Previous month:
July 2005
Next month:
September 2005

Just like his mom

I took Tre and Max to the orthodontist yesterday. The dentist was a bit worried about the spacing of Tre’s teeth, and Max has an underbite that could capture small elephant herds. It’s adorable – at least, I think so. Max, however, is unhappy with it, and keeps asking me to make his lower teeth go behind his upper teeth, like everyone else. I’m amazed by this request, because this is the same child who misplaces his own dinner when sitting right there in front of it, yet he noticed this detail of orthodontia all on his own.

Anyhow, the orthodontist took X-rays of the boys’ teeth, peered in their mouths and took measurements with his little slide ruler thing. Then he rolled over to me on his round rolling stool to give me the facts.

Tre’s teeth look just like a 10 year old boy’s teeth should. No problems there. They’d like to keep an eye on him, just to be sure. Wouldn’t want any opportunities for financial gain orthodontic issues to sneak past.

Then he turned to the topic of Max’s mouth. A tiny smile of joy slipped past his professional demeanor. I could swear his pupils formed little dollar signs for just a moment.

“Now, there’s the underbite – which I really don’t like to correct until the permanent teeth come in on top – but if you look here at the X-rays,” he slid Max’s films over a light box imbedded in the table, “here’s something REALLY interesting.” He pointed at the shadowy outlines of his permanent teeth, deep under his baby teeth. “See that? I’m not sure, but it LOOKS like he may have more than one set of permanent teeth in some places.” I peered down at the images.

“Yeah, that’s entirely possible. I had extra teeth when I was a kid. I had to have some pulled.”

“You DID?” He turned to his assistant, “Write that down: ‘Mom had extra teeth.’” He all but rubbed his hands together in glee.

We made a plan for getting better X-rays, to determine what we’re actually dealing with here, and the boys and I headed out the door. I looked at Max, and thought about his extra teeth, just like mine.

I’ve always liked the fact that I was weird in that way. My extra teeth came poking through my gums before I hit an age when that would have been horrifying. I was nine or so, still young enough to feel distantly related to the sharks. I decided my extra teeth made me somewhat mystical and dangerous.

Of course, they were just extra teeth. And it’s not exciting to have teeth pulled for any reason. I suppose I should feel rather sober about the reality of what I’ve passed down to my poor son.

But I don’t.
I still think it’s kind of cool. Of course, I’m not facing down the barrel of another tooth extraction right now, but my first reaction was a bizarre sort of…pride.

It made me think about my ex. He has these…ears. They aren’t small, and the earlobes sort of jut away from his head in a way that defies gravity. His ears are prime targets for teasing, and he often heard comments on them.

But he thought his ears were great. They were just like his grandfather’s ears. His grandfather had EIGHTEEN CHILDREN, and none of them got his ears. But my ex did. They made him special, somehow. A standout in a huge chaotic family.

And he thought they were cool.

The day Raphael was born, before his SHOULDERS were out, my ex looked at him and blurted out,


And he did.

And my ex thought it was very very cool.

I shrugged it off at the time, but I think I understand a little better now.

On the one hand, poor Max. Here’s one more thing for him to have to contend with.

On the other hand, that’s my boy. He and I, both distantly related to the sharks, both of us a little mysterious.

And very very cool.


Hey, if you can spare a click, check this out. Joshilyn is joining together with a band of writers to help one of their own who was dealt a really tough blow. It’s a good cause, I can promise you that. Plus, any aspiring authors would be especially interested in taking a look at what Joshilyn is offering. Good stuff there.


Check it out.

Pretty please.

The BEST part

As the plane neared Atlanta, we hit some weather. Now, a flying plane SEEMS to me like a great, leaden, behemoth that has become aloft under the force of amazing power, and pushes ahead unrelentingly through the sky. Not to be trifled with, you understand. So, when this plane sort of shuddered and slid lightly to the left…well, it didn’t feel right. The plane hopped and shimmied through the clouds. I looked out the window and saw the wing, undulating in a very wrong sort of way. But the BEST part was when the impeccably groomed business man next to me put away his Blackberry and his cool attitude, dropped his head into his hands, and prayed.


