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March 2010
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May 2010

I keep forgetting to tell you!

I'm sure you all know this already, because y'all are the smartest and prettiest (except those of you who are the handsomest), but we're doing a new challenge over at Five Full Plates. You can read about the new challenge here, and what I'm doing here, and then today's installation on my epic (ha!) journey here. This is my favorite challenge yet, and you should just SEE what my fellow Plate-ers are doing. Yowza.

Please to come and read. And comment. I print out your comments and pet them like my favorite little kitties. It's an illness.

Or TBtheH, for short.

My mom recently bought all the kids new Crocs. It's sort of a rite of spring around here. Summer is coming! It might be 70 degrees today, or there could be a blizzard! Let's go buy foam shoes!

Tre opted for traditional Crocs in a sober black, which does not disguise the fact that they are enormous. I can no longer borrow his shoes to run out the garden, because I will trip and kill myself. This irritates me. Also? As of last weekend he is officially taller than me. The child is so grounded.

Max and Raphael went with flip-flop styles, or Croc-flops. Raphi's are silly big on him, which he thinks makes him look bigger, but really just serves to make him look like a little boy trying to look bigger. I am forced to smooch the top of his head. You know, while I can still reach it.

But Mom also brought back a pair of wee little pink Crocs for Sophia. When I first saw them I thought, oh, cute. Aren't they small? What is it about making something in a tiny little size that makes it adorable? But then I wrestled them onto her squishy feet, and I promptly died of the cute. 

How cute?


And the best part about it is that when she's wearing them, she stomps around with this determined, flat-footed gait that perfectly fits the other thing Mom gave her recently - her new nickname. Mom hit upon just the name to capture Sophia's blend of daintiness and viciousness.

Sophia is now, in her pink Crocs that are just the size of a small dinner roll, Tinkerbell the Hun.

Sorrowful, but not sorry.

One of my sons is thinking about his biological dad. I have an idea of the scope of the castles being built in his head because just once he breathed to me, "I wonder. What would it be like if he hadn't left? I bet we would...wrestle."

And he said that, wrestle, and it is not big enough of a word to hold all the ache and longing that surges in the heart of a boy who was left behind.

I say I would do anything for my sons. I say that their needs come before mine. But I remember the first night I spent without my ex husband. I was shattered, my eyes burned from crying, and I could not bring myself to imagine how we would all get through tomorrow.

I couldn't figure out how to do my bedtime routine, in a house that looked like it had been ransacked. Half of the things that were "ours" had suddenly become "his" and were gone. But when I finally went to bed, when I turned out the light and lay down in the dark, it hit me: this is what peace feels like.

I could close my eyes and go to sleep without anxiety or fear about when he would be back. It did not matter to me, to the boys, what mood he was in.

I was scared and alone and battered, but I had peace, like a thin gold chain puddled in my palm.

And now tonight, here next to me, there is my husband. I think of him as my real husband, in the same way that Max once called Clay his real dad. He and I are something even beyond this family we've built around us. And no matter what, I have never been afraid - either that he wouldn't come home, or that he would.

I say I would do anything for my sons, but even if I could give my boy the longing of his heart, even if I could somehow put all the pieces together again, I wouldn't do it.

I would not give him what he wants the most.

And although it breaks my heart to watch him hurt, I'm not even sorry.

This week, no stickers were stuck to anyone's butt.

Today, for the first time ever, I got called to school to pick up Max because of an asthma attack. Usually all he needs to deal with his asthma is his rescue inhaler, but today it just wasn't cutting it. He sat there, wheezing and coughing, while the school administrator stood behind him and mouthed to me, "Take him to the doctor. NOW."

She used to be a ER nurse. It's not what I wanted to hear from her.

So of course, I trundled him directly to the doctor, where we waited for one zillion minutes for all the things to happen that needed to happen to get him to what he really needed, a breathing treatment. While he sat and wheezed in the misty air that relaxed his lungs, he texted my mom, "Hi, Amma. It's Max. One minute I'm at school, the next I'm in the doctor's office, with an oxygen mask on."

