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April 2004
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June 2004

Good Times

After dinner I laid down on the sofa for a few minutes. I had a headache and wanted to close my eyes, give the ibuprofen a few encouraging thoughts to speed it on its way. Raphael trundled up to me.
“What yoo doin’, Mama?”
“I’m resting.”
“Can ah rest wif yoo?”
“Sure, baby.”
He clambered up next to me and snuggled in. One damp little hand reached up to pat my face.
“Yoo are my Mama,” he sighed contentedly.
“That’s right. And you’re my Raphael.”
“Dat’s right. An’ yoo are my Raphayell,” he returned.
“What?” I grabbed him in mock astonishment, causing him to giggle. This is a favorite game at the moment. He walks up to me and announces he’s my mama or I’m his son, and I grab him and act shocked. He giggles. I giggle. We’re a regular riot act.
Max wandered up, wondering what the laughing was about, so Raphael and I pretended to be asleep so Max could wake us. We lay still, snoring quietly. When Max touched our arms, whispering, “Hey, wake up, guys,” we jumped and shouted a hearty “HUH?”
Belly laughing. Max fell down on the floor in fake surprise and we all laughed until there were tears in our eyes. Then Max wanted a turn, so Raphael climbed off the couch, laughing at the very thought of waking Max and me up. Max laid down next to me, and we closed our eyes. However, the sheer anticipation of the “waking” was too much, and neither Max nor Raphael could stop laughing long enough for us to act asleep. Max shook with suppressed hilarity next to me, while Raphael stood next to us, laughing until he bent over, clutching his belly and drooling on my arm.
If someone had walked in just then and asked what we were laughing at, I would have had to tell them we were planning to pretend to be asleep…then wake up…and go “HUH?”
It wouldn’t have sounded all that funny, but I tell ya – we know how to have a good time.

Sunday School

Our church had a service with three other churches today. It was large, and loud, and boisterous. One of the other participating churches had banners, and dancers. Dancers with banners. Their praise band had trumpets and saxophones and a silver clarinet. At times it was like worshipping with Michael Bolton. Note – not like worshipping Michael Bolton – that would have been an entirely different experience, I’m sure.
Tre stood on one side of me, arms crossed. He stuck his fingers in his ears and glared at me.
"What'd ya think?" I asked.
“It’s very loud.” He informed me grimly.
My little Anglican.
Max, on the other side of me, was dancing. At one point he hopped on my back and started shimmying and swaying until I could hardly stay on my feet. He hummed improv along with the saxaphone.
“It’s LOUD!” He said in my ear.
“Yup. What’d ya think of that?” I asked. He grinned.
“It’s GREAT!”
My little Pentecostal.
Raphael was totally uninterested in the singing and dancing. He was fixated on swiping the toy dinosaurs of the little boy in the row in front of us. Not sure what that says about his religious future, but I can see a clear need for grace.

Boys will be...well, gross.

I was kneeling by Max’s bed, saying the boys’ bedtime prayers with them. Tre was next to me and Max was in bed. As he started his prayer, he tucked his hand in my armpit. No, I do not know why. I should mention here that I had just arrived home from the gym.
“Dear God,” he prayed, “thank you for Mama, even though she has sweaty armpits.”
This caused a storm of giggling on the part of Tre and Max, which was quelled by the look of doom on my part. Max went on with his prayer. “And I just love Mama.” Pause to glance at his brother and be sure he was listening, “and her sweaty armpits.” Tre tried to stop himself from laughing by pressing his mouth to his arm, but a laugh escaped, causing his lips to make a farting noise against his skin. You can imagine the hilarity. I mean, sweaty armpits and farting noises! Whoo!
Eventually I put down the uprising and got both of them settled in their beds. I went down the stairs, shaking my head. Permit me, if you will, to paint you a picture of the boys who find my pits so amusing.
Max came out of his room two days ago, wearing his cream colored linen pants, a dark green button vest with dinosaurs on it, and nothing else. No shirt, just his slick vest and linen pants. The next day he came out of his room wearing the same outfit, but this time with not one but TWO maroon clip on ties clipped to the vest. THIS morning he came out in black and white plaid shorts, and a red and white striped t-shirt WITH a six inch olive green tie clipped to the collar. I do not know where he got that tie, but he loved it.
I was seen in public with this child, and HE’S laughing at ME? I think not.
Tre – well, Tre seems pretty normal until you hear a sampling of the noises he can make with his armpit and hand. His favorite routine is to stick one hand in his armpit and point the other like a gun. When he shoots the gun hand, he makes a farting noise with the other. A gun that shoots farts. This, in case you missed it, is hilarious. Endlessly so.
Raphael has a little head cold. Not all that serious, no fever or anything, but his nose has been running copiously. All day long he’s been walking around with snot-shellacked cheeks. I scrub him clean and seconds later he’s rubbing at his face until I’m worried his nose might rub right off. All day, snot from ear to ear (and sometimes beyond), and gauntlets of it from the backs of his hands to mid arm.
This is the regiment I travel with, and I do it with pride. I’m thinking they can live with my pits, sweaty or not.

