For Mom, the Second Day of Kindergarten is Harder Than the First

First day!

Penelope waiting for the school bus on her first day of kindergarten.

(It’s the 50th blog post for “Growing Up With Penelope,” and I thought I’d celebrate by turning the page over to Bernadette. Since she’s written this post, there are two things I can guarantee. One, it’s a terrific read, and I’m sure you’ll love it. Second, this is a helluva lot longer than any post I would ever write!)

It’s the morning of the second day of Kindergarten, and the school bus has just pulled away. I’m mid-way into walking the beagles when it hits me, “Oh my God, she’s on the bus alone.”

Even though she’s not, of course, because all the neighborhood kids are on it with her.

And I have this panic attack – Will she get off the bus OK? Will she find her classroom OK? – even though I know perfectly well that the answer to both questions is yes.

I can’t call my husband for reassurance because he’s on his way to work sans broken cell phone. I can’t call my neighbor from across the street because I know she’s busy getting ready for an all-day PTA meeting. I can’t call my other two mom neighbors because they’re both at work.

So I do the only thing I can do: I take a deep breath, finish the walk, start a load of laundry, and sit down to write this story. But not before I post my freak out on Facebook, and learn from friends – not just acquaintances, but people who truly were friends in high school or college – that what I’m feeling is absolutely, positively, perfectly normal. (A newer friend, the mom of my daughter’s classmate and BFF, is on her third kid. She posts to reassure me that “the school is great. They will not lose her!”)

Rationally, I know all of this, but still I worry.

I worry that my daughter will have trouble making friends, though I know she has far more grace and confidence and self assurance than I ever did at her age.

I worry that my daughter won’t be kind to new kids who are afraid, though I know she understands what it is to be scared and different and in a place that is new and overwhelming.

And I worry that my daughter might get hurt, even though she survived two years of pre-K with only a few bumps and bruises, and I know there’s no reason to expect any differently now.

My husband emails me from work to tell me he’s found the folder he was looking for – one he thought our daughter had removed from his briefcase and placed in her backpack – and for a moment I’m disappointed that he’s found it because it means I no longer have an excuse to run up to the school, check our daughter’s backpack, and see with my own eyes that Penelope is truly OK.

An hour and a half after the bus pulls away, my mind is calmer. Writing, I know, helps; focusing on the screen as one word after another appears on it has, for me, always been a tonic.

And as I grow calmer, I find myself reflecting on the journey that brought us to this day. If you had asked me five years ago – before we began the adoption process that would ultimately lead us halfway around the world, to southern China and the most beautiful two-year-old you could imagine – I would have answered with the cockiness that only someone who has never experienced the agony of parenthood could.

“If I’m ever blessed to be a mother,” my childless self would have said, “I won’t be one of those overprotective ones who worries all the time.”

Ha!

I didn’t have to carry this child in my body for nine months to become a card-carrying, worrywart of a mom. I simply had to look at her, once, and to hold her, once. That’s all it took for me to be a goner.

I have calmed down in the three years since Penelope joined our family, but I do still worry. And I’ve learned from many friends, even before today’s Facebook post, that the worrying will never truly end. Not even, as my sister and sister-in-law are happy to tell me, when she’s grown and married and off on her own. They would know, having married off four daughters between them.

Yesterday, I was fine as I watched our daughter step onto the school bus for the first time, and without even a backward glance, find a seat and start chatting to her seatmate.

Now, 26 ½ hours later, I’m wondering exactly what sort of mother I am. Yesterday I was calm and collected; I didn’t worry a bit. Today I was, quite nearly, a hyperventilating basket case.

I’m blaming it on the adrenaline that’s no longer in my system.

The morning of the first day of Kindergarten was a whirlwind: getting showered and dressed, getting breakfast on the table, feeding the dogs, stuffing packed lunch and snack bags into the backpack, and asking Penelope if she’s nervous about Kindergarten. “No, Mama,” she answers. “I’m OK.”

Then we’re speed-walking down the driveway, video camera in hand, to wait for the bus with the boy across the street.

After a few minutes of picture taking and chatting with the boy’s parents, the bus arrives and, just like that, Penelope is on it and the doors are closing and I know with absolute certainty that if I’d allowed myself the time to think about how the years between now and college will pass in a blur of Daisy Troop meetings, sleepovers and first dates, I know I would have stood there crying as the bus carrying our little girl faded into the distance.

