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October 2009
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December 2009

Love - I know it when I see it.

One of the things that surprised me about having kids is how much they change your environment. I remember coming home from the most MISERABLE baby shower ever when I was pregnant with Tre (I was the first in my group of friends to fall pregnant - too early for it to be exciting. My peeps were bewildered by a party that didn't include questionable mixed drinks in red plastic cups. Worst. Baby. Shower. Ever.), and I was completely blown away by my new baby swing. I sat on the couch and cried and cried and cried because it hit me that I was having a BABY and he was bringing FURNITURE that I would be expected to keep in my HOUSE.

Well, he did bring furniture into my house. And toys and clothes and those tiny nail clippers and rubber nose-sucker things...nothing was ever the same. And although you couldn't have convinced me that day, as I cried over my new baby swing, I never missed the mixed-drinks-in-red-plastic-cups days.

But still, it does surprise me sometimes. Things have a way of being moved around. For example: I have, stashed on a shelf in the laundry room, a container of glass marbles from the flower arrangements we had at the wedding reception. I don't know what I thought I was going to do with them - it's not like I'm the sort to randomly commit acts of floral design. Nonetheless, I kept them, in their clear plastic jar with the blue lid.

But the other day I found them, all spilled amongst the boys' Lego collection. I swear, that bin of Legos has eaten more household items...we should dump it out and check for Jimmy Hoffa. Or the economy. Something.

It didn't upset me, per se, finding my glass marbles there. It just...surprised me. But the truth is that this is the kids' house too. So sometimes the boys are going to repurpose things that are supposed to just be pretty. Sometimes the girls are going to appropriate my eyeliner. We share this life, this space, and we all put our prints on it.

A few weeks ago Raphael found some modeling clay in a school cupboard. He was delighted with it, and fell to creating with it immediately. Every so often he shouted up the stairs, explaining his progress. He'd discovered that if he ran hot water over it, he could mold it easily.

"I'm making a TREE," he shouted, "but an EVERGREEN TREE! And I have an OWL that's going to live in the tree!"

I just love it when he gets like this. He's a boy of intemperate moods, and when his passion runs to creativity instead of mayhem, I am thrilled by the glimpse of all the promise in him.

So when he came upstairs with his finished creation, there was nothing else I could do except put it on display.

And that's how my living room came to be decorated with this very special artwork:

Continue reading "Love - I know it when I see it." »

Sometimes sanity depends on your focus

The other night I was taking a bath.

Immediate digression: this means this night was EXACTLY THE SAME as nearly every other night around here. I've always loved a bath, but it's taken on greater importance since Sophia was born. Things that are easier as an older/wiser mother: I don't worry nearly so much about SIDS or iron deficiencies (don't ask). Things that are harder: bouncing back into shape and functioning on little to no sleep. Things that are unchanged: I usually have random crusty areas on my shirt, and that FEELING you get at the end of a day, with a nursing infant, where you sort of want to PEEL ALL YOUR SKIN OFF and hand it to the baby and say "Here, crawl all over this all you want, just STOP TOUCHING ME." I've found that a half an hour in the bath every night with a good book or a trashy magazine is a much better solution than a skinectomy, and Clay is totally on board with whatever I need to be okay with human contact again. Especially right before bed. I'm just saying. So nearly every day ends with me in the tub, pretending I can't hear my loving family right on the other side of the door. /digression

Anyhow, there I was, trying to focus on my Oprah magazine and all the suggestions it had for Transforming my Life (Dear Oprah, Maybe my life is FINE. Did you ever consider that? Love, pruny toes). On the other side of the door there was a drama playing out. A couple of neighbor kids had rung the doorbell, then scurried away into the night. This unthinkable act had stirred up in the boys an intense drive for REVENGE. Tre had snuck outside and waited in the dark behind some chairs on the front porch. After about fifteen minutes, the kids returned for another dastardly ding-dong-ditch, and he'd leapt out, yelling, and scared the crud out of them. It was, apparently, FABULOUS.

So now they were plotting another covert crud-scaring mission (because OF COURSE the kids were coming back again. There must not have been much on TV that night). Naturally they had to hide in a new spot, because they would be looking for them behind the chairs...

