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March 2006
Next month:
May 2006


It was evening and I was cycling boys through the bath. Raphael had just gotten out of the tub and was in the process of meditating next to his jammies. It takes longer for that boy to get dressed than for the process of erosion to create major land forms, I swear. Max was shucking his clothing (everywhere) and heading for the bath, when Tre came stomping in through the garage.

“MAX! Come out here!” he bellowed.

“He’s in the bath,” I replied, “what do you need?”

He gestured at a small knot of kids standing in the street in front of our house.

“There’s a girl out there who doesn’t believe I’m ten. I want Max to come tell her I am.”

“Want me to tell her?”

He looked at me with alarm.

“NO! I mean, that’s ok.” He ran back out the front, slamming the screen door (again). I stood to the side of the door, where I couldn’t be seen, and watched.

Tre is short. He is, after all, my son. I am almost 5’2”. His biological dad is 5’7” – and he’s the tallest person in his family. Tre falls in the 5th to 10th percentile on those brutal height charts. He always has, and I suspect he always will. And that’s ok, because there are lots of wonderful people down here, close to the ground. There’s plenty of oxygen where we are, you know. If the room is filling with smoke.

Ok, so I’m anxious for him. I don’t want him to hurt, ever. And I suspect this is going to be one of those things, the facts of his life that he smacks up against.

I stood there, looking out through the crack between the door and the frame. Silly me, offering to go talk to actual kids around him. He’d rather they think he’s younger than ten than to know he has a mother. He walked up to the group, swaggered with the tough-kid strut he’s taken on recently. I couldn’t hear what was said, but I saw the girls laugh and turn away.

Girls suck.

I remember how mean we can be.

There was another boy in the group, and I saw him and Tre share a shrug. They turned and walked off in the other direction. What can I do, I thought, to help here? How can I make this easier? What can I say?


There’s nothing I can do. I watched Tre saunter through the late afternoon stripes of sun and shade. I couldn’t tell if it bothered him or not, and I knew he wouldn’t tell me if it did. He seems to have handled those girls fine anyhow. I sighed and leaned against the wall. I know I have to let him figure out this stuff on his own, but the truth is he’s not really on his own. I’m still here, quietly watching, anticipating his hurt.

I just can’t do anything to help.

A good bad dream

Max has nightmares. I’ve mentioned this before. It is as much a fact of whom he is as his wavy brown hair or his irresistible laugh. His dreams are haunted by loss and loneliness. They are always the same story, played out in different places.

“We were walking along a cliff, and then a rock broke off and Raphael fell and I couldn’t catch him.”

“I was playing with Tre and Raphi and when we came inside you were gone, and we looked in the back yard, but the neighbor said you left and we sat down and we cried.”

It’s always the same, some story of a person being swept away. He appears in the middle of the night, crawls in bed next to me, dripping hot tears on my arm as he chokes out the memory of the dream.

Recently he climbed in bed with me, sobbing, in the pale light of early morning. Clay had already left for work, and after a moment of searching for him among the blankets, Max burrowed in next to me and told me his dream.

“We were swimming and there was a shark and it ate Tre.” He pushed his face against the fabric of my nightgown and leaked tears onto my shoulder. I smoothed his hair and whispered comfort as I always do, then I found myself saying something I’ve never said before.

“Honey, do you think you dream about people going away from you because your biological dad left?” This is new, this term “biological dad.” Now that Clay is called “Dad,” we needed a name for him. The other. The biological dad.

Max took a deep breath, then nodded.

“Maybe,” he said. “Yes.”

The room was still as it is when the silent truth has been spoken aloud. I didn’t know what to say.

“I’m sorry you’re sad.”

He nodded again.

“But you know what, Mom?” He tipped his head back to look at me. “I don’t think my real dad will leave me.”

Real dad. I smiled.

“Me either, baby.”

The other morning Max stomped into my room, scowling.

“What’s that face about, sweetie?” I mumbled, trying not to scowl at the early morning myself.

“I had the same stupid bad dream over and over and over again ALL NIGHT.”

“Oh, that’s annoying. What was it?”

“My sleeping bag was hanging on the wall? And whenever someone said ATTACK it flopped down on them and attacked them. Then we’d have to put it back on the wall…it was ANNOYING.”

Annoying, I’m sure, but…I caught my breath…no one was lost.

