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January 2011
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March 2011

Tough enough

Raphael has finished the wrestling season. I persist in being unsure about the whole deal. He loves it, loves loves loves. The other day we were driving around somewhere, and we were listening to the Sesame Street CD that is the current soundtrack of our lives (the minute Sophia sees her car seat, she starts chirping "ELMO'S SONG? ELMO'S SONG?"), and a song came on out about having a face, and all its parts - you know, Sesame Street face song. One of the lines is something like "I have a chin, but what a chin does, I cannot tell."

From the back seat, Raphael said thoughtfully, "I know what a chin does. It hurts people." I was not driving, so I turned around to give him excuse me? eyes. "You know, in wrestling. You dig your chin - like this -" he pointed his chin aggressively at me, "- right into your opponent's back, and it hurts."

"No, honey," I said, "that's illegal."

"Actually," Clay said, "it's not. That's perfectly acceptable by wrestling rules."

"I didn't SAY ANYTHING about wrestling rules. I said THAT'S ILLEGAL. In MY WORLD."

They dropped it, but I saw them exchange a surreptitious look. They don't think I understand.

But I do, I understand. They are complicit in this quest to be stronger and tougher and dominant in a way that I simply would never encourage anyone to be. Especially not my own baby boy.

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Perhaps I should say especially not THIS baby boy, who takes to it with a bit more relish than is strictly comfortable to me.

But then again, this fierce little warrior child is not the only side of him there is. Another of Raphael's passions these days is origami. He spends hours fiddling with paper and presenting me with creations. The house is littered with them, but what are you supposed to do? Throw them away? There are boxes:

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and tables,

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and pteranodons and all other manner of dinosaurs (which are suprisingly difficult to photograph), and also, an absolute flurry of hearts and butterflies.

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Those are for me, of course, and if you look close at the pink one, you can see a message.

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It's moments like that that ease my heart. He may be tough, but he's not too tough.


Okay, I've gotten myself into a situation here, where I have this list of things I need to tell you about before I can get back to blogging about whatever, and since it's more fun to blog about whatever, I never blog at all, which just makes my list longer. So let's just make this a quick catch-up session, shall we?

First, to those of you who wondered about Sophia's snipped little locks of hair, and if I just coldly swept them up and threw them away - DO YOU EVEN KNOW ME AT ALL? I don't SWEEP!

No, no, just kidding. I sweep, although these days I'm frequently interrupted by a tiny tyrant, shrieking, "NO SOPHIA SWEEP UP SOPHIA DO IT!" She snatches the broom out of my hand, I swear. I stand there and watch her, knocking everything in reach off the counter with the handle of the broom and carefully shoving floor dirt around with the other end, and wonder what it is that causes children to completely lose interest in chores once they can accomplish them successfully.

But that's not the point. The point is...

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...of COURSE I saved a lock. The boys thought I was maybe being a little weird, and I informed them that I have a lock of each of their hair from their first haircut. Now they KNOW I'm weird.

Secondly, did you see where Lise wished me and Clay a happy anniversary in the comments? How cool is that? She remembered! Lise, you are my favorite.

Yes, Friday was our fifth anniversary, can you believe it? We went out for Indian food, then drove around looking for a Starbucks that had cupcakes. We failed on the cupcakes, but we had a lovely evening. Earlier in the week we'd gone together to the mechanic, so we could pick up my van, and the drive there we talked talked talked like someone had just taken the duct tape off our mouths. It was just so NICE to be together, and uninterrupted like that. At one point I sighed and said, "Wow. This is so's like a DATE." And Clay squeezed my hand and said, "yeah, it sort of is. That is PATHETIC."

Pathetic, but true. So you can imagine how much we enjoyed hours together, especially with the addition of butter chicken. I told him I was going to write about how great a husband he is, and he said I was going to bore people if I persisted in talking about him, and I took that as sort of a challenge, so here we go:

Why Clay Is the Best Husband Ever.

One day, a few years ago, I was having...oy. I was having an evening. The kids were asleep, and I was sitting in bed, weeeeping and dissecting our life. Because somehow, just that evening, it had all come clear to me. From where I sat, surrounded by soggy tissues, I could clearly see all the dysfunction and brokenness in our world, and it was obvious to me that EVERYTHING WAS WRONG. In particular, I was certain that Clay's relationship with one of the boys was ALL WRONG, and it had to be fixed NOW, or said child was going to surely end up in prison for some sort of violent crime, and everyone knows about men in prison, how they only send Mother's Day cards, not Father's Day cards, which is obvious proof that any disruption in the father/son bond is a one-way ticket to prison and scary face tattoos and probably drug habits that include needles.