"BOYS." Clay broke in. Thank God, I thought, the voice of reason. He'll put a stop to this nonsense. "What you want to do is go over to the gate on the OTHER side of the house. Open it, get down on your bellies, and crawl. KEEP YOUR HEADS DOWN. Hide in the shadows on the side of the porch. Go get 'em."

And with that they were off into the night.

"Close the gate behind you," Clay called after them.

I sank down into the water up to my earlobes, and pretended I hadn't heard.

The voice

Sophia is much, much, hugely better. She feels sort of like a lizard, as her skin flakes off all over, but underneath that she is a rosy cheeked, happy baby again. She squawks and bellows and laughs again. Now that she's crawling comfortably she feels quite sure that she should be able to walk, so she's pulling herself up on, and falling down from, everything within reach. It feels a little like we're living in an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos.

I feel like I can take a deep breath for the first time in days. Thank God for antibiotics.

Honestly, I don't think I even realized HOW sick she was until she started getting better. You know how people always say that mothers just know when something is wrong? That they have this sense about their children, and everyone should just respect that? Well I've always found that notion to be a huge amount of pressure. I mean, what if I just happen to be the mom without the sense about my children (beating my brother, The One True Josh to the punch here, I am after all completely without sense about MOST THINGS)? What if I am the tone-deaf woman who doesn't hear that voice telling her something is wrong?

Well, I can tell you definitively that there was a voice. To be precise, it was my voice, saying repeatedly, "she just doesn't LOOK RIGHT." And even though I kept trying to convince myself that she was fine, the first whack-job doctor was right, and it was just a virus, I kept hearing myself tell people, "she just doesn't LOOK RIGHT."

And she just didn't. So I guess I did know, after all.

Now that Sophia's feeling better, all three boys have colds. Today they parked in front of the TV, sneezy and snuffly and glassy eyed. And even though I felt their foreheads and made them drink water and gave them extra vitamin C, I knew they just had colds, and it never even occurred to me to worry. At one point this evening Raphael climbed into my lap for a cuddle. He's getting so long-limbed that it's sort of like cuddling a colt. He wrestled himself into place inside my arms and leaned back, his head lolling happily on my shoulder.

"I think I'm already better," he rasped. On the floor, Sophia reached up to grab for his toe. The house smelled of popcorn and Sunday evening, and I hugged my already-better-baby-boy close.

"I think everyone's feeling better," I said. And I think it's true. Mothers, they KNOW.

In which Kira overuses caps and is unrepentant.

Sophia was looking...ehm...better. But not better enough. And I was just. so. sick. of talking over her symptoms with Clay. I swear, the amount of time we have spent discussing that child's skin, the different shades it has morphed through, the textures and changes...and then for fun we move onto a comprehensive review of her diapers and the contents therein, followed by a temperament analysis that would make you weep with longing for the fast-paced excitement of tax forms.

And despite unremitting conversations between two people who are not medical professionals, we still did not have her figured out. So I called the doctor and whined at the nurse and scored myself an appointment in the much-coveted "we'll get you out JUST in time for rush hour" spot.

This time we saw Sophia's actual doctor, a man who has been our pediatrician since Max was born. I trust him, and he didn't let me down. He came in and peered at her, looked in her ears, nose, mouth. Studied her skin from head to toe. Asked me thoughtful questions. Listened to her lungs and heart and stomach and whatever else they're listening to.

Then he said, "Well, it's probably a virus, nothing we can do."

Aaaaargggh, I was thinking, why am I here again?

"But," he went on, "just in case, I'd like to take a culture of her nose, just to be sure we don't have any strep or anything growing in there. We'll have the rapid screen results tomorrow, and the longer test done by Friday, okay?"

It was okay with ME, but Sophia had other opinions about having a cotton swab stuck up her nose. She wailed, and I swear if angry baby eyes could kill, that man would be DEAD AS A DOORNAIL.

I didn't expect to hear anything from the office after that, assuming it was, after all, a virus. So how thrilled do you think I was to see their number on my caller ID this morning? HUH? GUESS.

Hey, guess what? My baby has a freaking STAPH INFECTION.

So the treatment protocol for that is thrice-daily doses of serious antibiotics, and a full and complete moratorium on Google. For the love of all that is good and right, NO GOOGLE.