As it was, though, my husband and I had plans. We jumped into the car, drove to the school and parked, and sprinted across the parking lot and playground to the school’s front walkway so we could shoot photos and video of our daughter as she got off the bus for the very first time.

Mercifully for her, we weren’t the only parents who had this idea.

I stretched my neck and stood tippy-toed, watching for her cute little face to appear in the open doorway of the bus when suddenly, there she was: animatedly talking to the little boy walking alongside her, her fingers wrapped firmly around the straps of her bouncing owl backpack, not an ounce of fear or uncertainty anyplace on her face.

She was beaming, I was not crying, and my husband stood there smiling, part misty-eyed, part heart in his throat.

I knew, as we watched her walk down the long hallway to her Kindergarten classroom chatting to another little boy, that David was thinking exactly what I was thinking: how lucky he is, how lucky we are, to have this miracle of a child in our lives.

Budding Artist

Love this photo. It brings out Penelope’s independence and style. Oh, and her fondness for cake!             (Photo credit: Kacy Jahanbini)

One evening before dinner recently, Penelope decided to start an art project. She headed into our home office, grabbed some black construction paper and declared quite firmly that she was going to make a Santa Claus. I had just finished a phone interview, and I took a break from deciphering the cuneiform in my reporter’s notebook to watching her rummage through her desk drawers for a pair of kiddie scissors. In a heartbeat, papers, pipe cleaners, crafts and crayons are flying about the office. By the time her scissors are snapping happily away, the room looks as though a pair of overzealous FBI Agents ransacked the office after mistaking me for some kind of drug kingpin.

Then Bernadette rang the dinner bell. And since we don’t actually have a dinner bell my wife just bellows “DINNNNNERRR!” from the kitchen.

Typically, dinner time means all play and work ends, we wash our hands and head to the table to eat. No electronics, no TV. But this night was a little different; I felt reluctant to drag Penelope away. And, although Bernadette has re-embraced her detox diet which means she cooked some unpronounceable ancient grains wrapped in cabbage, my hesitation had less to do with my wife’s menu and more to do with my daughter’s mien. It also had a lot to do with the phone conversation that just ended.

I recently undertook the role of communications consultant at the Hunterdon Art Museum. I had just ended a phone call with a terrific artist, Raven Schlossberg, who has three collages on exhibition at the museum. I asked Raven about one particular collage titled “A Moonlight Apparition,” because the piece simply astounds me. Whenever I wander about the second floor of the stone mill which houses the museum, I freeze when I approach this work.  Every time I stop I see something new in the collage that evokes a different emotion.

And, that’s precisely her intent, she told me. The piece, cutout illustrations of discarded children’s toys and household items against backdrop of houses bathed in moonlight, aims to trigger childhood memories that are both personal and universal. And, for whatever reason, this piece connects with me on a personal level.

I was curious about the cutouts and Raven said she’d been collecting magazines for over 20 years. She’s a lifelong pop archeologist, and began cutting out illustrations and creating collages before she hit kindergarten. “I started when I was around three years old. My bedroom was filled with magazines and books. I was an only child and I learned how to entertain myself,” she said.

Fifteen minutes later — the artist’s words still ringing in my ears — I sit at my desk watching Penelope hovering over her black construction paper, her lower lip jutting out as she concentrates. For the moment, I can’t stifle the creative energy I’m watching.

I don’t necessarily anticipate my daughter’s future artwork will grace the walls of a museum, however, her black Santa Claus looks beautiful hanging precariously from a single strand of scotch tape on our filing cabinet drawer. Santa has one thin eye where his earlobe should be; the other rests comfortably on his shoulder. There’s some line near Santa’s mouth. I’m guessing it’s a Lucky Strike.

On some occasions you just need to throw the rules out the window. For a 10 minute delay before dinner, I now have a precious memory.

P.S.: If you’d like to check out Raven Schlossberg’s work, go here. Better yet, go to the Hunterdon Art Museum where the collage exhibition runs until early January. Or, if you’re in NYC in February, she’ll have a solo show at the Pavel Zoubek Gallery, 533, West 23rd St.

Ties That Bind

I had just confused a boccie ball with a melon ball. Or maybe it was a Scarlett O’Hara and a Red Headed Slut. Either way, I was pacing back and forth behind a bar, hands on hips, muttering something not printable in a family blog.

