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July 2011

Poop happens. Or not.

Sophia has not been sleeping well this week, which - you know what? Let's just call this NORMAL, shall we? And then on alternate weeks or one week out of the month or most of the month or WHATEVER, if she decides that she will sleep we can exclaim OH LOOK THE PRESHUS LITTLE THING IS SLEEPING LIKE AN ANGEL! And then rather than the emotional cycle being exhausted joy/complascence/surprised exhaustion/exhausted exhaustion/exhausted joy we can opt for the exhausted grim acceptance/exhausted surprised joy model.

Where was I?

Ah yes, so the dear child is sleeping normally, which is to say not sleeping very much at all. And she has shockingly low sleep needs, but not even super girl can survive on six hours a night without repercussions. Srsly. She gets a little...shalll we say...emotional.

You know. For a two-year-old. Girl.

For MY two-year-old girl. Ahem.

This morning, after a late night of fierce crib-bound protests, followed by a shockingly early return to the protest, I found myself stumbling into the bathroom with her padding along behind me. I swear, I don't think I'd know how to conduct business without her anymore. She's just simply always there, commenting on the proceedings, handing me giant wads of toilet paper, and shrieking for the honor of flushing.

As I stood up, she rushed over to peer in the bowl. Look, you get used to it, okay?

"MOMMY!" her tone was one of deep affront, "YOU POOP!"

"No, I didn't. I just peed."


"I don't have to poop. I'm...sorry?"


And you know I would have loved to ease her considerable disappointment, especially as her screams reverberated throughout the house, where her three brothers were still sleeping, but I just didn't...why am I explaining this to you?

Anyhow, she finally believed me when I told her NO, there would be no poop at this particular potty party. She draped herself backwards over the edge of the tub, raising her face to the heavens to wail. Then she slowly slid to the floor, where she stiffened every muscle in her body, bringing her hands to her chin in quivering little fists. And she screamed.

I watched her with quite a bit of sympathy for someone who occasionallyfanasizes about inventing "Mommy's Little Sleepy-Time Blowdarts." The truth is, it's really hard to be two. Life takes a lot of adjusting to.

And sometimes? Poop happens.

Or not, as the case may be.

Home again

I keep thinking about things I want to tell you, here. I keep mentally composing blogs, which is sort of an illness. But Tre came home Saturday night, and I realized that we only have this week, just this one week when all of us will be home together before school starts again. 

This week we have been dashing around, talking and squabbling and laughing and talking some more. I am  acutely aware that the days like this, with all my children near me, are slipping through my fingers. There really is a finite number of days left, and I can see the bottom of the barrel and if I think about it, I want to howl with rage.

But instead I am wilfully living right now. Twice this week I have had to tell someone I love, who is having a hard time, on the phone, "I'm sorry, I can't talk right now." I really couldn't.

Right now is all I have, and I'm staying planted here, like the stubborn sleep between hitting the snooze button and hearing the alarm.

For now, I am  home.

Gather ye children while ye may

This has been a weird week around here. Tre is still gone, and Raphael spent the week at VBS. And I mean, he was gone all day, leaving with Clay in the morning and then picked up at 4 in the afternoon, a glassy-eyed, slightly scorched, exhausted mess of a boy. It was awesome. They got to try archery, and any VBS that includes the threat of serious bodily harm is WICKED COOL in Raphi's book.

But that left me home with Max and Sophia. Max is...well, let's just say he's in summer hibernation. Sophia is still perfectly willing to get in my face and run my life, but will you think I'm crazy if I tell you it's been sort of...lonely around here? I mean, I like play-dough as much as the next guy, but I can only stamp out so many stars for Sophia's squishing pleasure before I'm starting to experience a mental break with reality just to dent the monotony a little. (Sophia has a noise she makes when she squishes play-dough - sort of a "WWW-AAAAHH!" It's adorable, but only entertaining the first million times.)

What I should have done, I suppose, is loaded Max and Sophia in the car and gone do something. Two problems there - I cannot, for the life of me, think of an appropriate activity for both a feral two year old princess/ninja girl AND a nearly 13 year old hibernating boy. And secondly, Sophia has not been sleeping well this week, so I am stupid-tired.

Slight aside: I have decided to just abandon the hope of regular, sustaining amounts of sleep until Sophia is old enough to deal with her own wakeful self at 3 AM. Most nights are fine, don't get me wrong. It's just the random week here and there where she loses the ability to stay asleep. And then, even though she doesn't need all that much sleep overall, she ends up sleep deprived and sort of insane. Right now she's asleep on my chest, all slack-mouthed sweetness. I have no answers. Does anyone know how old a kid needs to be to take melatonin? Or a night job?

Anyhow! My point is that all week long I've been wandering around my house in a fugue state, while Sophia throws periodic tantrums and Max moves around the basement in his own fugue. It is too quiet and sort of unsettled around here.


