled his shoulders back, puffed his chest out and beamed at the sky.

“Tee! Iss dark!

“It is getting dark,” I agreed. “Logi, do you like this jack-o-lantern?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he sang, agreeably, then ran to his front door where a big orange pumpkin sat on the front step.

“I got punkin!” he exclaimed, waving his arms toward the pumpkin with a dramatic flourish.

“It’s a good one,” I agreed.

Logan continued to dance and skip around me, running on his tippy-toes, clutching a wedge of chalk in his little fingers. He pointed out the solar lights along the sidewalk beginning to glow. “See dis one? See dis one, Tee?” He reminded me several more times, “Iss dark!

The mosquitoes were beginning to bite and the ground was getting cold beneath my bare feet. Susie told Logan it was time to go inside. As usual, he resisted her. He wanted to play more. He wanted to show me the dark and the solar lights again. I could still hear him chattering happily to us, even as Mark and called out good night to him, and headed back inside our own house.

Logan Next Door

The house next door to us has been sold several times in the twenty-six years we’ve lived in ours. It’s a two-bedroom, split-level house, oddly laid out and not ideal for a growing family. They’ve all been growing families and this is why, I think, no one has stayed for too many years. Unless of course, it’s us… ?

NAH!

We’ve been lucky to have great neighbors all along. But once any of them realized that they needed room for more than one child, they’d look for a bigger place to live. Tears were shed on both sides of the fence each time a family moved on, but we’ve always been fortunate to find friendship with the next family to come along. And all along, there have been little ones next door to keep us entertained.

When the last neighbors left, we were very sad to see them go and we particularly missed little Ethan. He called me “Tee” and always wanted to “drive” my car. (I let him sit behind the wheel one day and play driving. From that day on, when I’d pull into the drive way, Ethan would come running, clasp his little hands together and look at me hopefully. “Drive Tee cah?” he’d ask. I could never resist.)

The new neighbors moved in not long after Ethan’s family left. The new neighbors had a baby, Logan. Fall came and winter passed, and as usually happens during the colder months, our interaction with the neighbors was minimal. When spring came, Logan had grown considerably and was learning to walk. But oh, was he a shy little boy. He wanted nothing to do with any of us.

Another winter came and went and Logan grew some more. By this spring, he was still shy, but much more curious about us. And he could run and throw balls and put landscaping rocks in my water fountain, just like Ethan used to do. He really likes Mark, because Mark is goofy. Little kids like goofy people. Whenever Mark comes home, if Logan is out in his yard, Mark will call out to him in a big, exaggerated soprano voice. “Hiiiiiiiiii LOGAN!” Logan loves that!

If Logan is out back on his family’s deck, and we are out on ours, he will call across to us. He says, “Hi,” but it sounds more like, “Heeee! Heeee!”

When Jake drives up in his big truck, Logan points and exclaims, “Dehr Jake!”

And he’s very coy with Kacey, always calling out for her attention and then playing shy and tucking his chin when she responds.

Last week, Mark came home from work in the mid-afternoon. It was one of those days when no one had been home at our house all day, and poor Lucy was starved for attention. Mark could hear Lucy barking as he stepped out of his truck. He called out a quick hello to Logan as he played in his front yard, but then went inside to calm Lucy and spend some time with her. Logan was so offended that Mark hadn’t come to see him that he began to wail and cry to his mom, “Mahk! Mahk!”

Mark could hear Logan crying and had to go outside and pay some attention to him too before he’d quit crying.

Now Logan calls me Tee, just like Ethan used to do. Last Friday, we were all sitting around in the driveway. Logan was playing with a tennis ball. He threw it down the driveway a few times just to watch his dad have to run after it and keep it from rolling all the way down the street. This made Logan giggle uncontrollably! Finally Logan’s dad told him if he threw the ball down the driveway again, he would take it away. So Logan decided he’d prefer to keep his ball and would play catch with someone instead of annoying his dad.

Mark asked Logan to throw him the ball, but Logan looked at him and said, “No. I pway Tee.” And he whipped that ball straight at my forehead as I sat in a lawn chair. He’s got a good arm! Good thing I had quick reflexes!

I love the summer months when all the neighbors are outside and we stop frequently to socialize. Logan has grown so comfortable with us that he now considers our yard an extension of his. When my windows are open, I often hear the whine of his motorized tractor as he drives circles around our pine tree.

