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April 2005
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June 2005

Tuesday I was driving down I-25, a gentle rain pattering against the van. In the back seat, Tre and Max were anxiously squinting out the windows at the clouds. A cool May rain is not usually cause for concern, but we were on our way to watch the Rockies play the Braves. Newly introduced to the concept of “called on account of rain,” the boys were busy fretting over the sky.

“There’s a light patch over there!” announced Max.

“I think I see blue sky…I DO!” said Tre. I nodded at the tiny patch of blue, but had to follow with a cautionary,

“True…but it IS still raining, guys.”

I switched on the radio to listen for updates on the weather or game and flipped through the talk stations. I found a station I used to listen to, years ago. It HAS been some time, because I was surprised to hear Rush Limbaugh. Since when was he on this station? Ah well. I left it on, waiting for the news and weather. Rush was discussing the United Air Lines pension pull out, but he interrupted himself.

“The White House and capitol building have been evacuated,” he explained. He went on to talk about Secret Service agents yelling at people to run from the buildings, and reports of unidentified aircraft.

Traffic slowed as the rain accelerated. While my van crept forward in time with the other cars, I listened to the details. Lord, have mercy, I whispered, turning off the back speakers to put some distance between this story and the boys.

My mind started recalling images. Super-imposed over the traffic ahead of me was playing a slideshow of 9/11. Planes flying into the World Trade Center, people scrambling in a panic away from the smoking Pentagon, a charred, debris strewn hole in a field in Pennsylvania. That day I saw footage of the first plane hit while I was sitting on the couch, one arm around a sleepy six year old Tre. He’d been watching The Magic School Bus when the Special Report screen cut in. I waited to see what the story was – something I’ll never do again with a child by my side.

I became aware that I was gripping the steering wheel tightly, leaning in to hear the latest details.

And then, just like that, it turned out to be nothing. Some single-engine plane wandered into the wrong area and upset everyone.

The traffic cleared, although the sky didn’t, and the boys, Dad and I sat through six very cold, wet innings. It was lots of fun (and the Rockies carried on to win – wooHOO). I sat there, with rain dripping off my chin, explaining to Max what little I know about baseball.

When the news had turned out to be nothing, just some guy off his flight plan, I felt a bit foolish for a moment. Here I’d been, imagining a huge threat to national security, and it was nothing.

But it did occur to me, as I watched the baseball game and helped Max hide his popcorn under his shirt in a vain attempt to keep it dry, that when it turned out to be ok, my first thought wasn’t, “Oh, good. We’re safe.”

It was, “Oh good. We’re safe…for today.”

Vacation memories...boy style.

Mom and I were driving to Costco with the boys today, when it occurred to us that one year ago today we were on St. Simons Island. We spent a few minutes remembering that time…the beach, the house we stayed in, building a fire after dark and making s’mores…even the Brave Little Toaster video we watched. For a few minutes the blissful golden feeling of that vacation filled the van. Max even stopped poking Tre in the back of the head. It was sweet.

Then Tre muttered,

“Yeah, but remember the shell? The HUGE shell you wouldn’t let me keep?”

I was puzzled for a moment, not having the instant recall of all events (other than chore-related) that children have. Huge shell? Why wouldn’t I let him keep a huge shell? Then it all came back to me.

“Honey, that shell had something living in it. You can’t just stuff a living creature in your suitcase.”

“Appa said I should have put it in the microwave.”

“It was ALIVE, Tre. You can’t KILL something just because you like its HOME.”

He stared out the window, mulling the ramifications of that. Or so I thought.

“I could have pulled it out with pliers, I figure.”

I sighed.

“You know, Mama, it was the biggest shell I EVER SAW! It was SO COOL.”

“Living thing. LIVING THING.”

“You couldn’t even see if it really WAS a crab. All you could see were two hands that looked sorta like chainsaws.”
”Living thing, Tre.”

We arrived at Costco, and fell into a flurry of unloading boys and selecting carts. Tre walked along a low wall by the entrance.

“C’mon, Tre, let’s go,” I called, almost reflexively.

“I could have put some chicken outside its shell, and when it came out…”

“Tre,” I sighed, “it was ALIVE.” I was starting to worry about his basic level of empathy.

