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November 2003
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January 2004

I took Tre to buy

I took Tre to buy new jeans tonight. What is it about eight year old boys that causes them to erupt out the knees of their jeans? Sheesh, I swear the fabric weakens while he’s just sitting serenely, gazing out the window. (Like that ever happens!) In the morning I glance at him and notice, hey, I think there’s a hole in the left knee of his jeans. By lunchtime both knees are sporting tears of at least two inches, and by dinner one pants leg is entirely gone, the other is hanging by a thread.
What is that?
Anyhow, it was time to buy his week’s allotment of jeans, so we went off to the store. Max and Raphael were home with Amma and Appa, so this was a doable expotition. We charged into the store and found the boys’ section. I grabbed a selection of jeans and we were off for the dressing room. Now, I learned my lesson last time I took him shopping, and didn’t head in there with him. No need to earn that withering look again. I handed him the stack and positioned myself at the door of the changing room. He turned to go in the little stall, and then turned back.
“Wait right there,” he instructed. I nodded, leaning against the wall. Department stores just suck the life right out of me. I think it’s the lighting or something, but after five minutes inside one I can feel my will to shop just draining away. He was not satisfied with my cavalier assurance, and fixed me with a steely look. “Don’t. Move. From. That. Spot.” By this point I got it. He was getting a little worried. I looked steadily back at him and said in what I hoped was a reassuring tone, “Don’t worry. I’ll be right here.”
“Stay right there.”
“I promise. Right here.”
“Don’t move.”
”Honey, I won’t. Go try on your pants.”
He went in and shut the door behind him, only to yank it open a second later to glare at me. Just testing. He went back and proceeded to try on jeans.
Tre is…well…a touch intense on certain matters. And ever since his dad left, being left alone is a huge fear for him. If he comes in from outside and I’m not in the room he expectes me to be in, he panics. We even have a rule around here, “if you can’t find Mama, look in the basement, the garden, and the garage before you freak out.” Because if he can’t find me in 2.3 seconds, he freaks out. By the time he does find me (4.3 seconds), he’s screaming “Mama!” and tears have filled his huge brown eyes. He races over to me and hollers, “You scared me!” and when I hug him, I can feel him trembling. When he goes to bed at night if he can’t hear us talking in the living room he comes tearing down the stairs, wailing, “Mama?”
Tears. Trembling.
He’s gotten better, he really has. Right now he’s up there, awake in his room. I’m typing at the computer and Mom and Dad have gone down to their room in the basement. It’s quiet. But he’s just come down to check on me once, and it was very calmly. He’s made real progress.
But I’m going away this weekend. A girls’ weekend away, with a dear friend in California (hi, Amy!). This is a good thing, I think. Healthy for me…right? But I worry about my boys. I’ve done everything I can to make them feel secure. Heck, until a few months ago I didn’t even make Max sleep in his own bed. Their fears seemed like a natural response to the unexpected turn our lives took. So I did what I could to bind up their broken parts.
The question is when is it time to remove the cast? If my kids didn’t have “abandonment issues” a weekend for me away wouldn’t be that hard to imagine. Stressful, sure, but not unreasonable. But now, in our situation, I watch them and wonder. Am I stepping gingerly back, letting them get their own strength? Or am I removing supports too soon?
I suspect this is a good step. I am, after all, leaving them with their Amma and Appa (my parents), so I know they’re in good hands. And hopefully by this time Sunday night my boys will have seen and believed what I told Tre when he came out of the changing room.

“I’m here. Even if you can’t see me for a little while, I’m here.”

