Previous month:
June 2008
Next month:
August 2008

I'm just saying...

So, I don't want to suggest that things are out of control around here, but Raphael played a double-header tonight.

I don't want to say that was a bad idea, but we're leaving in the morning for a week and a half vacation, and our bags weren't packed as of end game time (8 a million o'clock. PM). 

And it's not that being unpacked would have been a problem, but I had a mammoth project that I absolutely HAD to finish before we left, and it was mostly undone, because of a BONE HEAD screw-up on my part.

Don't get the impression that we would be sunk without Clay, but he TOTALLY pulled it out of the fire for me tonight, and spent roughly a gazillion hours on the computer, until it was done and done RIGHT.

You shouldn't worry that the kids are a little wound tight at the excitement of it all, but Raphael did try to crawl in Max's bed at 10:30 tonight, and then protest very angrily when Max had the temerity to suggest that he should go back to his own bed. When I went downstairs to wrangle him back into his room, I discovered that he was a) completely asleep and with no idea of what was going on and b) naked. As I hauled his irritable, clammy-butt self back to bed, he groused at me that he did NOT know why I was bothering him when he was trying to sleep. Tre and Max stood outside his door and laughed at him, sotto-voiced, for a good ten minutes.

This is one of the beautiful built-in benefits of vacations. By the time you get there, you REALLY NEED to get away. 

I probably wouldn't have signed her petition, anyway.

Yesterday Jennie arrived for her summer visit. I got to go pick her up this time, because Clay was on call, and couldn't really hop in the car and drive 2.5 hours when he might be required to go to work at any moment. Which he was, so it was just as well.

Also, I got to spend a few hours in the car, just me and a frothy audio book and the open road. Then I met up with Jennie's mom, we performed the swap, and it was me and the girl. 

I think Jennie and I have a pretty good relationship. I think she's great, and I hope she knows that. I don't know that we'll ever fall into each other's arms like best friends, but we are increasingly comfortable with each other (rather than just polite), and that makes me happy. She even listened to my book with me, and now we both want to know how it ends, if we can just find a few minutes (roughly two hours) without the boys around to hear the rest of it.

When we arrived home, we were greeted by three very excited boys. Raphael had been swearing that morning that he was going to "just JUMP on Jennie. Just JUMP on her!" However, his nerve didn't hold out and he opted instead for a hug. Tre and Max swarmed around, and helped carry in her bags. I watched them disappear into the house, listening to their excited babble. "Hey, Jennie, I got stung by TWO wasps yesterday, see?" 
"Jennie, want to come see what I did to my room?"
"Did you know I'm going to be 13 on Friday?"

They dragged her away, to look at their rooms and laugh at their jokes. And just like that, the house was full again. They'll have their moments in the next month, I know, but they sure were relieved to see each other.

Today I took the four of them, and niece Kate (also 16), to the library for a stack of vacation-worthy books. As we were leaving, I was accosted by a person gathering signatures for a petition. (Can I mention, in passing, how tired I am of the signature-gathering? PLEASE STOP.) She called out to me, as I trailed behind my crowd, "Are you registered to vote in Colorado?" When I don't have time to stop, I always pause, attempting to work up the courage to lie and say, "OH NO! Voting is of the DEVIL!" or something equally smart. But I ended up falling back on the pitiful truth. 
"Sorry, I don't have time right now," I said, with an apologetic smile. She swung her clipboard and raised her eyebrows. 

"Don't HAVE TIME?" she mused, half turning away. "She doesn't HAVE TIME," she informed the air above her head.

I kept trotting along, feeling guilty now.

"No, really," I called over my shoulder. "See those kids? They're all mine." She swung around to look. Kate and Jennie were comparing books, Tre was tailing them, trying to look nonchalant and sufficiently teenaged. Max and Raphael were careening around them, like two unreasonably loud satellites. 

"Oh," muttered the woman, "uh... congratulations." Her tone left no doubt about the fact that she didn't consider my gang to be all that enviable. 

I left her in our wake, grinning to myself as we loaded into the van. What petition-woman didn't know was three things:

1 - I lied. Not all the kids belong to me.
2 - I belong to all of them in a way that leaves me very little time.
3 - Congratulations are most certainly in order.

Locks of Love Thursday

Years ago, Max started begging me to let him grow his hair long. I was against it. I'm not a fan of long hair on males of all ages, to be quite frank. As far as I'm concerned, little boys in particular should be clean cut and respectable looking.

