Torrential life.

You guys, Typepad just made me sign into my account, that's how long I've been gone. I hate that.

But then again, I hate everything tonight, because I just got home from a trip to take Tre to orientation at a new university, which happens to be my alma matter (which he didn't realize when he became enamored with it), and if there is anything that will give you All The Feels, it is seeing the campus your baby will be leaving you for. On top of that, because this is his College Experience 2.0, I'm holding all this hope in my heart for him. And also, there I was, on the campus I haven't seen for 23 years, remembering those days and thinking about how I'm going back to school in the Fall to finish that same damn degree, and what happened, exactly? And I got to spend the day with my college roommate (who is my sister, for reals), because she's an instructor there. 

All The Feels.

And then I got to spend a million years in the car with Tre, coming home. And we got caught in a torrential rainstorm and it was scary. And I barely made it home in time for bedtime shennanigans, which made Sophia extra squirrely. And we have an extra cat in the house, and Melody, our in-house cat doesn't like him, and one of them is peeing on clothes that are left on the floor, which I am SO DONE WITH.

All of which is to say I just hit the wall, emotionally, and cried at Clay. While I was ordering a pair of glasses online to replace the ones Max lost at his friend's house. 

Life is torrential, and I am just barely afloat tonight.


Next

Friday was a busy day, but aren't they all? With Max and Sophia's school years finishing up, I seem to be expected to be somewhere always, and don't forget the extra special performance tomorrow! Yeesh. It's a lot. 

Of course, Raphael's school year is finishing up too, and on Friday he brought me a stack of books and one essay to check. I shuffled through it all, noting this and that, here and there. I shoved a couple of books back to him so he could redo some problems. He was on it, all concentration and scribbles, and he shoved them back at me in minutes.

"Yup..." I said, scanning his algebra work, "...looks good. You're done."

He grinned at me like I'd said something particularly clever. Took me a minute. Oh. 

He's done.

Friday was his last day of homeschool. MY last day of being a homeschooler. In the fall he's off to high school, and I'm actually going back to college to finish a degree I began 26 years ago. 

After 14 years of homeschooling, it's over. 

Feels a little like stepping off a cliff. Free, yet free-fall. Can I do this? Can he? How will we get through the changes ahead?

It's time to move on, I know. He's restless, ready for something harder, something new. I'm excited to go back to school and actually achieve measurable results again. 

It's just that I feel like I know how to do this now. If I could start over at the beginning today, I think I'd be pretty good at it. If life only worked like that. If there were some other way to live than relentlessly forward.

I reached out and shook his hand, and my voice only cracked a little bit.

"Raphael, you have officially finished eighth grade. You are hereby promoted to ninth grade, and out of homeschool. Good luck, well done, and I cannot wait to see what you do next."

And with that, we took the last step in this long, lovely journey.

And into the next one.


Sophia is SIX!

This morning Sophia woke up to find that she'd turned six. 

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This called for twirling.

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As you can well imagine.

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Lots of twirling.

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After all, it wasn't just her birthday. It was finally the day. The day she got her ears pierced. In case you're wondering, she's pretty much the ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD who doesn't have pierced ears yet. And so we went.

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She got there to discover that she was a bit more nervous than she'd thought. But she picked her earrings, hopped up in the char, and sat still as a stone.

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The first earring went in, and she didn't so much as blink. She was so still, Clay asked, "Did you even feel that?" She glanced at him and said evenly, "Yes. It hurt." Not enough to stop though.

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She saw it through, without a word of protest. And when it was all done, she thought about it...

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..and decided it was well worth it.

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Happy birthday, sweet girl! You are my squirrel, my heart, my joy. You are fierce and kind in equal measures, and I couldn't love you more. Thank you for sharing these six wonderful years with me. Now your birthday is over, so take off your Easter dress already.


Good news

At church this morning I settled into the pew with the usual family chaos swirling around me. For me, though, I was mute and angry and sad in the way that only an argument before church will leave you. I knelt and tried wanly to turn from myself and toward the joy of the day. Easter. All has been made new.

In the pew in front of me was a couple I know, with their two small children. It's a terrible habit, people-watching during Mass. Especially on those days when it's harder to raise my eyes like I should. The husband reached over the head of their youngest and placed one warm hand on his wife's shoulder. She turned careful eyes to him.

