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February 2010
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April 2010

Today, while the boys were at Monday school, Sophia and I went for a walk. The day was warm and sunny, and for once we did nothing but follow her whim.

We wandered down the block, and her whim settled upon a small, slightly squashed green lego in the gutter. She squatted down to look at it, poked it with what we call the inquisitor finger, one daintily extended pointer that stretches out toward whatever catches her eye. "OH!" she chirped. She looked at me, then back at the lego, and reached down and scooped it up. She struggled to her feet, her fist held aloft in victory.

Now, you may be the sort of parent who likes to wait until after their first birthday to allow your child to play with broken toys they found in the gutter, but that's just how I roll. It delighted her. I did, however, stop her from tasting it. "No, no," I said, tugging her hand away from her mouth, "yukky. Blech." She studied me, shook her head, and said soberly, "beh."

"That's right. Blech."

"Beh." She stuck out her tongue, waggled it on her slob-slick chin. "Beh!" Then she went back to studying the precious smashed green lego. She turned it over in her hand, poked it with the inquisitor finger, closed her fist around it. Then she tried to stuff it in her mouth again.

We went through this cycle a few times, her standing on widely planted sturdy legs, me kneeling next to her, feeling the cool damp of the sidewalk through the knees of my pants. The sun was kind on my back, and the day seemed entirely innocent and gentle.

Last week I sat between Clay and Tre at an informational meeting about a local charter high school. After spending his entire school career being homeschooled, Tre is ready to go, to see, to try his strength out in the world.

He's going to school in the fall.

His reasons for wanting to go are good, and I feel like he's ready. I think it will be a good experience, and I hope the school is as good as it seems.

My heart is breaking.

I keep remembering our first days of doing school, nine years ago, when he sat on my lap, and the curve of his head fit under my chin. Back then I could only bear to think of taking on this task if I just committed to the year ahead of me. And now there are only a few weeks left in which I can call myself his teacher. It's almost over, it's almost gone.

It is boring, really, to trail slowly after a toddler. To watch her and stop her from eating her found treasure. You can hear, in the distance, the sounds of traffic, of a radio, of conversations, and can feel like the world is passing you by.

But I figure I might as well enjoy the moment, fix it in my memory, do the best I can just for today.

March.6.10 053

Because it simply won't last.

Just life

On the morning of February 12, Clay and I were in the airport for what seemed like the thousandth time in a month, rather than the third. As we waited at our gate, children and bags strewn around us like some breeder's version of an obstacle course, my phone buzzed with a text.

It was my mom. "Terri has been moved to L&D due to 'contracting hard.' I will keep you posted."

Terri is my sister-in-law, married to my only sibling, Josh (or as he calls himself, The One True Josh). She had been in the hospital for two months at that point, trying to keep their second child from being born too early, and on bedrest for a million months before that. And now, at 32 weeks, it seemed it was time for their baby to be born.

I clutched my phone, and for a quick, irrational moment, tried to figure out how I could get on a flight to Phoenix instead of Washington state. But of course I couldn't. They didn't need me there, and we were headed out for Clay's dad's memorial service anyway. I wasn't really needed there, either, but I needed to be there.

I looked out the window at all the planes carrying people away and back. There is life, I thought, and then there is death.

Mom called about twenty minutes later, just before we started boarding. He was here, he was doing well at 3 pounds, 15 ounces. He cried.

And his name is Isaac.

"Okay," I said shoving my bag under the seat in front of me, "okay, thanks. I have to turn my phone off now. I'll call as soon as I can." Throughout the flight I kept pushing down thoughts of Isaac. Couldn't know, couldn't help, couldn't do a single thing. I watched the clouds beneath us and reminded Raphael (again) not to wake Sophia.

When we landed, all through the chaos of herding children and collecting bags and meeting up with family, my phone remained in my hand. I talked to Mom, and we texted back and forth, exchanging information and understanding the best we could. Isaac had some problems with his breathing and his oxygen levels were dropping. He was now on a breathing tube, but he seemed strong.

When we arrived at Clay's parent's house, which was packed with family. It was just the sort of gathering I've come to associate with this family, full of laughter and conversation and warmth. It seemed as though Larry was there, somewhere. He didn't seem gone, but like he was just escaping all the noise in another room for the moment. As I walked through the voices and all the many relationships there that night, I held my phone and waited for news of Isaac and watched for signs of Larry.

It's funny, but I don't even remember who I was talking to when I got the text with Isaac's picture. Somehow I remember the look on her face, though, when I looked at my phone and saw him, so tiny and red-skinned and fragile, and I burst into tears, right there in the middle of everyone. She patted my hand as I apologized and sniffled, and in her eyes there was sympathy. Everyone there knew, for sure, that loving people hurts at times.

I looked around the room at all the people, gathered together in love, and thought of Isaac, just beginning, and Larry, just beginning to be gone. There is life, I thought, and then...

No. There is just life.

Last week Isaac came home from the hospital. He is a powerhouse of a preemie, having spent only 27 days in the hospital after being born eight weeks early. He is over five pounds. He is doing very well.


Since his very beginning, he is so beautiful.

waiting for the sun

A few weeks ago I stayed home from church with a sickly Sophia. That morning while the rest of the family bustled around, preparing to leave, I sat on the couch in my jammies. Raphael walked past, dressed and ready and looking to interrupt any progress. I reached out and pulled him onto my lap, because the simple fact is that Raphael, left to his own devices, will cause problems these days.

He squirmed to get away, but I hugged him close. He relented, but sat within the cage of my arms like a soldier, rigid with a petulant sort of rage. His great grandfather died, and then his grandfather died and his dad is sad and oh that's right, his biological dad left him when he was just a baby, and Raphael still can't figure out why, and all of that is really pissing him off, and he would like to punch someone now please.

He doesn't say any of that, but he has a way of making it clear.

I hooked my chin over his taut shoulder and sang softly in his ear,

"Here comes the sun," and he stilled to listen, "here comes the sun. I's all right."

He sat up again, and looked out the window, then back at me, his expression making it clear that I was wrong and sort of stupid. Indeed, the sky was a lead gray, and a few snowflakes sifted past the window.

"Little darlin', it's been a long, cold, lonely winter." I blinked back how true that is. "Little darlin', it feels like years since it's been here." He leaned against me, and as I continued to whisper-sing, I felt him relax. For a moment his muscles loosed their hold, and he let me carry his weight against my chest. "Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun. I's all right."

Add that to my resume. I also believe in the sun, on behalf of my family, when it cannot be seen.