Previous month:
July 2008
Next month:
September 2008

Pregnant brain

When I was a freshman in college, I took a women's studies class. At the time, I remember being a little taken aback by how much the study of women centered on the ways men were wrong - almost as though we are more defined by other people rather than ourselves - but being a bubble headed 18 year old I obediently sucked up the professor's rants and regurgitated them in the appropriate papers and essay questions. I did very well in that class.

One of the rants I remember was about pregnancy and breast feeding. It made the professor INSANE when people suggested that the state of gestating or lactating somehow affected women's intelligence. 
"As THOUGH," she raged, "our brains are located in our UTERUS or BREASTS!" It was just one more of society's LIES, designed to form a CAGE around WOMEN.

Ah, would that I could revisit that classroom, that lecture, that point. If only I could inhabit my youthful taut body, crease that unlined brow, and raise my manicured hand. "Professor?" I could say in a clear, invigorated voice, "Professor - BITE ME."

Because YES, I am a valuable human being, separate from my reproductive ability. I have a unique viewpoint and insight to share with the world. But also? I am currently dumb as a rock.

The other day I went grocery shopping. I parked my van and walked to the front of the store to pick out a shopping cart. It was then that I realized I'd left my reusable fabric shopping bags in the back of the van, so I turned right around and headed back to retrieve them. I walked up to the van, pressing my little "unlock" button. Repeatedly. But the lights were not flashing, and I heard no unlock CLUNK, which was weird. That's when I noticed the dent in the bumper.

I gaped. I turned around in a circle, looking for who...what...HOW? I said something aloud that I would TRY not to say in front of the kids. WHAT HAPPENED TO MY VAN?

Understand, the bumper isn't made of metal or anything, so it wasn't an actual dent - more like a crease where the plastic had been folded in deeply, then popped back. A large swath of paint had flaked off, revealing black plastic. I couldn't have backed into something - THAT HARD - without being aware of it, could I? Did someone run into me? WHAT HAPPENED TO MY VAN?

As I stood there, hyperventilating slightly, my gaze drifted to the license plate. IT WAS WRONG TOO.


This wasn't my van. 

I stepped back and glanced around, trying to act like I hadn't just been having a kitten over someone else's bumper damage. I looked around casually, and there was my van. In a whole 'nother row. Facing the other direction.I strolled over to it, collected my bags, and went off to do my shopping. And forgot to lock the van.

Now, in my defense, I drive a gold Odyssey, and statistically speaking, odds are pretty good you do too. There's a lot of them, is what I mean. (By "statistically" I mean "based upon my totally subjective observation that there seem to be a lot of them everywhere since I got mine and I notice them now" not "actually having anything to do with statistics.") On the other hand, it wasn't like I'd been in the store for an hour. I'd walked from the parking lot to the front of the store, turned around, and wandered away like a puppy who'd caught a whiff of some particularly appealing butt. 

And so it goes with me lately. I keep doing things like returning the peanut butter to the fridge and stashing the jelly in the cupboard. And although my former professor would claim that I am buying into the patriarchy's contemptuous view of women and their ability, I would ask this: when YOU are engaged in THE MOST COMPLEX sort of creative work you've ever done, how much brain power do YOU have left over for inanities like parking spots? I rest my case.

And now - proving that I still have a clear grasp of the important - time for a nap!

She is just SO PROUD OF HIM

About a week ago I took Tre in to see his allergist. According to the office records, we were about eight months overdue for a check up. Whoops. Since we're in the office every single week for shots, it's hard to imagine they need to see him MORE.

Nonetheless, I wanted a prescription for more drugs for him (one can never have too many drugs for a child who is allergic to THE PHYSICAL WORLD), and they gently but firmly insisted he be seen by his actual doctor first. Whatever. Like I hadn't fully consulted Google.