"I love you," he whispered. She nodded, and mouthed the words back. She started to turn back, but he rubbed her shoulder again. She looked back. "I'm sorry about this morning," he whispered.

You know how some animals' skin can change before your eyes? Like an octopus or a chameleon? To camouflage them or display aggression? Women's faces do that too, only instead of protecting them, it exposes them.

Her cheeks flushed, and the muscles under her skin tightened. Her chin tipped up, to trap the tears that pooled in her eyes. She nodded wordlessly, and they both turned back toward the front of the church. 

I watched shamelessly, tears rolling down my own cheeks. The choir burst into song, and we all rose to sing our welcome of the good news, the death and the life, the love and the loss.

My own husband's warm hand reached for mine, and I wept and sang too.


The dance of parenting a young adult

Today Clay was home from work, so he came with me to the student's Mass at Sophia's school. I love the student's Mass. The kindergarten class sits right up front and when they kneel, they grip the back of the pew in front of them, their noses barely reaching over it, like they're clinging to a bit of wood in a storm-tossed sea. And then they do random things, like today, when Sophia took a break from looking reverential to play rock, paper, scissors with the little boy next to her. She's a shark at that game.

Just a few minutes into Mass, my phone buzzed in my purse. I glanced at it. Tre. I silenced it and put it back in my purse. He was at work, and could wait.

After Mass, I pulled the phone back out and saw I had a message from him. "Hi, Mom. I cut the heck out of my hand. I'm at the emergency room getting stitches." He sounded shaken, and I stopped walking to call him back. 

In the time that had passed since his call, he'd regained his calm, because he sounded positively breezy. He'd been sharpening a knife, and did he ever mention how terrible the knife sharpener was? I asked if he wanted me to come to the ER, and I could almost see him waving me off.

"Nah. I'm fine. I'll let you know when I'm done."

Throughout the day, he called or texted me occasionally to let me know what was going on. They determined that he'd sliced a tendon, and decided to transfer him to another hospital with a hand surgeon. Once he got there, the hand surgeon cut open the stitches he'd gotten, put five stitches in his tendon, and another eight or something in his hand. He had pictures, if I wanted to see them. No, don't come. His friend from work would give him a ride back to his car. He was fine. No, don't come. 

I know. I know, I know, that this is the time for this sort of thing. For him to face the "effect" side of the causes, on his own. It just feels so strange, because a year ago I would have been negligent to leave him to sit alone in a hospital room. And yet, today my job was to wander the rooms of my house, with my phone in hand, waiting to hear what he was doing next, and not interfering. It was distracting, unsettling.

It felt wrong.

He came home by the afternoon, and after a couple of hours, left again to hang out with some friends. His only capitulation to my anxiety was to consent to drive Clay's car, instead of his own (Tre's car is a manual transmission, and I stand by my assertion that you need two hands to shift, because if you do it when you're stationary, you're doing it wrong). 

I'm unreasonably exhausted by the whole thing. Who knew it required such energy not to do anything? It is a disorienting land I find myself in. My primary job is non action. I wish with all my heart for him to know how risky life really is, to respect the dangers around him, and at the same time, I would do anything to save him from learning that.

I wait to hear him drive in the driveway, and turn my light out so he won't know I'm waiting. 


Birthday wishes

This morning I started coughing in the shower, and then I couldn't stop. I coughed and coughed until my field of vision started to close in with shimmery black diamonds. I sat down on the floor of the shower, thinking, "I am going to pass out, and at least from here I won't hit my head on anything."

But no, it passed, and as the dark receded from my view, I thought, "I am feeling SO MUCH BETTER today."

Then I sort of studied those two thoughts, side by side, and came to the conclusion that I have Stockholm Syndrome with my own body.

The truth is that I am feeling a lot better. I've been sick, really sick, for something ridiculous like three weeks now. I actually spent over a week in bed. Isn't that ridiculous? Clay was running around like crazy, getting everything done. He really is Superman. 

Oh, that was a close call. I almost launched into a description of my illness. That was a narrow escape from something deadly boring. Suffice to say it started out with one thing, then morphed into something else, and ended up with bronchitis. Like I said, ridiculous. 

