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Obligatory cute kids in

Obligatory cute kids in their costumes entry.
Well, tonight the boys went with my Mom and Dad to go trick-or-treating. They could barely sit still for dinner. As a matter of fact, I can’t swear that they weren’t hovering a few millimeters above their chairs with nervous energy. Tre kept saying, “I’m so excited my stomach hurts. Just a little.” I’m really hoping it is excitement he’s feeling, and not the stomach bug that was going around recently. I keep having visions of him…rejecting all the multi-colored junk he’s just consumed. Keep your fingers crossed for us. Especially around 2 a.m.
Finally, despite my efforts to destroy their lives with black bean soup, dinner was over. They bounced into their costumes. Oh my. Today I wish I could post pictures. Tre was a ninja lord, all swathed in black and blue, and with an impressive plastic sword tied around his waist. He posed and leaped about for effect with great enthusiasm. Max was Batman. He had a fabulous sweeping cape and a Batman mask with the ears sticking up and slits for eyes that would have had a very ominous effect had he not been giggling quite so much. He also very much enjoyed striking poses to display his costume. Raphael was Superman. Of course. I tried to convince him this morning that he wanted to be Winnie the Pooh. After all, I have this adorable fuzzy Pooh costume that would fit him perfectly…and be a lot warmer than the Shoopershirt. “Look, honey,” I said enthusiastically, “you could be Pooh Bear! Wouldn’t that be great?” He sighed at me and patted his belly, upon which he already was wearing the Shoopershirt. “Mama,” he said slowly, as one might to a very stupid child, “Ah. Am. Shooperman.”
Alrighty then.
So I managed to peel the shirt off him so I could wash it, and tonight he wore it, complete with red cape. Dad kept trying to take pictures of the three of them in their costumes, but Raphael would sing his Shooperman song, “Ah’m Shooperman! Doot, do, do! Doot, do, dooo!” And then he’d take off running and making flying sounds. We managed to stop him from flying away long enough for at least a few pictures, and they were off.
They came home with great hauls of candy and we all sat around the kitchen table and ate …a little. I, for one, am ill. At one point I was digging out the 17th Almond Joy bar from Raphael’s stash and Mom asked me, “You like those things?” I looked at the candy in my hand (FUN SIZE – because apparently fun is 2.5 inches long…who knew?) and groaned, “Not any more.”
Max and Tre engaged in a spirited session of “I’ll trade ya.” I don’t think any trades were made, but the discourse was lively. Raphael sat quietly shoveling candy into his mouth until I wised up and took it away. He’s particularly fond of chocolate eyeballs. I think he ate enough to blind an entire chocolate village. And let me tell you, Raphael on a sugar high is not a pretty sight. Whoo.
But they’re all in bed now, and I’ve had a good hour to recover from my sick stomach, so I think I’ll go dig through their buckets.

Ok, first of all let

Ok, first of all let me say that I know that this particular subject gets old. I’m sure those of you who check in on my blog regularly (you do, don’t you?) sigh and click away when you see it’s yet another “divorce is so hard but life goes on” entry.
The thing is, divorce is….so hard.
But life goes on.
Tonight the boys carved pumpkins. We had fun. The front porch now sports two fabulously goofy jack-o-lanterns, and three mini pumpkins that were scribbled on by Raphael. The pumpkin grossness has been properly discarded of, the table wiped and the knives stowed safely away. I’ve got three boys tucked in bed, dreaming of their costumes and candy. The evening was happy and cozy and good.
This is something of a victory for us, because the last thing their father did with them before he left was to carve pumpkins. Two years ago tonight. Tre still has pumpkin seeds in his sock drawer from that night, because it was the last thing he did with his dad. My ex moved out on Halloween.
I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween. I don’t like spooky stuff, and besides, here in Denver it always seems to snow. I’d much rather be inside when it’s snowing. Ick. But after Halloween of two years ago, I outright hate it. I see the costumes in stores and remember Tre and Max that year. They were both knights. Knights who stopped between houses while trick-or-treating to sit down on the curb and stare and try to comprehend what had happened to their family.
You want a story of a haunted Halloween? Look at my boys’ faces when we spread out newspaper and bring out the pumpkins for carving. Max, who always deals with things obliquely, pulled out his toy cell phone and dialed furiously. “Hello, Daddy? I need you to bring me a coat. I’m cold. Ok. Bye.”
Max speaks in metaphors sometimes. Last year after trick-or-treating I asked him if he remembered what happened the year before on that day. His dark eyes gazed past my shoulder and he said, “That was the day the world split open and the snow came out and we were all cold.”
Tre, my willful firstborn, takes things much more directly. As we gathered at the table around the pumpkins, he looked at me. Big, dark eyes. “What does this make you think about?” I asked. “Daddy,” he replied. Chin wobble. “I remember doing this with Daddy.” He patted his pumpkin, regaining control of that wobbly chin. “I miss him.”
But here’s the cool part. We all took a deep breath and turned our attention to the pumpkins. We scooped out slime and created art in the medium of pumpkin. We laughed and Mom came home and helped. We lit the candles and set the jack-o-lanterns on the icy porch and admired them as long as we could stand to, in the cold in our stocking feet.
Those boys were happy when they went to bed tonight. They were a little tender around the heart, but ok.
And life goes on.

