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December 2003
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February 2004

Ok, here’s a snapshot of

Ok, here’s a snapshot of my day. Raphael had been falling asleep on my lap, so I was carrying him up the stairs to his crib. It was early for his nap, but he’d been so miserable and sick all day, I figured an extra hour of sleep wouldn’t hurt. Halfway up the stairs he realized what I was doing.
“Nooooo,” he wailed, “ah don’ wanna go sweep! But two minutes!” This from the child whose eyes had been rolling back in his head just moments before.
“No honey,” I said, “it’s time for your nap.”
“Nooooooooo!” he wailed. This caused him to start coughing again. As I watched him cough the words, “And then he gagged on his coughing (something that is sort of an issue for Raphael)” flashed before my eyes.
Sure enough.
Before I reached the top of the stairs both of us were wearing his lunch. Did I mention he’d had spaghetti with meatballs? No? Well he had. I started requesting one of the other boys go get me a towel. Max did while Tre danced around anxiously.
“You know,” Tre said, “when I see something gross [gag] like that, it sort of [gag] gives me this feeling in my throat [gag] like I might throw up too.”
I suggested Tre should leave the room until he felt better. I laid Raphael down on the floor and started mopping us both up, stripping off dirty clothes. As I wiped his face he cried, “Whass da wrong wif me? Whass da wrong wiff me?” I comforted him the best I could, gave him water to drink and dressed him in clean clothes. After all that he seemed ready for a nap and went down without complaining. I gathered up the soiled towels and clothes and went to my room to change my clothes. Tre came in to check on me and started inspecting the dirty clothes.
“You know [gag] it sort of looks like [gag] blood,” he remarked helpfully. I ordered him out yet again. I gathered up yet another load of laundry and went on with my day.
Now, take that scene and repeat it…oh…a thousand times. There’s my day. I’m tired.

Last night I went to

Last night I went to bed nice and early. Around 10:30. I sank into my many, many pillows (it’s a problem) with the satisfaction of knowing I would face the morning with a solid night’s sleep.
I really should have known better. After all, both Max and Raphael have colds. Max is on his way better, while Raphael is on his way down. Max’s sleep has been poor the last few nights and if there’s anything I should have learned about him by now it’s that if you disturb his sleep it will disturb you right back.
True to form, he was up every hour or so, either moaning and wailing out mournfully from his bed or trotting over to my room to burrow under the covers next to me. After yet another trip ferrying him back to his bed I fell into that fretful “I’m on call” sort of sleep. Sure enough, after another 30 minutes or so, I heard a pitiful voice call out something unintelligible. I groaned, thinking there goes Max again. But then I heard the voice again, saying something sadly about his arm. It wasn’t Max. It was Raphael.
I went to his room and looked down at him in his crib. He was waving one arm at some imaginary foe, ordering it away.
“Raphael,” I whispered.
“An’ it don’…mah arm…an’ wheh Mama…Mats, go ‘way,” he muttered. His eyes were open, but when I leaned over right in front of his face he stared blankly through me. I reached down and picked him up. Rather than curling into me as he normally would, he pushed one arm stiffly against my chest and squirmed. I tried to maneuver him around to a comfortable cuddle, but he was unyielding. Finally I put his tense little body back down in his crib and covered him with his two favorite blankets. He laid there and said garbled but sad things and I watched for a few minutes, and then left the room with a heavy heart.
When Tre was right about Raphael’s age, he started having nights were he would sit bolt upright in bed and yell. I’d run to his room and reach for him, but he’d thrash and kick and push me away. He seemed terrified, but unable to recognize me. It was so disturbing that I took him to a pediatric sleep specialist.
Night terrors. He was having night terrors. Night terrors are like nightmares, but the person suffering from them doesn’t wake up. They don’t recognize people, and you generally can’t short-circuit them. The only thing you can do for a child in the midst of a night terror is to make sure they’re safe. If they get upset by your touch, leave them alone. The only kind thing about night terrors is that the child doesn’t seem to remember them in the morning.
Imagine that, as a first time mom. My baby was going to have a perfectly secure life. From the black and white patterns on his mobile, right through to the best college, everything was going to be perfect. Now this doctor is telling me to stay in my bed while my child thrashed and wailed all alone in the grip of something that even a doctor calls terror.
Mercifully, Tre’s experience with night terrors was short. They came and went while I lay in my bed, sweating with unanswered maternal instincts. Then about four years later came Max’s turn.
Max’s experience with night terrors was not short. The really bad period lasted about a year, and he still suffers occasionally on nights when he’s overtired. For Max being held seemed to help. It didn’t upset him further as it had Tre. Nothing makes it stop once it starts, but if I picked him up and wrapped my arms around him tightly it seemed to calm him eventually. There were many, many nights when I held him for hours, wondering if the morning would ever come.
Now I’m an old hand at this. It doesn’t panic me like it did when Tre first went through it. I know some of the science behind it. For example, it has a genetic component. Children who have night terrors almost always have one parent that walked or talked in their sleep. The boys’ father and I both walked AND talked in our sleep. So it’s no surprise that Raphael will have his turn too.
But it’s like watching my baby start his walk through fire. No matter how much I understand about it, it will never sit right with my mother’s heart.

