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Love Thursday

Karen thought it up, and so here is my contribution (just under the wire) to Love Thursday.

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I don't think Tre knows just how much Raphael adores his big brother.

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Sometimes it's hard to find just the right words.

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I don't think any of them realize how much a part of each other they are.

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Or how much they share.

But I guess that's ok...

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...because I'm not sure any one of us can see all the love around us.


Did I ever mention the TALKING?

Tre and Max spent the day at my mom’s work today, participating in a program they had for the kids. Mom called last week to tell me about it, and to be honest, I wasn’t all that clear what it was about. I mean, a kid’s program at a nursing home? All day?

But hey, I’m all about the free childcare educational opportunities, so I said, “Heck, yeah, they can go!”

It turned out to be a chance for them to meet the residents, learn about physical therapy (Tre got a section of exercise band, which is greatly coveted by the under 12 set in the house. Max got one too, but promptly lost it), and how to take someone’s blood pressure and blood oxygen levels. They got to do crafts and eat lots of chips and watch mildly inappropriate movies. Good times.

However, Raphael was too young to attend.

Ahem.

Have I mentioned how well Raphael does when his brothers aren’t around?

Actually, it was a lovely day. We went to the zoo, and for once Raphael was uninterrupted and unimpeded in the following of his whim. The only dark spot on the day was when he realized he was hungry, and that I wasn’t going to give him cotton candy for lunch, EVEN THOUGH the cotton candy stand was RIGHT THERE, and instead we had to march halfway across the zoo, him stomping along in stony silence and holding up one rigid hand whenever I tried to point out an interesting animal.

But for the REST of the time he talked and chattered and gabbed and conversed, and when that got old, talked some more. Here are some quotes from the day:

A little girl was admiring a cheetah, which was stretched out languidly to catch a full tummy-length of sun.

“Oooo,” cooed the little girl, “it looks so soft! I wish I could pet it!”

Raphael held up one admonishing finger.

“You might want to THINK ABOUT THAT,” he said in a world-weary tone, “because, you know,” he pointed at the cheetah, “carnivore.”

Peering at a bronze statue of two scorpions, fighting,

“I bet…I bet scorpions taste like my skin.”

I took him into the small petting zoo, to look at the pygmy goats and some other sort of goats and a small, scurrying tortoise.

“You can pet the goats softly on the SIDE or the BACK,” explained the attendant.

Raphael looked alarmed and glared at the goats, who were tussling over some hay.

“NO, I think YOU can pet the goats on the side or the back.”

A woman leaned in to get a closer look at a huge snapping turtle, calling to her daughter,

“Oh, honey, come look at the tortoise!”

“It is a GIANT SNAPPING TURTLE,” corrected Raphael, “And if you can’t read the signs, ask my mom to help you.”

But then the day was over, and we went back to pick up Tre and Max. They were full of stories to tell, and Raphael was so overcome by seeing them again that he hugged them tight then punched one and head-butted the other in the stomach.

There are still some joys that he can’t quite find the words for.


Twelve miles - side affects may vary

Please excuse me from the expectation of sensibleness. At least for today. Remember last year – the half marathon? Well, it’s just about that time again, and Amy and I walked twelve miles today as we pressed on through our training schedule to prepare.

Incidentally, if you are planning to make the leap from “fairly sluggishly tired mom person who is known to occasionally nearly hurt herself, trying to beat her son in a race” to “extremely tired mom who could damn well walk a little over thirteen miles if she had to,” well, I recommend you get yourself an Amy. Amy does all our research. (hahahahahaha! I just tried to spell research as “reasurch”! HAHAHAHAHA! AM FUNNY! AND TIRED!) She plots out our training schedule. We try to meet every Saturday for our long training walk, and most mornings I show up, all happy and energetic, like a puppy, saying, “So! How far are we walking today?” And she always knows, because she keeps track, and I never do, even though she emailed me the training schedule weeks ago. Plus, she has a pedometer, which is really cool. And THEN! At the end of however many miles we have just walked, she usually has some sort of smoothies waiting for us in a cooler in her car. I never ASK her to feed me after the walk, but there I am, stretching out by the car, and thinking idly, wow, am I hungry, and then she hands me a cool, refreshing smoothie and I love her all over again. And I love the smoothie. A lot. SO! IF YOU WANT TO TRAIN to walk a half marathon step one is FIND THYSELF AN AMY.

