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February 2011
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April 2011

I blame daylight savings. For everything, really.

A few days ago I got into my head that the wireless hub for the internet should be turned off. Don't ask me why. I don't remember. But I was standing on a chair, fiddling with the hub, trying to find the power cord so I could unplug it. I was probably muttering foully under my breath, because Clay came over and said the fateful words: "Push that button right there."

For the record here, I did NOT just say "Clay broke the internet." I did not even mean to imply it.

However, the fact is that the button right there was a reset button, erasing our encryption data, breaking the happy links between the wifi and all the many appliances that speak to it daily, and just generally throwing our life into chaos and woe.

Also for the record, Clay fixed it all. And there are apparently seven devices that speak to the internet daily in our house. Remind me not to anger the internet, mkay?

Clay fixed it, although it took many hours and two new encryption codes. Yesterday Max came into my room, his face a mask of pain. "Can you PLEASE ask Dad not to change the access codes every night anymore? Because it's NOT FUN."

No, really? Because we've been having a GREAT TIME.

My point (yes, I have a point) is not about wifi at all. No, I'm thinking about Sophia. She's never been a great sleeper (have I mentioned? the not sleeping?), but this week she's become...a not-sleeping over-achiever.

She wails and fights sleep for two or three hours after her bedtime. She wails and fights sleep for at least an hour and a half in the middle of the night, every night. And then she wakes up early.

And she gave up naps months ago. So. It's not like she can really catch up.

You know how reasonable and level-headed and thoughtful and calm two-year-olds are? Yeah. The only thing that makes that better is vicious levels of sleep deprivation. Last night I was seriously contemplating dosing her with Benadryl, and tonight I can't even think of why I decided it was a bad idea.

Actually, tonight I can barely think anything at all. I am stupid tired, and I have tried four times to finish this sentence coherently.

What I want to know is this: who pushed the baby's damn sleep reset button?


Finding the joy

I had class tonight, and I got there early so I could ask around if anyone else was suffering cold sweats over the fabled "Great Big Hairy Midterm." I am pleased to report that IT IS NOT JUST ME. Wait. I don't suppose I should be pleased about that. I should be all furrow-browed about the fact that our professor is clearly riding a first-class berth on THE CRAZY TRAIN.

She spent the entire 1 hour and 15 minute class time talking about the midterm. This is what I now know: it is not, in fact, going to be a test, but a paper. "An essay?" someone asked, "or a research paper?" and the professor responded, "yes! Or you could write it as a LETTER to the editor of this book. Or maybe just finish your paper with a letter to her about the poets she omitted from her book."

*deep breath*

As I was saying, it is a paper. Seven to ten pages. Covering a range of poets and styles She just kept...saying things. "You'll want to have a T.S. Eliot section! Oh and how about one on love? Love is always nice. And Imagism. And war. War poets. Except there aren't any American poets in this book writing about war."

Did I mention that the name of the course is "The Development of Modern AMERICAN Poetry"?

So there she was, standing at the front of the class, speaking in tongues about modern poetry, while we all madly scribbled down what she was saying and tried to make sense of it. Sitting on my left was this young puppy of a boy. He's very impressed with himself and all his pain and his seriousness. He likes to wear all black and say things like, "There is no society that can contain me. I have no community." Yeeeessss, pumpkin. That's right, you are just the MOST TORTURED SOUL EVER! Yes you ARE! Yes you ARE! Now go take a shower and eat some fruit or something. You're too pale.

This pup of a boy can be sort of irritating, because he tends to breeze in late and saunter out of class in the middle so he can answer his phone. He clearly feels as though he has the whole class figured out, and all of it is barely worth his notice.

But in the middle of our bewildered scribble-a-thon, I asked when this paper would be due. And the professor cocked her head at me and said, "Well, the 30th."

Across the room a girl squeaked, "of...APRIL?"

"No, of March."

At this puppy-boy visibly blanched. The rest of us had a pretty clear idea that this was due soon because oh, I don't know, WE COME TO CLASS. But for him, it was quite the blow. He looked up at the professor, then around the room, clearly at a loss for words. I couldn't resist, and I leaned back in my chair and clarified for him.