The brilliant Shelley has an

The brilliant Shelley has an essay in the February 17 issue of Woman’s Day. Since I am an avid reader of Shelley’s blog and a simpering fan of hers, I made sure to pick it up the last time I was at the grocery store. I even put it on my list, because I no longer trust mere intention to cause me to actually remember something.
Fortunately it was displayed on one of those end cap display thingies as I went to check out. Oh right, Women’s Day, I thought. I reached for it.
Then stopped.
February 17. It’s a pink cover with a heart-shaped cake on it. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” it shouts in white print.
Ick. Valentine’s Day.
I don’t go around thinking about my singleness much. My life is fairly full and all…but Valentine’s Day. It’s so pointed. 100% focused on love – and not the many varieties of love a person can experience, like love for your kids or your beautiful stupid cat. It’s all about that special person. Or, as the cover of the February 17 issue of Woman’s Day proclaims, “Romantic Ideas That Say ‘I Love You.’”
I know, romantic ideas are good. Saying “I love you” is a fine thing. I support that sort of thing, I really do. But it’s hard not to feel like the one who didn’t get picked for a team.
So what to do about Valentine’s Day?
I pondered the magazine while I waited in line. I thought back over the last few years. My ex left on Halloween. Thanksgiving was hard. Christmas was horrible. New Years was a blur. I remember being in the grocery store a few days after New Years. Whew, I thought, I made it. The holiday season is finally behind me. I survived. Just then I rounded a corner and came face to face with a huge Valentine’s Day display.
I stared at it for a few minutes, and something slowly dawned on me. February had Valentine’s Day. March has my birthday and my ex’s (his is the day before mine…we always celebrated together), May has Mother’s Day, June has Father’s Day AND Raphael’s birthday, July – Tre’s birthday, August – Max’s birthday, September – when everything fell apart, October – when he left, and then it’s November and we’re back into the holidays.
Hardly a month during the year without some painful reminder or another.
So what to do about Valentine’s Day? Well, the same thing I’ve been doing every day for the last two plus years. Get over it.
I bought the magazine (the essay is fabulous, way to go Shelley), and I even read the whole thing. Sort of. I kind of flipped through the really romantic bits, singing to myself “lalalalalalala….I’m not looking at that…lalalala.”
I even found a recipe I’m going to try. Just goes to show you.
Get over it.