Now Raphael is done with VBS, and tomorrow Tre comes home! And my house will be packed full of children once again, straining happily at its seams! We will go places! There will be squabbling and the flowering of ideas, both good and bad! I will be completely unable to keep food in the house, and will goggle at the empty fridge no later than Tuesday! God will be in his heaven and everything, once again, will be right in the world.

You know, until NEXT weekend, when Max leaves for camp.


Oh, so very two.

I was changing Sophia's diaper and crooned to her in that inane, diaper-changing way, "You know I love you?"

"Mommy LOVE ME!"

"Yes I do!"

"Sophia love DADDY!"

 Lawsy, but she is two.

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She likes to jump jump jump. She looks blurry like that even in real life.

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She RRRAAAWWWRS at you and trust me, it is VERY SCARY. If you are not properly scared at first, she will sternly instruct you to BE SCARE NOW and then she will RRRAAAWWWRRR at you again.

If you call her your baby, she will tell you NO, she is a BIG GIRL. And she will show you...

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...although it takes some effort...

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...that she is two.

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She is oh, so very two.

Best weekend ever

When I got off the plane in Atlanta and made my way through the crowd to find Mir's grinning face, it seemed as though the weekend was a luxurious swath of time ahead of me. It was like the moment when your teeth crack the chocolate-dipped shell of a particularly exquisitetruffle, and it seems so perfect and rich and chocolaty-complex that it seems for a minute as though your are wealthy in chocolate.

And then, a minute later, your teeth meet the other side of that chocolate shell, and you think, WHAT? That's IT?

We had plenty of time, you would think. Other than one pedicure/shopping trip, one FANTASTIC dinner out, several terrible movies, we just...talked. We sat and talked, we walked and talked, watched crazed couponers on tv and talked - we even swam and talked.

The day before I left, Clay called from work and asked what I was doing. "Oh, I just got done chatting with Mir," I said.

"You guys should be careful. You're gonna run out of things to talk about before the weekend is over."

Isn't he cute?

Somehow my luxurious swath of weekend is over, and I am home again. This, too, is a luxury, because I seldom get to miss my family this much, and tonight as the kids squabbled all around me, and Clay quietly watched me and smiled, and Carmi pressed her nose to my knee, decoding my unfaithful ways with Mir's Licorice, I wrapped myself in them (Tre should be here, Tre should be here, I'm just saying. Tre should be here), and just resonated with contentment.

It is good to go, it is good to come back. I am ever so grateful for a friend like Mir, and the way she helps me see everything else that I'm grateful for.

No baby seals were clubbed in the making of this post

Hey, guess where I am? Go on, GUESS!

Immediate digression: whenever I say to Clay, "Hey, guess who I saw/what happened/who resigned from Congress in disgrace/whatever," he always always guesses. Well beyond a reasonable number of guesses, he's still saying, "okay, wait, is it...the CIRCUS? Is it five melting crayons on the back seat of your van?" 

He makes me laugh.

Anyhow, in case you don't actually want to guess, I am in GEORGIA! At MIR'S HOUSE! Yesterday I hopped on a plane, shucked my beloved family, and jetted off for a weekend of play. AND, through no fault of my own, I got to fly business class.

Business class really is a different world. From the minute my backside touched the roomy seat, the flight attendants just wanted to make my trip enjoyable. They hadn't even closed the door before they were offering us cocktails. I swear, I haven't had anyone that eager to get alcohol into me for 20 years, since that one date I went on with a frat boy. 

Although I disappointed them on the booze front, I was gamely willing to let them bring me bottled water and tiny packages of Milano cookies. Awesome. I sort of got the feeling that all I had to do was arch my eyebrow just so, and they'd be happy to club a baby seal for me. It was sort of disturbingly tempting.

But let's face it, I would probably have been happy to ride in a boxcar with a smelly guy, just to get to spend some time with Mir. Despite repeated requests, she refuses to uproot her family and life just so she can move to Colorado, a selfishness I am willing to overlook just because I love her.

I love her so much that I have cruelly abandoned my family - over Father's Day weekend, no less. I am assuaging my guilt with two facts: my own father is not going to be home, or even in the US, for Father's Day, and my own beloved husband doesn't really care about the day. At least, that's what he claims.

Still, I feel kind of guilty, foisting the children on him and my mom for the weekend. Sophia's the real challenge. She still usually nurses right before bedtime, and although she CAN go to sleep without it, she just usually doesn't. So. Clay might have one tired and angry little girl on his hands this weekend. Luckily, she is totally resilient and adaptable when it comes to sleep issues.



I kill me.

As I was packing to leave, Sophia helped by pulling random items out of my suitcase to inspect them. She found a pair of panties that she particularly liked, and pulled them over her diaper, then up over her shoulders. It was a fetching look, I tell you.