He grinned, and I finally realized he was really just trying to bug me. I had to laugh.

What a boy.


I know I’ve been missing for a few days. Much to my chagrin, it seems I’ve been remiss in blogging duties. I have been TAGGED! Not once, but TWICE!

You love me, you really love me.

Or maybe not, because the first tag? Was from Chris, who included me in a round of “turd poetry.”


The rules are thus: Lines 1 & 2 have to consist of the charmingly visual, “turd in a punch bowl,” lines 2 & 4 have to rhyme.

Well, you can understand how that got my creative juices flowing. I mean, to have my innate POETRY, the POETRY of my soul recognized in such a way…well, I was a touch overcome for a bit.

I would have scurried to the computer IMMEDIATELY to post my contribution to the formidable body of work that is turd poetry, but then…um…hey, have I ever told you that I don’t get sick? No, it’s true. I’m freakishly healthy; just ask me, I’ll tell you.

So last week when my children all contracted this sneezy, coughy, headachy cold thing, and proceeded to generously slather me with their germ teeming snot, well. You might have worried that I might actually get sick myself? No! No no no! Because I. Don’t. Get. Sick.

Except in the past few days? When I wasn’t getting sick? I was also busy sneezing, blowing my nose, coughing, and whining, soft and low. It’s a good thing I DON’T get sick, because that would have been unpleasant, doncha think?

Then Grandma and Grandpa’s annoying little dog, Heidi, came to stay here a few days. She’s this squat, fat as heck, miniature schnauzer. And she arrived in the morning, took one look at Carmi (who out weighs her by a solid 50 pounds – and Carmi is NOT fat), and decided she would have to scrap with Carmi for the position of top dog. So my weekend was punctuated with the following scene:

Heidi: (walking underneath Carmi, is overcome by aggression, turns to nip at her ankles) YIP! YIP! YIP! HA! Am I the boss now? YIP! YIP, I SAY!

Carmi: (looking irritated, places one paw on Heidi’s head) Bark. Seriously, dog. I could eat you and not even burp. Chill.

Me: Sneeze! I’m not sick.

So you can see it wasn’t time to plumb the depths of poetry in my soul. But now? Now I am ready. I have meticulously crafted the following poem. A careful reading will show you that the phrase “in a punch bowl” is, in my work, a metaphor for “on the living room carpet,” a metaphor I’ve carefully carried through the entire piece.

What? That’s not what a metaphor is? SILENCE! WHO IS THE POET HERE?

Thank you.


Turd in a punch bowl,

What can this be?

Turd in a punch bowl,

Eat the little dog, Carmi.

I know, it brings a little tear to the eye, doesn’t it? And now (assuming modestly that I haven’t expressed the PINNACLE of turd poetry) I nominate Genuine, Sheri, and Tori to write their own turd poetry. If you are too busy (or too intimidated by my work – understandable), no biggie. I won’t judge you or berate you in iambic pentameter. (Chicken.) And if anyone else is MOVED to write their own turd poetry, please let me know, so I can be…um…edified by your offering.

Moving on.

Jen also tagged me, this time to finish five of the following sentences:

If I could be a scientist
If I could be a farmer
If I could be a psychologist
If I could be a librarian
If I could be an inn-keeper
If I could be a professor
If I could be a writer
If I could be a llama-rider
If I could be a bonnie pirate
If I could be an astronaut
If I could be a world famous blogger
If I could be a justice on any one court in the world
If I could be married to any current famous political figure

Ok, then! Lessee…

If I could be a writer, I would spend my days frustrated, trying to get to my computer, and failing in the face of my many other duties. Wait a minute…

If I could be an astronaut, I would think I was very very cool, but would be CERTAIN I was going to blow up upon re-entry, and would spend much time berating myself for my selfish career choice that was going to leave my children orphans. I would perhaps spend SO MUCH time berating myself that I would actually CAUSE the explosion, which is another good reason not to be an astronaut. The first reason being math.

If I could be a bonnie pirate I would be pretty annoying, because I understand from the authoritative tome “How I Became a Pirate” that pirates don’t brush their teeth. This would leave me feeling very insecure, and I would go around whining at the other pirates, “No, really, do you still think I’m bonnie with this breath? Really? Because I don’t understand about the tooth brushing thing…plus, would it kill anyone to use some deodorant around here?”

