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June 2004
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August 2004

Two Good Things

So this past week I’ve been going around feeling mostly like…um…dirt. I mean, there was the whole “I’m a terrible mother who’s ruined her babies’ teeth” thing, and plus that one other thing. Eh.
Anyhow, this weekend I did two things that TURNED THE TIDE. First of all (and you should all know I’m embarrassed to admit this, because I come across as terribly shallow now, and I’m not – well, not REALLY), I bought a new purse.
I know - a purse. How pitiful is that as a rejuvenator? I mean, why don’t I trot down to the beauty shop and get my hair set in tight little curls, don a swishy skirt with crinolines underneath, powder my nose, and apply my new lipstick and call myself a new woman?
Except this purse. Even though it's awfully girly, I love this purse. It’s RED. It’s lovely and RED and it called to me from across the store. I showed it to my mom, who looked at me like I’d just declared my love for velvet Elvis paintings.
“Um…it’s red.” She said diplomatically.
“I know,” I gushed, “isn’t it BEAUTIFUL?”
She nodded politely, although I could tell she did not, in fact, think it was beautiful. My purse and I, we did not care. And it WAS my purse from the moment I picked it up. Oh, I tried. I tried to reel myself back it. Don’t give your heart away so quickly, I told myself. Plus, you are about twelve years and three kids too old for this purse. So I set my purse down, and moved around. I half-heartedly picked up other purses and looked at them.
But I always came back to my purse.
It was perfect.
And 60% off.
So, although I feel a little…out of my element…a little…risqué…a little…like I don’t own anything that matches it, I now have a red purse. It makes me happy. I carry it around and make people look at it and tell me how much they love it. Mom says I sound like a six year old, and I suspect she’s right.
But oh, I love that purse.
THE OTHER THING I did was go roller blading. DID I TELL YOU that I DO THAT? Well, I do. Um…I HAVE gone roller blading twice now. SO.
But I feel very cool, outfitted in my ‘blades and helmet and pads. The first time I went (sticklers could call that “the OTHER time”) I did not wear knee pads. I wore a helmet, in order to set a good example for my children who must wear their helmets because their brains still work and must remain unscrambled, thank you. And I wore wrist guards, because I RESPECT the wrist pain. I am DEFERENTIAL to wrist pain. I should always wear wrist guards.
But I did not wear knee pads, because…well…they look so stupid.
I know, a 33 year old stumbling along on roller blades THINKING she’s cool has already lost the fight against looking stupid. I know. But I just couldn’t bring myself to wear them.
You know where this is going, right? I found myself hurtling along; careening down an incline that was so scary I stopped breathing for just a minute. Not a good idea when you are exerting yourself beyond your accustomed cardiovascular level. Past the dancing spots of light before my eyes I saw the curve.
There was a wicked curve ahead, at the bottom of this hill I was flying down. I started breathing again, long enough to swear a bit, and fell. I scraped my knee up.
And although I even thought that was cool, and went around making people look at my knee, today I decided to wear the knee pads. They still look stupid, but my knees survived the experience. This can be attributed to the pads PLUS the fact that this time I was wise enough to bail out at the bottom of that hill, before the wicked curve, into the soft grass. It was sort of a pansy maneuver, but I didn’t hurt myself. I just don’t seem to have the balance to negotiate that turn.
Perhaps I should have left the purse at home.