I mean, it was all so obvious to me.

And Clay sat next to me on the bed, helplessly patting me on the knee and handing me tissues. For something like TWO HOURS the man sat there in that torrent of words and tears and really truly heart-felt imaginings. And the reason I'm sure this was at least a few years ago is that it was back before I figured out that what I have is not simply PMS, but PMDD, which stands for Pre Menstrual Daaaang-you're-crazy Disorder.

And yes, the next morning I got my period, and the crystal-clear visions of doom and distruction just melted away, and I sheepishly approached Clay.

"Er...honey? About last night? Um...I just got my period. So...never mind."

And do you know what he said to me? He looked at me and said,

"Well, you were a little...emotional. But you had some good points too. Just because you were crying is no reason not to listen to you."

And THAT is why he is The Best Husband Ever.

Finally, we entered a new era around here on Monday. Because we apparently have just piles of cash sitting around, needing a new home, and we like to torture our children, we hauled Max off and delivered him to the wild and wonderful world of orthodontia. Now he's in all kinds of pain, and having to learn to chew again. He's having second thoughts about needing to have the sort of bite that fits together without causing jaw discomfort, because apparently no one informed him that braces sort of suck. I keep reassuring him that it will all be worth it, eventually. Besides...

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...I think he looks adorable.

But wait, babies don't get haircuts...oh, shoot.

As much as I've resisted it, Mir is right. Sophia was long due for a haircut. She really was starting to look like a homeless baby. And while it looked lovely up in glossy, ringleted pigtails, getting that done required an act of God, and then she'd yank her hair free in a matter of minutes. And then there we were again. Homeless baby.

So today my dear friend Tracey came over, and we did what had to be done.

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This is a terrible picture, I know. I'm just including it to give you an idea how LONG her hair had gotten. Crazy. Someone should talk to her mother.

Also, yes, we sat her in her highchair, on a phone book, sideways. Because that is how the super-klassy do it.

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And my little wild child of a girl was a perfect angel.

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As a matter of fact, I'm considering asking Tracey to come over and cut her hair every night while I try to make dinner. Sure, she'd be bald eventually, but I'm telling you, she was absolutely serene.

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It was done soon enough, because it may have been long, but she still only has about seventeen wispy strands of hair. So she was checking herself out in short order. She approved, and spent the rest of the afternoon informing people, "SOOOO pretty."

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It was not a question, either. Just a statement of fact. Hi, I'm soooo pretty.

And now I'd like to give you some great pictures of her with her new haircut, but have you ever tried to take pictures of a toddler? Most of them look like this:

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You can almost hear her cussing out the paparazzi in this one, can't you?

You'll just have to take my word for it. As hard as it was to take the leap (because BABIES don't get haircuts, don't you know), her new sassy hair is perfect.

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It's light and easy and, yes,

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...sooo pretty.


Chickeny Valentine Goodness.

This morning, as Clay was creeping quietly out of bed, I rolled over and said sleepily, "Happy Valentine's Day! Love you." This, of course, means that I totally win Valentine's Day. Because that is what it's all about. Winning.

But then Clay snatched victory back from the jaws of total defeat, because his response was, "Oh, happy Valentine's Day, my sweet little chicken of love."

The best part of that is that I was half asleep, so I TOTALLY FORGOT until I called him mid-morning and he answered with a sheepish, "Is this about me calling you a chicken this morning?" I am going to get many many miles out of that one, my friends. So I suppose you could say that he gave me the best Valentine's Day gift - even though I did buy him a whole bag of Kisses and tossed them at him after dinner tonight. We are very romantic around here.

But all in all, it was just what a celebration of love should be. Tre made dinner while I was at class tonight. Clay saw to it that my van got to the mechanic's for servicing. Max denied any interest in anything remotely Valentine-y, but allowed as how he'd permit chocolate to come his way. Raphael made his cards this year - oh, let me show you -

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Isn't he just too stinkin' adorable? He kills me.

And Sophia's day was entirely pink and girly, and just the tiniest bit stubborn.

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Again, with the killing me.

I hope your Valentine's Day was filled with love too, whether it be practical, food-based, adorable, or just plain chickeny.

Just FYI

Clay and I were sitting in slack-jawed amazement before the...scene of the Grammys. I kept repeating that I don't understand the world anymore. Finally, I shook myself and asked what he wanted to watch.

"You mean in general, or instead of this? Instead of this, I'd watch...I don't know, Four Weddings and a Bridal Shower, Say Yes to the Dress, What Not to Wear, and Shocking Gynecological Visits, Revisited."

