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April 2013
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June 2013

And so we must

Tonight was the beginning of baseball season for us. Raphael is playing again this year, and this was his first game. It started at 7pm. 

We were sitting, facing into the setting sun, so we spent most of the game with our hands up, trying to shield our eyes from the blinding rays. Towards the end of the game, the sun dipped behind a cloud, which would have been great news if it hadn't been so wildly cold. The wind was blowing roughly a hundred miles an hour, and the temperature was low enough to inspire me to mutter helpful things like, "It's NEARLY JUNE" and "May 30. THE END OF MAY." Everyone was greatly comforted by this, I am sure.

Sophia wanted one of our folding chairs, but there were only enough for the adults and one left over for a kid, and Max got that one. She felt strongly that someone should give up their chair for her, based upon the compelling fact that She Wanted One, but no one else quite saw it that way. She decided to show her displeasure by stomping away, rolling on the ground in obvious distress, and refusing to talk to anyone. She peeled off her jacket and shoes, just to prove...something. The rest of us lost several toes to sympathetic frost bite, which is totally a thing that happens. 

Raphael's team has only been a team for one day, and I'm afraid their performance today sort of showed that. This is not a competitive league, so far be it from me to suggest an actual score for the game, but it may have rhymed with Line to Lero. There was sullenness during the collection of after game snacks. 

As we straggled to our cars, trailing chairs, blankets, and a displeased four-year-old, I had to shake my head. How are we doing this AGAIN? Have we not been on this merry-go-round enough already? The summer looms ahead, long and filled with little packages of Oreos (why do we insist on feeding our young athletes crap?). First game behind us, and I'm already weary.

But then again, there was Raphael's glowing face. After a few minutes to recover from the bitter loss, he was renewed in his baseball faith. When we got home, he scrounged dinner leftovers from the fridge and chattered as he ate about what went right and what could be better.

"Next game," he promised, "next game will be better."

And there you are. There are about a million reasons not to play youth baseball, and only one really good reason TO play.

May13 014

Because he loves it.

Sophia does everything good. I don't.

It was obviously my fault. Let's get that out of the way. I was sitting at the counter in the kitchen, and Sophia was perched on another chair behind me, combing my hair. If this sounds peaceful, you have never been coiffed by a four year old. She smoothed and yanked and chattered non-stop.

"OH, that looks very pretty," she declared, having arranged my hair in something approximating a bird's nest. That had been electrocuted. And stomped on. "I made your hair so PRETTY, Mommy! I do everything good."

And then there was a great crash and immediate wail. I whipped around to see that she'd not only fallen, she'd somehow tipped over her chair, which had landed on her. I scooped her up to see that she'd taken the brunt of the chair to the top of her foot. 

"It hurts SO MUCH," she sobbed. I held her on my lap for a long time, and inspected her foot. It looked slightly swollen, but not bad. It would bruise eventually, but not yet. I set her down and asked her to take a few steps, and she touched it to the floor and yanked it back. "It HURTS to step it!" She started crying again.

Ugh. Just recently I said to a group of moms - out loud, like some kind of amateur - that we've only ever had one broken bone, and that was over a decade ago. Obviously I had brought this upon my daughter's tender foot.

I waited a while to see if it would pass, but an hour later she was still clutching her ice pack and collapsing in tears whenever the foot touched the floor. I called the doctor. 

It was inconvenient, having to arrange an appointment this afternoon. That may sound hard-hearted, but it was already a complicated day. The clutch on Tre's car went out this weekend, so it's in the shop (apparently being coddled by fairies and unicorns, whilst leprechauns hand-forge a new clutch, given what it's going to cost). This meant I had to pick him up from school, gah. And Max had a saxophone lesson, and he and Raphi needed a spare hour or so to do some yard work for a neighbor. It was all barely going to fit in as it was.

Then I got a text from Tre, telling me he'd have to be at school late for...ahem. Detention.

Deep breath.

He'd gotten detention from an incident that happened last week. He was walking his girlfriend to her car, and he put his arm around her and kissed her on the cheek. The principal was nearby, and BAM. They both got busted for Public Display of Affection. No, really. The school counsellor confirmed the story. 

I don't know what to say about this, to be honest. I consider myself pretty conservative, particularly when it comes to my kids and their shenanigans. But...I don't actually think it's inappropriate for Tre to give his girlfriend a peck on the cheek. I...don't.

And yet, rules are rules, and I'm not going to go scream at school officials to preserve my special snowflake. Both Tre and his girlfriend had to stay after for detention, so I texted him and advised him to try to keep his hands to himself in detention.