All I wanted to do

All I wanted to do was go to the bathroom. Just a moment to myself to…well, go to the bathroom. The door had no more closed behind me than I heard the thunder of a chase. Tre was in hot pursuit of Max, who was screaming through the house, trying to escape. I sat quietly, hoping to not participate in this little adventure. But the boys have some sort of Mama-radar, and they homed in on me quickly. Soon the drumbeat of racing feet came down the hallway toward the bathroom door, and two boys burst in. “Base!” hollered Max, grabbing me by the arm. I’m always base. “No fair!” replied Tre. He never thinks it’s fair that I’m base…unless he’s the one clinging to my arm. I replied in the time-honored tradition of moms trying to pee throughout the ages. “OUT!” I shrieked, pointing an imperious finger at the door. “OUT OUT OUT! And CLOSE THE DOOR!” They slunk out, closed the door, and thundered away.
Deep breath in through the nose…but before I could blow out the cleansing breath, the door opened again. Raphael peeked a delighted head around the door. “Yoo goin’ pee?”
“Yes, honey. Close the door please.” He was more than happy too, and stepped in and carefully closed the door behind him. I had hoped he would be on the other side of it when it closed, but oh well. He trundled up to me happily, and proceeded to gather up a large fistful of toilet paper, all the while making small talk. Toddler style. “Yoo don’ gotta pen*s? Nooo, don’ gotta pen*s. Ah want some juice. Yoo go git me juice? Ok, Ah drink juice. Ah gotta pen*s.” He started trying to shove the wad of toilet paper in past my leg, pushing mightily. I told him no. He pitched a wee fit, flinging the toilet paper to the floor, but was distracted by discovering (for the millionth time) that I have a belly button TOO! He quickly moved to roto-rootering my belly button with one enthusiastic finger. “Ah gotta button. Yoo gotta button? Hi, Mama Button!” I redirected his attention by asking if he would like to flush for me. He trotted around to the other side of the toilet to do so, and I hastened through the rest of the procedure without help. Thank God. I got my pants fastened and hands washed before he was done flushing multiple times and singing out, “Yoo don’ go poop? No poop? Oh well. Bye-bye pee! Bye-bye!” As I opened the door and started to walk out, he jumped and raced in front of me. He wrestled the door from my grasp and pulled it closed on my foot. “Ah gib you primacy,” he told me soberly (meaning privacy). I sighed back at him, as Claire (our beautiful stupid cat) slipped past and glared at me for using her water bowl like that again. “Darlin’, I get a lot of things around here. Primacy just ain’t one of them.”

