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December 2010
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February 2011

Today was my second class, which makes it the first real class, because the first one doesn't really count. We started out with the professor dictating a poem to us, and it was all lovely and perfect and by the end of it I was melty with the gorgeousness of it, and then she went directly into explaining why that Romantic style of poetry was soon understood to be trite and snobby and entirely too removed from the experiences of real people in the real, stinky world. As I frowned at my paper, trying to see properly through the artifice of it all, she followed that up with an airy, "OH, but I still LOVE Romantic poetry - I DO!"

I have missed that teetering unsettledness. English professors are CRAZY, and I love them.

But what annoys me is English STUDENTS. Particularly ones with better answers than mine. There were only five students there today, and one young woman who looked about twelve, kept leaping in with observations like, "Now, this stanza really contrasts with the previous one, because here we've got an entire pantheon of gods and goddesses, rather than the monotheistic blah da de blah blah."

Not a direct quote.

It was annoying because it was SUCH a cliche - the earnest, eloquent young English major, prattling on about the finer points of the whatever that everyone else forgot to care about. And mostly it was annoying because I used to be that person, and I have TOTALLY lost my kiss up literature-phile chops. Dang it. *I* want to be the suck-up head of the class. Does she have to be QUITE so dewy cheeked and wordy?

And speaking of dewy cheeked, do you know what college campuses are simply RIFE with? Dewy cheeked college kids. And these people, these lithe little near-adults are simply OBSESSED with the opposite sex. You can hardly blame them, because they are at that age when various hormonal cocktails in their bloodstream are ruling the day. I have decided that the reason so many college students smoke is to simply get a little relief from the clouds of pheromones that surround them perpetually.

I, being old and married, am impervious to all non-Clay pheromones. All other pheromone receptors are long since atrophied and dessicated. I am like a Jedi master among so many frantic puppies. I wave my hand and intone, "This is not the vagina you are looking for," and they are gone.

No, actually, the truth is much sadder. People on campus make RILLY INTENSE eye contact, I've noticed. Everyone is scanning everyone else, to see if their One is among all the Others. And so I've seen these young men walking toward me, watching me, and I guess I should be flattered, but they get fairly close (okay, it's also dark outside by the time I'm on campus) before they realize that I am OLD. All of a sudden their face goes from open and interested to ALERT ALERT ALERT! MOM ON CAMPUS! ALERT! AVERT EYES!!!! AAAAHHHHGH!

It's not like I want them to think I'm hot or anything, but would it hurt them to not look quite so STARTLED?

Well, whatever. I drove home, and when I got there I walked in from the cold dark front porch to my home, packed full with light and noise and clutter and kids. Tre waved at me from the computer and Sophia marched over to me and ordered, "HOLD that baby!" and Max had made spaghetti sauce from scratch and he waved an empty can of tomatoes at me from the kitchen to let me know we were out. Soon Clay and Raphael were home from wrestling practice, and Clay kissed me hello, both of us relieved to finally be back together. Raphael's cheeks were pink from the cold and the work of practice, and he looked like an angel, but he was a bit too hungry, and he was acting like a little monster.

And I stood in the middle of all the chaos of voices and plates being set on the table and the smell of supper and the steam on the windows, and I was, for the moment, perfectly happy in my imperfect world.

I don't have to be the head of anything. I am in the middle of everything.

 


Illness update!

Excellent news! It has now been over 30 hours since I have been thrown up on! Sophia has finally taken to nibbling at food again, and her coloring has been upgraded from "wax" all the way to "porcelain."

I even got her to drink some Pedialite, by mixing one of those little packets of powder with club soda. I am very tricky. Or, possibly, grape is officially the one flavor that doesn't suck. Either way, it was a relief.

I am hopeful that tomorrow I will actually be able to move around without a toddler attached to me at all times. And that will be nice, because after the past three days, all I need to get done is...everything. (Example: I'm not ADMITTING that our Christmas tree is still up, just WONDERING how harshly you would judge us if it were?)


Schooled

Remember how I decided to go back to school and subsequently set off actual alarms in my house? Have you noticed how I haven't mentioned it since? There's a reason for that.

Actually, there are about twelve thousand, four hundred, and seventeen reasons for that. Would you like me to whine and share them all with you? Doesn't that sound like fun?

Okay, how about the highlights instead?

Who has time for something like that? Not me. That's insane.

Who has extra money lying around for tuition and books that hello probably are all marked up and highlighted in the wrong spots because you know I'm too cheap to pay for new textbooks? Again, not me.

I have FOUR CHILDREN. Three of whom are home all the time. Two of them want educating, and the little one needs rescuing from herself regularly. The remaining one goes away for school, but that just means an astonishing amount of driving here and there and signing forms and paying random fees and attending random meetings.

It has been THIRTEEN YEARS since I last attended school. Many of the free and available brain cells I had back then have since been used up by important matters like learning how to make perfect pancakes and remembering to buy diapers.