"March 30th. You know...WEDNESDAY."

I thought he was going to cry.

So to sum up: This class is going to kill me dead. But at least I got a giggle out of it today.

A few things to consider

This evening the family was playing a game. Bananagrams, if you want to know. It was actually a birthday gift (did I mention? my birthday? would you like to hear more about it?), and I was very happy when I opened it, because look! It's like free-form Scrabble! And I am a Scrabble VIPER. I will make you CRY at Scrabble. I mostly use my new Kindle (birthday gift - did I mention? my birthday?) to play Scrabble, and I am indomitable. Well, according to the stats, I am roughly 82% indomitable. Still.

So there we were, Bananagraming away, and I was thoroughly getting my butt kicked. Raphael, if you really want to know, took the first two games, and Clay took the next two. I pointed out that nobody else was trying to assemble words with a tiny girl climbing on their lap and scrambling their tiles or presenting them with a giant plastic duck and requesting they breastfeed it.

"AND," I added, "a duck isn't even a mammal!"

"Well, THAT one seems to be," Tre said, giving the bright yellow pervert a stern look.

It was really everything you might want from a family game night, with lots of laughing (even if there was a glaring lack of wins from my corner, which is not acceptable) and trash-talking and as far as I can tell, Sophia didn't eat any tiles. As we were winding down (I may, or may not, have been predicting the number of meals the children would be receiving based upon the number of times they rudely stole a win from their innocent mommy), I glanced at the calendar. That's when it hit me.

Spring break is over.

This week has been MY spring break, and I have enjoyed the heck out of it. Twenty years ago that would have meant random bad behavior. This week it just meant that I was conciously happy about not driving anywhere Monday or Wednesday night, and I mostly ignored my book bag all week. It was lovely.

But now I have to go back, and worse still, there is a midterm on Wednesday. It is referred to in the syllabus as "The Great Big Hairy Midterm," and I am scared of it. The class is fine so far - somewhat brain-bending, but that was the idea, I guess - and although it's been quite a bit of reading and writing and gahhhh, I've enjoyed it. But now there is this TEST breathing down my neck, and I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE PROFESSOR WANTS. She keeps assuring us that it's going to be crazy hard and long. She's hinted that there might be an essay of such breadth and length that we would have to finish it at home. SHE IS MAKING ME CRAZY AND I AM SCARED.

Tonight I am trying to convince myself that this queasy-scared feeling I've got is sort of what I was after. Growth requires discomfort, am I right? So I should probably not withdraw from the course and toss my textbooks under the bed, where bad ideas go to die? The only way to prove the voice in my head wrong, the one that keeps muttering "you don't belong here, you are old and sort of dull and you don't even remember how to do ANY OF THIS," is to go ahead and just do it.

But then again, this next week is Tre's spring break, and would you like to know what HE is doing with his week off?

Driver's training.

As in - by the week's end, my son will be the proud owner of a driver's permit and a persistent wish to drive. Drive MY car. On the actual roads. With other cars. And his obliviously mortal self that may look like a muscular young man, but is in reality my own mewling newborn baby boy shut up he is.

And while I'm all for that personal growth deal, there is a part of me that wonders JUST how far out of one's comfort zone one should venture?

Tre and Sophia

Anyone remember this picture, from nearly two years ago?

This morning Tre was waiting right there, in the same chair, watching out that window for his morning ride to school. Sophia, who woke up early and  bright and noisy and opinionated, climbed up in his lap to help him watch.

Tre&Sophia 008 
I think she's telling him something important about the almighty Pink Jammies here. (God help us all when the Pink Jammies are dirty.) And he is listening as though it were the most important thing in the world. And for the moment, for the two of them, it was.

I remember a few people commenting when I was pregnant with Sophia that she and Tre would hardly know each other, so great was the age gap.

Tre&Sophia 014 
Now, a few years later, I would answer, "You don't know Tre and Sophia."

Although...if you want to express shock and disbelief that I'm actually not 33, that's okay too.

