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January 2008
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March 2008

...but only so an hour

The noise of the shower was punctured by Max, bursting into the bathroom.

"Mom!" He wailed, frustrated and angry. "MOM! Tre is IN HIS ROOM. AGAIN."

I peered around the shower curtain. Max was standing there, in his cape, remnants of breakfast still on his cheeks, his hair a tangled mass. And his face radiating despair.

"Well, Max, Tre to be in his room."

"Make him come out and PLAY WITH US."

Ah. That.

I sent Max out to let me finish my shower. When I was done and dried and dressed, I went out and found him, curled up in the soft blue chair, a tense little knot of sorrow. See, I'm not the only one feeling the effects of Tre's adolescence. The boys have always been homeschooled, and so they've had the chance to be not only squabbling brothers, but squabbling playmates. I have this evil plot I use to get them to scamper off and have unstructured playtime. When breakfast is done, I tell them they can play for a little before school, as long as they don't fight. For years and years, this has meant that much of their mornings were spent in long, winding games of make believe. Forts were built, marbles rolled down ramps, cars sent skittering across the floor, and a whole host of characters were play acted, complete with costumes and accents.

But lately Tre doesn't have much patience for the old games. They're stupid, and boring, and he'd rather read. Max and Raphael stand outside his door and throw things at him, but go figure, that doesn't make him want to join them either.

I don't know what to do about this new dynamic. I'm equally torn between leave him alone, he deserves his own space and for the love of pete, Tre, give your little brothers a break.

I think they're both true, my impulse to let him withdraw and my desire to remind him he can be his own great big growing boy and still find some way to interact with his little brothers. But no compromise is going to answer this hurt, felt most acutely by stuck-in-the-middle-Max.

I scooped him up and sat, his great lanky arms and legs trying to fold into the space of my arms. The simple truth is that he feels like he's losing his brother because he is. The era Max wants back is over, and they just won't ever both be kids, playing Bionicle on the carpet again.

I ran my fingers through his mop of hair, dislodging tangles. "Max, honey, I know you're sad that Tre doesn't want to play as much as he used to. I'm sorry..." I paused, and tried to think of what to say. I listened to the tinny sound of music filtering up from Tre's room. The morning sun poured in through the window, illuminating dust motes so that for just a moment they looked like flecks of gold. Max made a small squeak, trying to hold back the tears that finally spilled down to dot the arms crossed tight over his chest.

"I'm just sorry," I finished, lamely but true.

Two years, and still my favorite person

Clay had the day off today, to celebrate our anniversary. Also, banks and libraries were closed. We are just that loved.

By way of celebration, we went ice skating - all six of us. That's Clay and me, the boys, and niece Kate, whose school was also closed to celebrate our anniversary. The students thank us, I'm sure. So in the spirit of two years hitched and lovin' it, we strapped on ice skates and hit the ice.

Yes, literally. Har, har.

Clay and I inched along, Raphael's weight suspended between us. He clung to each of our hands and stumbled and fought a great battle between his feet and the slip of the ice. Kate glided by us again and again, pink-cheeked and turning to watch for Tre and Max. Tre, having hit the perfect intersection of newly acquired speed and not completely acquired skill, spent much of his time staggering back to his feet, lightly frosted with ice shavings. Max would skate up behind us and hover next to us chattering, before declaring, "hey, LOOK at how fast I can go!" Then he would skate off, impressively faster, yet with the posture of my 89 year old grandfather when he wanders away from his walker.

After a while on the ice, Raphael found his footing and let go of our hands. As we watched him glide-stomp away, we reached out and found each other's fingers. We held on and watched our kids sail away ahead of us.

And it was exactly right.

I try to be a good person, but it's a losing battle

Lately I've been hearing reports from people all around me of the dreaded stomach flu. The family of a friend of Tre's had it. Then this other family we know. Then good friends of Max and Raphi's. It's like paddling around in the water, hearing the Jaws music faintly in the background. It swells, you look around. You've made it this far.

Will you escape unscathed?

Of course not, stupid. That's why you're in this

Last week I had one of those days that requires meticulous planning. The sort of day that will be FINE, REALLY, just as long as everything from point A right through point W-9b goes just right. And I had that puppy planned. I had it cold. And you know what? It went fine. Just fine for most of the day.

