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July 2005
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September 2005

Is it Labor Day ALREADY?

You know what this weekend is, right? Labor Day? Anyone know what this heralds here at Chez Kira?

That’s right, the annual Labor Day freakout.

See, I homeschool the boys, and I don’t start the school year until the week after Labor Day. And right up until then, I go around saying things like hey, homeschooling isn’t that hard. And, the difficult part is deciding to do it, and what approach you want to take, after that it’s just your daily routine. And even, God help me, we have a great time homeschooling. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

I am a big fat liar.

And crazy.

I am up to my eyeballs in papers and books and notices that books won’t be delivered until OCTOBER, as though THAT were an option for us thankyouverymuch, and I am insane.

I can’t do this.

Good God in heaven above, I’ll be teaching THREE boys this year, and one of them is still mostly feral.

What on earth was I thinking? I’ll ruin them.

PENCILS. I don’t have any of those big triangular pencils for Max. How will he ever get his grip straight, and HELLO, who am I kidding, have you seen how I grip a pencil? Like I just might kill someone with it, that’s how. YES, I have a TERRIBLE grip, and hasn’t anyone NOTICED that by now? I’m going to end up with young men with ham-fisted grips on their pencils and probably entirely inadequate understandings of history because you know I never did make Tre memorize Patrick Henry’s speech about giving him liberty or death. Was it Patrick Henry? It was, right? OH I CAN’T REMEMBER. What sort of teacher am I?

*pant pant pant*

So. It’s like that around here. But mostly inside my head. On the outside I’m smiling and nodding, which might seem normal, except I’m doing it even when I’m all alone, so no. Not normal.

But! Tre and Max will be starting their third year at the local homeschool enrichment program, which means they will be AT SCHOOL on Mondays, and to make this joyous thing even joyouser (did you SEE the word I just used? That’s not a word. And I’m teaching them VOCABULARY? Isn’t that the horrifyingest thing you’ve heard all day?), Raphael will be joining his brothers AT SCHOOL. He will be in the pre-K class this year, and I shall have Mondays ALL TO MYSELF. It gladdens the heart. I shall grocery shop ALONE, oh yes I shall.

“Raphael!” I said the other day, “Aren’t you EXCITED about starting school?” This was a slam-dunk, I figured. He loves social activities of any sort, and has long yearned to go with his brothers on Mondays. He scowled back at me.

“I don’t want to go.”

I gaped at him, then swallowed and tried to look nonchalant. They can smell fear, you know.

“Really, honey? Why not?” He crossed his arms, pinned his chin to his chest, and stood in silence for a moment. Finally he muttered quietly,

“I can’t write my name.”

“OH IS THAT IT?” I was hugely relieved. Dear child was worried he wasn’t ready for school. “Honey, you don’t HAVE to know how to write your name to go to pre-K!” The scowl was unrelenting. “You GO to school to learn things!” He shook his head. “I bet most of the other kids won’t know how to write their names either!” Still no joy. In desperation, I said, “Do you want me to teach you how to write your name?”

The sun broke through the clouds, and he grinned and grabbed my hand.

“Right now.”

So we sat down at the table and I wrestled his hand around a pencil. Honestly, he’s just barely four, and it’s like neurosurgery, trying to form those fingers around a pencil the right way. But he got some sort of hold, and we sat and filled both sides of several pieces of paper with shaky R’s. He attempted A, and marveled at the fact that P was just an R with a missing leg. H was easy, and then he had to jump to the end and do an L, which he was proud to say he already knew. The letters were scattered all over the page, sequencing not being a strong suit for him just yet.

As he worked on a series of R’s, he wrote one small one inside the legs of a larger one. The small R was backwards, and it sent him into despair. He dropped his head to the table with a thunk.

“I will NEVER DO IT,” he moaned.

I rubbed his back and showed him the stack of papers with many many successful R’s.

“Look at these! And right there is a GREAT A! And look how good your H is! And you already know how to write an L, don’t you?” He nodded grudgingly, and picked up his head.

