Previous month:
March 2011
Next month:
May 2011

Not wrong just SO SO different

Yesterday I took the kids to the library. I don't want to admit how long it's been since we went to the library, but 1) I am really kind of wow busy and 2) I'm currently in a dysfunctional relationship with my library. No, it's true. I am busy.

Oh, the dysfunctional thing. See, the library district I live in closed something crazy like four of its seven libraries last year. Over half! It actually didn't bother me, because I don't go to any of those libraries, because they are staffed with wildly surly people. Seriously. So surly and unhappy. So I go the library I've also gone to. My HOME. MY library.

Well, that library system got tired of being over worked by all us outsiders, and announced that if we want to use their libraries, we'll have to pay $100 for in-district privileges. And although I've checked all the way to the bottom of my library bag, I never have a spare hundred bucks. So I can still go there, but there are all these restrictions on my card. No inter-library loans. I can't renew books. Only THREE BOOKS AT A TIME, if you can imagine. It's awful.

But I keep going, and keep being treated like a syphilitic book-licking street person with visible vermin in her hair. I'm just waiting for them to decide they love me again, I guess. I swear, I haven't been in a relationship this bad since my twenties.

Anyhow. It's not like I can stop using the library entirely, and Max needed to do some research on France, so we went. I can't help it. I love the library.

When we got there, the boys disappeared to get their library groove on, and I toddled off to watch Sophia. She headed straight for the little playhouse in the kids' section. There was another little girl there, a four-year-old, named Alice. She was delighted to see Sophia arrive, and immediately pulled out a little chair for her to sit next to her. Sophia was delighted right back, and clambered onto the proffered chair.

Alice grabbed her foot as she climbed past and brought it up, nearly to her nose, to inspect her shoe. It was a shiny black patent leather number that Sophia has hardly taken off since Easter. We had tears at bedtime over the shoes. Now Alice was studying her shoe, and she was transfixed.

"Oooooh. You DO have nice shoes on. Do you like that they are very pretty?" she breathed.

"Yes!" Sophia was in complete agreement. "My have pretty shoes."

"And you also have blond hair like me! So that is pretty too!"

"Yes, my have hair," Sophia agreed, patting it to be sure. And so the tone was set.

For almost an hour Alice and Sophia moved back and forth from tiny chair to tiny chair, negotiating the sharing of the play keyboards in the playhouse. Occasionally they decided they should read books, and move over to the shelves. Then they would decide to give each other hugs. Then they would go back to the play house. And the whole while they talk talk talk talk talked about everything. Wouldn't this keyboard be better here? and why were there clouds again in the sky today? and did Sophia know that she is a baby and so therefore is very fragile and precious? And should they hug again?

Alice did most of the talking, but Sophia agreed with her a great deal, gamely repeating as many of Alice's words as she could manage. It was (save one incident with a chair put down on a certain prettily-shod foot) absolute accord.

And then another girl arrived. I never learned her name, but here is what I saw: she looked about five. She was clearly still wearing her Easter dress, which was pale lavender satin, complete with matching tights and white, flower-bedecked sandals. The front of her dress bore the remnants of some chocolate drink, and her knees were matted with leaves and grass. Her hair was escaping from a fancy braid in wispy clumps.

Alice and Sophia were TRANSFIXED by her beauty. She joined them in the play house, and all was silence for about two minutes, when Alice finally found her voice.

"Please," she murmured, "can I just TOUCH your dress?"

I'm not sure what her response was, or what happened next, but in just a few minutes Sophia was following this other girl around while Alice cried to her mother that the baby only wanted to play with the PRETTY girl and why couldn't SHE wear her Easter dress? It was all terribly dramatic.

And although there is...lord. SO MUCH that I don't understand about this whole episode, I can absolutely assure you one thing:

Nothing like this EVER happened with the boys.


Of course it was the night before Easter, and Tre got out his shirt to iron it. He did a beautiful job, too. But then he put it on, and the sleeves ended a good two inches before his wrists. I swear, his closet shrinks clothes. That shirt fit him beautifully at Christmas. Weird.

So since it was the night before Easter, we headed out to find him a shirt that fits. And since he's a newly permitted driver, I let him drive.