Ok, apologies all around, but

Ok, apologies all around, but this is going to be short. I did two things today that shouldn’t go in the same day. I gave blood this afternoon and then this evening I went to the weight circuit class I haven’t been to for a month. Now, neither of those things would knock me out by themselves, but put them together, within a 6 hour span…not good news.
I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box tonight, and I’m going to bed. But first, a few quotable moments from my boys.
A couple of days ago I was in the process of making dinner and Max came into the kitchen swinging his arms around vigorously. “Whatcha doin’, honey?” I asked, dodging a fist.
“I’m being an experiment. I have four arms.”
“Really? What’s your name?”
“Four Arms.”
“Well, Four Arms, you need to go be an experiment over there, because you’re getting in my way here.”
“Ok. I’ll just go over here and four play.”
If you didn’t get that, read it out loud. I nearly passed out, trying not to let him see me laughing. I just didn’t want to explain what was so funny.
*whew* Ok, next.
Some time last week Dad called with the news that he’d gotten a promotion at work. I congratulated him heartily, and after a few minutes of being impressed, hung up to let him get back to being a high-powered financial whiz. Max, seeing I had hung up, wailed, “Nooooo! I wanted to talk to Appa!” So we called him back, and Max crowed happily into the phone, “Appa, you rock.”
Then it was Tre’s turn to talk, and he spent a few minutes alternatively describing his breakfast and chewing in Dad’s ear. Finally he handed the phone to Raphael, who was about to spontaneously combust if someone didn’t let him talk NOW. He snatched the phone out of Tre’s hand, pulled it to his ear, and inquired earnestly, “Appa, yoo gotta rock?”

That’s it for me, I’m going to bed. But I want you all to know, yoo gotta rock.

It’s snowing right now, sifting

It’s snowing right now, sifting down over the four inches of snow that have fallen since about 1 this afternoon. They expect somewhere between 6 and 10 inches by morning. I have a confession to make.
I kind of like it, all this snow.
There is a breed of people (you know who you are) who live here in Colorado, who looooooove the snow. When the weather forecast calls for 5 or more inches, they happily talk about it standing in line at the grocery store. These people grin up at the clouds when they see the first snowflakes. Blizzards make them giddy. These are the people with the bumper stickers that proclaim, “Colorado Native.”
I am not a Colorado native. I’m not a native of anywhere, really. I was born in Chicago, but we moved away when I was just a toddler. Since then I’ve lived in places like Texas, Mexico, New Mexico, and New Zealand. Not a lotta snow in any of those places. Well, we got a bit in parts of New Mexico, but not that much. I moved here about…what…eleven years ago. It was August when I came to Denver, and I had come from Las Cruces, which is in southern New Mexico. I went from 110 degree days to balmy 70’s. I was freezing. I went down to Las Cruces to see my friends over Halloween that year and I remember the morning after I got back to Denver. I was walking to my car, and a snowflake lazily drifted past my eyes, right down into my cleavage. I watched it, thinking, “What the hell am I doing here? Yesterday I was wearing shorts.” I spent the rest of the day scowling out the window at the snow.
I am not as insane as all those Colorado natives. But I do have to admit a certain growing affinity for the stuff. As the impressive dark clouds rolled in this morning, I watched them and quietly wondered just how much snow they’d leave. It was…kind of exciting.
See, here in Colorado we don’t have to live with the snow for weeks. Heck, it usually doesn’t stay for days, even. Just two days ago I was standing in a store and a woman came in wearing sandals. I looked at her and thought, “It’s December, woman!” But the truth is it wasn’t too cold for sandals. And sometime in the next week there will be a 60 degree day. All these dramatic weather swings leave one with a sense of anticipation. What’s next? Five feet of snow, like the blizzard of last March? Or a 75 degree Christmas?
I went outside tonight to shovel the driveway with Dad. Tre was playing out there with us, tossing snowballs at us and asking us to throw shovelfuls of snow at him. We obliged. Eventually the driveway was clear (for a few minutes…you should see it now), and Dad and I turned to go inside. Tre begged to stay out for a while in the snow. I said ok, but he had to play in the back. It was, after all, nearly eight p.m. and DARK out there. He agreed, so I went over to the gate to let him into the back yard. As I swung it open, Tre stood silent for a moment, staring through the open gate. “Now I enter Snow World,” he breathed. Then he charged in, and spent the next half hour romping in the snow. In the dark. Alone. He’d still be out there if I hadn’t made him come in and go to bed.
Now THAT is a Colorado native.