Well, in the end there didn't seem to be anything I could do about it. The governor wasn't returning my calls. Neither was Amnesty International. A great outcry of protest wasn't rising up in the streets.

So fine. I went ahead and turned 40 today.

And I have to say, it wasn't so bad. As a matter of fact, I feel quite loved. Max and Raphi are home, and being greeted this morning by four children piling in bed with me and trying to out-do each other in affection was pretty cool. Actually, the boys were the ones showing all the affection, Sophia was in the midst of it all, swinging at them and screeching that I was "MINE MOMMY MINE MINE NO MINE! GO 'WAY! MINE!"

Add to that the fact that Clay seems to think (as I'd hoped he would) that I'm pretty hot at 40. And friends and family gathered 'round to wish me well so much that it's very nearly embarrassing. I mean, Facebook! All the birthday wishes completely blew me away. I feel like a rock star (legal disclaimer: I am not, nor do I ever appear to actually be, a rock star).

So here I am. 40. It's not so bad, and looking around me, I wouldn't change places with any 30 year old on the planet.

I'm a little bitter that the whole age/wisdom association seems to have been oversold

Yesterday I was hard at work in the kitchen. That is, I was working fairly hard at cooking. I was REALLY putting the overtime in on being smug, though.

I baked a batch of lemon angel food cupcakes, and whipped up some lemon curd and swiss merengue buttercream. Ooohh, yes I did. Feather-light cupcakes, with a dollop of tangy lemon curd at their hearts, topped with billowy mounds of buttercream. Martha Stewart WISHED she was as cool.

Plus, oh oh, PLUS! I had a batch of stock, simmering on the back burner of the stove, made with grass-fed beef bones, smelling like roast beast heaven. I finished assembling the cupcakes, set some aside to take to class that night, put some others in the fridge for a friend whose birthday was today, and (get this) I even got the kitchen all clean and sparkly before I left for class. Martha would be TOO INTIMIDATED to wish she was me, I'm telling you.

And yes, I took birthday cupcakes to my 300 level poetry class, like I was turning 8, not 40. Shaddup. It's a tiny little class - six students, and only five ever show up. We bring snacks sometimes. I like cupcakes. And everyone liked these cupcakes. *preen*

Cupcakes 015 

But it was today that I was really excited for. My friend Tracey - oh, you remember her! She cut Sophia's hair! Love her! - had a birthday, and I happen to know that she'd appreciate a good lemon cupcake if anyone would. And OH, hello there! I happened to have a plateful of rawther good lemon cupcakes.

I tossed Sophia in her carseat, and the plate of cupcakes on the front seat and set off for Tracey's house. No, I did not call her first to see if she would be there. That would be far too practical. No, I preferred to drive all the way over there with Sophia bleating piteously, "cupake! cupake! cuuuuuuuupppaaaaaakkke!" She produced large, splashy tears and eventually passed out from the great weight of her sorrow, only two blocks away from Tracey's.

Cupcakes 003 

Sophia likes cupcakes. At least, she likes the frosting part.

Anyhow, she was so asleep that I was able to haul her out of the car and up to Tracey's front door without waking her up. I draped her over one shoulder and balanced the cupcakes on the other hand and pushed the doorbell with my elbow. Oh, look! Tracey got flowers! And they're sitting on her doorstep. Because she's not here. And that's why she's not answering her door. Dang.

I made my way back to the van, and put the cupcakes back in the car. One of them tipped over on the plate, leaving a smear of frosting on my thumb. As I turned to return Sophia (still soundly asleep) to her car seat, I absentmindedly licked it off. Ah yes, buttery, creamy, Beefy?

I strapped Sophia in, then returned to the cupcakes. I took a good taste of the buttercream, testing it carefully. There was no doubt about it. I was tasting beef. Rich, roasted beef flavor allllll over my cupcakes.

Remember that beef stock I'd been simmering? Last night I strained it into a bowl and popped it in the fridge...and I'd created beef-infused lemon cupcakes.

Thank GOD I realized it before I gave Tracey the cupcakes. I'm going to see her Saturday night, and when I do, I figure I could say to her "What? You had a birthday? I TOTALLY FORGOT ALL ABOUT YOU."

