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November 2006
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January 2007

And the snow came down

Clay called this afternoon, on his way home from work.

“How are ya?”

“I am INCONSOLABLE,” I replied.


I muttered about the snow, and the cold, and the walls closing in.

“Oh, but you’re not trapped in the house RIGHT NOW, so why worry about it? It might not even happen.”

I treated him to a small silence, meaning that he may be a little “right” but that doesn’t stop him from being entirely “wrong.”

Nonetheless, he was on his way home, and offered to hold down the fort so I could go to the gym before the roads got too bad. Sorely in need of an endorphin hit, I accepted, and set out for the gym as soon as he arrived home.

It was about 4:15 by then, and had been snowing steadily for about six hours. The roads were difficult, but not impossible yet. I arrived at the gym, slogged my way through slush with a new coating of snow, and walked into the canned light of the gym.

The chirpy young thing behind the desk gave me frowny face.

“You didn’t read the sign on the door?” I glanced over my shoulder. Sign? Door? “Yeah, we’re closing at 5:00 tonight. Sorry!” I took my ID card back from her and said mild, understanding things through clenched teeth. I threw my stuff in a locker, and set to abusing and elliptical trainer for the next 40 minutes. Every fifteen minutes or so the gym manager got on the loudspeaker to say in an artificially low voice, “Attention, members. We will be closing in 30 minutes.” Every time he announced the time I snarled under my breath, because WHAT, we can’t TELL TIME? And plus, he was shaving 5 minutes off the time between now and 5:00.

Finally, with about a minute and a half to spare, I snatched my towel and water bottle and stalked back to the lockers. The chirpy young thing from the front desk was there, changing.

“Oh, hi,” she said. “Ready for the snow?”

“Not really. Not after last week,” I replied. She sighed.

“Yeah, I know. I’m gonna go see if I can get stuck at a friend’s house instead of going home. I just can’t stand the thought of being stuck in my apartment – alone – again.”

Ooohh, that’s right.

I stood there for a minute, staring at a row of lockers. I remember. I wished her well in the storm, said good bye, and headed out, my head full of pictures from another storm.

When I was 21 and a new Denverite, I got stuck in my apartment during a snowstorm. I had moved from Southern New Mexico, so snow was bizarre enough for me, but a BLIZZARD? I was stunned.

I didn’t own a TV at the time, and I had planned to go to the library that day. But instead two and a half feet of snow fell, and I was stuck at home – with nothing to read but the books I'd just finished. I tried to hike to the nearest store for a magazine, a newspaper, an assortment of nutrition labels, ANYTHING to read. But it was hard work, hiking through all that snow. Plus, I was sick, and the cold triggered a coughing fit. I dragged myself back to my apartment. As I pulled off my coat and gloves, the cough gripped my chest and I choked and wheezed and sat down to catch my breath. I was coughing so hard that my head started to spin and I ended up on my hands and knees, fighting for air between spasms. Finally, the coughs got so wrenching that they triggered my gag reflex, and I threw up.

Just then the lights flickered and went out.

I sat in the dark for a minute, catching my breath. I thought about all the things that were wrong: no lights, I’m sick, nothing to read, and I have to clean my floor now. I rocked back on my heels and this is what I keened in the dark,

“I’m all aloooooone!”

I thought about that storm through the whole slippery drive home. When I finally maneuvered into my driveway, the house glowed with light. I walked in the door and smelled the yeasty breath of bread rising on the counter. Boys’ games chirruped and beeped. Raphael ran over to me, bellowing a chorus of welcome. Clay came over to kiss me hello. Carmi shouldered her way in between us, wagging her tail vociferously.

The walls closed in, and it wasn’t half bad.

Are you freaking KIDDING me?

Whenever people comment about how awful the winter must be for those of us living in Denver, I am quick to correct them.

“Oh NO!” I exclaim, “It’s not that bad! Yes, we get some snow, but it doesn’t STAY all winter long. RIGHT in the middle of winter we’ll get these GORGEOUS 70 degree days! It makes the whole thing entirely bearable!”

And then I…I don’t know, I clap my silly little hands, try to talk you into playing the “glad game” with me, and prance away in search of butterflies.

Foolish, is what I’m saying. I am foolish and overly optimistic.

But not today. Today I am steely-eyed and realistic. Because today my driveway still looks like this:


And they are predicting many, many inches of snow are coming our way.

Carmi was so upset by the news that she threw up on our bedroom floor.


But she is sorry.

  Max just started sneezing (step one of the relentless march of the never ending virus).

Please send chocolate. Winter only officially began five days ago, and I am already considering eating my children.

And to all a good night

I had the loveliest Christmas post in my head on Christmas Day. I looked at the computer, across the room, thought the post, and went on with the stuff of the celebration. I never quite made my way across the room to the actual computer.


