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February 2005
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April 2005

A new rule every day...

I was fielding an argument between Tre and Max at the breakfast table. Raphael was eating toast with Nutella, quietly absorbed in his breakfasting. Suddenly he broke into the conversation.

“Mama!” he reached out and grabbed my arm, “MAMA! HEY, MAMA!” I turned from my refereeing duties.

“What, honey?”

“I just ate a yiddle bug.”

We all fell silent and turned to look at him. He gestured with his toast.

“There was a yiddle bug on my toast and I ate ‘em.”

“You ate a little bug?”

He nodded.

Now, understand, this is the same child who will literally THROW UP if he finds so much as a fragment of strawberry in his mouth. Food has been regurgitated for the crimes of being too hot, too cold, too big a bite, or anything resembling any sort of fruit whatsoever. He is the pickiest eater ever known, and how he lives on what he eats I will simply never know. I suppose I should be happy that he’s supplementing with some extra protein.
”It was just a yiddle bug,” he reiterated.

“Ah. Well. Next time show me the little bug and I’ll get rid of it. Don’t eat any more bugs, ok?”

He shrugged.

“Ok. Don’t eat the bugs.”

And he went on with his breakfast, calm as could be.

I, on the other hand, did not enjoy my breakfast nearly as much as I had been.

Figuring stuff out (not easy when you're 3)

Raphael came trotting into the kitchen, wearing only a t-shirt. Now, he’d been fully clothed earlier, so I knew something had taken place since the last time I’d seen him.

“Raphi? Did you go poop?” I did not think my life would be filled with these sorts of queries when I was a starry-eyed child. Ah well.

“Yes.” He nodded proudly and waved one triumphant hand in the air. “I can handle it!” This is his battle cry whenever he has to poop. He races off to the bathroom, one hand urgently clutching the back of his pants. Should I follow him, he glowers at me and points one imperious finger at the door. “GO AWAY! I CAN HANDLE IT!” Then he strips down to nothing but a shirt and goes about his business. After some time he’ll start banging around in there, slamming down the toilet lid, and flushing multiple times, and I’ll poke my head in to remind him to wash his hands. Another glower, another reminder that he can handle it, and in a short amount of time there is water all over the bathroom counter, mirror, and floor, the soap dispenser is knocked on its side, spilling a pool of soap, and Raphi is off to rejoin his day, still pantsless.

Ah, the joys of independence.

So today when he ran up to me, nekkid butt proudly prancing, I reminded him,

“Did you wash your hands?” He nodded, then shot me a look. It was half amused; half worried, as though he were weighing the wisdom of sharing something with me. I waited.

“I did wash them.” Pause. “In the toilet.”

Blink, blink.


“I washed them in the toilet.” Big grin. I started to reach for his hand, but thought better of it, and grabbed his wrist.

“Come on, honey. Show me what you did.” He led me happily back to the bathroom, clambered onto the toilet, lifted the lid off the tank, and plunged his hands into the water. Whew.

The clean water in the back of the tank.


I helped him wash his hands in the sink, with actual soap, held his pants for him so he could rejoin the land of the clothed, and explained that from now on he should wash his hands in the sink. Always in the sink. He nodded soberly, and ran off to play.

I congratulated myself on handling that calmly and didn’t think of it again until this evening, when Tre called me from the library. He was there with Mom and Max, and used Mom’s cell phone to call home and see what was for dinner. When Raphael realized it was his brother on the phone, he leapt around, shrieking requests to talk to him. Finally I handed the phone over, and he gripped it in two hands.

“Hi Tre,” he said seriously, “I don’t need to wash my hands in the toilet.” Pause. “Why are you laughing?”

Max has nightmares. It seems like the night terrors should be enough, but once every few weeks or so he stumbles into my room, weeping. The dreams are always similar. He’ll crawl under the covers and bury his face in the space between my cheek and my shoulder, trying to hide from the pictures in his head.

“We were walking on the beach,” he’ll moan, “and a wave came and swept Raphi away and we couldn’t find him.” His tears run down my neck, leaving wet circles on my pillow.

“Tre and I were playing and we came inside and Appa said ‘someone died today’ and we said ‘who?’ and he said ‘your mom’ and we all cried.”

I rub his back and whisper words of comfort in his hair. They roll right off his grief as he spills out the story that accosted him in his sleep.

“We went to the movies, and we went to get popcorn and I was looking at something on the counter and when I looked up you were gone.”

