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October 2003
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December 2003

I’m back! And I can

I’m back! And I can SEE! The lasik surgery was amazing. They took my glasses away and put about seventeen drops in each eye (ok, four) and pointed me at a door. I managed to find my way to the chair and follow the directions as well as expected. I really didn’t like the idea of having some sort of job to do. I know it was important to look right at the light and not look away. That makes sense. But I didn’t like it. However, I seemed to have held up my part of the bargain well. It went so fast. Once they got all the cutting done the actual lasering only lasted 51 seconds on my right eye, 45 seconds on my left. Astonishingly fast. The nurse would count the seconds down while the laser flashed and made a snapping sound. I could smell vaporized cornea and I lay there and wondered if this was a good idea at all. After the first eye was done they slid that cornea flap back in place and just like that, I could see. Right away, the light above me came into focus. It took my breath away. Then they did the other eye and sat me up. The first sight I saw was my boys, who had been watching the whole procedure with my mom through a window. They waved excitedly and I waved back, unbelieving. Everything was sort of misty, but I could SEE. The doctor smiled and pointed at a clock on the wall. “What time does that say?”
“Two-fourteen,” I breathed.
“Could you see it that well when you came in?”
“Doc, I had no IDEA there was a clock on that wall.”
Each day my eyes just keep getting better. Today I have better vision than I ever have. Ever. With glasses, contacts, ever. I keep stopping, mid-action, to stare at things like leaves on trees and the swirls of the clouds. I can see. I’m almost sorry for those of you who have never had poor eyesight, because you can’t possibly enjoy what you see like I’m enjoying what I see.
I know it may seem trivial, because it’s not like I couldn’t actually see before. I had perfectly functional vision with my corrective lenses. But now I wake up in the morning and can see my boys as they bounce on the foot of my bed. I can see in the shower, I can see in the middle of the night.
I can see.
I tear up sometimes, I’m so grateful.

But on to other matters. Um…NaNo. You may have noticed a thunderous silence on the subject of my NaNo novel. You may have assumed I abandoned my project. You would be wrong. I did not abandon it. I continued to work on it for all of November. I did not finish it. Oh, not even close.
So technically, I’m not a NaNo winner. But I have to tell you, I don’t feel all that unsuccessful. True, I only got about 11,000 words into it, but that is the longest fiction I have ever written. And what’s more, I’m not giving up on it. I kept plucking away at it, inch by torturous inch, and occasionally I would find myself looking up after hours of effort. I would get so absorbed in it I would find myself getting anxious on the behalf of my characters. I even cried once. In a coffee shop. It was fairly embarrassing. But that’s a success of sorts, and I’m fairly pleased with myself. I’m going to continue to plug away on it. I tend to doubt if I will have it finished by next NaNo, at this rate. But I will finish it eventually.
So I can’t claim to have won, like so many of you (I am in SUCH awe of so many of you), but that’s ok. Maybe next year. I’ll be sure not to plan any elective surgery for November.

Ok, everyone, brace yourselves. I

Ok, everyone, brace yourselves. I won't be posting for a few days. I know, I know. Waves of disappointment. Soldier on, brave souls.
See, I'm having my lasik surgery done tomorrow. I went to the doctor's office today for my pre-op check and they did a very mean thing to me. They made me watch a video explaining the procedure and possible complications. ALL the possible complications. Picture this: I'm sitting there, madly signing forms, clutching my many boxes of eye drops and medications, and the patient relations person tells me I need to watch this video. "Oh, no," I explained kindly, "I don't want to know. But thank you." She smiled ever so sweetly and replied, "You have to, though. Otherwise we can't say you gave informed consent for the procedure, and that's not good." I tried patting her arm reassuringly. "It's ok, I'll insist I was informed, should I be asked." She patted my arm right back. I was annoyed with the dueling reassurances. "I'm sorry, our insurance requires this. Don't worry, it's short." She hit play and stepped out.
On screen a man explained earnestly that the procedure I have chosen is elective surgery. "This means that it's not necessary, that the only reason you're having this done is because you're so unbelievably self-centered and controlling that you'd risk blindness and death just because you don't feel like dealing with glasses or contacts anymore. Except you probably still will have to, because anything could happen. You could end up with worse vision than you started with. And BOY do we laugh when that happens!"
Or something like that. I managed to make my way through the whole thing, only closing my eyes when they showed the flap being cut in the cornea. Let me repeat: the FLAP being CUT in the CORNEA. At that point they talked about how sometimes that flap just falls right off. Whoops!
Anyhow, I survived the video. I survived three weeks of wearing my glasses. I have all my prescriptions and child-care and driving plans in place. By this time tomorrow I will be...a person with different vision of some sort. Hopefully better. I dunno. But I will be gorked on Valium, and not supposed to be looking at a computer for a few days. So I'll catch up with you all soon. Think happy corneal thoughts for me, and if I don't get the chance to say it before Thursday, happy Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for everyone who takes the time to read my ramblings, even you Canadians who already raced ahead of the rest of us to being thankful and overfed. Cheaters.
Oh, and if you're looking for a time-waster to fill my place, check out the ugly wedding dress of the day. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but this woman cracks me up.