Off-label use. The phrase actually

Off-label use. The phrase actually refers to medications that are prescribed by doctors for reasons other than the ones they are FDA approved for. But to me it means that phenomenon of childhood, when a kid finds a fabulous use for a toy that the designers never intended.
When Tre was three, he had this plastic ring toss game. I don’t think he ever used it as a ring toss. He also never called it a ring toss. He called it a “Gak.” This is a literary reference from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss. Look it up. Anyhow, he would often take the base of the Gak and fit the pieces together to make a long, narrow rectangle. The posts and rings were discarded and the resulting item was his guitar. He would hold it all wrong, both hands reaching up over the top of his guitar, and strum it enthusiastically. And sing loudly. And gyrate. He loved his guitar, and we loved him playing his guitar. Ring toss games are stupid and lame, but that guitar rocked.
Today Raphael was playing with a plastic bone. It went with this incredibly stupid toy, a battery powered dog that was supposed to pick up the bone in its mouth. Never worked right. I don’t know why I never threw away the bone. The dog is long gone. I guess the bone was just the right size to sift down between toys to the bottom of the toy box, escaping notice during toy-pitching frenzies. Well, Raphael was carrying it around in his mouth this afternoon, being a dog. He was barking and panting, and drooling around this bone. “What ‘cha got there?” I asked. He spit it out and answered, “Iss mah tookle.”
I had to think about it for a minute. Then I put it together. A friend of mine has a daughter, who is just 12 days younger than Raphael. Poor Iona. She’s suffered mightily at the hands of Raphi. Anyhow, Iona uses a pacifier. And her family nickname is Tookle (all together now, awwwww). So now this bone has become a pacifier, and taken the nickname of the girl that pacifiers evoke to Raphael.
He chewed on his tookle all afternoon. I call that a fine off-label use.

Um…as an aside here, does anyone know why my email program is inserting “I’VE” in the place of “I” in all my outgoing emails? I’m somewhat baffled. Anyone? Anyone? Josh? I need to fix this because my emails sound like this:
Gosh, I’VE am such a doofus. I’VE can’t even construct a normal sentence. Maybe I’VE need help.
See? Bad.

Last night I stayed up

Last night I stayed up waaaaaay too late, finishing Bastard Out of Carolina. Ok, I don’t want to give away anything to anyone who is considering reading it, so I’ll try to be careful. Suffice to say it ended horribly. Brutally. The final scenes were so graphic and disturbing…this one’s gonna be with me for a while.
It’s not that I mind graphic, disturbing scenes in a novel. I dealt with the beginning of The Lovely Bones without too much trouble. But B.O.of C. I finished with a shudder. I threw it in the corner and pulled the cover over my head and tried to get those images out of my head. As a mother…and a daughter…
I had nightmares. Actual scenes-from-the-book nightmares. I woke up this morning with stinging eyes and a headache. And I still couldn’t get the flavor of that ending out of my mouth.
The boys had the day off from school. Fall break, so they lazed around and played with neighborhood kids. It was nice to be home, but not doing school, and I devoted my morning to cleaning up the spots the mouse had been. (I haven’t seen any sign of it, and I’m sure it’s long gone. Really. It is.) So I pulled pots and pans out of the cupboards and ran them through the dishwasher and sprayed down the insides of the cupboards with bleach water. I’m telling you, the little vermin really grossed me out, and I was taking no chances. I scrubbed and tidied and slowly my world came back into shape. But things weren’t really right until I went out to the garden and collected the very tail end of the tomato and jalapeño harvest. I filled up a colander with brilliantly red tomatoes and firm green commas of jalapeños. When I ran them under the spray of the kitchen sink, the water beaded up on their brightly colored skins and it looked like a gardening calendar. Max helped me make one more batch of blazingly hot salsa from the garden, and the world seemed right again.
I gotta stop reading so late at night.

