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June 2010
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The majesty and mystery of motherhood. subtitle: Mom, don't read this one. Trust me.

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This afternoon the boys were eating lunch, fettuccine with the ultra-fancy sauce of butter and parmesan cheese. Hush, it's a fine lunch. I'm convalescing. Anyhow, as they ate, Sophia circled the table and chirped at them like a wee, demanding baby bird. They obligingly handed her noodles and she sat and gobbled them up before moving on to panhandle at the next brother. Heh. I should totally start a baby-feeding blog, huh?

About an hour later I was in the kitchen, wrestling (as ever) with the dishes, when she came trotting in. I was drinking some iced coffee, and we had a spirited debate on the subject. "Resolved: Mama should give me some of that now." Sophia's position consisted of repeated pointing and screeching. My position consisted of, "Oh, hell no, baby doll. You get coffee over my cold, dead body. LOVE YOU!"

She paused mid-rebuttal to sneeze. And cough. And sneeze again, repeatedly.

"Are you getting sick, honey?" I asked, kneeling down to look at her. That was convenient, because I was eye-to-eye when she sneezed again, and something poked out of one nostril. At first I thought it was mucous (lovingly referred to around here as a snot-worm), but closer inspection revealed that it was about a half an inch of fettuccine.

So I did what any loving mother would do, I grabbed it and tugged. Out slid a good six inches of snot-slick pasta.

I gagged and laughed and called for the boys to come see, all at once. It was much appreciated by all, although the whole incident does leave me with some unanswered questions. Like: how? and whaaa? and a silent, boggled, ????

But then, I suppose it's all just a part of the majesty and mystery of motherhood.

A word to the wise: do NOT tell your children about the awesome ninja game.

I had the funniest conversation with my doctor the other day. But first, let me back up and tell you what I did that day. Most of it, anyhow.

Started out by taking the kids downtown to my dad's office so the boys could sell honey. They've had a fabulous season, with ten, count them, TEN gallons of honey harvested so far. Most of it is this fabulous pale yellow that tastes almost buttery. Simply gorgeous.

Anyhow, after delivering honey to the people who had ordered it on Dad's floor, they moved downstairs to a booth in the lobby. This was an experiment, to see if they could move lotsa inventory while people came and went for lunch. And they did okay, although while they sold honey both Dad and I raced around after Sophia, who nearly brought the whole building down. Her favorite discovery of the day was when she snaked a polished rock out of a planter and FLUNG it at a glass-topped table. It didn't break, but that's not her fault. It did make an impressive clatter, which thrilled her.

Raphael was bored out of his ever-loving mind, standing at the table in his beekeeping gear, trying to look pleasant at people as they walked by, so he periodically disappeared out the revolving door. Because revolving doors are AWESOME. Duh. But that was fine, because what on earth could happen to a squirrelly little boy in Downtown Denver? Right?

After the sale was finished, the boys and I adjourned to lunch at a nearby restaurant. As we ate, with the young professional types shooting us alarmed looks all around, Tre demonstrated how you can steal someone's ninja powers, by smacking them on the forehead. Did you know that? Because I did not know that. And he stole Max's ninja powers, and then seconds later when Max struck out in an attempt to reclaim said ninja powers, Tre ducked so fast and emphatically that he WHACKED the side of his face into a bar. Gave himself, I kid you not, a black eye. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to pee my pants.

Next we went home, and Sophia found her twenty minute nap in the car SO refreshing and SO rejuvenating that she declined to nap any more for the rest of the day, preferring to follow me around, bleating, "UP! UP! PLEH [please]! UP!" And when I picked her up, she would see something across the room that she wanted and fling herself over backwards, shrieking in some sort of toddler tongue to demonstrate how badly she needed that particular remote/cell phone/book/random something I couldn't identify, for the luvapete. So that was nice.

And then that night Clay and Tre and I went to Tre's new student orientation night, which was so long and so boring that Clay actually offered to poke me in the eye with his pen at one point. I am not even making that up. I declined, but just barely. We got student handbooks and a calendar and supply lists. I glanced at it and thought, "Oh, that's not too bad. About a dozen items. That seems totally reasonable."

And then I realized that I was looking at the list for the first period class only, and I promptly died. Incidentally, I've decided to sell a kidney. Anyone want a kidney? Because Tre's new school also requires uniforms, hahahahaha! And they're AWESOME! I assume, given the price, they are woven by fairies in some magical unspoiled forest, and they will grant the wearer amazing abilities, like maybe the ability to defend your ninja powers without damaging yourself.

