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August 2008
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October 2008

Posting it just so I can remember

At the library, waiting for Max to be done with his book club meeting, Raphael logged onto one of the computers. I was sitting at a table, reading my book, and glanced up to see him getting frustrated. I set down my book and went over to crouch beside him.

"Look, honey, you need an 'A' there, not an 'O'. How's that?" I fixed the point of his frustration with a few quick key strokes. He nodded, distracted, still watching the screen to be sure all was well. Just as I was about to stand up, he turned and looked fully at me. He leaned his forehead against mine and dropped a feather-light kiss on my nose.

"You are my own special mom. Thank you."

And he went back to what he was doing.

I do not deserve his tenderness. I have been worthless lately, equal parts tired and short-tempered. And yet my days are filled with such kindness.

Today Tre cleaned the downstairs bathroom, also known as the boys' bathroom, also known as...ewwww. He'd offered to take over the bathroom cleaning while I'm pregnant - offered! Of his own volition! He didn't think the bad smells of bathroom cleaning would be good for me in my delicate state. (He didn't say "delicate state" he said "because you might ralph.") And I, being the easygoing mom that I am, promptly decided that he would never do it right, and took to sneaking around, cleaning the bathroom when he was outside playing.

But today I let go a bit, pried my fingers off one tiny corner of control, and pointed him to the cleaning supplies. He flew to work, only asking a few questions.

He did a great job. I watched him swagger away, very pleased with himself, and wondered again where this almost-man came from. So often lately I'm gritting my teeth when I'm talking to him, because we are at logger-heads over EVERYTHING these days, and he is RELENTLESS. It gets to the point where he just walks in the room and I can feel my blood pressure rise.

Then he turns around and is so thoughtful and kind it makes me stop, catch my breath, and watch him grow up, in awe.

I had to call him back to put the cleaning stuff away, but still.

Far more kindness than I deserve.

Perfect already

So as you can imagine, one of the common subjects of discussion around here is baby names. I am personally not interested in delving too deeply into the subject until we know the sex of the baby, and have mostly responded to suggestions with an indulgent smile. Since I'm not playing, Clay is having a field day, coming up with outrageous suggestions, trying to get me to respond. He's currently insisting that if it's a boy his name will be Obadiah Bartholemew. My husband is adorable, and a little insane. At least he's given up on Claybo or Clayrina.

Last week I had an appointment for an ultrasound. Not just any ultrasound, this was a fancy-schmancy nuchal translucency scan. This is a new thing, apparently. I know no one particularly cared what the boys' nuchal folds were up to, but this pregnancy seems to be happening a whole new world. 

Now, I like to think of myself as a fairly calm person. However, this test somehow slipped me into a tizzy. Want to know what I kept myself up with, fretting, in the wee hours of the morning? The fact that when I wrote here about the pregnancy I said, "...there will be..." as though I were a 23 year old child, bubble headed and unaware of all that can go wrong between two pink lines and a baby. (Not that ALL 23 year olds are bubble headed. I certainly was.) And here I was, of Advanced Maternal Age, blithely skipping into a pregnancy as though most of my eggs wouldn't float in a glass of water (you know, if you were checking themfor freshness? Nevermind).

The scan was done at a testing facility that specializes in this sort of thing, and performed by a woman who seems completely over the wonder of seeing fetuses on her fuzzy little screen. She was kind of irritated with me in the first place, because this scan is REALLY recommended for women UNDER 35, while I should be sticking with the amnio style of testing. I explained that I was NOT going to be having an amnio (um, hello, increased risk of miscarriage plus BIG CRAZYNEEDLE IN THE BELLY, thanks anyhow) and this was my compromise with my OB as far as risk assessment. She was not pleased with me OR my OB.

Nonetheless, I had my magic insurance card plus co-pay, which opens many a door in the medical world, and we were soon headed back to a dimly lit room and a squirt of cold goo on the belly. Cranky Tech fired up the machine, wielded her wand, and there he was. Or she. I'm willing to admit the possibility. Don't get excited, it's still too early to tell if it's a boy or a girl.

However, it's not too early to tell it's a baby. There s/he was, squirming away from the irritating thing poking around, waving stubby little arms, kicking tiny matchsticks of legs. The last time I'd had an ultrasound, all I'd seen was frilly curve of life, pulsing with that amazing flicker of a heartbeat. Now there was an entire person, in miniature. 

"There's the stomach, and we can see that baby's swallowing fluid, so that's a good sign. And there's the heart, and there are the intestines. They're in the right place. See that gray line? That's the diaphragm." She went on, a detailed tour of tiny, intricate anatomy. She ran her finger along the line of dots indicating the spine, and I could almost hear a sound, like a finger run along piano keys. Everything looked just as it should, and despite my advanced age, I watched the screen and leaked happy tears.

