Sleepy Rattlesnakes

“Ooh yes, there are some mean snakes out in those woods behind your house. The DNR won’t even go back there, on account of the rattlesnakes being so nasty. The snakes go underground to hibernate, but the quarry blasts every day and they never get to sleep because the vibrations wake them up. Makes them nasty.”

Jerry, the neighbor, stopped by on his way to the dump to enlighten us about our property. It was not an entirely altruistic visit. He was mostly interested in hunting the deer that frequent the area.

“Sure would like to get back there and have a look around for the big one.”

“Well, we have bees and I would hate for you to get stung,” Daddy Longlegs explained.

Daddy Longlegs happened to be holding a machete from skinning a cedar tree that he had big plans for, once he figured out what to do about the termites that lived under the bark. The machete was not a deterrent to Jerry, the neighbor. Afterall, one doesn’t bring a machete to a gunfight and I assume Jerry has lots of guns because every time we see him, he talks about shooting things.

“You would only see me if I had to pull one (assuming this is a deer) out that I shot over here.”

Jerry, the neighbor, was not taking an indirect, super polite, Midwestern style of no for an answer. I’m not exactly sure how things were left but I won’t be surprised to see a big, maroon truck parked at the edge of the trees and even more disturbing, as I write, I can hear a shotgun in the distance.

This conversation was all recounted to me as I was inside sorting clothes while the baby napped. It makes me angry to envision, Jerry, the neighbor, shooting the deer that we have come to see as friends and then dragging their bodies through the woods, over our yard and into his waiting truck.

All in all, I do not like the arrangement. Not for the snakes, the deer, or us.

A man must eat, certainly, but I would prefer that he found the means to do so elsewhere.

And maybe consider a vegetarian lifestyle.


The broom and the mop are out, leaning against the kitchen counter, like two loiterers refusing to work. They are in good company with a miniature broom, apparently placed there as a supervisor. It is the work of Little Legs, just before he left for his nap.

By left, I mean I carried him kicking and screaming to his room and lowered him as gently as possible, considering the constant movement of all four limbs at once, into his crib.

He wanted to stay up and clean the “big mess” one of his favorite two word phrases, while I wanted him tucked safely away in order to race around doing all the things that are impossible to do while a toddler and baby are hanging around, wanting snacks and attention and creating fresh messes along the way.  

I glanced at the monitor, Baby Brother was still fast asleep, curled up into a ball with his behind up in the air while the sound machine whooshed out the background noises of Little Legs crying and the dryer ending its cycle.

Instead of doing any of the impossible housework things, like folding the laundry or mopping, I headed straight to the bathroom for a long, hot shower. Then, I took my time applying lotion and brushing my hair, tweezing pesky hairs and then tweezing some more.

Now, I am wrapped up in a blanket, typing against the clock that continues to tick towards the end of the rare, synchronized little boy and baby naptime.

Obviously, the chores can wait.

Cobbled Together

Sweat dripped from the tip of my nose. Although I was hot all over, even in shorts and a tank top, my nose was the only place the sweat managed to bead up and escape. Where most people have an HVAC system, I have a window A/C unit, and a small one, at that.

I rode my bike with an empty, plastic bucket balanced on one handle down the gravel road.

The road would later be paved, but that wouldn’t happen for years, after our old farm house burned down, after the ash trees that lined the drive-way were eaten from the inside out by beetles, and long after our nucleus of four exploded into four very different directions.

With just a little farther to go, I dropped my eyes to a mosquito that landed on my arm. I swatted at it with one hand as the lace in my shoe worked its way out of a loose knot and around the chain of the bike, completely preventing it from any additional movement.  

The bike stopped and bucket pulled the handlebars in one direction as my body tried to fly the opposite way, held back by the shoelace, firmly wrapped around the chain. I toppled like a tree in a windstorm, skidding head-first along the road, dragging my legs and the still-connected-by-a-shoe bike behind me.

As I lay on the road, with my foot hopelessly twisted and blood trickling from my knees and elbows, I only thought of the empty bucket. Remaining empty.  

There would be no cherry cobbler that night.

Just like this Thanksgiving. There will be no cobbler. No family around the table or extra shoes lined up by the door. As painful as it may be, we will make do without seeing each other in person, but because we must do our part to stop the spread of Covid-19 until a safe vaccine is available, until the hospitals clear out and until we settle into a new normal. 

For now, at least we have Zoom.

And like swapping a Pop-tart for a homemade cobbler, it is a pretty disappointing substitute.

Mean Mom

Little Legs and I made it to music class right on time, while Daddy Longlegs watched Baby Brother.

Each time was better as Little Legs learned the routine and the limits of the room. He walked backwards and dropped into my lap in preparation for the welcome song as a tow-headed girl raced around the room with all the insane energy of a toddler.

Where does the energy come from and how do they recharge so quickly, I wondered.

The girl grabbed my water bottle and took off for another lap around the room when she was apprehended by her exhausted mother. Dark circles and bags under her eyes indicated the accrual of a sleep debt that was not about to be repaid anytime soon.

