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October 2005
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I'm back!

Hi, all! Miss me?

Ok, look, I’M SORRY. The thing is, I went away for Thanksgiving. Ten days I was gone, and before I left I remembered to water the plants, clean the rat’s cage, find Max’s Gameboy behind the gold chair in the living room so he could pack it and not freak out seventeen seconds after the plane took off, move the cat’s food and water bowl so Mom didn’t have to go upstairs to feed her, portion out a week-plus worth of allergy medication and vitamins for all who take them, pack our bags, clip the boys’ fingernails so they didn’t collect those grimy half moons of visible neglect, vacuum the floors…just BECAUSE, OK?, and purchase enough Diet Coke to see Mom through her time here alone.

But I forgot to mention I was leaving to y’all.

I also forgot to stop the newspaper delivery, which was unhelpful as my mom doesn’t like the newspaper much, except for Sundays and really, who doesn’t like the Sunday paper? Communists, that’s who.

Where was I?

Ah yes.

So I forgot the obligatory blog entry that says, HEY Y’ALL, I’ll be out of town for a few days, talk amongst yourselves! But I figured that would be ok, because I’d take my laptop along and check in from the road.


Steel yourself, because what I’m about to say may be…difficult for some to comprehend.

There was no access.

I mean eh, there was Ethernet access in the hotel the first night, but it was inconvenient to where I wanted to perch with my laptop. And then the second night I was at my dear aunt and uncle’s house, and their wireless password wasn’t working for some reason and the neighbor’s wireless that I was TOTALLY not pirating but my cousin Melyssa shamelessly was, kept dropping out. So I waited, and then we were at my grandmother’s house.


This may surprise you, but Grandma? Doesn’t have wireless internet. Can you believe it?

So. There I was, surrounded by family I haven’t seen in ages, eating more food than any sane person should consume within the course of a YEAR, and introducing Clay to my dad’s side of the family. And not one bit of it did I blog.

So I got home last night and by the time I hauled myself up to bed and cozied up to my laptop, I was fried. Too fried to write. And again tonight I sat here, staring at the screen for a while.

There’s just too much to tell. Too many stories and moments and flashes of gratitude and sorrow. It was FAMILY, for heaven’s sake, and we all know how complicated THAT is. To give you an idea of how much family, there were 51 people at Thanksgiving dinner. I would LOVE to give you a snapshot of that madness, but *sigh I am weary. Too much.

SO! Let me say these following things:

1! The family LOVED Clay. Maybe more than me. At least three people gave me solemn looks and instructed me to HANG ON TO HIM, which hey, I PROMISE, ok? I am pretty fond of him myself, you know. Plus I suspect I may not be allowed back if I try to return without him.

2! The boys and I traveled with my cousin Melyssa and her kids, Dakota (13) and Myranda (10 but practically 11). My kids adore her kids. They had a wonderful time, and after breakfast this morning Tre actually burst into tears and said, “I MISS MY COUSINS.”

I don’t blame him either, because they are two very cool kids. And the five of them together? Priceless. After we landed in San Francisco (if you live there and would have met me, don’t yell at me, we didn’t stay there, but hurried off to FRESNO, if you can imagine, so I was already punished, ok?), we drove around in the rental van for a bit, admiring the views. Dakota intoned from his seat, “Look at that.


, the land of seals…sea gulls…the

Golden Gate


…and vegetarians.”

“I want to see some seals,” Myranda sighed.

“I want to see the sea gulls,” Max chimed in.

“I want to see the veggitarians!” bellowed Raphael.

So great is the love between those cousins that when everyone laughed, Raphael didn’t mind one bit.

3! Did I mention I’m SORRY about the whole disappearing thing? I AM. I’m going to blog simply ALL THE TIME now, just for all of you who actually noticed when I was gone. TRULY.

4! I believe that if you ignore holiday pounds they will go away from the neglect. I’m fairly sure that the ham that has migrated to my thighs hasn’t been there long enough to get a solid grip. If my theory turns out to be wrong, expect much wailing and hand wringing about my thighs.

Stupid thighs.

5! Happy Thanksgiving. Better late then never, right?

