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December 2005
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February 2006

Sixty to zero in the morning

Raphael was the first to wake up this morning. I heard his feet hit the floor with a thud, then trot trot trot over to me. He had taken his pajama top off in the night, so he was cold, and he crawled under the covers next to me. He pulled my arms around him and I rubbed his back. Under my hands I felt cold, tight gooseflesh give way to satiny warm skin. He sighed happily and squirmed all over, painting himself with mama-attention.

“I just wanna stay with you for…SIXTY seconds,” he whispered.


“Sixty is my favorite number.”

“I know.”

“Because it’s more than one, and two, and three, and four, and five-“

We have this conversation often. He enumerated the reasons he loves sixty right up to 39, then he drifted off.

“You know,” I said, “sixty seconds is one minute.” He looked at me, startled.

“ONE MINUTE? That’s not enough. I will stay for…FIVE minutes.”

“Five minutes is three hundred seconds,” I said. He sighed wearily, as though I’d informed him the sky was blue.


“Oh. Ok.”

He grabbed my left hand and fiddled with my engagement ring. He loves my ring, and always wants to hold the hand it’s on so he can surreptitiously spin it on my finger. He’s also forever trying to wiggle it off my finger, like I won’t notice, larceny-boy.

“I’m just going to check your ring RIGHT THERE on your finger, ok, Mama?” he assured me.

“Ok, honey.”

He sighed.

“It’s so sparkly.” He kissed the ring. After a moment’s ring-fiddling glee, he flopped over on my torso, offering his back for rubbing. I complied, tracing circles on his sturdy brown skin. He wriggled and sighed with contentment.

All was right in the world, until the cat walked by and he slid out of bed and trotted off, determined to demonstrate his love. The cat ran away and my arms were left conspicuously empty.

Shopping silliness

The other day I went into a chi chi bra shop, in the endless search for a bra that will work with my wedding dress. WHO KNEW it would be so hard? This has become my second job, which is NOT A GOOD THING, because I already have seventeen full time jobs at last count.

Anyhow, this shop is downtown, in the area of Denver where people wear shoes that have names. Where dogs get custom-designed collars. Where noses are surgically altered especially for looking down.

Not exactly my stomping ground, you know.

But I combed my hair, scraped the dried smear of yogurt off my shirt with my fingernail, and bravely headed to the land of the well-heeled. There is a lingerie shop down there that caters to brides and other self-absorbed boob owners.

I walked in the door and was immediately greeted by Amanda, who COULD NOT have been MORE DELIGHTED that I’d come into her store. She smiled warmly and asked if she could help me.

“Well, I need a bra,” – she smiled joyfully – “to wear under my wedding dress,” – she nodded with barely restrained excitement – “and I’m having trouble finding one that’s low enough in the back.” She clasped my elbow as though we were old school chums and all but chortled with glee.

“Come RIGHT THIS WAY, dear!”

I followed her, musing on the oddness of being called “dear” by someone who looked young enough to have “CLASS OF ’07 ROX” written on her car window in shoe polish. She led me to a dressing room, yanked the heavy gold curtain closed, turned to me, clasped her hands, and declared,
”OK THEN, why don’t you slip off your top?” I looked around for a moment, bemused. I…uh…am not in the habit of taking my shirt off in front of strangers.

“You know, that line NEVER works for Clay,” I muttered. She cocked her head at me like a puzzled poodle, and I sighed and pulled my sweater off.

“Ooooo, cute bra!” she exclaimed, and I grinned like I’d passed a pop quiz.

The feeling was not to last long. Apparently the ONLY THINGS wrong about my bra choice are band size, cup size, and how the shoulder straps are adjusted. Other than that, I’m fine.

As soon as she’d appraised my disastrous bra choosing skills, she trotted off to find me some bras, leaving me alone with a full-length mirror and some time to THINK ABOUT WHAT I’D DONE.