In Which We Go to the Dentist, and Kira Does Not Overreact

I took the boys to the dentist today. It was Raphael’s first dentist visit, and we were all very excited. We love the dentist! We ate our breakfast and brushed our teeth with special care and marched ourselves out the door. Ok, I was a little grumpy, but it was before 10, which is not my best hour. But in there, under the morning residue of despair, was joy at going to the dentist.
Max was the first one in the cool chair that goes up. He opened his mouth and spit when told to and in general was unusually agreeable. When he was done, the hygienist brought him back to me in the waiting room. She was nearly swooning at how adorable and sweet he was. “His teeth look perfect. No cavities!”
“Yay!” we said! We were not surprised, but HAPPY!
Next went Tre. I was walking past the exam room, taking Raphael to the bathroom, when the dentist happened to be looking at Tre’s X-rays. Her brow was furrowed. Stop it, with the brow, I thought.
“Is there a problem?” I asked.
“He has a cavity – well - two cavities. See?” she pointed at an indistinct form on the X-ray. I nodded as though it meant something to me. “Right there. It looks like he got a chip in one tooth, and since his teeth are so close together, it formed a pocket that just collected food. He has a little decay right there where the two teeth meet. It’s small, but they will need to be filled.”
“Oh…ok,” I replied, sobered. I patted Tre’s shoulder and explained that he wouldn’t be having the fillings done today, and went on my way to take Raphael to the bathroom. Ok, I told myself, this is not a big deal. It’s a chip and a pocket and it could have happened to anyone. We’ll just take care of it.
Next came Raphael’s turn! Tre and Max and I gathered around to watch Raphael play dental patient. Because you know that’s all it is for a three year old! Dental play! Oooh, look at the instruments! Now the dentist is going to tickle your teeth! Can you spit? Oh, good! It’s fun! It’s safe!
So why was the dentist making that scowly face? Stop it, scowly dentist face! Be happy with us!
“He has…some cavities,” she said.
“I…he…what?” I replied intelligently.
“He has one here,” she stuck her evil little pointy thing in one molar, “and one here…and here…and here. In all four back molars. And in the back between his two front teeth. Oh, and you’re a horrible mother.”
“Well, Raphael seems to have pretty soft teeth, and they’re very close together, which can make it hard to get them clean. Not that you’d know, you slatternly loser, you. Have you even HEARD of a toothbrush?”
“I…brush his teeth…everyday. I do.”
”Oh sure. I know, and that’s great. But you might want to start flossing his teeth too, and I’ll give you some fluoride rinse he can use and maybe feed him a vegetable once in a while, you joke of a parental unit.”
“Ok. I can do that.” I muttered from where I was cowering under a chair.
Alright, maybe that wasn’t EXACTLY what she said. It was something like that. Suffice to say we’re going back to the dentist next week, which should give me ample time to figure out how I can explain to her that it’s actually all someone else’s fault entirely. I’m sure I can figure out some way to spin this so I’m not the worst mother in the whole world ever no backsies so there.
Since we got home I’ve brushed all three boys’ teeth seventeen times, and for dinner they had sugarless gum and fluoridated water. I’m feeling better now. Excuse me, I have to wake them up for their hourly flossing. Good night.


holding_garlicgarlicRemember the garlic? Well, we dug it up the other day. Isn't it beautiful?

I harvested the garlic because it was in that nebulous garlic harvesting window of time. The leaves of garlic plants only grow until the summer solstice, then they start to die down. The bulbs can grow for a while after that, but they quickly cross the line into over grown. Then they fall apart and start becoming next year’s garlic plants. Plus, if it’s very rainy, the bulbs can simply rot in the ground. Remember me whining about the rain? So I decided to pull the garlic.
Actually, it was Tre’s idea. We’d been talking about it for a few days. He pointed out to me that the leaves were turning brown.
“You should feed them or something,” he told me seriously. I explained the whole solstice/foliage thing, and he decided that it must then be time to dig them up. He was pretty excited to see how big the garlic was. I agreed that that would be a good idea…maybe tomorrow.
Tomorrow came, and Tre suggested we dig up the garlic. I said sure, maybe later.
This went on for some days. I should know better than to try to put off Tre. Eventually his tenacity won out over my laziness, and he dragged me out to the garden, spade in hand. I loosened the soil around the bulbs, and he gripped the stalks and rocked them back and forth until the roots tore free. He examined the bulb, declared each one “pretty big!”, and handed them to me. We moved down the row, building a stack of fragrant garlic plants beside us.
I looked at Tre, bent seriously over his task. Sometimes I can see in the line of his shoulders and arms the shadow of the man he will be. Just as quickly as I see the remnants of the baby he was, I catch glimpses of him as an adult.
Tre’s birthday is this month. In less than three weeks he’ll be nine.

That’s halfway to eighteen. We’re approaching a solstice of our own here. Childhood solstice.
When I think about him being halfway to adulthood, it worries me. I’m sure I haven’t taught him nearly half of what I’m supposed to before he goes out into the world. Not even close. How will I catch him up, bring him up to speed before he’s gone? To make matters worse, he’s no longer the little boy who hung on my every word as gospel. Sometimes when I tell him things he doesn’t believe me. He has to check with his friends, or look it up in a book.
There are parts of his boyhood that are gone for good. He no longer sits on my lap to read a book. He doesn’t appear beside my bed in the middle of the night if he’s had a bad dream. He brushes his own teeth and picks out his own books at the library. I can’t shake the sinking feeling that my days with him are already getting shorter.
If I dwell too long on what’s already behind us, it makes me sad. It’s like trying to make the garlic keep growing after it’s done. No amount of effort will keep those garlic stalks green, and no amount of longing will bring back the tiny boy who slipped his hand in mine whenever we crossed the street.
But there’s other work to be done, in the garden and as a mother. Just as the tomato plants are expanding in size, bursting with life, there are other things in Tre’s world that are just beginning. He’s taking off in his understanding of the world, and starting to have insights that astound me. Today we were out at Taco Bell, and Raphael was trying to make a vending machine give him a sticker. Never mind that he hadn’t put any money in it, he wanted a sticker. Tre was prying him off the machine, causing him to shriek with rage. I came along to save both of them and Tre told me, “He wants one of those stickers, but I wouldn’t give him one if I were you. They’re all about how dumb boys are. I don’t think they should say things like that about boys, and I don’t want Raphi to have one.”
How about that? He’s developing a whole world view. And talking about it.
So we move ahead. Put one section of his childhood to bed and dig into another. The days may be growing shorter, but realizing that makes them sweeter.