What a weekend we’ve had

What a weekend we’ve had around here. Saturday dawned grey and cold. There were rumors flying around about a snowstorm moving in, and by mid morning it was here. Not that much snow, maybe three inches? Four inches? Two inches? I have no idea. It was enough snow to give the kids in the neighborhood kids a full weekend of sledding joy.
Since school started the neighborhood gaggle has dwindled. Kids who roamed free all summer long, slamming each other’s front doors and eating each other’s snacks have retreated to their own houses. Their own food, their own entertainment. Occasionally they would emerge, blinking in the light, to ride their bikes for a bit, but for the most part it has been quiet in these parts.
Odd then that what it would take to draw them all outside again would be a weekend like this one. Bitterly cold and snowy. All day yesterday and most of the day today they sledded down each other’s front yards. Every so often they would come inside for some hot chocolate. Today the whole troop ended up at my house. By the front door was a mountain of discarded soggy coats and gloves and hats. Kids with snow-scrubbed cheeks sat around the table, sipping hot cocoa and playing Monopoly. Max and Natalie retreated from the big kids into the other room for a game of Hi-Ho Cherry-O.
I am not a snow lover, myself. I whine when it snows. I retreat to a hot bath and threaten to stay there until spring. But after this weekend I may have to reconsider my bad attitude. Anything that draws the kids away from their GameBoys and SpongeBob can’t be all that bad. I still prefer summer, but this is kind of nice.
Remind me of that right around January, ok?

The boys and I took

The boys and I took a batch of the Cub Scout greenery that just came in downtown to Dad’s work to deliver it today. It was lots of fun. No, I mean that. Tre was adorable in his uniform, handing people their wreaths and fidgeting while he repeated, “Thank you for your order.” Max, in true middle child fashion, was alternately happy to just be along or despondent that he wasn’t the one handing out the stuff. Raphael was in his Shoopershirt, and irresistible. None of the downtown hipsters could refrain from appreciating him. Wherever we went there were big smiles and exclamations of “Look, it’s Superman! Hi, Superman!” Raphael, being naturally inclined to accept adulation as he is, would barely acknowledge them and charge on.
When we were all done and on our way home, we stopped into a Starbucks. Raphael was tired and being difficult. He kept pulling things off shelves and hitting his brothers. Poor Tre and Max were ducking his blows with remarkable good humor. The coffee guy (barista, I know, I know) looked down and saw Raphael’s Shoopershirt and cape and laughed. “Hey, man, you’ve got my cape! I’m Superman!” Raphael stopped mid-rampage and glared up at the hapless fellow. “Yoo not Shooperman! AH Shooperman!! Meanie! Stoopid!” he shrieked.
Fortunately the coffee shop was filled with youngsters who thought that was cute, not disrespectful and cheeky. They all laughed and I bowed out with my troop.
Life’s such an adventure. Especially when you travel with the likes of Shooperman.