She is also excellent company if you happen to be spending three and a half hours walking. You really want a good conversationalist along for that sort of thing, because walking is kind of boring. So step one is actually FIND YOUR OWN AMY, BECAUSE THIS ONE IS TAKEN.

ANYHOW! My day went like this: morning was a maelstrom of snapping at the children’s heels to get them in the van on time. Two – TWO of my sons have viciously decided that they wish to pack a lunch for Monday school, thereby forcing me to find things like peanut butter and baby carrots that are destined to be thrown away – all before the hour of 8:00 AM, which is bitter beyond words.

Am not a morning person.

So! The children were successfully bullied into the car, I flung them at their school, and was off for the walk.

Did I mention? Twelve miles? That may not sound like all that much to you, but I’m afraid you’ll have to indulge me here. TWELVE. I am very impressed with myself.

The TWELVE miles broke down something like this:

Mile 0 through 1 – talk talk talk talk talk!

Kira: THIS IS GREAT!

Amy: YES!

Mile 1 through 4 – talk talk talk talk!

Kira: I have to pee.

Amy: I’m sorry. We’re almost to the port-a-potty.

Kira: Right. Good. Did I mention I have to pee?

Amy: Mmm-hmm.

Kira: Because I do. Have to pee, that is.

Mile 4 through 6 - talk talk talk talk talk!

Kira: Should we turn around now? How about now? Is it time now?

Amy: sigh.

Kira: Now?

Mile 6 through 10 – Talk! Talk! Talk!

Kira: Wow…um…are we there now?

Amy: Not quite.

Kira: Like…soon?

Amy: Sort of.

Kira: How soon?

Amy: LOOK! SOMETHING SHINY! (Actually, what she said was “Is that a beaver swimming over there?” And it was, which was quite satisfactorily distracting for a bit.)

Mile 10 through 12 – TALK! TALKY TALK TALK! Where the heck does Raphael get it, I wonder?

Kira: whine. Can we stop a minute and stretch? Because my knees hurt and also this is hard.

Amy: Sure. You ok? Let’s go.

Kira: whiiiine

Amy: Almost there.

Kira: WHIIIIIIIIIIIIINE

Amy: Here we are! The parking lot! Want a smoothie?

Kira: A SMOOTHIE? WHAT A GOOD IDEA!

We stretched and drank the best smoothies there ever were, and then we went our separate ways. The boys had a few hours left of school, so I drove to the grocery store. YES, I needed a shower, but I needed to get the shopping done without any children along even more. I surreptitiously sniffed my armpits as I chose my cart, and decided I had best keep my distance from humanity.

That turned out to be fairly easy, because I kept discovering myself standing motionless in the middle of an aisle, staring blankly. Questions like should I buy orange juice AND grape juice? were completely befuddling to me. And the combination of my sweaty and worn appearance and dim-witted stare managed to convince most people to give me a wide berth.

I (finally) checked out and loaded the groceries in the car, only to discover that it was time to pick up the boys. I raced in and gathered them, then raced home, only to unload the groceries and leave them scattered on the countertops when I became distracted by the cantaloupes growing in the back yard. By the time I came back in, the ice cream was decidedly…soft.

But all things considered, I came through the day fairly well. And now, muscles aching and mind humming like an engine that has slipped a gear, I’m oddly energized. I feel as though I could go on all night! I think I could just….snk…huh?...um…zzzzzzzzzzzz


Wasp slaying boys in the rain

I guess it’s my fault, really. When Tre’s friend Peter showed up to spend the afternoon at our house, they immediately asked if they could play on the computer. I looked at them a moment, pondering the best way to keep them free of the darn thing as long as I could without undue struggle.

“Find something to DO until 3:00,” I decreed, “and then you can have the computer.”

They exchanged looks, then shrugged and disappeared into the back yard.