Sorry, Mom. And here you thought my days of giving you heart attacks were over, eh?

While Max breathed and slowly unknotted and stopped coughing, I wrestled with Sophia. Just a thought: wouldn't you expect a pediatrician's office to be baby-proofed? I mean, you're GOING to have toddlers in there, am I right? So why, exactly, would you put the computer tower, with its happy glowy power button, UNDER the desk, right at maniacally busy eye level? Why? Is it a little joke? And hello, *I* have latches on doors that shouldn't be opened by small hands. I knew allll about that, see, because YOU PEOPLE gave me a handout on the importance of baby-proofing. HAVE YOU READ YOUR HANDOUT?

Nonetheless, once Max was done with the treatment, he resumed a normal sort of breathing. We were sent on our way with a shrug for an explanation. I argued with the doctor for a few minutes, irrationally wanting him to TELL me what HAPPENED, or at least to admit that he didn't know.

I don't know what gets into me sometimes.

At least I gave up on that quickly enough and I took my easy-breathing-boy and my fiercely-busy-girl, and I went home.

I don't know what happened today, to make Max's lungs so tight. I don't know how much danger he was actually in (Mama circuits are overloaded quickly by the warning BABY CAN'T BREATHE. It makes it hard to process rationally, yaknow?), or how likely he is to have similar problems in the future.

I just know that I'm grateful for medicine that works, and I'm praying he won't ever need it again.

Strength training

In his dark room, balanced on the edge of his twin bed, I was curled around Raphael, talking over the ups and downs of a very long day.

"Remember when you were so mad at me?" I said, my voice carefully gentle. "And you said I was just being mean and I hated your guts?"

He sighed and burrowed into my side a little more.

"Yeah. I know. You don't. I just said that 'cause I was mad."

"Even when we're having a hard time, you know that I love you, right?" He nodded, one hand tangling my hair, adoring and oblivious that the little hairs at the nape of my neck might not want tugging. He is still young enough to misplace the boundaries between us. "As a matter of fact," I went on, "I love your guts."

"I love your guts too," he said, "I love your organs and your muscles and your heart. And you know, your heart is technically a muscle."

A muscle, I thought. I wonder if exercising it makes it stronger, if loving your way through days like today makes you better at loving tomorrow.

"And your eyeballs," he went on, "and I love your brain. And your bones."

I listened to him chatter on in the dark, choosing to believe that tomorrow we would only love stronger.

Just thinking...

Here's a picture of Max the day Clay and I got married, four years ago.


And here's a picture of him from just last week, on Easter.

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Do you think when he's...say...47 he will still have the same sweetly askew look when he wears a tie?  

And on the way out, Raphael stuck a sticker on Sophia's butt.

Today Max and Sophia had back-to-back doctor's appointments. Max was in for a recheck on his asthma, Sophia was there for her 12 month all-clear and thigh stab. I had to pick up the boys early from Monday school to make it there in time, so they were all with me at the appointment. About a half hour after we got to the office, Clay arrived to pick up Tre so they could go to the gym. That's why there were already six people in the brightly painted and yet airless little exam room when the doctor opened the door.

He looked around at us, me sitting on the floor, trying to keep Sophia out from under the sink, Max curled up behind the door, poking sullenly at Tre's iPod (he'd failed to bring anything interesting for the wait, and the iPod was not helping him), Tre sitting in the corner, curled around his DS, trying to protect it from small and inquisitive fingers, Raphael perched on the exam table, bouncing on the balls of his feet and telling me he could TOTALLY jump to the floor in one big jump and NOT HURT ANYONE PROBABLY, Clay shifting from foot to foot, trying to find a free square foot of space, and Sophia toddling around in the middle of it all, chortling and screeching and lecturing.

"Well," he said, after a pause in which he yanked one eyebrow up dangerously close to his hairline, "are we all here?"

Yes, Doctor. Proceed.

Best moment of the visit: when he swung the computer screen around so we could all appreciate where Sophia falls on the almighty growth charts.