In my memory it was perfect, but the unwritten posts always are, aren’t they?

But now it’s December 26 – and although we are still celebrating Christmas around here (and will be until January 6, thankyouverymuch), most of the world is over it and moving onto the planning of their New Year’s celebrations. So let’s move on, shall we?

One of the reasons we celebrate Christmas for all 12 days (the ACTUAL 12 days of Christmas go from December 25 to January 6, or Epiphany, NOT the 12 days BEFORE Christmas, despite what your neighborhood grocery store may think), is that it takes much of the pressure off the actual day. Not all gifts are opened that day, and there are nearly two weeks in which to enjoy the Christmassy events that may not make it into the one day. We still have time to ice skate, and bake the cookies that didn’t get baked, and go to the Tattered Cover bookstore, and attend the Wild Lights at the zoo…

We won’t do all that, but we still could. The season is our oyster.

And yet, despite our gentle and reasoned approach to the holiday, we are still suffering from Christmas Hangover. The children are fractious and overwrought. It wasn’t even lunchtime today before Max threw himself to the floor, wailing heartbroken accusations about Raphael and the unjust use of a pillow. Tre has an earache and an endless supply of aggrievedness about the whole thing. Clay and I are both doing battle within our actual heads with a virus that WILL NOT relent until it crawls its leisurely way through each family member (only Max to go). The kitchen is littered with entirely too much food, and I am resentfully avoiding the glare of the bathroom scale.

And so I’m going to start the work of righting myself. And I’ll start it by heading for an early bedtime.

Merry Christmas, everyone. May you all make your way to the computer before the perfect posts escape.

You would think...

...that being stuck in the house for two days would leave me PLENTY of time for blogging, wouldn't you?


Well, I'll be back on the blogwagon soon, but in the meantime, here's what Christmas lights look like under two feet of snow:


Stay warm, everyone. And Merry Christmas.   

“Hey, Tre,” I call down the stairs. His head pokes around the corner – he was just about to try again to sneak up on me.


“Come up here and say goodnight. I’m getting in the bath now.”

“Aw! I was just about to sneak up on you.”

“I know.”

He is trotting up the stairs and stops, on stair down, to look at me, his eyes squinted with disbelief.

“HOW did you know?”

“I am your mother. I know everything.”

He is kind enough not to point out the many many pieces of evidence to the contrary, but I can tell he’s thinking about them. He throws his arms around my waist and I wrap myself around his shoulders and hold tight. How can this recently baby boy have such wide, strong shoulders? He tries to move away, but I hang on, and even indulge myself by smelling his hair.

“Mom? You can let go.”

“Can I?”


“But will you leave?”

He twists his head around to look at me, his face puzzled and brushed, ever so lightly, with irritation.


I finally let go, and rest my hands on those irrationally wide shoulders.

“Yes, you will. Someday you will be grown up enough to go and make your own life, and you know what? I will miss you with every breath I take – but I will also be just so very proud and pleased.”

He turns to go, shaking his head at me.

But I see. I see him blink a few extra times.

He knows it’s true.

Why...I think this could be The Best Christmas EVER!

This morning Raphael greeted me with his usual grilling adorable question:

“Mem, how many days until Christmas NOW?”

It being morning, I squinted at the little date window on my watch for a few minutes, stared at the ceiling, trying to remember if my watch was currently accurate or not, forgot what I was doing, then came to with a start and replied, “Eleven. No, twelve. No, wait, eleven. Yes.”

He blinked at me for a moment, so I reiterated, this time more convincingly.

“Eleven days.”

That was enough for him, and he bounded away to engage in intrigue with his brothers. I, however, stood in the hallway, mouth agape, processing the fact.

Eleven days.

Let’s see…what have I done to prepare?

I’ve bought exactly seven presents, and written down fifteen names of people I plan to bake cookies for. And scratched off about eight of those names. I mean, I haven’t LITERALLY scratched them off yet, but I intend to.



The thing is that I seem to have performance anxiety. It’s not just Christmas, you know. It’s Our First Christmas. Everything must be Right and Repeatable. Right because, well, please. It’s Our First Christmas. It’s not enough to have made it through the last year, with The Perfect Wedding, followed by a year of adjustment and surprises, and still adore each other. We also have to create an incandescent First Christmas. I’m pretty sure. It says so…somewhere…

And then, because we’re dealing with kids, it all must be Repeatable. One must tread carefully when one is doing things with kids. Whatever you do ONE Christmas might need to be repeated from then unto the end of time. Makers of complicated cookies, beware.

That’s a lot of pressure for one holiday. As if Martha Stewart’s psychosis weren’t enough to deal with.