“Honey,” I told him, “you can’t expect to figure it all out today. You’ve learned a lot, and that’s a great start. A half an hour ago you couldn’t write an R, and look at all of those great ones! Just worry about one letter at a time, and you’ll be fine.”

He smiled, and hopped off the chair. As he ran off, it occurred to me that I might want to take my own advice.

The new school year? Too much to do by far.

We’ll have to take it one letter at a time.

talking over plans

We were at the park, and Raphael needed to go to the bathroom. I took his hand and began the trek across the parking lot to the trio of port-a-potties. As we walked we chatted.

“Those boys are throwing rocks at the bees,” he told me soberly.

“Really? Probably not a good idea.”

“I don’t want them to throw rocks at ME.”

“Are they?”


I squeezed his soft, damp hand and enjoyed its tiny weight in mine.

“Well, that’s good,” I told him.

“If they DID, I could just RUN AWAY.”

“That’s a good plan.”

“Or I could just go back and thorth and then they would MISS ME.”

“Sure, you could try to dodge the rocks too.”

“Or I could say ‘JUST GO AWAY NOW BOYS.’”

“Right, or you could ask them to stop.”


We walked in silence for a moment, then he looked up at me and nodded like a wee little attorney.

“I have lots of good plans.”

I smiled back at him, and imagined his ACTUAL response, had boys been in fact throwing rocks at him. That scenario would probably have included ear piercing screams, a windmill of outraged punches, and the rapid-fire volley of return rocks. But then again, as he rehearses other approaches in these conversations, perhaps he’s getting closer to reacting that way. I have seen him rear back to hit one of his brothers, and then stay his hand with a super-human force of will. He is a fierce little soul, but he is learning.

“Yes, baby, you have LOTS of good plans.”

The summer wanes like a besieged freako bee

This morning I warned the boys that this was the last week of summer vacation, and they should be sure to enjoy it. They stared at me in disbelief, despite the fact that the rest of the kids in the neighborhood went back to school last week. My sons are blessed indeed because that I believe it is morally wrong to start school before Labor Day. Plus, I’m not ready.

So after breakfast they went outside, determined to enjoy the day in a summer vacation-like manner.

After a while Tre came running in, very excited.

“MAMA! There’s a WASP outside! It’s WEIRD and BIG and it has yellow legs but it isn’t pollen on the legs. It’s some sort of WASP thing and I poured water on its hole and we almost got STUNG."

“Well, honey, leave the wasp alone,” I replied with utmost reasonableness. He sighed, a bit deflated at my lack of amazement at the scary wasp thing, and turned and ran back out to face the danger.

A few minutes later, Raphael came running in.

“MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA-“I placed my hand on his sun-warmed head.

“YES, my love,” I interrupted. My ears, they were bleeding.


“Well, leave it alone.” He too, looked disappointed. He turned to go, then ran back shrieking,


“Ok, I’ll get it in a minute.”

He turned around and almost ran into Max, who was barreling down the hallway.

“Mama?” said Max, “can we-“

“WATCH IT!” bellowed Raphi, “YOU ALMOST RAN INTO ME!”

“Sorry, Raphi,” said Max.

“Raphael, please stop yelling.” I said.

“I DON’T YELL,” said Raphael, and ran away, yelling.

“Mama, can we turn on the hose and squirt the bee’s hole? It made a home UNDER OUR HOUSE.”

“No, leave the poor thing alone. It can live under our house, I give it permission.”

“BUT MAMA! It went in the hole and now we can’t find it!”

“Leave. It. Alone. How would YOU like it if some great giant stuck his hose in your house and turned on the water so he could find YOU?”

He cocked his head at me and fixed me with a look that clearly said, woman, you are no longer making sense, then shrugged and ran back out to face down the deadly freako bee.

A few minutes later Tre shouted in the door,

“Well, can we at least pour baking soda and vinegar down its hole?”


I heard disappointed mutters, then the excited proclamation,

“Hey, let’s get some STICKS!”


It’s a good day to be a boy, not such a great day to be a freako bee.

