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The Meme!

The other day I was tagged by Angie, over at Peas In My Pod. Now, I’m not very good about fulfilling my tag-ed duties. I should have a backup tagee, in case I am unable to perform my role as tagee. Just ask Linda. Or John. Heh heh. Love ya, guys.

But when I looked at this particular meme, I was surprised to realize that I actually had something to say about this exact week in my life, ten, five, and one year ago. Late September seems to be a fertile time for me.


Ten years ago


September 24, 1995

, a surprise snowstorm hit


. There wasn’t THAT much snow, eight inches to a foot, as I remember. However, the trees were still in full leaf, and the weight of the wet snow caused lots of limbs to break off and downed electrical lines. The city was at a standstill. I was home with my tiny baby Tre, watching the news and smelling his neck.

Well, our power didn’t go out, the storm passed, and a few days later I slung him in the front carrier and walked to the neighborhood library. The weather had made one of those typical


swings from cold, grey, and fraught with snow, around to crystalline blue skies, warm air, and ebullience everywhere. Seriously. The forecast said “ebullience.”

As I walked through the streets to the library, I smiled and nodded hello to people as they worked in their yards, hauling broken branches to the curb. The overall mood was hopeful and industrious. I patted my baby’s warm curved back, and thought about what I’d read in the newspaper that morning.

A baby, AnnDee Jackson, born three months earlier. She was far too premature, no one expected her to live. But there she was, still hanging on and getting stronger every day. When I saw the picture of her overjoyed parents, grinning at the camera, I realized with a shock that I’d seen the father before.

The day after Tre was born, as my husband and I were waiting for our discharge papers, a huge bear of a man dressed in scrubs walked by our room. He glanced in the door, and seeing Tre in his bassinette, he veered off his path and over to peer down at our son. He asked us the standard new baby questions, when was he born, how much did he weigh.

“They’re getting my girlfriend ready for a C-section right now. The baby’s early [I don’t remember exactly how early, but I think she was 30 weeks along. Maybe 28]. Something’s wrong with the placenta, I don’t know. I just can’t wait to meet our little girl!”

And with that he turned on his heel and strode out the door. We watched him go, then I turned to my husband.

“Do you think he realizes what that baby’s up against?”

He shrugged helplessly, and we were silent.

But here was news of that baby. She was alive, and thriving. I strode along through a heartbreakingly beautiful fall day, face turned to the sunshine, thrilling to the weight of my perfect baby boy against my chest. Anything was possible. I was so in love with my son, my husband, my life.

Two months later, on THE DAY AnnDee was supposed to be discharged from the hospital, she contracted a blood infection that raged through her tiny body, chewing up her delicate organs. After a few weeks on life support, she died. I wept into my son’s neck, understanding for the first time the dark side of the desperate love of motherhood.

Five years ago

Five years ago this week, my Auntie Addie died. Addie wasn’t actually an aunt at all. She had no living relatives, but she’d come to be a part of our family. She’d moved here from


two years before. She was 97, and Max was five weeks old when Auntie Addie arrived. She loved to hold the baby, so for the next few years I took Max to visit her at least once a week. She held him and stroked his fat legs.

“OH,” she sighed, “what a pretty little girl.” After a while I gave up correcting her. Max, who let hardly anyone other than me hold him, almost always relaxed in her arms and played with the beads around her neck, or fell asleep. I remember her, regal in a black dress, the front dotted with bright orange Goldfish crackers. She cooed to Max as he grabbed for the crackers, tucked them in his mouth, and regarded her seriously.

He was getting too big for that when she got sick. The night she died Mom was with her in the nursing home. That morning she came to our house to give us the news. I was making breakfast for the boys when Mom came to the front door. She gave me a look over the boys’ heads, and I nodded in understanding. Before she said anything Max (who was just over two), took Mom’s hand and stated matter-of-factly,

“I miss Auntie Addie.”

One year ago

One year ago I was taking calls from a gentleman. As often as I would give him permission, he would call me after the kids were in bed. I sat in my room, pressing the phone to my ear so hard it hurt, reluctantly letting him charm me. The first night he called we talked for three hours. The second night he called we talked for six hours. I listened to him very hard, cautious to shush my pounding heart. I told him the truth about myself, almost challengingly. No, I don’t have a job. No, I don’t want one. I was born to be a mother. Every night I expected him to realize what he was getting himself into.