Finding the right one

As Mom and I plowed through bridal shop after bridal shop, leaving swaths of silk and lace in our wake, we talked. And talked and talked and talked, as Mom and I are wont to do. Inevitably one of us would say, “Last time…” as in, “I’m glad you’re here. Last time I bought a wedding dress, I went alone. It was no fun.”

Each time the phrase was said, we’d wince.

It feels…unseemly to bring up the specter of the marriage that went before. It’s not like we can pretend I was never married before (there is the small matter of three little boys), but to drag out the fact of it even while struggling into some poufy white icon of virginity…well, it just didn’t feel right.

I find myself doing that a lot, however, mentally holding up what went before against what is happening now. I suppose there should be lessons to learn from the contrast. Instead, I just marvel at the differences. They are two different worlds.

I told a friend the other day that everyone should get the chance to fall in love in their thirties. When I was in my twenties, falling in love was sort of like a car accident. It happened TO me, was chaotic and out of my control, and turned my life upside down. And it rather hurt. This love, on the other hand, has been more like stepping into a dance. More graceful and grace-filled by far.

After trying on what seemed like a thousand dresses, I narrowed my choices to my top three. I took my mom and my friend Amy, and dragged them around town so they could help me choose. Before we looked at any of them I had a favorite quietly held in mind. At the end of the dress odyssey, we all agreed it was the dress I wanted most. We stopped for lunch, and Amy went on her way.

I sat at the table with Mom, both of us squeezing edamame pods until the beans slipped out and into our mouths. We talked over the merits of the Top Three, then in a lull I said,

“You know what I want to do before we go buy the first dress? This is gonna sound weird.” She waited. “I want to go home and try on the dress from my first wedding.”

Totally didn’t faze her. She nodded.

“Let’s go.”

We went home, and I hauled the box out of my closet, off the shelf. Don’t ask me WHY I still have the dress. After the wedding it was shoved in the back of my closet, still in its plastic bag, for seven years. When I heard that this was bad for the fabric (sometime around year four), I unzipped the bag and hoped that was air enough to save it. But I didn’t actually get around to having it cleaned and boxed until AFTER my husband had left. Then it became some sort of issue with me. Who knows what was in my mind then? I was insane.

But I did have it cleaned and preserved and boxed, just so I could shove it on a shelf in the high back of my closet and uncomfortably avert my eyes when I went in there.

I got it down off its shelf and dismantled its sarcophagus-like box. As I lifted the last lid, I held my breath. I remember I loved my dress, but I didn’t remember what it looked like, really.

It looked…smaller than I remembered. I lifted it out of the tissue paper, and it was so light and insubstantial. I slipped out of my jeans, pulled my sweater over my head, and stepped into the dress. I pulled the zipper up and turned to face myself in the mirror.

It was like wearing a costume, and I looked at a very young bride. It was such a lighthearted dress, flirty and floaty. I touched my bare shoulder and remembered, across what seemed like a great expanse of time, the child I was, stepping out into a future I couldn’t possibly understand. For the first time in a long time I felt compassion for her and her foolish choices. There was so much I didn’t understand, but I loved as truly as I could, and was forever changed in the process.

There is no shame for me to carry with me from that marriage. It could have worked. It didn’t. But God is good and second chances are sweeter than I could have imagined.

I took the dress off and carefully repacked it in its box. I still don’t know what to do with it, but I know I don’t need to keep it anymore.

I put it aside and went out to buy a new dress.

It’s beautiful, soft and womanly and romantic. It’s perfect.

Something to ponder on a snowy night

Oh, I had a lovely day, and I need to tell you about it. However, there is a soft snow falling outside and I am sleepy and content with the knowledge that I am home and warm in my bed. Tomorrow stretches out in front of me, a luxurious Tuesday that I will spend entirely at home. I will pick up endless piles of wet snow gear and give my sons mug after mug of hot chocolate. For tonight I cannot summon the energy to tell you the whole of today, so instead I leave you with the following exchange between Tre and Max.

Tre: I think I want to start wearing boxer shorts, instead of that other kind of underwear.

Max: (who owns a pair of boxer shorts, nodding sagely) Ok, but if you do, DON’T give yourself a wedgie. Trust me.

Tre: Why?
Max: It hurts!

Tre: Oh. Ok.

I don’t know what’s more puzzling: that Tre had to ask WHY he shouldn’t give himself a wedgie, or that Max already knew (from experience, apparently) the answer.

