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November 2008
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January 2009

Love makes any day better

Raphael was a little monster child today.

Oh, I know that probably sounds awful, and I should be more sympathetic about the wee guy's emotional state, but fertheluvapete, that child was making me crazy. Not just me, either. When he's having an off day, like today, he's all energy and enthusiasm, bounding around and laughing while he drives the people around him right 'round the bend with frustration. He is Nero, fiddling whilst Rome burns. A small example: I was sweeping the living room and Raphael came bouncing up the stairs and spied me standing there, a mound of floor dirt at my feet. He raced over, leapt into the dirt pile with both stocking-ed feet, and did a little jig of sorts. While playing a bongo rhythm on my remarkably covex belly. And laughing.

It was as though his mind processed, in a split second, all the "be careful, don't walk through the dirt" messages he had ever received, and instantly picked the one course of action most guaranteed to annoy me. The belly bongo act was just an inspired bonus.

In the whole day, I can only think of one moment of peace in Raphael's world. When the mail came, I spied an envelope from Clay's sister, Brenda. I tore it open, and there was a card with a beautiful picture of Brenda, her husband Brad, and their little girl, Mina. Raphael stood behind me, pressing against my shoulder in an effort to get close the picture. You may remember that he fell in love with Aunt Brenda this summer, when we were all out at Clay's parent's house for their 50th wedding anniversary. He followed her around, taking pictures of her whenever he could.

"Can I see? Is it Aunt Brenda? CAN I HAVE IT?"

I let him hold the card and he flipped it over, looking for a letter, then back, to gaze at Brenda's face.

"I have to make her a card," he breathed. And he raced off to find the paper and markers. For a good half an hour he was silent, laboring over his artwork for Aunt Brenda. I peered at the top of his head, bent over his work. For once in the day he was content.

I do not know what to do with Raphael some days, I swear I don't. But I know this: love is a mystery and Raphi is a mystery. And the two mysteries together are very good, indeed.

Aunt Brenda 

(This is one of the pictures Raphi took of Brenda this summer. She's the lovely one in profile. See his reflection in the window? Sort of sweet/stalkerish, isn't it?)

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. May passion reframe your day.

Flashes of insight

They boys used to have these bouncy balls - I think they got them at the zoo - that were large, about the size of a small child's fist. They were clear and inside them were lights. When you bounced them, these lights would flash all around. Blue, green or red.

What I remember the most about these balls, though, was that I always seemed to accidentally bump them in the middle of the night, while carrying a child back to his bed, or stumbling to the side of a crib. One minute I'd be picking my way across a nightlight-lit room, the next minute one of those balls would be rolling ahead of me, FLASH, FLASH, FLASH, stabbing the dark in every direction with brilliant spears of light. From dark, to a color spangled room, back to dark in just a moment.

Now, in the middle of the night, whenever I roll over, or shift position, this baby under my heart reacts something like those bouncy balls. All is still one minute, and the next she is flailing out in every direction, arms and legs flashing out as far as she can reach.

I lie in the dark and run my hands over the rubbery taut half moon of my belly and feel her energetic response to being disturbed in the night. Clay and I have debated what it means about her personality. I think she's pitching a fit at being woken. He suggests she could be playing, which I suppose is just as possible.

Inevitably, I suppose, I compare this baby to her brothers, and try to remember their days in utero too. Could I tell before Tre was born what a relentless person he is? Could I sense Max's unflinchinguniqueness? I know Raphael must have leapt inside me like a joyous fish, because he's never stopped.

In the middle of the night, all alone with these flashes from my daughter, I wonder who she is. She thumps just above my belly button, and my hand jumps.

Whoever she may be, I suspect she is fierce.

When I was pregnant with Max, I lived down in the heart of Denver. I loved it there. We were renting a beautiful, shabby brick house for a ridiculously low amount, and often I would toss three-year-old Tre in a stroller and meander among gorgeous old homes, agog at the beauty and old trees and all the CHARM they have just lying around down there. It was also very, very nice to be able to say casually, "Oh, we live near Washington Park," rather than muttering the name of this suburb that I can't seem to escape. Yes, I am very shallow.

But easily the best part of living there was the farmer's market. Each Saturday I would strap Tre back in that stroller, meet up with my mom, and we would walk down to the farmer's market (she walked, I waddled). The very first thing I bought, the minute we entered that maelstrom of people and smells and food, was a large limeade. It was amazing, an icy cold cupful of mouth-puckering lime sweetness. I've always craved fruit flavors when I'm pregnant, and especially citrus, so in the middle of all the heat of summer and puffiness of pregnancy, this limeade was The Best Thing Ever. I kept trying to make my mom try it, but after her first sip, she would make a face at me and shake her head. So we would wander among the stalls, and I would feel my hands and feet swell in the heat, the way they do when you're one thousand months pregnant, and I'd sip my drink, letting it fill my whole head with bright, clean lime flavor.

Max was born toward the end of August, and as soon as I was back on my feet again I made the trip back to the farmer's market. This time I had an infant strapped to my chest as well as Tre in the stroller, but I was still making a beeline for that large blue cooler of limeade. I stood in line for my dripping cool cup, my mouth watering, and could barely force myself to wait through the payment and exchange of pleasantries for my first drink, like a nice, normal person.

It tasted awful.

Sour and watery, it was just awful. I thrust the cup at my mom, insisting she taste just how bad it was. She resisted, but I can be pushy compelling, and eventually she relented and took a sip.

"Yeah, that's how it always tastes," she declared, handing it back to me. I tried it again, but it was nothing like the lime-drenched elixir of just a few weeks prior. I was bewildered, and after a few minutes of back-and-forth with Mom ("It wasn't like this. Seriously. TASTE it." "I DID taste it, and that's EXACTLY what it was like." "No, really, Mom. TASTE it." "No, really, Kira. NO."), I realized that the only difference was my no-longer-pregnant taste buds. The same loss of super power that had left me (mercifully) unable to detect the scent of SOCK from three rooms away had also turned the INTENSE knob way down on how everything tasted. You know, to normal.

I've been thinking about that limeade recently, and not just because LORD, does that sound good. It's unsettling to think about my senses being that unreliable. In the morning, as I eat my grapefruit (seriously, THE BEST grapefruit ever), I roll it around on my tongue and wonder how it would taste if I weren't pregnant. It's puzzling, to think that this world I perceive may not, in some ways, be what I think it is at all.

Yesterday I did something stupid. It wasn't a big deal, really, but it was genuinely stupid. However, by the time I was done processing the idea of it, I was in the bath, covering my face with my hands, and crying. Ugly crying. Clay sat on the sink and tried to comfort me while I apologized and then told him not to look at me. Repeatedly. The boys (who were supposed to be in bed) took turns sneaking up the stairs to listen outside the door. It wasn't pretty.

Somehow, in my mind, I'd connected the one stupid thing I'd done to Every Other Aspect of my life. And all evidence pointed to the fact that I was a FAILURE. Look, I could try to walk you through it all, but it was equal parts boring and pathetic. Let's just sum it up like this: I had a total hormonal pregnant lady breakdown.

Today my eyes are puffy and sore, and my face looks a kilter. I am just too old to recover quickly from the ugly cry anymore. I touch my tender eyelids and mentally review the issues that had me so hopeless yesterday.

I wonder what they would taste like if I wasn't pregnant?