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August 2007
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October 2007

Note to self: being true fends off mom-whapping

A few weeks ago I was at a park, chatting with a friend. Somehow we got on the subject of affection and the different ways people show it. I went on a rant about the concept of “Love Languages” because I haven’t actually read the book myself, but I have TALKED to people who have, which makes me amply knowledgeable to spout off about it because I am an insufferable blowhard.

“So what it comes down to,” I explained in my own special insufferable manner, “is that people just understand certain expressions of love better than others. And kids too! For instance, Tre needs to hear that we think he’s doing well. That he’s a good kid, and that he emptied that dishwasher just exactly how a dishwasher should be emptied. And Max needs to have you there, with him, just being in the same space as him. And Raphael, well, he needs to be snuggled and hugged and pet like a cat.”

When I said that, I paused. It was one of those lightbulb moments when the clouds part and the music swells and I realize yet again, Oh my word, I am so very perennially stupid.

See, Raphael has been making me insane. He’s got this habit of running up to me and…whapping me. He takes both hands and makes flat little flippers out of them and then rapidly moves them back and forth against me, like a demented wee dog, digging a hole. In my hip.

“RAPHAEL,” I say, in the gentle, loving manner most recommended by parenting experts, “STOP THAT or I shall PINCH your little head off.”

Sometimes he actually does stop. Usually he pretends to be a deaf, demented wee dog, or he circles around me and starts whapping the other hip and I lose my mind and run away and join the circus.

Another attractive habit he’s developed lately is sitting next to me, as close as he can, and poking at my arm, at the flesh lining the underside of my arm. He pokes it and watches the reaction, and murmurs, “Jiggly, jiggly, jiggly.”

He still lives and breathes, proving once and for all that I am a FREAKING SAINT.

What I realized that day, in the park, under a crystal blue Colorado autumn sky, is that Raphael wasn’t just trying to make me insane. Raphael was ASKING for some love in the form of physical affection. Maybe I could fend off some of these…less than endearing habits with a few more cuddles.

Or possibly he was just trying to make me insane. But it was worth a try.

“Raphael,” I told him that night, “I’ve been wondering something. You know how you like to poke at my arm or whap me –“ he grinned and held up both his best flipper-hands, “ – yes, like that. Well, I’m wondering if you don’t just want a hug when you do that? Because if you need a hug, all you have to do is tell me, and I will stop,” I paused, and dropped to my knees, so I was forehead-to-forehead with him, “and give you a REAL hug. Would you like that?”

He nodded and threw his arms around me. I hugged him, firmly and sincerely, and after a few moments he was done, and he ran off again.

Over the next few days it seemed I was constantly being interrupted for hugs. It was sort of annoying, to tell you the truth. I mean, who has time for all that LOVING with the work of mothering to do? Ahem. But I had agreed, so I stopped, dropped, and hugged. Incidences of mother-whapping or –poking dwindled dramatically, and when he DID start to whap or poke, he would stop himself and say soberly, “I think I need a proper hug.”

After a couple of days on the new hugs-a-lot regime, Raphael climbed into my lap.

“Remember how I used to whap you all the time? And now,” he paused to lace his arms around my neck, “I just get hugged instead. It feels better to…” he leaned in against me and breathed it in, “it feels better to just be true.”

Around here, we call it "guy eye."

Tre has taken over laundry duty for the great mound o' boy filthy clothes in the basement. I still fold the clothes, but he gathers and sorts them, puts them in to wash and dry, and complains about how messy his brothers are. I understand this, because it is a key part of the laundry process for me too.

This afternoon I was cleaning up the lunch mess when Tre hollered at me from the basement, "Hey, Mom? What did you do with the socks?"

"What?" I bellowed back, thereby cementing my gentle teaching about don't yell at me from the other room, come here and talk to me.

"The socks! The load of whites! They were right here! Where did you put them?"

I rounded the corner to see him sitting on the floor at the foot of the stairs.


...wait for it...

...ON the pile of whites.

I stared at him a moment, and he reached around and pulled one sock out from under his butt.

"Oh. Here they are."

That's when the laughter began. I leaned against the wall, clutching my stomach, and howling.

"It's not as bad as it seems!" He yelled, in an attempt to redeem himself. "I FELL DOWN the stairs. Backwards!"