The second to last big task on my list was "Allergy shots for Tre." Have I told you about the allergy shots? How the allergist's office is my home away from home, and the only reason it gets second billing is because I have wireless access here? Well. Allergist's office. I live there. And last week I failed to get Tre there, which is BAD, I am a BAD MOM. We were squeaking in under the wire to get him his shots before his schedule got messed up, so BY GOD, we were going.

I finished the dishes (point T 12c), rounded up the kids, and herded them into the van. On his way to the door, Max stopped and looked at me.

"I don't feel good," he muttered. "My sort of hurts."

So I turned right around, tucked him in bed, fed him nourishing broths, and spoke soothingly to him as I smoothed his hair back from his fevered brow, right?

Uh. Wrong. I mean, SORT of hurts? Puh-leeze. Someone's something ALWAYS hurts! I've got a schedule here, people! We marched off to the van, where I started the CD of Lion Boy we were listening to, which would give us a chance to finish it in time to drop it off at the library when Tre went there for his Anti-Valentine's Day party later. Excellent. And everything seemed fine. (Did you catch that? That was FORESHADOWING, otherwise known as ICK IS COMING.)

After Tre gets his shot he has to wait in the office for a half hour to make sure he's not going to die. No, seriously. That's one of the cool things about allergy shots. They cost a mint, and they require the time commitment of a part time job, and they are going to make him NOT ALLERGIC, and oh plus there is a chance that instead they will kill him dead. Awesome. It's a SMALL chance, but still. He has to wait, just to be sure.

As we waited, Max sat, with his arms pulled inside his shirt, and squirmed. I pretended to read a magazine, while I watched him with sinking heart. Oh, he should not be here. He had that very special can't-sit-still energy of the imminently puking. Suddenly, he stood up, and headed out the door toward the bathroom. As he passed me, he wordlessly shot me a look that was all huge eyes and clammy skin.

Oh yes. Here it comes.

And the worst part of this whole story? The single, pure moment, that shines the reality of my true self out to the world, beacon-like?

When I saw him, standing there, heaving in the hallway, right outside the bathroom, a great puddle at his feet, my first thought was, SCORE. I do NOT have to clean that one up.

Last Saturday Clay, Tre, and Max had a meeting to attend, so that left Raphael and me to enjoy our morning together. I took him to Starbucks for hot chocolate and a little one-on-one time.

Special time like this with Raphael is what I imagine it would be like to date your stalker. He completely invades my space, leans against me, pets my cheek, fills the air with endless chatter, and protests if I pay attention to anyone but him.

Don’t tell anyone, but Raphael loves his Mem.

We collected our drinks at the counter and headed over to a little table to play a game of checkers. He was doubtful – did I even know HOW to play? Did I know WHERE to put the checkers? Would I be ok when he BEAT me?

Well. I may be slipping, as I edge into the upper 30s, but I think I can still defeat a six year old at checkers. I mopped the board with him, in very short order.

“You…you WON,” he said, looking at the board in amazement.

“Yes. Remember this. I am far smarter than you suspect.” I hope he remembers this in six years, not because I think I’m going to be even smarter then, but because I expect his estimation of me to take a nosedive around then.

“We will play AGAIN!” He pointed a finger in the air, already triumphant about his expected victory. Then he dived under the table to take a bite of cookie, which he was keeping down there, balanced on my purse, so it wouldn’t melt in the sun streaming in through the window. He bounced back up, his face streaked with chocolate. “Set them up – and this time I am going to be red.”

And so we played again. This game took longer, because he was being a bit more careful, but also because of the frequent pauses in action so he could describe the AWESOME move he had just thought of, if only we could just…sort of…TWEAK the rules.

“And see? If I could just jump BOTH of these guys here? I could BAM! and then turn around and BAM! over here, and then I would win!”

“Yes. Except you can’t do that.”

“Right, but if I could sort of bounce along the edge, like this, BANG BANG BANG, and I could jump allllll these guys here, and I would be all, ‘King me,’ and you would be all, ‘what? How?’ and I would just…just WIN, like that!”

“Yes. Except you CAN’T DO THAT.”

“I know, but what if I said to you, ‘hey, look over there,’ and when you turned, I was all [scrambles to collect all of his pieces that I’ve captured] and would put them on the board, like here and here, and NO, I would make all my pieces KINGS, and you would turn back and I would go JUMP JUMP JUMP, I WIN!”