Every night he called again anyhow.

Despite myself, I thawed. And eventually I even went out with him.

He still calls.

He still charms me.


Uh…yesterday. Yesterday…I…um…don’t seem to remember. We…went to buy dog food…hmmm. What DID we do yesterday?

I think it may have been somewhat unremarkable.

Ok, now I’m supposed to tell you all sorts of other things about myself, like my five favorite snacks and books and movies and the like. Unfortunately, I’m not that interesting, so rather than bore you, I’m skipping that part. Did I mention I’m terribly unreliable about these things? Yeah. It’s true. I’m also supposed to tag five people, but I want to hear everyone’s response. So if it catches your fancy, please consider yourself tagged. Let me know if you decide to play.

Random thoughts

When Max was a baby and Tre was a sturdy three year old, they had very different and intense reactions to the wind. Max would gasp and turn his face into the wind, then swivel his head so as to catch every bit of it. A beatific smile spread across his face and he broke out in chuckles if we stood there long enough. He loved it.

Tre, on the other hand, would scowl, hunch his shoulders, and slap at his hair as it was ruffled by the wind.

“I HATE the wind!” he cried. “I HATE it!”

Tonight we went to a corn maze with some friends. Once we got there and settled down to eat our hot dogs, a great huge windstorm blew in. We sat, watching leaves and sticks whip past and great clouds of dust billow by. Soon Max was huddled next to me, his hood pulled over his head, weeping. Tre leaped about, energized by the wildness all around him. He saw no reason to go home.

This is another good reason why I don’t have to figure them out. It’s no use. They’ll just up and change on ya.

Wanna hear my favorite Scrabble quote? Clay was studying his tiles the other night, and he mused,

“Let’s see…it’s i before e, except after c…and in words like sweirt, right?”

He was totally serious, and didn’t think he should have to DEFINE a word, in order to use it.

I sweirt he did.

The air has the unmistakable tang of autumn, and with it comes the desire to some how, some way, feed my family winter squash. I know it’s a bad idea, I know they’ll never enjoy it, but I caught myself seriously studying a butternut pasta recipe today. It’s a sickness. But it had sage…

I’m beginning to think that I’m not just experiencing a temporary lack of sleep, but that since I’m a mom I will never never again be well rested. It’s only taken me ten years to catch onto that fact. I think I would have figured it out sooner if I could have gotten a nap.

The Half Marathon

Sorry to have made you wait so long for the riveting tale of my half-marathon. I was TIRED last night. You know, what with the


and all. (That was said in a slightly louder tone than necessary, with a glance over my shoulder to see if anyone heard.)

There was a lot of that sort of behavior all weekend. Fortunately for all, I was with my friend Amy, who is a sensible and sober sort of person.

I don’t know what happened to her.

We laughed like loons all weekend long. We laughed so much during the actual race that we’re certain we should get credit for a whole marathon because after all, doesn’t laughing confer some sort of cardiovascular benefit?

But let me start at the beginning.

The beginning of the half marathon found us standing at the back of a great big huge crowd of runners. Whilst they stretched and did warm up lunges and walked around with looks of intense concentration on their faces, we cracked jokes. Here's how much of a dork I am: I didn't even bring a proper jacket (and it was COLD before the sun came up). Amy, who was entirely outfitted properly, from fetching pink cap to slightly worn running shoes, had to lend me a spare jacket. I swear I'd have been totally lost without her. Perhaps literally. Did I mention I'm a dork?


Starting time came and went, and there we were, still standing in the middle of a great seething mass of runners, looking about as out of place as could be. Then some signal…happened. We, uh, missed it. We were talking. Anyhow, the…let’s just say it was a starting gun, huh? Ok, the starting gun went bang, and the great mass SURGED forward. We had already positioned ourselves at the back of the mass, out of politeness for all the people who would be passing us eventually anyhow, but we still had to sort of hop off to the side for a few latecomers who didn’t find the brisk Boulder morning quite as…um…funny as we did.

And we were off.