She came back with an armful of satin and lace, whipped off my cute-but-wrong bra and started strapping me into something she assured me was “scrumptious.” Once she had it fully fastened in back, she spun me around, REACHED IN, and proceeded to prop my each breast just so in its cup. She turned me to the mirror and dimpled with glee.

“Isn’t that PERFECT? Aren’t you ADORABLE?”

“OK? OK? You’re so SWEET!”

I sighed.

“Well, I have had three children, you know.”

I have to admit here that saying that was a ploy. It was a little game I like to play with fawning bridal salespeople. I call it, hey you, flatter me.

It always works.

“WHAT? YOU HAVE NOT!” She all but smacked me on both shoulders, Elaine-style.

“No, it’s true.”


“Oh, you’re too kind,” I smiled demurely. Too blind would have been a more accurate description, particularly considering she’d only recently been handling my much-used rack.

“You don’t look OLD ENOUGH to have kids!”

Uh, yeah, right. I can play along with the whole “you’re too tiny and waifish to be a mom” fantasy, but too young? Dear me, no.

“Well…I’m not. I’m thirty-four.”


“No, really!”

It went on like that for a while. She exclaimed, I looked modestly at the floor and smiled a wee Mona Lisa smile. I should be ashamed. I would be, if I weren’t so TINY and YOUNG.


And maybe delusional.


Anyhow, at the end of the visit I had acquired three things: a new bra that is being altered for my very own self, the knowledge that bras can be altered, because WHO KNEW?, and a new BFF in Amanda.

Not a bad day of shopping.

Thoughts about Friends (with a plea at the end)

Yesterday my sons had some friends come over to play. Luke and his little brother Jonah are from


, and are simply too adorable for words. They’ve taught my sons to refer to farts as “fluff”, and they go around calling their jackets “jumpers.” I want to pinch their cheeks and adopt them and feed them soup.

To sum up: cute.

But what’s even more adorable is the sound of my sons, rampaging with their little foreign correspondent buddies, taking on their accents.

“Jo-u-nahhh,” Max called to the younger boy, “whe-ah ah yoo?”

I had to eat them all, they were so cute.

It made me think, though, about the nature of friendship. I have a book here somewhere with a forward in it written by Stephen King. Would you believe it’s in the ONE BOX I’ve packed, and would you FURTHER believe it’s the SECOND book I’ve wanted out of that one little box?
Anyhow, to paraphrase, Mr. King said when he reads certain writers, he takes on a touch of their style, the way milk sitting in the fridge will absorb the odors near it.

And so we are with the people we admire. My sons, after an afternoon with friends from


, were starting to bend their words in a slightly different direction (not so slight for Max, but he’s given to adopting accents. It’s not my job to understand, you know). I’ve noticed them taking on other attributes too, when friends are around. They’re completely wild when the girls from across the street are here. When Wyatt has been here, they’re more apt than usual to be flinging a ball around.

This is why I’m all grins when some of their friends are over, and have a sternly set jaw when others are here.

It’s also why I’m so grateful for my own friends.

This weekend three of my dearest friends threw me the best bridal shower ever. They invited my nearest and dearest, and knowing my unnatural love for books, they devised a theme around BOOKS. Everyone brought a book to represent themselves (e.g.


’s Black Box for Susan, my smarty-pants scientist friend). After I’d opened the books and guessed who they were from, they decorated a bookshelf for me. They decoupaged poems and pictures and (in the case of my smarty-pants scientist friend) lewd comments all over the bookshelf. Every time I look at it I will remember the women who love me so well I can’t help but be a better person, and be grateful.

And speaking of women who inspire, I’d like to ask you all to take a look at what Mir’s doing. I’m so proud of her I can barely express it. Go, read, and support. Mir is one of my people who help me be more, and this is a fine thing she’s doing.

Ready to go, but not quite ready to leave

Claire, our beautiful stupid cat, won’t be moving with us to the new house. Clay is allergic to cats, and Tre is allergic to everything, so Claire will be staying with my parents. Mom likes to have a cat in the house anyhow.