But Max was dying to have his hair long, so after about two years of begging, I relented. 

I didn't expect to love it so much.
I didn't expect it to be so very...MAX.
I sure didn't expect it to end up THIS long.


But Max had a goal. He wanted to grow his hair long enough to donate it to Locks of Love. He was completely fixated on getting it long enough to donate. For months he's been sweltering under this mop of hair, shoving it back and jamming a baseball cap on top, sweating and pink cheeked and determined.
And today was chop-it-off day.


(No, that's not 10 inches. Shorter lengths can be sold to offset costs. Who knew?)

Max taught me a few things with his hair. I learned to have a little more respect for my kids' sense of self. They are who they are, and that's way bigger than my notions of what they should be.


And not only does Max have a sense of self, he has a sense of others I could surely learn from.

That's Love.

Exactly like that

Max has come upstairs to say goodnight - pushing the time, as usual, by juuuust a few minutes. He's in the kitchen behind me, talking to Clay.

"Like THIS, Dad," he pivots and flings an imaginary ball across the room.

"Yes, but watch that hand. Keep it right here - level. And don't forget to point with the other hand before the throw."

I turn around to watch them. They stand, facing each other, pantomiming a pitch. 

"Like this?" Max does it again, a focused and precise baseball dance.

"Exactly like that," Clay says. He reaches out and Max fits his wiry torso inside Clay's arms. He's folded against his dad's chest, and he grins, as though he's just pitched a no-hitter. 

Good for the soul.

There are, in my life, a few dark spots. Areas of shame, if you will. I think I read somewhere that confession is good for such things, so here goes:

I cannot grow zucchini. Here I am, posing as a gardener, and I can't grow the weed among vegetables. Tomatoes? I can grow those. Jalapenos? Check. Cantaloupe, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets, garlic, sugar snap peas, onions, a regular folk song's worth of herbs? You betcha. But I cannot make those stupid vines produce zucchini. They grow one or two sad, withery looking things, then promptly develop powdery mildew and die. I don't even LIKE zucchini (except as disguised in breads with tons of sugar), and yet this failing of mine makes me insane. I persist in planting the stupid things, and they persist in mocking me. I have even resorted to adopting a knowing look when fellow gardeners complain about their super-abundant zucchini plants. They did not know I was DYING INSIDE.

I read a few blogs that embarrass me so much that I refuse to bookmark them. I just click on a site that I happen to know links to one of my guilty pleasure blogs, and WHOOPS! Looky there! I'm over here, at the site with the whack-job woman who posts long video blogs that are simply CRAMMED with rants about how awful everyone is except her. And pointed asides about how THIN she is. WOW, is she insane, or WHAT? I read and listen to her whiny whiny whiny voice, and the whole time it's like nails on the proverbial chalkboard except NO, not on the chalkboard, like nails on my eyelids or something, THERE IS NO CALL FOR THAT. And life is too short to read these blogs. But I do.

I have come a long way in my life, but Once Upon A Time I was just as picky of an eater as Raphael is. (Raphael, in case you didn't know, is the world's pickiest eater. He will THROW UP if he bites into a strawberry. I am convinced that he photosynthesizes, because he just does not ingest enough food to survive, much less thrive, as he seems to be doing.) When I was a child I spent many an after-dinner hour staring at my plate, plotting various methods of disposal. Which ever parent was doing the dishes would have to go to the bathroom EVENTUALLY, and when s/he did, those string beans were going in the hole in the wall that was hidden by the kite, to provide a feast for the mice. I did love the mice.
But I have grown as a human being, and have learned to appreciate a wide variety of foods. Most of them are chocolate. But I will also WILLINGLY eat mushrooms, which I think says just SCADS about my maturity as an eater.
But last week I sat across from a friend and picked onions off my pizza in a most ungracious manner, because when it comes right down to it I am a child. And the onions, they were looking at me.

Sometimes, when I am driving somewhere with just Tre in the car, and he's sitting next to me, listening to his iPod or reading or ignoring me in some other way (because he is PRACTICALLY 13, and I am NOT INTERESTING anymore), I get bored and I lick my finger and stick it in his ear. Just to make him jump and glare at me. Then I act like I don't know what he's talking about. ME? Give you a wet willy? I would NEVER. I am A LADY.