He's doing well at the driving thing. But my responsible, careful, cautious firstborn son? Has something of a lead foot.

"Speed. Watch your speed. WATCH your SPEED," I kept squeeking, each successive word getting tighter and higher pitched. Thankfully, everyone survived. I have started wondering if it's truly necessary for EVERYONE to drive, though. Shouldn't we examine these assumptions? Hmm? Just throwing that thought out there.

But we got the shirt, and we got home safely. We got all the new shirts washed (Raphael's closet shrunk his Christmas shirt too. Maybe it's a basement issue?) and pressed (although Max didn't need to iron a shirt, because Tre's had actually shrunk enough to fit him. haha! funny). The baskets got assembled and hidden. The kitchen was a mess. Life, you know?

The next morning we fumbled our way through the baskets and breakfast. Ties were tied and retied and retied and fussed at and finally tied right. There was a missing shoe crisis that required Clay's intervention. Eventually we were all passably dressed (Clay was extremely hot. Just saying), and had a few minutes for pictures.

Colorado likes to show us who's boss sometimes, and this was one of those times. Easter fell just about as late in the year as possible, so Colorado had to muscle in on the springlike weather and give us a gray, damp, freezing Easter morning. So we took pictures on the couch, in the bad light of the living room, called it good enough, and were on our way to church.

I have to confess that sometimes I feel like I'm still such an amateur at this life. It seems like I should be better at all of it, the planning, the organizing, the picture taking. I shouldn't have to run to Kohl's every night before a big event. I wish I had pictures that show the kids the way I see them, instead of the stiff lineup on the couch.

But of course, then we were at church. Tre was acolyting today, and he wanted to know if he had to wear the alb (robe). He hates his alb, because it's way too short (weird. It wasn't even in his closet. The problem is clearly spreading). And he figured that since he looked so sharp, maybe he should just...skip it?

"Well, yeah, you wear the alb. We're not here to look good, we're here, and looking good, in honor of what we're celebrating today."

As I said it, I remembered it. I am scattered and tired and constantly surprised by the fact that my kids are growing (and driving). My house is a mess, my work isn't done for class tomorrow, and I'm still carrying more baby weight than I like to admit - even to myself.

But to gather together the best of my imperfect life, to strive to be the best we are capable of, and to present the whole mess to a Love that matters more than any of it, well.

That's the whole point of Easter.

Easter11 015 

Apple bread totally counts for extra credit, right?

This weekend Clay and I had a disagreement. Now, I know you're thinking I mean a fight but, no, I actually mean a disagreement. It ended with me saying, "I can see where you are probably right, but I'm not able to agree just yet."

We are totally mature like that. It's very boring.

It started with me announcing that I don't intend to take any more classes in the fall.

"It's just too much. Too busy, too expensive, too much time. Everyone's stressed, and all of this in pursuit of a degree that doesn't even have any earning potential. And I could be wrong, but I suspect our schedule won't actually be easier next fall. Hmm?"

And then he said all these reasonable and yet somehow unconvincing things about how life was never going to take a break so I could get my degree done, and we would make it happen (again) (somehow) with the money and the time and the driving duties. Plus, he pointed out, if it's important, it's important, even if it's hard.

I just don't know, though. I'm tiiiiiiired. I always say that it takes very little to tip a family's schedule over from "pretty full" to "aaaaaauUUUUUGAAAAHHH!*" We can be managing fine, then one kid's birthday party makes everything complicated. And we're smack dab in the middle of complicated right now. I swear, Clay and I spend half our lives on the phone, hammering out details. "So, if I pick up Tre you can take the dog to the groomers**, and is Mom taking Max to chess club tonight?"

So although Clay is probably right, I still am not sure. Tonight I gave a presentation on Anne Sexton (see also: Confessional poet, reframing archetypes, bat s**t crazy***). I think I did okay, despite the fact that I'm currently harboring a cold in my head, where it is repaying me for the shelter by trying to kill me by imploding my sinuses. You are welcome for the visual. After the class one of the other students caught me in the hall to ask how I did on my mid term. *cough cough* I got an A. *pleased smile* *cough*

She was TOTALLY IRRITATED because she got a B, and I suspect that she doesn't DO Bs. I would have given her an A, and I told her so. This was not as comforting as you might think. I truly think she would have felt better if she'd only gotten a higher grade than mine. Because if she can't beat the ancient breeder woman from the SUBURBS, why is she even getting out of BED IN THE MORNING?