At one point, early on, I ended up in the emergency room, mainly out of panic. I got all the tests they had on special that night, including a spinal tap. Two, actually, because the first one didn't work. Nothing showed anything because nothing ever does because I have yet to meet the doctor that took Kira Studies in medical school, which is just rude if you ask me. But after the second one was successful, the doctor told me he was done, then apologized again for missing the first time. Apologized! He was a peach of a guy, and seemed really sorry to hurt me. I shrugged it off and said it wasn't that bad, because it wasn't, and they gave me dilaudid and that was worth the entire trip. The nurse kept checking on me and I'd wave at him with a beatific smile and say, "Nothing hurts! At all!" and then I would fall asleep again. Poor Clay had to sleep in a plastic ER chair, and they didn't offer him ANYTHING.

I have a point here, what was it? Ah yes. Tomorrow is my birthday! God willing, I will wake up to be 44. 

44. Huh. The way I feel about that is this: unnerved. I know I'm supposed to be embracing my wonderful, wise self, but I feel like I was pretty brave about that when 40 struck. And then 41 came right on its heels, and now - doesn't this seem to be a little out of control? Can we just PAUSE for a minute?

But apparently we can't pause. Maybe I am actually getting wiser, because it occurs to me that's actually a good thing. The only reason I get to wake up and be 44 is that I didn't pass out and drown in my shower this morning. I have successfully rejected all the opportunities the world has offered me to die, and so I get to be older than I ever have been before.

And life, well, it's the only game in town, isn't it? It's so good, and so grueling, and occasionally you even get dilaudid moments when nothing hurts at all, and the hurting that came before was worth it just so you know how sweet that is.

In case it's not clear, I'm not actually advocating drug use. Just say no. You know. Mostly.

But I do advocate celebrating the days we're given. So tomorrow I will celebrate 44 years of not dying. My family will fuss over me and it will be very sweet. Happy my birthday to everyone!


Out in the air

So, remember when I told you that Sophia was fine? I seem to have spoken too soon. 

She's edgy and emotional, bursting into tears over issues like the "thank you" bite she's required to try at dinner. She doesn't want to go to school. She fights with her brothers, which is frankly not that unusual with the 13-year-old, but bewildering with the 19-year-old. And in the middle of the night she bellows into the dark, reciting her side of scary dreams that she doesn't remember in the morning.

All of that sounds pretty grim, but I suppose it could easily just be the pressures on a five-year-old who is realizing that life can be a little battering and school just. keeps. happening. There is, of course, that pause. That frisson of fear that something truly dark has dripped into her life, into her heart.

I hate the pause. I don't know if it's worse because she's a girl, or because she's gone, in the watch of others, all day. But it's worse, and I hate the pause. 

For what it's worth (I wish I knew what it's worth), I don't think it's anything more than too many stresses at once. Sick and then sicker, followed by hurt and then hurt worse. She's weary. She's the one who needs a vacation. Or something.

Today was a beautiful, sunny day. After school, Sophia begged again to play on the playground. I reached out and hooked a finger through the loop on top of her backpack, and waved her away. She ran off, her hair a cloud around her bobbing head. 

I found a spot with a huddle of moms on the side, and tried not to watch Sophia too closely. She dashed back and forth with her friends, shrieking in delighted fear during tag. And every few minutes she was back at the monkey bars, one hand on the bar above her, the other wrapped tightly around the safe bar next to her. She would lean out, testing her weight on her toes, and look down the row of bars. Then she'd tip back onto her heels, turn, and run.

I thought about the day she got hurt. She fell, and then she scrambled back up and tried again. She fell again, back up. Again. Again. At some point she faltered, turned to me and asked, "What if I fall?"

"Then you'll get up and try again," I said. And minutes later I was holding her and watching her fight for air and some way to comprehend all the pain.

It was just a fall, just a playground fall, with no permanent harm done. But life, it's full of unexpected falls. And not all of them have happy endings. This is the bar I am testing my hand on - is it my job here to urge her on toward greater potential pain? Or am I supposed to hold her back, safe and able to breathe? All I want is her life to always be full enough to light her up, yet never hit hr so hard that it extinguishes the light in her eyes.

After several passes by the monkey bars, I caught her eye. She balanced there and looked back at me. I moved over into place next to her, right next to her. Within arm's reach.