I took the boys to

I took the boys to Burger King for lunch today. Love that salty meat! As I got their food the boys went tearing off into the great big child habitrail play place. This particular BK has a huge one, a good two stories tall. By the time I came in with their daily serving of poor parenting choices, a kid was racing through the tubes hollering, “Run away from the evil Superman!”
Three guesses who the evil Superman was.
Raphael was indeed in his Shoopershirt, complete with red cape. I chuckled at him as he came flying out the end of the slide. “Two minutes and you’ve already earned the title ‘evil’, huh? That may be your personal best, baby.”
One of the other moms came over to my table as I was unwrapping and sorting various burger-like things. “I’m so sorry about that whole…evil Superman thing. That was my son.” Insert weary sigh here. “I never know what he’s going to say.”
Allow me to interject with an observation here. There are many mothers of only children who parent their one child with consistency and reason. There are many mothers who became mothers later in life (say, after age 40) who are also just wonderful moms all around. There are many who are in the subset of the two groups who are great mothers who have a handle on the needs and limitations of their one kid.
However, there is a group of moms out there who came to motherhood late and only have one child and are entirely unable to cope. I don’t know why. They seem eternally flummoxed by the fact that these small people behave so consistently child-like. It’s not that they don’t love their kids; it’s not even that they’re not capable moms. They just wear themselves out, trying to keep their kids from being kids.
Such was this mom, mother to Sam – age 4 1/2. Sam was a delight, a loud mouthed active little bundle of boy. I have a soft spot for that sort of kid. Sam’s mom must have apologized to me seventeen times in the 45 minutes we were there. That was when she wasn’t racing over to the tubes to shout anxious instructions to her boy (“Sam, say excuse me to the little boy. I think you bumped his knee.” As if. “Sam, don’t go up the slide, go down the slide! Down the slide, Sam! Sam, don’t go up, come down! The rules say don’t go up the slide!”).
Luckily, I had brought in my newspaper, so after the boys went to play I had something to roll my eyes behind. However, after a few minutes of watching me not shout any instructions to the boys, she started asking me questions.
“Three boys? Really?”
No, I thought, I have only a reasonable TWO boys. SHOOT! Did I collect an extra again?
What I said was, “Yup.”
She sighed and turned nervously back to watch the activity.
“How do you ever get them all out of there?”
“Well, I say, ‘boys come out now.’ And they do, except sometimes I have to crawl in and haul out the two year old. I had to with the other ones when they were two, and now they pretty much understand what I mean when I say ‘come out now.’”
Another heavy sigh.
Tre was playing a fun game where he was falling from one level of the climbing area to another, sort of like a marble sifting its way down through a ker-plunk game. He’s a solid wee boy, and it sounded very impressive. Sam’s mom turned to me, alarmed.
“Do you see what he’s doing?”
Alarmed looks from me to him.
“Don’t you worry he’ll hurt himself?”
“I figure if it really hurts he’ll stop.”
Max approached Sam to see if he wanted to play. Sam, who had just started playing with someone else, loudly announced that fact. Sam’s mom winced and apologized to me. I shrugged.
“They’ll work it out, I’m sure.”
They did.
Well, the rest of the time went on much like this. She would be horrified or apologetic about something that was happening in the habitrail. I would shrug and read my paper. I’m sure she thinks I’m the worst sort of neglectful mother. Oh well.
I was so enjoying upsetting her with my calm that I particularly liked our leave-taking. Raphael had indeed made a dash for the innards of the play place when I announced it was time to go. I hauled him out and he started screaming. Although he’s much better today, screaming will cause him to cough. And he did. And then he gagged on his coughing (something that is sort of an issue for Raphael). I was talking to Sam’s mom at the time, and when he started gagging I knew what was going to happen. So without missing a beat I held my hand in front of his mouth and caught the wee handful of lunch that came back up. Orange soda too.
Under normal circumstances I might have gagged a little myself. But today I was enjoying her utter horror so much I just blinked and asked mildly, “Do you have an extra napkin?”
Every life has its perks.

I’m sitting here, far too

I’m sitting here, far too tired to blog (aside here, I just typed “fart oo tired to blog” and snickered like a little boy. I need to get out more). Allow me to treat you to a few snapshots of my day.
Raphael is sick. Raphael deals with illness much like we all deal with illness. He grows a touch whiny and wants his mama to hold him all the time. Well, isn’t that how you feel when your nose is runny and you have a cough? Ok then. He also has slightly less impulse control and slightly more dramatic reactions to any negative input in his day. Are you getting that? Raphael with LESS impulse control and MORE drama. This is why I’m tired.
On the desk in front of me is a piece of paper that Max was writing on. I’m not sure of what some of it says, but it starts “NO REDEN.” Get that? It means “no reading.” It’s a note to his Amma, and a long story at that, but isn’t that a fine example of early phonetic spelling? The boy is brilliant, I tell you. Now if I can just teach him to keep track of pens and pencils. Today we were in the van and he requested a pen. He wanted to work on another note. I had just given him one of MY pens yesterday, so I asked him where that one was. He had NO IDEA and was SHOCKED that I would expect him to know. Ok then. I gave him another pen. This evening I was looking for something in the van and found on the floor in front of his car seat nine, count ‘em, NINE pens and pencils.
Tre is almost done with book # 30 of the Magic Treehouse series. He’s thrilled with those books. The other morning I heard him wake up before I did and waited for him to bounce into my room, demanding breakfast. But he didn’t. I waited. I heard slow steps in the hall. Slow steps on the stairs. What the heck was he doing? Finally curiosity got the better of me and I got up to see what he was doing. He was walking down the stairs, reading his book. One. Step. At. A. Time.
He couldn’t stop reading long enough to walk down the stairs. Now, that’s cool. Um...probably not a good idea, but cool.