Tre had a Cub Scout

Tre had a Cub Scout Pack meeting tonight. These things are going to kill me. Perhaps literally.
It started with announcements and awards. Tre’s den got their awards tonight, and I’m proud to say he earned one pin and six belt loops. I, being the “Awards Coordinator” (scout-speak for “sucker”), was the one to purchase and organize all the awards for this evening. I took all three boys to the scout shop. Tre and Max were fine, but Raphael…Raphael in a small shop crammed floor to ceiling with tiny pins and breakable mugs and carefully sorted bins of patches…
You’d think there’d be some sort of award for me. Like, say, a week at a spa.
Whoops, off track there.
Anyhow, after the awards they moved on to the presentation portion of the evening. Tonight they had some people talk about survival in the wilderness. They unpacked their bag of stuff you should have if you plan on getting lost. Which, I suppose no one does. So perhaps the bag was what you should carry whenever you set foot in said wilderness. Just in case.
Well, the kids fidgeted and murmured through the display of twine, reflective blankets, plastic sheeting, and signal mirror. They were somewhat interested in the LED light, but mostly just because one of the presenters threw it on the ground and stomped on it in a demonstration of its ruggedness.
For me, the demonstration was about 55 minutes too long. It only lasted an hour, so there you go. After the second item was pulled from the pack, I was hit by a severe case of the yawns. You know, the ones that attack you out of nowhere, leaving you hiding your face in your hands while you yaaaaaawn yet again, your eyes watering. The kind of yawning session that leaves you thinking that it might not be all that odd to lie down on the floor and go to sleep – after all the two year old over there is doing it! I yawned until one of the people doing the demonstration started giving me dirty looks. I felt bad. Ok, what I actually felt was sleepy. But I registered the fact that I should have been feeling bad.
Anyhow. After about seventeen hours of twine-and-plastic, they moved on to the part they should have started with.
They demonstrated several fire starting techniques. For instance, did you know that if you touch the contacts on a nine volt battery to some fine steel wool, it will catch fire? Oh, Tre sooooo wants some steel wool now. They also demonstrated a chemical, called calcium carbonate (I think. Who knows, I was practically asleep), that burns in water. They dropped a nugget of it in a snow ball and lit it. Pretty soon the snow ball was ablaze, and the Cub Scouts had all suddenly grown respect for the survival people. I mean, a flaming snowball. It’s just…so very cool. Tre looked back at me with shining eyes. “Did you see that?” he whispered. I nodded (yawning). “You know,” he pointed out helpfully, “they’re selling that stuff after the meeting.”
As if.
At least laughter seems to combat yawning.

Raphael had been sent to

Raphael had been sent to the stairs for some egregious behavior toward Max. When I ordered him to go sit on the stairs he stomped off to do so, shoulders slumped with regret. After about 3.5 seconds of model behavior he began to wail, “Mama? Can ah get up?”
“No. Please be quiet in time out.”
A heavy sigh. 2.3 seconds of silence.
“Mama? Can ah get up?”
“No. Please be quiet in time out.”
You may be detecting a pattern here. Said pattern went on for some time. Finally a suitable length of time had passed, and I walked over to release him. By this time he was lying down on the step, feet up on the wall, moaning half-heartedly, “Ah wanna get up. Ah wanna get uuuuup.” When he saw me he leaped up. “Can ah get up?” His demeanor went from forlorn to sparkly in an instant.
“Yes,” I replied, “you may get up. Go tell Max you’re sorry.” He turned to go, and then looked back at me.
“Can ah hit him?”
“But…why not?”
“Because if you do I’ll put you back in time out.”
This earned me a very displeased look, but he trotted off to obey.
“Mats!” I heard him call out, “Mats! Ah sowwy, meanie.”
I’m getting old here, people.