Ya can't take me anywhere. Well, you can, but you can't make me keep my mouth shut.

So I went to get my hair cut today, which is you understand a euphemism. I went to get my hair colored. The cut was an afterthought. Anyhow, I usually go Monday mornings when the kids are at the one day a week homeschool enrichment program that has sadly, oh so sadly, ended for the year. Monday mornings are quiet, nary a soul to be seen. Wednesday afternoons, on the other hand, are not quiet. People are getting their nails done, people are wandering out of the massage rooms, looking dazed, people are arriving for hair cuts. Men, women, children - the place was hopping.
So after a quick consultation, Kristi (my hair genius – whose genius has been shaky of late) gooped up my roots with hair goop and sent me to read a magazine. I was sitting there, somewhat uncomfortably, looking like Medusa among the many patrons. Now, I blame what happened next on the article I was reading. The basic premise of it seemed to be “Let’s see what happens when we send this model out to exercise in her underwear and push-up bra!” There were pictures of this woman, leaning on a passing man’s arm so she could fish a rock out of her shoe, rollerblading past a group of young men who were threatening to burst veins in their heads from the intense oogling, and heaven help us, her power walking. Which, she says, should never be done in a push up bra. Ah. Thank God I read that before planning my weekend.
So I was sitting there, thinking about how I’d die, I’d just die if I walked out my front door in my underwear. I mean, I apologize to myself if I see me in my underwear. Roller blading? Aside from the obvious abrasion risks, it would cause me to just seize and die from sheer shame.
I was pondering this when Kristi came over to do…something to my hair. I don’t know, I don’t ask. She poked at my head a bit, then turned to leave me to my magazine.
“Oh,” she said, “I spilled some stuff on your cape. Let me get a towel.” She came back with a towel and sponged off the front of the plastic clothing protective cape I was wearing. One of the drips was apparently over my right breast, and she laughed. “Sorry about feeling you up there.” She turned to walk back to her station, so I raised my voice just a bit so she could hear me. Over all the people.
“That’s ok!” I called out blithely, “it’s the most action I’ve seen in years!”
Save for the sound of heads turning.
Eyebrows rising.
I looked back at…everyone…searching for some addendum to my statement that would make it sound better. There didn’t seem to be one, so I buried my face in my magazine.
I guess that’ll teach me to judge the stupidity of others, huh?

To PMS and beyond!