"I likeit, pretty panties!" She was quite enchanted. "My have pretty panties?"

Now, I'm in no rush to potty train the girl, because she's in no rush and I am so not arguing with her over this. I'm more concerned with holding the line over other issues, such as no, pitching your sippy cup at your brother is not an acceptable form of communication. However, she is at the age where potty propoganda becomes sort of natural.

"No, you wear a diaper. When you decide to go pee and poop in the potty, you will get your own panties."

She fixed me with a steely look and thought about that. After a moment's consideration, she nodded.

"I use the potty. Where my potty?"

Ohhhh...poop, I thought. NOT THIS WEEKEND. It's enough that I'm abandoning Clay with a cranky toddler, I can't make him deal with POTTY TRAINING TOO! I will go straight to hell, I'm pretty sure.

She backed off from the potty plans before I left, and I hope she lets that one lie for a little while at least. I'm sure it will all be fine, because I'm sure of two things:

I'm giddy about having my own weekend play date, and if anyone can handle the chaos at home, it is my Clay.


A Nearly Perfect 10

Yesterday Raphael turned 10. And you know, everyone knows, that I am constantly feeling like the kids' childhood is going too fast. It feels like standing on soft sand at the beach, when the waves pour in and melt it out right from under your feet. Too fast, too unstable, too helpless. I keep finding myself missing the kids who were just here a minute ago.

This year, though, I have to tell you I'm happy to see 10 arrive.

Nine was a rough year for Raphi. This is the sort of thing I simply don't talk about here. I wish I had the wisdom, the bravery, whatever it is that makes some people able to speak the whole truth on their blogs. When life hurts, and especially when it's uncertain, I go silent. And Raphael, who has been unsettled in some way ever since Sophia was born, has had a year that was hard. He struggled. I struggled. We all felt it.

I know of no pain that is harder to carry than the feeling that you are failing your child.

But eventually, it seems, we weren't failing him. Sometimes parenting feels like a dance, but sometimes it feels like a marathon. Slowly it seemed we were getting somewhere. I don't know if it was our efforts, or if it was him finding his place with wrestling, or if it simply him maturing, but he's settling into his own self again, and I can breathe.

I don't know if this sounds crazy, but it feels like all this work we've done over the last year all came together on the morning of his tenth birthday. He woke up with that genuine smile I remember, and so much of the aggressive energy I've been on edge over just seemed to dissipate.

I'm not delusional enough to think that life will be easy with Raphael from here on out. He's an intense soul, and he will always run hot and cold, high and low. I'm fine with that, as long as he's okay.

For right now, I'm just happy, because he's better than okay. He'll tell you.

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He's epic.


(Camera work and video editing done by Max, who is pretty epic himself.)

In a moment

Friday morning Tre gets on a plane to spend two weeks with his aunt and uncle. He's going to be working for them, and he's just thrilled.

His brothers, who just got him back from the clutches of school, are not so thrilled. Raphael swings back and forth between fawning on him and bitterly accusing him of terrible injustice. Max has been stomping around all day, millimeters away from tears, insisting nothing is wrong.

He will be missed.

This morning I got up before everyone (except Clay, who had already been working for over an hour when I got up so early), so I could make popovers. The boys love popovers, but they're a pain in the butt to make and clean up after, so they know they signal a special occasion. I even made a batch of pomegranate jelly, because it is Raphael's favorite and we've been out forever and he doesn't get to go with Tre and...

Well, anyhow, I made jelly too. Before breakfast.

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Sophia helped with the popovers, too.

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Mom came over, because she also loves popovers, and breakfast was raucous. There was much laughter, and no popovers left, and then in a blink of the eye, the kitchen was empty, except for the mess.

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I sat in the silence, surrounded by the remains, and thought. I seem to have become that woman, that mother who is forever preparing something for someone to eat. I wouldn't say that it's my favorite thing to do, but it's become so much a part of me that too much time out of the kitchen leaves me with nervous hands. The work of battling hunger and entropy is mine.

I used to think that women like that - women like me - were sort of sad. Self-sacrificing, and not in an interesting way. But now I see that they knew something all along, something I'm only starting to know. Life surges in, and just as quickly evaporates. From where I stand, elbow deep in the details of the day, I see it all pass by.

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It all passes in a moment, and it's a privilege to be here.

Baby steps

I've realized something recently, something quite shocking. It's...well, it's complicated, so let me walk you through it here.

Remember back when I did 5 Full Plates with the brilliant and talented crew over there? (Btw, Lydia? TOTALLY landed a book deal last month. And is in Italy this month. I now officially want to be Lydia when I grow up.) Well, at the end of the initial weight loss challenge, I was down something paltry like 6 pounds and change. Very nearly 7, is how I liked to think of it. Practically 10. Look, something shiny!