“You are being a horrible little girl,” she said grabbing her child’s arm.

The little girl squealed and pulled away, dropping to the floor in a dead weight.  

Her mother returned the water bottle to me with one hand.

“She’s fixin’ to get a beating, that’s what she’s doing.”

How does one respond to that kind of a statement? I have heard it frequently and assume the parents are usually joking, but sensed that in this instance, the truth was out in the open.

When someone shows me how they really are, I believe them.  

And this, my friends, was a mean mom.

Hunting Season

“Hey y’all. Haven’t seen you around,” the voice came from the shadows and was followed by a man with a pointy beard wearing a head to toe suit of camouflage.

“Where y’all been?” he asked with a good-natured twang.

It was only 5:00 and already dark on the street. Daylight Savings saved nothing. In fact, it stole the last bits of lights the couple had to walk during the cool fall nights.

The couple was not to be deterred from their few minutes of peace with both boys contained in the enormous double stroller. They wore matching reflective vests and carried flashlights. The stroller glowed an eerie green under the streetlight, outlined in reflective strips.

“Well, you’re pretty hard to spot these days, too, in your all camo outfit,” the woman said with a laugh.

The man looked down in question, unsure to what she was referencing; he wore this outfit so often it was a second skin, an unofficial uniform that he never gave a second thought to as he dressed in the morning.

Camo t-shirt, check. Camo pants, check.

It was also hunting season which came as news to the Northerners, announced by the constant gunfire in the woods behind their house.

“Oh yeah, I guess you’re right. I would be pretty hard to spot. We’ve been out hunting, round these parts. Fact is, we just got back from those woods out past Creek Bend Road.”

Good Lord, the woman thought. He is the one who was firing his gun in our backyard.

Her husband volunteered, “Hey, that’s where we live.”

“So’s you live in the house back there. Well, I’ll be darned. Its just me and my boys that ever hunt out there. Sure would be nice to have a place to park so we don’t have to walk so far from the road.”


Awkward silence ensued as the couple refused to give the man what he wanted.

“Come on back here, I’ve got to show you something.”

The woman refused to budge. “No thanks, I’ve got to stay here with the boys (and the living world).”

“Ok then, just you,” he pointed at the man who agreed without hesitation and then followed him into the dark shadows in what seemed like a bad idea to the onlookers who remained on the side of the road.

The woman was not a religious sort, but she suddenly found herself praying for the safe return of her husband. Long, drawn-out seconds passed into a minute and then another before the men reappeared and the woman exhaled, realizing that she was holding her breath.

“What in the world did he show you?”

Her husband took over pushing the stroller, “He has the head of a 10-point buck that he shot in the woods behind the house. I guess he’s the kind of guy we need to know if its end of days.”

This was the standard for making new friends, if they have useful skills in case of the Apocalypse.

Apparently, things were looking rather grim.

The Saddest Kangaroo

We just returned home from the zoo where Little Legs marveled at the big fish, laughed at the meercats and shied away from the solitary tiger that raced back and forth in its enclosure. Baby Brother stayed in the stroller where he gazed up at the blue sky and the faces of his favorite two people as we switched off pushing him.

Although it was a joy to spend the day with my family, there is a sadness that still clings to me with the weight of a toddler. I keep thinking about the animals, seemingly healthy and well-cared for, but existing in miniature, man-made environments where everything was artificial and based on convenience for their keepers and the viewing audience.

The plexiglass separating us was not thick enough to stop the stares of the various varieties of monkey folk from looking out and making an emotional connection, alternating between humor and curiosity but mostly with sorrow at their containment.

What continues to bother me the most occurred in the kangaroo pen when we came upon a masked keeper hand-feeing an energetic joey.  

“Why isn’t she with her mother?” I asked inquisitively. “Is she an orphan?”

The joey hopped back and forth on its still spindly legs, supported by its thick tail, and begged for more snacks, like a hopeful puppy.

“Ok, that’s enough,” the keeper said with a laugh and opened a bag on the ground.

The joey hopped in headfirst and rolled its big feet in after it to re-emerge with its shiny black eyes and dark nose peeping out from within the bag.

“No, she isn’t an orphan. The mother was too aggressive and wouldn’t let anyone approach her, so we had to separate them. Two of our keepers took her home and bottle fed her through the early nights. We still take turns wearing her in this pouch,” the keeper explained, slinging the bag around her neck and patting the occupant.

Through my mask, the keeper must have sensed my horror because she continued unprompted.

“We have to make sure they can be successful with the herd in this kind of a setting.”  

I understood the reasoning, but this explanation made me feel low, as in scum of the earth for indirectly supporting this decision by visiting the zoo.

What cruel creatures have we become to prevent a mother from protecting and raising her young, in order to create a product to entertain the crowds? Surely, we can do better because what we do to animals, we do to ourselves in that all lives are connected and sacred.   

We must do better for ourselves, our children and our future.

I am starting with a letter to the zoo.

How about you?

Banana Bread Bonanza

“You have to peel the banana first,” his mother patiently explained.