Claire sleeps with me for most of the night. Lately I’ve been very aware of her. I wake in the middle of the night to hear her furiously tearing around my room, chasing some figment of her imagination. Or I’ll discover she’s planted herself right in the middle of the spot I’m sleeping in, and I’ve contorted my legs around her in an effort not to disturb her.

Stupid cat, I mutter, nudging her to one side.

Then I lay awake, wondering what it will be like to have her not there.

Today we went to Costco and I carried some of the things we bought upstairs in a medium sized white box. This evening, after I ran a bath for Max, I noticed the box sitting on my bed, empty. I should save that, I thought, to pack stuff in. I stood there for a moment, thinking about that. The wedding is one month from today. What am I waiting for?

So I took the box and looked around my room. Where to start?

I pulled some books off the nearest shelf and fitted them into the box. Anthology of American Literature. How many times have I packed THIS thing? Why am I moving it again? I never read it.

Into the box.

Joshilyn’s book. Ann Tyler. Shakespeare. Amy Tan. Some books I will reread, books I won’t, but it wouldn’t feel like home without them near.

When I finished, the top two shelves were clear, and they looked so barren. I labeled the box, blue marker on white cardboard, and hid it in another room.

Today many of the neighborhood kids were playing at our house. The air vibrated with the noise of what seemed like a thousand kids trampling through. Several of them went out back, to the garden. There is a great digging project going on out there. After a while, Tre came running in, sounding the alert.

“MAMA MAMA, Max got hit in the nose with a shovel! He’s bleeding!”
”Bummer,” I replied, grabbing a fistful of paper towels.

Max was indeed bleeding, dropping bright starbursts of red on the grey rock by the garden. Although he had tears still trembling on the tips of his eyelashes, he was matter-of-fact about the injury.

“I got hit by the shovel,” he shrugged as I gently pressed the towels to his nose. Natalie, who had been swinging the shovel, stood next to him and twisted her hands. Her blue eyes were huge and she looked like she feared a lengthy prison sentence.

“It’s ok, honey,” I said, “accidents happen. Did that scare you?” She nodded mutely, and I started to say something, but looked over her shoulder to the garden.

Every winter it’s the same story. The boys, finally free to do as they please in the garden, tear up the dirt with craters that look like a tiny war happened in the back yard. This year’s holes are exceptional, with tunnels connecting them. When spring comes I’m out there, swearing as I work to reconstruct my garden. You know, all dirt isn’t the same. The top nine inches or so? Lovely loamy loose soil. Under that? Sand and rocks and muck you don’t want to put a tomato plant in. So I smooth out the war zone, dig in huge amounts of compost, and start all over.

But today, as I held a red-blooming wad of white paper towel to Max’s nose, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be repairing this garden this spring. I felt a pang of guilt, as though I were abandoning it.

One day, toward the end of soccer season, Clay and I were sitting on the side of the field with Mom and Dad. The day’s practice was almost over, and the coach walked over to us.

“I need all parents over here for a meeting,” he called out, and walked off toward a group of moms and dads. Clay and I stood up and followed him. After a few yards, I looked back to see Mom and Dad, still sitting in their red canvas folding chairs. I motioned for them to join us, but Mom shook her head and shooed us on.

The sun was setting and the air was golden, with the chill of dusk. I looked at Clay, joining the group, then back at Mom, who smiled and nodded.

Then I walked on.

Hey! Here's some things my kids said that I don't understand!

I glanced under Tre’s desk to see that he had stashed a tray of writing paper at his feet. The edges of the paper closest to him were rumpled and greyed by the endless motion of his shoes.

“Honey? Why is your paper under your desk?”

“Oh, that! I solved the problem of having to walk all the way over there,” he pointed at the cupboard five feet away, “for my paper. Cool, huh?”

I looked down at the lightly mangled paper, then back up at my bright-faced boy who was bouncing slightly on his ball.

“Yeah, but your feet are sort of smashing your paper, Tre.”

He looked down, and shrugged.