But FIRST! Relevant background!

Earlier that day my dad had been over to help Tre re-queen his hive. After they captured the old queen (Peter got to take her home as a pet), they cut out a bunch of drone brood.* The honeycomb with the drone larvae was lying on the ground in the back yard. Apparently slimy wee pre-born bees are compellingly yummy food for, of all things, yellow jackets.

Back to our tale!

Inside the house was an oasis of calm and joy, since Raphi and his friend Justin were happily busy with a game, and Max (odd man out this day) was immersed in his Game Boy. I spent my time doing a few of the trillion little details that NEED to get done, yet never seem to make a difference.

After a few minutes of quiet, I noticed the gentle tap of raindrops on the roof. The rhythm gained speed and intensity. I waited awhile for the boys to come in, shaking rain off their heads and declaring that there was obviously nothing left to do except computer. But they didn’t.

Finally I peered out in the back yard to see what they were doing. They were standing by the discarded brood comb, wiping streams of rainwater out of their eyes with casual forearm sweeps. Every so often they picked up rocks and threw them as hard as they could at the comb. They were clearly slaying yellow jackets. I watched, expecting them to leap around and run away from the irritated wasps, but no, not in front of another pre-teen boy. They ducked their heads and sauntered in widening circles, but they fought with everything in them to look unafraid.

“Hey, boys!” I called out to them. They squinted in my direction. “Did you notice it’s raining?” Bewildered shrug at each other.

“Yeah…so?” Tre answered.

“Well, what’re you doing?”

“We’re throwing rocks at yellow jackets.” In the rain-drenched air between us hung a heavy, unspoken DUH.

“Ah. Well. Do you mind if I call you crazy?”

They grinned and shrugged and went back to their task. Later, after Peter went home, Tre told me with a smile,

“You know how you asked if we minded if you called us crazy? We consider it a compliment.”

And he sauntered off, a very self-satisfied yellow jacket slayer.

*If you WANT the explanation for all the beekeeping-related terms, help yourself. You’ll find the 411 below the jump.

Continue reading "Wasp slaying boys in the rain" »


Sometimes love don't feel like it should

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This is Carmelita, our full-blooded mutt o’ love. Incidentally, the reason she’s called that is because our city has a LAW against pit bulls. Not that Carmi IS a pit bull mix of any sort, OOOOOOOHHH NOOOOO. She’s a…um…lab/collie/cattle dog cross. Yeah. Full blooded mutt o’ love. Because if she WERE a pit bull cross of any kind, the powers that be could come here, pick her up, and KILL HER. They’ve killed over a thousand dogs in the state in the past year solely for the crime of exhibiting pit bull breed characteristics. That means for having a blocky head, or a certain stance in their hips, not for having any aggressive behaviors. It’s crazy.

But no, her vet says she’s a lab mix, and that’s that.

However, Carmi IS the goodest of the good dogs. She never barks when she’s in the back yard – except for a polite wee yip to inform us that she’d like to come in now…if it’s not too much trouble…please. When the kids leave the back gate open, she never runs away, but will meander out to the front yard, flop down on the lawn, and watch the world go by. She is UNBELIEVABLY patient with the rabble in this house. Raphael used to love to sit down next to her as she lounged on the floor, and pound on her tummy like a warm hairy bongo, chanting, “BONGO FISH! BONGO FISH!” She observed him with weary golden eyes, but never responded with anything harsher than getting up and walking away. The other night I sat on the floor in the living room, with two roasted chicken carcasses on a baking sheet in front of me. I was separating out the chicken meat while I watched TV (the Food Network, naturally). Carmi sat ten feet away, studiously avoiding eye contact lest her interest in allllllll that chicken seemed too forward. If I caught her sneaking a glance my way, she drooped in guilt and backed up another foot.

The goodest of the good dogs.

And yet she is not perfect. Carmelita has a problem. Occasionally she leaks urine. Apparently that’s somewhat common in spayed dogs, although they’re usually older than three. It sort of took me a while to catch onto what was happening, because it’s just not an uncommon occurrence to splash through a puddle of unknown origin in this house. Usually it’s water from some ill-conceived idea of the boys’. But recently it became apparent that Carmi was the source of some of the…warmer puddles.

