Previous month:
May 2006
Next month:
July 2006

My mom, the sex nurse

So when I was in fifth grade, my mom was the local public health nurse. To be honest I didn’t know exactly what that meant, except that in our small town the people who didn’t say, “OH, you’re Marty’s kid” would be sure to say instead, “OH, you’re Dawn’s kid!”


Well, the other thing it meant was that she came to my school to teach the public health courses.


When I was about ten or eleven, my mother – MY MOTHER – stood at the front of the class and talked about things like uteruses and menstrual flow. I sat in my seat, staring very hard at my desk and pretending like I didn’t have any mother OR ovaries. Thank GOD the boys and the girls had been separated, or I swear my head would have simply burst into flames and I would have died, the end, amen.

After the talk – there were posters involved, as I remember – Mom asked if anyone had any questions.

Stony silence.

“Ok, fine. Why don’t you write down your questions on these pieces of paper?” She handed out slips of paper. If I wrote anything (and I don’t think I did), I suspect it was, “WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?”

She gathered the paper and solemnly opened the first one, which was folded in a tight, sweaty bundle. Is it fun, being a sex nurse? it read. She blinked at it for a moment, then set it down and chose another paper. Do you like being the sex nurse? Ahem. Next paper. What’s it like to be a sex nurse?

“Ok! End of question time!”

We were excused to lunch. As we lined up outside the cafeteria we were joined by the boys. As they sauntered up, Chris called out to us with a smirk,

“HEY! Girls got a VAGINA!” Danielle, who was entirely tough and unafraid of any word, shot back,

“So what? Boys got a PENIS!”

The whole class burst out into relieved laughter, happy to have the subject safely back in the hands of hooligans.

This is all Mir's fault

Ok, look. It’s RIGHT NOW 9:40, and I promised myself I would walk AWAY from the computer and TOWARD bed at 10 pm, so this is going to be quick.

And somewhat incoherent, because I still don’t know what I’m going to write about.

I asked Mir to tell me what to blog about, because she’d just moments before given me THE PERFECT snack suggestion, but she didn’t give me any blog ideas AT ALL. The perfect snack, by the way, was a bowl of cereal. Frosted mini-wheats, if you really want to know. But did she tell me what to blog? NO. NO SHE DID NOT. I accused her of hogging all the good bloggy ideas, and I swear I could hear her rolling her eyes from allllll the way across the country.

You should go see how pretty her new site is, by the way. Tell her I sent you. And tell her she should have given me a blog topic so you didn’t have to read this.

9:44. Yeep.

My husband is in the kitchen behind me, eating ice cream. ‘Tis very cute, his thing about ice cream. He’s all fit and healthy and stuff (obsessed with broccoli, if you can imagine), and yet every night he moseys over to the fridge and eats himself some ice cream. I love it because it’s evidence that he’s human, and I didn’t actually marry some sort of perfect man robot.

Heh. Not that the perfect man robot deal isn’t working for me. LOVE YA, BABE!

DID I TELL YOU? The boys are SLEEPING IN BEDS! FER REALS! See, Clay finished Raphael’s room (finished =  not painted or carpeted…uh…or having any outlets, but everything else is done), so Jennie could sleep down there while she was here. This led to a situation where Raphael would quiz her every morning about when she was going home so he could sleep in his own room. He meant it in a very loving way, I’m sure. I had my doubts that he would sleep down there, in the basement, alone in his room. He has never, NEVER in all his life slept alone in a room. He’s always shared with at least one brother. So to go from that to being the only person in the whole basement? Well, it just seemed unlikely.

And yet that’s just what he did. The first night Jennie was gone he flew through tooth brushing and ran into his room and snuggled down to sleep. Didn’t see him until morning. And since we were down to only TWO boys in the upstairs bedroom, we moved Max and Tre’s beds over, and now they are all sleeping in actual beds. It is fabulous. They exclaim over how great it is to be sleeping in a bed just about every night. It makes me think about how much I hated sleeping when I was pregnant, because I couldn’t sleep on my stomach. To this day I have a moment of joyful satisfaction when I roll over on my stomach at night. Yes, I know that’s bad for my neck and is going to give me wrinkles. Hush.