Soon we were strolling along on our own, watching the crowd move farther and farther away. We were ok with that, because we had a STRATEGY. If you like, I will share it with you. Our STRATEGY was sort of triple layered. Our plan was to:

a) Continue walking. Left, right, left, right. Like that. Until done. That part is key. WALK UNTIL DONE WITH RACE.

b) Do a negative split, which means we would go faster on the second half. This was a totally well thought out and informed plan on both our parts, not at all something Amy (who reads marathon books like a big smarty-pants) had just told me about on the drive up, and since my feet were not hurting at all THEN and I was about to go out to dinner, I agreed cheerfully. Not at all. It was our STRATEGY, part the second.

c) If we were happy, we were winning.

So. We walked. We chatted. I…ahem…may have turned a cartwheel or two. There are no pictures and I will not confirm that particular report. We looked at the crowd of runners, there far ahead of us, and said things like, “It’s ok, they don’t know our STRATEGY.” And, “Heh. I guess Aesop had it wrong. It’s ‘slow and steady FINISHES the race. Prolly.’”

We were, according to THE STRATEGY, part the third, totally winning.

There were a few low points that threatened our “having fun and therefore winning” plan. One was when the ten year old boy passed us on his way back from the turn around point. That was a touch sobering, but not as grim as when WE reached the turnaround point and everyone had already left the aid station. There was a guy collecting cones who said, “Uh…if you want a bagel or something, I think you could find one in that bag over there…sorry.”

Yeah. That was a touch on the demoralizing side. But we shrugged it off, being the seasoned…er…good-humored athletes we are, and we attacked the second half of the race.

THE STRATEGY? Totally worked. We passed up literally…some of the other half marathoners. I couldn’t say off the top of my head how many of them, but I can tell you this: We Were Not Last.

We even ran parts of it. NO REALLY. Fairly short sections, but STILL.

And when we reached the end, there were our people. Our kids, Amy’s husband, my parents, all there at the finish line. They were very impressed with us (Raphael is certain that I WON the race.


Personally. And it was close too, with a mere 2.5 hours separating me from the actual winner. Whew).

And in the end?

Continue reading "The Half Marathon" »

A clear and shocking lack of gratitude.

Have you heard this story? Apparently a plane took off from the L.A. area, headed for New York. The landing gear didn't retract, so the plane circled until it burned off its fuel, then the pilot made a beautiful landing back at Burbank. No one was hurt, it was a thing of beauty. The passengers were somewhat traumatized by watching their plight on the in-flight televisions the whole time they were circling. I knew those things were a bad idea.

Anyhow, after hearing about this event, I thought about what my reaction might have been, had I been on board. Upon reflection I'm ashamed to say that I once it landed I probably would have gotten off, cried and hugged everyone who would allow me to, and sat down to write a maudlin blog about how much I love my life. Then, ten minutes later, I would be looking at my watch and muttering, "NOW how am I going to get to New York? I've already wasted one day..."

Now I can't help but DID they get to New York? I mean, do you get right back on the horse, as it were? What would you have done?

(PS Don't bother clicking on the "continue reading" link below. There's nothing there. Stupid TypePad.)

Continue reading "A clear and shocking lack of gratitude." »

again and again

This morning Raphael clambered up into my bed and squirmed in next to me. As he usually does, he chattered about the morning, and what he’d dreamed, and what he’d have for breakfast, and everything that drifted through his early morning mind. I, as usual, lay there, patting his arm in a cuddly manner, so he’d think I was listening and not stealing precious extra minutes of sleep.

“Mama? I want to see my dad,” he announced suddenly. I opened my eyes for that one, and looked at him.

“Uh...what do you mean?”

“I want a picture. Of me with him.”

I closed my eyes again, and thought. He’s seen pictures of his dad, and mostly one of his dad holding Max when he was about two. That picture lives on the fridge. I tend to slide it around the side of the fridge when no one’s looking. I’m not proud of that, but neither do I want to face him every time I go get a glass of milk.

I’m always surprised when Raphael longs for his father. I don’t know why I should be – it’s been a part of his conversation since he first learned the word “Daddy.” I thought he’d be spared this ache. He was just an infant when his dad left. He never knew the guy. Every person Raphael has ever loved is still here, has always been here.