But all is not lost! Oh no! Because we’re putting up The Tree on Saturday. It had to wait for Saturday because we first have to get rid of a ginormous piece of furniture, and Saturday is the day Clay and his brother Russ wrestle it out the door. Then we’ll have room for a tree, and all the rest will fall into place. Clay and I were discussing it before dinner tonight.

“So, we’re putting up the tree on Saturday, right?” he asked.


“And decorating it?”

“I thought so.”

“Will there be…stuff up around the house?”

“I think so. Maybe.”

“Got it. Decorating on Saturday. Anything else? Music? Cookies?”

“Yeah, sounds good. You want cookies?”

“I’d rather have ice cream, actually.”

“You got it.”

And so it begins.

I suspect it’ll all be just fine.

Lemme ask you something...

There’s been a rash of blog-quitting lately. Some of my favorite daily reads are throwing in the towel. The number one reason? Respecting their kids’ privacy. Not wanting to leave anything out there, floating in the ether of the innernets, that would one day embarrass their children.

Let me say, first of all, that I’m not criticizing their choice. Their blogs, their kids, their choice. I respect the care they are taking to avoid the possibility of hurting in the future.

However, it makes me stop and think about my own blogging choices. I write about my kids. A lot. As a matter of fact, if I didn’t write about my kids, there would be about…three posts in this entire blog. I feel ok about that, because I’m pretty gentle in what I say about ANYONE I mention here. Plus, unlike the supah-stars out there, I’m not that widely read. So it’s easy to convince myself that it doesn’t really matter. Now that Tre and Max are both old enough to check up on what I might be saying about them, I’m even more careful than ever.

But who knows how these musings of mine may affect them someday? I have a friend who has a 14 year old son. He’s a delight of a kid – funny and smart and interesting. When he was a youngster, though, he was a tad intense. Now, I adored this child (still do, though he stands head and shoulders above me), and I never thought of him as TOO intense. However, when he watches video of himself from his early years, it BOTHERS him. He’s so annoyed by his early, overwrought self.

Would his parents want to get rid of their video footage of their baby boy now that it irritates their teenaged boy? Certainly not. And yet…I suspect they’d be less likely to share it with people, given his reaction to it today.

The main reason I blog is to capture the day. None of my children have baby books. I’m lousy at picture taking. I have already mixed up their baby teeth, and suffer guilt over it. But by writing about my boys here I can remember the little, insignificant moments that are cobbled together to make their phenomenally significant lives. I remember Raphael’s early forays into swearing, how the boys once tackled swim lessons, Max’s adjustment to the idea of me remarrying, the boys’ find of a freako bee, how amazingly far Tre has come.

So much of what I would have otherwise forgotten is there, in the archives. No one cares much except me, but I care so, so much.

So here’s my question: is it worth it? Can I justify this intrusion into their privacy with my desire to keep these days of theirs? Is this treasure trove of memories that I can plunge my hands into long after the kids have become men WORTH it?

I blog to remember scenes like this:

Tonight, right around dinner time, Raphael suddenly took a nose-dive into the cold that had been dogging him all day. In the space of a half-hour he became glassy-eyed, miserable, and feverish. Rather than eat his dinner, he sat on my lap, slumped against my chest. This made it difficult for me to eat, so after a while I carried him into my room and tucked him in the big bed. He fell right asleep, a sure sign that he was truly not feeling well.

I let him sleep until bedtime, then collected him for tooth-brushing. Once I’d wrestled him into jammies and taken a pass at his teeth, I sat on the floor to wait for the other boys to finish brushing.

“Should we take his temperature?” Clay asked. I shook my head and pressed my lips to Raphi’s forehead.

“Nah. It’s…about 101, I’d say. I gave him some ibuprofen, just now.”

Clay nodded and ran a hand over the curve of Raphael’s back. I sat, feeling my boy’s papery-hot cheek pressed against my chest, listening to him breathe, marveling at the length of his body, curled around me.

“Mmm-hmmm,” I hummed, “mmm-hmmm. It’s ok, honey.”

He looked up at me, his dark brown eyes glittering against pink cheeks, and shook his head.

“No,” he croaked, “it’s not.”

I stroked his hair and smiled.

“Well, it will be.”

This is one of my very favorite things about being a mom – being the one who knows that all will be well. Being the one with the hand that soothes.

Six weird things!

Lisa tagged me to list here six weird things about myself. Now, WHERE Lisa got the idea that I am, in any way, weird is most certainly beyond me. But after reading HER list, I feel like humoring her, so I’ll do my best.

No, no, that’s not true. The TRUTH is that I’m honored to think that Lisa believes I can whittle down my list of specialness to a mere six items, and so I shall try.

