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March 2005
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May 2005

Teach your children well

Max had just been released from kiddie prison time out, and we were discussing the nature of his wrongs.

“Max, it’s just not ok to push people. Especially on the stairs.”

“But! I tried to push him really softly!”

“Honey. It’s not ok to push people, even softly, especially on the stairs. It’s dangerous. You could have asked Tre to move out of your way.”

“He wasn’t in my way!” Max was very indignant.

“Well then why did you push him?”

He heaved a sigh of defeat.

“Ok, he WAS in my way.”

“Go tell him you’re sorry.”

“Fine.” As he turned to walk away, he muttered, “but he was PRACTICALLY at the bottom of the stairs anyhow.”

“MAXWELL MARTIN. It is not ok to a) push people, b) especially when they’re on the stairs, c) even softly, d) whether they are in your way or not, and e) EVEN IF THEY ARE PRACTICALLY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS. Are we CLEAR ON THIS?”

He nodded at me, then shrugged.

“You always have so many THINGS TO SAY, Mama.”

Add this conversation to the following facts: It is snowing. Right now. And Tre is in the kitchen, making something called Muck.

Please send chocolate.

Conversations with Raphi

Bah. It’s snowing. I’m choosing not to think about that right now, and hoping the situation will resolve itself nicely by morning. By which I do NOT mean, with another three feet of snow. Please.

Instead, I choose to remember the following things Raphael said today.

Tre and Max had field day today, and at one point I was heading to the van to get their jackets. I was striding quickly, anxious to get back before they moved to the next event. Raphael was trotting along behind me, irritated at my pace.

“MAMA. Don’t step so hard!”

“Sorry, baby, but I’m in a hurry.”

“It’s kicking my shoes.”

“Sorry. Do you want me to hold your hand?”

“No, I want you to hurry more slowy.”


“BE MORE SLOWY!” He huffed, thoroughly annoyed by now. “An’ I’m NOT A BABY.”

I was sitting on the couch, and Raphael climbed into my lap. He took my face in his hands.

“Let’s pray together.”


“You go first.”

“Oh. Alright. Dear God, thank you for Raphael. He’s such a gift to this family. Please help me to be a good mom and help him to learn all the things You want him to learn. Amen. How was that?”

“Good. Now you say ‘your turn.’”

“Your turn.”

“Dear God, thank you for Mama. An’ help her to do lots of things. An’ she eats really good an’ she never poops or pees outside an’ she always poops and pees in the toilet. Amen.”

Huh. Well. I mean, it’s not like any of it is untrue…and it’s always good to be prayed for.

This weekend Raphael took up with a new phrase.

“I learned somethin’ new!” he chortled with glee. I never could get him to tell me what it was that he learned, but the phrase had become his, a replacement of sorts for, “Can I tell yoo somethin’?” He says it whenever he’d like a little attention, thankyouverymuch. This morning Clay stopped by and Raphi danced around us, trying to turn us both toward him.

“HEY! HEY! Guys! I learned somethin’ really cool! It’s somethin’ else new!” he chanted until we gave him our full attention. Once we were both looking at him, he paused, casting about for something he could show us. He finally decided to show us a great leaping twirl, jumping up, twisting around, and landing with a very satisfactory THUD. He did that several times, each time announcing his trick with another, “I learned somethin’ new!”

I watched him, thinking, I hope that ends up in a blog, so I don’t forget.

Hey, lookee there. It did.

I’m not good about memento keeping. I don’t take many pictures. I fitfully save artwork and school papers, shoving them on a high shelf in my closet. I intend to sort through them some day, putting each boy’s own papers in his own labeled box…but I’m not all that good about that.

What I do have, the tiny finger hold I have against losing their childhood completely, is this blog. I mention events and sayings and obsessions that the boys have, just in passing. Then, months later, I’ll glance back over old blog entries, and my eyes will fall on some fact of their existence that was so true then, and is gone now. Oh wow, that’s right, I’ll think, Raphi was drawing on the walls for a while. He’s done with that now. Or, Oh yeah, Max would torment Tre by pretending to be colorblind. I forgot about that.

This weekend I took Raphael to a friend’s birthday party at the rec center pool. I stood, shivering in the water, dodging the birthday boy’s mom. She was hovering with a video camera, and I DID NOT want to be captured on film in a swimsuit. I mean.