This was back in January when  I was practicing for a portion of my final exam for bartending school — a speed drill in which I would have to make 12 drinks in seven minutes from among any of the 160-some-odd drinks we had covered during class. I had the drinks down cold if you gave me a name and asked me to spit back what went into the glass. But I needed work on the actual practice of grabbing the proper glass, bottles, mixers — in the proper proportions — along with the garnishes, and move onto the next drinks. I would eventually get it, but I just wasn’t there yet.

The instructor, who was kind enough to tutor me when she likely had better things to do like arrange future class schedules or play Farmville, sensed I needed a break. We started chatting about my future plans, and why I decided to learn a new skill. I told her I had always wanted to bartend, and that I’d realized lately the importance of truly enjoying your work. Important for me and for my family. I hope to teach Penelope the importance of making a career by doing what you love.

When I mentioned that I had a four-year-old adopted daughter from China, the instructor leaned over the bar, her voice getting slightly hushed and gentler. “Can I ask you something?”

I wasn’t sure where she was going, but I have always been pretty open about my experiences adopting a child. “Of course,” I said.

“Is it the same? When you adopt a child, do you have the same feeling . . . the same bond, I guess, that you do if you have the child naturally?”

It’s a good question. I can’t compare the two experiences because we’ve never conceived a child. But I can tell you of the immeasurable and immediate joy that swept through me the moment I held my daughter. And, the exhilaration. And the sheer terror.

And the feeling that somehow a miracle had just occurred. Maybe not the miracle of witnessing birth, but one of traveling halfway around the world to meet and hold a little girl (she was two at the time) who will be a huge part of our lives forever. The feeling that this is exactly what was supposed to happen and how it was supposed to be. Yes, it took reams of paperwork, miles of legwork and a wad of cash, but all the headaches and small heartaches melted away the moment we looked into her beautiful black eyes.

Dozens of books exist that detail the attachment process, so perhaps a story will suffice here. I remember the second or third day in Xiamen City, and we were at the pool. I thought it’d be fun to take Penelope into the adult pool. (This was before a rat the size of a chihuahua dove into the pool and sent Japanese businessmen scurrying like rice on a hot wok. I wrote about it here.) I hoisted Penelope above my head and started walking down the pool steps when I discovered something interesting about swimming pools in China. (Well, at least at this hotel.) The tile used in this particular pool was slippery bathroom tile. On the second step, my feet went flying out from under me. And although my toes were level with my chin, somehow instinct kicked in and I kept Penelope above my head, while I floundered backward into the water. I suspect she had no idea what happened, but my back sure did.

Later, I lay in bed thinking how quickly it all happens. One minute you’re cruising along without a care in the world, and the next you’re totally responsible for this tiny soul. Doesn’t matter whether it takes nine months or two years, or whether the child enters your life — screaming like a banshee — in a hospital room or a hotel suite. The bonds are instantaneous and unbreakable. And yes, miraculous.

On The Road to Social Slam

Our plans for a 5 a.m. departure begin promptly at 7:20. I’d blame it on an airline, but we’re not flying. I’d blame it on Amtrak, but we’re not taking a train. I have no one but to blame but myself and my inability to get out of bed when the alarm bleats. Our first stop is Charlotte where we are dropping off our 4-year-old daughter, Penelope, before heading to Knoxville. Charlotte wasn’t an arbitrary selection; my family lives there. Bernadette MapQuests the route before we leave.

10:30 a.m.

We’re three hours on the road and two hours behind schedule. Bern apparently checked The MapQuest boxes for “select route with the most construction.” We break at a truck stop in southern Pennsylvania. It’s an all-purpose joint where truckers can shower, do a load of laundry and purchase a beautiful set of chrome hubcaps. Since the dingy joint looks like the crime scene in an episode of Criminal Minds, I hover around the women’s bathroom listening for Bern and Penelope which only makes me look like the creepy guy who hangs around truck stop bathrooms. So I wander across the tiled corridor to a barber shop with a large poster tacked up in the window titled “Diamonds in the Rough Contest.” The poster features before-and-after photographs in which the barber has taken scary looking ex-cons and junkies with long hair and converted them into scary looking ex-cons and junkies with really bad haircuts.

Noon

Bern tells Penelope that if she doesn’t nap, we aren’t eating lunch at the Cracker Barrel. I groan. I have nothing against Cracker Barrel; we started stopping there because the bathrooms were clean, and the store fascinated Penelope. But now it’s become a ritual and we stop on every trip. Frankly, I’m rather weary of the place. I contemplate turning up the radio and poking Penelope with a stick.