If I could be a world famous blogger…what, I’m not? Really? Well then. I suppose if I could be a world famous blogger my life would be basically the same, except I wouldn’t be sulking Right Now.

If I could be married to any current famous political figure, I’d be having an affair with Clay. Ok, no I wouldn’t, because neither of us would DO such a thing, but I’d probably fantasize about him. *sigh* He’s rilly, rilly cute, you know.

Yay! I have fulfilled my tag-ed duties. Oh, except I have to nominate three people for the sentence finishing thing. Let me think…how about Linda, Shelley, and Heather?

And now I am done. Smoooches, all!

Exceeding my grasp

My mom always told me that children know their parents better than anybody, but that to the parents, their children are forever a mystery. When I became a mom, I doubted that. I took to the care of a newborn with surprising ease, and if there was anything I understood, it was my tiny, perfect Tre. I knew when he’d be feeling hungry soon, I knew if he was stressed because there was too much noise, I knew what he needed and when. I couldn’t always GIVE it to him, but I knew.

I didn’t just enjoy my baby, I studied him. I collected facts about my son, facts that only I, his mother, could fully understand.

When Tre is frightened by something, he doesn’t cry, but sits entirely still and stares at it with a ferocious intensity.

If Tre is overtired, he shows it with frantic activity, in a desperate attempt to stay awake.

Things like that. I knew my son, better than anyone.

Somewhere along the way I must have blinked that dangerous blink everyone always talks about, because my tiny, perfect baby is nearly 10 years old. I continue to study him, and I know more facts about him than anyone else in the world.

I would be lying if I said I understand him.

Tre is studying Latin. Now, I don’t know Latin, so he’s learning from a workbook and DVD, and it’s going very well. He sits down with his book and watches the woman on the DVD, and simply ABSORBS it. I lurk around the edges of this, his experience, peeking at his conjugated verbs, listening to him chant new words. He’s bypassed me in this area, and he’s not even fully aware of it. When he can’t remember the translation for a Latin phrase, he’ll ask me what it is. When I admit I don’t know, he looks taken aback, then turns to his book for the answers. Latin works with his mind, in a way I (with my far less linear mind) will never understand.

Like the piano. He and Max started taking piano lessons a few months ago. I figured Tre would do well, as he approaches new tasks with a dutiful attitude. But Tre has far surpassed duty. He loves the piano. The first song he learned by heart was “Yankee Doodle,” and he can hardly pass a keyboard without playing it. He plays it as fast as he can, he moves up or down a little on the keyboard and picks out the same song in a different key. When he walks through the room with the piano, he is almost helplessly drawn to it, his fingers marching through scales on their way past. I knew he’d enjoy the piano, but I find that its music is feeding him – when I didn’t even know he was hungry.

Yesterday he was sitting at the kitchen table, working on some school work. He and his brothers had been building forts out of all the pillows in the house earlier that day, and he’d ended up with the pillow from his bed resting on the chair next to him. As he turned from one book to another, he reached over and picked up his pillow. Without thought, he raised it to his face and drew in deeply the smell of it. His eyes closed for a second, then he moved on to the next task. He didn’t know I was watching, amazed at my baby’s ability to find his own items of comfort.

As I watch him grow up so fast, remembering the newborn he once was, I get the sensation of his life being a spiral. It started so small and tight, within the safety of my cupped hands, and as he grows, it gains momentum and strength, spinning wider and wider, outside my grasp. I watch him exceed my reach, higher and faster and stronger. He is far beyond what I could contain.

But then I remember his clear eyed gaze on the day he was born, and I know he really always was.

Today the sun shone for the first time in one million years. Or a week. Something like that, I didn’t keep terribly detailed records. We in the Rocky Mountains are a tad sun-spoiled, unused to more than two days in a row of cloud cover. So when spring hands us a full week plus of gray, overcast coldness, the return of the sun is a thing to be celebrated.

And oh, today was a day worth celebrating. Perfect spring-ness, cool but mild, with miles of blue sky and an embarrassing spectacle of sunny gorgeousness. All the rain of the past week has left the lawns and fields around here a deep, drenched green.