On the appointed day, really near to the appointed hour, the boys and I obediently trooped in to see the doctor. Max and Raphael settled in on the floor while Tre hopped up on the paper-covered table to wait. We didn't have to wait long before the doctor, a petite woman dressed in a gorgeous suit, swept in the door. "OOOOOHH, look at you ALL!" she cried. The boys and I glanced at each other. She seemed delighted enough to see us to be a grandmother. She leaned over and hugged Max and Raphael. "Look at what a GOOD JOB you are doing, waiting for your brother!" Then it was my turn for a hug. "And it is SO GOOD to see you!" And then Tre got his hug. He shot me a look over her shoulder and it was one of those moments when I could clearly read his thought bubble: Mom, she is hugging me. WHY is she hugging me? No one said I had to touch the doctor. I smiled and shrugged back, while Doctor Hugs-A-Lot trumpeted her delight at seeing Tre.

Then, with everyone properly greeted, she sat down and opened Tre's chart. She asked how he was feeling (fine), if he needed his inhaler often (maybe twice in the last year), and if he'd had any problems with his shots (not unless you consider an aversion to being stuck with multiple needles a problem). "Well, you are doing GREAT! I am SO PROUD OF YOU!" she told Tre. Then she lowered the chart and looked at him very seriously. "You should be GLAD that you are a late bloomer. I hope you are HAPPY about that. It gives you more time to GROW, you know. When you develop later, you GROW LONGER. So DON'T WORRY, OKAY?"

"Um...okay?" Tre answered. He looked at me, and again I could read the thought bubble: Did she just call me a short late bloomer? Why, yes son, she did. But she is SO PROUD OF YOU.

Just when I was thinking this visit was a total waste of co-pay, she finally asked if I had any questions. As a matter of fact, I did. The reason we started allergy shots was that Tre had an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Being an actual bee keeper, this was something of a downer for him, considering that subsequent allergic reactions to stings carry a higher and higher risk of DEATH. 

"Now that he's been getting these shots for over a year, what are the chances that he'd have a fatal reaction to a bee sting?" Is what I wanted to know. 

Apparently, his odds have improved considerably. Rather than the 60 to 80% chance of a fatal reaction a year ago, he was down to a 15 to 20% chance. Of dying. I thought about this for a minute, just pondering how weird allergies are. I mean, if you had spent a year having expensive and painful treatments done to your...I (I don't know what a painful treatment to your car would be. WORK with me.) And then after your year of investment and hardship, your mechanic told you that your risk of the engine exploding and killing you on the drive home was down to 15%...well. I'm not sure that would be encouraging news. But in an allergist's office you say OH YAY and PLEASE, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER FOUR YEARS? It is...odd.

But then, as we were all swept into one more enthusiastic good bye hug, I realized that ODD? Was par for the course in here.

Incidentally, Tre got stung the very following weekend. He came trotting inside, laughing in that special I-am-so-not-scared way that means he's slightly freaked. I dosed him up with an adult dose of Benedryl and told him firmly that he was going to be fine. Then I watched him, fingering the Epi-Pen in my pocket, holding my breath, and and praying that my words wouldn't come back and bite me like that time when he had an ear infection and I told him confidently that he wouldn't throw up. And then he did, and he has never never never let me forget that. This time, however, I was right. He was fine. I suppose that office is onto something after all. 

I hate food

Can I just tell you how much I hate food? I'm not sure I can do it justice, because the passion with which I hate food is mirrored by the passion with which I love food. When I'm not knocked up. However, right now, food is a trial. And a burden. And a Very Bad Thing. A burdensome trial of A Very Bad Thing. To be exact.

One morning a few weeks ago I woke up, feeling that familiar empty rumble in my stomach that meant it was time to enjoy breakfast. For just a moment I was happy, enjoying the feeling of hunger, because it means the meal you're about to have is going to be JUST SO GOOD. But a split second behind that happiness came a wave of nausea, and my heart sank. Oh, that's right. Hungry doesn't mean yay, time to eat! - it means I have to negotiate all the ways food is wrong right now and eat something before I throw up. And food is wrong in so many ways.

For instance, right now - RIGHT NOW - my beloved Max is sitting behind me, enjoying a peanut butter and banana sandwich. This doesn't sound so bad, right? Ha! I say, with a heavy dose of bitterness. HA! See, Max likes his bread toasted for his pb&b's, and the scent of toasted bread is solidly most disgusting thing in the world. The air around me is thick with this vile odor. It is like a cloud - a cloud of evil and wrongness. Every morning I have to live through this, because my family callously insists on having TOAST with their breakfast. They are mean. No, I have not mentioned my aversion to the smell of toast. Why?

