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February 2006
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April 2006

Man of the house

When we were looking at houses, Clay and I looked at some real dumps. We were working in a limited price range, and real estate here is…eh, you know. Impossible, just as it is everywhere except maybe Espanola, NM.

Anyhow, we ended up in some real “fixer-uppers,” and our reaction was usually the same.

Me: OH IT’S PERFECT! See how it has…um…A ROOF! And most of its WINDOWS are intact! Sure it needs a little work, but we can do that! We just need to paint! And patch those holes in the wall! And replace most…ok, all the windows! And the flooring! And buy appliances! It’s PERFECT!

Clay: And replace the roof and all the landscaping, which is right now done in mud and weeds.

Me: RIGHT! LET’S BUY IT!

Clay: I think this one may be too much work for us.

Me: BUT IT HAS FIVE BEDROOMS!

Clay: I think it’s too much work.

Me: (trying to think of some way to graciously object, as though I was going to be doing anything more than 5% of the work anyhow) Oh. Ok.

Clay: Sorry, honey. We’ll keep looking.

Me: That’s ok. (pout)

Then we found THIS house, this lovely little home on a happy little cul-de-sac. Its yard was gorgeous and perfect, and there were little boys running feral all over the neighborhood, and there was a perfect climbing tree out front, and OH I did swoon at its loveliness and perfection.

Trembling, I turned to Clay to hear his assessment of the work it needed. He walked from room to room, quietly noting the mysterious things that he notes when looking at houses.

“We’d have to put bedrooms for the boys in the basement,” he said.

“Uh huh,” I replied helpfully.

“And I need to work on the electrical panel.”

“Absolutely.”

“I don’t like that pantry in the kitchen. That’s gotta go.”

“Right. Fine.”

Finally he turned and looked at me.

“I think we can do it. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be a lot of work,” he paused, noting the silly grin on my face, “a LOT of work, but I think we can do it.”

I may have said something clever like YAY! And we were on our way to sign papers. I thought about what he said, about it being lots of work, but brushed the thought aside. I attributed it to Clay’s careful, precise nature. We’ll be FINE, I thought. No problem.

Now, today, after five weeks and five days of living here, I have something I need to say publicly to my husband.

Clay. My love. You were so right. This is hard. It’s a lot of work. I was wrong to doubt you. Today I am weak-kneed with gratitude that we didn’t buy any of those other houses. Right now you’re lying under the kitchen sink, quietly swearing at the faucet. You are my hero. There is no one I’d rather be living in this construction chaos with. We’ll get it all done eventually, but until then let this knowledge comfort you:

You were right, and I just admitted it publicly.


80% of the reason I'm posting this is because I told Clay I would and I don't think he believed me.

For the first month of our marriage Clay and I slept on a futon mattress on the floor (did I MENTION the remodeling going on around here?). It wasn’t that bad, really. I didn’t even miss having a bed at first. But on our first month anniversary enough work had been accomplished that we moved over my lovely, squishy bed, and (glorious wonders) the washer and dryer.

Oh, life was so good.

The futon mattress was moved to the living room, which is empty of furniture except one unattractive man-sized desk, two somewhat ragged but nondescript student desks, and a TV sitting in the corner on a box. Elegant, I’m telling you. However, there’s room for one folded futon mattress, so that’s where it ended up. The boys flop on it to watch TV or play GameBoy, and they clamber over it while playing.

The other day they were all playing some sort of tag/wrestling/king of the hill game on it. They were tangled up in its folds, leaping on it, tumbling off it, and shrieking with laughter. Clay and I watched the joyous mayhem from the kitchen. He slipped an arm around my waist.

“Look at that,” he commented, “they’re almost having as much fun on that as we did.”

I looked. They were breathless with glee. All of them had brown sweaty spikes of hair sticking up from their heads with the effort of their play.

“Nah,” I replied, “not quite.”


Dancing boy

When Tre was a baby he was unusually coordinated. He walked at seven and a half months. He was small for his age even then (although not really, if you consider the genes he was dealt) so he looked like a six month old baby, toddling across the floor. It was something to see. I would take him to the library and let him go, then sit back and enjoy the shocked looks from the other moms.

