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And just like that, I'm evil Mr. McGregor

There is, in our back yard, underneath our deck, a rabbit. A tiny wee lump of bunny. Put your hands together, cupped, so your wrists meet and your fingertips brush against each other. Our bunny would fit in that space, and she would sit there and quiver, with eyes obsidian bright and fur so velvet-rich and soft it looks like the physical representation of a baby’s breath.

The other day Clay and the boys were out in the back yard, putting new bark down around the flowers. I’d been helping too, but I’d wandered off in search of some water or something shiny, I dunno. Anyhow, when I came back to the scene of the work, all four of them were standing there, staring. At the lawn, I thought.

“What’s up?”

“We have a bunny, living under our deck,” whispered Tre.

“Oh?”

“RIGHT THERE.”

I turned and followed their line of vision, and there was the bunny. She nibbled on grass, she hopped a bit, she quivered.

All of my great big thundering man-beasts, from Clay right down to Raphael, were transfixed. Look at the bunny.

Looooook at iiiiiiit!

All of this was well and good. The bunny under the deck made for hours of crevice-sniffing entertainment for Carmelita, who raced back and forth and snuffled until I was certain she was going to end up with splinters in her nose.

We were bunny enchanted.

But.

Then.

I went out to the garden this evening and saw spinach looking like this:

After

When it HAD been looking more like this:

Before

And now I’m wondering: just HOW WRONG is it to kill tiny, quivering bunnies?


No children were harmed in the making of this blog

All day long Tre had been bugging me to paint his beehive.

“Wait until your dad gets home and can help you.”

“I can DO it by MYSELF!” He gave me the MOST irritated look.

“I said WAIT.” I have been a 13 year old girl in my lifetime. Don’t try to be more irritated than me.

Eventually, Clay came home. He came into the kitchen to greet me and cop a quick feel.

“So, did Tre paint his beehive today?”

“No. I made him wait for you.”

He looked puzzled.

“I didn’t think he’d have to wait.”

“I never imagined he’d do it on his own.”

We stood there, observing each other, silently thinking how wrong the other was, and Clay shrugged and headed out to the garage. Clay, in the garage, is an irresistible magnet for boys, and soon all three of them were out there with him. Tre started in on his beehive, and soon had it done, “MOSTLY all on my own, MOM.”

Tres_hive 

I had to get something from the garden, and as I made my way past the gaggle of testosterone in the garage, I passed Max. Clay had given him his cordless drill, and Max was busy drilling random holes in a chunk of wood.

Except they weren’t RANDOM holes, because as Max told me, “they connect here, see? And here. And if you blow in here, air comes out over here and here.”

Maxs_work

The coolness of intersecting holes is apparently reason enough to give a child a power tool. A MAX child, I might add.

I stopped to talk to Clay and as we chatted, Raphael ran up to us, clutching two sharp fragments of wood. I believe the technical term for these would be “brother pith-ers” or perhaps “eye pokers.”

“DAD DAD DAD! I need to put these together LIKE THIS.” He leaped (for emphasis) and crossed the sticks. Clay nodded.

“I see. And how are you gonna do that?”

“I thought I’d use your black tape!”

“Ok. Put it back when you’re done.”

Raphaelsstick_thing

Raphael ran off in search of the tape, and I stared at Clay.

“What?” He slipped an arm around my waist. I shook my head at him.

“It’s just…you’re such a good dad.” I turned to go, and sighed. “But you’d be a lousy mom.”

But then, I suppose we already knew that.


Happy Birthday, sweet Jennie

Sunday evening Clay and I were in the kitchen, getting the details of a very important package ready to send.

“Wow,” I mused, tying a sparkly pink ribbon, “can you believe your baby is going to be 15?”

Clay looked up, startled.

“WHO?”

“Jennie, honey. Your daughter?”

“….is turning 10. I KNOW.” He gave me serious quelling eyebrows. I went back to tying ribbon.

