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March 2005
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May 2005

Birth Day

I have a sort of on-line obsession of sorts. I can’t stay away from the pregnancy blogs. You know, the ones where someone is due to have a baby any day. Sheri is having her son today (the 13th). I check in on her blog multiple times a day. I don’t have TIME to check in on her blog multiple times a day.

Angela, over at Fluid Pudding, is also entirely knocked up, and I drop in often to get a dose of that special late in the third trimester ire. You just can’t duplicate that.

I think most people read Chez Miscarriage, so I’m not the only one following Grrl’s story about having a child via a surrogate mother. It was twins, you know, but they lost one…

There are so many great writers out there, and I vainly try to keep up with a ton of well written blogs. But the ones with tales of nascent life…those ones are my obsession.

Joshilyn is not pregnant. But today is quite the day for her. Today her book, gods in Alabama is officially released. I’m not sure what the significance of the release date is, because it’s been in stores for days. Amazon started shipping it, what, last week? I’ve already read it (thanks, David!).

It’s an amazing book. Now, I adore Joshilyn, so you might think I’m biased. I will admit I started reading it with her in mind. Oh, I’d think, that’s a word she uses. That description sounds like something she’d say. But within about…a page, I’d forgotten about her entirely. I was immersed in the story, engaged with the characters. I forget Arlene doesn’t actually exist, and now I miss her. This is a fine book, and I would say that even if – hmm, how to put this most bluntly? – even if my ex wrote it. Heh. How’s that for an endorsement?

I love Joshilyn’s blog. It’s funny and brilliant and touching and true. And funny. But these days I’m particularly drawn to it. This is a story of new life. She’s in the final stages of labor, bringing her book to the world. And she TOTALLY FREAKS OUT sometimes.

So Joss, if you’re out there today, listen to me.

Today is not a fluke. You are a genuine success. I am always proud to know you, but today I’m bragging about it. Enjoy.

And for the rest of you, go buy the book, already. You’ll thank me.

It's not ALL about the garden. I PROMISE.

Thank you, Sheri, you were correct. We were buried in snow. How much snow? Lots. Somewhere in the neighborhood of three feet of wet spring snow.

Now, not that you really WANTED a lecture on the state of the garden post-blizzard, but…uh…you GET one.

The garlic will be fine, thank you for your concern. Their plants, at this point, are sturdy, waxy little spears of green. They will shrug this cold snap off with aplomb.

There was one little rosette of lettuce, a stray plant that was the result of some lettuce going to seed last summer. When spring hit here the garden was dotted with tiny lettuce plants, and one of them had gotten to a decent size. It was about the width of my hand, all ruffled lettucy beauty. I thought about picking it Friday and adding it to the salad, but took my chances with it. Now it is a crunchy frozen lettuce sculpture, under a few feet of snow. Ah well.

All in all, it’s fine. I JUST planted lettuce and spinach and sugar snap peas. They didn’t have time to sprout, but the next few days of drenching cool water from the mounds of snow everywhere will create JUST the perfect conditions for cool weather vegetables. YOU want to be at my house for a salad in about six weeks. Trust me. All is in place for a lovely spring and summer in the Kira garden.

Um…if there should be ANOTHER spring storm that dumps feet of snow here in about three weeks…well, then you actually DON’T want to be here. For any reason. Trust me again.

But oh, more importantly. More important than the snow or the garden or the seventeen trillion pairs of gloves, boots, and snow pants that are piled by my front door, more importantly than any of that, is what today was.

Today was Clay’s birthday.

Since it’s his birthday, I thought it made sense for me to tell you a little more about him. I mean, I didn’t really respect the narrative flow on that, did I? I just dropped him into the middle of our story here, and nervously looked away. So here it is; the story of how I met Clay.

One Sunday in July I noticed someone new standing in front of me at church. He was…well, he was so handsome. I stood there, somewhat distracted, and found myself looking for a wedding ring. This was atypical behavior for me, and when I caught myself I looked away, flustered.

That didn’t stop me from leaning over during the passing of the peace and making a point to greet the person standing with this new guy. Oak is his name, and everyone knows Oak at church. I gave Oak and then his wife, Marlys, a hug.

“Hey, let me introduce you to my friend here,” Oak said in his booming voice. “Kira, this is Clay, our next door neighbor. Clay, this is Kira.” We shook hands, and then it was time to return our attention to the service. Throughout the rest of the service I sneaked peeks at Clay. He was handsome, to be sure. And he was built…goodness, you should feel his arms. But he was also just – what? Just so good to look at. I was nonplussed.