Now Tre and Max, they lost their dad. Not just the big loss, but there was the hint of loss all along in their relationship with him. It started as just a far off note as they lived the life of children whose father worked too much. It grew slowly and steadily, gaining ominous strength throughout all the disappointments they encountered. The bedtimes he missed, the days he didn’t want to play, the sound of that loss grew and grew. It grew to a thundering chord the day he moved out, then again the final crescendo that sounded the day they sat in the front window, waiting all morning for him to come pick them up.

He never did.

He never has.

And they carry that song with them. Their heart is tuned to it, in Max’s nightmares of loss, in Tre’s anxieties of being left in the grocery store.

But Raphael? Raphael never lost him. He never knew him, so what is there to mourn? Why add that to his life, which is so full of people who love him and never have left?

“Mama, I want a picture of me with my dad.”

“Ok, honey, I’ll look for one.”

Satisfied with that, he hopped out of bed and went downstairs to visit his Amma. I slowly got up and went in my closet. There, in the back corner, under random kid artwork, is the box of pictures. I stood there in my nightgown, in the gloom of the closet, and rifled through the pictures.

Hundreds of pictures. Our wedding day, our first apartment. Our dogs, our first Christmas tree. Me pregnant with Tre, and then an avalanche of pictures of the boys. Baby Tre, toddler Tre, preschooler Tre, his arm awkwardly curved around newborn Max. Vacations and picnics and early morning pictures, an undeniable body of evidence that we were this thing, this family at one time.

This is the song I live with, the sure knowledge of what it once was, and how bad it suddenly turned. The discord still hurts enough that the pictures live in the box, in the back of the closet.

I found very few pictures of his dad after Raphael was born. He was already mostly gone by then. There were pictures of a newborn Raphael in my arms, me looking past him with a stunned expression. There was three year old Max, his head resting on the bouncy seat next to Raphi’s fat thigh, his face drawn and sad.

There were no pictures of Raphael in his dad’s arms.

I couldn’t find one picture for him.

I layered the pictures back in the box and returned it to its shelf. This, then, is Raphael’s song. There are no images for him, a great silence where his father should be. I stood in the closet and prayed for enough good in his life to fill the void, enough music to overlay this song.

And I cried, again, for all of us.

In which Raphael survives his first day of preschool

Raphael walked into his classroom, took one look around, and grabbed my hand. I looked down into his upturned face and he looked at me, all business.

“Ok, Mama. Goodbye.”

Now, since the teacher was busy talking to us parents, and we weren’t really excused yet, I smiled at him and whispered,

“I’ll leave in a minute, honey.”

He sighed and marched off to play with some blocks. When I finally did say goodbye, he barely glanced over his shoulder at me. I left, feeling entirely dismissed.

When I returned to pick him up, he raced over to me, leapt into my arms, and wrapped himself around me, baby monkey-like. While I chatted with the teacher (who assured me he’d had a wonderful day, and MY but isn’t he FOCUSED?), Raphael made tiny squeaking noises against my shoulder. Finally I pried him off me, gathered his backpack, lunch box, and jacket, and took him by the hand to leave the classroom. As we walked out, he glanced backwards and announced,

“I will come back on the next day. I will go to my school on the next day.”

I do believe he will.


I was going to post the entry you will find below last night, from home, but I had connectivity issues. That always leaves me feeling like the Internets are having a party without me, and I was the only one not invited, and now y’all are all talking about my hair and how my butt looked in those pants.

BUT! This morning, after having dropped my kids off at school, I hied myself to the nearest Panera, where I am happily sucking down their coffee and free WiFi. Oh my oh my, how I love the free WiFi! The Internets, they want to party WITH ME!

I went up to the counter to order my bagel and coffee (whole grain bagel, because I am apparently a Puritan and believe it’s wrong to be too happy. If anything can reign in dangerous unbridled joy, it’s the leaden crumb of this bagel. Blech), and the joy of the moment almost overtook me.

“I’ll have a whole grain bagel, and a coffee, and SOME OF THAT FREE WIFI!” I chortled.

“Um…ok…but you don’t have to order the WiFi…”



“You are PRETTY.”