And can you just imagine how much I am LOVING that first doctor who barely glanced at her on Sunday? CAN YOU? If you're thinking, I bet Kira would like to start sending Christmas cards JUST so she can pointedly NOT send that doctor one, well, I would suggest you adjust your estimation of my esteem somewhat lower. What? you say, would you like to start sending Christmas cards just so you can send him one that is MEAN and SNOTTY and not nice at all? OH NO, I say, GO SOUTH. Like, more in the range of I refuse to respond on the grounds I might incriminate myself.

But the truth is that I'm just mad at him because it's distracting from the reality of being scared for my baby. I'm tired, emotionally and physically, and I just want her to be well.

And that's about all I have to say about that.

Even if it IS a brand-new virus, I don't want it named after her.

Sophia has been sick. Brace yourself, because now I'm about to describe the course of her illness, which is totally annoying and boring to anyone who isn't her parents, but please bear with me.

This is why people hate mommybloggers, isn't it?

Nonetheless, it started last week. She got punky and had a little diarrhea, and ran a tiny wee fever. 99.5-ish. Nothing impressive. So fine, I settled in for lots of holding the baby and figured it was some baby bug that would run its course in a few days. I mean, it's what babies do, right? Suffer randomly from fleeting ailments?

Well, that seemed to be what was happening, but as it turns out she was closely watching the time on her dainty invisible baby wristwatch, because as soon as the pediatrician's office closed on Friday, she started getting worse.

I guess I should say she started LOOKING worse.

Her cheeks went chalk white, and around her eyes and mouth, the skin turned bright red, like a sunburn. By Saturday the redness had spread to her whole body, and when we picked her up, she recoiled and wailed like she'd been slapped.

Ever tried to comfort a baby that MUST be held but HATES to be touched? It's a ginger proposition.

So since she looked so awful and seemed to be in pain, I actually called the pediatrician's office Sunday morning and asked to have her seen by the doctor on call. During a snow storm. Oh yes, I did. I even played the "look, this is my fourth child and I've NEVER seen anything like this" card.

The doctor was EXTREMELY helpful, the way he scowled into the room, barely looked at her, and proclaimed her to be suffering from "some virus." Charming. THAT was worth the drive through the snow and the co-pay.

Now, for a fabulous part 2, wherever the redness was? The skin is PEELING AWAY, like after a blistering sunburn. And this, here, is what's making me insane tonight: when she was red all over and crying all the time and the doctor glanced at her and advised us not to bother with Tylenol because she didn't have a fever? She was IN PAIN because her skin was being SCORCHED.

So I polled some of my mom friends about this virus, to see if any of them have seen such a thing in their parenting careers, and the response was a resounding NO. No one has seen a baby who looks like my baby looks right now. And you know what the plural of anecdote is, right? INCONTROVERTIBLE PROOF. Therefore, I have CLEARLY PROVEN that Sophia is the first baby ever to suffer from this brand-new and horrible virus.

I suggest we call it the "Zombie Baby Virus" because - well, look. Here's Sophia BEFORE the ZBV.

Sophia 11-8-09 002

Awwww, can we agree?

Now here (although it doesn't really show the WORST of the ZBV) is her when she was sick:

Nov09 030

Hurts my heart.

So let me ask YOU, dear friends inside the computer - have you ever seen anything like this? Feel free to tell me ANYTHING you know about it, as long as what you know is OH, THE WORST IS OVER AND SHE WILL BE FINE FINE FINE!

A-Day Blessings

Today, as I'm sure it is marked on all your calendars, is A-Day. What? You DON'T have the day Clay adopted my boys, two years ago, marked on your calendar? Huh. And I thought I knew you so well.

Well, WE observed A-Day with fanfare and joy. Okay, what we actually did was skip church so we could drive through some nasty snow to take Sophia to the doctor's office. She's okay, but it's a testimony to how bad she looked that I wanted to take her in. Eleven years we've been with this pediatrician and until this week I didn't even know they HAD Sunday office hours. Bah. More about that tomorrow.

But today, despite its various complications, was A-Day. We had lunch at my parents' house (which was more of a Sunday event than an A-Day event, because we let them feed us Sunday dinner every week because we are givers), and to commemorate this day, we shared a blessing cup.