What Clay and I Did for Veteran's Day

Hey, hey, HEY! Guess what we did? GO AHEAD, GUESS.



It is an itty bitty tiny little adorably nugget of a house that is so cute I want to kiss it right on its lips. It’s a ranch, 808 square feet, with two bedrooms. ISN’T IT PERFECT?

Ok, ok, for those of you mentally tallying the number of children Clay and I are bringing to this marriage (answer=4) and starting to sweat a little, I should probably tell you that there is another 808 square feet in the unfinished basement. And Clay, who is just breathtakingly manly, has taken on the project of putting three little boy bedrooms, a play room, and a bathroom down there. *sigh.* Don’t you love him? He’ll be working on it like a madman for the next three months, so it will be ready for us to move into after the wedding. Did you catch that? One wedding and one house remodeling in the next three months. Ha! Ha ha! We have such good ideas! I still don’t have a dress! HA HA!

Moving on.

We closed on the house on Friday, and I took the boys out there the next day for lunch. Clay had already been there half the day, wielding a tape measure and tearing things apart. I passed out paper plates shaped like animals to the boys and nodded and looked thoughtful while Clay explained the projects to be undertaken in the days to come.

Honestly, I have no idea what he’s doing. I just think he’s sexy when he uses words like “joist” and “shim.” Did I mention the tool belt?


We ate a congenial lunch, sitting on the floor of our new kitchen (our kitchen, as in, the kitchen we own because we’re mad purchasing house owner people now). The minute the boys were done with their food they raced out the door. Tre and Max shimmied up the tree in the front yard, and Raphael amused himself by running out the garage door and around to the front door, where he leaped inside with a cry of,


Several times.

Clay took me down to the basement to show me the plans he’d drawn up for the construction down there. Now, this is “Boys’ rooms, v 3.2,” so you’ll forgive me if I didn’t take it in all that well. I’m starting to mistrust lines drawn on yellow legal pads. I’ll believe it when I see it in 2x4s and dry wall. Raphael spent his time leaping up to grab the string hanging down from the pull chain on the light. After a few minutes of Clay drawing imaginary walls for me in the air with his hands, we went back upstairs, Raphael bouncing and chirping at our heels.

In the front yard we found Tre and Max, up the tree, and two boys circling it below. One was Ben, the boy next door. Tre had met him when we brought the boys out to see the house. He is thrilled with Ben, who is a first year Webelo, soccer playing boy after Tre's own heart. The other boy was


, I think. All four boys stood around, on the ground and in the tree, casually muttering about totally random things and glancing at each other out of the corners of their eyes. It was a truly bonding moment, young boy style.

Several of our neighbors were similarly huddled in the next yard over. We introduced ourselves and chatted for a few minutes. The woman who lives next door knows every one on the block, and gave us the rundown (including whom else on the block is named Kira, and which house The One Unfriendly Guy lives in). We compared kids' ages and talked about who worked where.

I leaned against Clay’s warm shoulder as we chatted. His arm was around my back, and above our heads Tre and Max were making friends. Raphael kicked through the leaves at our feet, and it felt like home.


I wouldn’t want anyone to worry out there, so let me reassure you! Yes! I went shopping for a wedding dress today! I will PROBABLY not walk down the aisle either naked or in my blue jeans.

What’s that you say? You weren’t actually worried? Well PAY ATTENTION. We are T minus three months and ten days, and I have no dress.

This might be because I am such a terrible shopper. Oh dear me, I hate the shopping. I can enjoy it if it’s purely recreational, but I choke under pressure. If I NEED something, I have a tendency to walk into a store, fall into a hypnotic trance at the sight of all the pretty colors, and wander away in search of a pretzel.

So far, in my search for the perfect dress, I have searched online, clicking aimlessly through seven cotrillion pictures of wedding dresses, and tried on exactly…um…one. Can you believe I STILL haven’t found it? Bizarre.

Based on my experiences, I have concluded the following about wedding dresses: 97% of them all look the same. 2.9% of the remaining dresses are malevolently ugly. Good heavens. All the rest are made for freakishly tall people.