“Drop,” the boy said as he released an unpeeled banana into the mixing bowl onto a white bed of sugar.

He picked up a second unpeeled and equally ripe banana. The stem bent when he tried to pull it down and the fruit refused to open in his hands. Undeterred, the boy channeled his inner animal and tried to peel it with his sharp teeth, only further mushifying it.

He discarded the banana and prepared to dismount his stool with slimy banana hands.


“No, Little Legs. It is not trash. We need that to make the banana bread.”

His mother reviewed the recipe with one eye while watching her son with the other. He turned around and decided to stay, hopeful for a few moments alone with the sugar. He grabbed for the bag with both hands.

“I don’t think so, buster,” she declared, removing the bag from his hands.  

He didn’t protest because a new opportunity presented itself, the unguarded mixing bowl. He grabbed it and dipped his finger in to sample the sugar and butter. The bowl was pushed out of his reach by an omnipotent hand, only encouraging him to climb onto the counter after it.

“Ok, the eggs are next.  Do you want to help add them?”  


From that point, the eggs were cracked with the shells and dumped on the counter, the flour barely made it to the bowl, minus a swiped handful which ended up in Little Legs’ mouth, and the gooey mixture was still not ready for the oven because a baby started to cry in the background, ready for his next all-liquid, all-the-time snack.

If there was a world record for the longest banana bread making experience, they probably would have won it, hands down.

For all we know, they are still mixing and mashing.  

Bad Pumpkin Man

It was time for the pumpkins to move out. There was already too much clutter with the endless Matchbox cars, blocks, train-tracks and bath toys that escaped the tub only to travel from room to room in Little Legs’ hands.

“We can feed the pumpkins to the deer,” I tried to convince Little Legs.

Securing his buy-in was essential to the plan.  

He had a complicated relationship with the pumpkins. He was happy to feed the deer, but less than thrilled to give up his art project which featured his finger painting in his favorite colors.   

“The animals will love the pumpkins, especially the one you decorated,” I continued to encourage him.

While he remained suspicious, he acquiesced to carry the smaller pumpkin to the woods outside of our house until he was tired.

“Drop,” he narrated as he released the orange weight to the ground with a thud.

“Perfect, now where should we leave this big one?”

He kept scaling the rocky platforms that edged the woods, higher and higher.

Little Legs stopped and royally surveyed the land, and his mother, below him.

“Here?” I asked.

He nodded and decreed with a pointed finger, “Deer eat.”

Two word phrases were still the beautiful sounds of fresh language development. I felt proud of the tiny conqueror as I dropped the pumpkin which landed with a heavier and more satisfying thud.

Together, we stared at the ball of orange, cushioned in a tangle of brown weeds. I briefly wondered how the deer would access the scrumptious flesh and seeds inside the hard shell when Daddy Longlegs joined us.

Aware of our mission and the missing step, he offered, “Let me help.”

He raised the pumpkin up over his head and smashed it down to the ground.

“Now the deer can get to it.”

Tears streamed down Little Legs’ cheeks as he let out a wail and cried, “Bwoke.”

He shuffled closer to the pumpkin, split into three pieces, revealing the juicy insides.


I tried to stop the laughter that bubbled up and out of my mouth and held my arms out to the boy.

“Oh, that bad pumpkin man.”   

The Bees

Daddy Longlegs pushes the door open, steps inside and pulls off his white hooded bee-keeper top. Lately, he doesn’t bother with the matching pants or with the smoker. He is very confident in his relationship with his bees.

“You can’t be afraid, they can smell fear.”

He tries to get me to put on the suit, but I refuse. I am surprised this needs explaining but obviously someone must survive to take care of the boys. And to eat the honey.

I encourage him to wear the pants next time and remind him, “A sting hurts.”

Somehow, I am the only one to sustain one since the colonies took up residence in the yard, while Daddy Longlegs has blissfully forgotten his last sting from years ago. Time has a merciful way of dulling the memory of pain, it is the only way we can go on after childbirth or the death of a loved one.

Perhaps it has been too long since his last sting.  

“Well, how are they?” I ask.

“Any signs of a wild animal trying to get in?”

Apparently, our neighbor with diabetes has spotted the hives and is dying for a taste. We have been warned by his wife. He must be kept away or like an unmanageable bear, he will come after the honey.

Daddy Longlegs is somber.

“I saw a big one at the entrance carrying a dead bee out.”

“Doing a little housekeeping?” I wrongly assume.

“He didn’t just throw the dead bee out. He flew it to the ground in front of the hive and gently placed it next to a leaf.”

“I am sorry for your loss.”  

And I truly am. These bees are now family.

A Spot of Sunshine

The two slipped outside, hand in hand, under a pure blue sky.

Even the shadows, usually cool and creepy, felt warm and inviting.

“Watch out for snakes,” his mother warned.

She didn’t want to believe that a serpent would dare infest her garden of Eden but knew it was possible.

She found the skin of one in the grass, brown and paper-thin, left behind as useless as heels and pressed pants during this phase of life.

Overhead two white cranes honked at each other,

Speaking the private language of family that they somehow understood.