"Here she is for weight, down here at the 8th percentile. There's been a little downward trend, but that's not unusual for her age. She's [slightly squirrelly eyeball] very mobile and not as interested in eating. And here is her height, she's at the 16th percentile, which is right on target for her. And here's her head circumference, it's in the - oh. Yes, the 99th percentile, which again, right on target for her." And all five of us looked at her head circumference growth chart, with its bright constellation of red dots waaaaaay above the curve, and we burst out laughing. He looked a little startled, but just we love our little weeble. We are a short, big headed people, and she is one of us.

Most awkward moment of the visit: Sophia had been nursing when he was ready to examine her, and when I interrupted her just to lay her on the unwelcoming paper of the exam table and let the strange man poke at her, she was displeased. She let us know in no uncertain terms, wailing and writhing and twisting to fix me with furious, accusative glares that were blurred by giant pools of tears.

"Yes, I know," crooned the doctor, "I know. Breastfeeding is MUCH more fun. Believe me, sweetheart, I know."

And I stood there, trying to comfort the tiny, pissed-off little elf of mine, thinking, did the doctor just announce how much he enjoys breastfeeding? Because it sure SOUNDS like he did. And I worked on not making eye contact with Clay.

Nicest moment (if not entirely believable): After checking Max out thoroughly, listening to his lungs, and totally backing me up about NOT sleeping with the window open, the doctor declared him to be in perfect health. We were to continue the medication for another month, and then he should be fine.

"He is perfect," he said, nodding at him and closing his chart with a satisfied snap. "It seems that you guys are doing everything just right."

And even though I KNOW that's not true, and I'm not convinced that we have the same standards for "just right," it was a nice thing to hear.

So we went home, to enjoy doing everything right with our perfect family. Or something along those lines.

Happy Birthday, Sophia

Sophia, when you were born, one year ago today, I couldn't quite grasp the idea that you were a girl. Daughter, I whispered to you, you are my daughter.


It sounded like make-believe.

I am so glad you get to have a daughter, my mom told me.


And I wasn't sure what that would mean, or if it was somehow a betrayal of my sons to be glad too. After all, I am so grateful to have my sons. They would have been enough. They were enough.


I didn't need all the trappings that come with girls.

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I didn't need to fall in love with the contrast between your soft pinkness and your brothers' hearty brown.


Or their rambunctious joy in you.

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I didn't need the delight of seeing how naturally your father wraps around you.

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I didn't need to watch you sleep and marvel at the fan of your eyelashes. 

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I didn't need frilly Christmas dresses.

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Or hair bows.

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I didn't need ridiculously girly outfits.

My life was pretty full, and I was happy. 

I didn't need to have a girl. But oh, my Sophia, my daughter...

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I needed you.

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Happy birthday. You grow louder and larger and more intense every day. Thank you for being.

God's own

This morning dawned like most mornings - too early. But it was not most mornings today, it was Easter. And there was celebrating to be done.

Today Tre was confirmed, which is to say he stood in front of the church (and the bishop) and claimed his faith as his own. He's been studying for weeks for this day, so he was prepared.

I was entirely unprepared.

He served as an acolyte today (altar boy), and he was the one to hold the book for the reading of the gospel. As I stood there, watching him look so dignified in his shirt and tie, I was suddenly struck by the fact that this is the start of the most important journey of his life. For a moment panic washed over me. How can he possibly be old enough to make a commitment like this?

I read once that after a woman gives birth, she carries the genetic material of her child in her blood for something like 27 years. I don't know how that could be, or even if it's true, but it sure feels true. At moments like this morning, my veins seem to resonate with my child, with the sweet ache of hope for him.

And then it was time for Tre to make his promises and take his turn kneeling in front of the bishop.

"Tre," he said, "God has called you by name and made you His own."

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And Tre, God's own, was confirmed.

I closed my eyes and released him to God's care, again, at a level that left me slightly dizzy and distinctly weepy.

But in the end, I believe in God and I believe in Tre, and I believe they will work it out.

And I am grateful for these children, whose life sings in my veins, and who force me daily to love better and more bravely.
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