Plus there’s this whole culture based around getting married. I’m not just engaged; I’m “The Bride,” which makes me feel like I’m expected to sit with my legs crossed at the ankles, and write charming notes on embossed stationary. This is not me. Here’s how good I am at writing charming notes: I just found a thank you note I wrote to a good friend back in JULY. It has her name, but no address on it, and I suppose that’s why she’s never received it. Heh. See what a bad Bride I shall make?

As far as the dress goes, I will probably end up doing what was sensibly suggested to me by a far better mind than mine, and have one made for me. Which I should hop right on doing, because did I mention the wedding is happening in FEBRUARY? HUH?

But no, before I take the sensible route, I’d like to torture myself a little more, hence the clicking aimlessly. Today I decided to kick it up a notch, and actually WENT INTO a bridal shop.

To be entirely honest, I should mention that I carefully orchestrated this event so that I had only ten minutes to peruse the shop. Yeah. Let’s consider it desensitization therapy, huh?

I walked in, and was immediately greeted by a woman who worked there. She was walking past, holding a dress aloft, lest its plastic zippered case trail in the…carpet.

“Oh hello there, dear. Can I help you?” She smiled warmly, happy to be of assistance to The Bride. I considered bolting, but decided to throw myself on her mercy instead.

“Yes. I need a wedding dress, only, well, I’m short. Petite. You know.” She nodded sympathetically.

“I see, I see. And when is the wedding?”

“February 18.” Her eyebrows shot up.

“Oh dear, we need to get right on this, then.”

While I nodded guiltily, she swung into action. She swooped the dress in her hand onto a safe perch on a bar near her, and started rifling through the dresses on the racks. I trailed her, weakly poking at various plastic bags and answering her rapid-fire questions.

Rather informal, I think. But I want it to look like a wedding dress, you know? Ivory, I suppose. No, have pity, no train. Or veil.

She yanked one dress of the rack and displayed it for me with a smile.

“Something like this? You think?”

It was…fine. It fit in the 97%. Pretty. All princessy and bridal. I sighed.

“Sort of.”

“Sort of?”

“Well, no.”

She looked truly deflated, and sadly tucked the dress back on the rack. She stood there; petting its plastic case for a minute, then squared her shoulders and started trolling the racks again. I, however, had to give up. I looked at my watch showily, and made disappointed noises.

“Oh dear, look at the time, I have to run!”

“Are you sure? Here’s a line you really should consider! They make a lot of dresses in petites!”

“I’ll come back! Later!” I was backing toward the door, nodding reassuringly. “Tonight, probably!”

“Ok!” She called brightly, “and don’t forget to ask about THIS line!”

I nodded, and then I was SAFE in the parking lot outside.

I checked my watch again. Eight minutes. I’d been in the store for eight minutes.

I can’t believe I still haven’t found the right dress.

Ring my bell curve

I would never dream of admitting this in a public forum, but since it’s just you and me, internets, let me tell you a small secret: sometimes my sons baffle me. In particular, Tre baffles me. When Max or Raphael hit a new phase in their lives, I can almost always shrug and say, Oh, right, I remember when Tre did that. Not to worry. But Tre hits a new era, and I find myself watching him out of the corner of my eye, wondering, Soooo, is this normal, then?

He interrupts and ignores the people around him. He talks and talks and talks about things like the interesting facts about snot he learned at the Grossology exhibit at the museum, but thinks an acceptable answer to, “Hi there! How are you?” is a mutter and a shrug. A shrug aimed at the floor.

I look at him and mentally count, with much trembling, the years I have left to form him into a functioning human being.

I don’t think there’s enough time.

Tonight Tre had a Cub Scout meeting (Patrol meeting). They were working on their requirements for their Communicator badge. The boys sat in a wriggling semi-circle at the feet of the Patrol leader, who spoke into their midst with admirable calm.

“Today we’re going to talk about communicating,” he announced.

“Is there going to be a snack?” some boy shouted.

“Yes, later. Let’s settle down now, so we can get through this.” One boy wandered away, picked up a pillow of the couch, and proceeded to whack himself repeatedly in the head with it. This lasted until his father could stand it no longer. He strode across the room and snatched the pillow away, glaring at his son, who looked bewildered.

The leader was motioning at an outline of communication styles.

“See, first we have speaking. Most communication is done through speaking.”

“Mom says I talk too much!” someone announced. “I’m gonna tell her you said to speak MORE.”

