The Day the Husband Returned to Work

First of all, let me say it’s very self-centered of the South Carolina government to send all employees back to their at-work offices over the weekend of Daylight Savings Time. Things are already off-kilter, so why compound the issue by removing the work-from-home paternal figure?

Ahem.

Second…I can’t believe it’s been a year.

I can barely remember my husband getting up early, putting on his khakis, and not returning until I was cooking dinner. Like, what did I do with these children all day? By myself?

(I’ve been a bit spoiled by him being at home so long.)

It’s 11 a.m., and there was a kid-on-kid spat. I waited a second, realized there wasn’t going to be footsteps and a deep “What’s going on?”, and had to handle it myself. I’m unsure if I like this change in programming.

Then again, there is something new in the air. And, no, I’m not talking about pollen.

It’s almost the same excitement as summer break or the first hint of fall chill.

Something is changing.

And the Hubs returning to the office reflects that, I do believe.

Yesterday, we got his new parking pass in the mail. (His old one expired and he hadn’t re-upped it since, well, we’ve had to make a point to drive his car so the battery wouldn’t die from living in our garage for so long). He dealt with replacing the old one while the kids and I came inside. After a moment, the kiddos noticed he was missing. I explained what he was doing and why he was doing it.

Me: “Dada has to go back to work tomorrow. Coronavirus is kind of over!” (Semi-truth, but I was explaining myself to tiny people.)
Children pause in contemplation.
Six-year-old George: “I like him being upstairs better.” (The work-from-home command center is in our bedroom.)
Four-year-old Olivia starts jumping up and down, hands in the air. “We can go get my brother!”

OK, she didn’t actually say “my brother.” She said the name of the boy we’re adopting from China. (I’ll have to give him a nickname at another time. FYI: George and Olivia are also pseudonyms. More on that here.)

I couldn’t believe how quickly her thoughts lined up. She went from a new parking pass to international travel in like nine seconds. It was amazing.

After that, I felt a little better about my husband returning to work. For our family, going back to “normal” is more than just having friends over or going to a movie theater. It’s more than ditching these stupid masks or fretting about a vaccine. We get to grow our family.

I haven’t once doubted God’s control in this totally bizarre, worldwide pandemic. I believe his plan is bigger and better than the one I could have concocted. I can’t wait to look back and see what it was.

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Currently Reading:
If you follow my Instagram, you’ll see my current love of all things Lynn Blackburn and all things Christian suspense (not my typical fare). I’m breathlessly consuming Blackburn’s One Final Breath, and I can’t wait to write a post about it!

An Early Reader Book that Breaks All the Rules

Y’all. I AM IN LOVE…

…with an imaginary character named Mr. Putter.

(Well, and my husband, but that’s a different story. And I could see him becoming Mr. Putter some day, so I’m a fortunate woman.)

So, let me introduce you to Mr. Putter. He’s old, bald, and mustached with a pair of readers. In the beginning, he lived alone. He likes English muffins and tea, but didn’t have anyone to share them with. He loves telling stories, but didn’t have anyone to tell them to.

He was tired of living alone.

How could he fix his problem?

“Mr. Putter wanted a cat.”

And those five words spawned 25 easy-reader books for kids ages 5-7 (and, well, everyone else).

His first book, Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea, debuted in 1994. Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard tag teamed the entire series.

Now, let me tell you why I love Mr. Putter.

First, I generally love older people. Seriously. In the least patronizing way possible, I think they’re precious.

The entire first book tells of Mr. Putter adopting Tabby, who is also old and lonely. He doesn’t want a kitten, like the pet-store lady suggests. When she shows him 14 kittens, he responds:

“These are kittens,” he said. “I was hoping for a cat.”
“Oh, no one wants cats, sir,” said the pet store lady. “They are not cute. They are not peppy.”
Mr. Putter himself had not been cute and peppy for a very long time.
He said, “I want a cat.”

Then he goes to a shelter and discovers Tabby, an old yellow cat.

Its bones creaked, its fur was thinning, and it seemed a little deaf.
Mr. Putter creaked, his hair was thinning, and he was a little deaf, too.
So he took the old yellow cat home. He named her Tabby.
And that is how their life began.

See? Even in the twilight of their lives, the old man and his cat began a new life together. Presh.

Second, this series has an old-man protagonist. And it’s unapologetic about this fact. I can’t imagine pitching a young-reader series idea that tells simple stories about an elderly man and his ancient cat. The 1990s were a different time, Surely this wouldn’t go over well in 2021.

But how unfortunate!