But then the wheels touched the ground, the brakes screamed, and the plane slowed to a stop. We all smiled at each other.

It hasn’t even started, I thought, and the best part of my trip has happened already. The best part would have to be when I didn’t die.

Then I made my way off the plane and headed out to find Joshilyn and Mir. When I spied them, they were sitting on a bench, both craning their heads to scan the crowds that filed past. I walked over to them and declared it to be me, and was gifted with great big hugs and exclamations. I felt like I’d been invited to sit at the cool kid’s table.

No, THIS is the best part of the trip, I thought.

That night we ate ridiculously good (yet healthy) food, and mocked Ashton Kutcher. We laughed until we cried, then talked until we cried.

No, THIS has to be the best part, I thought.

The next morning Joshilyn took us to experience the…joys of grits ala the Waffle House. Wow. They are, as promised, the perfect vehicle for fat and salt. I don’t see how you could eat them more than once a year or so, but oh my. Lovely. From there we went shopping, where Mir and Joss’ unparalleled bargain sniffing abilities snuffed out an OUTFIT. FOR ME. From Ann Taylor Loft! Mom advised me, when I showed her, to try to restrain myself to telling just a few close friends how much the skirt and sweater cost. I figure that means YOU, Internet! So! The sweater was originally $49, down to $10! And the skirt was $12, down from $59!! YAY! I won shopping!

That, I figured, was the best part of the trip.

That night we had the best pizza in the universe and watched another Ashton Kutcher movie. Unfortunately, we sort of liked this one. It was a little…charming. We couldn’t manage to mock it. I felt dirty. But we did pause it in the middle so Mir and Joss could surprise me with…a BRIDAL SHOWER. They were undaunted by the fact that I am, HELLO, not actually engaged. They are sly and wise women, those two. And oh my, the…um…practical gifts they gave me. I’m all prepared for my “new” life as a housewife. Except we ate the chocolate.

That was the very best part.

The next day we I had to go home, and so did Mir. I managed to go for a walk with Joshilyn before I left, and then her unreasonably wonderful husband Scott dropped me off at the airport. I had a little time before I left to think about the weekend. I’d been nervous about seeing these wonderful women in person. Mir especially, because we’ve spent hours – I mean HOURS chatting on line, yet until this weekend had never actually met. I would forget this sometimes, and IM to Mir things like, “I can’t wait for you to meet Clay,” forgetting that she hadn’t technically met ME yet. I wasn’t sure I could get to know another face to replace her avatar.

But being there, with her? Was like being with a friend I’ve known forever. They both just delight me so much, and I’m grateful beyond words that I got to hang out with them and say inappropriate things about patriarchs.

Getting to just be there with two women I’m teary-eyed-proud to call friends – that WAS the best part.

I was antsy the whole flight home. Not because of turbulence this time, but because I’d hit my limit for time away from my children. The last morning at Joshilyn’s I’d started following their little boy around, Sam. He’s just sproingy-adorable, with a vocabulary of fighting and explosion noises that would deeply impress my sons. And I was ready to be back among the chaos. The whole ride home I chatted mercilessly at the grandfather next to me about my kids. I told him how old they are, and what they like to do, and what their favorite colors are, and what they might be when they grow up…he started fashioning a noose out of his shoelaces, but I’m pretty sure he was just kidding.

But he was forgotten when the plane finally touched down. I shouldered my way through the crowd and fairly sprinted into the airport. Finally I saw them, across the baggage claim. I waved in that over-animated style that causes people to look at you with alarm, and ran over to them. The boys each clutched a bunch of flowers that they’d been sword fighting with. I hugged them tight and accepted their somewhat battered flowers with exclamations of delight. They were all talking at once, tattling on each other, and telling me of their adventures. Then Clay pulled me in his arms for a welcome home hug. I felt them close around me, a custom fit for sure.

And that, no doubt about it, was the best part of the trip.

Whose idea WAS this?

Ok. Ok. Ok, so I’m going away for the weekend. Note: I did not say WE are going away for the weekend. I am going away. Sans boys. So to sum up; I am leaving my children HERE and going ELSEWHERE.


I am insane.