The drawback to all the gorgeous weather is that it’s hard to do school. Attention wanders, books slip unnoticed out of hands, feet stray of their own accord to the back yard.

The kids were having a hard time focusing too.

Honestly, you can feel the difference in the air here, at Kira’s Academy for Boys, when the sun shines. Sure, the school work happens a little more slowly, but that’s ok. It’s like someone’s come through with that room mister of Valium I’ve been wanting. We bumble along, entirely forgetting the task at hand at regular intervals, but happy about it.

I’m sure we’ll buckle down tomorrow.

In which Max nearly dies. Twice.

I arrived at the door of Max’s classroom to pick him up this afternoon. His teacher was standing there, wearily handing out papers to parents. The end of the school year is hard. Teachers are tired, kids are wild…it’s tough. Anyhow, I took my paper from Ms. Sue and asked her how Max’s day had been.

“Oh, fine…wait, I almost forgot! Max, do you want to tell her what happened?”

Oh dear. That’s simply never a good sign. Max looked at her blankly, completely clueless about what she might be referring to. She led us into the classroom, telling me about a box they have to play with. It contains magnets and things that stick to magnets. Max was playing with this box, and he took out a paper clip. He bent it open, then stuck it in an electrical outlet.

You read that right.
He scanned the room for good places in which to poke the end of his paper clip, and decided the best thing to do would be to PRY BACK the covering over the electrical outlet in the floor, and insert said paper clip.

“It went POP!” Max explained, “and there was SMOKE!” Ms. Sue nodded.

“Right. Smoke, and the entire computer lab next door shorted out.”

I goggled at Max.

“Honey…didn’t you know that was a dangerous thing to do?” He nodded. “THEN WHY DID YOU DO IT?” He gave me an exaggerated shrug and replied indignantly,


Ahem. How, indeed?

I checked Max for any signs of burns or alien mind control, but none were found. So I apologize profusely (you’ll be happy to hear that the computers are all OK), and hauled Max out to the van. There were many many diatribes loving dialogues about why he shouldn’t ever put anything in an electrical outlet, besides a plug, and OH BY THE WAY, if it’s dangerous, DON’T DO IT. OK? PRETTY PLEASE? Max was deeply affected by my words of wisdom, as evidenced by his comments of, “Can I have a snack?” and “Do you think this rock would fit in my ear?”


Tonight Max was helping me make supper. I was making black bean soup (insanely easy recipe – MOST NIGHTS – cue foreshadowing). Max was rinsing the cans of beans and dumping them in the pot or blender. I added broth to the beans in the blender, and he punched the button to turn it on. It was all very cozy and sweet. I gave Max the go-ahead to turn the blender off and turned to search the spice cupboard for cumin. While my back was turned, Max decided to take the blender off the base. Only instead of LIFTING it off, what he did was UNSCREW the blender. I heard a, “uh-oh,” and a great SPLOOSH as two cans of blenderized beans poured all over the counter, the stove, the floor, and the front of Max. It was a SEA of beans. I turned to see him standing there, holding the empty blender, as pureed beans dripped off his feet, down between the counter and stove, and pretty much every where. He fixed me with a panicked look.

I put my head down on the counter and did some Lamaze breathing. Seconds ticked by, with nothing but the sound of rivulets of beans pouring down the lower cabinet doors. Finally I said as levelly as possible,

“Max. Honey. That was not your fault. That was an accident. I’m not mad at you. But I need you to leave now, ok? Wash your hands…and feet…and go change your clothes, ok?”

He scurried off quickly enough that I suspect he didn’t ENTIRELY buy my statement about not being mad at him. I scooped up black beans, scrubbed every surface in the world, and continued with the cleansing breaths. When Max came back down the stairs in clean clothes, I was calm enough to sit down and give him a hug.

“Max, did you learn anything?” I asked.

“Yes. I learned that you DON’T stick things in electrical places.” He already KNEW that, but OK. “And I learned not do take the blender off without a grown-up there.” He looked at me, big wide brown eyes. I nodded back.

“Good. If you learned something, you’re doing your job.”

“Well, then it’s a good day, huh, Mama?” He nodded, relieved, and bounded off to watch TV.

It would be ok with me if tomorrow is NOT the same kind of good day. I’d take boring. Please?