Tonight Clay (who is a prince, despite his love of toast) made dinner because I was feeling so awful. When he was done, he called us all cheerfully to the table and I dragged myself there. My stomach rolled, but I knew that eating usually makes me feel better so I should sit down and eat some...tacos. Gah.

I sat there, hunched over my plate, eating my food like a woman condemned. Every so often I would gulp some water and Clay would pat my leg and ask if I was okay. For a while I thought I would be. Okay, that is. But then...

It's a good thing we eat in the kitchen, just steps from the sink. As I stood there, retching and spitting, Raphael (after asking in a panicked tone to be excused) leaped up and ran downstairs, where he waited, calling up to me, "I hope you feel better, Mom! I hope you're better now!" Tre just stared at the table and muttered, "Going to my happy place. Going awaaaay to my happy place." Clay and Max kept eating. As a matter of fact, as soon as I could assure everyone that I was indeed fine, Clay asked me if he could finish my taco.

Have at it, I said. 

I hate food. THAT'S the problem.

Tre stomped out the door, cutting off the last few golden words of at least a paragraph of wisdom. As the THUD of the door echoed in the empty room, I said to Clay,

"You know, I suspect he wasn't listening to me."

"Well," Clay said thoughtfully, "see, that's just because you were talking."

Happy Birthday, Max

Today is Max's birthday. He's ten, or as we like to say, a double-digit midget.

He is headstrong, complex, and amazing. He has a formidable will...


...and a newfound interest in photography. I can't wait to see what that reveals.


He is my heart.

He is ten.

I'm always late on Monday

The boys went back to school today. That is, they went back to Monday school, the one day a week enrichment program they go to in order to keep us all somewhat sane give them a different classroom experience. This morning was much like any other Monday school morning - we bickered and snarked our way out the door, running ten minutes late, even on the first day. We are NOT good at the whole "get out of the house at a set hour in the MORNING" deal. Sometimes I tell people I homeschool because it's easier than finding all their shoes before the school bus comes - and I'm only sort of kidding.

I did remember to line them up for the first day of school tradition. I took a honey bear (and lordy, do we have honey around here - we're up to three hives in the back yard), and squeezed a golden penny sized dollop of honey onto each tongue. "This," I said, taking care not to drip any on Tre's chin as he smirked, knowing what I was about to say, "is to remind you," Max's head was thrown back, his mouth levered wide, tasting the honey with the same abandon he does most things with, "that learning," Raphael fairly quivered, anticipating his taste, "is sweet."

Now I'm sitting in an empty house, watching "What Not to Wear" (and thinking they TOTALLY need to to a show with a pregnant lady. TOTALLY), and wondering what to do with my time. It occurs to me that in the rush of the morning, I forgot to get teary about the first day back at school. Like an echo, I'm hearing their voices now in a way I glossed over in the hustle of the morning.

"I'm not dissecting anything this year," Max announced as he lingered (oh my LORD, does that child linger) over his banana and peanut butter sandwich. "I don't believe in dissecting things. Not if they're going to dissect something like a frog. I just won't." Now I'm wondering, what is like a frog and what isn't? Last year they dissected sheep eyeballs. Would that be too frog-like? And when did he grow this heart for the tiny dissectable things? The child skewers me, with his clear-eyed devotion to what he suddenly decides is right.

"I am in SECOND GRADE, SECOND GRADE, SECOND GRADE!" Raphael bounced in the middle of the kitchen, a solidly landed two footed jump. Somehow this hadn't really hit him until last night, when he saw me loading up the back packs with new school supplies. All through breakfast he kept scurrying over to his back pack and pawing through it. "SHARPIES, I HAVE SHARPIES!" he crowed. I kept ordering him back to the table and urging him to stop talking in all caps, but that's how Raphi rolls. He's in the moment and on with the caps lock.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I saw a mom I'd been talking to at back to school night. Her son, Tim, is in Tre's grade, and this is his first year at Monday school. He's a little nervous about not knowing anyone. 
"Hey, Tre, there's Tim. Remember I told you about him?" Tre nodded out the window, looking unimpressed. "Hey, he needs a friend, okay? Think how it would feel - not knowing anyone..."
"Mom!" Tre cut me off. I parked and turned to give him my I-mean-it-face, but he grinned at me. "I got it, Mom. Tim will be taken care of. Me and my guys will watch out for him. You AND his mom can chillax." 
I shook my head. Chillax, indeed. How did my firstborn become so sure of himself? Who gave him the keys to the school? I can't help but be proud - and expect that Tim will be fine.