“Well, that’s not exactly what I said. Anyhow, next we have sign language. Does anyone here know sign language?”

“I have a dog! He smells bad!” Not sure which boy shared that.

“Oooookay, then, and there’s also newspapers, that’s another form of communication.”

“WHO FARTED?” This…form of communication caused great hilarity among the group. It took a few minutes to get them all to stop laughing, rolling around on the floor, and pretending to throw up. After settling them down, the leader gamely pressed on with his outline.

“And television – television is another way people communicate.”

“We have a TV!”

“HEY, did you know people sometimes get their heads cut of on TV?”

The leader nodded thoughtfully at the seething mass of boys and said slowly,

“Yes. Well. Thank you for sharing. Now Mark is going to explain to you all how a computer works.”

I watched him motion for another parent to start his demonstration, and I relaxed back on the couch, quite content.

I’m not saying Tre's NORMAL, exactly, but he sure blends into his peer group. I would even go so far as to say he’s doing rather well compared to some. The bell curve: the friend of concerned mothers everywhere.

Here are some people I love, making no sense.

Driving home from the rec center this evening, the boys got into a discussion of birthdays. You wouldn’t believe how much time they spend planning their birthdays. It borders on the obsessive (says the woman who has made One. Single. Solitary. Decision. About her impending wedding in…um, three months and fifteen days – and that decision was to have cake, which can hardly be considered a DECISION, you know, but it made Raphael happy).

Anyhow, we were just coming back from the rock climbing wall, and Tre had talked to one of the attendants there about the birthday parties they have there. Apparently they hide candy on the wall, which sealed the deal for Tre. He must have a rock climbing birthday party with extra special hidden candy, or life will not go on.

“A ROCK CLIMBING PARTY!” He bellowed, “I HAVE to have one!”

“Yeah, me too,” chimed in Max.

“Max, didn’t you just tell me you hated the climbing wall?” I asked.

“Oh yeah.” He pondered this a moment. “Yeah, I want a reptile party.”
”Does that mean with pictures of lizards and snakes, or are you inviting only lizards and snakes?” I wondered. He rewarded me with a disapproving look, so I’m still not sure. Raphael was taken with the birthday discussions and blurted out,


I was struck dumb for a moment, wondering what that would be, exactly. Finally I recovered and said to my dad,

“Yeah, well, who wouldn’t?”

Speaking of the wedding that isn’t planned, I’ve started thinking about it. The planning, I mean. Thinking about it is a step in the right direction, don’cha think? I even have a notebook, with a few things scribbled in it, so order can’t be far behind. AND I nearly found a dress, which is to say I whined to a good friend until she got together with another friend and they hunted down the perfect dress except when I tried it on it turned out to be made for a freakishly tall woman (aka over 5’2” – can you IMAGINE?), and would not, no never, fit my squatty frame. Wow, that was a long sentence. I am remorseful.

Anyhow, a natural byproduct of all this serious thinking is lots of talking. Musing, if you will, about the details of the wedding. And WHO would be the most logical person to muse to? Why the other main participant in the wedding, my beloved fiancé (I know, insufferable, right? Wait until I get to refer to him as my husband. You’ll want to make a drinking game out of it or something).

So, here I am, given to random statements like, “I think afternoon for the ceremony, don’t you?” and “I’ve been told CAKE is a good thing to have at weddings, you know.”

Clay (my fiancée, did I mention that?), on the other hand, is elbow-deep in the plans for remodeling our new house. Which still isn’t ours, but will be in one week and one day. Tra la. HE not only has a notebook, he also has file folders with many papers. He has drawings of rooms with measurements and phone numbers of people to talk to about pulling permits and mysterious things like that. So when I say something interesting about the wedding – “I wonder what flowers look best in February. Do you think that’s too early for sweet peas?” – he responds with a blank look and a statement like, “I really think I need to move that cabinet with the pull out shelves by the refrigerator forward. Otherwise we’ll lose seven inches of space right there.”

As if that has anything to do with flowers.

I was talking to my friend Amy, about…what was it? Geez, it could be anything, wedding dresses, math curriculum, winter coats…anyhow, I said something mundane about whatever it was we were discussing, and Amy replied,

“Yeah, and speaking of needing to blog more…”

And I would, I totally would, but first I need to figure out what a shooting car party would look like.