“I’ll never leave you,” I promise, again. “I’m right here.” My words feel like a weak response to his torrent of grief. It’s all I have to give him, so I repeat it every time he comes back to weep next to me.

It doesn’t take a terribly sophisticated analysis to tease out the meaning of his dreams. They are always about losing someone, about being left. Over and over again in his sleep he relives his loss. He takes the event of his dad disappearing and plays it out in the life of someone else he loves, and cries all over again.

This is his wound, the thing he lives with that he will never get over. People leave.

Oh, but the other day I was standing in the family room with Clay. Max walked up and threw his arms around Clay’s leg and hugged it.

“I just love you, Clay,” he sighed. “I hope you marry my mama.” He turned to walk away, grinning widely, and then looked back at me. “I hope you marry Clay,” he said, just being sure he was making himself clear. Then he bounded away.

Max has lost much already in his life. But he’s been given much too. I’ve been there every night, there to listen to every bad dream. His Amma and Appa have never left his orbit. His brothers give him equal parts irritation and joy, always nearby to be a comfort and to touch his toys. He is well loved, and that is as inescapable a fact as the one that haunts him on the bad nights.

I wish I could take away his hurt. But I’m so grateful that if he has to live with the loss, he has an answering dose of hope.

Test anxiety

This is the first year Tre has been required, as a homeschooler, to take the standardized test du jour. In our case, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Now, as a homeschooler, I have all sorts of opinions about the obvious weakness of standardized testing such as this. I have full on rants about the various forms of intelligence represented in any group of children, and how only certain kinds of intelligence are measured by such tests. Even how the tests lean on skills that boys in general tend to lag behind girls in acquiring (verbal, associative, and even the fine-motor work required to fill out those little circles).

So. I know how meaningless this is. I know how inadequate it is in measuring Tre’s academic progress. I am closely involved in his academic progress, and I feel fine about how he’s doing. No reason to be nervous, right?


Tuesday I was driving him to the school for his first day of testing. He had his sharpened #2 pencils, a little baggie of sunflower seeds for a snack, and a water bottle. He was trying to read his book, but I kept interrupting him.

“Hey, Tre? If you come to a question you can’t answer, just go on to the next question. If there’s time, you can come back.”

“What? Oh, ok.”

“Oh, and be sure to CHECK every so often to be sure you’re filling out the right numbered line on the answer sheet. You know, match the number on the answer with the number of the question.”

“Uh huh.”

“And READ the instructions. Don’t just skim. READ them.”

“Right. Read them.”

I stopped at a red light, and watched him in the rearview mirror. He was utterly unprepared for this. I’d considered getting him a prep test, but had smugly decided that our school time was too important to waste on such silliness. So instead I was throwing him to the wolves. A full morning of sitting and squinting at paper. Seeking out and filling in little circles. Reading those disjointed, unrelated little excerpts. What was I doing?

I worried about him all morning, worried about what his impression of the test and his performance on the test would be. What had I done to my boy?

I picked him up at noon, and was relieved to see him bound happily over to me. Hey, I thought, maybe he did FINE. He’s a bright boy; maybe he ENJOYED the intellectual stretch of a different kind.

“How’d it go, honey?”


I had to smile. That’s my boy.

“Really? What was your favorite part?”

“The chairs were sort of like whoopee cushions. They made noises when you sat on them.”

“Uh…what about the test?”

“Oh. I don’t remember.”

So. There you have it. He seems to have survived the experience.

Morning journey from bad to good

I don’t like waking up in the morning. I always wish for MORE SLEEP. So what I like to do, as daybreak approaches, is to start drifting into a half-awake state, listening to the sounds, and dreading dawn.

This morning, during the pre-waking warm-up of dread, I heard Claire, our cat, come in from outside. She came in from the outside. Remember that. IT IS THE GOOD THING.

Anyhow, she padded up the stairs, walked around the room for a moment, and hopped up on my bed. She prowled around, walking back and forth over my chest, whilst I concentrated on ignoring her. Finally she settled down next to me, and I went back to sleep, although I could feel her LOOKING AT ME.

Well, time marched on, as time is wont to do, and eventually my room was brimming with wide-awake boys that needed to be fed, so I hauled myself out of bed. As soon as I moved, Claire hopped up and started running around my feet. She trotted back and forth between me and something on the carpet…something small…and mangled…

It took a moment for the facts to seep into my brain, but eventually it registered.

It was a mouse.