After the service Clay made his way over to me and struck up a conversation. He was so comfortable and direct. I wanted to die. He’s told me since that he couldn’t figure out what I found so very interesting about his shoes.

As soon as I could, I beat a hasty retreat. I loaded the kids in the van and left. I don’t remember why, but Mom wasn’t there that Sunday, so it was just Dad and me on the ride home. I looked out the window, and laughed.

“Huh. How about that. I had an actual conversation with an actual man, and I didn’t crawl under a chair or ANYTHING.”

“Yeah? Good job,” said Dad.

“Well, I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything, but good for me.”

Little did I realize.

It took almost three months of consistent, patient attention for Clay to convince me to actually go OUT with him. Now he’s been here, in my life, for six months. Seems like a minute, seems like forever.

Happy birthday, Clay. I love you.

Climbing higher

Much as Tuesday has become Swimming Night, Thursday has become Rock Wall Climbing night. This one doesn’t include the whole family, but just Tre, me, and usually Max. Tonight Max opted out, and Tre and I headed off to the rec center to hit the rock climbing tower.

When we got there we found a bevy of youth group girls, who were busy giggling and driving the rock wall attendants insane. Rather than compete with them for rock time (although I COULD, complete with intimidating looks and vicious pushing when no one is looking), I sat out this climbing session and let Tre climb. I read a magazine between his turns.

When he would climb I would stop reading and peer up at him. He was fixated on one particular face of the climbing tower. It’s a tough climb, and most people who try it end up swinging helplessly away, dangling by their rope a humiliating two feet off the ground. I know whereof I speak. I have been that ineffectual climber. I, personally, have given up on that particular face. Tre, on the other hand, has managed all the easier climbs and is therefore drawn to this one.

He kept returning to it, scrambling up the first few feet with determination and energy. Then he reached the hard part, and his body tightened with concentration. His fingers scrabbled on the rock, searching for holds, and his feet scraped over the surface, looking for cracks to wedge themselves into.

From the ground I watched, my own feet moving involuntarily with the yearning for him to find what he was looking for. I tried to remember to relax, that my efforts wouldn’t help him, but I would find myself holding my breath, my knee shifting to the left with his, my shoulder lifting a bit as his arm stretched up.

Over and over again he tried, and every time he slipped and swung away. I exhaled and looked around, returning to the ground with him - in a way. I did my best to conceal my psychotic little involvement in his climb from the ground. He would not have appreciated it.

Tre has reached an age where he’s taking another step away from me. His attitude at times seems…almost adolescent, and I’m sometimes shocked. Praise from me, while still nice, is no longer that important to him. I’m not the first person he wants to tell news to. And he’s pretty sure I don’t know what I’m talking about sometimes.

It reminds me of when he turned two. One day he was throwing food from his high chair, and I told him to stop or I would take his lunch away. He fixed me with a glare and announced, “You will NOT.”

I was stunned. How could he speak to me like that? This was my buddy, my little guy! We were a team, and I was The Mama, She Who Made All Things Right.

But that was my first clue that we were not, in fact, buddies. Tre is my son, and he owns my heart in a way I can’t even explain to non-parents. But as my mom says, from the minute a baby is born, his face is turned away. His life is increasingly away from me, and that’s not only ok, it’s actually the goal here.

My job is to make sure he’s safe, then sit back and silently watch his efforts. I may sympathetically feel the strain as he works, but the job is his.

And by the way, he never did manage that face of the wall.

But he’ll be back next week.

It's like living with a short little politician

I was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. The boys were downstairs, watching TV. Suddenly an argument broke out, much like the snarling, snapping outbursts that occur randomly in a pack of wild dogs. I heard scuffling, then the shriek of an outraged Max.


More scuffling. I heard Raphael’s footsteps break away and thud up the stairs. He was clearly planning to head Max off at the pass and tell me his version of the story first. Max, on the other hand, was happy to have Raphi out of his line of vision, and fell back into watching TV.

In seconds, Raphi came skidding into the kitchen and ran over to me. He looked up at me earnestly, working to formulate his case. As he assembled the words in his head, it dawned upon him that Max hadn’t followed him up the stairs. He paused and glanced over his shoulder to be sure he wasn’t followed.