Then we were done, and I offered up my finger for a poke. As Cranky Tech squeezed my fingertip to extract enough blood to saturate the circles on her little card, she took the opportunity to urge me again to reconsider the amnio.

"This screening isn't a diagnostic tool. It only tells you your risk for certain problems. An amnio will tell you everything you need to know, not only about the conditions we talked about today, but about hundreds of others."

I thanked her, but thought about the squirming little being I'd just seen on the screen. Already I'd slipped from the realm of "possible child" to a recognition of "there is my child." There is no test that I needed to tell me he or she is perfect. Like all of our kids, this one is already both perfect and flawed. If there are "conditions" that need to be dealt with, so be it. I've never yet met a child WITHOUT some sort of special needs, anyhow. 

I know what I need to know already. This is my baby.


And his/her name is NOT Obadiah.

To the telemarketer who called tonight at 8:36

Look, it's nothing personal. I'm just not going to purchase anything from you. I'm not. It's not because I dislike you - how could I? The only things I know about you are that you have a rotten job and I'm pretty sure English is your second language. I'm not judging you for either of these things. I'll tell you a secret. Shhhh. Ready? I was once a telemarketer.

It's true. It was when I was in college. I'd been fired from my terrible job as a waitress, and hadn't yet gotten my terribly underpaid job as a nanny, and in a fit of desperation, I took a job as a telemarketer, calling people for the Fraternal Order of Police.

Except if you know anything about the people who call on the behalf of most fine charities, I wasn't really working for the FOP at all. I was working for a scrawny 19 year old guy who was famous in our little office for getting a speeding ticket on the way to work for driving 96 mph in a 35 mph zone.


Anyhow, my point is that something crazy like 95% of the money we raised by bothering people went to our 19 year old boss, with the generous remaining 5% going to benefit our fine men in blue and their families. 

Okay, to be perfectly honest, 95% of the money my coworkers raised went to our boss. I was not what you'd call a telemarketing success, with my knee-jerk tendency to apologize to people and a complete inability to press my point. I did not last long on the phone bank.

What I'm trying to say is that I understand. You have a terrible job, and however you landed there, this is probably not where you'd thought your life was going. I'm sure you're a very nice person. The only reason I'm not ever ever ever going to buy anything from you is that it's my policy not to give money to businesses that seek me out. If I need you, I will find you, m'kay?

But let me share a little bit of information with you, some insight from this side of the phone, telemarketer guy. I will never be persuaded to purchase your product, but when you drone your script in a monotone, just slightly slower than normal speech patterns, as though the metronome in your head were grinding to a standstill, and the second hand on the clock stalls, trapped in the molasses-like quality of your voice?

 I will be filled with the desire to stab you in the neck with a fork.

Thanks! If you have any questions, please call 1-800-CrankyGal! 

See what happens when I try to be A Good Mom?

A while ago, someone gave my sons a hermit crab habitat. Okay, I confess - it was more than a little while ago. It was more like three years ago. Or more. It was so long ago that I don't remember exactly who gave it to them, although I strongly suspect either Aunt Ellyn or Aunt Kathleen.

When the boys showed me the cool new habitat, I took it gently out of their excited little hands and said, "OH, LOVELY. Let me just tuck that away for a little bit, until we can order the hermit crab..." and I tucked it away, far far away, in the backest back recesses of my closet. 

I'm not ANTI HERMIT CRAB, or anything. Save your letters of protest. I was getting ready to get married and move and upend my life in all manner of ways, and didn't feel I could take on the responsibility for another living being.

Then we married and moved, of course. And I didn't finish packing my stuff left over at my parents' house few years, including those items stashed in the very backest back recesses of the closet. All this is to say that I just finally got around to sending off for the hermit spring.

And then, of course, it got too hot to mail a living thing, and the upshot is that we just got Mr. Crab today. When I opened the mailbox this afternoon, there was a small styrofoam cube sitting inside. Curious, I peeled off the tape and opened it. In the very middle was a plastic wrapped hermit crab. It reacted to the motion and light by reaching out with its scritchy little legs, scrabbling against the plastic and styrofoam.

I clapped that box shut, set it down, and walked away. It's not that the tiny thing is scary, not at all. It's just...scritchy. I'd had some vague notion of this thing being a pet of sorts. Hey, I've loved a rat. But when I saw that thing, all hard-shelled and prehistoric looking, I knew I'd made an error in judgement. One simply doesn't naturally wish to cuddle something that can survive being wrapped in plastic. And if you do, keep it to yourself.