So fine, off to the vet. We got her an appointment the same afternoon, the vet seemed unruffled by the problem (because SHE doesn’t mop the floors around here), we were handed some medication, and off we went.

“The pills are meat flavored,” she called after us, “so there shouldn’t be any problem getting her to take them.”

We handed her one in the car, and she gobbled it up. Fabulous. Problem solved.

The next day, when it was time for her medicine, she sniffed it, then politely turned her head. Fine. I wrapped it in cheese and gave it to her. She gobbled it up. Good enough.

That worked for about two days. Then one fateful morning I handed her the cheese/medicine wad and she took it, rolled it around in her mouth, and spit the pill on the floor. It wasn’t even dented.

I tried wrapping it in lunch meat. Rejected.

I tried shoving it into the dense, nitrate laden center of a hot dog. Rejected.

I tried crushing it and hiding it in grilled cheese sandwich crusts (a favorite treat). Sniffed and rejected.

So what I’ve been reduced to is prying her jaws open, depositing the pill on the back of her tongue, and holding her mouth closed until she swallows. She fights the progress of the pill with an aggressive wash of saliva, which drips down my hands in great warm ropes onto my feet.

Once it is clear that the pill is actually INSIDE the rotten dog, I mop off my hands, forearms, feet, and the floor with great billowing wads of paper towels. Then I scrub everything with a spray cleaner and shoot her a glare. She looks guilty and I inform her,

“It’s TRUE, you know, what they say about your kind. YOU CAN’T BE TRUSTED.”

But I don’t really mean it.


If Dad said it, it must be true.

Max sat at the table, bent over a tablet of white paper.

“I…will…behave…at….dinner,” he muttered to himself.

I had assigned him sentences after a particularly screech-filled meal, which was crowned by a broccoli floret sailing through the hair and landing upon my actual head.

Ahem.

And yes, yes, I know that many of you will be aghast at the idea of forcing a child to write as punishment. I would be happy to explain my reasoning if you like, but if you’re going to go all snippy on me you should know I will sit you down to write fifteen times, “I will not pass judgment on someone else’s parenting choices.”

Anyhow, Max sat at the table, toiling under the weight of ten declarative sentences, while I sat at the computer, sullenly running my fingers through my hair to check for stray broccoli. He sighed heavily. I stiffened my resolve and refused to turn and give him a pitying look.

Clay came into the kitchen. I heard the scrape of a chair as he sat down next to Max.

“Whaddya got there, buddy?” Max wordlessly pushed the paper to him. “I will behave at dinner, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“And I bet you will, too. You know why?”

“Why?” Who know an eight year old could sound so world-weary?

“Because you’re a good kid, that’s why.”

“Then why do I keep getting sentences?”

“Because you’re a good kid who has things to learn. Hang in there, bud.” Clay stood up and went on his way. Max muttered something, but set back to work. After a while he trudged over to me and handed me his work. I inspected it and nodded.

“Ok, you can go play. Good job.”

He turned to go, but called over his shoulder,

“You know why it's a good job? Because I’m a good kid.”

And then he fairly danced out the door.


Back at it!

Hi! I’m back! Or so it seems. I INTEND to write this week about a) Max, my middle boy, my conundrum, my joy, who just turned eight, b) that WOMAN I talked to on the phone and how she made me wish to be deaf and mute so I could neither hear her nor speak to her, c) WHY I stopped blogging (fer reals this time), and d) the seed catalogue that sent me THE WRONG PEPPER PLANTS and how there are no words for the bitterness of nurturing a gorgeous Golden Baby Bell plant, only to have it spitefully grow great big nasty banana peppers, as IF.

However.

Monday heralded the return of Monday school.

*cue heavenly chorus*

(For those of you just joining us, I homeschool the boys, but they go to a one day a week enrichment program, which meets on – ta DA – Mondays.)

I honestly don’t know how you traditional school parents do that whole “getting out of the house on time” thing five days a week. It nearly kills me. This Monday was particularly hectic. I was pitching school supplies into backpacks while Tre hung over my shoulder.