Mom and I took the

Mom and I took the boys to a huge dinosaur exhibit today. It was very cool, many animatronic dinosaurs growling and posturing above us. Raphael teetered between scared and amused the whole time we were there. One minute he’d mutter anxiously, “Dey not gonna hurt me. Dey can’t hurt me.” And then the next minute he’d chuckle, “Yook at da cute dinosaurs! Awww…”
Max wandered through the exhibit, utterly engrossed in it all, until about an hour and a half had passed. Then it was like a shutter clicked down behind his eyes and he was done. He wanted to be carried. He wanted to eat something. He wanted to go home.
At one point we were having a snack (hoping to help Max recover) and Tre was…well, he was bugging me. He wanted to go to the gift shop, so his method of trying to make that happen was to ask repeatedly if we would go to the gift shop. “Maybe,” I’d reply, “let’s wait until we’re done and see if everyone wants to.” Ten, maybe twelve seconds would pass. Mom or I would try to finish a sentence, Tre would make a joke about some gross bodily function, I would give him the look, and he would respond with another request to go to the gift shop.
Finally I forbade him to even say the words “gift shop.” I threatened to make him not only miss out on this gift shop but the next seventeen gift shops we encountered. I snarled and generally acted like a very mature adult. Hah.
Tre shrugged and bounced off to look up the nose of some dinosaur while we waited for Max to finish his snack. I sighed to Mom, “He’s just so persistent sometimes. Frankly, he drives me nuts. Why is he like that?” Mom snorted at me. She’s so short on empathy sometimes.
“He’s an eight year old boy. They’re like that. He’s perfect.”
I shook my head at her. She clearly didn’t understand what I have to deal with.
This evening Tre’s Cub Scout den had their meeting at our house. Dad taught them a little about tools and helped them all build their own tool boxes. Dad is a saint. Dad is a genius. Dad, inexplicably, did not kill even one of them - despite the fact that he had power tools in his hands at times and no jury in the country would have convicted him. Dad even enjoyed himself. Thank God for my Dad.
Let me repeat: Thank God for my Dad.
I watched the proceedings, only jumping in to lay out newspaper and once to pull Zachary off another kid. Zachary was into tackling people for much of the evening. Dakota was into muttering, “blah, blah, blah,” whenever someone was trying to give instructions. Parker liked to fill any lull in the conversation with the news that he had gotten grounded that day. Repeatedly.
And it’s not that they were doing weird things, it’s that they were so very…dare I say…persistent about it. It was like being dropped in the middle of some mental hospital, filled with little OCD patients. Those small sized males of the species…they’re downright odd.
Watching the boys be their own weird selves in my living room, I had to admit that Tre is a pretty normal eight year old. Mom was right. Again.

