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November 2010
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January 2011

It's like a Christmas letter, but you don't have to figure out what to do with it when you're don'e reading.

Tre is on winter break, and the other boys and I are similarly breaking, and you would think that would make things calmer around here, wouldn't you? If so, you haven't been paying attention.

Having my full compliment of children around again is surprisingly chaotic - but fun! It's like a party inside of a tornado. That on top of the normal Christmas chaos is, um, a lot. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one here who is stretched a bit thin though, am I right?

So in the interest of all our busy schedules, here are a few brief updates:

Dec10 018 
Tre made the Dean's List. His first semester in public school was, I think, a success, with a 3.95 GPA. I am  disgustingly proud of the boy. I would even put one of those odious "My child is on the Dean's List" bumper stickers on my car if I was offered one. It's sort of sad.

Fortunately, he helps to temper my flights of pride by falling down the stairs frequently, and nearly concussing himself trying to walk through doorways. I don't know what happened to all the grace and lightfootedness he had as a child, I really don't. Whenever he manages a particularly spectacular fall, Max intones drily, "Ah yes. Yay for the honors student."

Dec10 014 
Speaking of Max, he's growing his hair out again so he can donate it to Locks of Love. And yes, this is a fine thing to do, but it's gotten to a length that makes it like a living creature. His hair is crazy thick and wavy and wild and GOD FORGIVE ME, but I want to CUT IT OFF.

Four more inches to go. Grow, Max, grow!

Dec10 016 
Raphael went and lost his first molar (this is him, showing you the gap. Thank me for not posting the picture of him showing you the gap and the wad of bloody gauze). I can't believe how fast he's growing up. I can't believe that after all these years the tooth fairy still can't manage to collect a tooth on the same night it's left under the pillow. What a slacker fairy.

Dec10 033 
Sophia has become somewhat obsessed with wearing other people's shoes. She has pretty good taste, too, because her favorites of mine are the red, patent leather, peep-toed pumps. They're total baby-trippers, but she is determined to figure out how to walk in them.

She's also learned to smile for the camera, and this is the result. So I don't think we'll be pursuing modelling.

Dec10 004 
And I just had to show you this picture, because is it just me, or is she totally rocking a retro 70's vibe here? And yes, Mir, I will cut her hair soon. Soon-ish. Eventually.

Last but not least, sweet Jennie is going to have her baby ANY DAY. I don't have a picture of her, because although she looks beautiful and glowy, I don't think she'd appreciate that RIGHT NOW.

It turns out that waiting for your daughter to give birth isn't any easier than waiting for your wife to give birth. Clay is as jumpy as a cat.

That's the news from here. I hope all your Christmas plans are going apace, and everyone finds a spot of peace in the season.

Pumpkin muffins to double cheeseburgers

When Tre was a baby I made him pumpkin muffins. These weren't just any pumpkin muffins, these were ultra-healthy hockey pucks of pumpkiny goodness. They were made with whole wheat flour, and as if that weren't enough, a fistful of wheat germ on top of it. They were sweetened with apple juice. They had chopped up raisins mixed in, for extra moistness and flavor. Now that I think about it, they may not have actually had any leavening, because I was worried about possible aluminum in baking powder, and I wasn't too clear on the difference between it and baking soda. So they were positively leaden.

But babies are sort of dumb, so Tre was forever carrying a pumpkin muffin puck around, gnawing on it. Poor little thing. I watched him with great satisfaction, thinking about all the healthy ingredients he was ingesting in his "treat." He grinned at me, pumpkin crumbs smeared around his mouth. Anything seemed possible, and I couldn't believe this luminous, grubby creature was my own son.

Tonight I brought Tre dinner at school. He'd stayed after to help set up for the winter dance, and instead of an hour of setup, he ended up working until the dance started. I fetched him some fast food dinner, and clothes to change into.

When I pulled into the parking lot, he was standing right outside the school building, hopping around in the bitter cold. I parked next to the curb, and he threw the door open. He slung his guitar in the back seat, grabbed the stack of folded clothes and the paper sack of food-like substance, and said as he turned away, "Great! Thanks, Mom. Love you."

"Love you, too," I said, but he was already gone. His eyes had barely even met mine, not because he was avoiding me, but because his world is filled with just so much to look at these days. Love you, he said, and he does. But for Tre, that fact is just one more shining thing in the palm of his hand. It's time for the dance, I did great on the Criminal Law final, oh, good, Mom brought my Converse - love her, and I wonder where [fill in the blank] is and if she will dance with me.