I froze and stared, and Claire sat down next to it, a very proud kitty. She made a tiny “prrrrrowlll” noise and even patted the deceased with one white paw.


What a way to start your day, huh? I scooped up the twisted little corpse, shuddering, and disposed of it, muttering obscenities at Claire under my breath the whole time. Then I staggered into the shower, wishing for a special “after-mouse Clorox body wash.”

Not long after I got into the shower, the door to the bathroom flew open. Raphi was standing there, and he fixed me with a sober gaze.

“See.” He paused and gestured with two open hands, like a cross between a politician and Vanna White, “See. Ah did just spill your tea.”

I wiped away the water on the shower door, and peered out at him.

“WHERE did you spill my tea, honey?” He threw a look over his shoulder, and then turned back to me, with tiny knitted brow.

“Ah did spill it. In there.” He pointed behind him. “In your hair dryer.”

Right. My hair dryer. The new one. Fortunately, it was unplugged, but still.

I sighed. Maybe it would be ok. I mean, I never even READ the owner’s manual for the thing, assuming I had all the salient facts about hair drying down. Perhaps it recommends the occasional horking of a mug of green tea down the business end of the dryer. Because HEY, antioxidants ARE GOOD FOR EVERYONE.

I rested my head on the wall, sure that my day was RUINED by then. And it wasn’t even 8 yet.

But see? See, this is why I shouldn’t pass any sort of judgment before

10 AM

. Because after a few hours, a new mug of tea, and some time to let the morning fog dissipate, the following things occurred to me:

1)      Hey, know what? The dryer STILL WORKS.

2)      Plus, it was UNPLUGGED. Momentary weak-kneed thankfulness that it was.

3)      Claire killed a mouse! She is not, as suspected, useless save for her cat-hair producing abilities (amazing though they be).

4)      She had just come in from outside. REMEMBER? THE GOOD THING? THE MOUSE WAS FROM OUTSIDE.

5)      I am now certain that our house is ringed by an invisible mouse-free zone, tirelessly patrolled by Claire, the mighty mouse killer.

6)      I don’t seem to have contracted that Hanta virus thing yet, so I’m probably clear on that. Especially with the mouse-free zone I’ve got going on.

7)      Green tea is good.

Weekend wrap-up

So HEY, happy birthday to me! I gotta tell you; this has been the best birthday of the new millennium. Bar none.

I went out with friends for Mexican food Friday night, out with Clay for insanely expensive steak and a show Saturday night, and today after church my parents took me out for lunch. Plus, all the comments and emails from y'all? I was blown away.

Howzat for loved?

The boys gave me the DVD of The Incredibles, which I knew was coming. We happened to be in Wal-Mart on Tuesday, when it was released. The place was simply AWASH in Incredibles. I mused in passing,

“Hey, maybe we should get a copy,” and Tre and Max looked at each other, stricken.

“Oh…” Tre assumed the MOST CASUAL of tones, “nah. Not today. They’re probably sold out.” Tre? Casual? That was a dead give-away there. This is the child who thinks a five minute wait for the pasta to cook constitutes child abuse, and he will surely DIE by the time it’s done, and he’s STARVING…he is neither casual nor patient by temperament.

“Right,” Max added, “So why don’t we get it…um…Monday?” He gave Tre a proud nod.

“Are you sure you don’t want to get it NOW? I think I see some more copies over there…” I was messin’ with them now.

“Nah,” again, Tre, with such coolness you would think he was barely awake, “let’s not.”

“Yeah,” Max said, “and plus, we’re NOT getting it for your birthday.”

Tre punched him on the arm, and then smiled at me innocently.

But I think I managed to seem appropriately surprised. And I was genuinely delighted at the gift, not only because I managed to get a good hour’s nap on the couch with Clay while the kids watched the new DVD, either.

In other news, Max lost his first tooth Saturday. It had gotten tantalizingly loose, so much so that Tre had taken to chasing him around, sitting on his chest, and berating him to, “JUST LET ME PULL IT OUT!”

Max, enjoying the attention from his big brother, and a touch apprehensive about whether or not it would hurt, would have none of it. But eventually it succumbed…actually, to my dad, who used to be a first grade teacher and is a master at the art of tooth pulling. All day Saturday Max bounced around, displaying his new gap (with the scalloped edge of a new tooth already poking through) with a special-for-the-occasion lower lip retracting smile.

That night he carefully put his tooth in an empty film canister and placed it under his pillow.