Well. Now it TOTALLY makes sense.

Life goes on, even if AfterLucy doesn't

So, on the way to church this morning we got in a little fender bender.

I say “little fender bender” because no one was hurt and it wasn’t our fault. However, my van is not drivable at this point. We’ll have it towed tomorrow and find out the damage…but my money’s on “totaled.” It was getting old, cv joints held together by chewing gum and irrational hope. Damnit. I love that van.


Dad gave me a ride to get Clay’s truck, and as I headed back to where Clay and the boys were waiting, I tried on the emotion of being mad at the person who caused the accident. I pictured her, standing by her new car, weeping into her cell phone. She was having a REALLY bad morning, she told us. I tried to be affronted. In my head I sniped, well why did you have to hit US? Did THAT make your day better?

But it didn’t really take, in my thoughts.

I’ve smashed up cars before. I know how it feels. She was making an inadvisable left hand turn, rushing to get through an intersection before the light turned red and the cameras took her picture to mail her a ticket. Can’t you just feel what that was like? Easing out into the intersection, eyes tracking the traffic around you, glancing in the rearview mirror, the light turns yellow, tension builds, those CAMERAS, and you see a break in traffic, and swing into a turn. But just as you start, just when you floor it and commit to the turn, a van flashes by you. Hit the brakes, but your momentum can’t be overwhelmed by their feeble grip. A body in motion tends to go ahead and smack the car in front of it. And then the energy of the arc that was supposed to sail you through the intersection, energy which cannot be destroyed by your anguished NO, is transmuted into shattering headlight, screeching tires, crumpling metal, and two massive objects shudder in odd directions away from each other.


We squeezed into Clay’s truck, picked up niece Kate, and headed for church (now an hour late). Max’s stomach hurt. Tre’s legs were still a little wobbly. Raphael wanted everyone to know he wasn’t scared at all, but his knees hurt (his knees weren't hit or bumped in any way. I attribute this to the aftereffects of adrenaline, fearless boy). Clay rested his hand on my knee and rubbed it with his thumb. "Everything's going to be fine, you know," he told me. I nodded. "You okay?" I nodded again.

On the drive there I called the insurance company to report the accident. Carefully spelling out the details to the businesslike young man on the phone brought out the petulant child in me. “No, I wasn’t driving,” I said. All we were doing was trying to get to church. “It was the Mazda,” I informed him. MY Mazda. AfterLucy, she is named. “Yes, I have the other party’s insurance information.” Tell me, does she carry the kind of coverage that’s going to work it out so my life isn’t complicated and strained? Does she have insurance to make this not disrupt our days? “No, our vehicle isn’t drivable.” WHEN do we catch a break?

And THAT is the silly thing inside my head, as reliable as the law of conservation of energy, Kira thinks life should be easier than it is. Maybe a LOT easier. I don’t know where I got the notion that someone was going to provide me special dispensation from the mundane assaults of the world, but I seem to believe it. Evidence would suggest that life IS pain, highness. Get over it. My life is far too full of good to whine about.

We arrived at church just in time for the peace.

“And may the peace of the Lord be always with you,” sang out the priest, and we answered, “And also with you.”

Standing at the back of the church, our family turned and held one another in turn. Peace of the Lord, we murmured, giving and receiving.

And it really was ok.

Half the reason I fuss is because he loves to object

I yanked open the garage door, on my way to the back yard to collect a fistful of velvety sage. Clay was handing Tre a screwdriver and a box of outlet covers, saying, "Just remember. Don't stick anything IN the box." Tre nodded. I crossed my arms and blocked his entry to the house, glaring at Clay.

"Are you giving him a job that could kill him?" The two of them exchanged a look.

"No, not KILL him. Seriously injure him, maybe," was Clay's reassuring response. Tre tried to pinch his lips against a smile.

"Are you SURE this child is old enough for a job that could seriously injure him?" Tre rolled his eyes and heaved a sigh.


I put my hand on one of Tre's shoulders.

"Are you SURE?" I pressed.

"YES." Clay put his hand on the other shoulder.

"Sheesh, Mom," Tre said, brushing past me. He worked to keep the smile off his face, and very nearly succeeded.  I watched him stride into the house, shoulders squared. I kissed Clay and went on my way to the back yard. 