Now, in my quiet, empty house, I'm listening to the echo of their voices, feeling the texture of who they are curl up in my heart, and just like that, the first day back to school tears finally come. 

Four hours late, but that's how it goes with Monday school.

First of all thank you, everyone, for your comments. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy to hear from all you lurkers and old friends. And warm and fuzzy is a huge improvement over exhausted and queasy, lemme tell you. 

Seriously, y'all made me cry. More than once. I'm thrilled to share this will all of you - if I don't get lost in a pregnancy brain fog on my way to the computer every night. No promises. I'll do my best.

To answer a few questions - due date is March 29, which is nine days after I turn 38. And I'm feeling, well, sick and tired and foggy and...probably exactly how I should feel. The other day I pulled into a parking space, turned off the car, pulled out the keys, and transferred them to my left hand. Then I sat there, in a slight daze, for 30 seconds or so, and then I spent two minutes looking for my keys. Which were in my left hand. "Should you be driving?" Clay keeps asking. No, probably not. 

Yesterday I had my first doctor's appointment, and had an ultrasound. I got to see him/her, a fuzzy gray dot that did us the great honor of having a heartbeat. It made me cry. Pulse, little fuzzy gray dot, pulse! 

It is NOT twins, as Jennie had hoped (whew!), but one, perfectly sized for gestational age little guy/girl. We are blessed.

And I am sleepy. I was going to tell you all about the water main that broke up the street from us, but you'll just have to wait on that thrilling story. Try not to hold your breath the whole time, ok?  Not healthy.

The constant is change

I was sweeping, and a small Lego brick skittered across the floor, dislodged by my broom. I bent down to pick it up, sighing. I wiped dust off the glossy blue surface and looked at it. It was one of the tiny ones, a single dot on top for wedging in the bottom of another brick. It was one of the legion that lurks in every corner of my house.

I thought about the Legos in the couch, and under the couch. Legos lined up on the ledge, waiting to be taken back downstairs where they live. A Lego that turned up, inexplicably, in the silverware basket of the dishwasher. Legos on the piano.

There will ALWAYS be Legos, I thought.

Of course, I know that's not true. There are so many things that I thought were fixtures in our lives, that are simply gone. Once upon a time Tre was obsessed with paper airplanes, and behind every piece of furniture you could find at least one hoop-nosed scooter. Today our home is entirely paper airplane free. It wasn't that long ago that Max persisted in bringing in ants - just carrying around a single, tiny black ant, that would inevitably be left orphaned in the bathroom sink, or on the kitchen table. I despaired of ever convincing him to leave the ants outside, but today I never even think about it. I asked him about it the other day, if he remembered when he was four and carried ants into the house, and he looked at me like I'd lost my mind. And so it goes. In the last few years, in barely a breath of time, Jennie has gone from a reserved, suspicious, softly rounded little girl to a long, lean woman, with a nearly adult sense of graciousness and joy. The never ending Shooperman phase of Raphael's is barely a memory now. One day soon all the boys will be done with Legos, and I will forget that they were ubiquitous. Ubrickuitous.

I feel like I finally get it, I finally understand what those women were always trying to tell me in the grocery store when I was a brand new mom. They would lean in and coo at Tre (and usually call him a girl, because if you have hair and long eyelashes, you are obviously a girl, even if your mom has dressed you in blue overalls). And then they would look at me intensely, maybe even grip my arm, and say,
 "ENJOY this. It goes so fast.

I'd nod and smile and promise I would, but in my head I was thinking, pssht. Walk a mile in my soggy nursing bra, honey. This is endless.

But of course, it was not. And in the span of minutes, those days have twined and melted into thin air, and my tiny perfect baby not-a-girl is now a teen, breathing down the neck of adulthood, and I get it. These endless days really are made out of smoke, and although I can't keep a grip on them I have to watch. 

