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October 2011
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December 2011

Room enough

One night while Jennie and Quentin were here, Clay and I were stealthily getting ready for bed. Stealthy because Sophia was curled up on her blanket nest by our bed, and she is a light sleeper.

"You know," I whispered to Clay, "we could live like this if we had to." He pulled me close, and growled into my neck, "THE HELL WE COULD."

See above: Sophia is a light sleeper.

Oh, he makes me laugh. But as I climbed into bed, still chuckling, I thought again, we could. We could live like this if we had to.

Of course, this is madness. Our house was stuffed full of family and things and a two-year-old who didn't understand why the baby insisted on TOUCHING all her TOYS. There were moments when I just pulled my elbows in against my sides and closed my eyes, taking a few deep breaths in an attempt to shake off the feeling that I was completely hemmed in.

But hemmed in by what? By all my people, all in the two main rooms of the house. The boys hovered around Quentin, charmed by his jolly, easy-going ways. Sophia orbited him with anxious curiosity. And Quentin walked back and forth and back and forth, holding onto Sophia's yellow chair. He's just on the verge of being a walker (took a few first steps while he was here, even), and walking is fascinating - a revelation! He would make his way into the kitchen, then look up with delighted surprise to see whoever was there, then turn around and head back into the living room. Delighted surprise! Turn around! Whoa! Look who's here!

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We kind of like him around here. He's a little bit cute - you know, in that soul-searingly perfect beauty sort of way. You have never seen a happier baby, either. He's totally chill - except when he realizes that food is coming, and he is instantly reduced to panicked starvation. Look at those cheeks. The child is clearly being starved, amIright?

Having Jennie back in the fold for a while was...I was going to say "a treat," but that doesn't really cover it, does it? It was more like a drink of water after a long thirsty time. It is better to have her around. It just is.

Of course, she is also 19 and figuring out her life. It's hard not to be overbearing, to horn in and tell her ALL THE WISDOM that it is obvious she is DYING to benefit from. I tried, I really did. I think I was marginally successful. Say, 51%. I really want her to be okay. That's all.

They went home Monday, and suddenly the house was oversized and quiet. We have a little sock that was left behind, and some diapers. They have our hearts.

J&Q 005

It doesn't matter, because it's not happening, but we could live like that. There is always room here.


Giving Thanks

So here it is, very nearly Thanksgiving. And I've got a turkey thawing in my fridge, but I'm worried that it won't thaw in time, because it never does, and I always end up fretting over it as it sits in a cold water bath. I would hate to kill everyone with salmonella. And I'm making the cranberry sauce this year, which is just plain folly, but there you have it.

You know how it is, facing into an oncoming holiday. I keep remembering ooooone last thing I need to buy to be sure I have everything ready. I have a list of special cleaning I need to get done before family arrives and realizes that the bed in Sophia's room is generally a catch-all, meaning it often is stacked high with laundry, library books, and empty honey bottles. I'm already tired, and I don't have a third of it finished yet.

It's all a hassle, and extra strain, time-wise and financially, and can I just tell you?

I am thrilled.

For the first time in YEARS, I am nearly giddy with joy over Thanksgiving bearing down on me. In part, because my cousin and her kids are joining us and my parents, which makes it feel a little like the family gatherings we used to have at my grandparent's home in California. In other words, it feels like Real Thanksgiving, instead of "oh, right, thanksgiving. *sigh* Guess we have to roast a turkey."

But most of all, I'm happy because the family that is coming to stay with us? Is our Jennie and her Quentin. They're arriving tomorrow.

A friend asked me where we were going to PUT them (our house sized. With no extra rooms for guests). I told her it was no problem, Sophia will sleep on the floor in our room and Jennie will have her own bed in Sophia's room, and Quentin will sleep in Sophia's crib. She laughed a little and said it would be cozy.

"It'll be fine! We're kicking it third-world style!" responded glibly.

The truth is, our tiny, packed-tight little house is going to feel like the lap of luxury to me. Because finally - FINALLY - we're all going to be home for Thanksgiving.

From the sublime to...Wednesday.

Honestly, I'm thinking we should just give up on going out for dinner until Sophia is...twenty five. Because now? It is just not worth it. I should know better, because I've gotten so protective of her pre-bedtime calm that I find myself speaking in soothing whispers the minute dinner ends. It's like I suddenly morph into a funeral director.

But of course last nightwe went out for dinner. And it was terribly exciting, and there was dessert involved (remember? They were buying!), and then we drove home and Max had to keep Sophia awake until we got there (because GOD FORBID she fall asleep early, in the car), and by the time we picked up the prescription I forgot earlier in the day (dangit, it's my fault after all) and got home, it was past her bedtime and she was giggling like a loon and the night was doomed to failure.