Mom is out of town

Mom is out of town for a few days, visiting some friends. It’s a good thing, her spending time with these people who are dear to all of us (hi, guys! Smooches.), but it’s put the household a bit off-kilter.
Raphael keeps going over to the basement door and shouting down the stairs, “Amma! AAAAAMMMMMAAAA! Ah yoo dere?” When I remind him that Amma’s not going to be here for a few days, he looks at me in disgust and stomps off. He clearly did not authorize this absence. Heads will roll.
Max cannot figure out for the life of him exactly how long Amma will be gone. This has made it glaringly clear that I’ve neglected to teach him the days of the week, so he’s been working on that. He knows she’s coming back Wednesday, but he’s not always clear what day today is, or how many days are between now and then. We’ve been spending time reciting the days of the week. “Look at me,” I’ll tell him (because he can’t seem to hear me if he’s not looking at me), “Sunday.”
“Sunday,” he repeats.
And so on. It’s riveting stuff, I tell ya. Mom, be sure to quiz him on it when you get back. It’s all for you.
Tre is irritated by Max’s inability to figure out the days. He keeps interrupting his practice with an annoyed, “Sundaymondaytuesdaywednesdaythursdayfridaysaturday.” This is followed by a smirk. Older brothers can be such know-it-alls. But even he, with his mature grasp of the calendar, sidles up to me a few times during the day to say casually, “So…Amma will be home day after tomorrow.”
It’s a question, you see, but he doesn’t want it to sound like one.
I’m incapable of reducing meals by one portion. Please be ready to eat leftovers, Mom. All the meals you’ve missed here are waiting in the fridge.
Dad is a bit melancholy without Mom around. He meanders about the house a touch, and that’s not like Dad. Dad charges, he doesn’t meander. But with Mom gone the edge has gone off his focus. Don’t worry, Mom, he’s not playing Anne Murray yet.
So one of our numbers is missing, and although we understand and send her with our blessing, we want her to know she is missed.

I was at the grocery

I was at the grocery store today, with the troops. I try to work it out so I can shop without the boys, but that wasn’t possible today. I was completely out of duct tape, so I ended up taking them.
Anyhow, we survived the gathering portion of the shopping trip and had moved onto the purchasing. This is always fun. The boys are tired of being in the store, free cookies have lost their charm, and I’m exhausted.
Tre was moving back and forth between the wall-o-junk (vending machines) and me, trying to convince me that I should let him spend his dollar on something he didn’t need. Max was inexplicably dashing back and forth between me and the aisle on the other side of me, seeming to dodge invisible beings. Large and dangerous invisible beings, by the looks of it. Raphael was charming the checker. Checkers love Raphael, which I believe to be evidence of how badly checkers are usually treated. He smiles at them and says hi and bats his eyelashes. All this is done to convince them to a) let him hand them the groceries to scan and b) give him a sticker. It almost always works, except with the very hardest of hearts. Our checker that day was no exception, and she cooed and exclaimed over Raphael and took twice as long to ring up our groceries as usual. She had to wait for him to hand her everything, you see.
So there I was, keeping a nervous eye on Raphael, turning one way to tell Tre “no” yet again, turning the other way to caution Max to watch out for other shoppers, and generally musing to myself that if I have to shop at midnight to go without the kids, it’s worth it. I glanced over at the next line and a little girl caught my eye. She looked about two, and she was sitting in the cart so calmly. She was watching us and when I looked at her she smiled widely and waved. I waved back, and then glanced at the mom. I’d been avoiding eye contact with this woman, because she was in the middle of a scene with store management. It seems her credit card had been denied. She had been standing there, with two carts full of groceries, angrily insisting, “But he SAID I could use his card! He SAID it was ok! CALL him! ASK him! He SAID!”
I had been looking elsewhere, both because I had so very many other places to focus on, and because the scene was so uncomfortable. But one doesn’t wave at another’s child without a friendly nod to the mother. That’s creepy. So I smiled at the woman, who looked startled. “Is she bugging you?” she asked.
“Oh, no! She was waving. What a cutie she is.”
The woman nodded. “Yeah, she’s real friendly. And she loves boys.”
“Oh, really? Do you have any sons?”
“Nope, just two girls. This one just lights up whenever she sees a boy.” She reached over and brushed the girl’s hair back. Looking into her daughter’s face she continued, “Just looooves the boys, don’t ya, baby?” She looked up at me and laughed, “I just know she’s gonna be some kind of a slut when she grows up.”
I was still trying to think of some response to that when another manager came up for his turn to be screamed at. I watched this woman wave a credit card in his face and wondered. What did her mom decide was to be her future when she was a bright eyed baby?
I paid for the groceries and gathered the boys to leave. As we walked away from the checkout stand, the checker waved to Raphael (who had scored three stickers off her). He waved back, and she blew him a kiss. He accepted it with a regal nod and replied, “Oh sank you.” Max charged along on one side of me, still dodging the invisible beings, and on the other side Tre was imagining aloud what life would be like if you didn’t have to pay for anything.
I just know they’re all going to be something when they grow up.