“I haven’t figured out all the details yet.”

I was IM ing with a friend this morning when Tre yelled at me from the other room,
”Hey, Mom! This morning, I weighed myself and I weighed 81 pounds.”

“Wow, you’re getting big,” I replied.

“AND THEN? I pooped! And THEN I weighed 80.6 pounds.”

“Oh. You don’t say? Um…thank you? For sharing?”

Toward the end of the church service on Sunday, Max sat bolt upright in his seat, then leaned across Clay and waved frantically to get my attention. I leaned in to hear his whisper.

“Mama? I just noticed something!”

“What, honey?”

“I don’t like pizza anymore.”

I studied him for a moment, waiting for the missing piece of information that would make that make sense. But he just nodded at me seriously.

“Ok, Max. No pizza for you.”


We exchanged thumb-up and went back to contemplating our (apparently verrrry different) thoughts on the sermon.

Raphael is got sent to his room today for a time out. A few…um…ten minutes later, I wandered upstairs to see why he was so quiet. Yeah, I FORGOT I’d sent him off to solitary confinement. I’d been happily wallowing in all the peace and quiet, and it wasn’t until the serenity stretched out longer than normal that I thought vaguely that something wasn’t right and meandered off to see what was up.


I’m such a bad mom, did I ever tell you?

Anyhow, Raphael was sitting in the middle of his mattress, playing with his feet and biding his time. I couldn’t help but notice that the mattress was bare. The floor around him was littered with sheets, pillow and pillow case, and his comforter. He grinned up at me.

“Hey there, son. What happened to your bed?”

“Mama? Don’t you know that four plus five is nine?”

“Yes, honey, I know that. What happened to your sheets?”

He looked around and sighed.

“Well, Mama. Those sheets?” He shook his head wearily, “they just weren’t working for me.”

“Oh really? Why not?”

Another heavy sigh.

“You wouldn’t understand.”

Well. Ain’t that the truth?

Because loose teeth are gross but childhood is sweet and short

Tre lost yet another tooth today. He seems to be spewing teeth out of his mouth at an alarming rate. Today’s tooth was a molar. He’d been wiggling it with serious devotion since the night before, and halfway through lunch at McDonald’s he leapt up from the table and announced he was going to the bathroom. He came back a few minutes later, blood streaking his cheek, and happily dropped the tooth in my hand.

“There ya go,” he crowed. I shuddered a little at the nugget of gore and enamel resting on my palm and forced a smile.

“Hey, great, you got it out. Heh. You…have a little blood there on your cheek.” He sauntered off to get a napkin and came back a minute later with a wad of paper stuck in his cheek. He took it out and inspected the blood, then shoved it back in.

“So, did it hurt?” I asked.

“Yeah.” He was nonchalant, and took off to play.

Tonight he put the tooth under his pillow with a note for the tooth fairy that read, “You’re going to go bankrupt, ha ha ha ha ha ha! I have another loose tooth! Just kidding.”

When I sneaked in to get the tooth he stirred so I scampered out of his room without leaving the dollar. I went back later to slip it under his pillow, but he woke up and lifted his head to look at me with a startled concentration.

“Hi, honey,” I whispered. “I just came in to kiss you good night.”

He nodded and offered me his forehead. I kissed it, then as I turned to go, he sat upright in bed.

“Hey, I wonder if the tooth fairy came!”

He rummaged under his pillow and was worried when he couldn’t find either the note or the tooth. Fortunately I was able to “find” his dollar where it had slipped down beside his bed (who am I fooling here? NO ONE. That is entirely beside the point). He unfolded the dollar and grinned at it in the dark. I hugged him and breathed in the puppy-dog scent of his hair.

“You know the tooth fairy would give you a million dollars for each tooth if she could,” I murmured.

“I know.”

“But then you’d probably be pretty spoiled, huh?”

He smiled at me and nodded.

“Yeah, I guess I would.”

He laid down and closed his eyes again and I tiptoed out.