The end of the season

Friday was the last day of soccer, and despite its considerable romantic charm, I’m rather glad it’s over. The boys enjoyed it, more or less. They both declared after the first day that they planned to be professional soccer players when they grew up.

*cough, cough*

That’s great, guys. You do that. You know you still have to learn history, right? Ok then.

But then after a few weeks Max decided he didn’t exactly LOVE soccer so much as he HATED soccer.

“Really? Why?” I asked.

“Well, it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that we have to GO there. EVERY Friday.”

I guess Max will opt for the professional league that meets once every other week, so as to keep the monotony down.

Honestly, I’m not sure how he managed to get tired of soccer. He only seemed to be aware of the game around him about 45% of the time. And don’t get me wrong, he was a TIGER for that 45%. But the rest of the time he wandered around, talking to girls, twining his jersey around his elbows, and gazing up at the sky.

Tre, on the other hand, was FOCUSED with LASER-LIKE precision on the soccer game at all times. He had to be, to maintain a safe distance from the ball. See, he loves the game, loves the camaraderie, loves toting his water bottle out on the field, but the actual kicking the ball portion of the activity? No. No thanks. He just doesn’t seem to have the competitive spirit for sports. Now, if they were out there selling popcorn for a fundraiser, he’d be in the midst of the fray, elbowing people aside and gouging eyes, I’m sure. But soccer? Nah. So he danced around, just on the edge of the action. I actually saw him dodge the ball once. And that’s FINE, he doesn’t have to be a sports star, for heaven’s sake. It’s just that he could NOT PLAY soccer for free, and that way I wouldn’t ever have to find his other shin guard.

Anyhow, Friday signaled the end of soccer, so it was with great joy that we hauled ourselves to the field. This was a special day because it was parent’s day. We got to get out there and PRACTICE! WITH OUR KIDS! WHO WOULD GIVE US POINTERS!

The boys were gleeful about this, so Clay and I donned our running shoes and headed out to join them. I took the first round with Max, so I found myself standing in a line with a herd of 7 year olds; waiting for my turn to intercept a ball as it came hurtling out of a ball machine. The idea was to stop it with a kick that would send it flying into the goal. Heh. I was unable to plan my strategy for this, as I was too busy looking around and noticing that there were no other parents in my line. Oh yeah, there were a few grandparents, taking pictures and exclaiming over their grandkids, but ALL the parents in that particular group opted out.


I was sort of into it, to tell you the truth. See, I played soccer when I was a kid. And I was *ahem* rather good. At least, I believed I was. The stories were all positive. And I remember the FEELING of skimming the ground, running full-tilt down the field, and slamming the ball into the goal. It was heady.

Unfortunately, I seem to have aged out of all my soccer skills, and responded to this particular drill by jogging awkwardly toward the ball, missing it, apologizing to no-one in particular, and then kicking it in the general direction of the goal. “GENERAL” being a key point here. Once I actually directed the ball so that it sailed in a lovely arc and hit my very own son in the backside. In my defense, he was IN the goal at the time, leaning over to fish his ball out of the net. He whipped around to glare at me, and I shrugged helplessly.

We took our balls back to the ball machine and ran back to our place in line (good heavens, the RUNNING! My legs still hurt!). As we stood there, the girl behind Max sidled up to him and asked,

“Sooo…do you want any opera?” Max thought about it, then said,

“Nah, not right now.”

She looked at me and nodded primly.

“He loves my beautiful opera.”

“SHOOT!” It was the boy standing in line in front of me. “I don’t think I put any underwear on!” He started frantically feeling himself through his shorts. “My mom’s gonna yell at me if she finds out. I always forget the underwear.” I started to nod, but just then Max turned to the opera girl and allowed as how yes, he would like some opera after all. She started singing random phrases in a piercing warble, while Max listened, nodding thoughtfully.

Somehow…soccer’s not how I remember it.

Clay and I both survived our soccer day, and the boys got their end-of-season certificates and cookies and hot chocolate. We headed back to the van, tired but happy. Tre looked over his shoulder at the field and sighed,

“I want to play soccer again next year.”

Again? I thought. But I looked back with him and agreed,

“Yeah, it was good, wasn’t it?”