It would be a terrible thing to do, but nicer than beef/lemon cupcakes.

Grandma Camp

A few months ago, Clay's mom Connie called to ask a question. Could the boys come out for a week in March? Two of their cousins would be there, and they could all hang out and swim and play. I was sitting on the couch and heard Clay say, "Wow, that sounds great..." then his voice dropped a little, "...but let me talk to Kira first..."

Well, I'm pleased and somewhat proud to report that it sounded GREAT to me. I love my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law loves my kids. My kids love my mother-in-law. That is a lotta love. All that love, PLUS a swimming pool? Total win. And I'd be lying if I said it didn't occur to me that I could have a whole week without saying even once, "Stop doing that to your brother or I will drown you like a kitten."

Ahem. Not that I have ever threatened to drown my children like kittens. That would be psychologically scarring to them. And kittens. And it would be wrong. Just wrong. Even if it is sort of funny.

Anyhow, as it turned out, Tre was not able to because of school. His spring break isn't for a few weeks yet. But yesterday I put Max and Raphael on a plane. I walked them up to the plane, I kissed their sweet heads, I quizzed them on proper behavior, I told them how much I love them, I blinked really hard and fast and insisted I wasn't crying, and I put them on the plane.

I KNOW, right?

After they walked down the hall to the plane, fairly levitating with the thrill of it all, I tried to walk away. I did, I really tried. I made a loop around the seats by their gate, then circled back and sat down to look at their plane. After, all, I reasoned, sometimes there is a problem with the plane, and they make everyone get off again. So I sat there. Every few minutes I would tell myself this was silly, I should stand up, I should go. But I didn't.

I sat there and stared at their plane. I think I was making the flight attendant nervous, because she kept looking at me, finally trotting over to another flight attendant for a whispered conference. I was unconcerned, because I had a job to do. I had to stare at the plane.

I tried to leave when the closed the doors. I tried to leave when the tiny purple truck pushed the plane back from the building. I tried to leave when the light on top started to blink, and the wheels started to turn.

Eventually, the plane glided away. It rolled around a corner, growing smaller and fitting into the visual chaos of the airport like a puzzle piece sliding in place. I didn't see it take off, but I turned and walked away anyhow.

Eventually, I figured, you have to stop pretending like you're in charge of it all, and just let the plane fly.

The Z is silent

A few weeks ago, Max was working in his handwriting workbook, and he came across a task that did not impress him. He was supposed to write words with "tri" prefixes and then - this was the annoying part - draw pictures. He drew a series of exaggeratedly childish pictures, then flopped the book in front of me, smug.

"See? I drew a PORCUPINE."

"Yes. But you were supposed to write words that start with 'tri'."

He looked at the book, then walked away and scribbled. He returned and announced, "It wasn't a porcupine, it was a TRICUPINE."

I looked at the book. Under the picture he had written "Trikzupyne." I gave him the single raised eyebrow.

"The Z is silent," he assured me, with a wide-eyed nod.

Max's hair 002 
And that's my Max. I mean, yes he has other qualities that are more important, and probably even other qualities that define him more. He's complex and smart and currently suffering from hormone poisoning. He's thoughtful and notices people to an extent that could almost verge on Machiavellian. But if you asked me to tell you about Max, I would probably start off with, "lord, that kid makes me laugh. And he suffers no fools."

Max's hair 013 

"Trikzupyne" has become Max's standard flippant answer. For instance, if I should ask what, for the love of all that is good and right, is that SMELL, Max will answer, "Oh, that was the trikzupyne. The Z isn't the only thing that's silent!"

Max's hair 017 

Max does like a good smart-mouthed comment. For instance, right here, as we were walking into the hairdresser's shop today, I said "your hair is just so AMAZING." And he looked at me and said, dead-pan, "No, really? Well, why didn't anyone ever TELL ME THAT?"

This is more funny if you've ever gone anywhere with Max. Strangers comment on his hair all the time, and even reach out and touch it sometimes, as though they can't help themselves. It's thick and glossy and those waves just HAPPEN.