It turns out that hermit crabs are supposed to be bathed weekly. And exercised daily. None of us are clear about exactly what that means. But the boys are enjoying having a creature to poke at. Max thinks we should name him Hermy.

I suppose it's a better name than Error In Judgement.

Who's got that glow?

I just ate a bowl of ice cream I didn't want.

Does that sentence even make sense? Hmm.

The thing is, I was feeling awful, queasy and...awful. And ice cream seems to help, except when it doesn't. So when Clay offered the nightly bowl of ice cream, I responded with a glum, "I guess so."
He was puzzled. For Clay, the best part of the day is ice cream time (well, the SECOND best part of the day, but ice cream time happens every night). 
"So...does that mean yes or no?" He stood in the kitchen, holding a carton of ice cream, looking like a child who has just been told that Christmas isn't all that great, really.
"Yes. Fine. Okay," I replied, ever gracious.

I am so much fun. Truly, being married to me is an endless joyride. Sometimes, to entertain my love, I perform stupid pregnant woman tricks.
"What IS THAT SMELL?" I say, looking around the room with wild eyes. "I smell smoke. Like - OLD smoke. And someone on the block just threw up, too. And our couch smells funky."
As you can imagine, this makes for an evening of love and laughter.

At least I make up for it by completely failing to keep up with the housework. Dust drapes everything like the soft-focus view of Captain Kirk's love interest on Star Trek. Laundry - gah, laundry - persists in not getting folded. Dinner is a distinctly hit-or-miss affair. The floor is an exercise in strengthening the children's immune systems. If anyone dropped by unexpected, the way they're always doing in magazine articles, I would have to set fire to the living room and hope it all burned quickly.

On top of all that wonder, I'm also a tad cranky and snappy. Especially with the children, who are trying to kill me. Today Max poured himself a bowl of Cheerios, then took the bag of Cheerios (which had been pulled out of the box), and set it down on the table, where it promptly tipped over, sending a cascade of cereal onto the floor. I flipped, snatching up the bag and clipping it shut, then making Max and Raphael both watch while I demonstrated how a bag will TIP OVER almost EVERY SINGLE TIME because it is a BAG and THAT'S HOW THEY ARE. SEE? SEE HOW IT TIPPED OVER AGAIN? SEE HOW IT WOULD HAVE SPILLED EVERYWHERE IF NOT FOR THE CLIP?
They both stood there, watching me rant, with bemused looks on their faces, as though to say, yes, we know, Mom. Don't we spill the Cheerios nearly every morning? Duh.
The dog is, right now, eating the Cheerios Max missed when he was sweeping the floor. Who wants to bet that their oaty goodness gives her gas?

To cap off all my endearing attributes, I like to end my day by crawling in bed, curling into a miserable ball, and rubbing one foot against the other in a self-soothing motion that makes the bed shake. "I don't want to throw up," I mutter, "I REALLY don't want to throw up..."

I'm eleven weeks along today. By my calculations, that means this first trimester has been going on for seventeen years and should be over in roughly twenty more years. Clay is one lucky man.

Carmi - the duchess of a dog

I've decided that Carmi, our full-blooded mutt o' love is quite the lady. Like - a duchess of a dog, you know, if duchesses were given to shedding and licking their feet alllll night long with an endlessly annoying licklicklicklick sound. Other than that, she is very very ladylike. She declines to eat if anyone else is in the room, even if she's hungry. Fill her food bowl and stand there, and she'll trot over, all joy and wags, then sit, look at you, look embarrassed, gaze at the corner of the room, look back at you, etc. I've never been able to outwait her determination not to be caught eating, so I always leave, only to hear her snarfing up the food as I make my way around the corner. Enjoy, duchess.

She is a delicate soul, and if I raise my voice at the children (IF! Hahahahahahaha! "If," she says), she comes and stands  between me and the object of my - er - slightly amplified lecture, and shakes. She fixes me with big puppy eyes, and then just trembles at me. Bitch. (See what I did there? Because she's a female dog...? Am I the only one who amuses me?)
When she's out in the back yard, and wishes to come inside, she issues her request with a single, sharp bark. This is one of my favorite of her qualities, as we are bookended by two households that have dogs of the "unrelenting barking" variety. And if she's inside and wishes to go out (these two events are more closely - and repeatedly - linked in time than one might normally expect), she just looks at the most likely door opening candidate. Then she walks to the door. And back. Looks. Walks to the door. She can do this all day. Very ladylike. If I ask her if she wants to go outside, she bows, head to the floor. An honest to goodness downward dog. 

But here's what I wonder about - the question that haunts my days and my nights - what on EARTH does our duchess of a dog EAT to make her expel smells like that from her butt?