“Wow, she’s going to learn to DRIVE this year.”

“HUSH, woman,” he said, glowering at the paper he was writing on.

Dear Jennie, happy birthday! You should know that your dad adores you, and this “growing up and becoming a beautiful young woman” deal you’ve got going is driving him insane.

We all love you, and hope you have a magical day. Happy…um…TENTH birthday.


Observations

Tre was at baseball practice with Clay, Max was reading James and the Giant Peach in the back seat, and I was driving. That left Raphael free to observe.

"Mom? Did you see that guy on the motorcycle? He flipped up the thing on his helmet that goes over his eyse. That's not safe. I should give him a ticket."

"Well, actually, that's just a visor, and he's probably just getting some air while he waits at the light. Besides, you aren't a police officer."

"Oh, that's right."

*silence, except for the sound of a traffic report on the radio*

"Mom? Did you see those smashed up cars over there by the police cars? They weren't driving careful."

"Well, accidents happen."

"You should show them how to drive careful."

"Mmm-hmm..." I chose not to enlighten him on the smashed up cars in my history.

*silence, except for the jabbering of a car commercial on the radio*

"Mom? You know those things hanging over Dad's tool bench?"

"Which things? There are lots of things hanging over Dad's tool bench."

"They're white...and round...like, this big," he holds up his hands to show me a circle about three inches across,"...those things?"

"What about them?"

"Why are there more pen1s protectors hanging over Dad's tool bench?"

"Wha...oh, those aren't cups, baby. Those are air filter masks."

"Oh, too bad."

*silence, except for the news on the radio*

"MOM! Did you hear that? A soldier got killed by A ROCK!"

"No, hon. Not by a rock, in Iraq. That's where they're fighting a war."

"Why did the soldier die?"

"Because that happens in wars. People die."

"Why do we go to them, then?"

"I...that's hard to explain."

I turned off the radio.

*Silence*


May he always us it for good

The afternoon hummed all around us, a balmy medley of far-off lawn mowers, the voices of kids playing, the whine of the table saw in the garage as Clay worked on something. Raphael, seeing that the neighbor girl was playing in her front yard, bounded up to me.

“Mom? Can I go play with Bethany and can I go in her house and do everything?”

This is a shorthand version of his question, “Mom, can I go play with Bethany and can I go in her house and play Xbox or watch TV or can I go in her backyard and play on the swing set or jump on the trampoline and if she offers, can I have a snack?” It’s good to get all the bases covered before he starts.

“Sure, honey,” I replied, “except no snacks. It’s almost dinnertime.”

“Ok,” he called over his shoulder as he headed for the door, “so I can do everything except snacks.”

Max was sprawled on the couch, playing his GameBoy, and he spoke up.

“Are you going to explode a cow? Or paint a tree? Will you take a bath? Eat a picnic? Will you gain all the powers in the world and fly around the block, looking in people’s homes with your X-ray vision? Will you meow like a cat?”

Raphael and I both looked at him, puzzled. Finally, he looked up.

“What? You said ‘do everything.’ I think there’s all sorts of things you’re not gonna do.”

Raphi shrugged and headed out the door, and Max turned back to his game.

I suspect his superpower is smartassery.


It takes all kinds of courage to be a mom.

Once upon a time, many years and one divorce ago, I agreed with Dr. Laura. Specifically, I agreed that a mother, if she became single through divorce or death, should suck it up and stay single for the sake of her kids. That it was unjustifiably selfish to complicate your kids’ lives for the sake of your own enjoyment.

And then I found myself divorced.

And when the dust settled from that, I remembered what I’d believed, and I grimly set down that road. Alone was fine by me; I’d ground my previous heart into dust in the effort to keep my marriage together. Not going through that hell again.

And then I met Clay.

It’s a long story, how I finally came around to believe in him. Complicated. And yet, in retrospect, the whole thing seems inevitable from the very first time I shook his hand. There would be no turning back.