My yiddle boy

Raphael is heartlessly intending to turn five in about a month and a half. I can’t bear it. He is right now my very favorite age, all preschool imagination and self-importance. But soon he’ll cross that line into school aged, and although I’ll still adore him, I will miss interactions such as this:

This morning Raphael took roughly a million sheets of paper out of the printer and cut them up into a snow bank of itty bitty paper bits. He was forming small diamonds of paper that could be folded in half and held between his lips to form a beak. He made great big old bird beaks (handed to me with a smile) and little tiny baby bird beaks. All morning long he randomly appeared at my elbow, paper beak rapidly softening in his mouth, and cheeped happily.

“Oh, is this my baby bird?” I asked. He nodded hard and cheeped louder. “Do you want some yummy worms?” Big nod. I pretended to drop worms in his beak, and he snapped them up.

“Do you know what some Mom birds do for their babies?” I asked. “They go flying around to find yummy bugs and worms and they eat them. Then they go back to their nest and their babies open their beaks,” Raphael tipped his head back and held his lips open, so the beak would gape, “right, like that. And the mama bird puts her beak in the baby beak and throws up the yummy food in their mouths.” I had sort of hoped to induce that’s so gross laughter, the most sincere kind, but he just nodded thoughtfully and snatched the beak out of his mouth so he could speak.

“Mom? Mom? You know those dinosaurs that fly? With all the teeth and wings that look like bats, only –“ he waved his arms to demonstrate LARGENESS, “– only BIGGER? They do bring yiddle* dinosaurs and throw them up for their babies to eat.” I started to say something, but he hastily added, “But of course not anymore, because they are all extinct. Can I have some cake?”

And he stuck the beak back in his mouth and hopped away.

*yiddle is one of Raphael’s few remaining mispronounced words. Whenever Tre or Max notice that he still says yiddle instead of little, they reminisce about the time he “ate a yiddle bug.” The first time he says “little” my heart will break.

Finding the right truth to tell

I’m frequently amazed, as I’m reading what people have to say on their blogs, at how forthright many are about their lives. People write about the problems they’re having with their kids, intimate details of their marriages, their medical histories. I don’t say that to judge anyone, it’s just not my style. For instance, I read a blog the other day where a woman spoke frankly about her problems with IBS. And while I have nothing but admiration for her ability to be so open about something that people struggle with mostly in silence, I couldn’t do it. As a matter of fact, I have this urge RIGHT NOW to assure you that I, personally, don’t have IBS. Which is not the point.

I have, at times, been more self-revealing here than I would have expected when I started this journey. However, I am careful. People I know in real life read this. I strive to reflect reality, but with discretion. The truth, and nothing but the truth, but not perhaps the WHOLE truth. There are moments to close to the heart to publish.

This past week has been a hard one, for reasons I’m just not going to go into. Some of it’s not my story to tell, and some of it…I’m none of your business. I can’t. Everyone is ok, there is no great catastrophe, but I am wearied and sad.

So what can I say? What should I tell you?

A few days ago the weather was so warm that I ran the air conditioner as I drove around town. Flowers were blooming everywhere, weeds popping up in the cracks of sidewalks.

“It feels like summer!” the boys declared. I eyed the sky suspiciously and said,

“No…not quite. It feels like spring.”

Spring cannot be trusted.

Last night it snowed, and we awoke to a layer of white pressing down everything green. It wasn’t much snow, maybe an inch, but it came with air so cold that it didn’t melt off until midday. This evening I took Carmi out for a walk, and I looked at the tulips and iris by our mailbox. Two days ago they were glossy and crayon bright. They stood proudly in the sun. Tonight they slumped against the mailbox post, their color dulled. They will survive, but they look bruised by the cold.

That is how I feel tonight. Limp and dull. I will look in on the boys as they sleep, feeding my heart with the sight of them, then go to bed, curled against the warmth of my husband. I hope to wake to a sunnier day.

And that is the truth.

What a weekend!

WHOO, what a party that was, huh? I am gratified and thrilled by y’all’s response. And I think I answered everyone! I did, didn’t I? My email program did a weird thing yesterday and randomly shunted a whole batch of emails off in some new file. It likes to do things like that to amuse itself. Evil thing.