She spent two hours in her bed, talking and crying and singing and requesting tissues and blankets before she finally fell asleep. And then, with the innate wisdom of a child, she woke up two hours early, with a full-throated bellow of discontent.

All day she was a little hellion, screeching with rage whenever her (considerable) will was crossed. She demanded food, then flung it away in disgust. Rather than sitting and paging through her beloved books, she preferred to stand at the bookshelf and sullenly pull the books off, one by one, dropping them at her feet with a look on her face like she simply cannot BELIEVE some moron lined them all up there again. When I stopped her, she threw herself to the floor and shrieked until plaster flaked off the ceiling and gently drifted down over her sprawling form like snow.

When she gets like this, overtired and dramatic, her potty abilities become about 50% successful potty usage events, 50% events where she feels successful if she hasn't peed on her actual feet. Other people's feet are not her problem.

She can only write about four letters so far  - S, O, P, and A - but she spent hours scrawling them on all the paper she could find and then throwing her handiwork on the floor. I'm pretty sure she was trying to spell "Occupy Mama's Headache." Whatever, kid. Half the time your letters still come out upside down, so there.

Fortunately, I was calm and thoughtful, a beacon of loving wisdom in the midst of the storm. And Max and Raphael were cooperative and extra careful to finish their chores and schoolwork without complaint. And we totally did not forget any books that I meant to return when we went to the library. And then the drive across town for Max's band practice was not complicated by random traffic stupidness. NOT AT ALL.



And so we are back in the real world. I am very tired, and I have a poky sort of a headache.

And yet, today, with chaos and unreasonableness still ringing in my ears, I am grateful to be here, together.

And REALLY grateful that Sophia is asleep.

Happy A-Day!

Today was A-Day, and to celebrate we went out to dinner. When we walked in the restaurant, Tre was shuffling, Raphael was rolling around on his Heeleys, and Max was chasing a screeching Sophia, who was furious that she was not permitted to hold the door for everyone, always. I can't imagine why, but they sat us at a table by the bar, in an arctic breeze.

And then they discovered well after taking our order that they were out of french fries (the only food Sophia deigns to eat outside of our home), and Max's chicken took about 15 minutes longer to arrive at the table than everyone else's. But if the plan was to dampen our spirits, they failed miserably, because today is A-Day, and we were there to party.

We laughed and talked and drew on the paper table covering with crayons. In fact, the hostess saw the boys playfully squabbling over whatever crayon Sophia wasn't using, and deposited a giant handful on our table, causing two teenaged boys to cheer. In fact, the staff was really nice to us, and the manager even bought us dessert to make up for the problems. It wasn't really needed, because we were just so happy.

Raphael wrote on his section of the paper a statement of thanks to his dad - "For our daddy who has been our daddy for four years - THANK YOU! We love you!" - and then he made his brothers sign it.

Sophia told everyone at the table, "Happy A-Day!" Sometimes she got a little shrieky with it, and the woman eating her dinner at the bar turned to give her disapproving looks. I can't blame the poor woman, because I'm sure we were an irritating group to eat dinner near. There was too much laughing, too much exclaiming, too much joy to be entirely seemly.

Sometimes we lose sight, in the daily stress of life, in the laundry and schedules and oil changes and trips to the orthodontist, that this family is made up of people who were broken and came together to be a whole (plus Sophia). Sometimes it seems like life is a slog through tasks that never let up, and not like the miracle it is.

Sometimes we need an A-Day to remind us how blessed we are.

And Sophia ate my pumpkin bread while I was gone.

This morning I was sullenly getting my breakfast (guess who still hasn't sorted out her sleep issues?) while Sophia trotted around with a slice of pumpkin bread in one hand and half a banana in the other. Raphael was tearing around the house, up and down the stairs, chattering like a monkey who has just downed a double espresso. I uh-huh-ed back at him with the least amount of grump I could muster and tried to focus on assembling breakfast.

Wait, that makes it sound like I was whipping up eggs benedict or something. What I was striving to get together was one small bowl of cottage cheese, a slice of pumpkin bread, and the battered rejected half of a banana. And a cup of tea. It was a challenging task because Sophia was apparently very hungry and kept chirping requests for more food (a bowl of oatmeal, a glass of milk, two slices of pumpkin bread, and half a banana. For breakfast. All of this in a little person with a torso slightly smaller than a Big Gulp), and Raphael was up and down and talktalktalk and full of excitement and nervous energy.

See, today he was scheduled to leave for an educational camp in the mountains for three days. It was something he'd been begging to do since school started, and Clay finally talked me into letting him go about three weeks ago. When we told Raphi, it was like Christmas and his birthday and a puppy with a side of chocolate. He was happy. And now, this morning, he was well nigh hysterical with excitement.