So I warily circled her, and watched her zoom in and out, recording her son’s party. I wondered about it, about why she was doing it. Would she actually watch the tape? More than once? Some day, when this child is away at college, would she pull out the tape of his fifth birthday and watch it with her husband, tearing up at the sight of the tiny boy he was?

She has her video tape, and I have my blog. I guess they’re just different forms of the same thing, the drive to grab onto some part of our kids’ childhood before they’re gone. It’s like standing under a torrential waterfall, holding out a teaspoon, trying to catch the water. Pitifully inadequate, bit at least it’s an attempt.

At least my blog never captures footage of innocent women in bathing suits. Humph.

A few months ago, at parent-teacher conferences, I was talking to Max’s teacher, Ms. Sue. Toward the end of the discussion, she leaned in toward me, worried.

“At the end of April…I don’t know if you noticed on the show and tell topics list…we’re going to be talking about fathers. It’s just what I’ve always done. We talk about our mothers one week, the fathers the next week.” I nodded, and she went on. “I never…I’m sorry, I’ve never had a situation like this in my class. I mean, I’ve had divorced families, but not ones with no contact with the dad whatsoever. Max is welcome to talk about his grandfather or whoever he wants to…I’m just sorry if it causes any trouble for him.” I shrugged.

“You know, at first, I wanted to erase any evidence of dads anywhere. I got rid of the books we had about fathers, I turned off TV shows that focused on father/son relationships. I wanted it all to go away, rather than hurt my sons. But…” I paused, looking for the right words, “…fathers exist. And even if the contrast hurts, I want my sons to know that GOOD fathers exist. That they’re important. Hopefully, Max will be a father someday. I want him to know what that means.”

She relaxed, and we both agreed that Max is doing, on the whole, very well. I left feeling such joy at how far we’ve come. Look how strong we are, my boys and I. Show and tell about fathers? Bring it on!

The night before the fabled father show and tell, Max and I talked about what he wanted to talk about. He figured he’d talk about his Appa, who is, after all, his grandFATHER. But then this morning Max mused that he’d like to have a picture of his dad to take to school too.



I took him upstairs, to his room, and pulled a picture out of his sock drawer. He’d forgotten it was there, a snapshot of him and his dad, sweeping him high in the air for a hug. They were dancing. Max was about two and a half, and his dad’s face is creased with a wide, delighted grin. Max’s arm is slung around his dad’s neck, and he looks like he owns the world, in that moment.

I was unprepared for how taken aback I was by that picture. I forget. I forget he was that man, once. That he loved them so much.

Once upon a time.

Max stared at the picture silently.

“I think about him a lot. I wonder things about him.”

“Is there anything you want to ask me?”

“I don’t know.” He paused. “Why did he leave?”


I sat down and pulled Max onto my lap, and pondered the question. How do I answer that? Where is the correct balance of truth and compassion? Images flitted through my head, of the events that built the rage and pain to a point that this man who fathered him could walk away so completely. I mentally leafed through memories that Max doesn’t need to carry. So much he doesn’t need to know.

So much he does need to know.

I took a deep breath.

“Honey, do you know what an addiction is?”

For a few minutes we talked about brokenness and loss. About how certain choices can rob you of the ability to hold onto what matters most. About how if his dad were thinking straight, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be than with his sons.

But it was time to go to school, and after a few minutes I ushered him out the door, clutching his file of pictures. I watched him climb into the van, and turned to say good bye to my mom.

“Are you ok?” she asked.

In answer I put my head down on her shoulder and wept. Again.

We ARE so much stronger, my boys and I. We are brave and happy and solid.

That doesn’t change the fact that it hurts.

It's not ANNOYING, it's HAPPY

Last night it rained. It hailed a little too, but mostly it rained. This morning Mom asked me,

“What’s the weather like outside?” She was trying to decide what to wear, you see.

“Oh,” I sighed, “crystalline. Warm and brilliant and beautiful. The sort of morning that makes you want to strip naked and roll in the dew-damp grass.” Mom gave me what can only be described as A LOOK. “But not in the back yard,” I added, “because, you know. The dog poops back there.” The LOOK continued, unabated.

I can’t help it. It’s SPRING. Trees are frothing out in blooms, daffodils and tulips dot yards all over town, and the air is sweet and gentle on the skin.