Anyhow, I wonder if, after four months of sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor, the boys are always going to appreciate going to bed in actual beds? Will they sink into their mattresses, fifty years from now, thinking how good it is to have beds? And if they do, will that mean that by making them sleep on the floor we’ve done them some sort of favor, and it wasn't borderline child abuse?
OH SHOOT, I just remembered. I was going to tell you about how my mom was the sex nurse at school when I was in fifth grade! But look, now it’s 9:56. It’ll have to wait for tomorrow.

Morning insight

I am not a morning person. No, no, it’s true. I don’t have anything AGAINST mornings; they’d be just fine if they only happened later in the day. But people are constantly telling me I’m wrong. “OH, I ALWAYS get up before the kids do! I get so much DONE when the house is quiet!”

“It’s such a SPECIAL time of day! I wouldn’t miss my quiet time in the morning for ANYTHING!”

Yeah yeah, whatever, says I.

But this morning, when Clay left for work at his usual hour (so early that the morning birds ruffled their feathers and cast irritated looks at him for making noise), I lay in bed thinking about my day. I have to take the boys to VBS and then run to the store, and go pick up Melyssa’s kids and then pick up my boys, who will be incoherent with delight to see their cousins, and then we’re all going to have a picnic and go hiking – who am I kidding? Those kids are totally going to eat all the food before we get there – and then after the hike…

Just thinking about the things I WILL do today left me tired, and then I started mulling about all the OTHER things I should be doing too. Hmm. I could lie here and have a panic attack, or I could get up already and do a few things while I can.

So I did.

I shuffled out to the kitchen and made myself some tea. I folded a load of laundry. I answered some emails. Now I’m sitting here, in the quiet, feeling the morning air lay cool against my skin. The boys are starting to stir and I can’t help but think…

Man, I wish I were asleep.

Stuff and nonsense. Mostly the latter.

Max stood behind me, rubbing his arm and grimacing.

“Mom? My arm hurts.”

Tre looked up from his book.

“Your left arm? We learned at the Ready Man class [a mega first-aid class for Cub Scouts] that when your left arm hurts it means you’re having a heart attack.”

Max silently massaged his arm and tried to look unconcerned.

“Well, but usually NOT if you’re SEVEN, right, Tre?” I said with meaningful emphasis.

“Oh,” he went back to his book, “yeah, whatever.”


Hey, remember when I said I would answer EACH AND EVERY comment? Remember that? And we had that great weekend, where y’all left all those great comments (you wouldn’t believe how many Google hits I get from people searching “muffin jokes.” Seriously), and I answered them ALL, and I had a renewed sense of commitment to YOU and I threw myself into answering comments – ALL COMMENTS?


That’s not gonna happen.

I mean, it lasted about a week, but let’s face it; I’m not that good of a person. I mean, I read all the comments, and I answer you all in my head…but…

Picture me hanging my head in shame, surreptitiously checking out of the corner of my eye to see if you’ve forgiven me yet.

HOW ABOUT THIS? I promise – I PROMISE to answer at least ONE comment a day! And then you can leave your comments and if you get an email back from me, it will be like HEY! I WON KIRA’S COMMENTS TODAY! And then you can feel good about yourself and I can stop feeling guilty. Does that sound good to everyone? Does anyone really even care?


The boys are going to VBS this week. Everyone familiar with Vacation Bible School? It’s a fabulous thing churches do every summer, where they take your children away for a few hours and sing songs with them and do crafts and feed them snacks and then YOU don’t have to do those things and it is good. This morning as I was dropping the boys off Raphael informed us that he’s been going to VBS for lots of days for the past seven years.

“Seven years? How can that be, when you’re just five?” I asked. He sighed noisily at me.


And indeed he seems to be concentrating, because when I picked the boys up at noon, in the midst of the happy chatter about the day Raphael intoned seriously,

“And then came The Bad Part.”

We all stopped talking and turned to him.

“What bad part?”

“I will tell you The Bad Part.” He paused, drinking in our silent attention. “We were walking through the halls and They Lost A Kid.”

“WHAT? Did they FIND him?”

“No. Not Ever.”

