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June 2011
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August 2011

Free market rules

I believe in a free market economy, I do. I believe (among other things) that over the long run, the better, smarter, more efficient businesses are rewarded, and the ones that stink inevitably slide into oblivion. However, that's more of a macro truth, and it doesn't always apply in the individual case. Sort of like statistics. Statistically, red light cameras reduce side-impact accidents, while increasing rear-end accidents. This doesn't ameliorate one bit the time we got t-boned at an intersection with cameras.

I'm mentioning this because today I totally got the raw end of free market randomness. First, Max's glasses broke. He didn't BREAK his glasses, they just broke. But that's okay! Because, I, brilliant woman that I am, bought the extended protection plan! I am CERTAIN of this, because at the time I walked away feeling like a chump. I never buy the extended protection plan. They could have thugs waiting at the door with clubs, and offer me "thug protection" and I'd be all, "hmm, no, I think I'd rather try to duck." But somehow this day I fell for it, even though I was not at all sure it was a good idea. They kept saying it would replace his glasses, NO MATTER WHAT he did to them. But Max is pretty careful with his glasses, and what are the odds they would just...break randomly? Right?

Well, here we are, with randomly broken glasses, and I was all HUZZAH! I WIN COMMERCE! And Clay toddled off to get the glasses replaced! With no worries! Because the name of the plan is "1 Year Eyewear Protection - Worry Free Youth Package." Worry free!

But apparently, it's only the worry that comes free, because now they are claiming that the Eyewear Protection plan only covers lenses.



I'm not even sure what you'd have to do to damage the lightweight plastic lenses with heavy duty scratch coating. But I'm pretty dang sure I wouldn't purchase a warranty that cost 50% of what new lenses cost. That seems just...dumb.

But they insist, and I can't make head nor tails of the paperwork. Okay, I can't find the right paperwork. This is strange, because Clay is totally rigid about his filing system. Well, then again, I do have to deliver the paperwork to him before we he can file it. I think we can all see where the weak link is here. So I snarled at Clay when he called to tell me the news, "DO NOT BUY ANYTHING THERE. THEY GET NONE OF OUR MONEY."

Instead the plan was to go to another optometrist, get his prescription, and buy glasses from Zenni. Because new frames? Not so much in the budget for this month. New bubble gum? Maybe. But new frames? Lawsy.

So this time it was my turn to toddle off to the optometrist's office with Max, with Raphi and Sophia along. While I was filling out the clipboard info, Sophia had a milestone of sorts. First potty training accident in a doctor's waiting room. She peed all the heck over that floor. And if you're now perking up and saying OH, SOPHIA IS POTTY TRAINING? - well, I have to inform you that what Sophia is doing is insisting that she intends to use the potty, and instead peeing on a variety of floors in the Denver Metro area. Nice. Max mopped up the pee whilst I hauled her off to the bathroom for lots of soothing-voiced cleanup. Max totally wins "best son" for the day.

But fine, we got the eye exam, and I boldly informed them that I needed the prescription to buy glasses online. The smiled and handed it over, and we were off.

At home I discovered that they had left out a measurement needed to order the glasses. So I called, all pleasant voiced charm, and requested said measurement.

"Oh, I can't give that to you. It's a liability issue."

" Would that be a liability issue?"

"Well, if you ordered the glasses and they didn't work, then you could sue."

"But if I don't have this measurement and I order the glasses, then they're GUARANTEED not to work. Which seems...less than helpful."

"If you want to buy some glasses, come in buy them here and we will make sure they fit."

"So this prescription cannot actually help me get glasses? Why, exactly, then, did I pay you?"



I ended the conversation. Crisply. Actually, I violated my own rule, about never getting angry at the phone person, and said something COMPLETELY rude and uncalled for like, "WELL. I would say 'thank you' but I think it would be a bit silly at this point. Good bye!" I am cringing-ly embarrassed about my behavior.

But the day wasn't over, because Monday is Tre's birthday (16!), and I needed to go get his present before Monday actually arrived, so I headed off to the...cell phone store.