Tomorrow's the last day of school for Tre. As of 11:30 tomorrow, he's officially a senior. This has been a brutal year. I have never seen him work so hard, and in the end he really impressed me. He learned to work at studying in a way that few people ever do, I think. And yet he didn't quite get all the grades he'd hoped for. Mostly, but not entirely. Pretty soon he'll start applying to colleges, and his dream college is still possible, but oh, it's a thinner margin than I like.

I was unprepared for how hard this era is. I feel like I'm perpetually stumbling over my own feet, not sure when it's my job to direct him, and when I'm supposed to shut up and let this near man find his own way. The stakes just keep getting higher, and all I want is for him to be okay, always, in every way. It's all I ask.

But first this afternoon I had to deal with was Sophia and her foot. As I drove to the doctor's office, she (somewhat predictably) chattered behind me. 

"Will you carry me into the office?" And I promised I would. "Will you carry me out again?" Yes, of course. "Will I get another shot?" No, not this time. "Will I get an X-ray like in my book?" Yup, probably. "What if I had the doctor's office on my head? And it was small? And the doctor was teeny tiny, and he climbed down my head? And down my shoulder? And over my tummy? And down my leg? So he could see my hurt foot?" 

The doctor poked at her foot, and she gave him Precious Moments eyes and nodded somberly when he asked if it hurt. We were sent off for an X-ray, and then right back, so the doctor could immediately pull up the images and give us a verdict. Technology is so good, y'all. 

Turns out nothing is broken. She's fine, just bruised.

"A contusion," the doctor said, trying to make it sound better for my behalf, I think.

"Suffering from a small case of drama," the nurse said, a mother of four herself. 

The medical orders are for her to take it easy, and to not do anything that hurts her foot. I slung her onto my hip, and carried her out to deal with the rest of the day.

As I strapped her into her seat, my mental fret-o-meter swung away from "my baby is hurt" over to "how much money did I just waste?"

But then again, the sun was shining, and Sophia was radiant because she had a Backyardigans sticker, and Mom was going to buy us all dinner. 

Do too much, do too little. I don't know if I'll ever find my footing, exactly. I only pray that despite my best efforts, it will all turn out alright.

And now you know...the REST of the story.

Occasionally someone I know will make a comment like, "You're such a good mom!" I think they say that because A) I seem to be incapable of escaping my children and so always have one or more in attendance and B) people are nice but are at a loss for what else to compliment me on. "You have such an EXTRAORDINARILY messy van!" just doesn't seem quite...right. So "good mom" it is!

However, for those people who have held this view, I have the perfect rebuttal.

At night, when I'm tucking Sophia in bed, part of our bedtime routine is that I sing her a song about her day (actually, I sing her a song about her day, taking frequent breaks to bark orders at children to brush their teeth, stop hitting each other, and BE QUIET ALREADY, I AM SINGING HERE). It's a simple, repetitive tune, and I just retell what happened to her that day. You know, "This morning you woke up and came to my bed for a snuggle, and then you pretended to be a squirrel in my bed, and then we went downstairs and had breakfast!" Like that.

More than once, recently, I've realized as I was mentally reviewing the day that I never fed her lunch. She can reach the snacks, see. So...yeah.

Hey! Guess what?!

Look what we got!

May13 053

To answer the obvious questions: There are eight of them. One of my dad's friends had hatched them in her classroom as part of a science unit, and she needed a home for them. She dropped them off this afternoon.

Number of chicks we will be keeping, long term: 2

Number of new chickens we needed: 0. Or all of them. Somewhere between zero chicks and all the chicks. I think eight is a good compromise number, but Clay keeps looking at me like I have lost my flipping mind, which makes no sense at all. *I* am not the one being unimpressed by puff balls of peeping goodness. Hmmm?

Okay, obviously we can't keep them all, because we already have more eggs than we can eat. BUT LOOKIT THEM!

May13 060

Sophia named the yellow one, in the center, Fifi. This started a French theme of sorts.

May13 055

This is Louise.

May13 052

The gray one on the right there? That's Monique.

May13 058

And this is Pingouin, which is obviously French for Penguin, because look at her! Don't ask me how to say it. I have to look it up every time.

May13 059

This is Neely, which is not a French name, but in honor of Raphael's beloved youth leader, who is moving away to join a religious order. It will be awkward if her namesake turns out to be a rooster. 

So we still have three names to choose, and several weeks of fussing over chicks in my laundry room, and I betcha they'll be twice as big by the weekend. 

We have baby chicks! How bad can life possibly be?

I get it.

It occurred to me today that, having once been a teen-aged child of my parents', I should probably spend the rest of my life randomly walking up to them and handing them $20 bills. Not because I owe them a specific debt, but just because it seems fair that at some point, somehow, the tide of cash should flow back the other way. Good heavens. I'd like to get right on doing that, Mom and Dad, but I'm afraid it's going to have to wait until my own teens are up and out. If there is any money left in the world by then.