Farmer Logan

Farmer Logan

Now he races me – me on foot, him behind the wheel. Somehow he always wins! And he loves to pretend he’s going to run over my bare toes and he gets this devilish little grin when he cuts it a little close and I jump out of his way.

I’m hoping Logan’s family stays for a good long while. Logan’s dad has an eighteen year-old from a previous marriage and I suspect there might not be any younger siblings for Logan. We sure do enjoy having him around and would love the chance to see him grow up.

Three-Day Weekend!

I don’t know where time goes sometimes. The week got away from me – and yet somehow, seemed like it was endless. Not sure how that works, but I was glad when the workday came to a close on Friday. And I’m really looking forward to the long weekend and a chance to unwind and refresh my perspective.

There was a lot going on this week. On Monday, Mark and I had a lawn care meeting with Mr. Lawn. Mr. Lawn is actually George Dege, the owner of Dege’s Garden Center. Dege’s has been in business for as long as I can remember. My parents bought their garden supplies there when I was a kid. Mr. Lawn’s father probably owned the place back then. And actually, people in this area have been buying their lawn and garden supplies from Dege’s for a hundred years!

Mark and I were at Dege’s picking up some plants for our vegetable garden last Saturday, when an older gentleman appeared and I heard Mark say, “Hi George!” In all the years this garden center has been around, I’d never actually met George until that day. What I thought would be a quick hello turned into an in-depth chat about lawn care. As I listened to the conversation, I couldn’t help but notice all of the history in the store and think about how things just aren’t done this way anymore. Dege’s has a row of old theater seats on one side where customers can stop and sit, or wait their turn for a meeting with Mr. Lawn in his office. The seed business part of the store has a real old-fashioned feel to it, with drawers full of seeds that remind me somehow of the old library card catalogs. Dege’s employees know their stuff and will stop what they’re doing, on the spot, to answer customer questions. And they always know the right answer, or how to find it. You just don’t get this kind of attention in those big chain stores that have taken over almost every type of retail business. It’s impressive to see how a small business like this one has managed to persevere and continue to provide such personal and friendly service to its customers. Sadly, Dege’s will be closing their doors at the end of this season.

After chatting for much too long in the middle of the garden center on a busy Saturday, George invited us into his office to talk. And I never would have thought that hearing about the science of lawn care could be interesting, but George has a way of intermingling the facts with great story-telling. We finally scheduled a formal meeting for Monday. When we came back again, I had a notebook to take notes and we got an actual plan in place to make our yard look great while making the most of our natural resources. I am so glad we had that chance encounter with George Dege last weekend. I have a new appreciation for grass and plants and will approach the yard this summer with more interest than ever before.

On Wednesday, I had a wake to attend. We said goodbye to Doris, who was like a second mother to my siblings and me. Doris and Jerry lived in the house next door to ours while I was growing up. And Doris lived there until her dying day.

Doris was the one who welcomed us with open arms when my mom’s hands got too full with us four kids and all of the responsibilities of a young wife and mother. I can remember running next door and knocking on the back door of Doris and Jerry’s house. Doris’ house was always open to us and there always seemed to be a Hershey bar, fresh-baked cake or cookies, or homemade chocolate malts waiting for us. I remember sitting in Doris’ living room while she listened to every word we had to tell her. Sometimes her teenage boys would play their records for us and we were always fascinated by how COOL they were.

This is exactly how I will always remember Doris.

My brother, Jim, me on Doris' lap, and sister, Cori

My brother, Jim, me on Doris’ lap, and sister, Cori

Doris’ husband, Jerry passed away last year at the age of 87. I saw Doris at Jerry’s wake and she was in bad shape at that time. Parkinson’s Disease had taken such a toll on her. She wanted to be the same age as Jerry when she left this earth and her wish came true. Doris passed away just a few days before her 88th birthday. And while it was sad to say goodbye, I will always be grateful for the way she loved us. Even though we had no family ties, she was family.

The remainder of the week was a bit closer to normal. The work week had its share of challenges, mostly self-imposed. After I got over my frustrations, I recognized that certain mistakes, while annoying, provided valuable learning experiences. From now on, I will try to remember that failure has a purpose.