Hey, anyone notice my nifty

Hey, anyone notice my nifty new set of links? Yes, I finally figured out how to add those to my blog template. *whew*
AND, I’d like to add, I figured it out all on my own. Which is to say that I sought out the information on my “intellectual strata,” as my brother Josh would put it, and applied that information. Not, I suppose, that I actually figured it out all on my own. Nonetheless.
There they all are, the many blog offerings that have caught my eye. Enjoy. Also, please note that at the top of my links list is the suggestion that you should “Email me!!” Please feel free to click on that and send me an email should your little heart desire. Especially if I messed up something in adding all y’all’s blogs. Do set me straight.
Moving on.
This afternoon, while Tre and Max were in school, Raphael and I ran some errands. I suppose technically I was the one running the errands, Raphi was running me ragged. He just has so many IDEAS. Anyhow, as we were on our way home, driving up our street, he sang out from the back seat, “Mama? Can ah watch teebee?”
“Sure,” I replied. Love the teebee. I know, that’s not a good thing…but I can’t remember why anymore. Raphael was gazing out the window and another IDEA occurred to him.
“MAMA,” he shrieked, “we can go for a walk!” I looked out at the thrashing branches of a tree in the neighbor’s yard. It’s still fairly windy around here.
“Well…we could, but look how windy it is. It looks pretty cold and yucky out there. Do you think you would rather take a walk or watch TV?” I know, this was playing dirty. I didn’t want to go for a walk. Raphael looked out the window for a moment then replied,
”Aktually, ah’m not sure. Yet me fink about it.”
I would suspect he’s brilliant beyond belief, my two year old who is actually not sure and needs to think about it.
But he then spent a half hour watching the Wiggles in slack-mouthed amazement, so maybe not.
He is darn cute, though.

I was reading here a

I was reading here a story about a woman whose artistic ability was temporarily stunted by the cruelty of a teacher. It reminded me of an experience I had in fifth grade.
Before fifth grade I’d always vacillated between a few career ambitions. I would teach Special Ed, and probably be a forest ranger (I never claimed to be a cool kid). Oh, and I’d be a writer.
That was a given.
Well, one day in fifth grade I was writing a one-page essay in class. I don’t remember what it was about, but I was proud of it. I took it up to the teacher, Mr. Salazar, and happily dropped it on his desk. I was fairly full of myself, I like to imagine in a good way.
After recess Mr. Salazar handed back our essays, and on the top of mine was a big red “D”.
I was stunned.
There must be some mistake, I thought. I trotted my “D” right up to his desk and asked for an explanation. Well, I hadn’t used the margins properly, stopping an inch before the edge of the page. I’d written with characteristic haste and enthusiasm, slopping all over the page.
I got a “D” because of the margins.
I walked slowly back to my desk and asked the girl next to me if I could look at hers. It was an “A” paper. She had written about four sentences, slowly and carefully in her lovely balloon-round handwriting. She’d written “alot” instead of “a lot.”
I compared my paper to hers, and noticed for the first time how messy mine looked. I was shaken to realize that I didn’t know what people actually considered good writing. That it had less to do with the words and ideas I loved than it did with the tidiness of the margins.
I didn’t stop writing. How do you stop writing? I stopped showing what I wrote to people. I hid my notebooks full of earnestly felt words written in my messy, cramped hand. The papers I handed in were carefully crafted between the lines, literally and figuratively. “A” papers, for the most part. Fall-off-your-chair boring.
Only now, this year, have I admitted to being a writer.
And I’ll use my margins as I please.

Windy day today. Not breezy,

Windy day today. Not breezy, but howlingly windy. I stepped out of the van this afternoon at the grocery store and the wind wrenched the door from my hand and smacked it into the car next to me. Thank God, into the rubbery bumper thingy on their door. I hate that kind of wind. It feels threatening, ominous. I watched newspaper and leaves swirl past the windows and worried about what might be loose out there, sailing away to get wedged under a fence in some abandoned lot.
When we pulled onto our street after the grocery store trip, Tre noticed that there were tumbleweeds careening along down the sidewalk. One was snagged by a rosebush next to our driveway, and he excitedly begged to be let out of the van. He wanted to free the tumbleweed from the rosebush and toss it back into the wind.
So I let him out, and pulled into the garage. After a few minutes he came bounding into the house with pink cheeks and that glow. That thrilled glow. The dizzyingly wild wind was exhilarating to him. He dragged Max outside with him and together they chased tumbleweeds down the street. They would snatch up a weed that was taller than them and wider than their arms could reach, and bring it back to show me. Their prey, conquered by the fearless warriors of the wind. Then they would toss it above their heads, where the wind would grab it away and fling it down the street.
They caught something like nine tumbleweeds and brought them to our front yard before releasing them again. I stood at the large front window and nodded, impressed, at their prowess. Max did bring one particularly large specimen in, suggesting it might make a nice decoration, but I unfeelingly nixed that idea.
I wanted to order them both inside, to wrap blankets around them and lock the doors against that howling wind.
But children are wild creatures, and sometimes you just have to let them hunt tumbleweeds in a wind as wild as they are.