The kids are in bed,

The kids are in bed, the house is quiet, and I sat down once again to the tremendous pressure of the blog. Ok, perhaps not all that tremendous. Anyhow.
Today in James Lileks’ blog, the Bleat, there was a cryptic reference to an article that someone had written. He was wondering if the guy was checking in,” hoping he’d find a foamy-mouthed point-by-point reply?” I had no idea what he was talking about (not an entirely uncommon occurrence with Lileks, I’m ashamed to admit), so I thought I’d poke around a bit, see if I could unearth the fabled article.
I found an amazing amount of venom out there, directed at Lileks. Now, color me naïve, but…Lileks? I mean, JAMES LILEKS?
I don’t know how many of you read the Bleat. You all should. Now. Well, maybe not now, but as soon as you finish reading this. Ah, heck with it, go there now. It’s a treat. He writes an amazing amount each day, expressing views on politics, movies, music, and more. My favorite parts, as a mushy-brained mother type, are the parts about his daughter, Gnat. He writes about her with such tenderness and joy. I do believe there are dads like that, who relish their children that much (I’ve known one like that myself…), but it’s rare to find a man who can write so comfortably about the experience of parenthood.
And he does write well on a multitude of subjects. He just knows so much, occasionally he’ll veer off into a subject that mystifies me. One minute I’m with him, the next it’s like he’s speaking in tongues. Whoa.
But for the most part he entertains and informs me. I don’t always agree with him, but he almost always makes me smile a bit. He’s good.
So I was surprised by the vitriol. People out there talking about how much they HATE him. Musing on the feasibility of a suicide bombing mission to take him out at the Mall of America. People ranting and raving about how much they hate the way he talks about his daughter. I was going to link to some of these spew-sessions, but really. I don’t want to participate. Google Lileks if you’re interested.
Oddly enough, it was somewhat comforting to me. Sick, huh? But I’m so careful about what I write here. I tiptoe around sensitive subjects. Slowly my readership is expanding beyond people I know, and I worry a bit. As I strive to get my writing published in other places, you know, where they have to pay me for it, I wonder if I can keep up the ginger pace. I don’t think so. I aspire to be like Lileks. Not in talent or style, because that's all his own. No, I want his attitude. It can't be news to him that there are people out there hating him. He shrugs, he moves on. He writes, because that's what he does. People love him, people hate him...whatever. He seems to have what I want, the notion that your opinion of me is none of my business.
Now I’m almost looking forward to my first hate mail. Almost. I’ll know I’m on my way then.
So heck with worrying about whether or not you’re all happy. I hope you are, I really do. But I gotta charge forward.

If that’s ok.