12:30 p.m.

Cracker Barrel dining room. The waitress arrives, and I order a large cup of caffeine. Bern and Penelope are wandering the aisles of the Cracker Barrel store rifling shelves loaded with plastic toys, moon pies and Merle Haggard CDs. I look around the dining room. I am the only customer under the weight of your average Hyundai. The family arrives, and we order lunch. I bypass the “aorta clogger” in favor of the “just Crazy Glue that sawdust gravy to my ass” selection on the menu. So much for being the skinniest guy in the dining room.

1:15 p.m.

We’ve just exited the Cracker Barrel. Penelope says, “I’m hungry.” It doesn’t matter that she has just devoured an egg, two pieces of bacon, a biscuit, some grits, a hunk of chicken and some orange slices. Bern says “Penelope, you just ate! Read a book or play a game.” Penelope thinks for a moment. “Can I pretend I’m visiting Grandma?” Yes, Penelope. “Hi Grandma! I’m hungry!”

1:30 p.m.

Penelope’s gnawing on her second Twizzler and clamoring for a third. Bern warns her: “No more Twizzlers. There’s no nutritional value in that! At least have a peanut butter cup. There’s peanut butter in there and . . . Ummm . . . Chocolate.” She starts thinking about the words coming out of her mouth and looks at me. “Ugh, I can’t believe I just said that.”

2:24 p.m.

I’m dozing in the Virginia sun. I lift up my eyelids. By the way, I’m not driving the car.There’s a tanker truck directly in front of us that reads “World’s Best Coffee.” I fantasize about telling Bern to pull alongside the truck while I — in my best Indiana Jones manner — roll down the window and leap from our car to the truck. I land on the tanker, plunge in and swim and drink coffee to my hearts content. Then the drowsy feeling lifts, and I realize I’m staring at a gasoline truck with a coffee advertisement on the back. I slam my eyes shut.

6 p.m.

Virginia is a pretty state. I wish I were out of it.

6:08 p.m.

Just passed a sign in Virginia that reads: “Work Zone Safety Week. Dial 551 for Details.” Because there’s nothing safer than driving and dialing in the midst of road construction.

6:23 p.m.

We cross the border into North Carolina. We cheer. Silence. We drive some more. Silence. Penelope asks, “When do we get to Grandma’s?” Umm, we have another two hours in the car.

8:34 p.m.

We arrive at my Mom’s home. The 10-hour trip takes 13 hours and 14 minutes. I used to laugh when friends with small children told me they would leave their homes at 3 a.m. when traveling long distances. Now I get it.

Superheroes, super aches

Super Penelope channeling her inner Batman at a friend's birthday party.

I learned some new things playing superhero at the park with Penelope:

  • The proper superhero flying pose is to make a fist and extend your right arm. Your left elbow should be held tight against your ribcage.
  • Superheros work on “school days” but not on “home days.”
  • Superhero duties include: chasing bad guys, helping kids in trouble and feeding dinosaurs.
  • Dinosaurs live under sliding boards and eat pebbles, but only pebbles from the area of the park farthest from the sliding board.

Penelope is running across a field toward a pebble-strewn track. I’m chasing behind her and dragging along our eldest beagle, who would prefer the comforts of her bed to playing the role of Superdog this chilly afternoon. I worry that Superdog’s only super power will be the ability to poop on my pillow while I’m in the shower. We gather a few choice pebbles and skip back across the field to feed the dinosaur. Penelope puts her hands to the side of her head: “Oh no! We need more dinosaur food!”

Oh boy! I take a gulp of air. This endeavor was supposed to wear the kid out, but I’m the one who’s likely heading to bed early. Back across the field we go. I’m huffing and puffing like a steam engine in pants. We make several trips collecting dinosaur food until Penelope pronounces the imaginary beast sated.

Galloping across the field, I suspect I’m providing a good chuckle for anyone looking out from one of the windows of one of the houses abutting the park. And if that’s the case, I don’t mind a bit. One of the unheralded bonuses of having a four-year-old is the chance to be a kid again yourself. If I tried skipping across the open fields without a kid, somebody would probably be chasing me with a net.

One other thing I’ve learned cavorting around the park this day: No matter how good I am about shunning Easter candy, there’s no way my caboose is wending gracefully down the sliding board. Nor will it fit comfortably on a swing. And, while we’re on the subject, didn’t any of these playground planners consider making the plastic tube that serves as a passageway from one side of the play set to the sliding board just a little bit larger?