The next morning he came to tell me…

The tooth fairy forgot.

Yes. For his VERY FIRST TOOTH she forgot.

What a slacker that fairy is.

And you know, Max has his suspicions about the tooth fairy. I mean, his brother has told him she’s not real, but he thinks she might be. He was pretty disappointed, until I offered to do my best to catch her, turn her over my knee, and give her a tiny little spanking.

“Like this,” I demonstrated, patting my knee seriously with my index finger. He laughed and bounded away, pausing to assure me,

“I bet she’ll remember tonight. She might have been too busy or something.” And he was off, pure gap-toothed joy.

Believe me; the tooth fairy would have been lucky to get off with just a spanking. Gah. Who can live with guilt like that?

You’ll all be pleased to hear that that slacker of a tooth fairy did her job tonight, although she was narrowly tempted to leave the kid $10. Fortunately, she took a moment to calculate how many baby teeth were still ensconced in various mouths in this very house, and decided against such a costly move.

Finally, I got another phone message from the ex. Seems I misunderstood. It wasn’t HEALTH insurance he was calling about. He wants to make his sons his beneficiaries of his LIFE insurance.


Oh yeah! *wipes eyes*

Did I laugh!

I should have known better, I really should have. Same story. He’s willing to die for them, but still not ready to live for them.

Oh well, it was a nice thought.

An Open Letter to My Ex

You called today, but I was out. A few hours after you’d left your message I was sitting in a parking lot, checking my messages before lunch, and I heard your voice and forgot to breathe.

My first thought was to wonder if you read this blog. It seems oddly coincidental for you to call, this week, and want to put the boys on your health insurance. They are not covered right now, although how you’d know that, I don’t know. Perhaps you know enough to figure that out. And anyhow, it has become perfectly clear that they need coverage. My every effort to get that for them has been, to this point, bewilderingly thwarted.

I’ve thought of the possibility of you reading this blog. I’ve studied various searches that brought people here, and wondered if it was you. Or did someone else find it and tell you? I’ve panicked before, thinking surely one search or another was you. I’ve berated myself for not using pseudonyms for us all from the beginning.

You know, it never occurred to me when I was starting this thing that people would actually READ it.

But they do, and so I had to come to terms with the fact that one of them might be you. The spectre in our house, also in my computer.

That’s ok. There’s nothing I say here that I couldn’t say to you. I am truthful. I try not to be unkind. Although today I’m aware that I may have referred to you recently as a bastard. Ahem. Sorry.

The truth is I don’t think of you as a bastard, although there are days when my anger at you travels with me everywhere, seeping in and out of me like a toxic gas, coloring the air, choking out the light around me. Those days I find myself muttering conversations to you or about you, filled with rage and indignation.

Those days are few and far between now. Mostly you are like a mythical creature, like a male La Llorona, prowling the dark, vaguely threatening to my children. I can imagine your presence; tell memories of you like they are stories from another land. And I can turn from the thoughts of you easily, back to the concrete things of my life. You may be many things, but mostly you are just not here.

Sometimes I am swept under by a wave of grief for what you’ve done to my sons, to me, to yourself. I knew you, better than anyone, I believe. And I regret your loss, sometimes even more than mine. You, after all, are the one out there in the cold. For all the pain, I am here, with my sons, which is the only place I could ever want to be while they are children. You lost them, you lost me, and you lost yourself.

Yes, that’s a loss too.

But see, this call today, although it brings up all of this and more, is not about me and my cauldron of emotions. This is about the boys. About their needs, and your obligation.

So I’ll call you. I’ll discuss matters of insurance, forms and details. My voice will be steady, for the most part, but my hands will sweat. I’ll hate every minute of it. But again, again, again, it will be not about what’s comfortable for me, but about what the boys need.

Allow me to reiterate that point. If you are out there, reading this, peeking inside my life, please pay attention now. I am not speaking now out of whatever feelings I have about you. This is not about my pain or fear or rage. I am their mother, and I have been in the position of standing between you and my sons before. I found there a strength I never imagined I possessed. It is from that position that I wish to make this point perfectly clear:

Our interactions are not about you, and not about me, but about what is best for our sons.

I will behoove you to remember that.

And also…I suppose I should say thank you.

Waking up

Tre is almost always the first person to wake up, out of my sons and me. He wakes up just like my dad, bounding around with all sorts of crashing energy. I expect him to fling open the door to my room and boom, “WAKE UP! The day’s half over!” Honestly, to understand a basic difference between me and Dad, let me tell you a wee story.