I just tucked Raphael in

I just tucked Raphael in bed with his new companion, Mr. Sock. As I was wrestling him out of his clothes and into his jammies, he stripped one sock off and pulled it over his hand. He looked at it and said, “Hi dere, Mr. Sock!” So was born a friend.
Mr. Sock’s repertoire consists of brusquely ordering people to say hi to him and grabbing things, like noses or hair. To tell you the truth, Mr. Sock plays a bit rough. Cheeky hosiery.
But Raphael loves his new friend and trundled around, talking in Mr. Sock’s gruff voice. And when it was time to finally get in his crib he insisted Mr. Sock come too. So I tucked them in together, complete with kisses for both. Yes, you read that right. I gave Raphael’s stinky sock a goodnight kiss.
As I turned to leave his room something came to mind. It was a story I read in a magazine once, one of those heartwarming hero-pet stories. This one was about a woman who put her baby down for a nap. If I remember correctly, the baby was nine months old. Shortly after leaving the baby’s room, the woman was surprised by her dog, which was barking and growling and running back and forth between her and the nursery. She followed the dog back over to the crib, where she was horrified to see her baby’s face turning blue. She grabbed her up and looked in her mouth, where she found a sock. The baby had pulled off one sock and crammed it into her mouth and was choking. The mom pulled it out and the baby was fine and the dog was called their angel ever after.
You realize the moral of this story, right?
Socks kill.
Ever since I read that story, I’ve stripped the socks from my babies’ feet before putting them down for naps. Never mind that Raphael is two and a half, somewhat beyond the cramming in the mouth phase. Never mind that the story I read was about a freak accident. Now I know the truth.
Socks kill.
I add it to the list of bizarre things I am vigilant about with my kids. Like when I put knives in the dishwasher I always put them point down, and when I empty the dishwasher the knives are the first thing I take out. This is because of a story a dear friend of mine told me once about her daughter. When this girl was just a baby, her mom put her on the counter in her bouncy seat and opened the dishwasher to empty it. The baby bounced her self right over, off the counter and face down into the dishwasher. A knife point missed her face by millimeters. So I am ever watchful of upturned knives in the dishwasher.
Now this is not rational. I have no babies in bouncy seats. But I have an image in my mind, in the back of my mind that thinks in pictures, of a baby’s tender face speeding toward a knife point.
Gee, glad I could share that with you. Heh, heh. Sorry.
Anyhow, I have all these chilling possibilities in my mind and it’s just strange. Because I’m not a fastidious mother. I let the kids run around outside barefoot. I’ve come to believe with every ounce of my being that ketchup is a vegetable, because it’s the only one my kids get some days. I already confessed about the grapes.
Suffice to say I’m fairly relaxed in my parenting style, but not about these specific, silly things. And it is silly; because I doubt I’ve protected the boys one bit more by all these phobic efforts. The odds of them choking on a sock were fairly low. And when stuff does happen, it just happens. Like the only broken bone we’ve had around here was when Tre fell off a slide. Not much of a fall, about four feet onto thick grass. Please, he does rougher tumbling than that before breakfast. But this time he hit the ground just right and broke his collarbone. Go figure. (Aside here, can you believe I just announced that we’ve only broken one bone around here? We are sooooo ending up in the emergency room in the next week.)
I guess I should just relax about these little fixations of mine. Ultimately, my sons are in God’s hands, because it’s far beyond my power to keep them safe.
But just in case, I think I’ll go steal Mr. Sock for the night.

Just as I started to

Just as I started to type Claire (our beautiful stupid cat) came racing across the floor in hot pursuit of a stray suction cup. Unfortunately she ran headlong into the leg of my chair with a thunk that reverberated impressively. Now she’s alternating between trying to look like she’s not embarrassed and studying a toy helicopter. I suppose for signs of the menace of stray suction cups.
She is beautiful, though.
Raphael has developed a fascination with eggs. His favorite food is “one white egg,” which means a hard-boiled egg. He only likes the white and nibbles around it until the last curve of white falls away from the yolk. At that point he announces that he took off its diaper.
Which I’m sure isn’t an early indication of need for counseling. At all.
But unfortunately, his main attraction is to the other eggs. The real eggs, in the cartons in the fridge. The minute my back is turned he skates into the fridge and does his level best to free an egg. The other day he got an egg out, carried it upstairs to my bedroom, overturned a basket of laundry so he could stand on it, and smashed the egg in MY bathroom sink.
I don’t know why.
Just tonight he liberated an egg and just stood there and squeeeeeezed, until it finally broke in a satisfying (and splattery) crunch. He was mystified that I took his egg and annoyed that I felt the need to wash his hands. And stomach. And legs. And feet.
Ah well.
Ours is not to question why, ours is but to hide the eggs.

I went to the weight class tonight, and while I was there Dad brought Tre and Max to play in the hot tub. They came dancing past the weight room in their swim trunks and poked their heads in to say hi. When I saw them I hopped up in the middle of a set and ran over to hug their warm little bodies. What is it about seeing your kids in an unexpected place that makes them seem that much more precious?

Well, Claire is hunting the wily rubber band now, and I’m calling it a night. Weemies.