The most amazing part of falling in love with Clay was realizing that this was not a gift given only for me – he was a gift to my sons as well.

So, with shaking hands and almost too much hope to bear, I married him and complicated all our lives more than I could have imagined.

I had come to believe it would have been unjustifiably selfish not to do so.

This Mother’s Day, I’m thinking about mothers who take that terrifying leap into second marriages. I’m thinking about women brave enough to complicate their children’s lives with more love.

Yes, yes, it’s true that a second marriage can be a horrible train wreck for the kids from the first marriage.

But it can also be a thing of beauty.


Everyone tells you to enjoy their babyhood, because it goes so fast. No one tells you that enjoying it doesn't slow it down one bit. Jerks.

I know it's a cliche - OH, they grow up SO FAST!

But the thing is, I remember. I remember when this shoe fit on Tre's actual foot.

Tres_wee_shoe

It was recently. Not that long since that golden-lit summer. I remember.

And all of a sudden...

The other day I came home from a day of running errands, walked in the door, and kicked off my shoes. I don't normally leave my shoes right inside the door, but it was time to make dinner and the shoes were far too pretty to be worn one second longer than needed.

Ouch, is what I'm saying.

Later that evening I rounded the corner from the kitchen to see my shoes. They'd been kicked in two different directions, and one of them landed near Tre's shoes.

Like this.

Shoes

Those great big, lurking shoes overwhelming mine? Those are his OLD shoes (his Heeleys, actually). The ones that are a little tight on him.

When did this happen?


They continue to survive

I read an article…somewhere…recently…(don’t you love the journalistic integrity? Does it give you goosebumps? Well, I did read an article. Somewhere. Recently) about kids and exercise. The gist of the article was that being outside somehow causes children to move more vigorously. The space, the fresh air, the sunlight, whatever. It all comes together to encourage more activity. This isn’t forced exercise, like PE class or some ill advised Kidz Bop workout video. This is an authentic reaction to being outside and free to move.

See? I thought, that is the problem. Too much with the being inside. Too much order and fluorescence and “I said sit down already.”

Kids need to be outside to be healthy.

And lo, there was guilt.

So this afternoon, when we arrived home, I shooed the boys outside.

“Walk your dog,” I said.

“Because she needs a walk, because it’s beautiful outside, because it’s good for everyone, and if that’s not enough, because I said so,” I said in response to their bewildered objections. They trooped off, bickering. Carmi bounded and grinned along in their wake.

The house had only been quiet for a few minutes when the calm started to gnaw at my self-satisfied repose.

What had I done?

Walk your dog? Walk your dog?

Sure, I’d just sent them around the block – not even AROUND the block, but up the cul-de-sac (or “culture sack,” as Max calls it) and back. A stroll around an interior curve of street. But who’s to say that street isn’t entirely populated with child-murdering weirdos? SURE, none of them showed up on that Watch Dog site that’s supposed to show you where the child-murdering weirdos are in your neighborhood, but aren’t those the worst kind? The kind that DOESN’T show up?

Oh oh oh, I thought, what have I done? They don’t even NEED more exercise! They never stop running and jumping and hurling themselves off pieces of furniture.

I paced past the front window.

And lo, there was guilt.

Apparently all the child-murdering weirdos were napping or shopping or something, because a few minutes later the boys returned. They were still bickering, and Carmi was still leaping joyfully. I stood at the kitchen sink and watched them file in and totally played it off like I was never worried at all.

Max marched over to me and thrust a small fistful of lilac blossoms at me. Raphael followed him up by fishing a wad of lilac out of his pocket. Tre looked resentful and explained that he didn’t know they were picking me flowers until they’d already passed the lilac bush.

I thanked them all, and since the stems were too short to stick in a vase, I floated them in a little bowl of water.

P1010056

And lo, there was joy.


Random thoughts and moments from my life. REALLY random.

As I drove along I said something (unnecessary) to Tre in the seat behind me. When he didn’t respond, I repeated myself.