Speaking of ways I torture my children, in the mornings I forbid my beloved sons to touch my newspaper until I have had my way with it. JUST this morning Tre was begging me to let him read the funnies, but I hadn't read it yet, so I said no. "But - you're on the COMPUTER! You aren't even TOUCHING IT!" he said.  I was unmoved by his argument. Because that paper is MINE and if he wants his own paper, I suggest he contact the pretty, pretty people who deliver them and hand over bunches of money. 

Whew! They were right! That DOES feel better! I am lighter - CLEANSED in some way. That was so much fun that I'm considering developing a whole slew of new character flaws, just so I can share them with you!\

 Now it's your turn. Whatever burden it is that you're carrying, SHARE it. I promise you'll feel better. 

Besides, my final confession?

I love comments even more than my virgin morning newspaper.

Long term learning

When I was a young teen, we lived in the middle of nowhere. A useless, if beautiful, valley carved out of the desert mountaintops in New Mexico, Jemez Valley was equal parts cruel and breathtaking. I mean that in every way - the people, the history, the culture, the landscape, the winding mountain roads that were built with less than rigorous attention to the angle required to keep people from hurtling off random curves. Breathtaking and cruel.

However, hidden in the pines in the north of the valley was an oasis - or it was for me, at least. Hummingbird Music Camp was a place to escape into for a week or two during the summer. It was jammed full of artsy music types, and we attached to one another and FELT things deeply and EXPRESSED ourselves, and knew, JUST KNEW that no one would understand us quite like we understood each other. Oh, the inside jokes we had! The clever asides! The romances and heartbreaks! 

I just googled Hummingbird, and it looks like not much has changed - except now people can post videos of their experience to You Tube. Not sure that's an improvement. Some things are best kept within the gilded confines of one's own memory.

Mr. Higgins was the patriarch of Hummingbird. He was a gentle, soft spoken man whom everyone loved. He had taught school for years, and had that rare combination of unflappable calm and genuine interest in kids. I know he probably wasn't perfect, but I also know that this world is dotted with people who, when they hear the song "The Leader of the Band," get misty and think of Mr. Higgins. He's been dead for a few years now - I'm not sure how long - but Hummingbird lives on, celebrating 50 years this summer.

I've been thinking of Mr. Higgins a lot this past week. He had a rule, an inviolable edict about the many pianos littering the campus of Hummingbird. Play all you want, for the love of all that is good and holy, PLEASE PRACTICE, but do not, YOU MAY NOT play "Heart and Soul". You know "Heart and Soul"? Tom Hanks played it on the big keyboard in "Big." Children all over play this song, with the melody picked out by one on the top, and the accompaniment played by another person lower on the keyboard. It's bright and catchy and the song that never ends. 

I never understood the Heart and Soul edict. I mean, who wouldn't want to hear a few sprightly rounds? I, personally, could play it to myself for hours. It was fun, it was pretty, and weren't we music lovers?

Last week, while I was gone, my mother taught Max to play "Heart and Soul." He, in turn, taught his brothers. Together they labor at it EVERY DAY. Raphael especially enjoys playing the melody while Max backs him up. The fact that they're playing at radically different tempos doesn't seem to bother either of them.

After a week of an endless diet of "HEART AND SOUL," I wish to send a shout-out to Mr. Higgins. Mr. H, up there in some perfect band shell in the sky, where no reeds are broken and all your students have practiced, I know you're probably busy collaborating with Mozart on some amazing new piece for orchestra and angels, but I just have to tell you something.

Mr. Higgins, you were so, so, SO right.

And he will kiss me even when I'm sweaty, too.

Tonight I was at the gym, while Clay schlepped all three boys to baseball practice. He is a gem, I tell you. Now, I love going to the gym, I really do. This surprises people sometimes. Occasionally I'll run into a friend after leaving the gym, or go from there to someone's house to pick up a child after a playdate, and they'll look at me a bit askance. 

" out?"

I don't mind, because if you look at me there is absolutely nothing that even whispers "Nike commercial." I am the anti-athlete. I am short and...soft and somewhat clumsy. But that's ok, because I do not exercise in the hopes of a washboard tummy (THAT ship sailed about 13.5 years ago) - I do it for the happy happy endorphins. My drug of choice comes with damp hair at the nape of my neck. Rrrrowwllll.