Summer tiiiiime....

Today it began – swim lessons. All three boys are taking lessons this summer, but due to the serendipitous joy of the schedule, NO TWO LESSONS RUN CONCURRENTLY. So that’s an hour and a half in the middle of the day at the outdoor pool. Don’t tell any dermatologists, ok? Now, there’s a part of me, a shallow and selfish part, that is somewhat resentful of the many hours that are being sucked down the pool drain. I mean, an hour and a half. Every day. But then, there’s another part of me. That part is glad to sacrifice this time for my boys because it means whenever I send them to watch TV for the rest of the summer, I don’t have to feel guilty. I mean, they get swim lessons, what more do they want?
Huh. I guess it turns out that both sides of me are fairly shallow and selfish. Oh well.
Tre was a little worried about starting lessons again this year. Last year I got carried away. I listened to the instructors tell me about the skills he’d achieved and the ones he should work on next, and chose his class based on that criteria. He ended up in a class full of twelve year olds. Sadly, most of them were girls. There he was, barely eight (and a short eight at that), surrounded by girls who peered right over his head and were starting to look like an entirely different species. The swimming was rigorous, and he had no fun at all. But this year I put him in a class a whole level easier than what I know he can do, and I checked to be sure the other kids were his age. When his class was finished he came trotting over to me, dripping and grinning.
“How was it?” I asked.
“Great!” He glanced around, then leaned in and confided, “There are more boys than girls.” He seemed mightily relieved, as though a battle had already been won.
Max was excited to start lessons, in a straightforward way that is very unlike Max. He just wanted to get in the water and swim. And by golly, he did that. He did what he was supposed to, except for once, when the teacher asked him to put his head in the water for juuuuust a bit longer, and Max gave him the Max-the-mule shake of the head. When pressed to go ahead and try, Max said, “No.”
Very politely, but firmly.
Today Max’s teacher began learning the meaning of “an immovable object.” It was good.
Raphael was the one I was a touch anxious about. The big pool worries him a bit, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to get in it. Plus he was signed up for a class for three year olds…which he is…but barely. He looked so little, next to all the burly girls in his class. But when it was time to get in he hopped right into the pool without a backward glance. Even when the instructor caught him and dunked his head under the water, Raphi took it with aplomb. He held onto the side of the pool when told to and seemed just delighted.
That lasted about five minutes.
Then the little girl next to him started kicking a bit too eagerly, splashing him.
“HEY! Stop DAT! Don’ spwash ME!” He ordered sternly. The girl ignored him and kicked blithely away. On the other side of him another girl was squirming around so much that she caused the metal platform they were standing on (to make the water shallow enough for them) to scoot away from the wall.
“DON’ DO DAT! DON’ MOVE DA TABLE!” He was really irritated now, and looked at me. “Ah need to get out now,” he informed me. I smiled encouragingly back.
“No, not yet! Wait until your class is over!” He looked at my mom, who was sitting next to me.
“Amma? Ah need to get out now.” She looked at me, stricken. The boy knows weakness when he smells it.
“Not yet,” I coached her, sotto voice, “you can get out when your class is over.”
“Soon, Honey, soon,” she called back to him, “just not quite yet.”
The instructor took Raphael away from the wall to show him a back float. The minute he flipped my son on his back, he stiffened into a panicked “V” shape, his arm locked around the teacher’s neck, his toes poking out of the water like beacons of fear.
“AH GONNA DIE,” he informed the instructor.
“No you’re not, buddy,” he replied.
I decided it was time for me to move to the other side of the pool. Raphael didn’t need an audience. From the baby pool I could hear him, calling out to any one who came within earshot, “Hey! Ah need to get out now! Ah gettin’ out now.” He was mightily irritated with the lack of response he received, and he did manage to stay in the pool until the end of the lesson. His teacher hoisted him out of the water, onto the cement, and he padded over to me. I wrapped his towel around him and told him how proud I was of him. His brothers patted him and told him he did a good job. Mom beamed at him and concurred that he was wonderful. He smiled proudly and agreed that he was pretty wonderful.
“And tomorrow you get to do it again!” I said enthusiastically.
That earned me a glare. We’ll see how it goes.