And then he launched into a very long story about the kid who was lost, and how he wasn’t supposed to leave the line, but he did, and how his shirt was purple and he was supposed to look for a grown up with a blue shirt, because they are the helpers, but he didn’t see any of them and how there was a rope, but he couldn’t grab it, and so he wandered and there weren’t any snacks, but back in the classroom they had animal crackers and there were penguins in the animal crackers and he had never seen animal crackers that were penguins before but they didn’t taste any different and the teen helper took them all outside to play a game with water balloons and –

And my ears bled and I was seven years older by the time we got home.

I still don’t know what happened to the kid who got lost.


Thank you for everyone’s kind comments about the picture on yesterday’s post. For those of you who asked, it was taken by a friend of mine, Kristy. She happens to do portrait photography and her wedding gift to Clay and me was a portrait. So we had a family photo session done while Jennie was here, and the pictures came out just great, even if she declined to Photo Shop twenty pounds off my butt like I asked. Seriously, some people can be so selfish.


There is a house whose back yard faces the park I walk Carmi through most nights. In this yard is a great big dog that looks like some sort of Vicious/Evil cross. Whenever Carmi and I walk past this hound from hell throws himself at the fence (which is missing a few boards) and flings saliva around as he barks and vows to kill us all, yea down unto our great-great-grandchildren.

ON the fence are two hand-lettered signs that read, “Keep You’re Dogs Away.”

I seriously, seriously want to tack on a sign below that reads, “Keep Studying YOUR Grammar.”

Whaddya think? Would it be worth possible dismemberment by Cujo? Every day I pass those signs, I think it might be.


I leave you with a quote from Max, who did not die of a heart attack, and instead survived to play baseball. After his game the other night he remarked to Clay,

“You know, I almost like the compliments I get at the end of the game as much as I like playing baseball.”

THAT’S my boy.

This kind of family

In the weeks leading up to Jennie’s visit I was a tad nervous.

A tad.

At one point my friend Heather shook her head at me, “Oh, she’s just a 14 year old girl. RELAX.”

Yes yes, I know. But she’s not ANY 14 year old girl, she’s Clay’s daughter, making her a big part of his heart. And…she’s a 14 year old girl.

I remember being 14. I was insane. I couldn’t imagine myself, at that age, being cooped up with three young boys for two weeks. Blood would have been shed.

And yes, Jennie and the boys have always gotten along before, but they’d never LIVED together. And I may remember BEING a teenaged girl, but that doesn’t mean I know what to DO with a teenaged girl. I’m thoroughly accustomed to boys, to my gaggle of noisy, smelly, inappropriately behaving boys.

Ok, and here we get to the heart of my worst fear: how would I handle it when my sons annoyed her? Could I be fair? Would I go all mother bear on her? How ugly would THAT be?

And then she arrived, and she was lovely.

I mean that in every way. She’s a gorgeous girl, but she’s also funny and smart and interesting. And eventually she and the boys did have conflict – very normal siblingy sort of irritation – and it didn’t bother me any more than it does when the boys bicker amongst themselves. She was just another one of the crowd of kids around here. There were differences, of course. She plays music all the time, and if she was awake there was the sound of her radio drifting up the stairs. She is also computer savvy, leading to an intensely uncomfortable session where I sat on the couch, trying to read my book while she read my blog.

“You had a futon mattress in here?” She asked innocently.

“Hmm? Oh, yeah – WAIT, WHAT ARE YOU READING?” I scrambled around to see the screen. “Uh…you don’t have to read that one, ok?”

“Mmm-hmmm.” She read on in silence, then shook her head, “The THINGS people will write about on their blogs.”

“I TOLD you you didn’t have to read that one.”

Toward the end of her first week her mom called to see if Jennie could stay an extra week. Sure, we said, of course.

But then, midway through that second week, she called back to say that plans had changed, could she come home on Saturday as originally planned? Well…sure. Of course. I didn’t participate in the conversation, naturally. Clay talked to her, then gave the phone back to Jennie and came into the bedroom where I was sorting socks, to tell me.

“But…THIS Saturday? That’s just three days away. We had plans.” Irrationally, I found myself blinking back tears. I turned my back to where Jennie was sitting in the living room, not wanting her to see me. I didn’t want her to think I was mad. Plans change. Life is like that. I was just surprised.

And I knew that Jennie was getting homesick for her mom and her friends, and that this would be a good thing for her.