Still nothing.

I flipped the rearview mirror down to look at him, irritated. He was listening to a cd, earbuds firmly jammed in place. He wasn’t ignoring me, he was deaf to me.

I flashed back on a frequently repeated scene from my teen years.

Picture this: me, slumped in the back seat. The bangs soared high, the eyeshadow formed a fetching strata of purple and pink, and in my lap was cradled my precious Walkman. Over the strident tones of Madonna (who understood what it was like to be…something BIGGER and MORE IMPORTANT than anyone knew), I became aware of my mother’s voice, repeating my name. With hands made heavy by my lot in the world, I picked up my Walkman and punched the button to stop the music. I looked up, treating my mother’s eyes in the rearview mirror to a pained expression.

“WHAT?”

“Do you have to listen to that right now? I swear, sometimes it seems like you’re not even here.”

Not even HERE? What was the woman TALKING about? I was trapped, TRAPPED here. I would die and shrivel up HERE, STUCK, in this car.

Cue wavy-lined segue back to present scene, me, observing my son in my own rearview mirror. He gazed out the window, lips moving silently along with the lyrics.

I get it, Mom. I get it.

                                             ***************************

Am I the only one who has noticed that Paula Deen is crazy? I mean, like, CA-RAAAAZAY. No? Y’all aren’t seeing it? Fried butter balls? I mean, I'm sure she's a very NICE crazy person...

Huh.

                                             ***************************

Saturday Raphael and I were walking past a tennis court and he gestured at its green expanse.

“I think tennis looks easy.”

“Really?”

“Yup. We’d just need to get a new tennis ball, because Carmi ate ours. And then we should go play tennis sometime.”

“Hmmm,” I said, falling back upon the motherly defense of non-committalyness.

“Well, we would need to buy some tennis whackers, too.”

That’s my boy. All he needs for a rockin’ game of tennis is a few tennis whackers…and a smidge of self-confidence.

                                            ***************************

Who would think that a mere three boys could experience such endless turmoil over the issue of “NO, IT’S MY TURN”? Whether it’s time to tell about their school day, or time to say the dinner prayer, or time to help me to my feet, there is an unrelenting jockeying for position.

And me without my dart gun.

                                             ***************************

“Non-committalyness”? Totally a word. AND a strategy.

                                            ***************************

Sunday morning was a difficult one for Max. He woke up out of sorts and proceeded to spend the rest of his morning doing his very best to bring everyone along for his ride. And then being bewildered that people were mad at him.

When we got to church it turned out that he was scheduled to serve as an acolyte, as crucifer. This meant he was the one to carry the cross down the aisle for the processional, and when it was time for the gospel reading, he accompanied the deacon up the aisle to the midst of the church. Then the deacon rested the book on Max’s hands and read the gospel passage.

Now, Max is a touch fidgety for this job on his best day. Sunday? Was not his best day. As he marched up the aisle with the deacon, he squirmed and scowled. I could tell that he was anxious, afraid that he was going to screw this important job up. If you didn’t know him you would think that he was angry. I could tell he was suffering from the weight of wanting to do it right.

As he turned and offered his hands, I tried to catch his eye and give him an encouraging nod. I wasn’t far from him, and he did turn to look at me.

Or so I thought.

I smiled at him, but he didn’t respond, and I realized he was gazing past my left ear.

At Clay.

“Good job, buddy,” Clay’s whisper stirred my hair. Max nodded back, curtly, and turned to face his duty with a renewed calm.


I'm just wondering.

Ok, so y'all have heard of superfoods, right? Food with exceptional levels of nutrients? Well, I'm very excited about superfoods. JUST TODAY I've eaten ground flaxseeds, almonds, oatmeal, dark chocolate, KALE (that one deserves emphasis, because...well, it was KALE), black beans, and drank tea (both green and black) and pomegranate juice.

So.

When can I expect to get my superpowers?