But anyhow, I had a fabulous time with all your comments. I felt like I was spending my weekend with all of you. Did you know Mary Jo got married? And Lisa’s family had a stomach virus? Did you know Wendy is a smart ass, and I’m not the first person to tell her so? Tracy gave me good advice on rabbits as pets (Max longs for a pet rabbit, but the jury’s still out). Sheryl is trying to figure out what to plant, a dillema that sets my gardener's pulse to racing. Arwen is busy gestating this weekend, and I told her I think she's having a boy. It was Kim’s anniversary this weekend, and she had to work, poor pumpkin. Lots of you had to work, and you made me TIRED with all your plans. My mom was working nights this weekend and was very cute, the way she typed her own email address in wrong. (NAP, MOM. NAP.) I loved everyone’s jokes, but Catherine left my new favorite joke of all time. In return, here’s one of my former favorite jokes of all time (yes. I am joke fickle. Shocking, but true):

Two cows are standing in a field and one says to the other one, “So, are you worried about this mad cow stuff?” The other one says calmly, “What do I care? I’m a helicopter.”

So thanks to ALL OF YOU, for spending the weekend with me. Clay should be home in…three hours or so (not that I’m counting). The weekend was a little challenging for the boys, who were pretty anxious about Clay being gone. I think in the long run it will be good for them. They’ll learn that he comes back. But Saturday morning I seriously longed for a good set of tranquilizer darts, because they were making me crazy with their anxious anxiety anxiousness. In general my boys seem to express their fears with sincere attempts to make each other INSANE WITH RAGE. Heh. Good times.

But we all survived, and even had some lovely moments. We went to the library, and flew kites in the park. In an inexplicable moment of insanity Mom and I decided to take them to Chuck-E-Cheese’s today, and that was…um…good too.

So thank you, bless you, and I’ll see you all in the comments!

Weekend Challenge

So, Clay’s out of town for the weekend, but…sigh…that’s ok, because I’ve got my weekend all planned. I am, after all, an adult. Perfectly capable of performing the single mom gig with grace and joy. So far my plans are:

1 - Get up early Saturday to go have blood drawn for a cholesterol test, and

2 – Come home, change into Clay’s shirt and pad around the house, sniffing the fabric that last touched his neck and singing maudlin love songs.


So, to break up the…um…joy around here, you should leave me a comment. Tell me your favorite joke. Tell me what you’re doing this weekend. Tell me if you think I should plant potatoes or not. Whatever. I have a new POLICY, you see. I respond to ALL COMMENTS by email. Go ahead, try me. See if I don’t.

I’ll be over here, wearing the extra large grey t-shirt and singing something about “Nothing compares 2 U….”

Just an observation...that is all.

The boys and I were out and about when lunchtime unexpectedly hit. I mulled over the odds of going home for lunch and arriving there alive when the boys started agitating to get Burger King. I hate Burger King with a passion, and I wanted to try the new Asian salad from McD’s. It’s been soooooo long since I’ve said I wanted to try anything at the dreaded golden arches. Rather than directly reject BK I started casually musing aloud about how much I wanted to try this new salad, and how much more likely I would be to take them out if everyone agreed with me about where we could go, and in the face of any dissent I would be much more apt to drive straight home for pb&j’s and something healthy like carrots…

I drove along, peacefully musing until the fury in the van died down and was replaced with a happy chorus of, “We’d LOVE to go to McDonalds, Mom!”

And so we did.

I wanted this particular salad for lunch on this particular day because I am having my cholesterol checked soon. Ahem. For the first time in…uh…sixteen years? I announced to Clay the other day that I intended to eat little but oatmeal and apples until the blood was drawn and he looked confused.

“Why? Shouldn’t you just eat what you normally eat? You’ll get a more accurate result that way.”


Accurate result! As though I want the TRUTH about my body! How cute is he?

Anyhow, I got the salad, and it was good. If you like, here’s my official review: I enjoyed the edamame, the dressing was nice, waaaay too much iceberg lettuce (I mean, really. Why bother? I can’t bring myself to even put forth the effort to chew the stuff), and I’ve never…exactly…touched a red bell pepper that was…um…THAT TEXTURE. All in all, though, good enough for me to pick out the peppers and flick them aside and enjoy the rest of it with gusto. Tastes a lot like Wendy’s Mandarin Chicken Salad, which has raised my ire the last few times I ordered it by being water-logged. Ew. Water-logged lettuce is almost as wrong as those red bell peppers.

So! The boys and I settled in with our respective lunches. Incidentally, snitched french fries don’t show up on cholesterol tests, do they? I’m pretty sure they don’t.