Thursday night the kids all reminded me that I had promised to take them to get shaved ice before Jennie went home.

“You PROMISED,” they chorused, giving me their best sincere looks of wavery hope. It was a stupid, stupid promise I made at the end of a zoo trip. I still had to go shopping for some things for Raphi’s birthday, and had worked out a scheme with Clay. He would take the kids out for ice cream and I would shop at the Target right across the parking lot from the ice cream store. It was a BRILLIANT plan, except that on our last stop at the zoo the kids spotted a shaved ice stand and decided they wanted that more than ice cream. More than ANYTHING, they wanted shaved ice. In desperation to acquire the necessary plastic garbage to host a birthday party, I said,”OK, FINE, but not today. I PROMISE I will get you shaved ice before Jennie goes home, but today it’s ice cream.”

And then I spent the next two weeks glancing around whenever we drove anywhere, a growing sense of doom clouding my heart as I realized that shaved ice seems to live in the zoo, and is not allowed out of captivity.

So Friday morning it was my last chance to make good on my promise. I loaded the kids in the van. Clay had the day off work and he came along too. We all had places to go and not QUITE enough time for this trip, so we had to move. I craned around to tell the kids,

“When we GET to the zoo, NO ONE LOOKS AT ANIMALS. We do not CARE about educational opportunities. Is that clear?” They nodded back.

At the zoo we flashed our membership card and hoofed it to the BACK of the zoo, where the shaved ice stand stood.


The kids all took it pretty well, although Max did point out that this meant I’d have to bring them all back again, and nearly had his head bitten off by his mother. There was no time to waste, so we turned on our heels and marched back to the van. As we walked along, I gripped Clay’s hand and avoided eye contact with anyone. I felt awful.

All I wanted, I thought, was to do right by Jennie. There isn’t enough time. I just wanted to do right.

Saturday morning she and Clay left, early. The boys and I hugged her goodbye, and then she was gone. We shuffled around for a few moments, then wandered off to our own thoughts. I started making breakfast, thinking how strange it seemed not to be making her a smoothie. It seemed like she should be here. I could almost hear…I paused, and listened.

And laughed.

“Tre, can you go downstairs and turn Jennie’s radio off?” He nodded and thundered down the stairs.

I don’t know how to do this, exactly. I don’t know how to be this kind of family. She’s one of us, yet she has to leave to go home. She’s still a mystery to me in many ways, yet I love her too.

I guess we’ll figure it out.


The mirror solution

Have I mentioned that our house is small? Somewhat? Well, in an effort to OPEN UP the space of the master bedroom, the previous owners installed mirrored closet doors. I understand the theory behind this, but really, does it fool anyone? At most, I find myself looking in the mirror at the tiny little mirror bedroom, and thinking how small it looks even when it’s backwards.

Anyhow, whether or not they open up the space, they do present some…challenges to me. I mean yes, on the one hand, it is good to know for certain exactly what I look like in my chosen outfit for the day. On the other hand, sadly, I know for certain what I look like in my chosen outfit for the day. And then there are the random dressing incidents, wherein I will be half-clothed and turn around in an unguarded moment and see ALL of myself and be rendered speechless and full of despair. One just never knows when the mirrors will attack.

But the other day I came home from some errands to find that Raphael had solved my problem for me. Look.

Continue reading "The mirror solution" »

Moving from booger jokes to bouger jokes

I mentioned, did I not, that Jennie is here? Clay’s 14 year old daughter, making her MY step-daughter, which makes me her stepmother, which makes me sound an awful lot like a grown up. Or someone who is evil. Stepmother. You know the connotations.

But! I am NOT evil! I promise. Jennie would probably even tell you so herself. I hope. And she and the boys are getting along just fine, which is to say that they are developing a very sibling-y relationship. They annoy each other and pester each other and seem to truly adore each other, mostly. Jennie is the youngest kid in the family at her mom’s house, and the oldest kid here, so it’s certainly a change of pace. By the end of the day she’s ready to have some interaction that doesn’t include random screaming. So, when Max and Raphi go to bed at 8 (heh. NEAR 8. 8-ish. Sheesh, no wonder they’re such wild children these days), Jennie, Tre, Clay and I gather around the kitchen table and play games. We’ve tried Scrabble, Mexican Train, Probe, and Balderdash so far. We laugh a lot, and when Tre’s bedtime of 9 arrives, he wheedles a few more minutes out of me (seriously, am I TRYING to raise serial killers here? Why can’t I get them to bed when they’re supposed to go?).