Clay works REALLY HARD around here already. Does it really make sense for me to toddle off to some class and leave him alone when he should be enjoying a restful evening with his loving family and the attentions of his adoring wife? (note: by "attentions of his adoring wife" here I actually mean "that time when his adoring wife retreats to the bathtub with a book and a fistful of chocolate and refuses to respond to children's requests for anything." Obviously.)

So what I did was to apply for readmission to the college I last attended, get all my paperwork in order, peruse things online, and then...wait.

Days flicked past, as they will, and would glance occasionally across the room at my readmission letter, and wonder if I was going to actually go ahead and do it.

And I can't really explain it, but when the very last day to register was breathing down my neck, I went ahead and did it.

I did.

I registered for a class.

And last night I finally got ahold of my transcripts and discovered that I'd already taken that class, fourteen years ago. *headdesk*

But I scrambled, and I got myself admitted to another class, and now here I am, embarking on another attempt at degree-dom. I'm still not sure this is a sensible thing to do, and it's sort of embarrassing to admit that I'm stillllll crawling toward my bachelor's degree (I prefer to pretend that I already have it. I don't LIE and say that I do, but I may use ambiguous wording and let you assume what you will).

I figure, though, that this must be the time to do this. If I couldn't be stopped by my own arrogant pride and ambiguity, if I pressed on, despite the costs and risks and a puking toddler and the wrong class and hello, did I tell you it SNOWED TODAY and the campus is a million miles across Denver?

I somehow got there today, despite it all, so perhaps this really is the time. As I told Clay when I first decided to return to school, I just can't hit the snooze button on my own life anymore.

School is in session. Here we go.


'Tis a gift to be simple

Sophia has a tummy bug, and has been busy today, spewing unmentionable fluids from both ends of her self. Poor little pumpkin, she doesn't really understand what's happening when she has to throw up, so when she starts to get that icky sensation, she climbs up in my lap (where better to be when you feel icky than draped over your mama like a soggy dishrag?). Then she moans, "owwww."

Whenever anything hurts on her she claims knee pain - I don't know why. If anyone else says "ouch," she looks at them with sympathy and says knowingly, "Hurt. Knee?" Not my job to understand.

Anyhow, so there she is, poured across my torso, complaining of knee pain, when the first wave of her stomach contents rears up in her mouth. She struggles, then - for some reason - adresses herself directly to my boobs.

I have changed my clothes five times today, and taken two showers. I am entirely out of clean bras that fit, and have corralled the girls in an old, immediate post-partum era nursing bra that is the size of a rodeo arena. Remind me not to jump around too much.

Speaking of nursing, I am of course feeding Sophia the prescribed BRAT diet, which is not perhaps the same BRAT diet you're thinking of. Instead of Banana, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast, Sophia's BRAT consists of:

Breastmilk

Really, just breastmilk,

Always and only breastmilk, and

Truly, just the boobs, ma'am.

The way I see it, this means that today I get the special privilege of MAKING all her food, WEARING all her food, and CLEANING UP all her food. And then living within the lingering scent of...well, let's leave it at "lingering scent."

I'm not complaining, just saying. Okay, maybe complaining just a little. But here's the real truth. I keep seeing, pretty clearly from where I sit, how efficiently our kids move out of our grasp. Sooner than it can possibly be a good idea, they are making their own choices and living with their own mistakes. And despite the fact that it's CLEARLY a design flaw, God has still not installed the free will mute button that I've been requesting.

It's hard - it is SO HARD to let them go and step off their own cliffs. To know when to speak and when to shut up. To let them find their own ways. It is so hard.

And this? The endless comforting and mopping up after a tiny girl? This is easy. By comparison, this is simple and sweet. Yes, I'm tired.

But at least for now, I know what to do.


Nobody puts Baby in a corner...or anywhere, anymore.

It happened Friday morning. I was puttering around the kitchen, assimilating a breakfast of sorts (I'm not terribly proactive about things before 10 AM). I said, half to myself I suppose, "Who wants some apple?"

Yes, I'm becoming that person. The old woman who has spent so many years embroiled in the uninteresting details of life that she operates mainly off a script of "what do you want to eat" and "is it cold in here?"

Anyhow, in answer to my sort-of-question, Sophia looked up at me and chirped, "Sopha."

I blinked back. Did she just tell me to feed apples to the sofa? But she cocked her head, concentrated, and tried again.

"Sophi. Sophiiia. Sophia." She nodded at me, satisfied. "Sophia."

"Do you mean...baby? Does BABY want some apples?"

"NO," she said, because she is nearly two and no means yes, no, maybe, I'm sorry, could you repeat that, and I have noticed that you are speaking in my presence. In this case it seemed to mean yes, because she followed it up with, "yeah, pleeeze. Sophia have that apples."

And just like that, BABY became Sophia. Let there be great mourning across the land.

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Fortunately, Sophia seems pretty much as adorable as Baby ever was. Did I mention she's taken to dressing herself?