It struck me about 4:00 afternoon that I was going away and it was time to get my ducks in a row. I flew into action, doing laundry and vacuuming and making lists. Ducks in a row, I thought, what an apt phrase. Because the PROBLEM, you see, is that ducks don’t STAY in a row, and the minute you line them up, one of them wanders off. Mom argues that they do, in fact, stay in a row. However, I am drawing upon a rather large body of information that insists that they do NOT. Exhibit A: people often compare my boys to a small herd of ducks. “Oh, LOOK AT THEM, following you like little ducks.”

Well. If my boys are INDEED like ducks then I can assure you that ducks do NOT remain in a row, but are more likely to punch one another, climb random objects, and get things lodged in their nostrils.

Exhibit B: all the songs I have sung to my children that featured ducks. A quick review of said songs brings to light the fact that ducks “wibble wobble to and fro” and they “went out to play, over the hills and far away.” Do those sound like creatures remaining at attention to you? I rest my case.

And indeed, I am frustrated in my attempt to set things in order for my departure. See, I’d like to leave as light a burden as possible for my parents, but there’s only so much I can do. I can’t feed the boys enough that they won’t need food tomorrow. I can’t convince them to stop using the bathroom so it stays clean (or at least not entirely disgusting). No matter HOW well brushed their teeth are tonight, they’ll need brushing again soon.

So see? Ducks that just won’t stay in a row.

And what about my flight? My reservation says they will be serving me “brunch or a snack.” Well? Which is it? Not that it matters, it’ll be some shrink wrapped dried out poor excuse for food, but I WANT TO KNOW. Also, I know it’s silly to worry about the flight. It’s statistically safer than driving, blah blah blah. This only serves to remind me that IT’S OK, I MIGHT NOT SURVIVE THE TRIP TO THE AIRPORT.

And then when I get there (IF I get there)? I’m spending the weekend with Mir and Joshilyn, two women whom I admire so much it makes me revert, deep inside, to middle school. I’m sure I’ll be smelling my armpits as the plane is landing. I’m worried that while they make witty, droll comments, I’ll be silently comparing our boobs and wondering if they’ve kissed more boys than me. I don’t know how to be witty. RIGHT NOW, I don’t even know what droll MEANS.

And speaking of boys, my boys, my sons, my babies? WON’T BE THERE. They’ll be here, and what if they need me, and their little hearts break and they are scarred for life and grow up to be the kind of men that say they’ll call when they won’t because they know, at their hearts, that the world is a cold and untrustworthy place?

Or what if they don’t notice I’m gone, and meanwhile I’m weeping silent tears into my pillow because I can’t smell their puppy dog smelling heads?

What if my parents are so fed up with my gallivanting ways by the time I get home that I can’t ever convince my mother to join me on another fun-filled Costco trip? What if they MOVE while I’m gone, and don’t tell me where they went?

You know who else won’t be there? Clay. That’s right, he’s ALSO not going to be there, which means I won’t get to smell his neck for DAYS. What was I ON when I decided this would be a good idea? What if this isn’t just two days away, but the SPELL BREAKING two days? HUH? HUH?

Then again, what if everything is fine? What if my wonderful people here at home manage just fine without me, and the wonderful people I’m going to see manage fine with me? What if the plane doesn’t crash and the boys call sometimes but sound ok? What if this is actually a GOOD idea?


I guess we’ll see.

Learning along the way

One of the advantages of having multiple children is that the younger ones naturally pick up information from the older ones. When Tre was a toddler I spent careful hours teaching him his colors and numbers and letters and such. By the time Raphael hit that age randomly quizzed him on such things in passing, and was always surprised when he knew the answers.

“Hey, Raphi, what color is your shirt?”

“BLUE, Mama.” (Said in the tone of one who is humoring a very stupid child.)

“Hey, very good.”

“Your shirt is pink.”

“Yeah, thank you, I actually knew that.”

“An’ that cup is yellow.”

“Look it’s not that I didn’t KNOW…never mind.”