What he doesn't know, what he can't possibly understand, is that I look at him and I still see my coddled baby boy, with a pumpkin muffin in one hand and crumbs on his cheek.

 He loves me, and it's another part of his day.

Dec10 009 

 I love him, and it fills my chest until I can hardly breathe.

Gotta love her.

This weekend we did some pinch-hitting babysitting for the parents of a five month old baby girl. Their babysitter had bailed on them at the last minute, and they had a Christmas party to go to. And as Clay says, I'm not always rational when it comes to babies, so I thought it was a great idea. Two babies in the house, I thought! What fun!

And for the first twenty minutes or so, it was just as much fun as you'd imagine two babies would be. Madison was fine until her parents left, then she looked around, developed a wobbly lip, and started to cry. Sophia looked at her with great alarm and warned me severely, "Baby. Baby. BABY." Then she developed wobbly lip of her own, and started to cry too. This was somewhat inconvenient, because Clay was gone, taking Max to a friend's house.

Then I made a terrible mistake. Sophia was getting quite upset, and that was getting Madison more upset. So I figured if I could put Madison down for a second, I could comfort Sophia, and then we could stop this massive spiral into cry-land. So I put her down. Ahem. In Sophia's crib.

That was NOT OKAY. Sophia FREAKED OUT.

When Clay came home, I was walking in circles, with one distraught girl in each arm. Thank God for that man, is all I have to say. He took Sophia downstairs and got her happy again, and in short order I had Madison resembling the joyful, easy going infant her parents swore she was.

The rest of the night was lovely. Madison smiled at everyone, sucked down her bottle, and fell asleep like she'd been drugged. Clay and I were sort of amazed by the way she just...fell asleep. And stayed that way. It was freaky. We're used to Sophia's sleep style, which is more like a prolonged hostage negotiation than a bedtime routine. (I might point out that she is, right now, bellowing protests from her crib. She is nothing if not consistent.)

And once Madison stopped crying, Sophia was fascinated with her. All through dinner and the Friday night movie (Miracle on 34th Street - not appreciated by the youth of today. Raphael punctuated the showing with heavy sighs and Tre fell asleep), she stared at the baby and chirped, "HI! Hi, baby! Hi! Hi!" She wanted to cover the baby up with her blanket, and hold her hand, and kiss her head. If she and the baby had been employed by the same company, she would have gotten a strongly worded warning about her attentions from HR. When Madison lolled on the floor, on her blanket, appreciating her fist, Sophia dragged her favorite blanket out of her room and flopped down on the floor next to her.

And looking at the two of them, I had to admit something to myself. Although I think of Sophia as the tiniest person in the whole world, all sprite-like and prancing, she is not, in fact, a baby. She is a great big huge whacking toddler.

Looking at them together, Madison all small and soft and wobbly, and Sophia, giant and and active and talking, I realized something. Someone has stolen my little infant girl, and replaced her with this loud wee wild child. It's true, what people have been saying - she's not actually a baby anymore. She's a little girl.

Dec10 015 

Of course, it's also true that if you ask her to say "Sophia," she will look at you with a particularly stubborn set of the chin and chirp, "BABY." The boys try to convince her to say her name.

 "Can you say SO?" they ask.

"So," she murmurs.

"Can you say FEE?"


"Can you say AAAH?"


"Can you say Sophia?"


And she may be a great big girl, but that's the truth too.

Dec10 014 

She IS the baby.

Raphael wrestling

First of all, I was literally JUST ABOUT to tell you that I was wrong and the doctor was right. I was JUST ABOUT to say that no one else got strep, but Sophia and I just had a little piddling cold, nothing to run after antibiotics for.

But then just now Max croaked up the stairs, "Mom? My throat hurts and I feel bad."

So. I guess the jury's still out, huh?

Nonetheless, Raphael was well enough this weekend to participate in his first ever wrestling tournament. He started wrestling last year, and I'll just give you a minute to puzzle out which of his parents thought THAT was a good idea. Go ahead, give it a good think. *hums Jeopardy theme song*

So needless to say, Clay and Raphael were very excited about this tournament. I was...prepared to support them, because love is blind. And stupid. And helpless in the face of mass hysteria.