“What is it, Raphael?” I asked. He thought for a moment then, satisfied that he was not going to be ratted out by Max, broke into a beatific smile.


“You came up here to tell me you love me?”

“Yes." He sighed with utter contentment. "You are my mother.”

And he hugged my leg, planted a kiss on my hip, and wandered off.

Swimming is good for EVERYONE!

We went swimming tonight, at the rec center. It was the boys, Dad and me – Mom was stuck at work late. Going to the pool has become a Tuesday night tradition, and it would be easier to convince the children they should sleep on the back porch than that they should miss swimming night. So there we were.

Last week Max became a swimmer. He gathered all the parts he’s learned about swimming, the “big arms” circles, the kicking, holding his breath, and together with impetus in the form of Mom offering him $5 if he swam across the pool, assembled the parts into a whole act of swimming. It was like magic, seeing him move away from the pool wall, arms thrashing, chin jutting out above the water. He’s amazing.
Tonight he experimented with his newfound freedom in the water. He leaped into the water from the side of the pool; he swam from side to side, then diagonally. And he churned and churned and churned, his face glowing with the knowledge that he’s a swimmer.

He’s asleep now. If I had worked as hard as he did today, I would require at least seventeen hours of sleep. I’m sure he’ll be up at the crack of dawn, though.

Tre is a smugly competent swimmer. He goes down the water slide, casually crosses the deep end, and likes to sneak up behind people underwater. More than once I’ve felt his hand close on my ankle and treated the people around me to a leap-and-squawk routine that really never gets old. He always wears goggles in the pool, because the chlorine bothers his eyes so much. Tonight I glanced at him and noticed that his goggles were entirely fogged up.

“Hey, can you see anything with those goggles on?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” he assured me, then turned to gaze around the pool, “I can. Mostly I see fog, though.”

Oh. Ok then.

Raphi likes to leap into someone’s arms from the side of the pool. He shrieks, “I believe I can FLYYYY!” and hauls off and JUMPS into the water. Once, as he sailed into my arms, his toes caught the front of my swimsuit, yanking it down to about belly button-level. I wrestled to grip him in one hand while I snatched my suit back up to an above-nipple height. I told myself that with all the splashing and flailing three year old around me, no one noticed anything. A man standing near me, catching his own son as he jumped off the pool’s edge, smirked. “Nice catch,” he said.

So a good time was had by EVERYONE.

Why I can't blog tonight

Oh…sigh. I know I should blog, but I’m just too blissful. You’ll have to excuse me.

It was such a nice weekend. The weather was balmy and gorgeous, which simply reaches into my brain and flips the switch from “fairly tense and too busy to enjoy much” to “Ohhh…yeah…that’s good.”

The garlic Max helped me plant a few weeks ago? They’re poking green spears through the dirt, which makes me unreasonably happy.

Friday night Dad, Mom, Clay, and I played Scrabble. I may have lost (Mom totally cheated), but it was just so much fun. I hate to lose, but this is the second Scrabble game in a row that Clay has bested me at, and you have to love a man who can beat you at Scrabble.

Saturday I received in the mail a copy of a book with an essay I wrote in it. Along with an actual check, for actual dollars. I opened the book up, and there were my words, in real typeface. Mom, Dad, and Clay all read the essay whilst I fiddled with things and tried not to look like I was watching to see if they laughed in the right parts. They did.

I had some friends over for a Pampered Chef party Saturday night, which was totally my mom’s idea. I was…unsure of the wisdom of this idea, but when people started arriving Saturday night I was thrilled. There were friends I see all the time and friends I haven’t seen for years. There was skillet turtle cake. It was fun and relaxed. Did I mention the cake? Mom passed around the book with my essay in it, making more people read it. I grinned and acted like that happens to me all the time. “Oh yeah, I got my contributor’s copy today. I’m pleased.”

After church today Clay and the boys and I went out for lunch with some friends from church. They’re very nice people, interesting and funny, and their kids are great. We chatted comfortably, and in the middle of telling them something, I lightly rested my hand on Clay’s arm, and it hit me how much I’d missed being a couple in situations like this. You can’t have that same comfortable kind of interaction with a couple unless you’re part of a couple. It’s not everything, but it’s very very nice.