I wonder how horrified she would be if she knew more about my life. If she could have seen me this morning, singing an embarrassingly enthusiastic rendition of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and engaging in intense negotiations over whether or not a Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament is a gift-giving occasion, she would probably be extra appalled that I got her A.

I'm just not sure it's all worth it. I may have an A in the class, but I feel like I'm barely scraping by with a C**** in my life. It just doesn't seem like a reasonable trade-off.

And yet, at the same time, I'm just a little bit tickled my spider-singing, decision-making, paper-writing, presentation-giving, archetype-busting self. Heh. I guess we'll figure the next semester out later.

(*I have never once in my life said "aaaaaauUUUUUGAAAAHHH!" That was poetic licence, also known as "making stuff up so it's a little less boring.)

(**This was also poetic license. The dog hasn't been to the groomers in months. I couldn't think of another example. I am tired.)

(***I actually really like Anne Sexton. Her work. Anne Sexton's work. I didn't know her personally, and she died when I was 3, but from all accounts, she was...whoo. Emotionally fraught.)

(****Maybe a C+. Not to brag, but I did bake apple bread last week. That's gotta count for something.)

A pattern to repeat

This afternoon Sophia and I spent an hour or so wandering around outside. Clay, Tre, and Max were off at the gym and Raphael was running around, engaged in feral acts of water ballooning (no, if you're wondering, it was NOT actually warm enough for water balloons. Beware the feral ballooner). So Sophia and I meandered around, eventually ending up in the back yard, on the trampoline.

She was fairly vibrating with excitement as I pulled her shoes off and lifted her inside the net. Then I climbed in and zipped it up behind me and leaned back to watch her go. And lordy, did she go.

She leaped and bounced and flopped and ran and ran and ran and ran. She is such a light-boned birdlike girl that she barely causes the mesh to dent beneath her, but her joy at being there was so profound it was like relief. The static electricity caused her hair to stand straight out from her head, in bright lines, like a child's drawing of the sun. She bounded her way over to me and petted at my hair, perplexed, so I suppose mine was doing the same thing.

I sat and enjoyed the sun on my back and this bright-eyed girl before me, and thought about taking this picture, cupping it in my hands and dropping it here for you to see too. I heard Raphael's cry in the distance, a rallying back to the hose to fill more water balloons, and the answering bellows of several similarly feral hearts.

It occurred to me how many of my stories are about Sophia these days. I wonder if it seems to you that I only see her. The truth is that while I have sat with each of my sons today and let them cry against me, their stories are increasingly not mine to share. And yet Sophia is so often right here, in my line of sight. More often than not, I can reach out and touch her. And her stories are so simple and easy and clear.

Yesterday was Clay's birthday (happy birthday, love!), and I keep remembering a moment. We were making posters for him, and all four of the kids were on the floor, arrayed around the marker box with their posters. They looked like a subtly shifting, repeating pattern on a quilt. I was doing a thousand things at once, and yet the sight of them stopped me in my tracks. People tend to enthuse that Clay loves the boys like they are his own, but they are wrong. Clay loves us all because we all belong to each other, and there is no division of belonging there.

Clay bday 002 

I may mostly share Sophia stories these days, but this is closer to the truth. We are knit together in ways simple and profound, and it is the loveliest thing I have ever lived.

Happy birthday, Sophia!

Her hair is always a mess...

Sophia b-day 010 
...and she always has food on her face. Oh, and attitude in her eyes.

Max's hair 011 
She likes bananas. And she loves that dang yellow chair, which is her partner in a thousand and one crimes.

Sophia b-day 005 
Did I mention the drawing? Here she's teaching her stuffed bear to draw happys. Her stuffed toys all wear washable marker battle scars. (P.S. "washable"? HA, I say.)

Sophia b-day 015 
She loves Knuffle Bunny...

Sophia b-day 023 
...and Elmo.

But she REALLY likes getting dressed to go outside.

Sophia b-day 036 

And whatever she tries on, she checks it out in the mirror and announces "I LIKE it!"

She is loud and loving and busy and usually talking.