I love spring. I was born on the first day of spring, and every year I come back to life along with the garden. I’m given to giddy musings on the beauty of the world. I sing. I call gaily out to children, playing happily in the back yard, “If you darlings go in my garden I shall pinch your adorable little heads off!”

Allow me to offer you the evidence of spring-ness that buoyed my mood all day.

1 – A beekeeper from somewhere on the east coast tracked my father down through a complicated series of internet searches, and called to ask him questions about top-bar beekeeping. I don’t know how these people do it. I swear Dad could move to a mountaintop somewhere, completely sever all ties to humanity, and every spring some bedraggled soul would crawl up the mountain on hands and knees, fall at his feet, and gasp, “So, do you use comb foundation as a starter? What size are the bars? What about mites?”

When these people start appearing, sending letters and making phone calls out of the blue, oh yes, my sweets, it is spring.

2 – Tre and the little girl from across the street caught a butterfly in the front yard this afternoon. Now this charmed me on several fronts (brace yeself for sub-points) –

  • CAUGHT A BUTTERFLY! I MEAN! If you are not charmed by tw

    o children, cavorting gaily in the afternoon sun, catching butterflies in an empty strawberry container, well, you are dead inside.
  • It seems to me that there have been a LOT more butterflies this year. My ultra-scientific analysis (consisting of looking around and musing, "Hmmm. Seems like a lot of butterflies."), has led me to believe that the numbers of butterflies are NOT, as reported, actually dwindling, and that life on earth shall not die out for want of them. 

  • Because we got Max a butterfly kit for his birthday last year, I had on hand a butterfly house for their prey. I also knew that it was a painted lady butterfly, and how to feed it. I was, for one brief shining moment, the cool mom.

3 – Tonight at dinner I served salad containing LETTUCE FROM MY OWN GARDEN. It doesn’t matter how often I’ve served my family food I actually GREW, I am always amazed by it. Now, this lettuce was the actual lettuce that was buried under feet and feet of snow two weeks ago, so it was a bit…roughed up. Some would suggest that in spots it was a touch…leathery for lettuce. MOST of it was lovely. Crunchy and bright. And did I mention? FROM MY OWN GARDEN?

4 – Our back yard is simply inundated with birds. This is due to two factors, one being SPRING, the other being the fact that Max wanted to take a pocketful of birdseed to the bird world at the zoo last Sunday, and in his efforts to collect said seed from the birdfeeder, he spilled a good 75% of its contents on the ground. So. All the birds, freshly arrived from southern climes, are congregating in our yard, squabbling over damp, ground-dwelling birdseed. They make happy bird noises, which is delightful, even though they really aren’t happy, but being bad-tempered with each other in an attempt to CLAIM ALL SEED. Plus, Carmi (full-blooded mutt o’ love) has taken the job of scaring the birds on her substantially shedding shoulders. She spent much of the day racing back and forth in the yard, grinning like a loon (yes, she grins), snapping at birds that were miles away. She FELT very successful every time a bird took flight. Her joy could not have been fuller. Except maybe if Claire (our beautiful, stupid cat) would return Carmi’s love. Ah well.

So there you have it, clear evidence of spring. Doesn’t it just make you HAPPY?

Missed communication

Raphael loves to play with his friend Drew. They’re still at an age where very little cooperative play takes place. Mostly what they do is what’s called parallel play. They play NEAR each other, you understand. Often they even play the same game or with the same toys. But each boy doesn’t really RELATE to what the other is doing. It makes for interesting conversation.

Raphi: AAAAAAGHH! The round robot is going to EAT YOU!

Drew: I have new shoes.

Raphi: Once, I peed in the back yard.



Drew: I like cheese.

Raphi: I have a dog.

Drew: My sister hurt her knee right here.



See? They’re talking AT each other, but not much meaningful communication is getting through. Today I’m not sure I did any better than they do, much of the time.

This morning I raced downstairs, skidded around the corner, and snatched up the phone just as it stopped ringing. The caller ID declared it to be a call from my grandparents I’d missed. Tre and Max were apparently trying to kill one another in the back yard, so I went outside to break up the skirmish before I called my grandparents back. Grandpa answered with a hearty, “Well HELLO!”

“Hi, Grandpa, It’s me, Kira.”

“KIRA! What can I do for you today?”

“Were you trying to get ahold of me? I missed the phone…”

“What? No, I didn’t call you. Alyce, did you call Kira? [pause] No, we didn’t call you, dear. It must have been someone else.”