“He’s…HOW old?” they would quiz me.

I was a very new mother, and hadn’t had my comeuppance yet. I was rewarded with cold panic when Tre proceeded not to talk until age 2 years and 3 months. Heh. Not that I believe in karma, but it’s nothing to mess with.

As he grew larger, he grew in gracefulness. As a toddler he danced where others plodded. I watched him in amazement, unable to believe that I had given birth to this force of nature.

“Oh, he’s just like you were at that age,” my parents said, “He has the same loose connection to gravity, the same ease of motion.

I shook my head in wonder, unable to believe I’d ever looked like that. I’ve never FELT like that. His daily actions looked choreographed, and he was a tiny, magical being.

So who, then, is this great, lumbering 10 year old who lives under my roof? He has a black eye, from where he slipped and smacked himself with the handle of his scooter. One arm bears a bruise almost as long as his upper arm. He had been roughhousing with his Uncle Russ, and had careened hard against the edge of the wall. Tonight, as he inspected his arm bruise (with no small amount of pride), he laughed.

“Yeah, I did the same thing at the play-place yesterday. I just lost my balance and,” he lifted his shirt to show me a ragged-edged bruise on his back.

His ear is still a little swollen from when he tripped and fell against the edge of his desk. Often, when he sits down to a meal, he half misses the chair, and ends up thudding against the table with his shoulder.

I’m puzzled by him, by his unusual subjection to gravity. Clay tells me it’s probably not a brain tumor.

I suspect the culprit is his recent growth. The dimensions of him surprise me, as I reach out to brush his shoulder on my way past. He’s not the same scrawny boy he’s always been. His shoulders are wide and muscled, and his pants are all suddenly too short. The other day I wanted to be sure he heard something I was telling him, so I turned to him and dropped to one knee so I could look him in the eye. I found myself eye-to-belly button with him, and he was looking down at me quizzically.

So I suppose that’s it. While I’m struggling to believe the heft of him, he’s struggling to maneuver it. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I realize this is the necessary pain of growth.

I hate that. Slow down, I think at him, be careful. But he’s going to go at it, full tilt as always, like a pin ball against the world, until his balance catches up with his size.

If we can both weather the bruises, one day his feet will be his own again, and he will dance again.


Pinewood Derby

Tonight, after months of anticipation, it was finally here.

Cub Scout Pinewood Derby.

Actually, two days were shaved off the anticipation when the race was moved ON MONDAY from SATURDAY to THURSDAY!

“YAY!” said the children.

“Um…seriously?” said my beloved, who has been slaving over the NOT building of Pinewood Derby cars for the last three weeks. It’s hard work, you know, standing by as boys sand and tape and spray paint their cars. Clay, he would have had them both built in an hour and a half – two hours tops. But NO, he had to NOT build them, but rather usher Tre and Max through the building of them. It was grueling. It was down to the wire. Last night the final weights were glued in place, the last axle tapped in, and they were ready to go – about two minutes before bedtime.

There are lots of theories about the best way to build a Pinewood Derby car (um, by the way? Not made of pine at all. I’m just saying). Some people feel that the most important thing is to align the wheels perfectly, so they don’t pull in different directions, increasing the drag. Others say no, you should definitely set the wheels at an angle, so that only a part of the wheel is in contact with the track, thereby reducing the friction. Some say you should put weights in the back, others say weights absolutely need to be in the front.

They are all full of it.

The ultimate deciding factor is plain, dumb luck.

That’s the only thing I can imagine, because after watching both cars be built, and inspecting them both closely, I can’t see any reason why Tre’s lost every heat, while Max’s went on to win first place in the entire Pack. Max was called up in front of everyone to get two medals draped around his neck, one for first place in his den, then another for being Grand Champion. He was stunned. He wandered over to my mom and said,

“But…who won first place of ALL of them?”

“YOU!” she said. He gazed at his medals in disbelief, then ran over and leaped into Clay’s arms.