Don't try to understand - just enjoy

The other day Mom took Tre and Max to their piano lesson, as usual. As Max was waiting during Tre’s lesson, he took to crawling around on the floor, his forehead pushing along the carpet. He said it tickled.

Mom watched him, wondering if she should stop him. She figured he’d stop if it hurt.

I could have told her otherwise.

When he stood up he had a round rug burn on his forehead, just below his hairline. By the time he got home it really stung, and he kept poking at it and wincing.

“Did you learn something?” I asked him. He nodded soberly back, but I’m still not sure EXACTLY what he learned. Eh. At least he learned something.

The next morning, the burn had darkened into an impressive looking scab on his forehead. It no longer hurt, so as far as Max was concerned, all was well.

Except wherever we go we tend to have the exchange we had today at Chik-fil-A.

The woman behind the counter spotted Max’s forehead and gasped,

”Oh my goodness, honey, WHAT HAPPENED?” Max looked at her blankly, so she followed up with, “to your forehead? Right there?”

He scowled at her and replied (as though it were obvious),

“Rug burn.”

“Oh. Well, WHERE did you get a rug burn on your forehead?”

Max shook his head at her obtuseness, and said (again, as though any simpleton would have figured this out by now),

“At my piano lesson.” Then he turned on his heel and walked away.

Now, I know that Max can be somewhat shy, and doesn’t like having animated questions directed at him by strangers. I know that the process of explaining what happened would be actually painful for him. The strangers? Don’t know that, so they figure Max is a) good heavens, an odd little boy or b) has a brutal piano teacher with unconventional methods. When he turned his back on the nice inquiring counter lady today, she looked to me for an explanation.

But I don’t feel any need to explain Max, so I smiled and ordered lunch instead.

Marathon Morning

So I’ve been in training, you should know. Yes, I (along with my very clever friend, Amy) have been ACTIVELY training to…uh…walk a half marathon.

When I told my brother what I was doing, his response can best be described as under whelmed.

“Isn’t that sort of like doubling up on reduced expectations, to WALK a HALF marathon?” he asked. “What’s next, you watch a quarter of a marathon?”

Whatever, Josh.

However, I DO understand that this is not a Nike commercial sort of undertaking. It’s not a huge deal. Nonetheless.

I realized with a start this morning that I had to send off my registration for the race TODAY. I found the registration form, still in the printer, under pages and pages of some coloring page/award certificate some child had caused the printer to spit out. Now, my printer likes to swig a hefty shot of ink (which seems, for its price, to be a derivative of gold) before it prints a single letter, so you can imagine how pricy this sort of print-a-thon can be. I interviewed all the boys and eventually narrowed it down to Raphael. I showed him the pages and informed him that he would NOT be printing out these things any more, lest he lose his computer privileges. He looked at me with narrowed eyes, then declared,

“Ok, Missus.”

This caused another lecture, the gist this one being Don’t call me that, I don’t know why, I just don’t like it.

That settled, I took my entry form in search of a pen. After throwing away two that no longer work and one that had been dismantled by Max and never put back together quite right, I gave up and used a pencil. Think of it as rugged, Boulder Backroads people. And as it turned out, I needed a water resistant writing implement, because just then Tre came up to me and grinned, showing me the gross fake teeth he had in his mouth. I reacted with the required disgust and he laughed and pulled them out. This released a glob of spit that hit my entry form. Yeah. Insert genuine disgust.

I mopped off the paper and managed to finish filling it out. It was time to go to the grocery store – excuse me, aside here. You know I love my kids, right? I mean, I’m all crunchy and homeschooly. I’m the kind of person who can say with irritating sincerity, “Oh, I couldn’t IMAGINE sending my kids to school all day. We ENJOY our days so much!” And it’s true. I like them lots and lots.


When it’s time to go grocery shopping, I have vivid duct-tape-and-closet fantasies. Can I GET an amen, fellow mothers?


Since it was time to leave, I ordered the boys in the van, and went to grab an envelope from the cupboard. All my envelopes had been, inexplicably, licked and sealed and stuffed back in their box.

Ok, then.

