Tag: summer

Insomniac Beauty

Once upon a time, a king and queen were thrilled when they had a tiny new daughter. They invited the kingdom to celebrate, and gave special invitations to the resident fairies. The fairies made it a habit of attending baby blessings and using their magic powers to grant special powers and gifts to special babies.

Of course, a baby princess is a special baby indeed, and the fairies were delighted to come. All but one. Somehow, her invitation had been lost in the mail, and she felt snubbed.

“How dare they not invite me?” the fairy asked. “Inviting everyone except me is a deliberate insult.”

“I’m sure they meant to invite you,” the other fairies said. “Come anyway. I’m sure they’ll have great flower nectar and that spicy cracker mix you like.”

“Oh, I’ll come,” the fairy said. “I’ll give the baby a blessing they’ll never forget.”

“That’s the spirit,” the other fairies said, ignoring her dark tone.

And the day for the baby blessing came. The fairies hovered around the baby, giving her gifts of wisdom and beauty and other princessy things. The last fairy hovered over the princess and smiled much too widely.

“I bless you with the ability to go without sleep. In fact, you won’t ever sleep at all.” And then she swooped away cackling.

The crowd was confused. “Was that a good thing or a bad thing?” the queen asked her husband.

It didn’t take long for the answer to be clear. A baby that never sleeps at all is a very bad thing. Even with a rotating watch over her, the princess soon exhausted all her caregivers. She had so much extra time to figure out how to get into everything. She was always alert, never tired, and once she was a toddler she could soon outrun even the fastest runners in the kingdom.

“She will do great or terrible things,” the king said sadly one day, as he untied the laces of the shoes that had all been strung from the banisters of the spiral staircase.

“That’s fifty-fifty odds, right?” the queen said. She was still hunting for her shoes. “That’s not so bad.”

But the princess grew up to do both great and terrible things, as we all do. She just managed to do them on a bigger scale. She was, after all, a princess who never had to sleep. She had more time and resources than most.

By the time she was seventeen, her father sent her out on daily quests just to keep her out of trouble. She rescued kittens from trees and babies from dragons and ladies from lakes. She painted fences and helped build cathedrals. Her father started running out of quests.

And then he had the best idea yet. He sent her to go help out the fairy that had given her such a unique gift. The princess rode off on her horse and the kingdom breathed a sigh of relief for another day.

The fairy, on the other hand, found that her woes were just beginning. The princess had decided to build a gazebo in her yard at midnight. The fairy woke up to a terrible racket, and try as she might, none of her hexes could hit the princess. They just bounced off her polished shield like those fuzzy yellow balls bounce off tennis rackets.

The princess remodeled her kitchen and she couldn’t find anything. She dug up her potion ingredients and planted a bed of thorny roses. Then, when the fairy was hiding in the library, the princess came in and started indexing the books by the authors’ first names.

Enough was enough. The fairy stood and aimed her wand at the princess’s back. “You will be an ordinary princess who sleeps just as much as an ordinary princess does.”

The princess kept sorting books. “I am an ordinary princess,” she called over her shoulder. “I sleep an ordinary amount, for me.” And that night, she dug a wishing well that only worked if you threw in polished diamonds.

The fairy strode out, dark circles under her eyes. She pointed her wand at the princess. “I take it back. Whatever I said that made it so that you are here keeping me up at night, I take it back.”

The princess looked confused for a moment. “I think that maybe I’m sleepy?” And then she curled up next to the well and fell asleep for the first time in her life.

She rode home the next day, after the fairy urged her to go home and tell her parents the good news. Her parents were thrilled.

Of course, bad habits aren’t easily unlearned, and the princess never did sleep as much as everyone else. But, she did get into a little less trouble. And the entire kingdom rested easier.

Charlie’s Room: New Neighbors

“The house behind ours is for sale,” Marianne said one evening at dinner.

“It is? But what about Mr. Carl?” Isaac was surprised. Mr. Carl had lived in the neighborhood longer than anyone. Isaac had many late afternoon chats with him over the fence about what the neighborhood used to look like when Mr. Carl was younger and most of the land was beet fields.

He had the nicest garden. Marianne and Charlie liked to peek through the fence in the spring to see his progress. They often timed when to plant things by when they started to appear in Mr. Carl’s garden.

“Mr. Carl is going to live in a care home. His daughter was there this afternoon. She said he wasn’t doing so well.” Marianne looked sad.

“He didn’t look sick last time we saw him,” Charlie said.

“Sometimes, when people are older, these things can come on kind of suddenly,” Marianne said carefully. “Would you like to see if we can visit him in his care home? Maybe we can send him cards, too.”

“Do you think it would make him sad to send him pictures of our garden?” Charlie asked.