This is new, this sort of playtime. I’ve done hours of face time with babies, making them laugh with looks or noises. I’ve chased toddlers who seemed bent upon killing themselves and taking the world down with them. I’ve had lovely chatty irrational pretend play with preschoolers, and vigorous run-and-hunt play with school aged kids. But this is new.

We sit around the table and chat and try to make each other laugh. Tonight we were playing Balderdash, where you make up definitions to words. Tre had us all laughing when he wrote for “dibble” the definition, “a monkey with dimples,” but we were in hysterics when he followed that up by defining “doddard” as “a monkey that cheats at dodge ball.” Jennie topped that by defining “bouge” (pronounced “boog”) as “a bouger.” It was the spelling that got me. Bouger! I howled, laughing until my stomach hurt and tears collected at the corners of my eyes.

As I laughed I looked around the table. Jennie and Tre were bright-eyed with the interaction, and Clay and I were flushed with the joy of sharing it with them.

For a while now I’ve nervously observed teenagers, aware that I am the stepparent of one, and am going to be the parent of another soon enough. What are these creatures? How does one approach them? What are the customs of their culture?

I’m hoping that no matter how strange this new era seems to me, or how strange I may seem to them, we can always laugh together like we did tonight. Whatever these creatures are, they can surely be a delight.

The devolution of motherhood

What is the deal? I was pretty sure having kids was supposed to make you a better person, right? I mean, sure, not if you’re Michael Jackson, and are breeding children as a part of some larger erotic fantasy wherein pale facsimiles of yourself follow you around, worshipping you and you can call Macaulay Culkin and tell him, “SEE WHAT FUN YOU’RE MISSING? Come back to me, my sweet!” No, not then.

But for the rest of us, isn’t parenthood supposed to crack the rusty bonds on our hearts? Swing open the door and let the sunshine in? Aren’t we supposed to be warmer on the whole toward humanity?

Because I have to tell you, it’s not working out like that for me today.

Let me tell you a story about pre-children Kira. I was going to be a teacher from the time I was seven. As I worked my way through college (full disclosure: not ALL the way through college, but I spent a good eight years TRYING), I always had a job as a teacher’s assistant. And another job, to pay the bills, because teacher’s assistant pay? Don’t make me laugh.

Anyhow, as I worked as a teacher’s assistant, my heart routinely broke over one sad kid or another. I could not RESIST the haunted eyes of the kids whose lives were hard. I remember approaching our social worker one day.

“Noel, I want to talk to you about Anthony. He’s been acting up, and I’m worried –“She cut me off with a wave of her hand.

“Kira, YOU become a social worker and save the world, ok? I’m going to just work on MY caseload right now.”

She clearly didn’t have a heart, I decided. Because I ached for the hurting kids, especially the ones who acted out, who pushed others away with their angry coping mechanisms. I WOULD save the world, thankyouverymuch. I would.

Ok, now join me in the sunny world of today. My children, my own dear sweet children, who, with their cries of joy and laughter, sometimes cause me to shriek, “GO OUTSIDE NOW BEFORE I EAT YOU ALL,” are having problems with some neighbor boys. In specific, Tre and Max are having conflict with one neighbor boy. I’ll call him…um…Satan.

Sorry. That was wrong. I’ll call him Damien.

Whenever Damien is around, the convivial horde of boys that mills about outside turns ugly. Innocent play involving kickball or scooters or tree climbing becomes vicious and political. Tre, who is all dewy about the heart, invariably ends up stomping home and throwing himself on the couch, trying to pretend as though his feelings aren’t hurt. Max, who is significantly more complicated about the heart, ends up trailing behind this new, dark pack of boys, casting furtive looks back at the house.

I’ve casually spent time in the front yard, subtly observing the interactions between the boys (my front flower bed has never been so well weeded. This is not the same thing as actually BEING well weeded, but it’s the best it’s ever been). I can tell you that Damien is just the sort of kid that would have yanked at my heartstrings eleven-ish years ago. He is angry and restless, and pre-child Kira would have longed to help him find some peace.