It all started with a weigh in. Wait, let me back up and tell you the things that bother me about wrestling. First, there is the actual wrestling. That sort of behavior would NOT be tolerated in my living room. I have so waded into altercations that looked exactly like what they do on those mats and grabbed the participants by their respective ears. During the tournament, Clay leaned over to me and whispered, "Can you try not to look so...horrified? You kind of look like an amateur." I AM an amateur.

I also don't care for the fact that the whole deal is a racket. We pay for Raphael to be on the team. We bought sodas to donate so they could sell them at the tournament. We most certainly pay hours of time for practices and other nonsense. And then? We had to pay to get INTO the tournament. Seriously.

And then I hate the weigh ins.

Raphi presented himself for weighing and soon came back to me with a grin and his weight written on his arm in sharpie - 70.2. Now, never mind that I, personally, would gnaw my arm off before appearing in public with it advertising my actual, down to the ounce weight. Raphael is NOT ME. This has been amply demonstrated, and was underscored by the fact that he thought the weight-on-arm thing was kind of cool. However, this put him in the 70.1 - 75 pound weight category. Get that? This insured that he would be the smallest wrestler in his category. This is Not Good.

And sure enough, the first guy he wrestled was enormous. He was a massive giant of a ten year old, and he pinned Raphael rather...adroitly. It was not a happy moment. I was sitting in the bleachers, watching with my hand clapped over my mouth in horror, and Max and Tre even took a break from punching each other to ask me what was wrong (those two, by the way? are making me insane with their testosterone and energy and punching each other and breaking things. Insane). I wanted to rush down to the mat and scoop my baby up and comfort him, but he was busy yanking off his head gear and conferring with Clay. A while later he had time to come sit on my lap and be sad, but first he and Clay had to sort it all out.

And it was okay, because there was another match coming up. After seventeen trillion hours of waiting, Raphael was back on the mat, bouncing around as he waited for his opponent. And when that opponent stepped onto the mat? There I was, clapping my hand over my mouth again. The child was ENORMOUS. He was at least seven feet tall, with a physique something like vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger. This may be a slight exaggeration. Children in the mother's memory may appear more ominous than they actually were. But the fact remains that he was larger than Raphael. He was at the tippy-top of their weight class, and all his pounds were used to make tallness and muscles. Raphael, lolling at the very bottom of their class, uses much of his poundage to make adorableness and charm.

I literally waved at Clay down there, on the mat, trying to get his attention and make him stop that giant child from hurting my baby. I like to think that he just didn't happen to notice me, not that he was ignoring my mommy madness. That's what I like to think, anyhow.

And then they started and...Raphael was like a force of nature. He was simply so FIERCE. I'm just learning how this wrestling deal works, but even I could tell that he was holding his own. What's more, according to the score, he was actually winning. (Clay informs me that Raphi nearly pinned the other kid - TWICE. And he was up by five points. Or seven. Lots of points.)

It took my breath away, seeing him down there. He was working so hard that the expression on his face reminded me of someone giving birth. I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate the comparison, but that's the only thing I can think of that comes close to the kind of effort he put into that match.

And it wasn't just physical effort, either. Wrestling is really like chess, played in the medium of sweaty little boy bodies. Raphael was out thinking him...right up until he made one mistake.

Enormous boy flipped him...I watched Raphael squirm frantically underneath him, trying to regain control...but it was just too much...and he was pinned.

This time he was really upset. He'd gotten smacked in the eye during the match, and he was hurt and exhausted and deeply disappointed. A few minutes later, as I walked him out to get some water, he threw up. The sheer amount of work he'd put into that match just undid him.

So allow me to sum up here: Raphael is a wrestler now. He is totally devoted to it. I hate almost everything about it, and that fact really doesn't matter here. It stresses me out, it's probably the hardest thing he's ever tried, and he and Clay are co-conspirators in wrestling. I kind of wish the whole sport would be outlawed.

Dec10 001 

And I simply could not be prouder of this little warrior here.

Send chocolate.

Today Tre was supposed to go to a movie with his friends after school, but he was feeling sick, and when morning dawned, he was feeling too icky to go. Now, I'm not one to rush off to the doctor, but in my book "sore throat" plus "doesn't want to go to the movies with his friends" equals "prolly strep, dammit." I hauled everyone to the doctor's office to get Tre a strep test. The nurse gave me doubting eyebrows, but HA! I showed her! He DOES have strep, so THERE!