“You’re making me a little nervous now.”

“You know what would make you feel better? Free WiFi! WAIT A MINUTE! YOU’VE GOT THAT!”

“That will be $3.76. Now please go away.”


And now here I am, lying to you all, because that conversation? Never happened. No, I’m just buzzing off the coffee and the happy happy WiFi, and I really need to calm down. Hang on a second, lemme have another bite of that bagel.

Ah, that helps. Now, while I try to pry the sodden lumps of it out of my teeth, you can read the post from last night. Please know that if it were in my power to give, all of you would forever enjoy free WiFi. Because that is pure joy, my friends. Pure joy.


Tomorrow the boys start their homeschool enrichment program – one day a week of public education. I, being the Johnny-on-the-spot sort of mom that I am, just finished shoving pencils and folders into their backpacks. I’ll pack their lunches in the morning. Digression: I once heard a radio interview with a homeschooling mother of eight, talking about why she did what she did. The interviewer made some admiring statement about what a wonderful thing it was she was doing, blah blah, and the mom interrupted to say, “Honestly? It’s easier than trying to find all their shoes before the bus arrives in the morning. THAT would be impossible.” That is a woman after my own heart.  End digresson.

I did enjoy shopping for their school supplies. As I sorted them and packed them into their respective back packs, I admired them. The pencils, with their needle sharp points. The soft pink rectangle erasers. I smelled the pristine packs of crayons, their points waxy and bright. The paper in their notebooks was smooth and blank, the edges unbent. Their watercolor paints were glossy rounds of unmuddied color.

There is such promise in new school supplies. Such hope and possibility. As I surveyed this representation of the potential in their year, I could picture another image, super-imposed over the tidy one.

The bottom of Tre’s backpack will soon be lined with paper, scraps of paper, wads of graded assignments that he shoved in under his books, blank paper that slipped out of his folder and ended up crumpled in the bottom of the bag. Tre never willingly throws paper away, and soon his books and supplies will be liberally padded by a nest of paper trash.

Max’s tidy pencil box will be dumped into the cavernous depths of his bag. He will never never remember what is in there, so when he looks in his pencil case (after dumping it), and doesn’t find any markers, he will insist that he doesn’t have any and end up borrowing some from the kid next to him. That kid’s markers will probably end up in the bottom of his backpack, lost forever. When I pull all the markers, glue sticks, pencils, and whatnot out of his backpack, Max will be amazed. Stunned. A little suspicious.

And Raphael’s tiny little bag, stuffed with supplies and a blanket for rest time? I cannot imagine how he will keep track of it. He really wants to take his special bear blanket to school for rest time, but I shudder to think of its odds of returning with him.

And yet, despite my cynical overlay, I cannot resist the hope of the new school supplies. Perhaps this year they will overtake some of the chaos I expect from them. Perhaps this is their year, and they will shine for their teachers as they do in my eyes. Who knows, really, what to expect from them?

I smelled the new paper and crayon smell one more time, and then zipped up their bags and whispered after them a blessing; May your lives be forever full of new possibilities. May you surprise us all, and even yourself. May you build on your successes, and learn from your mistakes. May you find your pencils, and may they serve you well.

I love him because he makes me laugh - and other random cliches from my life

Clay called this afternoon and as we were chatting I looked something up online. A headline caught my eye, and I exclaimed,

“Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger are splitting up!”

He gasped.

“WHAT? No. No. That simply can’t be. My life no longer makes sense. I can’t believe it. I have to go, honey. I need to be alone.”

“Do you know who they are?”
”Uh…no. Except wasn’t that first guy the prime minister of Russia? Gorbechesney?"

“Right. Exactly.”

Last night as we sat on the couch and talked after the kids were in bed, I leafed through a clothes catalogue. Despite a clear lack of interest on his part, I persisted in showing him things.

“Oooo, look at that skirt,” I gushed.

“That looks fun,” he dead-panned.

“I love the color of that shirt.”

“Yes, it looks fun.”

“Those shoes are adorable!”

“They look fun.”

“Ewww. What are they thinking with THAT belt? I swear I owned that in 1986.”

“That’s not fun.”