“I don’t think so,” Marianne poured more water into Charlie’s glass. “Maybe we can ask him when to plant things.”

Charlie dropped his fork. “I have a great idea. We can buy Mr. Carl’s house. Then we’d have his garden. It’s the most amazing garden ever, and it would be all ours.”

Isaac smiled. “We’d also have an extra house. What would we do with an extra house?”

“I don’t know.” Charlie thought for a moment. “We could make it into a dinosaur museum.”

“That would be pretty neat.” Isaac took a bite of salad and chewed thoughtfully. “But buying a house costs a lot of money.”

“How much? I still have money I saved from Christmas, and my birthday is coming up soon.” Charlie jumped up. “I could get my bank and we could count it. I think it’s a lot of money.”

“Sit down.” Marianne patted the back of Charlie’s chair and he sat. “Charlie, a house costs so much money that we still haven’t finished paying for ours.”

“We could trade houses,” Charlie said at once.

Isaac nodded. “That’s a great idea. But it would be difficult to do. Usually, you have to sell your own house before you can buy a new one. That takes a while. And they don’t usually let people start museums in neighborhoods. They like to keep them downtown where there’s more parking.”

Charlie frowned. “But what if the people who buy Mr. Carl’s house don’t like gardens? What if they decide to take out the garden and turn the backyard into just grass and let all the dandelions grow wherever they want?”

“It would be their house, and they could do that,” Marianne said.

“But it wouldn’t be fair,” Charlie said. “Mr. Carl put so much work into his garden.”

Isaac patted Charlie’s back. “Maybe the people who move in love gardens. Maybe that will be why they buy the house. Or maybe they will be new to gardens and need some help from experts like you and your mom.”

Charlie took a deep breath. “Do you think so? And we can help them like Mr. Carl helped us?”

“Just like that.” Isaac smiled. “They will be new to the neighborhood, and even if they don’t need help with their garden, maybe they will have other things we can help with.”

“Like when Sam was new to our school and Thomas and I sat with him at lunch and showed him where the park was after school.” Charlie sat up straighter. “It might not be bad to have new neighbors. Maybe there will be someone my age who likes dinosaurs and wants to be in the dinosaur club.”

“That’s right,” Isaac said. “Let’s not borrow trouble.”

Charlie looked confused. “What does that mean?”

“The future hasn’t happened yet. Worrying about bad things that might happen in the future that we can’t do anything about is like borrowing trouble from the future just so we can worry about it in advance. If there’s nothing we can do about it, we might as well wait to worry about it when it actually happens. A lot of the time, the bad things we think might happen don’t even happen at all. Then we have nothing to worry about. So, why borrow something you might not need?” Isaac took a bite of salad.

Charlie shook his head. “I still don’t get it.”

Marianne laughed. “It’s just a saying.”

“Like the glass half full thing?” Charlie held up his glass of water.

“Just like that.” Marianne took a few sips from her water glass and held it up. “Look, mine’s half full now.”

“Mine, too.” Charlie took a few more sips and laughed. “Now it’s not. Is it a third full or a fourth?”

“Mine’s empty,” Isaac said sadly, looking at his glass.

“No, it’s just full of potential,” Marianne said, and she filled his glass with water.

“Just like the neighbor’s house.” Charlie held out his water glass to be filled again. “It’s too bad we can’t buy all the houses in the neighborhood. Then we can connect them all and it would be like living in a giant castle.”

Marianne laughed. “What would we do with all that space?”

Charlie thought for a moment. “I guess we could invite all our neighbors to come back and live in our castle.”

Isaac smiled. “I like that idea. Let’s do that, but not connect the houses. That way there’s more room for gardens.”

“But then it’s just the way the neighborhood is already,” Charlie said.

“Mostly full?” Isaac asked.

“Once someone moves into Mr. Carl’s house, it will be full again,” Charlie said. He looked at his water glass. “I guess that’s pretty good after all.”

Glass of water, half full

Looking At Art

It’s interesting to look at artwork made by other people. It’s inspiring to see how well other people create. But not every artwork is meant to convey technical skill. So what am I looking for when I look at work that isn’t photo-realistic?

One of the first things I look at is the title. It can sometimes give a clue on what the artist was thinking. How does it relate to the artwork? Does it seem like there’s a connection?

Some artwork is telling a story. Are there characters that might be doing something interesting? Does it look like something is happening? What could the characters be thinking about?

Other artwork is meant to convey feeling. How do I feel as I look at the work? Do the colors or shapes suggest ideas or emotions? How are they placed withing space? How does that make me feel?

Art can make a statement. Does it seem to relate to a relationship or current event? Is the content strange, off-putting or controversial? What do I think the artist is trying to say?