I got your mental illness number RIGHT HERE, Joss

I’m afraid I have to confess something to you all. It seems, in the process of planning this wedding, that I have lost my ever-loving mind. Entirely. Am wacko. Kindly send chocolate and soft shoes in which to shuffle about.

The other day I was driving along, peacefully traveling the highway, when I passed another car. The driver, a man, was passing a cell phone to the young boy in the back seat. From that gesture I deduced:

A) The man was handing his son the cell phone so he could talk to his mother, who

B) LOVED the man and his son OH SO VERY MUCH and

C) Would be EVER SO SAD with this dork of a phone-passing driver killed himself and their son on the highway but even so

D) Wasn’t it so very SWEET and DEAR that he was tenderly facilitating his son’s relationship with his mother?

And so I burst into tears and cried and cried for at least three miles.

Today I went to have my first fitting for the wedding dress. I drove there, fretting about everything that could go wrong and crying at songs on the radio. Seriously, don’t you wish you could hang out with me? But I got there, not late or mangled in a car accident, or with a dress that turned out to be half maroon due to some freak dressmaking accident that I’d just failed to notice the last time I peeked in the bag…

*pant, pant*

Anyhow, I arrived just fine. I wrestled my way into my weirdo bra, shoes, and dress, and set out to be fitted. And hey, you know what? Despite being made for an Amazon, the dress? She fits me fairly well. However, the bra I bought (and spent a good four times what I’m accustomed to spending on a bra) is NOT going to work. The seamstress (who is also our priest’s wife, and a dear person) hmmm-ed at my back and said,

“Oh, well, this isn’t going to work.”

“WHAT? WHAT? WHERE?” I replied in my gentle way.

“The bra comes up a bit too high back here.”

“OH NO.”

“It’s ok, we’ll just-“


“No, no, that won’t be necessary. Let’s just go ahead for now, and you can buy another bra.”

Well OF COURSE, I thought. A new bra. THAT would be a better plan than finding another dress. Kindly shut up now, Kira.

“Um…is that ok?” she asked.

Oh, answer her, then shut up.

“Yes! Not talking anymore now.” I said brightly. Shoot. I said that last part in the outside my head voice, didn’t I?

However, she’s accustomed to dealing with brides, so she didn’t bat an eye. She just went on pinning things, and calmly asked if I needed a drink of water or anything. I replied that I was fine, JUST FINE, and spent the rest of the visit wondering if lying to your priest’s wife sends you deeper into hell or not.

Five weeks, four days to go.

This is going to get interesting.

With God's help

Today at church was the Sunday we remember Jesus’ baptism, and a couple had their baby daughter baptized. She was a tiny thing with a velvety head, swimming in layer upon layer of lace on her gown.

I stood and watched her be baptized, with one hand resting Tre’s shoulder. Clay held Raphael and Max stood in front of us, craning to see the action. I tried to focus on the service, I tried not to remember, I tried to stay in today, but I just couldn’t.

Raphael was baptized on this Sunday, four years ago.

I can’t attend a baptism anymore without being there again.

You know how it’s said there is a Muslim law that allows a man to divorce his wife by saying three times, “I divorce you”? It seems to me that my ex divorced me like that, with three occasions that screamed in my face that he was gone. The first would have been that moment, outside his girlfriend’s apartment, when I yanked my wedding ring off my finger and threw it at him. He let it fall to the ground without a thought, and I can still hear the ping of metal against concrete.

The second event was Raphael’s baptism.

He was six months old, and I had been separated from his dad for two months. I wasn’t sure if my ex would show up for the service or not. He hadn’t met with the priest beforehand, even though Fr. Praveen had offered to drive out to his work or to meet him at a restaurant after he got off work. He avoided meeting him and avoided it until it was just too late. I wondered if Fr. Praveen was going to tell him he couldn’t be there, couldn’t present his son for baptism, but he didn’t.

He should have.