I was at the pediatrician’s

I was at the pediatrician’s office the other day, getting flu shots for the boys and myself. I was feeling very smug, having gotten my flu shot like a good girl. Aren’t I the responsible one? Then today I read in the newspaper that they’re running low on the vaccine, and are asking healthy people to hold off on getting immunized.
Anyhow, while I was waiting for our turn for the shots (in a packed waiting room with kids that probably gave us the flu before the shot could work), I was thumbing through a Parents magazine. And I, um, took it home with me.
ANYHOW, I was reading it and came across a Q and A column about “Good Manners” by Peggy Post. One of the questions was from a mom who noticed a woman at the park letting her baby feed herself grapes. The mom was wondering how she should have pointed out the obvious choking hazard.
The response was typical for this sort of column, suggesting a gentle, inoffensive approach. If she just worded it the right way, the other mom would probably be grateful for her help.
Now, maybe this is just my guilt complex because I actually fed all three of my kids grapes before the age of two. I worried a little and I watched them closely, but I did feed them grapes.
Ok, see how I was back-pedaling there in my confession? I was trying to justify my decision to feed MY kids grapes, an event that they clearly survived. And that’s why this column bothered me. There’s a whole new morality about child-rearing. There are clear “right” and “wrong” choices, and it is wrong to feed food that are high choking hazards to kids under the age of two. No popcorn, nuts, hot dogs, or grapes. All parents know that. And if another parent is breaking that rule, it is clearly our job to correct them. Not to assume that they know their child better than we do and have the knowledge and skills necessary to make those sorts of decisions for themselves. Not to grant them their God-given right to raise their child as they see fit. We are to gently, inoffensively, bring them back in line. They will be grateful.
What are some of the rules of the current parenting morality? Well, let’s see. Don’t spank your child. Use time outs to help them learn to control their emotions. Don’t feed them too much sugar. Express your displeasure at their misbehavior with “I” statements, so as not to personally criticize them. Buy organic food. Put them to bed in fire-resistant approved sleepwear. No pacifier after the baby turns one. Make them wear helmets when they ride their bikes. And for heaven’s sake, don’t smoke – you might as well just hold a pillow over their little mouths.
Now, I’ll agree that these rules include some very good ideas. A parent who follows parenting morality to a “T” would probably do a very good job of parenting indeed. They’d annoy ME greatly, but that’s neither here nor there. What bugs me is the assumption that these rules must be followed to be a good parent. I believe parents (especially mothers – sorry) have a sense of what their kids should and should not do that no set of rules can encompass. Good parents can break the rules and still be good parents.
But for me the icing on this particular cake came later in the same magazine, an article titled “Romance After Remarriage” by Holly Robinson. It’s well written, with suggestions for easing the transition into a blended family that seem great. What would I know? But then there’s a sidebar with the heading “Sleepovers for single parents?” It talks about keeping your dating life separate until you’re in a “committed relationship”, telling your children you’ve invited your friend to spend the night when “you feel the time is right.” Then, “if your preschooler asks why this person has to spend the night, you can simply answer that adults who love each other sometimes have sleepovers so they can cuddle.”
Ready for some “I” messages?
I believe that this attitude is reprehensible. I feel that to expose your children to the risks inherent in a casual sexual relationship is wrong. It seems to me that's putting your physical needs above your child’s needs for safety - emotionally, physically, and morally. And I don’t feel it necessary to take moral advice from a forum that would recommend lying to your young child (unless…do people have dates spend the night just to cuddle?).
So perhaps I was wrong in feeding my kids grapes before the age of two. But I am a better mother because I can read a magazine like this and give it the response it deserves, a snort and a fling across the room.
Don’t bother trying to gently bring me in line. I won’t be grateful.