But it got me to thinking, this new awareness of the way teens cause money to evaporate. Every morning I go into Sophia's room, turn off her moon and stars (her name for the machine that projects a scrolling night sky on her ceiling and plays Brahm's Lullaby all night long, every night, forever amen), and pull open her curtains. I have to open the curtains, because she has a plant on her bookshelf that she loves and she has no inkling that a life in darkness would kill it. Every morning while I fuss with her details, she trots down the stairs to see what delights the day holds for her. 

And that's how it is, being a mom, isn't it? Our kids don't see it, because their faces are turned away from the moment they're born. But there, behind them, we fuss and fiddle with the details. I get it now.

I understand, Mom, that there were a million puddles of spilled milk you mopped up without comment, and I know that the times you summoned me to deal with my spills, it was not because you couldn't manage the dishrag one more time, but because you had just mentally scrolled through a highlight reel of my life to come, as a person who couldn't even manage to clean up after herself, and if you sounded sharp, it was because I'd stressed you out by becoming a homeless drug addict in your mind. I get that half the time I could ever find my shoes, it was because you'd put them where they should be, and that my coat in fact never hung itself up by magic. 

I understand that as stressed as I ever got over a test, or a job interview, or a relationship, your heart ached for me in a way I couldn't even fathom. I know you lay awake some nights and dripped quiet tears on your pillow and prayed like you were drowning, for me and my future. And I've felt myself look at a child the very same way you sometimes looked at me, from a place so many miles past "baffled" that the best I could do was gesture helplessly and say, "but...WHY?"

I know now that you didn't lose your mind when I hit adolescence, I did. And I'm sorry. Really, really, REALLY sorry.

And I also know, despite it all, that you were glad you had the chance to do it all. The irrational, the repetitive, the hopeless, the expensive. Every effort worth it, and in the end the saddest part is wanting to do more.  

Now that I get it, it seems like there should be a moment to share that. But the details of my kids' lives eddy and roar around us, and so, Mom, the best I can do is to catch your eyes across a noisy lunch table, and share a knowing nod. I finally understand, Mom.

And thank you.

One of mine

Yesterday Max and Sophia had checkups at the doctor. I'll go ahead and spoil the end of the story: they're both fine. Healthy and squirrely, everything's fine. Max's eye exam was concerning, but then again, Melody had bravely attacked his glasses the night before, defending us all from the tyranny of...eyeware. She'd broken them, so yes, Max was mostly blind. Nice catch, doc. And Sophia got two shots, which she took with a stiff spine and a sharp intake of breath, which always leaves the nurse feeling like a jerk, so at least everyone suffered a little over her vaccinations. And during Max's exam, the rest of us (Raphael, and Sophia, and I) had to shuffle out into the hallway to give him privacy for such things as taking off his shirt and answering awkward questions like sexual activity, yay or nay? That is always...odd. But we all survived.

Midway through the exam, it was time to go over the growth charts. The kids' pediatrician and I have come to something of an understanding about the growth charts years ago. He would show me where the boys fell, and I would shrug away the dots with a brusque, "Yep. Looks like one of my kids." The thing is that my children are all, like me, of hearty peasant stock. This means that we tend to hover in the upper levels of the weight chart curves, and squat down in the lower curves of height. We're sort of like hobbits. If my kids are active, healthy, and generally eating good food, I refuse to get upset about how they compare to non-hobbity kids. 

"So let's see," the pediatrician said, "Sophia is right here in the 14th percentile for height, and with her weight, that puts her here on the BMI chart." And he swung the computer screen around to show me.

And I had a moment.

Right there, in the small, tastefully decorated exam room, I had an impulse, so vivid and strong, that it was almost like a hallucination. I could feel what it would feel like to reach way way back and swing my fist right into the middle of that computer screen. As if, by smashing that BMI chart and driving splinters of the screen deep in my knuckles, I could somehow push back the world's expectations about what she should weigh. As if I could shove away the world that brings a whole spectrum of body hate, from the CEO that thinks it's reasonable to exclude women over size 10 to the very sickest among us who think of women as possessions they can steal and hide away. As if I could save her from ever even knowing what a size 10 is, or fixating on a number that would be acceptable. As if I could stay her hand from ever brushing her stomach, from judging its curve.

She was sitting on my lap, a little leery of the doctor and the rumor of shots. Her dandelion light hair tickled my nose and her rubbery belly was warm under my hand - the very hand that twitched with the desire to punch the doctor's computer screen.

Of course I didn't punch anything. We don't hit, remember? I sat there, and pulled her warm against me, flicked a contemptuous glance at the chart and said firmly,

"Yep. Looks like one of my kids."

And she is. She so, so is.