“Dad, THANKS for helping me build it!” Clay hugged him and said,

“Sure thing, bud. Good job!”

Tre marched over to Max and patted him on the shoulder.

“Way to go, Max. Congratulations.” He shot Clay a glance, to see if he was noticing this act of good sportsmanship. Clay reached out and palmed his head, giving him a “well done” nod.

I stood back, fiddling with the camera. Just before the race, Clay had helped the boys add the graphite lubricant to their axles. Then too I had sat back and watched, as they tipped the bottle and squeezed it to blow the tiny fragments of graphite inside the wheels. The excess rained down, sparkling in the light. I thought again, as I had then, how beautiful it was.


Internet is LIVE! and so am I!

Oh dear, I seem to have lost the habit of blogging. I’ve even slipped so far as to almost lose the ever-present blogging voice that narrates my life in my head, hoping to chance upon some interesting prose. (note: very little interesting prose has been produced by the blogging voice in my head, but it has given me more than one moment where I’ve frozen, staring off into space, paging through my mental dictionary for just the right word to describe the SPLAT of a boy’s backside in the mud puddle I JUST TOLD HIM to walk around…where was I?)

Anyhow, I’ve gotten well and truly out of the habit of blogging, and now I don’t know what to say to y’all.

You know, I think it was a good thing, actually, being without the mighty, mighty internet for the first month of marriage. I’m just now starting to get my bearings in this new life. It feels like I’ve taken a great big jump off the high dive, and the last month has been all rushing water and streaming bubbles and waves of light and sound. I’m just now getting my bearings, orienting to the surface. It’s probably for the best that I wasn’t writing here. God alone knows what I would have had to say.

Ah well. As I catch my breath and figure out how this works again, let me leave you with some random quotes from the boys.

Raphael walked up to me with his toy helicopter, a look of concern furrowing his brow.

“It doesn’t work.”

When it “worked” it made obnoxious noises and declared that it had spotted the suspect. Needless to say, my heart was not broken that it wasn’t working, and I wasn’t terribly motivated to restore it.

“Oh, I’m sorry about that. I’ll take a look at it in a little while.”

A few minutes later I found him in the kitchen, sitting on the floor, hunched over the helicopter. He’d searched out a teeny tiny screwdriver and removed the screws to the battery compartment. After fishing out three little button batteries, he’d gone through the battery drawer. He didn’t find any other button batteries, so he’d selected the closest size he could find, an AAA. He was trying to cram it into the compartment, and it was irritating him. Seeing me, he sighed and handed me the battery.

“Can you cut this off right there?” He marked an invisible line with his finger about one third of the way down the battery.

Interesting solution, but no, I informed him, I couldn’t.

“We’ll have to buy new batteries like these ones.”

I took the helicopter and placed it on the fridge where it would be safe. He shook his head sadly and said,

“Now the animals are doomed.”

Then he turned on his heel and marched away.

Tre lost a tooth a few days after the wedding, then another a few weeks after that. I told him we’d have to save the teeth until he was sleeping in his own room. Right now all three boys are sharing one small room, sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags. It’s wall-to-wall boy in there.

“I don’t think the tooth fairy would be able to…uh…FIND the tooth in that room right now. She might…uh…get lost or wake up your brothers or something.”

“Hmmm. Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Besides, it’s hard enough for the ‘tooth fairy’” – and I swear he made air quotes – “to remember in the best of times.”

Raphael was remembering one of his favorite parts of the wedding,

“I stood up front with you and I did lick Max.” He snickered at the thought and ran off to play. Max rolled his eyes at his brother.

“He can be SO IMMATURE,” he commented.

I looked at Max, whose fly was unzipped, whose upper lip still bore traces of lunch, and shirt wore traces of breakfast AND lunch. Not two minutes before he’d been in trouble for informing Tre that he was “a great big meanie-head.”

“Yes, but isn’t he adorable?” I said. Max squeezed my hand conspiratorially.

“Yeah, I guess he is.” And then he ran off to play.