“Hey, do you think this dress would look good on me?”

He sighed and looked at me.
”Do you really want me to say it?”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

“It looks fun.”
”You don’t care about any of this, do you?” He grinned. “You want me to stop so we can get on with the kissing portion of the evening, don’t you?”

“THAT? Would actually BE fun.”

Kids say the darndest things.

Actually, Max says the darndest things. He’s mouthy and  honest to a fault.

The other day I took Max and Tre out to a donation site to help sort things people have given for the people who have been displaced by Katrina. On the way out there we talked about what happened, how people had lost everything, and this was one tiny thing we could do for them.

It must have sounded a bit overwhelming for Max, because after a minute’s contemplation, he announced that he didn’t want to go. I assured him that he’d be alright, and didn’t worry about it. Max often announces he doesn’t want to go places if he feels uncomfortable. He generally gets over it once he’s there. If he’s not actually upset, I tend to shrug off such announcements.

When we got there, a coordinator showed us around. The boys trailed me, a bit intimidated by the chaos and the adults who were racing around intently. The woman smiled at them,

“So, are you ready to help?”

“Yeah!” replied Tre.

“I don’t want to,” said Max firmly.

“Uh…really?” She looked a little startled. Tre punched him on the arm.

“Well I do.”


She gave me a thin smile and left us to our task. And although I knew Max was just feeling a little uncomfortable and out of his element, and although he pitched in and declared that he was glad to have come by the time we were done, I was still somewhat chagrined to have provided her daily example of “what’s wrong with America.”

Tonight we went swimming. On the way out, Max caught a whiff of the lotion I’d put on after my shower, and he didn’t like it.

“That stinks,” were his exact words.

“Be nice,” I said.

When we got to the car, Raphael was having trouble fastening his seat belt. Appa (my dad) told him to get it fastened, and he said,

“I want Mama to help. Because she’s beautiful.”

“YEAH,” chimed in Max, “she’s beautiful. But stinky.”

I guess he figured that WAS nice.

I am a girl and I love shoes.

I’m sorry, but have you seen all the pretty fall shoes? They’re so GIRLY and round-toed and kitten-heeled and given to things like bows and velvet and tweed. I pulled a sales circular out of the newspaper today, and the shoes pictured on the back of it made me literally catch my breath. The boys raced over to see what was wrong.

“LOOK at those SHOES,” I gasped. They looked. They were disappointed. As they trailed away, Tre muttered to Max,

“I thought there was a SPIDER or something.”

I also like to eat candy and then regret it.

I try to hold off on buying any candy corn until as CLOSE to Halloween as possible. I believe I managed to avoid the stuff last year until it was 75% off the day after Halloween (All Saint’s Day – often celebrated by eating sugar until you are fully nauseated). This year? September 13. It’s going to be a long fall.


Raphael sat at the table, bent over his paper. He was drawing a picture, and the detail involved required him to focus intently. I heard him counting as he added fingers to a hand,

“Oooone…twoooo….threeee….fourrrrr….fiiiiive….siiix – SHOOT!” He erased fiercely. After a few moments of repair work on the finger fiasco, he called out, “Mama? Is this what your hair looks like?”

I peered over his shoulder to see that he had drawn me as a sort of a tent with feet, with a huge fountain of hair gushing out of the top of my head.

“Yes, that’s exactly what my hair looks like.”

He nodded with great satisfaction. I looked closer. There was a small person drawn in the area of my abdomen. “Who’s that?”

He patted the small person with his left palm and nodded.

“That is me, when I was in your tummy.”
”Oh really?”

“Yup. I was like this.” He put his pencil down and curled up on the chair, his arms and legs drawn up to his chest. He tucked his chin and closed his eyes and sighed. The shape of him triggered a flash of memory of me holding him as a newborn, carefully folding his limbs back into the position they’d held before birth, only hours before.

“Do you remember that?” I asked.

“Yes. I remember.” He sat up and grinned at me. For a moment he was at a loss for words, and he hugged himself and rocked back and forth in his chair. “I was SO happy in your tummy. I LOVED it there.” Overcome with his remembering, he patted his own cheeks. I leaned in to smell his neck.

“I loved it too, baby.”