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July 2010
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September 2010

Raphael these days

Raphael woke up this morning all joy and swagger. Today was the second day of their Monday school, and he does love Monday school. Mom stopped by to take Tre to school, and she marveled at Raphi and all his early morning happiness. "He's just like his dad," she commented, and it's true. I think we all forget sometimes that they share no genetics, because these two are cut from the same cloth. And when the morning dawns, they leap out of bed, delighted to discover that the world is theirs for the taking.

When we got to school, Raphael trotted off to join his line, but the lines had been moved around. He came running back, panic written on every line of him, and grabbed my hand. "I can't find my LINE, they're NOT THERE," he whispered to me, and the only thing he wanted more at that moment than to find his line was not to cry. I helped him find his class and watched him run over to them, light-footed with relief.

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And that is my Raphael. He is a warrior who, despite himself, is half a tender-hearted turn from still being my baby.

He's growing into his role as big brother, blossoming into patience and gentleness that is only sometimes grudging.

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He is so full of ideas and enthusiasm that is hard to capture a candid picture of him that is not at least partially blurred.

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This weekend he brought up a huge armload of jammies to get rid of, on the grounds that they are too small or too babyish or scratchy RIGHT HERE. Clay spotted a familiar blue shirt amongst the pile and stopped in his tracks.

"Superman? You're getting rid of SUPERMAN?" he asked, and our eyes met across another milestone.

"Superman is for BABIES," Raphael said, laughing at our dismay. "I AM growing up, you know."

And he is. It's true. He's growing up very fast and very determinedly. He is very big and very grown.

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He is my baby.

Sophia these days

These days, these baby days, evaporate before my eyes like a swipe of water on a hot sidewalk. But today, right now, this is how it is with Sophia.

She loves to draw. On paper is good...

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...but her self works too...

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...or furniture. She likes walls and doors and and shopping lists. She snatches ups writing instruments and scribbles and shrieks, "PREH-EEEE!" Which means "pretty," and it is.

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Her knees are perpetually scraped, and often the button at the back of her neck is undone. There's so much she wants to do, and she's so hard to pin down, that I settle for getting her mostly dressed, then let her run. All day I see that button, undone, and think about corralling her to button her up. But as often as not, the end of the day arrives, and she is still ever so unbuttoned.

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She wants to do it herself. Whether it is shoes or the buckle on her car seat, or eating a peach, she declines assistance. It is slow and frustrating and messy. Sometimes my fingers itch with the knowledge of how much faster I could do it if she would just LET me.

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But that's not how it is with Sophia these days.

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Axe wielding maniacs

This morning Max and Raphael were downstairs, hard at work on a project. They wanted to make a commercial, they said. They just didn't know what the commercial should be about. I passed Max's room as they sat on the floor, listlessly throwing Pokemon cards at one another, which is apparently the preferred method of breaking through a creative block.

"Why don't you make a commercial about something you like?" I asked. As I walked back up the stairs, I heard Max say with great enthusiasm, "Yeah! Like AXE!"

Are you familiar with Axe body spray? If you answered "no," you probably don't have teenaged boys. Axe is a body spray that seems to be laced with some sort of mind-altering substance that only affects adolescent boys. When they spray it, you or I might sniff and say "DEAR GOD, WHAT IS THAT STENCH?" but an adolescent boy inhales the same bouquet and sighs, "The only thing better that THAT is another gallon of THAT."

Max and Tre are both firmly held within the thrall of Axe. They each have their own preferred scent, and a list of rules from me about the stuff. "It is not a weapon. I shall not come in contact with flame under any circumstances. And for the love of all that is good and right, GO EASY on the stuff. Retain just a smidge of olfactory mystery."

Raphael, being pre-pubescent-poisoning, does not quite understand the siren call of the Axe, but he knows his brothers love the stuff, and that's good enough for him.

And so the two of them set to work on their Axe commercial. Soon I heard snippets of their script floating up the stairs.

"Do your pits stink? Do you want to freshen them up? Think about it - do people run out of the room when you raise your arms?"

I was in the kitchen, putting together a package and fighting with Sophia, who was struggling valiantly to free items from the package, based upon the reasoning that they were pretty and she wanted them. And I have to confess that I was amused by what I was overhearing of the boys' efforts. But that was before I realized that their words weren't the only thing floating up the stairs.

"What the - OH FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, STOP SPRAYING THAT STUFF!" I shrieked, waving futilely at the cloud that had suddenly enveloped me.