“But WE NEED FOLDERS. We ALWAYS need folders! Why AREN’T THERE ANY FOLDERS?”

“Folders aren’t on the list, Tre.”

“But we ALWAYS NEED FOLDERS. ONE FOR EACH CLASS!”

“But they didn’t ASK for them.”

“BUT WE ALWAYS USE FOLDERS.”

IF YOU SAY FOLDERS AGAIN I WILL SCREAM.”

He scowled bitterly and stomped out of the room. I picked up the list and read on the top, “In addition to the following supplies, students will need one folder for each class.”

Damnit.

I’d missed that.

I dug through the school cupboard and came up with some folders. Tre saw me shoving them in the backpacks and heaved a sigh of relief.

“Is that better, son?” I asked. He nodded. Petty, horrible person that I am, I let him think I gave the folders just to make him feel better.

Max wanted to pack his lunch because he doesn’t like the pizza they serve and he lives to complicate things. I stumbled around the kitchen, desperately pulling foodstuffs out and offering them to Max for lunch. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Check. Baby carrots? Ew, ick. Grapes? You betcha!

Finally I assembled a passable lunch and realized that I don’t have ANY IDEA where his lunchbox is. I tossed everything in a paper bag, wrote his name on it, and handed it to him.

“And the NEAT thing about THIS,” I said brightly, “is that you can THROW THE WHOLE THING AWAY when you are done with lunch!” He grinned at my clever invention – the Lunch Bag.

“What a GOOD IDEA!” He beamed at me. I smiled back modestly.

Taking my children to school seems to turn me into something of a liar and a fraud. Huh.

Raphael was a bit more nervous about the new school year than he wanted to let on. However, as his mother, I am attuned to his subtle cues, and I could tell. For instance, he marched around alllllllllllll morning, talking to himself.

“I will be in Kindergarten and I will have Ms Sue and she will be a good teacher and I will like her I bet I will like her even more than Ms Debbie because she will be nice and I bet there will be toys and I will be in Kindergarten with the toys and Ms Sue and Max says Ms Sue is nice and I bet she is and I will like her-“

He seemed to be doing some sort of circular breathing technique that allowed him to talk without pause. All. Morning. Long.

“Raphael? You’ll be fine, honey.”

He glared at me.

“I know I’ll be fine I’m in Kindergarten now with Ms Sue and she’s nice, I bet and-“

Tra-LA! Off to school!

Somehow I still can’t watch my kids march off to their first day of Monday school without a lump in my throat and a slight whimper. It’s MONDAY school, Kira. Honestly. Get a grip. Better yet, go get a latte and some uninterrupted computer time.

And that is what I did.

I chatted online from one of my favorite coffee shops with one of my favorite people. I went clothes shopping (note to whomever decided grown women need to wear bubble skirts: Stop it. And repent). I did the grocery shopping with NO CHILDREN WHATSOEVER.

I took several deep, cleansing breaths for no reason. I drank expensive bottled water, because I could do so WITHOUT SHARING.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Then I returned to pick up my children, whose adorable faces I couldn’t wait to see. Tre and Max barreled up to me, chattering a mile a minute, and we set off en masse to collect Raphi from Ms Sue’s. She was sitting on the floor, sorting through the pieces to roughly twenty puzzles that had been scattered. Raphael ran over to me, hugged my legs, and quickly set to body-slamming his brothers. Oh so sweet.

“So, how was his day?” I asked Ms Sue.

“Just fine. Wow, I seem to have a class full of talkers this year.” Heh.

“Yeah…good luck with that.”

“OH! You’ll never guess what Raphael did today.”

“Uh…talk?”

“Well, yes. AND – “she peered at Raphi around my legs, “-do you want to tell your mom about what happened?” He shook his head.

“He stuck a puzzle piece in the electrical outlet.”

The SAME electrical outlet?”
”The same one. It wasn’t as dramatic this time, since the puzzle piece was nonconductive, so nothing shorted out.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah.”

We looked at Max and Raphael, who were both looking a little sheepish at the mention of electrical outlets.