Recently one of the boys rented a Bill Nye the Science Guy video from the library. All Tre and Max seem to have gleaned from it is the theme song, which they sing over and over and over and over and…


However, Raphael is learning actual SCIENCE from it, and likes to tell me what’s what. The other day I sat down at the breakfast table. Raphael was enjoying a hardboiled egg. He held up the yolk and intoned seriously,

“This is like the Earth’s cork.”

“What?” I responded intelligently (it was MORNING).

“He means the Earth’s core. The shell of an egg is like the crust, the white is like the mantle, and the yolk is like the core,” Max explained.

“Oh,” I nodded, “I see.” Raphi gestured at me again with the yolk.

“If we were this close to the cork, we would DIE,” he said.

“Because it’s so hot,” Max explained.

“I see,” I repeated.

“So,” Raphael sighed, “I sure can’t eat this.” And he dropped it on my plate.

Today we were driving home from a rollicking visit with some cousins when Raphael piped up from the back seat.

“The dinosaurs lived sixty five million years ago.” The way he said it I could tell he was mimicking a line from somewhere. He repeated for emphasis, “SIXTY FIVE MILLION YEARS AGO.”

“That’s a long time ago,” I agreed, impressed with his knowledge.

“And there are no volcanoes living here.”

“Uh…right. I mean, there are no active volcanoes near us.”

“Because they live with the dinosaurs! Sixty five million years ago!”

I was silent for a moment, trying to figure out the most…accurate response to that.

“Mama? Can we go there? To sixty five million years?”

“Well, no, not really.”


“Yes, so I’ve heard.”

And then, because I didn’t know where to begin on setting him straight, I left him like that, believing that dinosaurs live with volcanoes in a place called sixty five million years ago.

I don’t think that makes me a BAD mom, exactly. I think the thoughts I entertained about threatening to send him there if he doesn’t behave…THAT’S what makes me a bad mom. Rotten to my cork.

The terrible thing that happened to me

My mother, for all her many charms, has one small failing. She’s a nurse, see, and she’s been elbow-deep in…uh…the human condition more times than I like to imagine. As a result of her experiences in the trenches, she has a decidedly calloused attitude about the human body and its frailties. You should HEAR the sort of dinnertime conversation I was subject to as a child. Good heavens. I should put up a Pay Pal button for my therapy fund.

Anyhow, today Mom came home as I was unloading groceries. She joined me in the kitchen and started telling me companionably about her day. It seems she’d been at work, and went to go on a coke run (uh…cola, not ‘caine…but you knew that, right?). On her way back to her office, she tripped on the cement stairs. She narrowly missed putting her head through a wall and bashed her toe on the stair, but she didn’t spill the coke. That, by the way, was the point of the story. The fact that she didn’t spill the coke. This was a FINE point, and enough for me. But she didn’t leave it there.

“Now my toe really hurts.” She peered down at it. “Hey, look at that.” She swung her foot up onto the counter next to me, so I could see her toe.

It was PURPLE, with a button of swelling on the tip, a perfectly round nubbin of deformity right there on the end of her discolored toe.

I, being the tender hearted nurturing type, reacted immediately.

“GOOD LORD, PUT THAT THING AWAY!” She gave me a puzzled look while I turned away and leaned hard against the counter. See, I can handle injury when I have to. If my kids are hurt, I step right up to the plate and wield ice and bandages with the best of them. But I don’t LIKE it. I’m not GOOD at it.


She wiggled the offending digit at me.

“Look at it – do you think it’s broken?”

I was on the other side of the kitchen by now, trying to put canned goods away, and I crouched down and rested my head on my knees.

“I don’t know,” I muttered. “Do you want some ice or something?”

But the last thing Mom wants is to be babied, so she lost interest in torturing me with her toe, and wandered away.

My life is JUST. SO. HARD.

The problem with Claire

I believe I’ve mentioned Claire, our beautiful, stupid cat, before. She is beautiful – or she was until a month ago. She started looking…ratty. Unkempt. She has matting issues in the hair covering her haunches, or as I like to call the gnarled chunks of cat hair bristling out around her tail, butt mats.

“BOTTOM mats,” my mom reminds me primly. She is mocking me. Anyhow.