Yeah. Well planned. At least I had the crew along; Max, who provided the sullen grouchiness and resentment that HE wasn't getting a phone, Raphi, who provided the general rambunctiousness that is ALWAYS appreciated in any place of business, and Sophia, who provided the anxiety about the state of her pants and dryness therein. And some people think my life's not exciting, can you believe it?

We straggled our way into the store, and I stood before a row of phones, puzzling out the features and prices and options. A sales associate sauntered over to see if I could help, and well. Maybe I was still a little grumpy, but I said to him, "Why do they always have to play this rebate game? Why can't they just charge me the for-reals price and not make me mail anything?"

Sales associate guy stuck his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels a bit. He couldn't have demonstrated his lack of concern more without little trained squirrels, spelling out "I DON'T CARE" in semaphore at his feet.

"I dunno," he said, "the free market?"

Because YES. THIS is the behavior the free market is CLAMORING FOR, YOU ASS.

And then my head exploded. The end.

So...that's nice.

I know I haven't posted in awhile, and I really don't have the time to post right now, because Sophia is wailing from her crib, "Mommy mommy mommy! Mooooommmmyy!"

You can tell she's sad, because when she's not stuck in her crib or welcoming me home from the grocery store, she calls me "MOM." Like a 12 year old might. Eye roll. "MOM."

Anyhow, the reason I haven't had time to write, and I shouldn't be here right now, is that sweet little girl singing the blues in the next room. I recently told my mom that it's not so hard when Sophia doesn't sleep one night. The next day I'm tired, but I can function, and it's not so bad. The second day I'm a little stupid, but I can see my real true self from where I stand. By the third day I am brain dead and despairing of ever sleeping or thinking straight again.

Right now I'd just love to have that third-day-level of functioning. I don't think she's ever slept. At all. Ever. I spend my nights walking her around in circles, staring off into the dark until it undulates before my eyes and I wonder if I'm about to plummet into a full-scale sleep deprivation hallucination. Days find me sitting and staring at things that don't require near that level of attention. Like a shoe. Or my breakfast, which is pretty much limited to whatever food the boys have failed to remove from the table after they ate breakfast.

You know, sleep is such a mundane detail of life. Who thinks about sleep? Me. I think about sleep. I fantasize about it. Because sleep is only a mundane detail of life when YOU GET TO SLEEP. It amazes me just how much this one little part of my day can completely upend the rest of my day. That seems like a design flaw, in my humble opinion.

I just said to Sophia (who is now sitting next to me, sipping on a cup of theoretically soothing milk), "No, no. No spitting milk between your toes, sweetie." She concurred, and is now flossing her milky toes with my shirt. Two year olds are just. so. weird.

I don't know what to do. It's not like she's being awake in the middle of the night just to make my life difficult, and I don't know how to help her sleep. Today she fell asleep standing up, leaning against the couch. Okay, it was kind of funny. I may have laughed when Raphi put a Tech Deck (one of those little plastic skateboards?) on her forehead. But still. Girlfriend is off-kilter.

Clay is, of course, here to help too. But he already gets by on about five hours of sleep a night, so our deal is that he stays up with her on the weekends, and I take the weeknights. This is sort of a fake deal, because it's not like he sleeps all that well when I'm getting up every hour through the night. I, on the other hand, gleefully abandon her to his care on the weekends and sleeeeeep. I am sort of selfish that way.

A few days ago my mom asked how Sophia had slept the night before.

"Huh?" That's my standard first answer these days when asked just about any question. "Oh. No, she didn't sleep. But I've given up hope, and that's the important thing."

She laughed, but I MEANT IT. 

So I'm sorry I've been quiet around here. We're all fine, if a little tired. But the good news is that I've given up hope.

July11 003 
Hey, at least she's one tough little cookie. She's going to need that if she ever plans to have children.