And then life was haaaard, you know, unlike everyone else's life, always. I had Struggles, and I Felt Sorry for myself. And I regained most of the weight. Meh. And then Christmas happened. And...uh, I don't know. I bobbed along at roughly the same weight, thinking mildly, I should probably put this cookie down and do something about that. News flash: mild thinking does not promote weight loss. I know, I was shocked too.

And then I went back to school last semester, and that meant I could only make it to the gym once a week. Do you know how fun it is to work out once a week? Not. It is not fun. You don't feel like you're achieving anything - because you aren't. I would meander in for my once-weekly gym time, prop a magazine on some cardio machine, and casually flail about for a while. Just long enough to bring the daintiest sort of dew to my brow, really. Then I would get bored (seriously, danty dew? as if), and wander away.

During this time period I vaguely knew I was gaining weight (do you like how my awareness of it is "vague" despite the fact that I weigh myself every morning and often after every time I use the facilities? Brilliant), but I wasn't sure EXACTLY how much, because our old scale died, and the new scale is sort of squirrelly. It will give me readings that are four pounds apart in the same minute. So I would still weigh myself frequently, but then I would just maturely flip off the scale and wander away, ignoring the actual numbers there.

When I worried about my weight, I told myself that I would DEAL with that once the sememster is over, and in the meantime, have you heard that Starbucks has cake pops? DUDE.

Well, the semester is over, and it was time to face the music. Pay the piper. Assess the actual...problem.

The other day I pulled up my old FitDay account, which I have apparently not even glanced at in A YEAR. I put in my actual, current weight, and clicked on the graph to show me my weight change.

12.3 pounds.

Since the end of the weight challenge on FFP, I have gained Twelve. Point. Three. Pounds.

This was not...welcome news. I sort of panicked.

Since then, I have been hitting the gym at every opportunity, going for walks and bike rides when possible, turning down nearly 2/3 of the ice cream offered to me, and swilling green tea like it's going out of style. I believe that this will be okay eventually, but right now I'm mired in the knowledge that no one has been following me all these months, that was MY OWN BUTT.

Today Clay announced that he was taking the kids to the pool, and he hoped I would come with them. To be honest, my first response was disappointment. Usually a trip to the pool mid-week means MAMA ALONE TIME!! But I can't just ignore a pointed invitation from my husband, so I swallowed hard, and then decided to one-up him.

"Of course I'll come! AND..." dramatic pause,"...I will SWIM."

I would tell you that my announcement was met with shock and amazement, except that no one believed me. I can't remember the last time I actually went swimming at the pool.

But I showed them. Right after lunch I wriggled into my swimsuit, marched blindly past the mirror, and went to the pool with my family. And here is what I and my 12.3 (at least) pounds of extra weight learned at the pool today:

1) My swimsuit, which is actually a ridiculous swim dress, seems brand new. I bought it five years ago, and the only reason I remember that is because I was shopping for swimsuits when Clay cut off his finger. And every year I bring it out of storage in the spring and put it back in the fall, and completely ignore it inbetween. That seems just silly.

2) Ridiculous swim dresses are made for fooling you into believing that you are not actually displaying your body at the pool. They are not so much made for swimming, because they forever float up and tickle the undersides of your arms and make you look like you're being menaced by a pink-spotted black sea creature.

3) And if you're actually worried about displaying your body at the pool, you should get in the water. Not only is it hard to judge exactly what formation of flesh you're carrying under the surface, the people in the pool are having fun, and they don't really care.

4) You too - yes, even you - can be having enough fun in the water that you don't even care.

When we were packing up to go home, all pink eyes and goofy hair, Raphael plopped down in the middle of the chaos of snacks and shoes and sighed, "I just love it when the whole family swims like this."

Can you see how he was totally fixated on my weight? Yeah, I know. For a little while, even I wasn't fixated on my weight. It was good.

And you know what? I didn't even look that bad! See, I'll show you:

Continue reading "Baby steps" »

One of the reasons I love her

Sophia was in her room with Connie, Clay's mom. Sophia had climbed up on the bed and was starting to boing around like something tiny under the influence of static electricity. Clay and I have a difference of opinions about Sophia jumping on the bed. I think "Meh, she's fine. And look how HAPPY she is!" He thinks, "I don't think we should allow activities that are clearly going to cause her to pitch off the side of the bed and into the life of a quadriplegic." It's sort of an "agree to disagree" situation, augmented by huffy looks from my husband.

Clay walked by the room, and Connie called out to him.

"Is Sophia allowed to jump on the bed?"

"Well," Clay replied, squaring his shoulders, "Her MOTHER LETS HER." This was delivered in a tone intended to reach me in the kitchen. I was making dinner and unmoved by his implied accusation. Connie nodded and reached for Sophia's hand.

"Well, that's all I needed to know. Her grandmother does too."

I love that woman.