We have a mouse. No,

We have a mouse. No, not a pet. A nasty, skittery, filthy tiny mouse that has made his home in MY kitchen cupboards. My mother likes to make unnecessary suggestions that there is probably actually an entire family of mice. She has some ridiculous notion in her head about how by the time you see evidence of a mouse, there are actually many mice already in residence.
I hate my mom.
No, that’s not true. But I do hate the mouse. The singular mouse that lives in my kitchen. Shudder. Just thinking about it, down there…pooping and shedding germs…anyone know the symptoms of hanta virus?
I’m also a touch irritated with our beautiful, stupid cat Claire. What the heck is she doing? Why does she think she’s on the payroll anyhow? She recently brought a dead mouse to the back door, and at the time I thought it was further evidence of her hunter prowess. Now I’m thinking she probably didn’t catch that mouse at all. It was probably living in our house, gorging itself on our food, and as it was doing a little mousy macarana in the middle of the kitchen, it dropped dead of a heart attack (all that indolent living, you know). Claire probably tripped over it.
Dad set a trap for the mouse. It was actually called “A Better Mousetrap.” Yeah. Better…FOR THE MOUSE! The Better Mousetrap sat on the floor until it was licked clean of peanut butter by a tiny little diseased tongue. The trap never actually snapped shut, you understand. Rather than functioning as a mouse TRAP it seemed to function as more of a mouse DINER. So Dad got another mousetrap. A classic style mouse trap. Don’t breathe too hard in the direction of this mousetrap, because it will snap shut with a startling leap into the air.
It was also licked clean. I’m beginning to understand how this ONE mouse can get around so much. It’s an evil, magic mouse.
So Dad hauled out the big guns. Mouse poison. It’s there now, under the sink.
Look, I have to protect the health of my family, ok? There are sanitation issues to think about! I can’t have mice…er…mouse in my kitchen. Especially not an evil, magic mouse. I don’t feel guilty. Not one bit!
Damn mouse.

I had a conversation today

I had a conversation today with a friend about pregnancy. No, neither of us is pregnant. She’s…fixed, and as for me…well, I don’t think God does immaculate after the fact conceptions.
We were talking about the real symptoms of early pregnancy. Not the standard ones, like nausea or tiredness. The symptoms that are unique to each mother. For instance, I know one woman who could always tell she was pregnant because the smell of hairspray was suddenly revolting. She told me a story about this time she was standing in an elevator with her toddler daughter, and the woman standing in front of her must have just applied some hairspray, because the stench was overwhelming. She stood there, gripping her daughter’s hand, with these vivid fantasies going through her mind of smacking this woman in the back of the head with her diaper bag. “Oh yeah,” she added, “angry mood swings too. That’s a sure sign of pregnancy for me.” Um…she has only two children.
For me, the surefire symptom of pregnancy was always stupidity. When I was very early in my pregnancy with Tre, I remember this moment I had one morning after I got out of the shower. I stood in front of the mirror, comb in hand, trying to remember which side I parted my hair on. I puzzled there for a good five minutes. Finally I went to find a picture, because I just couldn’t figure it out. That didn’t really help me, because I kept holding the picture up next to me, looking at it in the mirror, and trying to figure out if the image was backwards or not. I don’t remember what I finally did. Since I was pregnant, my solution was probably to take a nap.
When I was newly pregnant with Max I spent about 20 minutes one morning trying to get Tre’s shoes on his feet, only to realize later, after I’d given up, that there were socks balled up inside the toes of the shoes.
But my all time best newly pregnant stupid story is from when Raphael was just sprouting. I was trying to change the toilet paper roll, and for some reason both Tre (then 5) and Max (then 2) were with me in the bathroom. Tre was watching me patiently as I struggled to get the new roll on the spindle. It just would not go on, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I peered inside the new roll to see if there was something in there, in the way. Nothing. I went back to vainly trying to push the new roll onto the spindle. For some reason it just didn’t fit. Finally Tre piped up, “Mama? When you’re…done, can I have that cardboard tube?”
I had failed to remove the tube from the old roll of toilet paper. I looked at that, and I must have still had a few brain cells floating around, because I knew. I looked up and met my own eyes in the mirror, and said, “You’re pregnant, ya moron.”
Couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.