Happy Place

Last week I drove down to New Mexico, this time with Clay, to pick up Max from camp and drop off Tre. Actually, Tre drove part of the way down too. If you think that was "helpful" or "relaxing," then you haven't really thought that through. My wee baby boy, who is somehow 15 years old. Going 75 MPH. I'm pretty sure I inadvertently knotted my seat belt into a rosary, trying to sit quietly in the back seat while Clay instructed.

Nonetheless, we got there, and we collected Max. He was filthy, and his flip-flop had broken that morning, so it was flailing around his foot like a wounded bird. He was too busy and pleased with himself to go change shoes.

MaxCamp 009 
He was so beautiful. All I wanted to do was look at him, fill my eyes back up with the Max-ness of him.

He took up saxophone this week, and he loved it. When he'd mentioned he was interested in sax, I just figured that made sense. He's constructed with just the right mix of quirk and cool. Tre and I had a discussion the other day wherein we chose instruments for everyone in the family. Sophia, you'll be interested to know, is a trumpet player. Because they are bright and kind of bossy and think the world revolves around them.

MaxCamp 014 
Max was created a sax player. He just is.

He introduced me to one of his friends, a girl. They went to the dance together. Later I asked, "Can I ask you something personal?"


So I didn't.

We unloaded Tre's belongings and loaded in Max's. It's hard to know what you feel in a moment like that.

Tre could barely see us, he was so thrilled to be back at camp. This is his other home, his happy place. This year he's a counselor in training, a CIT.

MaxCamp 007 
He really never wants to leave.

Max said he was ready to go home, but since he's been home he's been sick. I think half of his illness is from the physical cratering after a week of no sleep and lots of drama and camp food, but the other half is grief from leaving it all behind.

I met some friends for lunch today and rudely informed one of them that I was currently a wreck from driving down to New Mexico two weekends in a row.

"I think of myself as a people person, you know," I babbled, not really thinking of how this might sound to this really great person who drove over an hour to meet me and another friend, "but take me out of my house too often, and I'm a mess. I just want to spend a week in bed."

She was awfully kind about it, but I replayed my words in my head later and winced. What a jerk I can be.

But it's true. I am moving slow this week, sort of dazed and muffled at the heart.

It just keeps happening. These children of mine stretch up and out into the world, finding their own spaces, their own voices, their own happy places.

It's exactly what I want for them, yet I keep walking behind them with a faltering step, watching the gap grow.

I just can't see it yet, from here, where my happy place will be when they have found their own.

It's not too late... participate in Chick-Fil-A's Cow Appreciation Day.

You may not look QUITE this cool...

July11 008 

...but then, who does?

If you really want to go all the way, I recommend being a cow in disguise.

July11 012 
This one says, "bark."

A few caveats:

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Dressing like an adorable little sailor gets you nothing but admiration. Which is nice, don't get me wrong, but is not free food.

Plus, there will probably be a gigantic cow walking around inside, trying to high-five you with its creepy soft hooves. This is completely freaky.

July11 015 
You will want to bring some muscle to protect you.

Life is relentless

Oh, I have so much to tell you, too. This weekend we dropped Max off at camp - his first time, and in a whole 'nother state, too. There has been a forest fire near the camp recently, a terrible, huge one. It is dwindling now, but the air throughout the whole valley smells of cinders, and the pines are all wreathed in smoke. It's never easy to leave a kid at camp for the first time (ever), but trust Max to have his first leaving be perfectly dramatically staged. I am weary from longing so fiercely for him to be okay.

And then there was the weekend away, which I spent with Mom and Tre and Raphi and Sophia and the relentless absence of Max, visiting family that I never get to see enough of. I saw two cousins that I once would have described as "my little baby cousins, they're like, SO CUTE." Only now they're all grown up and adult and interesting and so beautiful that I keep squinting at them, trying to see any genetic traits we share. So far the list I have come up with is this: we are bipeds. Heavy sigh.

And plus while we were away, Clay was furiously at work here at home, because although I don't understand this, a long weekend of uninterrupted work is like a vacation to him. And now my bathroom is (mostly) all fixed, and my living room is a buttery yellow, and I love it. And Clay was so tired at dinner tonight that he couldn't think of the words he was trying to say.