Not because my ex didn’t deserve to be there, but because he really, really didn’t want to. He did show up, late. He shuffled into the back of the church and I almost didn’t recognize him. He wore a black leather jacket, and jeans with a fringe of torn strings hanging over his shoes. His head was shaved, and he looked gaunt and grey. The moment arrived to present our son, and I moved to the front of the church. Tre and Max shadowed me, and in my arms Raphael was silent and content, looking like an angel in his christening coat. I nodded curtly at my ex, and he hurried up to join us. Max’s face lit up at the sight of him, and he rushed over and climbed up in his arms. I turned away, but I couldn’t help but compare this raw, sad man to the proud father he’d been. He’d worn a suit when Tre and Max were baptized. He’d smiled delightedly and taken a hundred pictures. Now he couldn’t even make eye contact.

I stood there before the same alter we’d knelt before a thousand times, during the days we were a unit, two parts of a whole. Now, standing there with everything the same except us, I could almost feel the break. Fissures snaking between us, broken shards splintering and falling.

When you present your infant for baptism, you make promises. I wondered if he could say them, if he could promise these things.

Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life?”

“I will, with God’s help,” I replied shakily. He muttered a few of the words, then trailed off into silence.

Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?”

“I will, with God’s help.”

We went on with the service, renouncing evil, promising to turn to God. We repeated our own baptismal covenant and recited the core beliefs of our faith. My ex stood back a little, and I could hear him whispering some of the words, but mostly mouthing them in silence. He couldn’t say any of it in good conscience, and yet he couldn’t bring himself to disbelieve confidently enough to lie. It felt like standing next to a cloud, and I felt myself drawing back from him, pulling Raphael to me protectively. I felt a rare moment of anger, and wished he’d stayed away. Be gone, then, I thought. If you’re going, be gone.

Fr. Praveen asked, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?”

“I will, with God’s help.”

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

I replied, “I will, with God’s help.”

And I broke inside.

Turning from my husband, turning to God, Who turned me back to seeking Christ in all persons, even him. Love him? Respect him? In return for contempt? Let him go and I held him gently, all at once.

I handed over my son to Fr. Praveen and thought about how God sees us. All of us as helpless and dear as this son of mine. I thought of how God must ache for this man, His child, to choose light he once knew.

I cannot attend a baptism now without remembering what it felt like to be there, feeling the weight of that kind of love.

I have always cried at baptisms, but now I stand, dry-eyed and somber, and remember. Today I put my head on Clay’s shoulder and thought of how far removed I am from that day, how changed by it I am still.

I do, with God’s help.

Max, my complex boy, worries me at times. He’s…what? He’s stroppy (thank you, Alison). Here’s an illustration: when Tre was a baby and breastfeeding, he bit me once. I jumped and said sternly, “No biting.” His little chin wobbled, he burst into tears, and he never never bit me again (at least, not when breastfeeding. He did bite everyone’s toes for a while, but that’s a different story). Max, on the other hand, bit me the first time when he was about four months old. I, confident that I knew how to handle this, jumped and said sternly, “NO BITING.” Max looked back at me, milk dribbling down his chin, and giggled.

And proceeded to bite me every. single. time. he nursed. On his first birthday I handed him a bottle and informed him that the days of treating Mama like chewing gum were over.

Here is the crux of my relationship with Max: I still feel guilty for weaning him. And so it goes. He pushes and pushes and pushes and no matter how I react, I fret it wasn’t the RIGHT way or the BEST way and I feel guilty and worry about him. I just don’t know if I’m up to the job of being his mother. At night I sit by his bed sometimes and pray special prayers for him. Please be ok, I think, smoothing back his thick, wavy hair. Please be happy and well.

Today the boys were building a fort with all the pillows and blankets in the house. Raphael was being entirely obnoxious during this project. He crawled over newly constructed walls, he hid under blankets and SCREAMED in that special pitch that makes the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I don’t know what his deal was this morning, but he was taking devilish glee in tormenting his brothers. When he’d knocked down one too many carefully constructed forts, Tre had HAD IT with the child.