When we finally got out of the school, the three of us were so hungry that we drove to the nearest fast food place. Sadly, we were so ravenous by that point that we just ate the menu board rather than waiting for the person to take our order.

Then we collected our other children from my parents, who had generously kept them and fed them dinner and endured Sophia's very special naplessness. And we went home and kept throwing children at beds until they eventually stuck, and then we stumbled into our own bed, where we drooled on our respective pillows in that very special alluring way. Romance lives.

And now I can tell you about the funny thing my doctor said. Ready? She'd gotten my test results from last week, and was pretty sure the reason I was feeling so tired was because I had had MONO. That time I was sick a few months ago? MONO.

"So what happened is that you muscled your way through, like you do, thinking it was just some normal virus, and then instead of feeling better you just kept pushing and depleting yourself. What you need is just some rest and you will feel better soon. Take it EASY for a while."


And I would, I totally would, but I recently had my ninja powers stolen.

My grandmother used to say "birds in their little nest agree." She was wrong.

A few months ago Raphael and Clay built a birdhouse. They hung it right outside my and Clay's bedroom window, and within a month it had a nesting pair of birds. Don't ask me what kind of birds. I spent a thousand years sitting at the window with my laptop, scrolling through pictures of Colorado birds, trying to figure out what our guests were, exactly. They're those little brown fluttery birds that are everywhere. Sparrows of some sort. LBJs. I suspect I may not be a birder at heart.

We all spent quite some time sitting at the window, watching them flit back and forth, tucking bits of straw and sticks and whatnot into their new home. Raphael was SO PROUD that they had chosen HIS BIRDHOUSE that you would have thought he had personally invented birds. "Bir!" Sophia exclaimed, "Bir! Bir!"

We were all pretty thrilled.

Within a few more weeks they had eggs, and they hatched. At first you could just barely hear the babies, a rustling tweeting whenever a parent returned with some food. Clay, with his moderate hearing loss, couldn't hear them at all.

Now, a few weeks later still, those tiny tweeting birds have grown into two raucous, demanding things. When their mom lands on the perch by their entrance, both of them poke their heads out and positively bellow. You would think that natural selection would reward baby birds who were quiet and unobtrusive, because when you're tiny and defenseless, it behooves one to go unnoticed (life's lessons learned in middle school). But the opposite seems true, because these little guys make an unholy racket. The other day I saw the mom return with an enormous grasshopper. Oh, sister,  I thought, I don't envy you, divvying that up.

This morning the din in the birdhouse (RAPHAEL'S birdhouse) started well before 6 AM. Saturday. Clay rolled over and groaned, "Ugh. Do you want me to close the window?"

But I was smiling to myself.

"No, don't. I like the birds."

I know that racket. And I know why that mom can't stay away. And in just a few hours Clay and I will get in the car, drive a million miles, and bring our own back home. Soon my nest will be full again.

I can't wait to see him, and I can't wait for the noise and demand of everybody back where they should be.

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Sing it, little birds.

(p.s. Sorry for the picture quality. You might have to embiggen to see the babies. Also, the reason for all the dead vines in the background is because the spring was so wild and wonky that it killed - KILLED all three of my honeysuckle vines! All three! And yet the peach tree is covered with peaches! Explain THAT to me.)

(p.p.s. Tre is coming home!)

What the heart must have

Yesterday I made the whole insane trip to the camp Tre's attending again. I left the house at 4 AM, with my dad this time. Tre still has a week to go at camp, and there was no real reason for me to go, other than the fact that they have a concert on Sundays, and I wanted to be there.

It was a crazy trip, a hell-bent-for-leather pace that I, for one, am far too old for anymore. By the time I arrived back at home about 11:30, I was sore from head to toe. How is it that unremitting hours of sitting - just sitting - can be so exhausting and achy?

It's not really easy for me to just take off like that, even just for a day.  It puts extra pressure on Clay, and it stresses Sophia out a bit. When I walked in the front door, she was dozing fitfully in her dad's arms. When she saw me, she reached for me and moaned, "Mamaaa." I took her and she wrapped her arms around my neck so tight, like a baby monkey. Then she nursed and nursed and nursed, a relief for both of us. I sat there, stroking her soft, damp skin, feeling guilty for requiring so much of the people around me just so I could go lay eyes on Tre.