Whenever I try to introduce my kids to a new movie or show, they ask who the bad guy is. It’s incredibly rare that I get to say, “There isn’t a bad guy!” (Except Frozen 2, as I’m pretty sure Elsa is the bad guy.)

Third, in subsequent books, Mr. Putter and Tabby meet their active, spunky neighbors, Mrs. Teaberry and her good dog, Zeke, who is my kindergartener’s favorite character. I picture Mrs. Teaberry as the fun-loving, casserole-toting widow who insists her neighbor get out and live his life instead of chasing kids off his lawn.

Here’s what my son has to say about the series: “It’s about an old man with an old cat with an old neighbor with a young dog. That’s basically what it is. The dog is crazy. Old people aren’t that crazy.”

What more is there to say?

(Except that I think Mrs. Teaberry has a thing for Mr. Putter…but you didn’t hear it from me!)

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Currently Reading:
Goodness, what book am I not reading right now? I guess I’ll mention Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz. It’s a little slow moving, so fingers crossed I stick with it. However, it’s set in James Town in the 1600s, and the author does a fabulous job setting the tone. Her dialogue is spot on. We’re following an almost-spinster named Selah as she traverses politics (English settlers vs. Native Americans) and manages a new shipment of mail-order or “tobacco” brides from Europe (the farmers paid for their brides with tobacco, apparently). Of course, love is also sparking in her own life. I’m enjoying it, but if you look at my GoodReads list, you can see that I’m a little all over the place these days.

The First Book I Ever Loved

I have a terrible memory. I’m not certain how other people’s memories work, but mine tend to become snapshots–quick, little images of a certain time and place.

I have a very clear memory of my grandparents’ old house. They moved to live next to our house when I was a little older, but for my youngest years, they lived in the house where my mom grew up. I loved spending the night at their house.

A number of pecan trees shaded the backyard, and my brother and I spent hours collecting pecans for my grandpa to crack while he watched football. My grandma would insist I bend over for the nuts because I was “closer to the ground.” As a woman now surrounded by small children, I completely understand this sentiment. It’s about aging backs, people, not height differences.

Even after my grandma passed away, all of my relatives had bags of pecans in their freezers. I miss those days. Pecans were the nut in every family dish. Even now I sneer at the price of pecans at the grocery story because they used to be free!

The house itself wasn’t anything glamorous–a modest, three-bed, two-bath house in central Florida. I remember the parquet floor and the sound of the grandfather clock, which now lives in my parents’ house. I always found a certain blanket during sleepovers. It was silky and covered with tiny flowers–a wedding gift from my grandparents’ long-ago wedding day.

My grandma introduced me to popsicles by the pool and popcorn parties after dark. She collected pretty things and treasured her family.

She passed away when I was in middle school, and we lost my grandpa a few years ago. When we were cleaning out their house, I was the only cousin with a kiddo, so I ended up with vintage toys and a few old kids’ books.

My most treasured book?

Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman

I have a clear snapshot memory in my head featuring this little story. I was learning how to read and in that sound-out-each-letter stage. Grandma and I were sitting on her bed after bath time but before bed time. She had this big, white, wedge-shaped pillow to lean against if you wanted to sit up in bed. For some reason, I loved that pillow.

And I remember reading through Go, Dog. Go! with her. I remember that book as the first book I learned how to read.

This past weekend, the South Carolina Children’s Theatre held its first play in their new building. And what musical did they perform? Go, Dog. Go!

My son tucked the old, beat-up copy under his arm, read it to his little sister on the drive to the theater, then held it open in his lap during the performance.

Side Note: If you have kiddos and live anywhere near Greenville, check out SCCT. The new theater is like a petite version of a regular performance theater, and it’s precious. This group does a wonderful job entertaining and connecting children with the arts.

Now, I won’t say that the musical was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. However, it contained everything children’s theater should contain, including guffawing children who ask loud questions to the actors.

During the finale, the actors (who were dressed as colorful dogs) asked for questions. Every child’s question showed how he or she legitimately believed the actors were dogs. How did they grow their ears that long? Where did they get their tails?

Adorable.

I was able to share a unique Go, Dog. Go! experience with my children. There’s something delightful about passing a love of books down to your children. It’s like a whole new world, and I’m the gatekeeper. And that’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly.

What was the first book you remember reading?

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Currently Reading:
100 Ways to Love Your Son by Matt Jacobson – I’m actually reading the daughter, husband, and son variations of this book. Every morning, along with my devotion time with God, I read from each of these books. I want to be certain I don’t get stale in how I love my family. What are some different ways I can cherish my children and husband? It’s helpful to get my priorities in line before I even say “Good morning!” to each of them.

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