I thought I'd feel sorry for myself for awhile...

...because I'd gotten my feelings hurt and I was sad.

But then I collected these from the garden...


...and cooked them down into a few quarts of summer to stash in the freezer.

And I picked the tiniest cantaloupe I've ever seen...


...and we ate it with dinner.


And it was delicious.

And then, as though that weren't enough...

Continue reading "I thought I'd feel sorry for myself for awhile..." »

Labor day - ALREADY!

A couple of weeks ago Linda left this comment:

OK, isn't it time for the oh my, summer is over, I'm not ready for the new school year blog? I swear it is close!

I read it and chuckled. Yes, it’s what I do.

Except…not this year, I thought. I believe I’m seasoned enough to skip the Labor Day Panic. No, I think I’ve matured beyond that.

Ha ha.

I would be fine, I swear I would, except I’m trying a new math program, and that has thrown me into complete chaos. What was I thinking? What was wrong with the OLD math? Sure, it was completely dry and boring and repetitive with its repetitive repetitiveness over and over again and then one more time, but at least I KNEW WHAT TO EXPECT. And it didn’t assault me with DVD instruction and new manipulatives…WHAT, WE’RE TOO GOOD FOR PLASTIC BEARS ALL OF A SUDDEN?

*pant, pant, pant*

I spent the afternoon sifting through school supplies, wild-eyed and irrational. As evening drew near, Clay reminded me it was time to go to my parents’ house for dinner (I love my parents. LOVE THEM). We sent the kids to get in the truck, and they filed out, squabbling. Clay was searching for something, and I hung back with him, not wanting to wait in the truck with irritable, bickering boys.

“I’ll just wait until you’re ready,” I said. “No reason to expose myself to too much of that.”

“Makes sense,” Clay replied.

“Are you saying I neglect them? I’m a withdrawn, abandoning parent?”

“What? No! Those boys have never been neglected a moment in their lives by you.”

“OH, RIGHT. So now I’m some sort of helicopter parent?”

”No. What?”

Makes you wish you were here, doesn’t it? I’m sure Clay wishes you were here too.

Well, here we go, headlong into a new school year. I'm sure everything will be fine, eventually.

Wish us luck – wish us learning – and wish us joy.

And maybe a touch of sanity. You know, for Clay.

I suspect even the imperfect are allowed to enjoy a summer afternoon

After church Clay and I were chatting with a friend. We were talking about a party we’d been to the week before, telling him about who was there, the scope of it, and how the boys had handled it.

“Really,” Clay said, “they were pretty good. There wasn’t anything for them to do, but they behaved alright.”

“Well,” said the other gentleman, reaching over to squeeze my arm, “that’s because they’re parented well.”

I laughed, my eyes fixed on Raphael, who was trying to squeeze behind a row of chairs, attempting to fit his melon of a head in a lemon sized space.

“Thanks. I’m afraid I’m always watching for behavior that needs to be addressed, so I miss the good stuff.”

This evening some friends dropped by. I was in the garden, studying the cantaloupe vines and trying to guess when one particularly plump bell pepper would be completely orange and ready to eat. Tracey made her way out to say hi while her husband Richard stayed behind to talk to Clay. I gave her the tour of my garden, biting back every other apology for its disheveled state.

“Sorry, it’s a mess. I’m so behind on the weeding…would you like some tomatoes?”

She admired every plant, even after she realized we were standing far closer to three beehives than she had realized. And every time I apologized she graciously waived away my concerns.

Soon we were all standing in the yard. Tracey and Richard’s little girls gingerly tossed balls for Carmi. Richard and Clay talked about lawns and water usage. I looked at Tracey, tomatoes cradled in one hand, the other clutching a small spray of lavender from the side of the house. I was busy chastising myself for the state of the yard, and worse still, the state of the house. Things were worse than usual in there, a chaotic mix of Sunday mess and pre-school year piles of stuff.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not exaggerating. It wasn’t a bit untidy, it was embarrassing.

But as I stood there, in the afternoon sunlight, I decided to shift my attention. I shoved away the wince at the thought of the mess. I looked instead at the tomatoes, glowing red in the green of the back yard, at the little girls, prancing around my foolishly pleased dog. I smelled the lavender and listened to dear friends chatting in my messy home.

I don’t want to miss the good stuff.