“Oh.” I paused for a moment, while I contemplated for a moment whether or not there was any kind way to tell them that yes, they had called. Nope. “Ok then. Sorry to bother you.” We chatted for a moment, then said our good byes. I noticed my cell phone was making a low beep, indicating a message. I punched at the buttons and listed to my voice mail. It was Grandpa.

“Kira, dear, this is Grandpa. Could you call us? We need to ask you something. Thank you! Bye!”

I looked at the phone in my hand for a moment, then shrugged and decided to wait until they remembered their request. Three phone calls, no communication. This is the information age.

I was assembling a lunch to take with us to PE Plus when Raphi wandered into the kitchen.

“Hey there, punkin. Can you go put your socks on, please?”

“Mama, can I have a yogurt?”

“Yes, but first put on your socks.”

“But Mama. Mama. Max PUSHED me.” The memory of his mistreatment caused him some distress, and he started trying to work up a tear or two.

“I’m sorry to hear that, honey. Go put your socks on.”

He sighed and abandoned the effort to cry.

“Can I give Carmi a treat?”


He looked at me sharply.

“Are yoo talkin’ to me?”

Trying to, baby. Trying to.

I dialed into my voicemail to hear my messages, and the first voice I heard was Max. He likes to squirrel the phone away into another room and call his very own phone number. Then he can leave looooooong, dramatic messages, complete with little songs and stories. It’s like performing, but no one looks at him, you understand. Win/win.

“Hi there. This is…MARK! [wave of giggles at his deceit] I was calling…to…SING TO YOU! Ahem. Oooooold MacDonald had a farm! E I E I O! And on that farm he had a…MARK! [new storm of giggles] E I E I O! With a MARK MARK HERE [this time he dropped the phone from laughing so hard. After some time, he recovered enough to pick the phone back up] So, that’s all for today. And remember! This is MARK!”

What do you think? Imaginative quirk or cry for help?

So. Today was a full day of talking, but not what you’d call a full day of communication.

Can I tell yoo somethin'?

Raphael is my most verbal child. I don’t remember EXACTLY, but I’m pretty sure that within moments of birth he started looking around and mused, “So this is the world huh? Bright. Listen, could I get some boob over here? Huh? What’s a baby gotta do?”

Ok, maybe he didn’t talk quite that soon. But he was born with a tendency to babble, enjoying the liquid syllables falling out of his mouth. Soon enough these sounds morphed into actual language. And since then, baby, there’s been no stopping him.

He comments on the weather, he catalogues the members of the family (animals included), he recounts moments of daring action that occurred in his day (real or imagined), he retells scenes from movies he particularly enjoys.

He. Never. Shuts. Up.

The other day we were in a coffee shop. There was a woman there with a tiny floppy newborn. Raphael studied him, all squishy faced in his car seat, for a moment, then turned to me and said,

“I remember when I was a baby. I was soooo tiny. And I didn’t have any powers. That baby is drinking from a bottle. I don’t have a bottle. Can I have a bottle?”

And so on.

Now, I’ve grown accustomed to the endless torrent of words. They wash over me, and I know as long as I’m nodding and mmm-hmmm-ing occasionally and (oh dear me no) NOT talking to someone else, he’s perfectly happy to prattle on. It’s like a conversation, except he gets to do all the talking, which suits him fine.

The problem arises when Raphi decides he will now talk, but he doesn’t have anything to say.

“MAMA.” We were having dinner, and Raphael placed one hand on my arm. “MAMA. MAMA. Can I tell yoo somethin’?”

I looked at him, stifling a heavy sigh. If he’s ASKING if he can tell me something, he’s not requesting permission, he’s actually wondering.

“Sure, honey. What is it?”

“Mama. Can I tell yoo somethin’?”

“Yes. Please do.”
”Mama.” He sighed and looked all around the room for something to talk about. The pause stretched out long enough that I started to turn back to the story Mom was telling. My lack of attention caused Raphi to grip my arm tightly and holler, “BUT MAMA! I was TELLIN’ yoo SOMETHIN’! MAMA!” I looked back.

“Yes. What?”

He returned to searching the room.

“Mama? Mama. Mama.”

At this point I went entirely insane.

I’m beginning to suspect that the correct answer to “Can I tell yoo somethin’?” may very well be, “NO, APPARENTLY NOT.”