Oh wait. Shoot. I don't really win there, do I?

(Aside: can we seriously not come up with a better test for strep than a throat culture? So you've got a wildy tender sore throat, and the best way to figure out what's causing the pain is to jab cotton-covered sticks down there and thoroughly abrade everything? REALLY?)

Well, we got Tre's drugs and headed home. Sophia went down for a nap, and I got a few things done. When Sophia woke up, I noticed she looked...a bit off. Pale, and yet a little too bright-cheeked for my tastes. And then Max mentioned that his throat felt weird. I put in a call to the doctor's office, and begged the nurse for antibiotics all around. I mean, really. We have one documented case of strep, and now other children are showing symptoms. Hmmm...I WONDER WHAT IT COULD BE???

But of course, I was told NO, they couldn't possibly do that. It's just not good medical practice. They have to ascertain that the kids actually have strep before they could possibly prescribe medication, to be responsible, and besides they couldn't really collect the other $90 in co-pays that way, now could they?

She didn't actually SAY that last part, about the co-pays, but it was STRONGLY IMPLIED.

I told her she ruining my life, and that if I had to bring my children in to the office, I was going to tell them to lick all the doorknobs and pens, and that I hoped that if she had been blessed with children herself, all of them would have sensitive stomachs and perpetually runny noses and a predilection for putting inappropriate objects in their mouths. It may have sounded something like a crisp, "Okay, then. Thank you anyway," but I'm certain she could read between THOSE lines. And by God, I hope it STUNG.

So I have been mentally ranting at the doctor's office all evening, and now I really need to let it go. After all, I can't really blame everything on them. I'm sure I'm overreacting because I've got this headache and...wait a minute....*swallows experimentally*...

Oh, poop.

Penguins made of awesomesauce

There was a baking contest at the boys' school today, and Raphael made these penguins, which happen to be the cutest things ever to be covered in gobs of sickly sweet buttercream.

Dec10 028 

I'm not bragging here, or being a doting mother. I mean, LOOK at them!

Dec10 026 

You know you haven't seen anything cuter than that today, and neither have I.

Dec10 022 
Well...almost nothing cuter.

I wonder if Raphi believes I'm a woman yet?

Last night I was lying in bed, staring at the inside of my eyelids, as I am often wont to do these days. Honestly, I don't know what happened to my ability to fall asleep, but it seems to be AWOL. It's a good thing I'm not frequently woken up in the middle of the night by a toddler, or busy running four different directions at once during the day and need my sleep or anything, hahahahahahaHA. HA.

Anyhow. As I waited in the dark for sleep to come, trying to calculate how many times I could roll from one side to the other without waking Clay (answer: one million. And seven. The man is a gifted sleeper), I got to thinking about a story I never told y'all. Specifically, this was a story about Clay and me, when we were first dating. I don't know why I've got it stuck in my head that I want to tell you about this, but I guess you can thank insomnia for this particular post.

So Clay and I met at church, and he was immediately smitten. What? It's true. I, on the other hand, was immediately struck dumb with terror by the man who was getting all talky with me at church. He told me later that he couldn't figure out what I found so fascinating about his shoes. GAH. He was TALKING TO ME and it FREAKED ME OUT.

He kept asking me out, and I kept turning him down, and he kept not giving up. I TOLD you he was smitten. Eventually he asked if it would be okay if he emailed me, and I allowed as how that would be acceptable. After a few weeks of email, he cautiously moved to calling me. I permitted him to call after 9 at night, when all the boys were asleep. And that's when things really got out of hand. We spent HOURS on the phone in the middle of the night. I remember sitting there, pressing the phone to my ear so hard it hurt, laughing and talking and talking and talking. The next morning I would be exhausted, but I floated out of bed and down the stairs, humming to myself as little birdies twittered around me and tied the sash on my dress. It was simply PITIFUL. The smittenness was mutual by this point, although I was loath to admit it.

My dad, however, figured out what was going on. It may have been the way my pupils formed little hearts when I said Clay's name, I don't know. He decided he wanted to get to know this guy a little better, so he invited him on a fishing trip with the boys. I was somewhat flummoxed by this, as we weren't even technically dating yet, and WHOA, buddy, do we need to get the kids involved in this yet? But Dad said the boys didn't need to know that Clay was anything other than a friend from church, and it was just one fishing trip, and besides, I wasn't invited. Okay, then.