As we ate and chatted, a woman walked back and forth behind us. I glanced back to see what she was doing. She held a gorgeous smushy baby boy in her arms and was anxiously watching her little girl climb up the steps into the play place.
”Is it her first time up?” I asked.

“Yes, and I’m not sure she’s ready…but she’s so EXCITED.” We chatted for a moment and exchanged children’s ages. The baby (five months) grinned and grinned at me, finally leaning over to fix me with a cocked-head dimpled smile and let loose a rope of drool. I smiled back, helplessly. I considered telling the mom I would hold her baby if she wanted me to when her daughter got stuck, but thought it might make her nervous.

A few minutes later she came back to our table.

“I’m sorry, I know I don’t know you all that well, but-“

I held my hands out for the baby.

“I’ve got him!” She handed him off and apologized,

“It’s just that my daughter is stuck-“

“Don’t worry! Go get her!”

She crawled into the innards of the play place.

The baby, a uniquely happy child, craned around to look at me. I smiled. He smiled back. I bounced him lightly in my arms. He felt so soft and light. He chortled and spit up a little. I mopped his chin and stole a whiff of his neck. Max looked up from his chicken strips and was startled.

“MOM? What are you doing holding that baby?”

“I’m holding him for his mom. His big sister is stuck in the play place.”

Baby thought that was funny. He laughed, and I laughed back, and Max joined in.

There isn’t much I know for sure…less and less as the days go by, it seems…but I know this: McDonald’s salads are pretty good and sort of worth the price, and babies are entirely good and worth any price.

...up to the highest height

Mom and Dad gave the boys kites for Easter. These aren’t cheap kites from the local megastore either. They’re gorgeous play-dough colored sturdy creations from a proper kite store. Tre’s is a large abstract design in brilliant jewel tones against a black triangle.  Max’s is a frog, with feet for streamers, and Raphael’s is a small diamond shape with a purple dinosaur.

This morning, in the lull between breakfast and school, Max asked if he could go outside and fly his kite. I wasn’t sure he’d be able to actually get it aloft, but I told him to go ahead and try.

A few minutes later I glanced outside to see Max leaning back, gleefully pulling against a taut kite string. I swiveled my head to look up…

And up…

And up….

The kite seemed like it was miles high. Bright green frog against the brilliant blue Colorado sky. Tre and Raphael hopped around him. Tre shouted helpful suggestions and Raphael hooted his praise.

Max slowly reeled out his kite string and grinned up at the sky. The frog’s feet streamers flapped gently in the breeze, as if waving at my boy.

I watched him enjoy his success and reminded myself again to give them the room to surprise me. They are, every day, more capable than I’m ready for.

It is a privilege to watch them fly.

About ten minutes later Tre came in, very excited. He’d been helping Raphael get his kite up, and had crossed lines with Max. The frog had crashed into a neighbor’s yard, and no one was home at that house. No one except for a dog, who they were certain was eating the kite.

I took a step ladder over to the neighbor’s fence and climbed up. Below me was the kite, snagged on a stack of firewood. A pudgy little white dog yapped and yapped and yapped at me, panicked. I gently tugged the kite free and looked down at Max. He was standing by the fence, staring up, his face pinched with fierce hope. I tossed the kite down to him and he caught it in a hug that endangered it more than the dog ever had.

“THANK YOU, Mom,” he breathed.

It is also nice to still be needed sometimes.

Medical research

Today I took the boys in to the pediatrician for their annual fuel check and tire rotation. THAT is always fun. Three boys, keyed up by the odd atmosphere and the novelty of peeing in a cup, shut up in a small room. Nothing to entertain them but toys for infants or old magazines or HEY! Annoying their brothers! YAY!

Gah. Am old and weary tonight.


We got through the exams, I think I remembered all my questions, and it was time for the shots.


You know, I’m on board with immunizations. I know there are people who are convinced they are the source of all evil, and I’m sorry for their angst over it. I’ve done my research on the subject and have come up with the following conclusion:

Man, that’s a lot of information out there. Hmm. Wish I had a medical degree. OH WAIT! LOOKEE HERE! A DOCTOR!

So yeah, I hand over my kids for the evil evil shots whenever the doctor says it’s time, and I’m such a horrible mother that I don’t even keep track of what they are going to get. My concern is needles.

“So Tre needs his tetanus booster, and his second Hepatitis A,” the doctor started to explain. I held up my hand to stop him.

“How many needles?”

“Uh…three. And one stick in the finger. We need a small blood sample.”

