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A day to do something to honor the victims of the massacre at Virginia Tech and their families is an idea I can get behind. A day to do something and post about it on your blog, likewise.

A day of blog silence? Not so much.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It requires no positive action. It does not even require thought for the vast majority of bloggers, who do not post every day in any case. (I, for one, would probably not have gotten around to posting on this day of multiple doctor visits.)

I respect the impulse to do something, to have a community mourning. When I heard what was going on at Virginia Tech, I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. It took my breath away and left me sick with grief.

That pain soon left me thinking about the same pain that is felt by many Iraqis and by the people of Darfur. The pain that results from having one’s boundaries violated, from having unspeakable evil committed in what I had thought of as a safety zone — my own personal safety zone.

We all have one: a circle we draw around our selves and our families, and we believe that Bad Things can’t happen here. We believe that — no matter how much we think we know better — until reality rudely intrudes.

Far too many people lost their lives at Virginia Tech. Far more lost beloved friends or family. An exponentially larger number lost their sense of safety, again.

For them all, and for all of us, and for all those around the world who have not had that sense of safety for years and are just getting by as best they can, I place here a white ribbon.

White Ribbon

In the name of and in hope for peace.

“No, Tay,” Acorn tells his cousin. “Turtles can’t swim.”

My nephew and I share an amused glance as we fill a bucket with a few inches of water and add a large rock. Minutes later, Acorn watches with delight as our newfound turtle dives beneath a ledge of the rock, then swims around it to climb up and sun itself. Already he has learned that the inch-long turtle has red ears (and yes, he corrected Tay about that initially as well, saying gently, “No, turtle green”) and that you must wash your hands carefully after touching it.

“Do you want to give the turtle a name?” I ask him.

“Yes,” he says with a quiet passion.

“What would you like to name it, then?”

Acorn glances up at me, a bit confused; but he is too much in awe of this first turtle he’s seen outside a zoo to pay me much attention. I had wondered if he would understand what I meant by the question, since he only recently developed his speech enough for giving things names to be a possibility. His favorite stuffed animal is called Puppy only because I called it that for convenience; he has lately taken to referring to his only remaining pacifier as “my blue one.” In Acorn’s world, so far, people and pets come with names — I start to say, “names given by other people,” but it may go beyond that: I wonder if in his mind, living things spring into existence with their names attached.

Acorn’s speech has developed rapidly over the past few months. He is at last past the point at which each word he utters is like a precious jewel that my parents and I will hold on to, and polish in our memories so that we can pass it among ourselves. Even phrases are no longer unusual. Longer sentences, or short sentences strung together, are noteworthy still, but they’re not so shocking any more. Not a relief any more from that constant worry that something was wrong, really wrong — because that worry has mostly faded away, and been left behind in the bad old days.

And yet. And yet. Even when he eats an apple, and shows me the sticker, and asks, “Who put sticker on a apple? That’s silly,” it is still a relief. Because we still don’t have any reason for his speech delays, beyond the speculation my mother and I have done (together with the conversations I had with his Big City pediatrician on the subject). Our speculations, and the suggestions from folks who wanted to pin the blame on me somehow, who believed that I breastfed him too long or not long enough, or that I let him have a pacifier too long. That maybe he had just never learned to talk because I was too quick to give him whatever he asked for, without requiring him to use words, or that I hadn’t paid enough attention to him when he was an infant and had thus stunted his development.

And that’s the short list of unhelpful suggestions I’ve gotten in the last couple of years from people whose opinions I never asked and did not need. I’m not going into the long list. I will only say that the same kind of attitude that blamed mothers for their children’s schizophrenia in past decades (because they were clearly either cold and unloving, or overly affectionate and smothering) is still alive and well, and far too easy to internalize.

That’s what makes me wish we knew the cause of Acorn’s speech delays. It’s not that we need a diagnosis so we can proceed with treatment, because the therapy he’s getting is working. Having a label would make our lives easier in several other ways: Acorn himself would be able to explain the problem (and that will start to matter soon). I’d be able to offer a simpler explanation when asked. And I could shed this guilt I still have to fight, the guilt that’s been thrust on me like a watersoaked quilt with every casual suggestion that I somehow caused this or could have fixed it easily or didn’t fight hard enough to get therapy started sooner. This guilt that I know is so fruitless, so ill-founded — and which I have to fight anyway.

Following up on Busy Mom’s lead, I present an often-confused pair of related verbs: “lie” versus “lay.” I find that even people whose use of the language is otherwise impeccable can confuse these at times.

Remember these two points:

  • “Lie” is not what you do to something, it’s simply something that you do.
  • “Lay” is not a thing you can simply do. You must do it to someone or something else.

If you find conjugations and examples helpful, here you go. I’m using “the baby” as a logical thing that one might lay down on a regular basis, and finishing the sentences with “down” because I feel that helps clarify the difference between “I lie” as in lying down versus “I lie” as in telling a lie.

Present Tense:

To Lie: To Lay:

I lie down. I lay the baby down.

You lie down. You lay the baby down.

He/she/it lies down. He/she/it lays the baby down.

We lie down. We lay the baby down.
They lie down. They lay the baby down.

Seems simple enough so far, doesn’t it? Let’s continue.

Past Tense:

To Lie To Lay

I lay down. I laid the baby down.

You lay down. You laid the baby down.

He/she/it lay down. He/she/it laid the baby down.

We lay down. We laid the baby down.

They lay down. They laid the baby down.

If you compare the present tense “lay” column to the past tense “lie” column, it’s easy enough to see where the confusion comes from.

Mnemonic: Wherever I lie down, I lay my body down.

Acorn and I were reading one of his simplest books last night, a book about colors. Each page focuses on one color, and has about two pictures to illustrate that color. The page for green has a leaf and a frog.

“Do you know what frogs eat?” I asked Acorn, desperate to add some interest to a page that said only Leaf, Green, and Frog.

He considered. “Leafs.”

“No, frogs don’t eat leaves. Frogs eat bugs.”

Acorn laughed in that slightly hysterical way an overtired toddler will. After we spent a few minutes laughing together, I asked him again: “Did you know that frogs eat bugs?”

He collapsed in giggles again, managing to say through his laughter: “No, that’s silly!”

Perhaps bedtime isn’t the best time to impart knowledge.

Still caught up in other writing projects, plus things are busy at work.  While you wait (with bated breath, no doubt) for my ever-so-scintillating words, here are some other things that might be worth reading.

Seriously.  There are only about thirteen of you.  I don’t want any of you turning blue.

If you need some ideas for things to do with your kids or topics to write about for your blog, have a look at a list of special awareness days for the month of April (complete with links to various resources for each), courtesy of Doc at Doc’s Sunrise Rants.

In the mood for eye candy?  Have a look at Feingold Jewelry, which carries gorgeous handmade pendants in a mix of glass-on-copper and resin.

News of the weird:  plumbing the depths of what the human body can do.

 Amusing child-rearing one-liners.

And a fairly awesome contest.  (No interest in a new vacuum cleaner?  Feel free to enter anyway.  You know you can always have it shipped to my place.)