Well, today I don’t want to SAVE him so much as I’d like to REMOVE him. I don’t want to harm the wee toad in any way, but I do want him to GO AWAY and leave my children alone. Rather than moving along the evolutionary scale, toward compassion and mercy, the mother bear instincts that were born in me when Tre was born out of me make me want to snarl in this child’s face.

This evening as I headed out the front door to take Carmi for a walk, I saw Damien sauntering up to the gaggle of boys in the neighbor’s front yard. My gut-level response was a hissed, Go Away.

Max saw me walking past and ran over to say goodbye. Tre waved casually from the group, too old by far to walk over to his mother. I’ve discussed with the boys the dynamics of the group when Damien is around. I’ve given them suggestions. But this is theirs to figure out on their own. Ultimately it’s not Damien I object to; it’s my sons’ inevitable falls against the hard places in the world.

“Hey, Mom,” Max said, “we’re playing tag and,” he leaned in to tell me confidentially, “Damien’s being nice.”

“That’s great, honey,” I replied.

That’s another thing motherhood’s given me. The ability to lie like a pro.

The sad truth

When I was a kid I wrestled mightily with what my career would someday be. Once, when I was about eight, my family was driving away from a camping trip and I burst into tears. What, WHAT? My parent said.

"I don't know if I want to be a forest ranger or a special ed teacher," I wailed. For the record, I meant a teacher of special education classes, not a teacher requiring special assistance. Although, come to think of it, I have landed in a position more like the latter. Hmmm.

Anyhow, my goals were usually one of three: 1 - teacher (check!) 2 - forest ranger (um...the weeds are getting pretty tall in the garden...) and 3 - writer. Whatever else I was going to do, I would write.

Today I find myself frustrated. I have writer's block. The words, that usually come so easily, simply WILL NOT FLOW.

I cannot seem to finish my grocery list.

In Which it is HOT, and This Causes Kira to Write a Post Which Irritates Her Spell-Check No End.

Auuuugh! I didn’t think I’d get to post tonight. We’ve had record-breaking high temperatures here today – 101 degrees, and it’s not even summer yet. The water pressure was all LOW and stuff all day. Whenever I turned on the faucet the water sort of trailed limply out, I imagine because so many people lost their minds and were standing in their showers, fully clothed, letting the sweet sweet coolness of the shower sluice down their bodies and humming happy little dissociative songs to themselves. Yeah. Hot.

So! As though baseball games in THAT madness weren’t joy enough, tonight the power started to go all flickery. The boys were in bed and I had just sat down to the computer when all the lights went flashy flashy on and off and on and off and…

I sat in front of my computer as it randomly showed increasingly alarming screens, yelling out the window at Clay that “the power! It is not working right!” He had been watering the lawn, setting the sprinkler amidst the charred remains of our lawn like the eternally optimistic lawn caretaker he is. He came in watched the lights flicker, and told me, “It’s not us, it’s the supply. There are probably power fluctuations because of the high demand.” I goggled at him, so he clarified, “I can’t fix it. You should probably turn off the computer.”


So I did. And that was a good thing, because Jennie, Clay’s daughter, is visiting right now, and she wanted to play Scrabble after the boys were in bed, so we did. And I won, and that is always good. (By the way, Jennie is 14, and whenever people hear that my 14 year old stepdaughter is staying with us, they sort of lean in and pet my arm and say things like, “How’s it GOING?” and “How do the kids get along?” with very deep and meaningful emphasis. Allow me to say, that all is really and truly well, a fact I ascribe to my stunning adroitness at relationships, and which may have just a little something to do with the fact that Jennie, herself? Is a very sweet and wonderful girl/woman. I have ANGST about step-parenting in general (coming soon to a blog near you), but Jennie is a doll.)

So now it’s laaaaate, and I’m tiiiiired, and I have a full day ahead of me of glaring out the window at Sir Heatwave, crankifyer of all boys who aren’t swimming, crumpler of strawberry plants, he who causes my dog to fling hair away from herself like a sparkler sending off showers of light, and embittering agent of broccoli that was growing so nicely.

And maybe climbing in the shower fully clothed.