And we agreed – it’s going to be quite the school year.


If you're still checking in...

I'm fine.

Sorry for disappearing so abruptly, and I'm sure I will be back, but I need a few days. Please accept my apologies for abandoning y'all like this (not that your day revolves around mah little blog, but I know I hate it when one of my reads goes AWOL). I just need some regrouping time at the moment. There is no crisis, no drama, just me catching my breath and getting ready for the new school year. Sorry if I worried anyone.

Again, I'm fine. I'm just doing what I need to do to stay that way.

Be back soon.


Misplaced moments in time

After dropping my kids off in the nursery, I stepped out of the air conditioned chill into a damp, overcast day. The grass on either side of the sidewalk glowed green in the grey light from the clouds. The breeze was heavy and warm. I walked past a puddle, water glazing a slick layer of mud. I stopped and looked and remembered.

For a second I was five and living in the humidity of Houston. I was stepping out into the back yard after a rain. I thought for just a moment of slipping off my sandal and pressing my foot into that mud. I could imagine the feel of it welling up between my toes. I stood in the calm of gathering rain clouds, feeling small and capable of nonsense.

But I had a meeting to go to, and would not have appreciated the feeling of mud between my toes as it dried.

I am not five, I am not there.

I walked on.

Early afternoon I climbed into my van. The sun had been pouring through the front window and the steering wheel was almost too hot to touch. The air enveloped me, hot and moist. I paused and felt and remembered.

For a second I was a nearly grown college woman, sliding behind the wheel of my tiny blue car. I lived in Las Cruces, where late summer is punishingly hot, and the monsoon season renders it sultry. My car had no air conditioning, and whenever I drove anywhere I had the windows cranked down and I arrived at my destination with wild hair and a diagonal seatbelt print of sweat across the front of my shirt. I didn’t care, because my car got 55 miles to the gallon on the highway, and with gas prices at less than a dollar a gallon, the world was at my feet. I kept a bag packed in my closet, in case a road trip should strike. I thought, for just a moment, of picking up a large diet coke and pointing my front bumper toward the horizon. I sat in the pressing heat and felt young and flighty and capable of wildly bad choices.

But I adjusted the rearview mirror to remind myself just how complicated road trips are these days. Three squabbling boys were climbing into their seats, and I remembered what I have is better than freedom.

I am not twenty, I am not there.

I drove on.

I stood in Raphael’s room, peering out the window at gathering clouds. There is a leak around his window, and the concrete floor was still damp from Tuesday’s downpour. I looked out the window, at the window well that is filling up with dirt each time it rains. Clay says he needs to dig out the dirt and jackhammer the concrete slab that was cut out of the wall to make the window. It lies in the bottom of the window well and it and the dirt are what bring the water level high enough to seep in around the window. However, Clay’s finger is healing – he just got the stitches out a few days ago. He cannot dig or jackhammer. I know the need to do it weighs on him. I breathed in the smell of damp concrete and dirt, and looked at the heavy clouds, and thought about all that is weighing on him right now. Issues large and small, relational and financial, the convergence of so many details of life right now, right here. I paused and remembered.

For a moment I was 30, getting up one morning to give breakfast to six year old Tre and three year old Max. Raphael was a newborn lump curled in the crook of my arm. As I walked to the bathroom I splashed through warm water streaming across the carpet. The hot water heater had failed in the night. I called my husband at work, and wept the story of the hot water on the carpet. In my hormonal post-partum state it seemed like the worst thing that could happen, and I wanted him to fix it.

When I was done, I stopped speaking and listened to his silence. As the moment stretched out with nothing but cold nonresponse from him, I realized how many things were weighing on him at that time. Financial pressures, work pressures, disappointments in life and family and himself. I’m sorry, I thought, but before I could say it he spoke.

“I can’t deal with you when you’re like this,” he said flatly, and hung up. He did not come home that night, or the next.

In the dim, damp room I realized that I could feel my heartbeat thudding in my throat. My fingers ached from the way they clutched at my sleeves. I thought, for just a moment, of climbing into that window well myself, as though I could somehow manage this task that I don’t have the strength of the tools to perform. I stood in the gathering gloom and felt endangered and helpless.