"But we have to do lots of takes for our commercial!"

"I don't care! PRETEND to spray it! That's why it's called ACTING!"


Some day, eventually, I'm sure this infatuation with Axe will wane. And eventually, maybe, in the days after, the stench of it will clear out of the nooks and crannies of my home. Until that day I'll be here, reminding myself how quickly they grow up. And opening a window.

Enough of this joy-filled optomism, let's get to complaining

Okay, so you public school veterans probably knew this was coming, right? And I'm sorry, because what follows is a blow-by-blow account of people being obdurate, and who needs more of that in their lives? And yet, I am a giver, and today this is what I have to give.

Let's look back a few weeks, to back-to-school night. As...much fun as that was, we discovered that evening that Tre had not been assigned to a homeroom. Indeed, although he was clearly enrolled SOMEWHERE in the school, he had not been assigned to any classes. "But don't worry! We're having this problem with a few students! We'll get him in a homeroom and his teacher will call you next week and you can set up an appointment to meet then." Fine. And so we waited.

One week and one day later, I called the school to point out that classes would be starting in less than a week and lo, still Tre had no homeroom. "But that's okay!" I was assured, "Because we still have some students like that [at this point it occurred to me that they were speaking about this registration process as though it were being inflicted upon them by some outside, whimsical force. The Coyote Registrar, or something], and so when your son arrives next week, he will go into the gym, and his name will be on a list on the wall, and someone will help him find where he needs to go."

Oh, I thought. Oh good. I have complete confidence in that plan and may I just say how pleased I am to have finally handed over my son's education to professionals such as yourselves? It is a pleasure to watch such efficiency in action.

What I said was, "Great, thanks, bye."

And then the first day came, and I shoved my son out of the car and into the dog-eat-dog world of public education, and drove away, praying that the whimsy of the Coyote Registrar would be kind.

When I picked him up, I found that yes, he had a homeroom, and a full schedule. The only hitch in said schedule was that he was in Algebra I. And how could they possibly know that he'd already finished Algebra I, when we'd only had two specific conversations with the principal about it, and garnered several promises that he wouldn't have to re-take it, and he'd gone in for a specific math placement test and it was on his transcripts? Silly me. Hahaha!

I started fussing about calling and getting that changed, and Tre assured me that it was fine, he had handled it and talked to his teacher, and his teacher was going to talk to the principal, and all would be right soon.

(Are you enjoying this story as much as I am? Are you wishing for those halcyon days when I tediously described Sophia's sleep habits?)

After a few days of THAT, Tre reported that his teacher now was saying that if he wanted to be transferred into Geometry then he should be in all honors classes. This was something of a cold-knife-in-my-heart moment, because I wanted him to avoid honors classes until he was used to the work load and style of this school, but Tre was completely thrilled at the idea, insisting that his current classes were pretty boring.

Fine. FINE. I don't suppose there's any way to say NO HONORS CLASSES FOR YOU, YOUNG MAN and retain any "I want the best for you" cred. So FINE. Not that, I might point out here, anyone was ASKING ME.

But then things kept dragging along in this limbo for days. His classes weren't being changed, and his teacher kept saying they would be. I was okay with either - he could stay where he was (except for Algebra), or he could switch to the new classes, but if he was going, he needed to go. School had been in session for over a week, and it's not like he can afford to get behind in his classes. They're serious about things around there. There is no D grade. Anything below 70% is FAILING.

Finally, on Friday, I called the principal. I gave myself many kudos for staying out of their way as long as was possibly reasonable. When I spoke to him, I was understanding and courteous. All I wanted to know was what the plan was.

"Yes, well," he said, sounding VERY STERN, "I was taking care of that. I was just waiting to hear back from all his teachers to see if he would be appropriate for honors. I will be calling him into the office this afternoon to give him his new schedule."

And um. Okay. That's fine, and thank you. But do you know what makes me crazy about that? His teachers? The authorities whose word was needed to authorize this jump? They have had him in their classes for ONE WEEK AND TWO DAYS. I, on the other hand, have taught this child for TEN YEARS. And not only does it not seem to MATTER what my opinion might be, it's sort of ANNOYING that I should question them and their seven days of wisdom and insight on my child.

I do not want to have an adversarial relationship with the school. I don't see any reason we should. But after one week and two days of dealing with them, I sort of want to scream at people. And I'm pretty sure that's not helpful.