  1. I often walk around with a phrase running through my head, over and over and over and over, like a song you can’t stop humming. It’s sort of like reading a sentence fragment off a page, stuck on auto-repeat. Currently what I hear is, “And if you had known, would you have-“  It’s very irritating, especially since this phrase doesn’t mean anything to me, and yet I’m positive that the answer is, “But I DID know.”
  2. I have a points system by which I judge other drivers. Obviously, drivers who are jerks or unsafe or annoying LOSE points, but it goes much farther than that. People may gently honk at other drivers without losing points, if it is warranted, but if you allow someone to sit ahead of you at the green light, oblivious, without honking at them, you get EXTRA points. If it’s a green arrow, you get several extra points. If you smile and wave me in when I’m trying to merge, I may even assign your family points into perpetuity. This is especially amusing considering the fact that I am a slow, irritating driver and my point system is clearly designed to encourage the world at large not to hate me.
  3. When I was nineteen I spent the summer in the college town I lived in, not realizing that everyone else seemed to be going home for the summer. I worked as a nanny, and in my time off I wandered the empty streets, hoping to run into someone I knew. Yes, despite the fact that I knew that everyone I knew had gone HOME. I got so bored and lonely that one day I passed a street named “Conrad,” and then right after that a street named “McRay,” and began speaking – out loud – to my new imaginary friend, Conrad McRay. Conrad and I haven’t been nearly as close since the boys were born (I certainly no longer need imaginary conversation to fill the silence), but we spent many quality hours together that summer.
  4. I still have to psych myself up to eat onions, despite the fact that I’m 35, and have demonstrated to myself that I actually won’t throw up when my teeth sink into one. This even applies to well-cooked onions hiding in casseroles.
  5. When I was in elementary school I hated math. It was so dry and boring that I assigned the numbers genders and personalities. Seven, for instance, was a tricky little girl. Couldn’t be trusted one bit. Eight, on the other hand, was a mysterious man, silent but kindly. Five was a solid, dependable guy – the boy next door, if you will. Two was a princess, ten a queen. In case you’re wondering, this approach to math will carry you through until the pre-algebra stage. At that point you are sunk, and will need your older brother to tutor you if you have any hope of passing any math class ever again. Even then, it’s touch and go, because seven probably still has it in for you. Bitch.
  6. I often forget how old I am, and get confused by the math needed to figure it out. I also forget what month, season, and year it is. I almost never forget what’s for dinner.

Well, that’s me and my weirdness. In return, I tag all of y’all. If you blog YOUR weirdness, please leave me a comment so I can read your list. I’m feeling a bit self-conscious at the moment, and would love to peek at your oddities.

love is...

For whatever reason, I’ve been grumpy lately. Short-tempered, snippy, prone to irritation. The boys, as ever, bore the worst of my irrational mood. Clay too, but at least he gets to go to work.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the gym, and I swear this is why God made elliptical trainers. For the first ten minutes I was busy with self-loathing. Why do you GET like this? What is WRONG with you? Grow UP.

When that passed I spent the next half hour sweating and puzzling it through. What WAS wrong?

And better still, what could I do differently?

I remembered when I was a kid – particularly when I was a moody teenager in a difficult school – I could occasionally go to my mom and ask for a mental health day. A mental health day meant that I needed a break from school, from life in general. A day to recoup. It wasn’t something I could ask for too often, and somehow Mom always knew when I really needed it, and when I was just trying to avoid a math test. It never ceased to amaze me – I would ask her, muscles knotted with anxiety, and she would look at me in silent appraisal for a moment, then say yes.

She always knew when I needed a day off.

What I need now, I thought as I puffed and worked, is a mental health day.

So the this morning, at breakfast, I announced it to the boys.

“Guys, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been fairly grumpy lately.”

Around the table three brown heads nodded in emphatic agreement. I told you it was bad.

“Yes. Well. I’m sorry about that, and I want you to know it’s not your fault. I’m just feeling a little…burned out.”

“You mean, like a light that doesn’t work anymore?” Max asked.

“Actually, it does feel a little like that. But I don’t need to be thrown away, I just need a little break. So we’re taking the day off school, and we’re going to do some fun stuff – NOT CHUCK E CHEESE - calmer sort of fun.”

We spent a few minutes discussing what would make for a fun calm day, and decided on a schedule that included baking cookies and a trip to the library. After a slow-paced morning, I assembled the boys and ingredients for cookies in the kitchen. We set to work. At first I fought to bite back my irritation at their business, their constant activity, their noise. But slowly I found my rhythm with them again, and I remembered.


I remembered that peace is more important than an entire teaspoon of cloves dumped on the floor.


I remembered that even baking cookies is an active experience for boys...


...and if I can accept that, I can even enjoy their bumptiousness.


I enjoyed them, and watched them, in turn, enjoy each other.

Raphael swore he didn’t get into the sugar, but I suspect he may have been lying.


And it’s not a big deal.

I remembered that sometimes love is an imperfect mom…


…and perfect cookies.

Go see more Love Thursday here.