However, recently my gym turned on me. I go to a tiny "express" work out place - bare bones. Weight machines, free weights, a smattering of cardio machines, that's it. You're in, you're out, you're enjoying the joyous buzzing in your head that helps you not lock your children in the closet. But as the temperature started rising this summer, it became clear that my tiny little gym had a problem. 

No air conditioner.

Now, they HAD an air conditioner, it had just opted not to actually cool any air this summer. I was dying. I would stand up from the leg-press machine, and stagger away, head spinning, sweat-slicked everywhere. I asked the managers what was UP with them trying to kill me, and I was told that they had ordered a new air conditioning unit, but they didn't know when it would arrive, or when they would be able to find a crane to put it up on the roof. I got the impression that they were standing at the door, gazing out into the street, calling to one another, "Do YOU see an air conditioning unit? or a crane? No, me either. OH WELL, back to baking the members!" I stumbled out the door, drenched in misery (and the aforementioned sweat), and went home. 

Clay, who goes to the same gym (with Tre, and it is TOO CUTE), went in to work out, discovered that I was right, it was unbearably hot in there, spoke to a manager, and got us permission to use the other branch of our gym, another ten minute drive away. Have I mentioned that Clay is a gem? A. Gem.

Sadly, however, the Other Gym is a monolith, a huge cave of a place, with a pool and seventeen gozillion cardio machines and a free weight section that is completely overrun with muscle heads. It has a sauna. It offers tanning packages. 

It is a night club for fitness types. 

For the first few weeks I was utterly intimidated by all the flirting youngsters. Now, as a woman easing gracefully into my late 30s, I am largely invisible to the youngsters. There was the one guy who kept asking me if I needed help changing the weights on the machine I was using (it's a PIN, and I think I can manage it k'thanx), but for the most part they mill around me, oblivious. Now that I've overcome my reticence to work out there, I feel like the Jane Goodall of the gym. I watch the shenanigans around me and narrate in my head.

The male, who seems to be in his early twenties, has passed in front of the female, also in her early twenties, at least seven times. As she has not yet acknowledged him, he has taken to dropping his towel and bending over slowly to pick it up, displaying his rear in what is clearly a mating ritual. The female looks slightly ill, however, so I suspect his hopes will be dashed.

Tonight I watched a guy approach a knot of women and try to make conversation. Brave soul. You have to admire that. They all stood around and chatted for a few minutes, then he wandered away. As he passed in front of me, his carefully cool expression melted into a wide grin. I swung my gaze back to the women, and saw them clustered together, watching him walk away. Two of them were elbowing and nodding at the third, and she was trying not to look pleased.

It was adorable. It was baldly hopeful. It was a moment of youth and hope and anxiety and hormones.

I went home, sweaty and happy, and kissed Clay a lot, and thanked my lucky stars. 

Have I mentioned he's a gem?

Because there is taking care of yourself and then there is taking care.

One thing I've always been amazed by is how very forthright many bloggers can be about intimate physical issues. Infertility bloggers allow readers into their very uterus (uteruses? uteri?), frankly discussing ovaries and hormone levels and... mucous. Weight loss bloggers not only post their weekly progress, but will tell their actual, for-reals, to the decimal point weight. The mind reels. Even my very own Mir used to have her vagina as a central character on her blog, and now her breasts have a reoccurring cameo role.

But for me... well, I'm really too chicken ladylike to invite ya'll into such details of my life. I prefer to imagine that you think of me as a disembodied voice. Who weighs nothing. 

However, today I'm going to push past my reticence (and try not to think about those people I know IRL who read this occasionally - HI, MOM!). It's silly, really, to pretend that I'm not an actual, physical woman. So here goes.

Turns out, after my doctor's appointment the other day, that I have some wonky cells on my... elbow. Sorry, best I can do. Yes, so anyway, my elbow. Elbow cell dysplasia. Fairly common, am I right, ladies? It's no big deal, just some unruly cells that require a bit of discipline. I'm not in any DANGER, but I went in today for a biopsy, just to get things taken care of. I am, after all, rather fond of my ELBOW right where it is. 

At the end of my visit, as I sat on the table, damp hands pressing the paper drape against my thighs, my doctor put her hand on my shoulder. 

"Don't waste any good worrying time on this, okay? This is no big deal, and you're going to be FINE," she assured me. Love my doctor. LOVE. But for some reason I drew back and gave her a frosty smile.