Midnight trauma

Remember Claire (our beautiful, stupid cat)? Remember how the other day she brought a dead mouse to me, in my actual bedroom? Well. Last night, deep within the dark hours of the middle of the night, so deep inside the night that time seemed irrelevant, I was awoken by the sound of Claire, playing. She was running thither and yon, scrambling over the pile of videos Raphi had stacked in my closet yesterday. She smacked into walls and thundered across the floor. She made SO MUCH RACKET that I finally dragged myself out of bed and turned on the light. There was Claire, sitting by my bed, her paw resting on…a mouse.

And not a dead one, either.

She purred.

The mouse, a tiny little rumpled thing with fur like glossy brown mink, looked at me with itsy bitsy black marble eyes and panted.

Claire batted it about eight inches across the floor, then paused to lick her left haunch. The mouse struggled to right itself again and sat there, quivering. It looked at me, at the cat, at me.

I was frozen.

I mean, there it was, an actual panting little mouse, all glossy and mink-colored. It was BREATHING THE AIR IN MY ROOM. I stared at it while Claire licked various body parts and looked smug.

Who knows how long I would have sat there if the mouse hadn’t started MOVING. It was crawling towards My. Bed. My actual under bed area was being threatened by mouse encroachment.

I knew if Minky the Mouse got under my bed I would clearly have to a) burn the house down b) die, and c) never sleep again. None of those things sounded good to me. In a panic I grabbed the closest mouse trapping object I could think of (an empty Biggie cup from Wendys), and slapped it down over the vermin. Then I slid a file folder underneath the cup (shuddering when a wisp of a black tail escaped between cup and cardboard for a moment), and picked it all up.

Now I was in a quandary. I mean, the poor little thing was injured. The HUMANE thing would have been to kill it. You know, put it out of its misery. But I couldn’t. I just simply couldn’t. I thought about it for a moment, contemplated various ways I might accomplish it, but every scenario involved the sensation of tiny little mouse bones cracking under my foot or van’s wheel (and you might not THINK I would feel that, but I would, I would). And humane or not, I couldn’t do it.

Claire looked at me, miffed that I had swiped her toy. I shooed her with my foot, and she stalked off. I’m pretty sure if she could talk she would have said, “Ok FINE. Yoo eat it.”

So what I decided to do? What I, with all my problem-solving skills and education and wisdom, decided to do? Was to carry the cup/file folder mouse trapping device downstairs, into the back yard, as far back into the yard as I could get, and FLING IT with a mighty fling AWAY AWAY AWAY from me. This was followed by me, prancing across the clammy lawn, running for my life from about half an ounce of wounded mouse.

Oh yeah, I’m a role model, I am.

This maneuver earned me a glare from my mother the next morning as I was recounting the night’s horrors. She wanted to know why I didn’t throw the mouse in the neighbor’s yard. I told her it was because that would be WRONG. And then I glowed with a holy light.

But it all worked out, because Minky was found the next day, dead (so I guess it all worked out for everyone except Minky). It was an interesting addition to the boys’ morning chore of poop patrol. They are simply unmoved by the plight of mice. But they are greatly impressed with their cat’s mighty hunting skill.

I’m HOPING that the mouse may have considered my NOT killing it an act of mercy, in its final hours. And I’m HOPING that translates into some good mousy karma for me. I don’t actually BELIEVE in karma, but hey, maybe mice do.

I’m still considering burning down the house. I’ll let you know what I decide.

A few things I just don't understand

So what is the deal with knitting, already? It seems like everyone’s doing it these days. Clue me in, people. Because I’ve WATCHED people knit, and it doesn’t seem that enthralling. I mean, I like a nubby sweater as much as the next gal, but really. Is it a euphemism? When y’all say knitting, do you really mean…like…bingeing on 3 Musketeers bars? Or playing strip dominoes? Really, what’s the draw? Why all the blogs and magazines and books? What am I missing here?


There’s this song on the radio, called Something something broken road something. Or something. Anyhow. I LIKE the song, I do. It’s very sappy and sentimental, all about how some guy’s failed romances led him to THIS place with THIS person, “This much I knoooooow is true….that God blessed the broken road….that led me straight to yooooooou.”

Ok, I admit, I sniffle. I have confessed to being an idiot, OK?

Anyhow, there’s this one line that goes something like, “Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars.”