Of course, I don’t always have any of this in mind when I look at a piece of artwork. Sometimes the artist will write a thorough explanation and post it in a guide book or right next to the work. Then I can choose whether to factor their wishes into what I think of the piece.

And I can choose to think whatever I want. My opinion of the artwork doesn’t have to be based on the artist’s intent. Once I view it, I am participating in determining the meaning for myself.

Perhaps for me the meaning of a particular painting is that cats are scary. Or that eating in bed leaves crumbs and is a bad idea. Or I could decide that the red painting is far too angry and I’m not going to look at it much at all.

I could decide that modern art is boring, and no one can tell me that I’m wrong. They can say that not everyone thinks that, and that can be true too. It’s part of the fun of looking at art.

When art is hidden away with no one to look at it, it has a lot less meaning than art that other people can look at. If art has lots of different meanings, that just means that it’s been looked at and thought about often. So, don’t be afraid to have your own opinion about what you look at.

I think that the more meaning you find, the more interesting a painting is. But to find meaning, you have to spend time with the painting and give it more than just a glance. That’s when looking at artwork made by other people becomes interesting and inspiring.

What is your favorite artwork? What kind of art do you like? Why? What do you look for when you look at art?


Grandpa Talks About Money

Carrie had a doctor’s appointment. She would be getting her immunizations, and so both mom and dad went to try to protect all the doctors and nurses. Carrie was scary when she was upset.

Grandpa came over to keep an eye on Lynn and Jim and Neal. They were all a little nervous about how upset Carrie would be when she got home. “We could hide under the bed,” Neal suggested. “I don’t think she’d find us there.”

“That’s no good,” Jim said. “It’s at her eye-level. I think we should hide on the top shelf in the pantry. She’d never look for us there.”

“If we weren’t in the house, she would be guaranteed to be unable to find us,” Lynn said.

Neal sighed and his shoulders slumped. “Yeah, but do you know how much it costs to get a passport?”

“Everything costs more nowadays,” Grandpa said, patting Neal on the shoulder. “I think it’s because young people don’t know the value of money. When I was younger, I could get ten pairs of shoes with a penny, and I’d still get change.”

“Wow.” Jim’s eyes were wide. “How could you get change for a penny? What’s smaller than a penny?”

Lynne rolled her eyes. “Nothing is. And while things cost more now than they used to due to inflation, you couldn’t ever get ten pairs of shoes for a penny. That’s ridiculous.”

“Actually, we used to use leaves as change.” Grandpa smiled. “I’m sure you’ve heard about money growing on trees.”

“I thought money didn’t grow on trees,” Neal said doubtfully.

“It doesn’t anymore. People liked the metal money, because it kept them anchored to the ground better during that unfortunate period of time when gravity wasn’t working so well.”

“Really? Could you jump really high like astronauts on the moon?” Jim asked.

“Of course. The problem wasn’t jumping up, it was coming down afterwards. That’s why people talk about lucky pennies. It would surprise you how many people were saved by having a few pennies in their pockets. I’m sure the moon is full of people who just didn’t happen to have change in their pockets when they tripped.”

Lynne snorted. “Gravity doesn’t change like that. It’s constant.”

“Then why is it different on the moon?” Neal asked. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“Quite right,” Grandpa said. “Of course, I found a real lucky penny once. I knew it was lucky, because it looked like a quarter to everyone else. I was afraid to spend it though, because once it belonged to someone else, it would look like a penny to them. Then they’d think I was cheating them.”

Jim leaned forward. “Do you have it now? Can I see it?”

“Of course I do.” Grandpa reached into his pocket. “It’s right here. See?” Grandpa held up a quarter.

“It’s a quarter,” Lynne said in a bored voice.

“It really does look like a quarter!” Neal looked excited. “That’s amazing.”
Jim held out his hand, and Grandpa dropped the quarter into his palm. He turned it over and over. “It looks just like a real quarter.”

“That’s because it is a quarter,” Lynn said. “Not a penny.”

“Could you give it to me?” Jim asked. “Just for a little bit? I want to see it look like a penny.”

“No, because then it would still belong to me. I’m not really willing to give up my luck just yet.”

“We’ll need it when Carrie gets home. Maybe we could disguise ourselves, like the lucky penny,” Jim said.

“Carrie hates strangers,” Lynn pointed out.

“Good point,” Jim said.

“Back before there was money, we didn’t buy anything. We just traded for what we needed. Of course, you had to find people who had what you wanted. People would put big signs outside their houses listing what they had and what they wanted to trade. You could walk around the neighborhood reading signs. It was hard to be strangers when you read everyone’s signs.”

“That didn’t happen,” Lynn said.

Jim frowned. “I thought there was a barter system a long time ago.”