At first I assumed the butt mats were the result of increased fatness on Claire’s part. She’s been banned from the great outdoors, because I just can’t take the bloodshed anymore. At least, I can’t take the bloodshed in my sunroom or rotting under my actual BED, in which I SLEEP and gah, just thinking about it…excuse me while I boil my brain.

That’s better.

Where was I? Ah yes, the butt mats. I chalked them up to the fact that Claire was growing fatter and more sullen with each night without a dead little mousie. You know, internationally famous author Joshilyn Jackson’s cat has the same problem? It’s true. She gets too fat to groom herself and gets butt mats. The cat, not Joss. Good heavens.

But then, Friday night, Claire peed on the couch. Which was a new behavior, and not a welcome one. I may not know huge amounts about feline behavior, but I DO know that “inappropriate urination” can be a sign of illness.

So the next day I left the boys with a benevolant friend, and stuffed Claire and her mats into a cat-carrier. She hates that thing. She yowled as though there were vengeful mice with cat-prods locked up in there with her. I got alarmed looks in the parking lot; she was so loud and mournful.

I took her to the local “PetConglomeration”, where they sell food, supplies, grooming services, veterinary services, and provide disapproving looks free of charge. Claire and I were ushered right into an exam room, where we were given the opportunity to wait until the will to live had drained right out of us and lay on the floor in a heap with pounds of Claire’s hair. She was nervous and emitting yowls and hair at regular intervals. It was fun! My FAVORITE part was how there was nothing to read except “The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds.” Wheee! I read! I drank a Coke Zero with cat hair in it! This is how I spent my Saturday!

Anyhow, the vet DID finally come in and look at Claire. She peered in her ears, listened to her belly, and stuck a thermometer in an entirely inappropriate place. I (being premenstrual and covered in cat hair), stood there, with tears pricking my eyes, waiting to hear how short our time with our beloved cat would be.

“Well…I think Claire’s problem is that she’s fat,” announced the vet. I blinked.

“Um…we prefer ‘big boned’.”

“Right. But she IS fat, and that’s making it difficult for her to bend around and groom herself.”

“What about the peeing?”

“Being fat can cause bladder inflammation in cats.”

“So…you’re saying she’s fat?”

“Very fat.”

“What…do we do?”

It turns out that what we do for a fat cat is we buy her exorbitantly expensive food, and dole it out in tiny portions. The vet offered to groom her, to relieve her of her mats, but I allowed as how I could take care of that myself. I thanked her, paid the bill, and went out to find the right food, shampoo, and toys (exercise, doncha know). As I was looking at rows of catnip mice, a woman walked by. Claire yowled, and the woman peered in the cat carrier.

“Ohhh, she’s so BEAUTIFUL!”

“Yeah, but apparently she’s fat,” I sighed.

“Well…haven’t we all struggled with that?” She smiled at me.

“Maybe, but I always managed to groom my butt,” I muttered. She sort of stared, and backed away.

Claire yowled.

I took her home and shampooed her. Have you ever shampooed a cat? It would be funny if you didn’t have a heart. Poor thing. Eventually, when she’d fully dried out, and I could catch her again, I brushed her thoroughly. I removed at least another cat worth of hair from her.

Looking at the great wads of hair, I toyed with the idea of taking her in for another weighing. “She’s not fat,” I’d tell the vet, “she’s just big-haired!”

Nah, maybe not. But I’m totally using that defense at my next doctor’s appointment.

Why I really have to stick with the mom friends I have

This morning the boys and I were downtown, with a few hours to kill. I decided to take them to the ginormous Cherry Creek Mall, to play in the play place there. It’s a carpeted area with big foam squishy breakfast foods to climb and slide and jump on. Max loves to slide on the bacon, Raphi loves to leap from sausage link to sausage link, and Tre…well, Tre is really getting too big for the play place, which he finds entirely unfair.

But see, the area is mostly populated by moms with their one wee toddler child. They hover, they exclaim, they take pictures. Such moms simply cannot deal with a great huge ten year old jumping about, threatening their very child’s life and limb. Nor should they have to.

Max and Raphael, however, were in heaven.

Ok, I admit, I allowed Tre a few discrete laps. He was as sedate as he could be and no yuppie-spawn were injured.