Have I ever told you how much I adore my husband?


Ahem. There is a massive event coming up, and I just want to warn everyone here. Brace yourselves.Are you sitting down? You probably are, unless you're like me and you've propped your laptop on a high shelf to try to keep your toddler from getting her sticky little fingers on it and pokepokepoking all the keys in an attempt to make the pictures of the baby come up.

So if you ARE like me (I'm sorry), sit down. Go ahead. The rest of us will wait.

Are we all sitting down and have braced ourselves? Okay. *deep breath*

I am turning 40. Next month.

Specifically, I am turning 40 in 38 days.

I know! You're shaken, right? I ARE shaken, aren't you? Because I keep working this fact into as many conversations as I can, and people are distinctly NOT SHAKEN by it. Example:

Friend: Wow, can you believe all this snow and cold?

Me: I KNOW! It's like HELL, and plus I am turning 40 next month, so my life is already full of drama and woe!

Friend (or so I THOUGHT):*

*obvious, glaring subtext there - "ONLY 40? Because I would have guessed you were at least ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD, what with the situation going on under your eyes and whatever it is your hair seems to be doing. Can I get you a wheelchair? Because I don't want you to break a hip."

This shocking fact (the turning 40 thing, not the fact that my nearest and dearest really don't care) was brought to my attention last year. And yes, I technically KNEW that I was going to be turning 40, but we all KNOW that social security is going to be completely sucked dry by the Boomers before we get there, and it's not like we go around with that fact forefront in our minds, right? Except shoot, now I'm thinking about it, and what ARE we going to do about that? DANG BOOMERS, man! I'm going to start storing dry goods under my bed and glaring at my parents.

Anyhow, last year I was at a bridal shower. We were playing one of those games that one plays at a bridal shower, the sort of entertainment that would totally make you poke your own eyes out if you weren't enjoying the company and cake. Cake goes a long way for me. Anyhow, the bride was answering questions about her groom, to see how well she knew him, and at one point she said something about how he was going to turn 40 that year. And I sat there, daintily holding my cup of tea, and I took a break from eyeing the cake to think the following thoughts: "FORTY? Oh, no, she must be mistaken. Because she said earlier that he was born in 1970! And I was born in 1971! And *I* am not turning 40 until....wait, okay, let me think. HE was born in 1970. And he will be 40 this year. And I was born in, wait...."

The remainder of my thoughts on the subject are unprintable here, because I am not that kind of girl. At least, not in the "outside the head" voice.

So for the last year I've been coming to terms with this fact in my usual thoughtful, productive way. I've mostly been weeping and complaining about it. Also I've spent a lot of time staring in the mirror and pinching viciously at the skin on my belly to see what plastic surgery could do for me. This is the sort of wisdom that comes with age, you know.

And yet, despite ALL of this careful work, my birthday is STILL GOING TO HAPPEN. And I just realized this morning that I probably won't lose 20 pounds, start a stunning career, or finally hit that growth spurt I've been waiting on before then. So what good is 40, if it doesn't arrive in a movie montage of success, attractiveness, and wealth in unimagined proportions?

Sheesh. It's almost like all the Disney movies have been lying to me, and the darkest night doesn't promise a glorious dawn, if only you listen to your heart and truly BELIEVE.

Come to think of it, I've never seen a 40-year-old woman in a Disney movie, so those rules may not apply.

Well, that's all really. I just wanted to warn you all, so you could start storing dry goods underneath your beds too. Or something. Look, I don't know. I can't be expected to figure EVERYTHING out, and right now I'm busy thinking about ME and MY IMPENDING 40-NESS.

And cake.

The healing power of a clean floor (and a good man)

So last week. Can I tell you a little about last week? Three snow days. Three. Snow. Days. And it's even worse than it sounds, because Monday was not EXACTLY a snow day, but waited until everyone was safely delivered at their respective schools before all the respective administrators panicked and sounded the OH NOES WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE OF SNOW COME GET YOUR CHIDDLERS NOW NOW NOW!! AH-UUUUUGAAHHH! alarm.

So okay, fine. I mean, FINE. Eventually I got all the kids safely corralled back home. They were well nigh hysterical with joy, and I was...resigned. I didn't want to get anything done ANYHOW, THANKS.

If there was one bright thought in my snowy, school-complicated day, it was that the storm was supposed to just keep getting worse throughout the day, and my class was that night, and although I am really enjoying my class, well. Snow day! Do you know how many DECADES it has been since I have had my very own snow day?