I went to a family event yesterday, which was (as you may have guessed) fraught with family. Now, I don’t mind that. I love my family. I’m sure we have pretty much the same proportion of crazy to sane as any other, but I just love those nut jobs. Unless…most of the crazy may be concentrated in my immediate family…in which case I love those patient souls who put up with us.
The problem of spending time with anyone yesterday was twofold.
a) I was PMSing.
b) There were babies simply everywhere.
Now, I’m not against babies, per se. I’m all for them. It’s just that it’s May of 2004. My sons are about to turn 9, 6, and 3 years old. Anyone see a pattern? It’s about time for the nicely spaced fourth child, and since there are already birthdays in June, July, and August, the fourth baby would have been born in May.
It’s now time for my fourth baby to be born.
This is going to prove difficult, as I’m not 8.7 months pregnant, or pregnant at all to be perfectly honest. Dammit.
I know, I know, I’m crazy and selfish and crazy a few more times. It’s just that I WANTED one more. I should be grateful for all I have in my life and I am! I really am. I have so very much.
I just don’t have any sperm.
Sorry, Mom.
Most of the time I’m fine about the whole fourth child madness. I mean, I have three. What, I want to never be able go to the bathroom alone? It’s nice, not carrying diapers around, or wearing spit up on my shoulder. I mostly sleep through the night. I’m happy with my life the way it is. But then add PMS to the whole mix and…well, things get dicey.
To me PMS feels like I’m hovering on the edge of a huge understanding. As though all the pieces are coming into place, and everything is about to come clear. And that epiphany I’m about to have? Not a good one. So if I’m making the kids breakfast and I spill some milk, I realize I’m actually a very careless person, and what does that say about me? And about the care I take with my kids? And GOOD LORD, that’s why Max is still switching his B’s and D’s, because there I was, carelessly teaching him, and now he’s SCREWED, he’ll never be president or a famous artist because when he leaves for collage he’s going to be wandering around, lost, trying to find Harvab, when THERE IS NO SUCH PLACE…
Or someone will make an offhand comment to me, like, “Could you hand me that spoon?” and I’ll decide she HATES me because I’m always in the way, and a really NICE person would have noticed the spoon and handed it to her, but not me, because I’m a SELFISH, CARELESS, CHILD RUINING SPOON HOG.
Anyhow, the #1 refrain whenever I get together with people who haven’t seen me in a few months is, “So, are you seeing anyone? Are you dating?”
To my hormonally challenged ears, this came across something like this, “What the hell is wrong with you? You are the most boring person here. And the guests include a 90 year old woman passed out in a recliner. Get a life! NO, we do not want to hear about your kids or those two lousy essays you sold. Now stop being so boring. Oh, and by the way, you’re getting old. Fast.”
So I responded to their kind queries in the most reasonable way I could think of.
But mostly I just said it in my head. Yay for me!
And today I feel much better.

Sleepover savvy

Tre had a friend sleep over last night. Now, Tre’s almost nine (he likes to remind me), and this is his FIRST SLEEPOVER EVER. I’m told that’s practically child abuse.
Except wait.
Wait…a…minute. He had two friends spend the night last summer in the back yard in a tent. That, my friends, is a sleepover. Which makes me yet again, not a child abuser.
Anyhow, Craig James from across the street spent the night last night. I was prepared for the worst. I’d steeled myself for a very late night and exhausted morning. I mean, I remember having friends spend the night. It started out great, but the drama usually peaked around 3 am, when someone would be crying.
Well, here’s how the night went down:
After a full day of boy-like behavior (bike riding, tag playing, making farting noises with their armpits) they ate pizza, watched a movie, and went to bed. Actually, they retired to sleeping bags on Tre’s bedroom floor. Max (who had his own sleeping bag on the floor in his room) bugged them for a while, then went to sleep. They quietly played Yu-Gi-Oh! cards until about 10 pm, then turned off the light. I checked in on them about 10:15, and they were both sound asleep. I looked at them, shaking my head and thinking, “You are soooo not girls.”
You’d think I’d know that by now, huh?
So I thought I’d scored the easy sleepover, what with them not being girls and all. And they did sleep right through the night. The morning was lovely, with happy children eating waffles made by my Dad. They played incomprehensible games where they pulled their sleeping bags over their heads and wandered around the house, bumping into things. I was thrilled. I was ready to have someone spend the night every night for the next nine years. This was GREAT.
Then Craig James went home.
Tre cratered.
I don’t know if he was tired, or if he’d just overdrawn his “fun” account and had to pay a nasty “unfun” balance, but he was not a happy camper. He growled at his brothers and glared at me. He pitched wailing fits when asked to do…pretty much anything. He wept great tears when life threw him such hideous curveballs as…a seatbelt. He was a monster.
So I think I’ve got it figured out. Sleepovers are wonderful, and I’d be pleased to host one at any time. But my kid goes home with yours. Send him back when he’s fixed.