When I was in high school I had an epiphany. A REVELATION.

“DAD!” I explained excitedly, “Do you REALIZE how much sleep you could get if you stayed in bed until 9 AM? I mean! You could stay up until TWO IN THE MORNING and still get a decent night’s sleep! All you have to do is SLEEP IN UNTIL 9!” I beamed at him, so proud of my insight.

“Well,” he replied slowly, “have you ever considered how much sleep you could get if you just went to bed at 9 PM every night? You could get up at 4 AM and still get a decent night’ sleep!”

We sort of blinked at each other for a moment. Stalemate.

Anyhow, Tre is just so very much like Dad, and leaps out of bed at the proverbial crack of dawn. He gets dressed then hurries over to my bedside and whispers,

“Mama! Can I go downstairs?” I snort awake, look wildly around the room for a moment until I locate him, and then nod to the best of my ability. And just like that he bounces out of the room and into his day.

I’ll just never understand some things.

Anyhow, not long after Tre is up and at ‘em, Max and Raphi appear at my bedside. About half the time Max is already dressed and eager to take off after Tre. The other half of the time he agrees with Raphael, that there is no better way to start your day than with a good long cuddle with Mama.

Today was such a day, and not long after Tre had crashed awake, I found myself nose-to-nose with Raphael. He opened the day’s conversation as he generally does, with a self-congratulatory statement.

“Ah did SUCH A GOOD JOB sleeping!” he crowed. I nodded and lifted up the covers so he could slip in beside me. He hunkered down next to me and arranged my arm around him JUST RIGHT. When all was in order he sighed contentedly, “Yoo are my mama. And ah know it.” But that was not praise enough, and he went on, “And ah don’t hate you.*"

Soon we were joined by Max, who clambered across both of us to find his own spot on my other side. He pulled my right arm around him and proceeded to tell me about the dream he’d had. I would reproduce the story of the dream, but it seemed to go on for at least seventeen years, and it’s enough that I’ve given up that much of my life to hear about every motion and color and sound that he dreamed last night. Trust me.

While Max was telling and telling and telling his dream, Raphael was nuzzling my face. He rubbed my cheek with his nose, my chin with his forehead, and so on, around and around my face. He was blissful, sighing endearments like, “It’s good to have a mama,” and “Ah don’t hate you AT ALL.”

I lay there, wresting my eyelids open, over and over again, until the motion took. Finally I asked Max to finish the story of his dream at breakfast, kissed them both on the top of their morning-warm heads, and sent them away to get dressed. I crawled out of bed and into the shower, thinking, cuddled awake sure beats an alarm clock. I mean, if you gotta face the day before 9 AM, this is the way to do it.

*He got that from Finding Nemo, where Nemo tells his dad he hates him. That was somewhat shocking to Raphi, and he reassures me often that he DOESN’T HATE ME.

You know, except when he does.

Heart truth

I took the boys to the doctor today. They were overdue for a checkup and it’s time for the annual scramble to get ahold on Tre’s allergies. Raphi’s exam went first, and the doc asked me a few questions to be sure he’s on track, developmentally.

“Can he name a friend?”


“Does he dress himself?”


“Ok, then, Raphael, can you take off your shirt and pants and we’ll have a look at you?”

Raphi wrestled his shirt over his head, and then yanked down his pants to reveal…no underwear. This is a struggle we’ve been having lately. He feels underwear are ENTIRELY unnecessary. I looked at him, standing there, enjoying the breeze, and turned to the doctor.

“Toldja he dresses himself.”

Next came Max’s turn, and when it was time for him to take off his shirt and pants we discovered that instead of underwear he was wearing swim trunks. See, on Tuesday nights we go swimming. So. When he got dressed this morning he made sure he was ready.

When it was Tre’s turn I couldn’t help commenting, “Wow, I can’t wait to see what surprises he has hiding for us.” The serious doctor even cracked a smile at that. But as it turned out, Tre had normal underwear on, no surprises.

The surprise came from Max.

It seems there’s something…off about his heart. Not sure. Not clear. But he needs to see a cardiologist down at the Children’s Hospital.

The doctor said that it wasn’t an emergency, no need to rush him there the same day, or even the same month, but to be sure to have it checked out.