It's also heavy and hot and kind of a pain in the neck when it gets this long. But the good news was that it finally got long enough, and so today...
Max's hair 024 

...was finally the day.

Max's hair 032 

We pulled it into two pony tails (which I solemnly promised not to post pictures of), and chopped them off to send to Locks of Love. And in just minutes, I saw the face I remembered emerging out from under all that hair.
Max's hair 046 

He thinks it looks okay, too.
Max's hair 048 

And here he's getting tired of me telling him how cool he looks. He's informing me that when I, his MOTHER, say something is "cool" I am automatically draining it of any actual coolness.

That's my Max. He's something of a smart mouth. I don't mind as much as I probably should. After all, I know the Z is silent...

Max's hair 045 
...but this one? His heart is very loud.

Hoping that "enslave humanity" isn't on their goal sheet for next year

This past weekend Tre's robotics team participated in the competition they've been preparing all year for. Since way back in the fall, they've been designing and building and programming a robot all so they could compete in this event. I helped too - mainly by driving Tre places and helpfully reminding him, "Have fun, honey. Don't let the robots overpower y'all and enslave humanity, mkay?"

He loves it when I help.

So this weekend was the competition, and naturally Clay and I had to drag the many kids across town so we could watch and wave embarrassingly at Tre from across the room. The kids, they simply could not get enough of it. Here's Max, trying to keep Sophia from plunging to her death.

Robotics competition 010 

And here's Raphael, imagining what it would be life if his world wasn't an unending morass of misery and boredom. Also wishing for some pizza.

Robotics competition 008 

We got there just in time for the opening ceremony, which was AWESOME. I am not even kidding about that. The best part about it was when the announcer called out the names of the teams, and encouraged them to YELL OUT when they heard their names. So he would call out, say, "BYTE RIDERS!" and the little knot of kids on that team would think, okay, now I am supposed to yell, and they would start to, then immediately remember that they are, after all, the sort of people who like to hang around school on the weekends, fiddling with robots, and the sound would sort of die in their throats. So it went like this:

Announcer: BYTE RIDERS!

Byte Riders: YAH-ulp. *silence*

*someone coughs*

I swear, I wanted to pinch each and every child there RIGHT ON THEIR LITTLE CHEEKS.

And then the competition itself began, and it was WAY WAY more exciting than I'd expected. There were four robots at a time in a box, trying to pick things up and navigate over other things. The crowd would get VERY EXCITED when a robot dumped a fistful of batons in a cup. That was WAY COOL.

I don't think I'd really understood before exactly what Tre and his compatriots were up to, there in the robotics lab. They made for-reals, moving around, doing things, ROBOTS.

Robotics competition 015 
PS, how adorable are they? Don't they just LOOK like they're doing important things? Can't you just FEEL the tension in the air? Actually, right there they are waiting for the next match to start. But they are adorable. That's Tre with his hands in his pockets. Their robot is the one nearest him.

In the end, they did pretty well. They placed in about the middle of the pack - not bad, considering this was the first year for the robotics program at their school. They are undaunted, and even more importantly, they are full of ideas and plans for next year.

And I - well, I am going to try not to stumble over there on the "odiously proud" side of the line. But I will say this: it is not the robots who I expect to take on the world.

Adolescent attitude in a nutshell

He is stomping around, protesting loudly because "WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE! I hate being LATE! Why do we always have to be LATE LATE LATE?"

I am dashing around, trying to assemble children and details so we can get in the van, saying things like "I said PUT ON YOUR SHOES, so WHY are you pulling out seventeen bottles of paint?" I am teetering between irritation at being lectured by someone who wouldn't have any pants if I didn't deign to buy them and guilt that he is right, I am running late way too often. Frantic-ness, of course, will only make the guilt/irritation teeter-totter more profound.

Finally I have enough shoes and children to leave, if not enough to go anywhere looking like normal member of society types. I turn to him and say triumphantly, "Okay! Everyone get in the car!"

"Oh, wait," he says, turning to trot down the stairs, "I need to get my shoes on."