But I whispered a reminder to myself to breathe, and willed my hands to release and my shoulders to relax. Clay is not the person I was married to then, and he does not live under the same burden of addiction and guilt. Clay is a man with hope beyond whatever happens today, and it is not my job to shore him up, because his strength comes not from me. And I, having lived through then, will never be as helpless again.

I am not thirty, I am not that small.

I turned and walked back upstairs.


In which Kira is very good, and pays for it with bleeding ears

See, here’s how it happened: Raphael had been happily playing next door with Bethany (she who thinks he’s a rokc star) all afternoon. Tre and Max had been running with a pack of boys outside, I was doing laundry, all was well. As evening approached, I called the troops home to get ready for Max’s end-of-season baseball team party. Which was at a pool. Which (naturally) summoned huge massive clouds, lightening, and driving rain. Which left water in our basement. Which is not the point either.

Where was I?

Ah yes. How it happened.

As we bustled around, getting towels and swimsuits and Tre’s baseball uniform (because he had a game that night at 8:30, when the rain would relentlessly clear, IS THERE NO MERCY?), Raphael wandered about in the midst of the chaos, pleasantly amused by the activity.

“You know what I did?” He said casually, “I went to Ulysses’ house.”

I stopped in my tracks.

“You WHAT?”

Ulysses lives a block and a half away. I don’t even know WHICH HOUSE. I DON’T know his parents, and I have told Raphael no less then seven trillion times that he’s not allowed to go play and Ulysses’ house EVEN IF Bethany is, because it’s too far away and I don’t know his parents and STOP IT, BECAUSE I SAID SO.

Raphael grinned at me, remorseless.

“Bethany and me went to play with Ulysses at his house.”

I blame what happened next on the sick, horrified feeling I was suffering at the moment. I was awash in the knowledge that my BABY had trundled himself down the block, to SOME HOUSE and hung out with people I don’t know. Anything could have happened. And the whole time

I.

had. no. idea.

“You KNOW you’re not allowed to play at Ulysses’ house!” I was shrill. “YOU KNOW THAT.”

A flicker of worry crossed his face.

“That’s IT, son. NO friends for…” my mind spun, searching for the consequence to match the crime, “…for a WEEK.”

“WHAT?”

“You heard me, mister. You knew the rule and you decided not to follow it. There are consequences for that.”

Who knew? Who could have seen that the consequences would be paid mostly BY ME? Have I mentioned how much Raphael likes the talking? The talking talking talking, with all the words? To people?

Well.

Raphael loooooves him some talky talk talk with many words to as many people as he can. His brothers are outside, running wild, and that leaves me and the dog as the lucky recipients of all the many talk talk wordy words. The dog is hiding in the back yard. I am sitting here, at the computer, the will to live draining away. I have told him he can’t play on the computer or watch TV until 3:00, and I am watching the clock like a drunk waiting for cocktail hour. OH HAVE MERCY CHILD. These are just the things he’s said since I sat down to write this:

“Mom? You know what you will become? You will become a penguin.”

“Mom? If a guy ate a bunch of plastic and he was at a baseball game, you know what would happen? He would barf up a helmet! OR NO! A catcher MASK!”

“Mom? Is this ball interesting to fish?”

“If I wear this helmet, can I go hit myself in the head with rocks?”

“Mom? Mom? Look! See? I have the helmet over my face! I can see you!”

“Mom? How can I be a peep? How can I be a peep? Mom? How can I be a peep which is a bird?”

“No, not play dough, I only want to play with electric things. TV or the computer.”

“Mom? I don’t want to wear underwear for the rest of the day. No underwear is SO FASTER. See my idea?”

“Mom? What can I do? I want to do something ELECTRIC!”

“Mom? You know what you are? You are a peep! Which is the bestest mom!”

Now it is past 3:00, and he is sitting at the kitchen table, happily chattering at the play dough. I am twitching with the desire to inform him that HAPPY TV HOUR HAS COME, but I am NOT. See the time?

I am so good.