By the end of the afternoon, I’m feeling my age. My knee joints ache, and my back is barking at me. I strap Penelope into her booster seat and hoist the beagle into the back where she can plot her revenge. I pour myself into the car, grunting a half-hearted vow about getting in shape. But as I back out of the parking space, I catch a glimpse of Penelope smiling in her car seat. And suddenly, I feel super.

Reflections on a Family Murder

Ten years ago this month, a man my uncle barely knew walked into his home, punched him in the face and strangled him to death. He dragged his lifeless body across a cold marble floor, dumped him into a closet and locked the door.

Then he picked up the telephone and invited his friends over to the house for a party.

My Mom called me two mornings later. She recounted the detective’s story of how friends grew worried when my uncle wasn’t answering his telephone. His girlfriend and best friend drove to his home, peeked past the living room curtains and saw fast-food bags littering my fastidious uncle’s coffee table. That’s when they called the police.

The disbelief in my Mom’s voice was palpable. Or, maybe, I could not believe what I was hearing. Within hours my wife and I packed our bags and staggered into our car for the two-day journey to my uncle’s home.

While today the memories are as fresh as this evening’s news, I still struggle to understand the jumble of events I confronted that week.  The feeling of being blindfolded and drop kicked into an episode of “Dragnet” permeates the shards of images that surface:

  • A mustached detective in a crisply ironed white shirt standing in the hallway, hands on hips, declaring in a gravelly voice: “My bad guys” know to stay away from this block.
  • The odor of decay that lingered in the musty air of the closed-up house; the red fingerprint dust that coated tables and bookshelves as though the devil himself had rifled through my uncle’s belongings.
  • Combing through drawers and cabinets, finding papers, photographs and objects — piecing together a mosaic of someone’s life. Someone whom I had known all my life, but didn’t really know at all. Or someone I knew as a child whose perspective never changed when I became an adult.
  • Me sleeping on the dining room floor with a carving knife under my pillow after we heard some alarming noises outside. (It’s a miracle I didn’t stab myself in the ear.)

I remember standing on my uncle’s front porch with my father. A warm sun baked my left arm; my father’s face shadowed by the porch overhang. He glared at me, his voice hushed. “You tell me everything that’s going on. Your mother doesn’t need to know. But you tell me.”

I’d been trying to shield my parents as much as possible. Spare them the gruesome details, the trauma. Much like they had spared me from life’s tragedies and horrors when I was a child.

No different from how I now shield Penelope.

But I told him; told him everything I knew. When I was finished he looked out past the front lawn, past the houses, down the street to somewhere else. To another street hundreds of miles and fifty years distant. To a boy my Dad once knew. That boy is riding a bicycle delivering newspapers in a respectable neighborhood on a chilly morning. He stops at a house and as he flips the newspaper onto the front porch, the door creaks open. A middle-aged woman purses her painted lips and comments on the chill. She scans the sleeping neighborhood for signs of life. Seeing none, she beckons him inside. . .

My father finishes his story. My eyes are still stinging when the screen door slams.

I’m alone on the porch.

But I’m not alone really. I’m standing on my uncle’s front porch, but it’s a different porch in front of a different house hundreds of miles and twenty-five years distant. There’s the smell of fresh-cut grass and an ache in my young shoulders. There are glasses of ice tea sweating on a metal tray, and my uncle is melting into a lawn chair. “You might like these,” he says, handing me a couple of paperbacks.

He’s talking, but I’m scanning the books, reading the blurb on the back and the reviews. “The Holcroft Covenant.” “Operation Skydrop.” Not exactly Hemingway but still a curiosity to a kid who’s just getting out of The Three Investigators and The Hardy Boys. These books are hundreds of pages long, small type, no pictures. Something resonates and an interest in books becomes a lifelong affair.

Since that week a decade ago, thoughts of my uncle always center around his terrible demise. He became labeled as: “My uncle, the one who was beaten and strangled to death . . .”

I realized not long ago the terrible thing I was doing. Bad enough someone had murdered my uncle; I had allowed that person to hijack my memories.

This discovery occurred as I stood in my living room before a locked bookcase which holds some of the greatest novels and poetry ever written. These books are beautiful editions; some signed by the authors. As someone who adores the classics, I treasure every book sitting on the shelves.