It's still not my job to understand them

Today Sophia had her best friend come over to play. Shamae is a little girl whose family moved here from South Africa almost a year ago, and she and Sophia have become entirely entangled in friendship and toy exchanges. For some reason, they can never play together without someone borrowing something. I do not understand.

Being from South Africa, Shamae has an accent, which Sophia has also borrowed. By the end of a playdate, if I ask her a question, she'll invariably answer me with a "yah," delivered in exactly the same notes as Shamae. And yet today when the girls were begging me for more candy and I said no (because NO, yeesh), Shamae looked at me, head cocked, and said, "you say 'no' funny. You should say it like this. NO."

And I thought I WAS saying it like that, but I guess not.

I hate to categorize so much of Sophia's life as "GIRL DIFFERENT" but I'm going to go ahead and say it again. Because girl playdates are so very different from boy playdates. At this age, when the boys had friends over, all I had to do was step in and offer new activities whenever violence erupted. I flung food in their direction. I swept up after. But these girls? Just two small, sweet girls? They FILL THE WHOLE HOUSE with words and drama and intrigue. And whereas the boys left me feeling like a fond domestic servant, I get the distinct impression that I'm intruding whenever I approach the girls. They have plans. And parts to play. I may run along now.

At one point they were running up and down the stairs, dressed in a couple of Sophia's dress-up dresses, chatting each on their own cell phone, and each lugging a doll under one arm. I heard the word "boyfriend," and my ears perked up. OH no we don't, I thought, no boyfriending will be tolerated by preschoolers in MY HOUSE. And so I skulked around, trying to hear what the game was, exactly.

Apparently they were princesses (natch), with purses (vital), babies (of course), and phones. The phones were ringing RELENTLESSLY with calls from their boyfriends. And whenever the phones rang, they would answer like this, "Hello, boyfriend? WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME AGAIN? You can't keep calling me because I need to take care of my baby, and I don't have time to talk to you on the phone all the time. STOP CALLING."

And I have to say, as far as age-appropriate interpretations of romance go, this wasn't that bad. And anyway, two minutes later they were pretending to be two bloodthirsty lions, and I had to flee for my life. So that was good.

Shamae left this afternoon with three of Sophia's stuffed animals in her arms. Both girls were entirely delighted with each other, and fairly worn out. I, on the other hand, was exhausted. Max and Raphael, who had been frequently conscripted into their games, were also somewhat relieved to see the end of the day. Melody, who was absolutely refusing to come out from under Max's bed, was grumpy. 

And all was well in our house. I do not understand even this tiny gang of girls, but that's okay. It's not my job.

Randomness: Update Edition!

Our cat, NotMarie? Has been officially named. Introducing...

Melody 003


Raphael came up with the name, and it seems apt, seeing as how everyone wanted to name her after a song. Melody has confirmed her acceptance of her name by walking on the piano keyboards a couple of times last night between 3 and 4 AM. So...that was nice.

She's adapting nicely, although she still mostly stays upstairs, where she seems to feel safe. I question her judgement in this, because Sophia is frequently upstairs, getting her face alllll up next to Melody's, squealing, "I LOVE YOU, ANGEL CAT! DO YOU LOVE ME?"

Angel Cat MUST love her, because she has neither clawed her nor packed her little kitty bags and departed for parts unknown. She doesn't even hide from Sophia, which is crazy. *I* hide from Sophia.

In other news, I misspelled the name of Pope Pius X. Forgive me. I am a convert. Also, Max is insulted by the fact that I suggested that was a dumb name. For a girl. Cat. Nonetheless, I'm sorry to everyone. I apologise to Pope Saint Pius X, Max, all readers who were confused or misled, and Melody, who never really had a chance to be named Pius, because of my prejudice. In my defense, Max's other vote for a name was PEDRO DE ALCONTÂRA JOSE CARLOS LEOPOLDO SALVADOR BIBIANO FRANCISCO XAVIER DE PAULA LEOC DIO MIGUEL RAFAEL GABRIEL GONZAGA BY THE GRACE OF GOD AND UNANIMOUS ACCLIMATION OF THE PEOPLE CONSTITUTIONAL EMPOROR AND PERPETUAL DEFENDER OF BRAZIL. So I think I could be forgiven for not always listening with 100% attentiveness.

Remember the side-swept bangs? Yeah...that didn't last. I faithfully fussed at them every morning for about six weeks. I blow-dried and flat ironed and frowned at them and casually brushed them aside. They just never looked like my hair. I don't really know if they looked GOOD or not, but every time I caught a glimpse of myself, I was startled and taken aback. I felt like a bang poseur. So one day I shoved the flat iron back under the sink, muttered a heartfelt "eh, forget it!" and just let the curls fall where they may. 

No one noticed. Not one single soul noticed any difference. Consider me enlightened about how important my bangs are.