I was giving Max and

I was giving Max and Raphael a bath. Raphael was in a MOOD, so his bath time consisted mainly of swiping toys from Max and protesting whenever Max managed to hold onto something. Anything. There was much shrieking and flinging of sodden washcloths.
It was fun.
Max, on the other hand, had discovered that the yellow foam disk they had among their bath toys was…biteable. He was tearing chunks out of it with his teeth and spitting them into the water. By the time I noticed what he was doing he was already surrounded by a small yellow foam armada. “Hey! Stop that!” I ordered in my most enlightened parenting style. He looked up at me quizzically. “We never play with this, Mama.”
“I know, but…”
“Well, now I’m playing with it.”
He did have a point, and I had been planning to throw it away the next time I cleaned the bathroom, but still…
“Ok, but I want every piece of that stuff in the trashcan before you get out of your bath,” I said sternly. Showed him.
Tre was doorway climbing. This means he was bracing arms and legs in the doorway and shimmying his way up. Then, once his shoulders were pressed against the top of the doorway (what’s that called? The bottom is the door jamb, what’s the top?), he’d release the pressure just enough to slide down to the floor. And then he’d start back up again. Once when he was at the very top he looked down to see Raphael get mad at his shark toy and yell, “Meanie! Stoopid!” at it. This struck Tre so funny that he erupted into fits of laughter, which caused him to lose his grip and tumble to the floor somewhat faster than usual. He laid there in a heap, giggling and pausing to grab his shin and comment, “ow.” Then giggle some more.
He’s fine. Probably won’t even have a bruise.
I, on the other hand, am getting old.

Oh, I wanted to give you a quick update on Tre and the knife. He is indeed being very responsible about it. He’s only used it once, to cut a ribbon, and he asked permission first. No horsing around, so I suppose those wacky Cub Scout people were right about this one. He’s just so very impressed with the seriousness of having a pocket knife. Once today he was walking through the kitchen and Claire (our beautiful, stupid cat) saw him and freaked out and ran away. She’s a cat. They’re not the most mentally stable of animals. Anyhow, Tre watched her run away and turned to me, very seriously. “I think Claire saw my pocket knife and it scared her.”
Probably, baby.

This morning I was getting

This morning I was getting breakfast for the boys, which consists of a routine something like this: Stand, befuddled, in the middle of the kitchen for a solid 14 seconds. Determine that I was about to get milk to go with said breakfast. Stomp over to the cupboard, pull out three glasses. Glare at glasses. Wonder what I was about to do with them.
And so on.
Morning, as I may have mentioned, is not my best time.
Anyhow, I had just put two pieces of bread in the toaster and, after a moment of glaring concentration, pushed the little lever down. I was stomping over to the fridge for jelly when Raphael tiptoed up behind me and dropped a small red plastic tube in after the bread. It came with some play-dough, sort of a small rolling pin. Anyhow, I had gotten out the jelly for Max (pomegranate) and jam for Tre (strawberry) and laid out the plates and knives before the thought, “That smells a lot like melting plastic,” finally penetrated the morning fog. I looked around the kitchen for the source of the smell. A smell that was fairly overpowering by this point.
The stove was off. I looked at the toaster. There didn’t seem to be anything touching it, just a plume of oily smoke coming out of it.
Wait. Smoke – that’s not a good thing.
I did remember to unplug it before investigating too far into the insides. Yay, me.
Well, to sum up, we need a new toaster. But at least we have a new red plastic sculpture. It’s very…unusual, and I plan to incorporate it into the Christmas centerpiece somehow. Raphael spent the rest of breakfast skulking around, muttering, “Ah sowwy, Mama.” I’d pat him and say, “That’s ok, baby. Just don’t put anything in the toaster unless I tell you to, ok?” To which he’d reply, “Ah didn’t do it, Mama!”
When I told the story to Mom she pointed out that what he probably meant was that he wished he hadn’t done it. That’s probably true, and a much more charitable explanation than mine about him being some sort of psychopath.
I will tell you one thing.
Nothin’ but Honeycomb cereal for breakfast from here on out.