The books arrived in a dozen cardboard boxes about a month after my uncle’s murder. My mother thought he’d want me to have them.

——————

As a former newspaper editor, I would have sent this story back to the reporter and told him to fill in the blanks. So, here goes: two days after my uncle’s murder, police caught the man responsible. He planned a second party at my uncle’s home. The party guests arrived at about the same time the police did. They didn’t need Joe Friday to solve this crime. They found enough evidence to send the man to the state penitentiary for a very long time. My uncle’s ashes were shipped home a few months later. In a drizzly spring chill, my uncle, the book lover, was laid to rest in the family’s burial plot.

The Caffeinated Kid and Other Parenting Mishaps

As someone who will slice up a bunch of jalapeno peppers and then immediately take out his contact lenses, or rub Ben-Gay on his wife’s back and then go to the bathroom, picking out five really bad parenting moves was no problem. Actually, it was a problem because I thought of 16 and had to cut.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are my five personal favorites:

Think before you sing. The other day I was driving to the supermarket with Penelope in the back seat. We were listening to a track by G.B. Leighton, an indie musician out of Minnesota, called “The Most Important Night of My Life.” I didn’t think much about it until after we returned home, and Bernadette asked me why Penelope was singing the first line of the chorus: “I’m going down to the liquor store.” (Ironically, if you watch the video link, Leighton warns about this very thing happening. If only I had seen the video sooner.) All I can say is thank God Penelope couldn’t decipher The Clash’s “Death or Glory.”

And, as a corollary I’d like to add that parodies of children’s songs are a really bad idea. Singing “the driver on the bus goes (insert farting sound here)” to the kid is a pre-K parent-teacher conference just waiting to happen.

Think before you practice. This week I started classes at Mix ’em Up Bartending School. (As an aside, I just want to say that the classes are fantastic, the instructors are terrific, and I’m happy to be adding a skill to my repertoire that can’t get outsourced to India.)

When I return home in the afternoon, I take a little time to practice what I’ve learned. Since I’m pouring liquid — really, water — from one type of container into another, Penelope suddenly finds me more interesting than the Kratt Brothers on PBS Kids. Later, Bernadette was giving Penelope a bath when the little one grabbed her plastic play cups and asked, “Mama, would you like an Alabama Slammer?”

Note to self: Practice making Sex on the Beach after 7:30 p.m.

Note to everyone: No matter how I phrase above sentence it always sounds dirty.

Opposites don’t attract. A recent conversation between Bernadette and I went like this:

Bern: Penelope is in this phase where she just won’t listen. You ask her to do something, and she won’t do it. Or she does the opposite.

Me: I know what we can do. We’ll just tell her the opposite of what we want her to do. So, if we want her to clean up her toys we’ll tell her to go watch TV.

Bern: Really? That teaches her to listen to us . . . how?

Umm . . . yea, good point.

Bedtime ain’t crazy time. I have a tendency to rile up Penelope right before bedtime. One example, and believe me there are many, was when I decided to act out one of her favorite books, “Sneaky Sheep” by Chris Monroe, complete with her stuffed sheep, wolf and Golden Retriever. Funny voices and bouncing animals all but guarantee a 7:30 p.m. bedtime isn’t going to happen. Penelope stayed awake several more hours, and was — how shall I put it? — an absolute joy when the sun rose the following morning. I’d like to publicly apologize to my wife, Penelope’s teachers, the woman who runs the playroom at Shop-Rite, several neighbors, my two beagles and a stray cat that wandered onto our property the next day.

The “new” new coffee generation. Recently I was working from home. I like to start each morning off with a cup of coffee or two or seven. On this particular morning I set my steaming mug down on my desk, shuffle back to the bedroom for a sweatshirt, then downstairs to drop a load of laundry into the washing machine, then into the kitchen to make some scrambled eggs. I carry my plate of eggs to my desk, set it down, reach for my coffee, but it’s gone. Since I have a terrible habit of leaving things all around the house, I pick up my plate of eggs and retrace my steps, but no luck and no coffee.

So, I call out to Bern who has a sixth sense for knowing where I’ve mislaid my car keys, wallet or the remote control. But she’s stumped. As I stand in the family room, scratching my head, a whirling dervish of a four year old careens past me, arms flapping in the air, yelling, “I’m flying!! I’m flying!!”

When I got back to my desk, my plate of eggs was missing. It was the beginning of the longest day of my life.