I could tell you about any of those things, except tonight when I put Sophia in her crib, she responded by making a break for it. She clambered up, over the side of her crib and fell with a shockingly solid thump on the floor.

And then she cried, really, a lot, for a very long time. And Tre hovered and asked if we were going to take her to the doctor, or would we at least check on her during the night, and finally said firmly, "Well, I think we should pray for her."

And he was right, and we did. He couldn't see that Clay and I were still vibrating with the impact of her fall, or that we wouldn't sleep well anyhow. But he was right about the praying.

Now Clay is lowering the side of Sophia's crib so she can climb out without falling, until we can get her a little bed. And she is sleeping heavy on my chest, all exhausted damp curls and pink cheeks. I'm pretty sure she's okay, although I will be bothering her frequently during the night to be sure. I am several years older since I put her to bed, but that's just the privilege of parenting, am I right?

Life is relentless, and it flys past me at a pace that makes my breath get lodged in my throat.  

Advice for mothers

I don't have a lot of parenting gems to offer. After nearly sixteen years, I am still flying by the seat of my pants, which, now that I think about it, doesn't make any sense at all. Flying. By the seat of my pants. Huh.

Anyhow, what I mean is that I am still making this up as I go along, and most of my ideas are sort of boneheaded. I am making some progress, though, because today in Target I stopped myself from buying Raphael a workbook on the American presidents for an upcoming road trip, recognizing in time that he would not, in fact, appreciate it very much. See? Growth.

I have also stumbled upon one parenting technique that is rock-solid genius. Just the one, but I'm telling you, it's good.

Sometimes the boys taunt each other (I know, I'm as shocked as you are) by suggesting that the tauntee is,in fact, a girl. You know, like, "Hey, nice throw. FOR A GIRL." Or "I can't wear that color! That's for GIRLS. Give it to [insert brother name]."

And then they laugh and laugh, unless they are the one being accused of an X chromosome, in which case they glower, stomp, or bellow in rage. So that's nice.

This makes me insane because, as I have told them ONE MILLION TIMES, A) "girl" is not a pejorative. Some very wonderful people are girls, myself included. And B) I have changed all their diapers once upon a time. I happen to know what parts they came pre-assembled with. Any changes to the factory settings would be dramatic and difficult and not caused by standing too close to something pink without being upset about it. Seriously.

But all my sincere lectures about why I found the cries of "GIRL!" so offensive didn't seem to do much to stem the tide. After all, they were JUST KIDDING, which renders all right to take offense null and void. Yeah, commence lecture #2. But clearly I needed to step up my response.

So one day when someone was being accused of female-ness, I turned to them with a deeply sorrowful expression.

"OH, dear. Here I thought I'd explained these facts well enough for it to be clear to you all, and yet here you are, still confused. Let me go over it again: you are all boys. You each have a PENIS. If any of you were a girl, you would have a VAGINA."

All frivolity dropped to the floor like a stone, where it shattered into a thousand awkward twitches.

"I have a book in my room that explains the differences more fully, and I would be happy to sit down with any child who is still confused, so we can look at the pictures  together and really have a good TALK about it all. So if you're not sure, go right ahead and call your brother a girl. But if you're NOT confused, and you DON'T need it all explained - with pictures - then I suggest you knock that right off."

Let me tell you , dear friends, that since that day I have not had to remind them once. I have delivered the lecture twice, once in the first week to Raphael who never met a boundary he automatically believed in, and the other just this evening, to Tre who really thinks he's funny, often at the expense of reason and wisdom.

And that's it, my one bit of parenting wisdom. If you have the same problem in your home, I invite you to use my technique. I guarantee there is not a boy on the face of the planet who will volunteer more than once to sit across from his mother and look at line drawings of naked people while she says such horrifying things as "vulva." So if you need this approach, feel free.

I'll even loan you my book.