I suppose this is when I should confess that this PLACE and the PEOPLE there tend to put me on edge. WAIT. Let me OWN MY FEELINGS. I am overly sensitive to the looks and comments of the competitive parenting crowd at the Cherry Creek Mall. I ADMIT THAT. See, these are people who own entire libraries devoted to the subject of child-rearing. They have advanced theories on the use of "I statements" in conflict resolution. They know where all their child's socks are.

And I, just by the virtue of having THREE kids, do not fit in. I mean, when I show up with my ranging herd of boys, they shoot me alarmed looks, as though we were going to start rifling through their baby bags and looting their color-coded tupperware containers of organic low-sodium oat circle cereal. Which I would never do, preferring to feed my children the butter soaked pretzels from the pretzel stand. Heh.

Anyhow, our time there was spent without incident. I chuckled with a grandfather over the antics of his ADORABLE flaxen-haired princess of a granddaughter. Seriously, this little girl could be the twirly ballerina in a music box; she was that sweet and girly. Oh my, made my ovaries ache. I chatted with a mom about the best place in the mall for shoes. I was the lucky recipient of several enthusiastic trot-by kissings from both Max and Raphael. Life was good.

Then I announced to the boys that it was time to go, and started herding them toward their shoes. We were almost there when I heard a thump and a scream. Before I could turn around, a mom went tearing past me, shrieking,

“WHY DID YOU DO THAT?” I turned to see her scoop up her little girl. Who Raphael had apparently knocked down.

Let me interject here to say that from my understanding, after interviewing several eyewitnesses (Raphael and Max), that Raphael did not INTEND to knock the little girl down. What I gather happened is that they both leaped for the same squishy egg yolk at the same time. The poor child was the unfortunate victim of physics, as her delicate little frame was no match for my son’s sturdy build. It was not a STRIKE per se, but a BUMP.


The little girl was screaming, and Raphael was standing there on the egg yolk, staring in slack-jawed amazement as this mom YELLED AT HIM.

“THAT WAS SO MEAN! YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO ACT LIKE THAT! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?” I’m pretty sure it’s only the presence of her daughter’s precious ears that stopped her from cussing him out. She was that mad.

I didn’t find her approach very…productive, so I stepped in and snatched Raphi up, throwing a quick apology over my shoulder. I sat him on a bench and started putting his shoes on.
”I didn’t try to hurt that girl, Mama,” he told me earnestly.

“I know, baby. Accidents happen. But she DID get hurt, and you should tell her you’re sorry.”

“But I DIDN’T TRY to hurt her.”

“I know. But you should still tell her you’re sorry, because even if you didn’t do it on purpose, you ARE sorry she’s hurt.” He sighed and nodded in assent. I took him by the hand and led him over to the little girl, who was still weeping in the arms of her mother.

“I’m sorry,” muttered Raphael.

“WHY DID YOU DO THAT? IT WAS SO MEAN! YOU HURT HER!” Flecks of spit flew through the air to accompany her rant.

“HEY!” I made my voice just that much louder than hers, and then followed in her shocked silence, “he’s TRYING to apologize.”

“Oh,” she said. “Oh. Ok. Fine.” I nudged Raphi, and he repeated his apology. As we turned to go, the woman hissed after us,

“It WAS mean, though.”

So I spun around and caught her on the temple with a roundhouse kick. She crumpled to the floor. I stood over her prone form, looked deep into her eyes as they fought to focus, and said in a low, dark tone,

“Don’t. Yell. At. My. Baby. Now go play nice.”

Ok, I didn’t.

But I wanted to. Ohhhh, how I wanted to.

I'm going to make this quick because I'm so tired I...zzzzzzzzz...*snort*...huh?

Raphael is fine. He woke up this morning with his usual bombastic charm. Antibiotics simply amaze me. What magical stuff.

Actually, the biggest issue in his life right now happens to be the penicillin. He has to take it FOUR times a day, and he hates the stuff. Every time I walk toward him with the squirty dropper full of pink stuff, he freezes and glares at me.