It's in CAPS because it's so BIG

HI THERE! Did you MISS ME?

Well. I have been without Internet access for a MONTH now. No, REALLY. As a friend of mine commented (three weeks ago) when I told her about the lack of WWWing in our house,

“Um, what? Isn’t that kind of like saying, ‘I’m currently without blood flow to the brain’? That’s not the sort of thing that can go ON. DEAL WITH THAT.”

Well, yes. And tomorrow the pretty, pretty cable people come to our house and hook us up to the world again. I am agog at the idea of regaining contact with all of you out there. OH, blogs and comments and email, OH MY!

Heh. If they can get through all the SNOW, which is RELENTLESS out there. They’re predicting 10 inches or MORE. Of course. Because it is, after all, the first day of spring, the eve of the return of the internet, and oh yeah, my birthday. Today I am THIRTY FIVE YEARS OLD, and yes that was me shouting, wanna make something of it?

You know, I’ve never hit a birthday that bothered me…

Until today.

Thirty five…I don’t know. It stings a little, you know? It started six months ago, on Dad’s birthday. I was puttering around in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on his birthday cake (which was a dark chocolate torte that was LOVELY and would make you wish you were my father, OH MY, it was so good, yes I am modest thank you). Now, Dad’s birthday is September 20th, exactly six months from mine. Ever since I was a wee bitty girl I’ve felt very cool and connected to my daddy by the fact that his birthday was on my half birthday. Careful readers will note that I’ve been able to make any occasion be ALL ABOUT ME since I was a wee bitty girl. Anyhow.

On this September 20th in particular, I was buzzing about with dark chocolate, toasted almond, and whipping cream (so good, I’m telling you), when it hit me. I stopped dead still in the middle of the kitchen and gasped,

“I’m going to be THIRTY FIVE in six months. THIRTY FIVE. OH MY LORD.”

It just seems…um…unexpectedly old. I don’t know how it could really be unexpected, I mean, I should have noticed the trend a long time ago, and deduced where it was leading. You know, age 22 followed a year later by age 23, and so on. But there you have it. I am THIRTY FIVE.

Last night I whined to Clay a little about getting ooooolld and asked a few baldly leading and annoying questions like, “Will you still LOVE ME when I’m THIRTY FIVE?” – as though there were ANY answer to that except the right one.

Clay took me in his arms and kissed me thoroughly, and whispered, “You may be turning THIRTY FIVE, but remember, no matter how old you get…I’ll always be older than you.”

He says the sweetest things, doesn’t he?

So there you go! Wish me a happy birthday, tell me something to make THIRTY FIVE seem young and vibrant and sexy, and join with me in the fervent hope that tomorrow I will be returning to regular blogging.

Happy Spring!


The Wedding Entry (long)

We stood in front of the church, our kids clustered around us. The plan had been for Max and Tre to stand on one side and Raphael to stand with Jennie on the other side of us, but when the moment arrived, Raphael pressed in between us, Max darted over to my elbow, Tre leaned in next to Clay, and Jennie peered around Max. So we exchanged vows, smiling at each other over the heads of our kids, which is what we do.

In the Name of God, I, Kira, take you, Clay, to be my husband,

I’ve heard the words many times before, at other weddings, but as I heard them and then said them, they resonated.

To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health,

You know how a glass sounds when you run a wet finger around its rim? The vibrations start too low to be heard at first, and then build until a clear, high note sounds above the back ground noise of a room. Above the cacophony of the wedding day the meaning shimmered.

To love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.

Then we exchanged rings. I held his hand in mine, looked at its nicks and scars, and gave him his ring and my promise.

Clay, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am,

And all that I have,

I had to catch my breath.

I honor you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

There are moments when what is true, what is precious, what is real, sings out above all the rest.

The rest of the wedding day, and much of the week that followed is something of a blur, but here is some of what I remember.