She is our Sophia.

Sophia b-day 033 
And she is two.

Draw me a happy. Tell me a sad.

Sophia loves to draw. Sophia looooooooves to draw. Her passion for drawing inspired the following unexpected instruction this week: "No no, honey. Draw on the paper, not the cheese."

But I digress. She'll fill page after page with dotty little faces, and although they all look pretty much alike to me, she informs me that THIS one is a happy and THIS one is a sad and THIS one is a happy. And so on.

I like best to stand aside and listen to her narrate her drawing. "Happy!" she squeaks, and then her voice drops to a gravelly croon of sorrow, "saaaad. oh, sad."

We are not too worried about her having adequate drama skills.

I feel as though my whole world is filled with those ambiguous balloon faces, as though the air around me is dotted with a constellation of happys and saaaads. One minute I am bubbling over because a son has brushed past me and he is smart and funny and kind and strong, and from where I sit, it looks like everything I ever wished for in him. And a minute later my heart is aching because someone has sailed so far away from us here, and I cannot seem to stop crying over her. I get a text from Clay and laugh out loud to remember again just how much I love him. And then I talk to a friend who is struggling so so hard, and it's like watching someone balance an enormous load - even if you know they can handle it, your hands itch to take it from them.

I agree, Sophia. It is happy! It is so so sad.

It is, it is.

A brief sampler of our family's achievements over the last week.

On Friday we went to the DMV, where Tre learned the sad truth. As we sat there and sat there and sat there, among a great crush of unhappy humanity, he said, "What is WRONG with this place? The DMV is TERRIBLE! I thought it would be a HAPPY place!"

He just figured that since they hand out permits and licences there, that it would be draped in rainbows and paved with glitter. Poor pumpkin.

But not THAT poor of a pumpkin, because after only two and a half hours or so, he finally left with...

April11 017 
A DRIVER'S PERMIT! *cue angel song*

Does that kid look happy, or what? Clay, by the way, is looking slightly concerned because when I came out to take pictures, Sophia followed me, and she happened to be completely naked. At least it was a  warm day.

Clay's main achievement, by the way, is that he was the first to ride as Tre's passenger. Sophia didn't care for that, and kept saying, "NO, Daddy sit THERE seat! Move, Tre! Daddy sit THERE!"

Ah, the wisdom of the young.

While we were waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting) at the DMV, I realized that my driver's licence had...erm...expired on my birthday. Oops. So I renewed it online as I sat there. This makes me possibly the only person in the history of the Internet to take the convenience of an online DMV transaction and enjoy it in the muggy, despair-laden air of the actual DMV office. This is not, in case you were wondering, my achievement. This is more of an anti-achievement, and would totally erase my actual achievement if it weren't so very wonderful.

And of course, my achievement is that I finished my midterm. It clocked in at eight pages, and if I say so myself, it was raaaahther well done. When I showed up to class to turn it in, the professor announced that we would be spending the class reading and critiquing each other's papers, and I promptly stabbed myself in the eyeball with my pen.

No, no, that part isn't true. But I WANTED to. But it turned out fine, because after reading everyone else's paper, I felt fairly not nauseated about mine. "Fairly not nauseated" was pretty much what I was shooting for.

Speaking of writing, I am delighted to share with you Max's achievement, which is a poem about triczupynes. Please take a moment to prepare yourself for a true work of genius here...ready? Take your time...aaaand I am thrilled to present:

Summer Breeze, by Max

Trikzupynes (the z is silent)

floating in the breeze




$@&#! trikzupyne (the z is silent)

now i have to get a new butt and with the prices of butts these days i dont know how im going to afford this!!!

I know, I know. You're moved. I only wish you could hear a reading by the author himself. It is...not to be missed. Lawsy, I love that goober.

Raphael lost a tooth this week, which is not really an achievement, but lookit the box he folded to store his tooth in:

April11 023 
Isn't that COOL? I included the quarter for size reference. The tooth fairy thought it was so neat that she was actually only one day late in collecting the tooth. Heh. Stupid fairy.

And I guess that's it for achievements around here...oh, WAIT! One more! This little girl here:

Robotics competition 017 
...will be two tomorrow! Although really, I think that one goes in my and Clay's column too.