Lynn took a deep breath. “There was a barter system a long, long time ago. Grandpa isn’t that old. And there weren’t any signs and…”

Grandpa was looking out the window. He interrupted Lynn. “I think your parents and Carrie are driving up the driveway. Who wants to go for a walk?”

Everyone ran for their coats.


Charlie’s Room: A Lazy Afternoon

One morning, Isaac woke up, and he wasn’t feeling well. This was unfortunate, because it was his day off. Charlie and Marianne spent the last week planning a hike, now that the weather was finally warmer. They packed their backpacks and lunches and chose the perfect hiking-through-the-woods outfits.

But Isaac didn’t feel well. He didn’t have a fever. He wasn’t throwing up or coughing. He didn’t have any sharp pains anywhere. He wasn’t dizzy, not really. He just felt tired and yucky and awful.

“Maybe it’s allergies,” Marianne said. “Your allergies do seem worse in the spring.”

“Maybe you’re just getting old,” Charlie said. “You did just have a birthday not that long ago. Maybe it finally kicked in?”

Isaac sat up a little straighter. “I’m not that old.”

Charlie raised his eyebrows. “Hmmm. I don’t know. How old is old? You’re older than me.”

Marianne laughed. “So am I, and I feel fine. I don’t think that’s it.” She turned to Isaac. “You know, maybe you’ve been working too hard lately. I think what you need is a lazy afternoon.”

“A lazy afternoon? What about the hike?” Isaac had his own backpack waiting for him, and he’d already applied a generous layer of sunscreen.

“You’re obviously not feeling well. You took your temperature twice, you keep checking your eyes in the mirror, and you haven’t finished your oatmeal. You love oatmeal.” Marianne shrugged. “If you’re not feeling well, you won’t enjoy the hike.”

Isaac looked down at his oatmeal. It was normally his favorite breakfast, but today it looked awful. “But it was supposed to be a family hike.”

Charlie patted his arm. “We’ll take lots of pictures. It will almost be like you were there. There will be other hikes, you know.”


“We’ll be fine. Now, if you’re staying home you need to rest.” Marianne folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. “No doing anything from that long to-do list that you keep. Just rest.”

Charlie nodded. “Maybe you could take a nap, too. Old people like naps.”

Isaac frowned. “I’m not old.”

“Of course not.” Charlie took another bite of oatmeal.

Marianne smiled. “Now that’s all settled, we need to go soon. Isaac, I’ll leave your lunch in the fridge.”

Not long after, they finished their breakfast and left. Isaac saw them off, and returned to his half-eaten bowl of oatmeal. Somehow it looked even worse than before.

Maybe he would take a nap. Not because he was old, of course. It just sounded especially nice right now. He scraped out his bowl of oatmeal and left the bowl in the sink to soak. Then he changed back into his pajamas and went back to bed.

Hours later, he woke up. The house had that heavy silence that only empty houses get. Golden bars of sunlight streamed from the windows, gilding things in an afternoon glow. He felt a little better.

Isaac sat up slowly and stretched. Without his to-do list hanging over his head, he felt alarmingly unrushed. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with his time.

He could read a book or watch a movie or take a bath. He could stare out the window at the clouds. He could take a bath. He could take another nap.

Isaac went back to the kitchen and took his lunch out of the fridge. He ate his sandwich and thought. What did he want to do? What was the perfect activity for a lazy afternoon?

Isaac called Great-Aunt Bethyl. “Hi, I have some time free this afternoon and thought I’d call and catch up.”

They spent an hour talking about current events and life in general and their lives in particular. It was a wonderful phone call. Finally Great-Aunt Bethyl got another call and had to go. “Call again sometime,” she said. “This was really nice.”

Isaac called Cousin Reginald and listened to him read his latest poetry. He even called Aunt Doris and listened to her tell him how to be a better parent. Isaac’s ear felt sweaty from being squished against the phone, but he’d really enjoyed the calls.

He pulled some cookies out of the cupboard and ate them with milk. He made sure to dunk the cookies in the milk, filling the milk with sweet, soggy crumbs. It was perfect.

He made spaghetti for dinner, and while it cooked he listened to the radio. He made up words to the classical music and sang along loudly. It was a lot of fun, and not at all embarrassing when there was no one to hear him.

Marianne and Charlie came back just as dinner was ready. Isaac greeted them with a smile. “I’m glad you’re home. Did you have fun?”

“Yes, and we took lots of pictures,” Charlie said. “What did you do?”

“I made some phone calls and ate cookies,” Isaac said.

“That sounds nice,” Marianne said. “It looks like you’re feeling better.”

“I think I am,” Isaac said.

“Did you take a nap?” Charlie asked.

“I did,” Isaac said.

“I thought so,” Charlie said. He nodded. “Sometimes old people just need a nap.”

“I’m not old.”

“Of course not,” Charlie said.