The best age

I was in my room, tugging the bedsheets into some sort of order (Clay likes to sleep with the window open, even when it is RILLY RILLY cold, so I tend to respond by crawling up underneath him and mummying myself in blankets, causing me to climb out of bed in the morning and look at the resulting cloth chaos and think, who invited the mosh pit into our bed again last night?), when Sophia came running in.

When I was a little girl, so very many years ago that people used things like record players, I had a record of some book, and I would listen to it and follow along in my book. At the beginning of the record, the fruity voice instructed, "You will know it is time to turn the page when Tinkerbell rings her little bells, like this:" and then there was a light silvery tinkle of bells. My point is that I can almost hear Tinkerbell ring her little bells, just like that, when Sophia runs, so prancing and sprite-like is her step.

Tre strode in behind her, all manly swagger and benevolent smiles. He's becoming so very grown-looking. I'm thinking he should be seen by the pediatrician, because he has these freakishly muscular arms for such a little boy - I mean, he almost looks like a MAN, if you can believe that! Clearly some sort of hormonal imbalance, because he is my sweet little boy, shut up yes he is. He was chuckling over something Sophia had been doing, and wanted to tell me all about it.

I'm sorry, I wish I could remember the anecdote. I'm certain it was charming, and I can almost guarantee that it included Sophia giving that special empress tilt of the head and chirping, "No!" or possibly "Stop it!" That pretty much sums up 99% of Sophia stories these days.

Anyhow, Tre was telling me all about it, and laughing. He sat on the edge of my bed and shook his head.

"I think this is my favorite age yet," he sighed, watching Sophia pull books off my shelf.

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This age. Tre, taller than me, nearly a man, smitten with his baby sister and thrilled with his life. Max, a complex blend of wonderful and frustrating. Raphael, a bombastic package of pure boy boisterousness. Sophia, an incandescent little sprite/ruthless despot.

And Jennie, stepping over the line into the world where she is no longer the most important person she sees. In her arms it all starts over again, with tiny, lovely Quentin.

The layers sometimes stun me. I am not enough to know the answers to all the struggles they face, from potty training to lifelong love. But Tre is right.

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It is the best age yet. Every one of them.

 

 


Although I might "hide" the Veggie Tales DVD next time.

So there we were, in Denver, and Jennie and her Quentin were in Wyoming, a good seven hour drive away. There was simply nothing for it. We had to make a road trip.

We left the boys with my parents and hit the highway. Now, if you can't imagine anything more fun than a weekend with fourteen hours of driving with a toddler in the car, add in a snowstorm.

We got some videos for Sophia to watch in the car because...well, because fourteen total hours. With a toddler. We had a lovely sampler of movies for her to choose from, but as it turns out the only thing she wanted to see was the theme song for Veggie Tales. Over. And over. And over. AND OVER.

Who the hell wants to waltz with potatoes? What is that even supposed to MEAN?

When the beloved theme song was winding down to its end, she would start to writhe in her seat, crying out, "Sa SONG! Sa SONG!" And Clay or I would punch the button, and we'd hear it all again.

She is not yet two years old, but let me tell you - girlfriend is SO TWO.

You never know what a trip with a toddler is going to unleash. It's like digging up a cursed burial chamber - no one can say what horrors will be released. Usually, though, it's the twin demons of "I won't eat that" and "I don't sleep anymore."

For the record, Sophia now eats only cheddar bunny crackers and raisins, and she does not sleep. I know I claimed that she did not sleep before, but that was back when I was all arrogant and drunk on several minutes of sleep in a row. I did not know what I was talking about. Now she does not sleep, and at night she prefers to not sleep while she is lodged in between her father and me, so she can twine my hair around her toes and poke cold sticky fingers in her father's armpits. We think she might be trying to destroy us with psychological warfare. It's actually working, and we're prepared to surrender on all counts, whatever they may be, if she will only sleeeeeeeeep.

All the hours in the car gave us plenty of time to hear her amazing vocal range, from the piercing ululating noise that sounds like some sort of primal hunting cry, to the mournful moan of "no" she made every seven seconds for about one hundred years.

"Hmm," Clay said, after several miles worth of noes, "do you think she means...no?"

And yes, I think she did.

I figure it will take about a week before things settle back down, now that we're home. It may take a month before Sophia will get in the car again without full-on civil disobedience (and by "civil" I mean "NOT AT ALL CIVIL"). Clay, as usual, will probably bounce back better than I, but I think I'm going to need a spa trip and therapy and seventeen straight hours of sleep before I'm myself again.

And I would do it all again. Because there are very few reasons that are good enough to take on a trip like that one, and these people, right here:

Jan10 069 

are two excellent reasons.


Still no news. Heard from Jennie this afternoon, and she was still waiting for a delivery room to open up so they could start the induction.

This is torture.

*UPDATE!*

She's in a room, and things are progressing. They're hoping she'll deliver around 1 AM.

Where can I get my hands on an emotional epidural?