However, as it turns out...

Continue reading "The constant is change" »

What I did for my summer vacation - by Kira

For my summer vacation I went to Washington state, to celebrate my in-law's 50th wedding anniversary.

This is Larry and Connie:

Not only have they been married 50 years, they still like each other. AND they are the best in-laws a person could possibly hope for.

There was a huge party to celebrate Larry and Connie's anniversary, with tons of family that I somehow didn't get many pictures of. However, Raphael is in love with his Aunt Brenda, and he's given to swiping cameras, so we got pictures of her.

One of the best parts of spending time with Clay's side of the family was watching them love on the kids.

Aunt Jill and Jennie

In the midst of the anniversary celebrations, they paused to wish my firstborn a happy birthday as he turned 13.

They live on an island in the Colombia river. Their yard looks like this:

Since there was water and sand, we had to do lots of this:


..and this:

For some reason, things needed to be whacked with sticks...a lot.


The aforementioned awesome in-laws let us borrow their RV and take it to spend a few days on the coast. It was pretty cold, but we found lots of sand dollars. And there were early morning walks on the beach. Jennie loved those.

A lot.

The boys got to drive their Grandpa's gator...

(see the loving father there, showing his SEVEN YEAR OLD how to operate farm equipment? Isn't he cute?)

...and shoot BB guns.


And if it looks like I just woke up from a nap here, it's was JUST THAT RELAXED.

Doesn't Jennie's hair look awesome in the wind on the ferry?


It was so good to go, so good to come home, and is so, so good to be a part of such a big, loving family.

The End

I only have to be a little more strong willed than they are

Thing are just plain off-kilter around here. This morning Jennie was the first one in the house awake. She was in the shower before anyone else was out of bed. Anyone with a 16 year old girl living in your house understands why I rolled over and muttered to Clay, "honey, wake up. It's the apocalypse."

But at least Jennie remains a pleasant human being. The boys, on the other hand? Monsters.

You know how doctors will sometimes describe a regimen for regulating sleep and improving its quality as "sleep hygiene?" Love that. I picture a stern nurse, pulling on her gloves with a snap, glaring down at a helpless insomniac and growling, "You are doing it WRONG! We will FIX YOU!" Well, the boys are in need of a little "expectation hygiene."

For the last week and a half, their lives have been a playground. No chores, hardly any rules, lots of soda, and diversions galore. They've played and swam and eaten junk daily. They shot bb guns, and learned to drive their grandpa's gator (three guesses whose idea those last two activities was. I'll give you a hint - it wasn't ME and his name rhymes with SAY). They played on the beach and were buried in the sand by cousins. They were loved on by an enormous family who is talented in the realm of loving on kids. They watched TV at random hours of the day. With cookies in hand.

In short, they are spoiled rotten.

You know how they say that if you're introducing a new food to a child, you should try it something like 47 times? Because it takes that long for kids to get used to something new? Well, when the NEW THING is a life of unrestrained revelry, it only takes about fourteen seconds for kids to acclimate. And then they expect it as their God-given DUE.

 Apparently while we were gone, Denver was being baked by a heat wave of punishing proportions. We got home to discover that the chocolate chips in our cupboard had melted all together. The lawn was toast. The tree out front has these little helicopter seeds, which it tends to drop slowly, over the course of the summer. However, in response to a week and a half of 100-plus temperatures, all the seeds turned brown and fell to the lawn in drifts. This morning Clay and I were looking out the window at the mess.

"We're going to have to rake those seeds up so I can water the lawn," Clay mused. Tre sighed from the couch, where he was busy bickering with his brothers and reclining, dissatisfied with what the day had to offer him.

"Well," he declared firmly, "I'M not going out there. It's HOT."

Clay and I exchanged a look, then said in unison, "Oh REALLY?"

And so began Operation Repair Boy Attitude. Within minutes all three boys were following their dad outside, whining and grumbling and weeping a little when necessary. On the plus side, the lawn is raked, the sidewalk swept, and my van has never been cleaner. On the minus side, I suspect this may be a long and hard-fought campaign.