Then, this afternoon, we all went on a bike ride. Mom, Dad, Clay, the boys and I all headed out and rode into the state park right across the road from us. Tre charged ahead, determined not to let anyone pass him. He was followed by Dad, who had Raphi on a hiker bike behind him. Raphi would peddle furiously, churning away, and chortle at the rest of us. He was “THE FASTEST!” he informed us. He was pretty sure he was even faster than my dad, which is a neat trick, considering that his bike was bolted to the back of Dad’s. Max meandered from edge to edge of the trail behind Dad, while Mom, Clay and I followed, trying not to smack into him when he stopped unexpectedly.

On the way home we rode through an intersection, and a man in a car that was stopped at the red light started yelling at us.

“I could have run all of you down! I could have got every single one of you! I could have! But I didn’t!”

I think he must have been either seriously mentally ill, or on drugs. He was enraged. But even that couldn’t touch the glowy happy place I was in. We sailed on past him, and I was content to respond by avoiding eye contact. Besides, I didn’t even believe him. I don’t think he COULD have gotten us all. No one ever knows what direction Max is going to go.

We went home (including one impressive moment when Clay saved the day by picking up Max’s bike and his bike and hustling Max across the street before the light changed – you had to be there, it was total hero stuff), and the boys ate, bathed, and went off to sleep without a word of protest, despite the time change.

So see? It was such a lovely weekend, and I’m practically purring with contentment tonight. I just don’t have the will to blog. Too happy.

I’ll try tomorrow.

Craig James is home

Craig James came home earlier this month. After a while I started talking to Tre and Max about going over to visit him. They were vague and non-committal whenever I brought it up, and I didn’t push it.

After a while, I started to get antsy. It was time to get over there and say hi, already. I ran into Sue, Craig James’ mom, at the mailbox, and asked if we could come over that afternoon. She said sure, around 4 would be great, and it was set.

When it was almost time to head over, I corralled the boys and talked to them about it. We discussed what Craig James would look like, in his wheelchair. The fact that he couldn’t talk. I told them that he could understand more than it might seem he could, so it was a good thing to talk to him, even if it felt weird to be talking to someone who can’t talk back.

“Any questions?” They shook their heads and milled around, anxiously pacing in circles in the kitchen. Tre turned and nudged my arm with his head. His chin wobbled.

“I’m scared.” Max nodded and glared fiercely at his shoes, trying not to cry. I sighed and pulled them close, one nervous boy in each arm.

“Ok, guys. He looks different, he acts different, and he does different things. But it’s still Craig James. You have to learn a new way of being his friend, but he’s still the guy across the street. It might feel weird, but that’s ok. You can do this. And he still needs his friends.”

They agreed and shrugged off my arms, and we marched across the street. I was amazed to see him, after the pictures of the emaciated boy in the hospital. He looked like Craig James. His hair was short, and the line of the incision on his scalp was still visible, but his face, his eyes…it was Craig James.

I was struck by his shoes, perfectly white sneakers. Boys’ shoes just don’t stay that clean, and I kept glancing at his still feet in those white sneakers.

His aunt and his sister, Megan, were with him at a table in the kitchen. They played games with him while his mom made phone calls in the dining room behind us, trying to sort out appointments and schedules. All of them told us of Craig James’ accomplishments over the last few days and weeks.

“He petted the cat this morning.”

“We took him over to the piano and asked him where middle C was and he pointed right to it.”

“Yesterday he only recognized a few letters, today he knows them all!”

I listened to their reports, facts they collect like jewels, like talismans of Craig James’ hope for his future. These are not people who expect his shoes to remain unscuffed. Their optimism and joy astound me.

Tre and Max hovered nearby, turning to say things to their friend as they occurred, awkwardly playing with the fishing game next to him. They were delighted when he waved hello or pointed at a letter for them. They didn’t know what to say or do, exactly, but they were glad to be there.

After a little bit we went home, and Tre couldn’t wait to report Craig James’ condition to Amma and Appa.

“I’m gonna go visit him more!” he declared, “I’m gonna go see him.”

Today he went over to say hi for a few minutes. He couldn’t stay long, because Craig James was eating when he went over, but he visited for a bit, and then came home.

“I told him about the Insane Aquarium game I got for the computer, and what level I got to,” he reported to me, “and did you know he can give a thumbs-up? It looks like this:” He held his hand out in a slack fist, thumb extended. “It was a thumbs-up! It just looked a little different.”

It seems unfair, after all Craig James has been through, that it is he who is giving my son a gift now. But by knowing him, Tre is learning that looking different doesn’t change the basic meaning of a thumbs-up…or a person.

If you want to check out how Craig James is doing, you can take a look here.