And really, I didn't need to be there. Tre was happy enough to see me, and pleased to get the clean laundry. But he is so ensconced in camp, there. His focus was just beyond me, over my head, fixed on the other campers and the week ahead of him.

During the concert I watched him, busy being in his element. When it was his turn to perform, a few times I caught him checking to see if I was watching. Seeing his eyes slide my direction, spark with joy, then slide just as quickly away, I wondered, Is that, there, reason enough for me to be here?

But after it all, all the driving and waiting and watching my boy from afar, after the hours on the road and in my head and talking with my dad, I knew it wasn't to reassure Tre that I went at all. He doesn't really need to be safe in my gaze. Not nearly as much, anymore.

I went because that's my boy.

July10 013

I went because I had to.

Rocking the bedtime look, by Sophia Ann

So the sun has gone down, you've been bathed and dressed in your jammies. Your parents have that glassy-eyed look that tells you it's time to get this party started. Here's how I put together a all-night dance party look for the toddler set.

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Of course, it's important to start with the basics: bath-damp hair, skin that's glossy with baby oil, and zipped up footie jammies. This is a good look - a strong start. But this ensemble is still missing something.

Do you have any plastic links in the house? Of course you do. Take them to your mother and scream until she separates them all from each other. Really put some effort into the screaming. The sound you're shooting for should remind one of a monkey, warning the other monkeys that an enormous monster is about to eat them all. A shrieking, shrill, horrifically loud monkey. Excellent.

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Now take your links and slide them, one by one, onto your wrist.

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Keep going.

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Too much is not enough. This also goes for the aforementioned screaming.

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How do you know when you've got enough? Are there any left? Then keep going, sister.

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There. You're all dressed to fight sleep for a few hours! Gorgeous!

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Up next: extreme accessorizing. It's not for the weak of heart.

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And then: how to style your daddy. (Hint: step 1- remove him from your little finger.)

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And I've already sent him cookies

On Sunday morning, at 4:30, my mom, Tre, and I got in Mom's car and drove out of town. We were taking Tre to camp, an eight hour drive away. Clay, Max, Raphael, and Sophia stayed home. Mom and I planned to make the trek there, drop Tre off, and turn right around and drive home the same day.

If that sounds a bit insane, you're probably right.

As we drove through the early morning hours, into the day, Tre slept in the back seat, then woke to eat enormous quantities of food, then talked and laughed and filled up the car with the easy grace I've come to expect of him. He is such a joy to me. A wearying, bouncy, noisy joy. This summer he's spending two weeks at camp, and ever since we registered him for that second week, I've been wondering how I could possibly survive without him for two entire weeks.

And yet, as we drove and drove and drove toward his camp, all of us talking and laughing and complaining about how far away the camp is, I would take a moment and check my heart for the panic and pain that I'd felt when leaving him last year.

But I was okay. A little sad at times, anxious around the edges a bit, but really okay. It's sort of like labor, I thought, not nearly as terrifying the second time around.

We got to the camp, got him checked in and situated in a bunk. We wandered the grounds, sat around, and waited for our time to leave and his week to start. Occasionally I would feel a little jolt of panic, a physical protest at the thought of leaving him behind. But those were just moments, and they were over as fast as they happened.

Finally it was time, and I hugged him tight, tears stinging just a bit, and whispered the only wisdom I could think of - "You WRITE TO YOUR MOMMY."

And "I am so proud of you."

Mom and I climbed in the car and sat there, in the parking lot in the oppressively overheated air behind the windshield, and watched him walk away. He only looked back once. And because there was nothing else left to do, we drove away.

"You okay?" Mom asked, checking me with a sideways glance.

"I am," I said, somewhat surprised. "I really am. I know he's okay. I know he can handle it." We started to talk, nothing heavy, just chatting.

I was in the middle of a story, laughing, when we rounded a corner and a wave of grief and terror washed over me. It was not okay, it could not possibly be right to be leaving him. It felt like a nightmare, like that moment in the grocery store when he was three years old and disappeared around a corner. It felt WRONG, and my mother's heart overwhelmed my mind. I buckled and wrapped my arms around my knees and wept.

"I'm sorry," I said, "it's not...I know he's just feels physically wrong."

"I know," she said. For a while she just drove and I cried. My phone buzzed with a text from Clay. I love you, he said, and I cried some more.

It really is like labor, I thought. It's impossible, and you go ahead and do it anyway.

And then I dried my eyes and went home.