Ahem. Northern stars? Like, say, MULTIPLE northern stars? Like say, one there, due north, and another one, I dunno, sort of to the EAST OF IT? Gah. Doesn’t the very concept of MORE THAN ONE undermine the concept of A GUIDEPOINT? I mean, it calls to mind a picture of a weather beaten sailor, taking his young son down to the docks, resting one gnarled hand on his shoulder, and saying, “See that star, son? That’s the northern star. Well, most of those stars over there are north-ish. I mean, follow THAT one and it will lead you to Canada. THAT one will take you to Greenland. But, as we say in the navigation business, whatever. It’s all fairly north, ya know?”


I hesitate to admit this, but I don’t see the wild appeal of Dooce. No, I really don’t. She’s good – really good – but there are better writers out there. Who made her one of the northern stars of blogging? Yeah, so she lost her job for her blog. Big deal. I don’t even HAVE a job.

Heh. Yeah, not as interesting, huh? Oh well.


Tonight at the climbing wall, the teenaged attendant guy gave me a LOOK because Max was barking randomly during his climb. I shrugged back at him and said, “Eh. He’s a lot of good things. Normal ain’t one of them.” And this kid, this high school aged hulking little boy, said soberly, “Well, he’s just a little KID. I mean, you shouldn’t expect too much from him.” Like *I* was the one getting all squirrelly eyeballed just because Max was barking on the climbing wall.


Speaking of things that ARE normal about Max, Raphi was looking at the ultrasound picture of Max’s heart.

“Is dat his spine?” he asked.

“No, that’s his heart.”

He peered at it intently.


“Wh…uh…because it is.”

Another sober stare.

“Nah, dat’s his spine.”

Well, that cardiologist has some explaining to do, then.

Normal, but loud.

Ok, SO! I took Max to the cardiologist today, trooped in with three boys, me and my mom. I brought her because she is a nurse, and useful when deciphering/remembering medical terminology. At least, she usually is. When I was pregnant with Max and showed her the ultrasound video of him, CLEARLY making kissy-faces and moving his hands around enchantingly in the cavernous space of my belly, she responded, “He looks like a badger.”

So. Not always spot-on, as far as medical technology. But STILL. She knows more than I.

What I knew was that I was hauling a great herd of humanity into a tiny little exam room, with the advice for patients from the latest issue of Prevention Magazine ringing in my ears. Under the heading, “Patient PLEASE!” was the advice, “Get a babysitter! ‘It’s frustrating trying to focus on a child getting a checkup when the mother is distracted by two other kids,’ says Michael Fleming, MD, board chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians.”

*cough, cough *

Yeah. Or how about I bring the two extra kids along, PLUS my mother? Yeah. Glad that works for you.

Everyone was very very nice, except the ultrasound tech, who was sort of smarmy, and earned instant dislike from Max. He demonstrated his irritation with the guy by studiously avoiding eye contact and leaning away from him as much as he could. Since he was supposed to lie still on his side while the guy took ultrasound pictures of his heart, this proved somewhat annoying to tech guy. Heh. Take that. Max suffers no smarminess.

Mom and I watched the ultrasound screen in the darkness of the room. I held a squirming Raphael and whispered to Mom,

“Do you understand what you’re seeing?” She peered at the screen and whispered back, “There seems to be a cold front moving in. And a badger.” A low, almost musical whoosh sound filled the room, the noise of his heart beating. “Ah, and whales,” Mom added.

What would I have done without her?

We trooped back to the room to wait for the doctor’s verdict. He forgot us for a while (!), but eventually made his way in to boom,

“HE’S FINE! Normal!” Apparently Max’s heart has an innocent murmur, louder than most, but entirely normal. “This is not something minor that you need to keep an eye on,” the doctor stressed, “this is NORMAL. Not a problem whatsoever. His heart is normal, but loud.”

“Huh,” I grinned at him, “normal but loud? Well, I could have told you THAT.” I shook his hand and turned to usher the kids out. The tiny little resident who was trailing the cardiologist stood at the door, watching us go.

“Good bye, Max,” she chirped as he passed her. He fixed her with a look, then dropped to all fours and proceeded to bark. (Little does she realize, this is a sign of some affection from Max.) She cocked her head at him, a bit taken aback.

“You know,” I told her happily, “there are LOTS of variations on normal.”

And we made our way out into the sunshine, entirely normal, but loud.