I’m beginning to see a

I’m beginning to see a glimmer of hope that Raphael may not grow up to be a serial killer. We went to lunch today with some friends and their kids. All together there were…I think about a million children. Do you know, I think Raphael only hit maybe TWO kids! AND one of those kids hit him first. The mother of the offending child apologized to me, mortified, when her son smacked Raphi in the face. But I was all smiles as I hauled my furious wee toddler away. “That’s ok,” I told her, “it happens.” But mostly I was just thrilled not to be the mom apologizing.
Raphael has been such a hitter. It’s not that he’s an angry or violent kid; he just deals with most situations by hitting. Or biting. So if a child pushes him on the playground (intentionally or not), he hits. If a kid yells and startles him, he hits. If a sweet little girl with a protective mother hovering nearby happens to have a toy he wants, he hits. And heaven help the child who actually does something TO Raphael. Let someone shove him or hit him or grab something of his, and he responds by hitting and biting and screaming until car alarms go off. He just doesn’t have much in the way of coping mechanisms.
So I’ve spent the last year of my life sitting sweet Raphael down in some time out or another. I’ve had to pin his little hands under mine as I strolled the aisles in the grocery store. He’s been put in his crib, sat on the stairs, sat on the couch. You name a spot in Denver; Raphael has done some time there. Often, as I was trotting him off to his solitary confinement, he would be chirping sweetly at me, “But Ah’m bein’ sowwy! Ah am!”
“I’m glad you’re being sorry,” I’d sigh. “But you. can’t. hit.” I don’t know how many times I’ve informed him of the astonishing late breaking news that it’s NOT OK TO HIT PEOPLE. “But why?” he responds, all innocence and wonder.
“Because it hurts. It’s not ok to hurt.”
“But why?”
“Because it’s not. You don’t like being hurt. Other people don’t want to be hurt either.”
“But why?”
“Because… I’ll put you in time out.”
But finally, the millions of messages seem to be sinking in. Tonight while he and Max were taking a bath, Max took away one of the tigers Raphael had been playing with. And Raphael DIDN’T hit him! He turned and yelled, “Hey! Dat’s my tiger! Gimme dat back!” Ok, he could have phrased that more nicely, but he did what I’ve been practically begging him to do. He used his words. The clouds parted and the angels sang.
And it’s not just the hitting issue. All these shards of social graces are beginning to appear. Offer him something to eat that doesn’t want and he’ll shake his head sadly, saying, “Oh no sank you. Nooo sank you.” I could do without the emphasis, but it’s so polite! He says please, although he usually uses it in an attempt to bludgeon me into agreeing with him. Our favorite Raphi quote around here currently comes from an interchange that went like this:
Raphi : Mama, can Ah hab [something I can’t remember]?
Me: No, honey.
R: Pweeez?
M: No.
M: What did I say?
R: Nope?
M: That’s right.
R: Don’t do dat say dat nope!

But hey, he didn’t hit me.

We’re in the middle of

We’re in the middle of having our roof replaced. It’ll be done tomorrow, and I can’t tell you how relieved I’ll be. Not just because I won’t be living with the constant thumping and thwacking of the roof gnomes anymore. Or because the cicada-like whine of the air compressor won’t be startling me unexpectedly. I’ll be glad when the roof is done because we can finally stop talking about it.
It started a few months ago. Dad had determined that the roof needed replacing, and he mentioned it to the rest of us. We nodded and agreed, yes. If the roof needs replacing, by all means. Have at it. Call the people, have it done.
Except then he wanted to talk about the color of the shingles. The new roof should be a lighter color, he thought. That would make it collect less heat in the attic. Mom and I watched him, politely waiting for him to stop talking about shingles, for heaven’s sake. He went on for a while, outlining his plan for the color scheme of the roof. The roof, you understand. He was talking about shades of gray, and shingle materials. He was expecting input. We shrugged, and generally allowed as how we trusted his judgement in the matter.
Well, it didn’t end there. For months Dad went around, noticing roofs. Preferring this one to that one. Pointing them out as we drove places. One day he called me excitedly to the back yard. The neighbors behind us were replacing their roof, a process he had been watching with great interest, as you can imagine. He pointed excitedly to their new shingles and exclaimed, “Look at that color! Isn’t that great? I think I want just that look, the subtle mix of colors…but a lighter shade. What do you think?” I squinted at the roof, searching for the right answer. “Yeah, Dad. It’s great. You know what I like best about that roof? Umm...the way it’s…right there…at the TOP of the house. Yeah. We should definitely do that.” He looked at me, puzzled, and then went to find Mom to show her.
A few days later he asked me if we should go for the white flashing or the galvanized. I guessed galvanized, thinking, what the heck is flashing? Isn’t that some kind of crime? Galvanized must have been the right answer, because he nodded sagely and said that was what he was leaning towards.
After all the discussion, the project finally began. Men arrived and tore off the old roof, replacing it with tar paper, and then left for the weekend. This didn’t seem like a good idea to me, but I was assured it would be ok. It was, and the men came back today and started nailing the new shingles in place.
I gotta tell you, it looks great. The colors are perfect with our new paint (Dad recently spent a million Saturdays painting the house). I never really noticed a roof before, but I think ours is the prettiest. Way to go, Dad.