“THAT’S IT,” I heard him bellow, “I’m not building forts with you ANY MORE, EVER.”

Raphael promptly burst into tears and ran to me. He planted his feet in front of me, dropped his head back and wailed with wide open mouth. There were no words, just a torrent of sorrow. I watched him in silence, waiting for him to calm down enough to outline his tale of woe. Max stood behind me, I assumed so he could tell me the extent of Raphael’s wrongs. I sat down and rubbed Raphi’s arms, gentling him a bit.

“Tre…said…he…won’t…build…forts…with…meeeeeeeee,” he wept. I nodded, but before I could answer, Max’s arm snaked over my shoulder. He caught one of his brother’s tears with his finger, then the other. I turned to look at him, and his face was twisted with grief of his own.

“You ok, honey?”

He nodded, but his jaw was set against tears.

“It just breaks my heart right up to see him cry like that.”

I swiveled a bit, so I could pull them both on my lap. Raphi collapsed against my chest, full of a sense of having been wronged. Max leaned against me and tangled his fingers in my hair. I hugged them both and murmured the truth, comforting us all.

“It’s ok. You’re ok.”

The Circle of Baths

One of Raphael’s favorite pastimes is taking a bath. Day or night, friends visiting or not, when the mood strikes, he starts stripping down and heading for the tub.

Today was our first day back at homeschooling after a two week break, so when Raphael finished his work, peered around the room for a moment, then declared he’d like a bath, I was happy to oblige. Tre and Max were elbow deep in the work of avoiding their work, and I was busy with constructive parenting moves such as threatening to eat their livers. So.

Raphael trucked off to the bathroom to shuck his clothing. There is a strict order to these things, you know. He will go to the bathroom alone, remove his clothes, and inform me when I am permitted to join him. Then, ONLY AFTER HE HAS CLIMBED INTO THE TUB, I may start the water. He shimmies up the wall, his hands planted on the side of the tub, his feet gripping the tiles, watching the incoming water with horror, until I assure him it’s ok, it’s not cold, and then he eases down and touches it with his toe. Deep sigh of relief, and he hunkers down in the water.

Today, after he had settled down into the tub, I asked if he’d like some bubbles in his bath. I always offer, and he almost always refuses, which is a source of some pain to me. I associate bubble baths with happiness, and I seem to be thwarted in my sincere efforts to give my children a happy, bubble-berry scented childhood. Max doesn’t use bubble bath, since he tends to break out in rashes. Tre doesn’t take baths anymore, but has morphed into a bizarrely self-cleaning child. “Go take a shower,” I say, and fifteen minutes later he’s standing there, with freshly shampooed hair, smelling like soap and lotion and durn near godliness. (Lest you think he’s a well-groomed child by nature, I did discover the other day that he’d been wearing the same pair of socks for nearly a week. The smell…good Lord, the smell...)

Anyhow, Raphael generally prefers his water unadulterated by bubbles, so IMAGINE MY JOY when I offered him bubble bath and he cocked his head at me and replied,

“Ok. Yes. Yes, I do want bubbles.”

I poured thick globs of purple Scooby-Do bubble mix in the water, exclaiming over the resultant mounds of foam. Raphi slid back and forth in the water, then reached over the side for a dinosaur toy (Allosaurus, Mama. It’s not called Long Neck). He plunged the toy in the water, then lifted it up. Bubbles clung to its surface, and Raphael paused, mid-roar. He batted at the bubbles.

“I just KNEW I should have chosen no bubbles,” he muttered.

Makes me wonder, will he be disappointed some day, years from now, when his child dearly wishes for bubble baths? WILL THE CYCLE NEVER END?

After his bath he emerged, slick-haired and wrapped in a fuzzy blue bathrobe. He padded into the kitchen and smiled at me.

“Hi, Mama. I’m done.”

“I see that. Did you have a good bath?”


“Did you like the bubbles?”



“Are you going to have bubbles NEXT time?”

He gave me a somber look.

“No Mama. So don’t ask.”