“Ok, doc. Bring it on.”

My boys are sturdy souls, and take a needle well. The tally came up to this: One needle and one finger stick for Max, three needles and one finger stick for Tre, and FOUR needles, for the luvapete, for Raphael.

Tre went first, and the only evidence that he was nervous is that he roooooolllled his eyes and acquiesced when the nurse suggested he sit on my lap. But then he sat there, perfectly still, and announced he hardly felt the shots at all. I don’t see how that can be true, because I felt the needles, and they didn’t POP through my skin. But that’s his story. He accepted the Joe Cool Band-Aids and flexed his arms to demonstrate his indomitable strength that neither needle nor mother’s lap can diminish.

Then it was Max’s turn, and he naturally had to follow Tre’s lead. He sniffed and shrugged when he was done, and asked the nurse to check and make sure there weren’t any other shots there for him. You know, while he was there. She assured him he was good, and he hopped off my lap.

Then Raphael. He had the most shots, four in all. His scrawny little arms don’t have the meat necessary to support such assaults, so we pulled down his pants to expose his hammy thighs.

One shot. He glared intently at the syringe as it did its job, then nodded when it was pulled back.

Second shot.

Slight flinch, glare, nod.

We switched to the right leg. Third shot.

Flinch, glare, nod.

Fourth shot.

Flinch, glare, sharp intake of breath.

“I know, baby,” said the nurse, “this one really burns, doesn’t it? Alllllmost done. I’m so sorry…”

She pulled back her hand and slipped the last Band-Aid in place. Raphael turned, buried his face in my chest, and wept. His brothers crowded around and patted him, telling him how brave he was.

“Now you get a sticker!” Tre said.

“You did great, Raphael!” Max added.

“What a brave trooper!” the nurse chimed in.

Raphael ignored them all and clung to me and keened in pain and distress. I rubbed his back and rocked him and whispered in his hair and waited for the hurt to subside. Eventually it did, and he slid shakily off my lap.

Tonight he prayed,

“Dear God, thank you for us going to the doctor, and I pray that you can stop us from going to the doctor any more.”

I’ve decided those anti-immunization people are definitely on to something.

The antidote for the facts

This morning I was driving and thinking. Thinking about my friend, who had just told me she’d miscarried over the weekend. I drove and looked at the sun on the fields and thought of her tears, spilling out of her eyes as she said, “There’s no one to be mad at, no one to blame. It’s just sad. Just nothing but sad.”

I looked at the sun, and the fields, warming to green, and agreed and felt nothing but sad.

My phone rang. It was Mom, telling me about some relatives of ours. After twenty five years of marriage their relationship is being shredded. He is drinking and cheating and brutally using the vulnerability he took twenty five years to earn from her.

I always respond when someone speaks, it’s one of my character flaws. If I have nothing worth saying, my mouth opens and something inane pops out. Then as I speak I’m thinking, shut up shut up Kira, just shut up.

This time, although I willed myself to speak, I was mute. I wanted to say something, to comfort Mom, who aches for this couple, but I couldn’t. I was reliving the feel of being that wife, of bracing myself for the blow I couldn’t stop.

This couple, he is my blood relative. But I shook off my trance with a flush of rage and thought of her. As far as I’m concerned, she is my family. And now part of the same club.

I thought I might throw up.

I stopped in to see Mom, and then went on my way. I had planned to spend the day writing thank you notes from the wedding. It’s time, it’s so past time, and I’m tired of it hanging over my head and feeling guilty about it. My plan was to devote my entire child-free day to thank you notes.

Now I wasn’t sure I was up to it. I drove around, somewhat aimlessly. Eventually I ended up at the library. I hauled my thank you cards and lists of people to thank inside and found a small table upstairs. I didn’t know what else to do.

I set my things out around me, then stared past them out the window. After a while I got to work. Thank you so much, I wrote, for the napkins. The plates, the cups, the book, the recipe. Thank you so much, thank you. I love it, thank you. Thank you for coming, thank you for writing, thank you thank you thank you.

As I wrote, I pictured the faces of all these people, looking on with joy during the bridal shower, the wedding. Thank you, I wrote, tears dripping on my hands, on the table, on a few cards. Thank you.

Sometimes I stopped, stared out the window, and the sadness and anger washed over me again. But then I turned back, away from the unyielding facts of the world, back to my gratitude for the moments when people chose to give and to love.