The blessing cup is a tradition from my childhood, and it's a good one. I hereby give you permission to steal it, because it's simply lovely. We usually do it on someone's birthday, and what you do is fill a pretty glass with something fancy everyone can drink (we usually go with sparkling cider, although I swear there was a Pepsi blessing cup once). Then you pass it around, and everyone says something to or about the honored person. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's touching. Kids generally grab the cup when it's their turn, look stricken, and choke out something like, "Happy Birthday - I'm glad you were born." Then *gulp* they take their sip, and pass it on.

When Mom poured the sparkling cider in the glass, Raphael was bouncing in his seat.

"ME FIRST! I want to GO FIRST!" He waved his hand and grinned. Hard to argue with that kind of passion, so Mom handed the glass to him. He took it, straightened in his chair, and looked right at Clay.

"Dad, I'm glad you adopted us," he said, "and I hope you don't leave like my other dad."

I think everyone around the table exhaled, like being kicked in the stomach. Later, Raphael told me he'd been planning what he'd say for the blessing cup for days.

And this is the best reason to do a blessing cup - because sometimes, when the question is too scary to ask, you can say it instead, and then, when it's your dad's turn, he can look right at you over the glass, lock eyes with you, and say, "Thank you for being my sons. I. Will. Not. Leave. You."

And on A-Day and every day, that's a good thing to hear.

Tweet me this

The other day I was on Twitter, poking around and trying to figure things out. Y'all, I am too old for Twitter, I swan. Facebook is still sort of bewildering to me. It's LOUD up in there. But I have a Big Exciting Project coming up soon, and for that I have been instructed to learn to tweet like the happiest of birds.

So there I was, poking Twitter, trying to keep Sophia from fulfilling her life's goal of eating the keyboard, and I muttered something aloud about how UnTwitterable I am.

"Mom?" Tre called from the kitchen (where he was preparing lunch for him and his brothers DO NOT JUDGE ME, HIS WIFE WILL LOVE ME SOMEDAY), "do YOU have a Twitter account?"

He said it sort of like I had just announced I'd just received my high school ID card - a mix of disbelief and oh, that's sort of sad and delusional.

"YES. I DO. Sort of. I mean, I have this account with these other women. So there."

"Oh. So it's not like YOU have an account." He returned to the meal, no longer interested in me and my feeble tweetage. I left my efforts and wandered into the kitchen to poke instead at the lunch he'd made.

"What's Twitter?" Max asked, filling water glasses.

"It's microblogging. You can only post 140 characters at a time."

"AAAAAAHHHGHH!" screeched Raphael as his plate and food somehow FLIPPED off the table and ONTO the floor.

"Clean it up," I said, as I am wont to say to Raphael SEVEN TRILLION TIMES A DAY. He started scooping food onto his plate. "And wash the mess off the floor," I added, as I am wont, etc.

"Don't you blog ENOUGH?" Max asked.

"Eh. Not according to Amma." I replied.

"It's not like she has her OWN account," Tre pointed out.

"I have to SCRUB THE FLOOR like some sort of SERVANT," Raphael moaned somewhat cheerfully from his position under the table.

From her perch on my hip, Sophia screeched and yanked a fistful of my hair. HARD.

I dunno. I may be a little slow to find my way around Twitter, but something tells me the that my life is tailor-made for this nonsense.

In Which We All Nearly DIE.

I was standing at the sink, scrubbing potatoes. I remember like it was...four hours ago.

Because it was.

Anyhow, there I was, scrubbing potatoes, talking to Clay as he walked a grumpy Sophia. The oven was pre-heating, waiting for the potatoes. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a GLOW from within the oven. I dropped my potato.

"OH!" I said helpfully, "OH OH OH! It's ON FIRE IN THERE!"

AND IT WAS. Specifically, the heating element on the floor of the oven seemed to be burning like the wick of a cartoon character's bomb. It sizzled and smoked and flamed. I, being a cool-headed mother of many, jumped up and down and squeaked and pointed at it.

"Huh," said Clay, "that's not good."

I opened and closed and open and closed the door of the oven and jumped up and down some more. Clay went outside and turned the power off to the oven. So between the two of us we got it taken care of.

Then I called my parents and generously offered to let them feed us dinner. I knew they'd be happy to, since we had just been SNATCHED FROM THE JAWS OF A FIERY DEATH and plus our oven was non-functioning.

And they were. They brought over many pizzas, and we huddled around the kitchen table and ate, GRATEFUL to have survived.