Star Watching

Sunday night Dad shaved the boys’ heads, gave them their prickly summer haircuts. I’ve always done that – actually their dad started it when Tre was three. I wasn’t wild about it, but now it’s become what we do, and it must not be changed. Every summer I watch their gorgeous mahogany-gold hair fall to the ground and it squeezes my heart. I love their hair. But then when it’s gone, they look so very different. Their eyes shine in the midst of their ENORMOUS heads, like those artist’s renderings of aliens.
Yesterday Tre and I were working on a science project. We were melting sugar to make edible glass. This requires a very long period of slowly stirring sugar in a hot pan. Tre stirred for a while, then passed that duty off to me. “See, Mom, it says right here that you should take turns stirring ‘cause it takes a long time. Your turn.” He occupied himself with bounding between the stove and the computer, to check on Max’s progress with a new Reader Rabbit game.
“Hey, Tre, come here,” I called. He bounced back and clambered up onto the counter. At that height his head was right next to mine. “Look at that,” I said, “the sugar’s starting to melt.” We watched together in silence for a moment.
“I don’t see it,” he said after a while.
“You have to watch. Every so often you’ll see a single sugar crystal soften and merge with the one next to it. It’s just a tiny movement.” He waited.
I looked at the light circling his bald head, and remembered the way the sun would light up his scalp through his fine baby hair as a newborn. For a moment he looked so much like that tiny floppy big headed baby that I leaned in, half expecting to smell that baby smell.
“Oh, I saw it!” He hopped down to head back to the computer. “It’s like a shooting star; you can’t look right at it before it’s gone.”
And he ran off, around the corner.
Like a shooting star.

Lessons with Raphi

“Mama? Appa does poops. And Amma does poops.” I was trying to type something when Raphael initiated this particular conversation, so I nodded absently.
“Mamaaaaa? Amma poops. And Mats poops. And Tre does poops. Mama? Do Tre do poops?”
“Huh? Oh, yes, Tre poops.”
“Dat’s riiiiiiight. Tre does poops. And a-imals poops.”
There was a pause, so I glanced at him and agreed,
“Yep, animals poop too.”
He stared off into space, then looked at me, alarmed.
”Ah have to go pee.” He started trotting off, then stopped and called over his shoulder, “Mama? Can ah use your bafroom?”
“Yes, you can use my bathroom.” He went merrily on his way while I pondered why he seemed to feel like he has to ask to use the bathroom, but not to poke pencils up my nose. Soon he was done, and came running back.
“Ah did pee.”
“Good, honey.”
“Mama? Horses poops.”
“Horses poops and ewefants poops. And birds…Mama? Do birds do poops?”
“Yes, birds poop too.”
“An birds poops. Heidi poops in da yard.”
“Yup.” I pushed back from the computer and stood up.
“Mama? Wheh you going?”
“I’m going to the bathroom. I have to pee.”
He screwed his face up into a tiny little expression of disgust.
“Mama! Ewwwww!”
Well, excuse me for bringing the conversation down to such an earthy level, sweetie.

Is there a "MADNESS" badge?