I broke up a battle to the death between Raphael and Max over who got to take the green light saber to the store (“Light sabers aren’t allowed in King Soopers, get in the van before I eat you both. Yes, you can take a juice box.”), ran downstairs to steal an envelope from my parents, and climbed in the van.

I finished addressing the envelope in the van, and fished a stamp out of the ashtray. It was ready to go, and I looked at it with no small measure of pride.

It may not be a BIG thing, walking a half marathon, but when you take into account the obstacle course I’m have to get through just to get there, it’s not a SMALL thing either.

Hating "her"

A few days ago I was watching a TV program…ok, it was Oprah. Anyhow, she interviewed Men Who Cheated. As I turned it on, I wondered to myself if it was a good idea. I mean, I tend to have a touch of…um…ire for such men.

On the whole, however, I didn’t get angry at them. They were just people, struggling with understanding and living the choices they’d made. There was ONE guy who kept blubbering like a little girl, and I did want to stomp on his instep just ONCE, but that was a fleeting sort of thought.

After talking to the men, Oprah talked to the couples together. In that discussion the question came up: why do women get so angry at the “other woman?” After all, these women aren’t the ones who took the vows; they aren’t the ones who betrayed them. How could they LIVE with the men who’d wronged them, but continue to seethe at the women they had been involved with?

That question stopped me. Why?

I thought about it for days, reliving my own experience.

My ex told me he was sleeping with someone else when Raphael was four months old. I remember the moment. I had known something was wrong – how could I not know? Logic would have pointed to an affair, but I was not terribly logical at the time.

“Could there be someone else?” a friend asked. I thought about it carefully for a moment, and then shook my head.

“No, not him. He couldn’t. I’d know.”

Then that day he looked at me and said,

“Today’s gonna be a hard day for you.”

“Why?” I said, hoping he wouldn’t answer.

“There’s someone else.” Silence, then as if I need the clarification, “a woman.”

It was like a chemical reaction flooded my body. Love turned to acid, and it burned every part of me. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I desperately wanted him back, I desperately wanted him dead. I wanted to die. The shame, the pain, the disbelief. Don’t say that, don’t let it be true. When I had been home with our children, he’d been with this woman…

This woman.

A click sounded in my brain, and I turned from the chaos inside me at the thought of him. I turned to the thought of her.

Now THAT was something I could deal with.

I called her names. Whore, I spit, slut.

For months, years, every time I saw a little blue Honda like hers, that fiercely self righteous rage swept over me again. I drank it in, because I needed some sort of strength. Thinking of him sucked the air right out of my lungs, left me weak and mute. But thoughts of her caused the hair to stand up on the back of my neck. Muscles tensed and I could feel for a moment the rage I needed.

After all, I didn’t know her. I didn’t care about her. I could hate her without harming myself. It seemed.

“Why do you care about her? HE’S the one who wronged you,” my mom said. I nodded, acknowledging that she was right, and turned away to seethe quietly, where no one could see.

Just today I drove past a little blue Honda. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched for her car, but perhaps because of the things I’ve been thinking about since the Oprah show, I looked at it again. It wasn’t her, of course, but I realized that it wouldn’t matter if it was. As the acid receded, so did my need to hate her. She isn’t the demon I made her out to be, just a person with problems of her own. One of those problems is my ex, and I don’t envy her at all.

I could say I wish I hadn't given her so much thought, I could wish for a more sane and serene reaction, but the truth is we use what we have to in order to get through the hard times.

I like to think that if I were faced with her today, my reaction would be a shrug. I wouldn’t have to react for the same reason I reacted so hatefully then.

It’s not about her.

It never was.

Bionicle Boys

Max got a couple Bionicles for his birthday. When Tre was a little younger he was obsessed with Bionicles (remember, for Tre there is no mere “interest”). During his Bionicle phase, he collected at least a dozen of them, and assembled, tore apart, and reassembled them daily. However, in time other MOST IMPORTANT THINGS EVER took over, and the Bionicles were forgotten. They sat in a tangle in a blue box next to his bed.