When I picked Tre up Friday afternoon, he was delighted to show me his NEW SCHEDULE! Geometry! Honors English! The whole thing, just as promised! He'd spent the last two periods in his new classes, and he could not have been happier. Hearty congratulations were passed all around, and we went directly to the pool.

When we got home that night, there was a message on the phone. Clay listened to it while I played kitchen pin-ball with several tired and hungry children who smelled like chlorine. Clay punched the button to turn off the phone and gave me a look.

"Hey, that was Tre's school. Guess what? Apparently he was absent today, and we need to call them."


Something tells me this might be a very long year.

Loose ends

Melody asked how Tre's first week was. Well, he loved it. I know it's just the beginning, but he was sorry to see the weekend come, which seems like a good sign.


It's not just me, right? He's a lovely, lovely boy. And I think he's going to be fine.

In other news, I wanted to invite y'all to come check out a few other things I've been up to lately. We're back at it over at Five Full Plates, with a new health and fitness challange. Come check us out. Gray is ON FIRE!

And I've also been writing for a company called Juno Baby, along with some other women. Mir is there! Love Mir. That's been a lot of fun. This was my favorite post so far. Heh. I amuse myself.

So to sum up, I guess what I'm saying is thank you for all your support and kind words. Now go away. But what I MEAN is I love you, man!

First day

I tend to think everything is different now, but some things do not change. This morning, just as I have on the first day of school for the last ten years, I squeezed a golden drop of honey onto Tre's tongue and murmured, "This is to remind you that learning is sweet."

And just like always, he tipped his head back and accepted the honey. As he rolled it around in his mouth, he smirked.

"All these years you had it wrong, Mom. HONEY is sweet," he said.

My son, the smart ass.

Also, my son, the high school student, sitting there in his uniform, looking impossibly grown up and handsome. I reminded myself that I did not intend to cry on this morning that was so exciting for him, so I nudged his shoulder and told him to get in the car.

As we drove, he wondered what the school lunches would be like, and I thought about why this transition was so hard for me.

The first year we officially homeschooled was when Tre was in Kindergarten. We were doing an on-line program then, and our materials didn't arrive until the first of October. That was the year Tre's biological dad, my ex husband, left. On October 31. Life was a shambles, as though someone had taken the world and shaken it, like a snow globe. I did not know one family could hurt that much and keep breathing.

I remember doing a language arts lesson with Tre one day, in the middle of all of this. I had read him a story, and he was supposed to retell it to me. Stressed out little Tre was a quiet child. I remember him as enormous dark eyes in a pinched face. He desperately wanted to fix everything, for everybody, and it broke him that he couldn't.

But all this silent aching sparked in him an insatiable need to move. Always an active child (a kinesthetic learner, doncha know), he literally could not sit still. He jiggled his foot, rocked back and forth in his chair, slid to the floor, and drummed out a rhythm on the bottom of his chair with his heels. He was like this all the time during that era, silent and sad and ever moving.

That day, as Tre retold me the story, he stood up and climbed on my bed, then onto my foot board, like it was a balance beam. He walked back and forth, back and forth, lost in the story, unaware of what he was doing. I watched him, and I realized that this dutiful, vigilant child would be in trouble every day in a regular classroom. He was learning here, where he could move as much as his anxious heart needed, but at school he would be the problem kid.

In that moment, in my cluttered, dark bedroom, I saw a spark of hope for the future. I didn't know who I was anymore, or where I was going, or why. All of it, why. But I knew what I was going to do. I was going to make our world right for my little boys. For anxious Tre, and furious three-year-old Max, and cherubic four-month-old Raphael, I was going to form a sanctuary.

And I did. They were my life, and I don't even think it was wrong. We got through. The boys are okay.

And of course, the more okay they are, the older and stronger they get, the less they need my sanctuary. This is good, this is right.

It feels a little like getting fired.

I dropped Tre off and drove away, leaving him to figure out the complications of homeroom and lunchroom. I didn't even cry. Much.

I parked across the street and went for a walk in the park there. As I climbed the hill into the park, I saw it laid out before me, lovelier by far than I realized from the other side. There were ponds and trees and long emerald sweeps of grass. And through it all wound wide cement paths. Whatever direction appealed to me, there was a path headed that way. All I had to do was choose where it was I wanted to go.

I stood there, alone, in the clear, early light, and I am proud to tell you that seemed like a very hopeful fact.