Ok, so remember how I allowed myself to get roped into the Awards Coordinator job for Tre’s Cub Scout pack? They convinced me to do it with a two-pronged lie, a) “It’s really not hard at all.”
Um. Yeah.
It’s not, except for once a month when two to three days of your life are sucked down a hole – into a maelstrom of awards and confusion. I always end up standing in the Scout Shop, staring at my Excel spreadsheet, muttering to myself “It says gold STARS here and gold ARROWS here, which do they mean? And what the hell are gold stars anyhow?” This is followed by frantic sorting and stapling and sweating over the correct spelling of names.
Second lie, b) “You won’t have to do anything until January, when Anita will be handing over the responsibilities.” Ok, that one wasn’t a lie. It was more of a clever manipulation, knowing (as I’m sure they did), how my feeble mind works. There I was - in September, for goodness sakes - thinking, “Oh, sure. January. That’s ages from now. Why, Christmas comes first!” Really. I thought that, about Christmas. Not sure what the heck that has to do with anything, like Christmas is a giant time block device that will save you from having to face anything you don’t want to that comes after it.
Christmas is NOT a giant time block device. Don't be fooled.
Well, Thursday is the last pack meeting of the year. And the entire pack has gone mad with the awards. Whittling chips, sports belt loops and pins, academic belt loops, gold arrow point, silver arrow points, Tiger badges - the wild abandon with which these people are encouraging boys MUST BE STOPPED. I’m going to show up at one of the leader meetings and suggest just that.
Today I pawned my kids off on my dad and didst hie myself to the Scout Shop. The people who work there all wear Scouting uniforms and sour expressions. They also seem to like to keep the temperature at a comfy eleventy bazillion hundred. Celsius.
I sweated and sorted the many awards into little boxes. I poured over my spreadsheets to be sure I got it all right. I trucked everything up to the counter, and laid it out nicely for the scowling counter Scout person. She rang it all up and gave me the total. Ready? $427.63. No, that’s not an exaggeration. That’s four HUNDRED twenty seven dollars and sixty three cents. In little bitty cards and pins and patches that I get to sort before Thursday.
But that’s not the best part. Ooooooh no.
I got home and wildly threw dinner together. After dinner I received this email: “[Cub Scout #1] and [Cub Scout #2] will need to get both the Outdoorsman and the Whittling Chip for Den 9. We have the Readyman pin for them along with [Cub Scout #3]. See you Thursday Night!”
I’m going Thursday night with my box full of supplies at the ready to hand off to the nearest leader. You see if I don’t.
Of course, it is summer now, so I don’t have to do anything more until fall…and that’s after Labor Day!

An S-t-u-p-i-d discussion

Raphael still loves to swear, but “stupid” now shares airtime with “mister.” I don’t know why he considers the word “mister” to be an insult, but he snarls it with just as much vitriol as any foul word you can imagine. His favorite enraged putdown is, “Yoo stoopid misterrrrr!” This is hollered as loud as possible.
This afternoon in the Wal-Mart parking lot, as I was sorting boys into their various car seats, Max did something to wrong Raphael. I don’t know what it could have been. He touched Raphael’s toy, or looked at him, or didn’t look at him, or talked when Raphael wanted to talk, or didn’t talk when Raphael wanted him to talk…it could have been anything. It was naptime for Raphi, and life was feeling particularly insulting to him at the time. So he shrieked at Max, “Yoo STOOPID MISTERRR!” Tre heard that (people in Kansas heard it, actually), and went into full word cop mode. Tre is pretty sure he’s in charge of maintaining order and right in the world, and he takes his job very seriously.
“Moooooom,” he called out, “Raphi said s-t-u-p-i-d!”
”Yeah,” Max chimed in, “he said s-p-u-t-i-d!” Max’s spelling isn’t as strong as Tre’s just yet. Tre (unrelenting in his crusade to maintain order and right), sighed heavily.
“That’s s-T-u-P-i-d, Max.”
“S-t-u-i-d?” Max said.
“No, s-t-“
Raphael broke in, with an enthusiastic chorus of, “S-P-D-U-P-I-D-I-P-U-S-T-P-I-D-I-D!”
The air was filled with a rain of letters as Max tried to correct Raphael, Tre tried to correct both of them, and Raphael gleefully shouted out as many letters as he could think of. He’s always delighted to happen upon a new way to irritate his brothers. After a very few moments of this spelling tirade, I drowned out their trio with my best UltraMom voice.
“It’s S-T-U-P-I-D! Now everyone STOP YELLING!”
There was a moment of stunned silence. Finally Tre (sensing a lack of order and right) quietly asked,
“Did you just say ‘stupid’?”
The very thought was shocking to all three of them.
“No,” I replied, tossing the last of the bags into the van, “I corrected your spelling.”
They had no response to that.
And really, how could they?