Max’s new Bionicles reminded Tre of his, and he pulled them out again. This has given rise to the new era of the Bionicle, the dawning of a new and explosion-filled day. The drama is high in our house.

Starting first thing this morning, Tre and Max ranged all over the house, Bionicles clutched tightly, narrating an endless adventure.

“Hey,” Max said, causing his white Toa Nuva to jump down two stairs at a time, “pretend I have a laser? Right here? And it makes things melt into hot lava.”

“Ok,” replied Tre, “but my guy? Has this shield? And he can use it to surf on hot lava.”

And so the day went, with them alternating between pretending the most dangerous scenarios they could imagine, and then coming up with the best pretend protection. Sometimes Raphael joined them. He’d wheedle a spare Bionicle out of one of them, and follow them around, randomly bashing things with his guy. Eventually he got annoyed enough at his brothers’ elaborate pretending that he would slug one of them, and get sent to time out.

This left Tre and Max, spinning their tales of destruction and conquering power. They were so wrapped up in their world that they would actually argue over things that only existed in their words.

“NO,” Tre insisted, “YOU can’t fly; because MY guy can fly and we both can’t fly.”

“But I SAID I could fly back there, before we left the island.”

“Oh yeah? Well, I HIT your guy with my magic sword, and now he can’t even WALK.”


I waited for the squabble to come to me, but it rarely did. This was a good thing, because what would I say? Tre, stop pretending to take imaginary powers away or I’ll pretend to send you to your room?

For the most part, however, they played together happily. For hours. Raphael dipped in and out of the game often enough that by bedtime he was so tired that he actually fell asleep on his pillow. With his covers still draped over him. That NEVER happens. And Tre and Max cooperated for most of the day like champs.

As I thought about what I wanted to write about tonight, the picture of them, sitting in the back yard, their brown heads bent toward each other, telling their sides of their story, kept coming back to me. I wanted to tell you about them, but to what end?

What’s the point, I asked myself? What’s the meaning of the thing?

I thought about it awhile and decided it was just this:

I wanted to remember my boys, meandering through a world of their own making. I didn’t want to lose it.

Permission granted

Sometimes Raphael will come upon Clay and me, kissing. He laughs and wriggles between us, protesting loudly,


We scoop him up and hug him between us, showering him with kisses from both sides, and tell him he’s the meat in our love sandwich. He writhes and laughs and declares a complete moratorium on any and all kissing.

He rarely gets his way. We’re a kissy bunch.

Today Clay and I were standing in the kitchen, talking. Yes, we do just TALK sometimes. MOST of the time, I state defensively.

Raphael walked up to us and extended one hand in our direction, palm up, with an expression of magnanimity.

“I have GOOD NEWS,” he intoned. We looked at him and waited. He smiled and said,


“Really?” Clay said.


“Wow, thanks, buddy.”

“Yeah, honey, thanks,” I chimed in. Raphael nodded graciously and turned to go. As he walked out of the kitchen, he shook his head and muttered happily to himself,

“That was just beautiful.”

I have to concur.

Dear Max,

Happy birthday, son. Can you be seven years old already?

As I write this, I’m sitting outside your bedroom, peering in from time to time and issuing reminders that you should be in your bed and quiet - NOW. It’s been a big day, and you’re currently too tired to sleep. It’s one of your many conundrums: you easily get too tired to sleep, too hungry to eat, or too lonely to smile.

I’ve learned from you that logic isn’t always the deciding factor in children’s choices. I no longer depend on the fallout from your decisions to teach you. You learn by different pathways.

And oh, what pathways they are.

Sometimes you seem just hopelessly distant, unconnected from the world around you. You almost never know where your shoes are. Favorite toys are left outside to get ruined in the rain. Money slips through your fingers at an alarming rate. And then you’ll say something to me, some offhand remark, and amaze me again with your keen observations. Just a moment ago, you sat up in bed and asked me,
”Mama, why do cats rub up against things with the sides of their faces?” You nosed your headboard in a perfect imitation of Claire, “Like that.” I’m looking it up now, because I really don’t know why. I’d never really noticed. It turns out there are scent glands there, in their jowls. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow, but tonight I whispered,
”Shhhhh. Quiet, honey. Go to sleep.”