Tre had a Cub Scout

Tre had a Cub Scout den meeting tonight. Big night. I am proud to announce that tonight Tre earned the coveted Whittling Chip. Do you know what this means? This means he is now allowed to carry a pocket knife.
What the hell are they thinking?
Now, I have to admit this whole Whittling Chip thing is done well. They started the meeting by sitting down the boys around a table. On the table was a whole range of knives, from a little pocket knife, up to a giant meat cleaver. For once the entire gaggle of boys was silent. They stared, in awe. Rules about the proper use and care of knives were sternly read to them, and read back by them. They signed cards bearing these rules, as a promise to live by them. The rules include things like “I will not throw my knife for any reason.” These rules were written by people who know boys. And the boys have to carry their cards whenever they have their knives. If a Den Leader catches a Cub Scout with his knife and he doesn’t have his Whittling Chip card, he LOSES his knife. And if a Den Leader catches a Cub Scout doing something he shouldn’t be doing with his knife, he gets a corner cut off his card. If he loses four corners, he LOSES HIS KNIFE. And he can’t get another until he’s a Boy Scout. Serious stuff.
After the rules portion of the evening was done, they moved over to a newspaper covered table to practice opening and closing their new pocket knives. They carved soap. It was very manly and sober. These goofy eight year old boys all took to the task of carving bars of Ivory like the survival of the village depended upon it. They grimly discussed all the ways you could hurt yourself with a knife, if you weren’t careful. I stood in the corner and observed Tre as he gingerly opened and closed his knife under careful supervision. His glossy brown head bent over his work and he scraped soft curls of soap onto the newspaper. He glanced up, and seeing me watching he squared his shoulders and gave me a very adult nod. And grinned.
But see, I’m a mom. And I watched them hand my little boy, my baby, a knife and thought, “Oh no. I don’t think so. That simply cannot be a good idea.” I wanted to march over, snatch it out of his hand, and glare meaningfully at the Den Leader. Which is why, I suppose, Tre is in Cub Scouts. So someone will give him a pocket knife. Because LORD KNOWS I wouldn’t.
Well, Tre is thrilled. And he’s taking the seriousness of it very earnestly. I think it’s good for him. I think this will help teach him responsibility. I think letting him take this on helps him develop his sense of self as he grows and matures.

I think I’ll go steal it out of his drawer.

I went to get my

I went to get my hair done today. I may have mentioned before that Kristy, my hair genius, has a bit of a chaotic life. Well, her news today was that she’s separated from her husband. Booted him out, actually.
They have two little girls, 2 ½ and less than one year old. It’s not an unusual story. He’s been doing…things and…women he shouldn’t. She had enough and packed his things and changed the locks. As she told me the story, I watched in awe. I wasn’t that together, I thought. She is in charge. I was at sea at that point. In shock. I forgot the baby in the car once. I was not in charge.
Kristy tossed her head and announced her intentions as far as child support and visitation. I listened and marveled at how in control she was. I thought all these things because I wasn’t able to get a word in edgewise. “It’s not like I wanted us to split up!” she practically shouted, “He wasn’t coming home at night! I mean, ALL night! Can you imagine?”
Um…I don’t have to imagine. What I couldn’t get my mind around was handling it as well as she was.
Her cell phone rang and she glanced at it and tossed it in a drawer. “It’s him,” she shrugged, and went on. Then the salon phone rang. No one else was there to answer it, so Kristy stepped a few feet away to the desk to answer it. It was her husband. I watched her talk to him. Her posture changed, just melted from the angry woman who had been laying out her battle plan a few minutes earlier. Her shoulders sagged and her eyes fell to gaze dully at the floor. Suddenly she looked like a frightened little girl.
My dad says you can tell a gift from God because it blesses both the person receiving it and the person giving it. The transverse reality is true. Divorce is a gift from Hell. There is no one that goes unharmed in a divorce. The kids, of course. They hurt. The broken couple hurts. Families hurt. Friends hurt.
I sat in the black swivel chair, my hair dripping, and relived the shattered feeling of listening to someone you made babies with speak to you with such rage it sucks all the air out of the room.
No one gets through a divorce without damage.