I knew a kid in high school who had a similar problem with his heart (if it is what the doctor thinks, if anything is actually wrong, if I remember correctly, if if if). One day on the soccer field this kid – Chris was his name, I think – paused during the game to look around and die.

They said it wouldn’t have made a difference if he was home, watching TV. They didn’t know about his heart problem and there, that afternoon, it just hit out of the blue.

Now, if you know me, you know I’m taking this all in stride, not letting it stress me out, waiting to hear what the cardiologist says before I worry.


What I’m actually doing is gulping down waves of fear, tamping down the urge to call Max inside when he’s playing, so he can sit at my side where I can watch him breathe, and sneaking into his room at night to place my fingertips on his chest and feel the flutter of his heart.

I remember holding each boy as a newborn, studying their tiny arms and legs, gently turning their heads from side to side, watching their stomach rise and fall with their breath. I couldn’t believe something so small could live. I would set the baby down, step away, and turn to watch. Somehow this tiny person had grown from microscopic-ness, and now here he was, separate from me, with blood whooshing through teeny tiny veins, air moving in and out of little cupfuls of lung, a walnut sized stomach processing milk like it understood chemistry. How could something so small FUNCTION? Without thought or intention on my part he moved and breathed and created warmth. Life.

The dark flip side of that coin is that I don’t perpetuate that life. I didn’t set Max’s heart in motion, and I’m helpless to make it continue beating, or to take a rhythm that is sturdier. No amount of will or love from me changes even one contraction of his own heart.

And yet as I stand by his bed, watching him go on living, muttering to myself that it’s nothing, he’ll be fine, he IS fine, I feel my own heart thump and know I am not so impervious to him.

The dangers of sleepovers

Ok, FIRST OF ALL, you should know that my birthday is NEXT SUNDAY, March 20th.

I’m only telling you this because I’m insufferably self centered and wish to have a fuss made over me. I will be 34, and no, I’m not upset about that. 34 sounds like a very cool age to me. If you can’t appreciate the allure of a woman in her 30s, well, that says more about you than me, doesn’t it, now?

Moving on.

Friday night was sleepover night. Tre spent the night at a friend’s house and Max had a friend stay the night here. Now, if you will, indulge me for a moment in some high-level math. See, if you have a house with three boys and you remove one, the chaos level is, interestingly enough, halved. HOWEVER, if you ADD a boy, the chaos level is doubled. So. If you send your child packing in the early afternoon, and don’t add an extraneous boy until later that evening, the chaos level should briefly dip, then return to normal.

Unless he brings with him a CD of Spanish speaking chipmunks, singing various popular songs. Then all bets are off, mathematically speaking.

I am, unfortunately, not making this up. Max’s friend Daniel (who is a very sweet and polite little boy and I considered KEEPING HIM) brought with him a very special CD. Chipmunks, singing songs in Spanish. I’ll tell you a secret, though. I don’t think they’re really for true chipmunks. They are, however, really singing. Shrilly.

Daniel and Max liked to put this CD on, crank up the volume to “painful”, and race around the house, holding their hands in front of their mouths like great big chipmunk teeth. Occasionally the joy of the art form would cause them to have to SMACK into one another, then fall to the floor. And if their antics weren’t enough to endear this particular musical adventure to me FOREVER, the music ITSELF was…unforgettable.

I mean, you know, you just KNOW you’ve found something special when a rendition of “La Vida Loca” leaves you yearning for the dulcet tones and skilled delivery of Ricky Martin. Oh yeah.

In general the sleepover was wonderful. Max, Daniel, and Raphi all slept on the floor in sleeping bags. They only talked for about an hour and a half after bedtime. They DID wake up at 3 AM, announcing that they’d had a great time sleeping, but they were convinced easily enough to go back to sleep. Dad made chocolate chip pancakes in the morning, and Daniel was packed and ready to go when his mom arrived.

I handed her the chipmunk CD and expressed my thanks for her sharing it with us.

“Would you like to keep it for a few days?” she asked, “innocently.”

“Oh, no thanks.”

“No, really, you could hold onto it for a while.” She was trying to press it back into my hand, and beads of sweat were forming on both our brows.

“That is JUST SO SWEET of you, but I KNOW how Daniel loves it, and I just COULDN’T,” I countered, pushing back, feeling the jewel case dig into my palm.

“Are you sure?” she wavered. I HAD HER. Hah, NICE TRY.

“I’m sure, but gee, THANK YOU!” and I sidestepped the evil chipmunks and quickly shut the door.

It was a close one.