“Yes. Except.”

“I know! Just…what if?”

We spent a good hour like that, him chattering away, me repeating things like “You can’t do that,” and “Raphael? Just GO,” until the words wore a groove on my brain, a linguistic rut labeled “checkers with Raphael.”

I defeated him a second time, despite his many excellent plans, and eventually it was time to go. He went to the bathroom and came out a few minutes later, his smile still outlined in chocolate, the front of his shirt caught up in the waistband of his jeans.

“Hey, honey,” I beckoned him over and whispered in his ear, “did you wash your hands?” He hopped a little in guilty surprise (who knew? Handwashing rules apply even in Starbucks?), and turned and ran back into the bathroom. I watched him go and smiled.

I truly am smarter than he thinks – smart enough to know that he needs to learn to play by the rules in life.

I am also fool enough to be a little sorry about it.

He's so cool

Guess who got his glasses this weekend?


He reports that everyone he knows, and even some people he didn't realize he knew, thinks he looks great. And he does. What I'm glad about though, is that he seems...happy. I'm sure they'll irritate him eventually, but for now he just seems content to look at the world and see it in focus.

"I can see your individual hairs," he tells me, dreamy. "I can see the lines in the bark on the tree."

He just seems a little more content.


He looks surprisingly natural in them. After an entire lifetime of looking at his face without glasses, I'm already not noticing them. They just seem right. And cool. Very cool. Max was worried he would look like a dork in glasses, but I told him he just doesn't have it in him.


Max will always be cool.


It's the season, stupid

Wow, downer much, Kira?

I know, I know, you don't know how to respond, because y'all have been averting your eyes and pretending not to see me snivel and leak snot as I weep over my pitiful life. But I have good news of a sort - I just realized that we're slogging through the mouldering remains of winter.

Let me back up here: I KNEW it was February, but it just hit me what that MEANS, mood-wise. Winter doldrums. Homeschool burnout. Cabin fever. Life has become a small, damp cave, and there's an odd smell coming from somewhere. It's not that my life has suddenly soured. It's the season.

To add to my (pitiful) angst, I seem to have given up sugar for Lent, a fact that keeps leaping out to surprise me. For instance, I just noticed that we have some of my favorite bread in the fridge, and my heart leapt for just a moment, until I realized why. I was thinking, somewhere deep in my reptilian brain, that I could take some of that bread, toast it, sprinkle it with chocolate chips, then quick spread it with peanut butter while it's still hot and the chocolate and peanut butter would be all melty and soft (I like to think of this as "getting protein" because I am creative and charmingly delusional). But of course no. I can't. I could have the toast without the chocolate (because I do have peanut butter without sugar, and yes. It is just as bad as it sounds), but why would I? Just the thought of it in my mouth makes me want to lie down on the floor and make little moaning sounds at the sad boringness of it.

And then, on top of that, I have recently received an unfortunate hair cut. My most trusted advisers (Amy and my mom) assure me that it's fine, it looks great. Sadly, my most trusted advisers are great big liars. It's just a tad too short, and it evokes the unfortunate perm incident of '82 (which come to think of it, Mom thought was adorable too, so who signed her up as an adviser?), and is entirely too poodley. Fortunately my hair grows fast. Tonight it seems not fast enough.

And then there's the whole "good LORD, I seem to have spawned an adolescent" angst, which I'm sure you are all very tired of hearing about. Sorry, it's just been very surprising to me. I mean, he was JUST a baby! Twelve and a half years ago, and here he is, an adolescent already? Who authorized THAT? It very much reminds me of the shock I felt when I discovered he'd turned two and was...well, a TWO YEAR OLD. I remember sitting around, weeping hot tears of sorrow, because he was suddenly so oppositional, and WHO SAW THAT COMING?

I also believe that the hormonal mood swings experienced by adolescents also affect those around them. Particularly their mothers. It's the only explanation I can think of for random, blinding bouts with temporary insanity.

So there you have it. No call for despair, just a season of snow, dark, sugarless, bad hair, hormonal swings. This too shall pass. I just have to remember that Spring is on its way, and it's bringing cupcakes.

The thing is...