I know, I know, baby, but you’re taking the stuff. I’m not gonna let him come down with some antibiotic-resistant bacteria that lands us on 20/20 as a cautionary tale, OH NO. Particularly not when, if you’re playing with MY score card, this whole thing is my fault anyhow.

Where was I?

Ah yes. All is well, thank you so much for your kind words and your prayers. Please return for your regularly scheduled bloggage tomorrow. I’ve been tagged twice and am sadly remiss in my responses. So.

Thank you, and good night.

Last night we were at some friends’ house for a get-together. I was sitting with a group of women, chatting and contemplating the wisdom of getting up for one more taco, when Raphael came in and clambered his way over to me. He snaked underneath my arm and onto my lap.

“Hi there, honey. What do you need?” I asked. He curled into me and murmured,

“I need a snuggle.” Well, who can resist that? Not I. I held him and rubbed his back. In a few minutes I noticed his breathing had slowed and one hand, then one foot, twitched slightly. I peered down into his face, and he was sound asleep. I slid a hand under his shirt to feel the smooth skin of his back.

“Does he feel warm to you?” I asked my friend Amy. She felt his back too, then his head and neck.

”No…not really.” So I sat with him, enjoying the feel of him so close. But as the minutes passed, it became clear that he was becoming a bit warm. Then more than a bit.

“Huh. He’s sick,” I announced to the group, unnecessarily. They nodded in agreement, as impromptu naps just aren’t Raphael’s style. So Dad herded Tre and Max into the car while I carried Raphi out and buckled him into his car seat.

By the time we got home his temp was 102, and he was limp with the effort of being sick. I slipped his clothes off and his jammies on, gave him some Tylenol, and put him to bed.

He slept fitfully, climbing into my bed before long. Throughout the night he thrashed, muttered, and whimpered. I reached out and ran my fingers over his skin, marveling at the heat. I whispered comfort and drifted in and out of sleep all night. Toward dawn he sat up and said,

”Mama, I have a loose tooth!”

“Uh-huh,” I muttered. He nudged me.

“I do! Feel!” I put my finger where directed, on his remaining upper front tooth. And wiggled.

It was loose.

Content to have shared that with me, he flopped back and fell asleep.

I, on the other hand, was wide awake. See, when he had his other tooth pulled, it was because he had an abscess. The big reason behind removing that tooth was to avoid an infection. An infection that would cause fever, an infection that could easily spread from his upper jaw into his sinus cavity and into his brain. In his other remaining front tooth he had the same sort of filling that had led to the abscess. The dentist had urged me to keep an eye on it.

I stared into the dark, trying to figure out what else it could possibly be.

Morning finally came, and I called the dentist’s office.

“Bring him right in,” they said. I watched him sit at the breakfast table, his eyes glassy, his hands shaky, and allowed as how I’d do just that.

He had an infection, one that had rattled his tooth loose. So the dentist had to pull that tooth too. It was pretty much like last time, except he was so frightened that I lay down in the chair and held him. He started weeping the minute the numbing gel touched his gum. I couldn’t tell if it was because his gum was that tender, or because he knew what was coming.

I cradled his belly with one arm, his hands gripping my forearm like I could save him. My other hand cupped his forehead, holding him still. One small tug, and it was free. I looked at the ceiling and watched black and white stars bloom before my eyes while I said softly,

“What a good job, way to go, you’re all done.” Deep breaths. I did not throw up or pass out.

He sat up and looked at me, his brown eyes cavernous in his pale face. I’m so sorry, I thought, and I kissed one soft hand.

Now I don’t know if it’s a reaction to his trauma, and being complicit in it, or if it’s my worry over the infection that is still causing his head to radiate heat, but I’m numb. I spent the afternoon walking slowly from room to room, leaving tasks half done. I measured out his penicillin, unconvinced that the watery pink liquid was nearly strong enough to help him, and firmly insisted he take it. I broke his food into small bites and poked them into his mouth, between his unhurt back molars.

And when he fell asleep on the couch, his face turned toward the back pillows, I lay down behind him. My body curved around his, mimicking the small brown comma he made among the cushions. I felt the heat rising off his damp neck, and whispered a prayer for mercy.