"Go ahead," I said, nodding at the bars. 

"What if I fall?"

"Then I'll catch you. And eventually, you'll figure out how to fall without getting hurt again. Go ahead."

She leaned forward, paused, pulled back. Looked at me...

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...and swung out into the air.


Making it all about me, as all the best moms do.

So last week, minutes after leaving a birthday party attended by her whole class, Sophia turned to me and said calmly, "My throat hurts. And my head feels spinny."

This may not sound like a startling thing to say, but Max had been diagnosed with strep not two hours earlier. So. That was good. I reached over and felt her forehead, and I swear I could feel the temperature rising under my fingers. 

It was 5 PM on a Sunday, so I spent the next fourteen years (three hours) trying to find an open and functioning urgent care. We got there, and she promptly lay down on the floor to look wan.

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Did you catch that part about how she had just left a birthday party? Attended by her entire class? Yeah. I'm ascending the ranks of school mothers. Totes. THAT was a fun, grovel-y email to write!

Well, needless to say, it was strep. So she missed the next day of school (the first day of ITBS testing! Ha! Schools love that!), then went back, fortified by penicillin and an obliviousness about shade directed at her mother in the drop-off line. All was well.

The next day I got a call from school, saying she'd collided with another kid on the playground, and although she was fine, there would be a report on a head injury in her backpack. 

Let me just say that I question this policy, in terms of reassurance. 

When I picked her up, the "head injury" turned out to be a nice bump on her forehead. She barely paused long enough to let me look at it before she shoved her backpack at me and begged to be allowed to play on the playground for a while before we went home. 

Off she ran to the monkey bars. She's making great progress on them, able to swing out to the third or fourth bar reliably, which is very exciting to everyone. She tried, and dropped to the ground, and tried and dropped and tried...

...and fell hard on her butt.

I could tell right away that she hurt, by the frozen look on her face. I ran over and scooped her up, and she gasped at me, "I can't breathe. I can't, I can't breathe."

"It's okay, baby, you will. I promise," I muttered, and I held her and rocked. After an eternity, a thin wail finally escaped her throat.

Let me tell you, friend, with nearly twenty years of mothering under my belt, I have never seen a child in so much pain. She could stand, she could walk, but she could not hold still. Her skin was chalk white, except bruise-like dark circles under her eyes and that bump on her head. I carried her gingerly to the car and strapped her in. She had settled down by then, and wasn't crying so much as moaning as she writhed in her seat.

"Hey," I said with deliberate calm, "can you tell me something? On a scale from one to ten, with one being no pain at all and ten being the worst pain in your life, how bad does it hurt?"

She pushed up on the arms of her seat and whimpered, "nine."

Long story short, I took her to the doctor, who told me that it looked like she had probably cracked her tailbone. She spent the rest of the week toting a pillow to school, which I'm entirely certain did wonderful things for her test scores, so thank GOD the powers that be have settled on such a reliable way to gauge our children's progress, can I get an amen?

So that's my report from last week. In the space of a few days, Sophia had strep, an official head injury, and a cracked tailbone. She's fine now, but I need a vacation.


Bacon, briefly

Today Raphael took a six foot slice of bacon to Monday school. 

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It was paper mache, and if I'm telling the truth, it was more like 5'7". Six feet just sounds better. He made it because they were studying 3D art in art class, and the class had a contest to see who could make the largest piece of art. He won, which means he gets extra credit in the class.

Thank God for that, because he was previously squeaking by with an A. Plus.

Goober.

He's picked a high school for next year, and the truth is that I'm almost as ready as he is. It's time. He's so sparkly and interested in everything ahead of him. He's the kind of person who makes practically six foot bacon on a whim. He needs more at his fingertips than I can give him anymore. He's excited about the school he's picked, and I'm starting to make plans about what I'm going to do next, and that's fun. 

But every now and then, I have a moment. Like the other day, he was working out an algebra problem on the chalk board. I don't know why the chalk board and not his paper. But nonetheless, he was standing there, in his blue hair and jammies, and I just sat and watched him for the moment. These minutes of quiet calculation, in the peace of our home and the sunshine, they're almost over. 

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But today he brought bacon to Monday school.