I’ve appreciated spring this week. The weather is steadily climbing to my happy place and I’ve made the most of it. This time of year motivates me. I’ve spent as much time outside as I can get, made an attempt at running again, and have made some real progress in helping the family eat healthy. (Don’t tell Mark and Jake. They don’t know I’m cooking healthy!) After struggling forever to balance working full-time with our domestic needs, I’m finally learning that a small amount of meal planning and shopping makes the burden of cooking so much lighter. It’s actually even been fun to cook and we’ve discovered some foods that we really enjoy. (Mark keeps telling me, “You can make this again!” )

Tonight we’re going to my coworker’s wedding reception. I’m looking forward to a chance to have fun and unwind with a bunch of coworkers I really enjoy. As for the rest of the weekend, it remains largely unplanned. And I like it that way!

In which my husband nearly got his asphalt kicked

We had our first snow of the season overnight, a very manageable kind of snowfall. Pretty. Didn’t affect morning traffic at all.

First Snow 20131106And it had pretty much melted by the end of the work day.

First Snow after 20131106I attended a city council meeting with Mark tonight. He’s been to a few of these over the years. I was a City Council Meeting virgin until tonight. It was … fun? Maybe “fun” is a little much, but it was certainly interesting and definitely entertaining. I thought Mark was going to get beat up!

We’re getting new streets next year. And it’s going to cost the neighborhood residents some money. Understandably, people are going to have concerns. I expected that. But there was this guy. He kept demanding to know why his street hadn’t been replaced or paved in the past ten years. He was very confrontational and I felt bad for the City Engineer who was running the meeting. He patiently explained how such decisions are made. The guy just wasn’t satisfied with the answer. Throughout the couple of hours we were there, the guy kept interrupting to ask the same question. It was annoying and uncomfortable. Around the fifth time he interrupted the presentation to ask why his street hadn’t been addressed in the past, someone finally yelled from the back, “Let it go. It’s getting fixed now!”

The guy went on to say that his street currently looked like it had suffered a barrage of bombing. “It looks like a war zone,” he complained. I am familiar with this man and I know where he lives. I knew he was grossly exaggerating the condition of his street. I also know he has the most unkempt yard and home on his block. I try not to judge. I don’t know what people’s’ financial situations are. But he does have a couple of really nice motorcycles, so I have to wonder how much of a hardship it would be to mow his lawn or trim the tree that’s spilling  all over the place. Tonight I couldn’t help but picture his run down property and find it ironic that he demanded better of the city. But I didn’t say anything. That’s just not me.

His complaints continued in spite of the explanations that were given by the City Engineer. Since the guy couldn’t get the explanation he wanted, he seemed hell-bent on continuing to express his frustration ad-nauseum. He had just finished complaining about how after the last big storm, the street’s condition grew even worse, and the city didn’t do anything about it. Suddenly, from beside me, I heard someone ask, “Did you call the city?”

That someone was my husband! I felt all eyes in the room turn in our direction, but I was watching the guy. He turned a skeptical eye to Mark. “I get sick of calling people,” he sneered. “YOU ever try calling the city?”

“Yep,” said Mark. “They’ve always been responsive and reasonable.”

The guy dismissed Mark with a scowl and a wave of the City Council meeting notice he clenched in his hand. I elbowed Mark and gave him an approving smile. Normally I would be far from encouraging of such behavior. Normally, I would probably be embarrassed. But I was proud of my husband. The guy was a bully and was using the meeting as a means to force everyone else in the room to endure his childish behavior. He was preventing the City Engineer from getting through his presentation and letting anyone else ask legitimate questions.

The evening moved on and we heard from a couple of experts about asphalt recipes, curb replacements and street lights. Periodically the guy would interject some sarcastic remark. And then he let loose again, stating that parks and pedestrian paths should never be maintained unless every street in the city was perfect. The City Engineer, clearly tired of doing battle and trying to answer to issues that were outside of his authority, simply replied, “You’re entitled to your opinion.”

Someone from the back added, “And we’ve heard it all night long. Enough already.” A murmur arose from the small crowd of attendees. Obviously, there was a shared sentiment in the room. Everyone had heard enough from the guy. Another active participant who had contributed many valuable questions and comments throughout the evening, cooled things down. He said he just wanted to commend the city for keeping our taxes low and ensuring our community was kept in good repair. There was a round of applause. I looked over to see the guy had slouched down in his chair and was scowling. He didn’t want to hear anything positive.

And there the meeting ended. I hustled out the door with Mark, a little worried that the guy would try to follow us out and beat up my husband. Not to worry, he apparently planned to hang around afterward and give more grief to the City Engineer.

Had I known these things could be so exciting, I might have attended one long ago! And in all seriousness, I actually learned a lot. Being informed is empowering. I’ll probably go to one again.

Livin’ the dream!