"I know," I said. "As far as I'm concerned the worst part is already over." She responded with raised-eyebrow-smile-of surprise, wished me well, and left. I pulled on my clothes, gathered my papers, and proceeded into the rest of my day. The truth is that I didn't want to be there at ALL, and I was only participating in this because I knew it was the responsible way to take care of myself. 

I picked up 2/3 of my children from a friend's house (Tre had stayed home - how weird is THAT? He is entirely old enough to pass an hour or so alone in the house. It is WEIRD). She asked me how I was, how it went, and I gave her a many-shrugged answer. Whatever. I'm fine. Fine. Just fine.

Then I went home, fussed at the kids for a bit, and sat down with the neglected morning's newspaper. I couldn't seem to focus to read it properly, and before I knew it, it was lunch time. I tossed together some sort of reasonable facsimile of a lunch for the boys, then stood there in the kitchen, staring at the same uninspiring foods for a while.

In the end, I made myself a lunch of toast. Four slices of toast, to be exact, with real butter. Two of them I spread with raspberry jam, two of them with blueberry jam - both of them made by the same friend who had watched the boys for me. I settled in with my toast and admired the jewel-bright jam. I am usually much more responsible about my meals, but for today it was just the thing. As I stared out the window and enjoyed my toast and jam, I knew two things for sure: 1 - I really am going to be okay, and 2 - there are many different ways of taking care of yourself. Some of them include jam.

The most amazing thing happened this weekend. I got on a plane and went to Atlanta.

No, really.

I know, I know, that's not ACTUALLY amazing, except for the fact that it is. I just still can't get over it, 37 years old, and I can't get over the fact that I can pick up my suitcase here, in my life, where there are sunflower seeds infesting our dryer and Carmi's undercoat is gathering in frothy drifts under all the furniture, and I can climb into a plane, and voila! Three hours later I'm standing in the watery Atlanta sunshine, feeling its air all thick with moisture wrap around me, and grinning like a loon because right there, in front of me, is one of my favorite people in the world. And her kids. And her husband. And we're going to see another favorite person. And I don't even have to drive.

For three and a half days I was in another world, where children's cries required no response from me, where I was completely surrounded by people who are dizzyingly smart and funny and smartly funny, where food and drink and everything (except maybe all that thick, hot air) was exactly as I would have set the scene for my perfect weekend away. Well, I would have also eliminated all illness and exhaustion, but hey, can't have everything (please feel better, Joss).  

We talked and talked and talked and...are you getting the gist? Talked. Watched bad TV. Talked. Laughed. The weekend disappeared like a single perfect summer hour, too quick, too much fun, impossible to hold on to. 

And then, equally amazing, on a morning that I woke up in Mir's daughter's room, I was driven to the airport by a very charming driver - who would be a good egg in my book even if he hadn't totally saved Mir from a miserable existence (HA! HA! See what I did there?!) - and I climbed into a plane and within hours I was sitting here, at my computer, listening to the boys as they hunted wasps with their water guns ("These aren't just WASPS," I heard the neighbor boy exclaim, "they're KILLER WASPS. MUCH more dangerous!" And all of them agreed that they seemed particularly large and predatory). I scraped together dinner from what little was left in the fridge, danced in the kitchen with my husband, and just like that I slid back into my real life. 

And it was even better than I'd left it.

All they heard was "cast the first stone"

They were SUPPOSED to be downstairs, flossing and brushing before bed. Instead they were relentlessly spilling back upstairs, bringing reports of their brothers' misdeeds. And lo, the misdeeds were many.

HE came out of the bathroom while he was still brushing, and yeah, well, HE said SHUT IT when told to set the timer, yeah, well, HE said -

"STOP TATTLING," I said, for the eleven bazillionty hundredth time. Clay, being not quite as beaten down as me just yet, launched into A Lesson.

"Hey, guys, you know what Jesus said when he was asked what to do about a woman who had sinned?"

"That's right," I chimed in, "they were testing him, because they knew that the law said she should be stoned for her sins."

"Yup, and do you know what Jesus told them?" Clay said. We were totally morality tag-teaming them. "He said, 'Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.' So. I'll tell you what, guys. When you treat your brothers with perfect patience - "

" - and respect!" I interjected. "And kindness!"

" - right, and you're always polite and do what you're told the first time without being reminded, THEN - "

"We can THROW STONES AT OUR BROTHERS?" Max asked, face aglow.