As it worked out, the night before the fishing trip, Clay and I were both invited to a mutual friend's house for dinner and dominos. OH wait! I blogged it! Heh. How adorable were we? I'll tell you a secret here: he KISSED me that night. Oh yes, he did. *smirk* Talk about smitten.

So the next morning he arrived to go fishing, and we were playing it VERY COOL in front of the boys, whilst shooting each other DEEPLY MEANINGFUL looks above their heads and meeting in dark corners for quick whispers and smoochings. And then they were off, on their fishing adventure, and I was left home alone to relive every word he'd ever said to me and doodle our initials together in little hearts.

Eventually they returned, and as I remember, they'd even caught a few fish. Trout, which if you ask me, is the only drawback to fishing. It would be a much better pastime if one caught, say, prime rib. But whatever. Clay and Dad and Max went to the back yard to clean the things, and I paused in the hallway to help Raphael take off his coat. He was just three years old then, all cherubic cheeks and dark eyes and wicked plans. His zipper was stuck, and I knelt down next to him to wrestle with it.

"Mama?" he said soberly, "Mama? Mama? Yoo are a girl." I'll spare you repeated phonetic spelling of "girl," but suffice to say it sounded like "gyuurrrulll." He did have a way of emphasizing certain words.

"Actually, honey, I'm a woman. I'm a girl who is all grown up."

"No, Mama. You're a girl."

"No really, I'm a woman."

"You're a girl."

"I have a driver's licence and everything, hon. I'm a woman."

"You're a girl."

"Fine, whatever." I finally freed his zipper and slid the coat off his shoulders. At that age, their coats come off sort of like exoskeletons flaking free, keeping the rounded shape of their torsos, with arms splayed out to the sides. I turned to hang the Raphi-shaped coat on a hook, but he put one hand on my cheek and looked me in the eye.

"And dat Clay?" He raised his eyebrows to emphasize his words. "He's a MAN."

I'm not sure exactly what Raphael was getting at, that day. But now, having been married to Clay for nearly five years, sharing this life and these kids and a dog that randomly throws up, I can say this with some authority:

Raphael was absolutely right. Dat Clay is a MAN. And a fine one at that.

On the balance, worth it.

So, on the one hand, Max and Raphael have been exposing me to ridicule on Facebook. By which I mean, I won't let them lie about their ages to get a Facebook account (THIRTEEN! NOT MY RULES! My rules, however, include the law THOU SHALT NOT LIE ABOUT THINE AGE ONLINE. So I am still the jerk). However, my hard-assery does not actually extend all that far, because I allow them to play all those stupid Facebook games on my account. And they do love themselves some Ninja Wars.

However, I hate those games, and have strictly forbidden FB to tell me anything about anyone's adventures in any of those games. I'm sorry, but I simply don't care about your Mafia dealings, or your farm, or any of it. Sorry. Feel free to be irritated with me. And if you post something on Facebook about how much you dislike me now, I will be HAPPY to read what you have to say, but I still don't care about your farm. You KNOW it's not real, right?

But now Max and Raphi are playing scads of Ninja Wars and Crazy Taxi and whatever, and I keep getting comments from friends saying things like, "Seriously? That's a little weird to me," and "You crack me up. What are you DOING with your life?" I get emails telling me about these comments, but I can't actually SEE or RESPOND TO the comments, because I have forbidden Facebook to talk to me about the stupid games. So. If you are my friend on Facebook, IT IS NOT ME. My sons are responsible for the ninja activity. Sheesh.

Also, if you see that I seem to be on Facebook, and you try to chat with me, and I ignore you, IT IS MY SONS' FAULT.

And yet, although they are managing to completely destroy my online presence (don't we all need one of those?), I suppose they're worth keeping around. Otherwise, I wouldn't overhear exchanges like the one I heard today.

Raphi: Please? PLEASE? If you let me come in, I'll be your good, REAL servant for a day.

 Max: What do you mean?

 Raphi: Like, if you tell me to go get you some food, I'll go get you some good, EDIBLE food!

And there you go. If those boys weren't here to show me the truth, I would have gone to my grave without knowing what constitutes a good, REAL servant.

Thank goodness the ninjas are here to lead the way.