Clay seems to think I am overstating the danger somewhat. I say he's in denial.

"Thank you for saving all our lives," I told him.

"Your parents saved our lives," he replied. "They brought us food."

See what I mean? Denial.

But I know. I understand the reality of it all. I know tonight is a night to hold my dear ones closer, to CHERISH all I have, and to ponder the important questions.

Like - how do I get out of making dinner TOMORROW night?

This is why there is too much stuff in my house.

"Hey," Clay said, holding up the worn, limp, blue Boppy, "Sophia doesn't need this anymore, does she? She doesn't really tip over backwards now."

"Nope, she's done with it," I said.

"So I can throw it away?"


"Because you said that's what you wanted to do. That it's old and sort of stinky now that Sophia is done spitting up all over it?"

"I know I did."


I looked at it there, in his hand. It is old. And now it smells faintly of spit up. I also discovered, thanks to Sophia's efforts, that when it gets wet, the dark blue dye in the fabric transfers to whatever rubs against it. This is, as you can imagine, lovely on pastel baby clothes. And floors.

Oh, but the Boppy. Fourteen years I've had that thing. It cradled each of my children when they were barely sitting up infants. Each one of them fell back onto its cushioning. Their legs curled inside its curves.

"It's just...all four of them were babies on that Boppy," I said, at last. "I can still see them there, propped up inside it."

He looked down at the pillow in his hand, ratty and old and sour smelling, and he sighed. Without further comment, he found a corner to leave it in. And there it sits, holding my memories of my pre-crawling babies.

It's hard to let it go, because I don't have any pre-crawling babies anymore.

Nov09 024 

Man, it happens fast, this being left behind.

Nov09 025

Me and the Boppy, we'll hold the memories, though.

So...not EXACTLY Love Thursday.

Oh. Em. Gee, y'all.

Raphael was just biting into a Nik-L-Nip and he somehow managed to turn it into an indoor sprinkler system, thereby doing the ONE AND ONLY thing I can imagine to make a Nik-L-Nip a worse candy than it already is.

"I don't know what's WRONG with this thing," he shouted, "every time I bite into it, it just...SQUIRTS EVERYWHERE!"

Get that? EVERY time. Because after the FIRST time it squirted everywhere, clearly further experimentation was required.

Max just read me his history lesson, and he started out using a goofy voice. Like, could there be anything more annoying? Why don't you just POKE POKEY THINGS in my EARS?

Two days ago Sophia's sippy cup had an inaccurately assembled valve, post-washing, and instead of her having to SUCK on the thing to get liquid out, it would gently dribble into her mouth, over her rosebud lips, and down her front. She thought that was awesome. Ever since then, when I put the PROPERLY ASSEMBLED sippy cup to her lips, she sits perfectly still, waiting for the dribbly joy and looking at me with "you can't make me suck" eyes.

Also? Don't get me started on sippy cup designs.

Speaking of Sophia, she is practically crawling, and I've gone on a mighty campaign to keep the floors clean since she's all mobile and fascinated by the small and the filthy (Actual conversation the other day during a diaper change - "Oh, hey, here's the leaf she was gagging on last night." "Oh, good."). I sweep every day, MULTIPLE TIMES. Yesterday I mobilized an enormous floor clean up, with the moving of furniture and sweeping and mopping with vinegar-and-water goodness. Today? The floor feels like the entryway of a Wal-Mart under my feet, and when I pick the baby up as she tumbles past, she is sort of...frosted with bits of leaves and dog hair and grit.

Oh! And the DOG! The dog is confused by the warm weather and she keeps going in and out and in and out AND. IN. AND. OUT. Every three and a half minutes she suddenly realizes that she needs to be on the OTHER side of the kitchen door, and she immediately trots over to it and starts to whine.

Clay left the sandwich bags on the counter this morning when he was making his lunch. Usually I wouldn't even notice this, but today I'm pretty sure he did it because he wants me to just LIE DOWN ON THE FLOOR AND PERISH. Obviously. The FILTHY floor.

My point (YES, I HAVE A POINT, JUDGE-Y JUDGE-ER) was supposed to be that I am clearly dying of a brain tumor. Seriously, that is exactly what I came here to tell you, then what do I find? That blog has already been written, by a much better writer than me.

I'm going back to bed. And I'm taking the leftover Halloween candy with me.