The morning before the wedding I took Jennie and Kate (Clay’s niece) to get their hair done with me. The girls, both 13, looked beautiful with their hair pinned carefully up. Kate, ever the individual, chose a slightly spiky ‘do, while Jennie chose softer, feminine curls. Then, once we were all breathtakingly beautiful (no, I am not so delusional to think I could eclipse the dewy gorgeousness of two 13 year old girls. I was glowing with bridal joy, which just barely made me visible in their presence), we headed out.

“You know,” Jennie mused, “something needs to happen, to make this a real wedding. Some sort of…disaster! One that’s not all THAT bad, but gives everyone something to talk about. Like…like your van breaking down!” I shuddered and patted the dashboard of the van.

“She DIDN’T MEAN IT,” I reassured the van (whose name is AfterLucy).

I dropped the girls off at Kate’s house and went on my way home.

Five minutes later smoke was billowing out from underneath the hood of AfterLucy, and the heat gage needle was creeping relentlessly toward “too freaking hot for words.”

I pulled over and called my dad, who fetched me from the gas station. The next time I saw Jennie I took her by the arms, looked into her face, and implored her to THINK GOOD THOUGHTS.

She must have, because the rest of the day flowed by as though scripted. (And AfterLucy, by the way, is fine. Radiator cap, some sort of belt issue, blah blah blah. Dad fixed it before Sunday was over. Thank God. Thanks, Dad.)

Before the ceremony I stood at the back of the church, in a little room. There was a window with blinds covering it, and I kept peeking through the slats as people filed in. Over and over again I saw people arrive and tears came to my eyes to see how many of my favorite souls were there.

Then it was time to walk down the aisle, and Dad came to stand behind me. As we waited for our cue, I couldn’t help remembering the last time he walked me down the aisle.

“Dad?” I whispered as we reached the end. He leaned in to hear what tender words I had for him. “Dad, you’re standing on my dress.”

This day I took his arm and said softly,

“Dad? Thank you. Thank you for taking me back, and thank you for giving me up again.” He teared up and squeezed my hand.

“Oh, don’t start that NOW,” he chided.

“But Dad? You’re standing on my dress again.”

We laughed, and he shifted his foot.

“Huh. Some things never change.”

After the ceremony Clay and I waited in the same room I’d been in before the ceremony. We were going to take pictures, but wanted to wait until the sanctuary cleared a bit. Clay sat down and I sat on his lap.Clay_and_kira_after_the_wedding

“Well. Hi there, husband,” I grinned.

“Hi yourself, wife.”

Tre walked up to us and leaned in, not quite embracing us (he being far too old and casual for that), but just happening to brush up against our arms. He looked from face to face.

“Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad.” He grinned helplessly. We grinned back, and Clay palmed his head.

“Hi there, Son.”

“Hi, Dad!” Max elbowed in for his turn.

“Hi, Son.”

“HI, DAD!” Raphael bellowed his first try at the word.

“Hi, Son.”

They pressed in around us and soaked it in. From the middle of this knot of new family, Clay wordlessly squeezed my waist, and I nodded back.

All day long, during the ceremony and reception, one of my strongest impressions is the vision of faces turned to us. People who love us and are loved by us, shining at us as they shared our joy.

The reception was raucous, with food that I barely touched, dancing, and so many people I didn’t get to talk to. Over and over again I said, “Oh, thank you so much for coming, thank you for coming, thank you for being here.”

I meant it. I was grateful for each person there.

Mom said later that there seemed to be two parties going on at the reception. The adults mingled and danced and ate, and then lower down, just below elbow level, a horde of kids roamed, enjoying their own celebration.

In minutes, it seemed, the day was over, and it was time for us to go. I slipped into the back room to change, and came out again to look for Clay. People talked to me as I made my way through the room, but I only half listened, searching him out. This is how it will be from now on, I thought, each of us looking out for the other.

Connie, Clay’s mom, hugged me as we made our way to the door.

“I love you,” she said, and tears filled my eyes.

“I love you too,” I whispered.

In the sudden quiet of the car, I was struck dumb.

“Are you ok?” Clay asked.

“Yeah. I…I just feel a little shy all of a sudden.”

“Oh. No need to be shy, you know. It’s just me,” he took my hand and kissed it, “your husband.”