...that it's so much easier to blog about your kids when they're little and sweet - or insane with little guy rage, because even that's sort of sweet in a way, although maybe it just seems like it was from here - than it is to blog about them when they're huge and hormonal.

I was just reading a blog by this woman - wait, here, this one. Tiffany is not only an artist (I crave one of her shadow art paintings), but she's a mom to two boys. Little boys. Four and two. And her boys are great and she writes about them so beautifully. She makes me want to go back and do over that whole era in the boys' lives, with tinfoil crowns and pretend boat wrecks in the sofa cushions and peanut butter mittens. I half want to go back and do it again because she makes me feel slightly ashamed, as though I could have done so much better, and half because LORD is that time fun. It looks so carefree from here. I'm sure that's an illusion and I remember being just as big of a stress ball then, but it sure looks sweet from here.

The thing is that THIS era in motherhood is growing so much more complex. The stories from now are more like this:

This morning Tre and Max were downstairs, ostensibly doing their after breakfast chores. However, unless their chores have suddenly become hysterically amusing, causing them to careen around the basement with great thumps and crashes, they had become distracted.

"STOP IT!" I bellowed down the stairs, gently redirecting. "DO YOUR STUFF." Stuff. I order them to do their "stuff" instead of "chores." You may as well know the truth.

They paused for three and a half seconds, which is apparently what they think my attention span to be, then resumed rampaging.


Again there was a pause, and I went back to my newspaper. A few moments later I realized that what I was hearing was - again - the riotous sound of chores not being done. You would think this would be (past) a good time to get up and go downstairs and deal with the uprising. Then again, you could be ME, and unnaturally devoted to your morning tea and newspaper, and choose to holler again instead of actual parenting.


"I don't know," Tre shot back, his voice dripping with disdain, "a THOUSAND?"

There was silence, everyone holding their breath silence for a minute.

"Tre. Come here. Right now."

He stomped up the stairs and dropped into the chair I was pointing to with a dish-rattling thud. I was furious. He was furious.

"WHAT makes you think I deserve to be disrespected like that? YOU were the one ignoring me when I told you to stop, so what makes you think you can give me that attitude?"

I could have gone on, oh yes, I had many many highly ignorable words ready to unleash, but he crumbled. His eyes went red and moist and he slumped forward on the table.

"I'm sorry, Mom. I don't KNOW why I said that."

"WHY did you say it?" Yes, really, that was my next clever question. I don't know why, he said, so WHY, I ask. Shoot me now.

"I don't KNOW. It just...popped out."

He sat there, fighting tears, and I sat there, fighting tears. Neither of us knew what to say.

I am homesick for his early years.

I'm sorry, but I couldn't post tonight

Look, I was GOING to post something here tonight, I really was. EVEN THOUGH it is Fat Tuesday, which means we were at church tonight eating pancakes for dinner, because what better way to prepare for Ash Wednesday than by feeding your children piles of simple carbohydrates in lieu of actual food? It's the sort of night that leaves parents hissing at their children in a possessed I-would-kill-you-if-it-weren't-for-the-witnesses whisper. Remember you are dust, indeed. By the time we got home Max was homicidal and Raphael was acting completely shocked to discover that Max didn't actually want him to lever his eyelids open as he dozed in the car. Tre got caught in the crossfire and LO, his indignation was great.

And plus I had a rotten bummer of a day that was capped by my clever decision to smash my fingertip in the closet door. See? Right there. It's turning sort of purple at the tip. You can see it in the right light. Clay has not said out loud, in so many words, that he thinks I'm being a big baby, but I have seen him gaze pointedly at his missing - ha! - pointer finger. And yes, I may have mentioned my injury more times than he has ever mentioned know...amputation, but that's because no one is giving me any vicodin, and as I remember it, he took at least two doses of the stuff. So.

Still, I was going to soldier through and post...something here, even though it hurts to type and I am laboring under the burden of a distinct lack of alarm at the state of my wounded fingertip, because I've made this new resolution of sorts to stop complaining and post already, and so great is my determination that I was going to push through the pain and frustration.

But then I fired up the laptop and after a few moments of browsing it gave me the blue screen of death (which upon further investigation seems to actually have meant, "oh, I just had me a little fit for no apparent reason. Everything is fine...or you're possibly screwed. Good luck." I am so going Mac. I mean it this time), and I give up.

I am going to sleep in the hopes of a better day tomorrow.