It’s just so you – the mundane facts of the day wash over you, unnoticed, while tiny jewels of information are snagged in your hands, gripped tightly and turned over and over in your wondering gaze.

You are different than your brothers, and sometimes I fear that my bewildered confusion looks to you like disapproval. I hope you know that I think you’re perfect. You’re such a different shape of perfect that I don’t always know what to do with you. I’m trying to grow up to be the mother you need. I wish I was more sure of myself, more capable and effective as your parent. I’m trying. But I hope you know that I know – you’re perfect.

The other day we were talking about dragonflies. They’re my favorite insect, with their jeweled colors, their translucent wings.

“And they’re not only beautiful,” I said, “but you see them on the very best days. Like when we went strawberry picking, or when we ride our bikes to the dog park.” You listened to me with that look you get, the faintly unfocused set of your eyes that tells me you’re not seeing what’s before you. You were viewing a movie in your head of a dragonfly. You nodded slowly.
”Yeah…and what I like is how they fly. They don’t fly like most things, just bzzzzzzz,” you demonstrated the ordinary flight pattern with your hand. It flew a path in front of your eyes, dipping slightly. “Dragonflies go ZIP,” your hand flew from left to right, then stopped and hung there, “and then they stop and just…HOVER, then they ZIP away. You never know where a dragonfly will go.”

I nodded in agreement, and touched my nose to the bristle of the hair that swirls in a cowlick on the crown of your head.

You are MY dragonfly, sweet son, and I can’t wait to see where you will go.

If you say the word "yo-yo" enough times, it loses all meaning

Tre’s current obsession is yo-yos. In general, Tre doesn’t have “interests.” Things in Tre’s life tend to fall into one of two categories: The Most Important Thing There Is So Let Me Tell You All About It or Everything Else.

So the current Most Important Thing is yo-yos. In true Tre fashion, he has researched yo-yos on line, bought two of them, disassembled and reassembled them, and played with them all day. So much yo-yoing went on around here that when I close my eyes, I see green plastic orbs spin past my noses.

Now, Raphael and Max didn’t want to be left out of the yo-yo-fest, so Mom took them to Target to get their own. In a stroke of genius, she bought them yo-yo BALLS instead of actual yo-yos. This is a fabulous choice, as real yo-yos are still just a bit beyond Max’s coordination. As far as Raphael goes, you may as well present him with a nuclear lab, the concept is so far beyond his grasp. But the yo-yo balls are different. They feature a retractable string. So when one of them sends the ball spinning toward the floor, it only goes so far before the string sucks the ball back up into their hand. Voila! Instant yo-yo success. Max immediately devised a move that Clay dubbed, “Around the world and into his forehead.” It’s not as painful as it sounds.

While his little brothers played around with their ersatz yo-yos, Tre was in earnest pursuit of true achievement. He can already “walk the dog” and go “around the world” – three or four times. When I was a kid, I remember trying those tricks for a solid twenty seconds or so before I became completely frustrated and bored and threw the yo-yo across the room. So I’m amazed with his focus and his growing prowess. He also understands the mechanics of the thing better than I could have imagined at his age. He likes to discuss the merits of “friction stickers” – which I have taken to calling “stricktion fickers” just to make him laugh.

I’m not sure, exactly, what yo-yo skills will get him in life. It’s not the sort of thing you put on a college application, although he DID inform me tonight that he wants to go pro. Is there such a thing as yo-yo pro?

Anyhow, I don’t know what this will get him, concretely. I hear it’s good for hand-eye coordination, and I suppose it’s always a good thing for a child to have an interest to follow. I (speaking humbly as his mother) believe he COULD be a yo-yo pro, and that he would totally smoke everyone else on the yo-yo circuit.

However, my ultimate hope for the yo-yo craze is a simple one.

I hope he doesn’t break any windows or give anyone a concussion. That’s all I need to feel that he is a complete yo-yo success.