In the deepest middle of the night I awoke with a start, shocked to find a man sleeping next to me. I half sat up, heart pounding, disoriented and panicky.

The smell of his skin came to me first and I slowly reassembled my wits. I curled back into his arms. I thought about how every night as I drift off to sleep I’m grateful again not to be pregnant, so I can sleep on my stomach, and wondered how long the warmth of my husband next to me will be a revelation.

Sunday afternoon he carried me across the threshold of our new house. Tuesday we found the key, still in the front door.

Sunday night found us working in our new kitchen. Clay taught me to use a jigsaw and a sawzall (no idea how that’s spelled), and pretended not to notice how badly I used them. I wore his sweats and a coating of sawdust and yes, it was very, very sexy.

Late that evening his brother Russ called. Their aunt Joyce, who had been sick for a long time, had passed away.

“Ok,” said Clay, “I understand. Thanks for calling.”

He hung up and stood there, silent. I wrapped my arms around him and he hugged me back and smelled my hair.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

He smelled my hair.

Monday afternoon, after parent/teacher conferences, we picked up the boys at my parent’s house and took them out for dinner. We were a gleeful bunch, grinning at each other all night long. I reached out for each of the boys, petting their hair, relishing their presence. They were turned like sunflowers to the Dad-ness of Clay, and he was just as warmed by them.

At one point Max got up to go to the bathroom. While he was there, Clay left the table to get more napkins or refill a drink or something. Max returned to the table, his eyes shining, his mouth already forming an excited sentence. When he saw that Clay wasn’t at the table, his shoulders sagged. The light went out in his eyes, and he said in a monotone,

“Oh. Did he leave?”

My heart broke, but I just shook my head and pointed over his shoulder.

“See? He’s right there.”

Max turned to look, and caught a shaky breath.

“Oh. Ok then.”

Monday night, while we were in the middle of working on the floor in the kitchen, I wandered away. I was overcome by all the emotions of the week, and I sat quietly in the living room, settling my heart. Clay found me after a while, and sat down next to me, in the dark.

“What’s wrong?” I shook my head, but his voice brought tears to my eyes. “Is it the house? Are you upset by how much work there is to be done?”

“Oh no,” I leaned against his shoulder, “no, not at all. It’s just all been so much. So much happiness and excitement and change. I’m just a little raw at the heart.” He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close. I leaked tears into his t-shirt.

Tuesday Mom and Dad took the boys for a small vacation, a train ride into the mountains. Tuesday night we spoke to the boys on the phone. When we hung up I cried.

Wednesday night we spoke to the boys on the phone. When we hung up I cried.

Thursday night they were on their way back, and called from the train. There was a train in front of them, awaiting repairs, delaying their arrival. They would be there soon. We hung up and I cried.

An hour later they burst in the front door, the final touches on the chaos of the construction site that is now home. They barreled into my arms for a hug, then into Clay’s arm. I smelled their hair and cried.

We settled them in to sleep, in sleeping bags on the floor. As we said prayers they peeked at Clay and subtly moved closer to him. He passed out good night hugs and kisses, and as we stood at the door, listening to them call out, “Goodnight Dad! Goodnight Mom!” I thought I may never in my life have been that happy. I breathed it in and tried to memorize the moment, certain that such a perfect one wouldn’t come again in a very long time.

Friday morning we took the boys to stay with my mom and drove up to

Wyoming

for Clay’s aunt Joyce’s memorial service. We got there late, so we sat in the back. When we went up for a blessing during communion, we walked past Clay’s parents and brothers. Clay’s mom Connie (Joyce’s sister), was quietly weeping, the kind of tears that don’t quite stop all day. Larry, Clay’s dad, had his arm around her shoulder. When they saw us, they reached out for us, grasping our hands, motioning for us to sit near them. We did, and I peeked around me, at Clay’s family, my family. They were red-eyed and somber with the work of grieving their beloved Joyce. I listened to a young woman singing,

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.


No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder. There are moments when what is true, what is precious, what is real, sings out above all the rest.