I had my cousin’s kids

I had my cousin’s kids for the day on Friday. Her son, Dakota, is 11, and her daughter, Myranda, is almost 8. My kids love them, they love my kids, and so it is a happy day around here when Melyssa (my cousin, their mom) has to be somewhere and leaves them with us.
Friday was just such a happy day. The weather was beautiful, spirits were high, and we were off to the zoo. Once we got there I realized my zoo membership had expired, so I got in line to renew. Raphael wandered around my legs, climbed up on my shoulders, tried to make a break for the parking lot more than once, and generally was a two year old about the whole waiting thing. The other kids sat down and waited with admirable patience. A mom in line behind me watched us for a while, noting the very many children around me. Finally she ventured a tentative, “Oh my. Are they all yours?”
“No, not all of them. Just around 60%,” I replied glibly. She pondered that a moment, probably working out the math. “What…what school do they go to?” She was wondering what these school aged kids were doing at the zoo at 11:20 on a school morning. “Actually,” I said confidently, “they’re homeschooled.
I’ve found, for the most part, that people don’t question you if you seem comfortable with your choices. It’s like when the boys were babies, and I sometimes nursed them in public. Oh, relax. I didn’t flash boob or anything. I was very discrete. But if a baby’s hungry and your milk is letting down…there are worse things you could do. If I sat there, miserably aware of every glance my direction, people noticed. Noticed me and my discomfort, and wished we would go away. But if I sat casually, smiling comfortably at people if they stared, they relaxed and left me alone. And if they did get upset, it was really their problem.
Well, people tend to react the same way when I mention homeschooling. When I first decided to not send Tre to public school, I answered people’s questions rather defensively. A simple “Isn’t Tre going to be in kindergarten in the fall?” was met with a tirade on homeschooling’s advantages and my qualifications and the problems with public schools. More than one person I set out to convince this way left the conversation with far more concerns about my choice than they would have had I not defended myself so heartily.
This is my third year homeschooling, and I’m fairly relaxed about it. I really don’t have any agenda about what anyone else should be doing with their kids. Really. Some of my best friends send their kids to public schools. I know where I’m headed, and I see how well it’s working for my boys. So when people ask, I nod and reply confidently, “Actually, they’re homeschooled.” End of discussion for most people. Or at least, end of argument. Discussion’s always interesting.
But on Friday at the zoo, my calm pronouncement didn’t ease this woman’s concerns. “Really? How OLD are they?” I explained the ages of my sons and their grade levels. She shook her head. “Hmm. Seems…like a difficult thing to do.”
“Well,” I replied, “the hard part is the research. Finding out what approach you want to take and finding the materials you need and getting everything organized. After that, it’s just your daily life.”
“I don’t know,” she was still shaking her head. Hadn’t she noticed my confidence? “Seems to me that’s something you could do up until about…third grade.” Um…I’d just told her that Tre’s in third grade, I thought. “After that, one person could never offer the breadth of what a classroom experience can.”
Well, my hackles were up. The way I saw it, she was informing me that I was a moron, and deluded in my belief that I could meet the educational needs of my children. I, who have spend hundreds of hours researching the subject of homeschooling, who have read and talked to and taken classes from more homeschooling experts than she could imagine, I who have actual experience homeschooling, couldn’t understand the ramifications of my decision like she could. Humph. I launched into my defense of my choices, and impassioned lecture on the merits of home education and my qualifications. That worked as well as ever, and by the time I was done she was outright glaring at me, convinced of my wrong-headedness.
“Well,” she sniffed, “I would just never think I could ever offer nearly as good an education as a school.”
“Well,” I sniffed right back, “if that’s what you think, you’re probably right.”
And yet again, I made someone's doubts much worse with my debate technique.
When will I learn to smile and nod and let things go?