Except apparently my college is run by people who are sadistic meanies who think it's funny to toss students out on the snowy streets. They were the ONLY institution in Denver that did not cancel everything possible that night. So I spent the better part of an hour and a half driving across town at the sort of pace that makes geriatric earthworms snicker in contempt, and still sliding all over the dang street.

But I made it there, and back again, and it finally stopped snowing.

However, the next two days of school were cancelled, despite the fact that we'd only gotten a few inches of snow - BECAUSE OF THE COLD.

This is Colorado, do you understand me? I'm not living in Georgia, where a heavy frost sends the populace reeling. Colorado. We THRIVE on cold and snow. So can you even imagine the kind of cold that causes two days of no school? Can you wrap your mind around how deep and wide and heavy that kind of cold must be?

No. You cannot.

I'm talking about days where the high - the HIGH temperature for the day - was down there below zero. That is COLD. That sort of cold hurts to inhale and freezes the very boogers in your nose.

So not only were there three snow days, but they were the sort of snow days where you can't send the children outside, because it would cross that line from "loving encouragement to be active" into "child abuse." But you know, fortunately, we have a very large house.



You know the worst thing about snowy weather? What it does to your floors. Everyone's feet are wet when they come in, and soon the garage floor is covered in that particularly nasty snow/filth sludge, and before long the floor right inside the door looks like a relief map of Peru. And you can TRY to keep it clean, but people will PERSIST in having feet and walking places, and the dog refuses to stop peeing JUST FOR ONE WEEK even though you asked her very nicely, so it turns out to be easier just to pretend it IS a relief map of Peru and then you can stand around, muttering that you think you see the Nazca drawings.

And did I mention this? Sophia has given up napping.

Let me just give you a minute to let that sink in. Sophia. Has given up napping. No nap today! Or tomorrow! Or ever! So just stop hoping that you will ever ever ever be able to open a door or pick anything or take a step or try to go pee without a small face pushing past your leg, chirping, "what doing, Mama? Huh? Sophia help? NO SOPHIA DO IT STOP IT NO NO NO!"

And that is helpful. And relaxing.

A few days ago Clay called me - I don't remember when it was or why he was calling or anything, because I had sort of...sunk into a morass of despair and self pity and woe - and he noticed that I was not exactly has happy as I could be.

"What do you need, honey?"

"I want a day BY MYSELF. I want all the kids to be somewhere else and the house to be quiet."

"And what would you do, all by yourself?"

"I would clean the floor. And then? AND THEN I would lie down on the floor, and press my cheek to its clean surface, and I would just LOOK AT it. I would look at it being CLEAN. And then I would turn my head and press the other cheek to the clean clean floor and I would look the other direction. At the floor. Being clean. I would not listen to Elmo's song even once. I would not break up any arguments or offer any suggestions for conflict resolution. I would take a bath and no one would talk to me through the door. I would not care if anyone practiced their piano. And I would drink hot liquids and never have to snatch them away from anyone. I would not share my food."

I don't know if it was his great love for me, or if I scared him a little with my breathy delivery of Kira's Special Vision, but Clay gave me my day today. I like to think it was the very great love. Anyhow, he took the day off work. He took Max and Raphael to their Monday school, and took Sophia out to play and do important things, and I stayed home.

Right now the floor is clean. This morning I read the whole newspaper without saying even once, "I am READING THE NEWSPAPER." The little twitch under my eye is stilled.

Now all the children are asleep, and I am going to sleep in a bedroom that has been vacuumed AND dusted AND decluttered. And even though it is snowing right now - a lot - and even though I'm almost certain that school will be cancelled for Tre tomorrow, and even though I have to go to the dentist and get three fillings replaced in the morning, I am a happy woman.

All I needed was one day.

And one extremely wonderful man.

And I wouldn't even let them have the crackers.

Here is a snapshot from my life to sum it up: the boys had been banished to the basement with Sophia, so I could sweep and mop the upstairs. I didn't really have time to clean the floor, but the level of...texture underfoot had become unbearable. On our third snow day of the week, something had do be done.

I threw myself into the sweeping mopping nonsense, and listened to a podcast to distract me from the fact that I had more reading to finish before class that evening. The distraction wasn't working all that well, because I realized after ten minutes of listening to it that I was hearing a Christmas themed This American Life.

One boy or another pleaded up the stairs for release from the basement, and I responded, "NO, you cannot come up, because there are dots of tomato sauce on the floor in front of the stove, I am so over scheduled that I can't even keep up with the podcasts that I actually LIKE, and I still have to read stupid Ezra Pound's stupid Cantos."

There was a pause, then a plaintive voice said, "oookay. Then...can we have some Goldfish crackers down here?"