As I turned to the table with my cup of tea, the thought occurred to me, hmm, I should check the departure time. I was pretty sure we had an hour before we had to leave, but I've learned to go ahead and listen to that little voice in my head, because I am reliably bone-headed enough to require advice from random thoughts.

I grabbed my laptop and pulled up the email with the info and...

Oh. Oh no.

He was supposed to be AT the departure point five minutes ago. The departure point that is a good 20 minute drive from our house.

"GET IN THE CAR GET IN THE CAR, I GOT THE TIME WRONG, GET IN THE CAR!" I shrieked down the stairs, ably demonstrating a responsible and level-headed approach to scheduling issues. I ran into my bedroom, yanking off my jammies and pulling on a completely random assortment of clothes. Max wandered out of his room and I shoved Sophia into his care, tossed Raphi and his stuff in the van, and tore out of the driveway like I thought I was in a movie.

In my head, the drive there really was like something out of a movie. I felt like I was slinging the van around corners on two wheels and whipping around cars like one of those drivers who make me insane. In reality, I probably never crested 4 miles above the speed limit. I did hurry through a yellow light that was WAY too close to red for my comfort, causing Raphael to turn and give me a slow, impressed clap. He is endlessly frustrated by my slow driving ways.

When we were about five minutes away my cell phone rang. It was one of the women coordinating the camp, and when I babbled at her that we were almost there, almost there, I'm so sorry, she laughed and assured me it would be fine. She even mentioned that she had added a buffer in the schedule, for people like me. She tried to laugh and say she was kidding, but yeah. I deserved that. Raphi and I both exhaled and slid back a bit from the very edge of our seats.

And then it hit both of us that he was leaving, his first time away from home for so long without any family. Three days in the mountains.

"Don't cry, Mom," he said. So of course I started leaking tears and tried to look like I wasn't.

"You'll be fine, honey," I told him, "You'll have a great time, and you'll be home very soon. I will...I will miss you though." He scrubbed at his eyes with the palm of his hands. He wants so badly to be a tough guy, and he is always being betrayed by a persistently tender heart. I put my hand on his knee. "You'll be fine. I'll be fine. It's hard, though, isn't it?" He nodded, looked out the window, didn't trust his voice.

And then we were there, and he leaped out of the van to huddle up in the cold parking lot with a few of his besties. He was assigned a van to ride in, and was relieved to see that one of his friends was in the same van. I had to tug on him a bit just to get a hug good-bye. He wrapped his arms around me tight, then turned and sprinted away, fairly sparkling with joy and anticipation.

I climbed back in the van and slowly drove home. When I got there, I sat down at the table in front of my cold cup of tea, and looked around. His water bottle was on the counter, but I don't suppose camp directors will allow a ten-year-old to dehydrate in the mountains just because his mother's a flake, right? Max and Sophia were watching tv, and the house seemed overquiet and calm.

It's like taking off a bandaid, I thought, if you do it quickly...I faltered, then put my head down on the table and let the tears's still hard.

Another example of the stellar writing you show up here to read. Totally.

Daylight Savings Time? Is the work of the devil.

What are we doing here, exactly? Does no one understand that you cannot, in fact, save daylight? No, all that is achieved by this asinine jiggering of the hours is that our children's sleep is being completely screwed up, and I think we can all agree that when sleep is lost, the terrorists win.

Right now, for instance, my youngest child, my daughter, my joy, is in her room, screaming at me because 1) her pillow is not pink and 2) she cannot possibly stay in her room, for lo, SHE IS CRYING. Girlfriend is ferociously tired. When I wearily re-informed her that her pillow was not going to be pink tonight and that I know she is crying, but she will be okay, she responded by sobbing a chorus of "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider." The blues, you know, are not as much about the words as about the feeeeeeling.

Did you know that there is a 40% increase in FATAL car accidents on the morning after the spring time change? I don't even know if that's true, but I read it somewhere once, and I repeat it as often as possible. 40%. AND FOR WHAT?

(Now she would like me to know that she has an OWIE. On her FINGER. Her tone implies that only the worst sort of a slut of a mother would leave such a wounded child alone in her room. Please notify the authorities, because not only am I not saving her from her finger owie, I don't even have any band-aids in the house.)

This morning Sophia woke up...I don't even know when. It was later than the previous morning, when she woke up at FOUR IN THE MORNING, WHEN LIFE IS BITTER AND BAD. (Because see, you don't just shift atwo-year-old's bedtime around by an hour - particularly when she is a squirrelly sleeper - you take her sleep schedule and toss it in a blender and then laugh maniacally. Because now your life sucks.) So anyhow, she woke up sometime before 7 this morning. I was not entirely sure of the time, because I was busy staggering around, silently leaking tears of bitter regret.

(Sophia would like me to come into her room and stand RIGHT THERE and sing "Hush Little Baby." Isn't she cute? And delusional?)

I took her to the kitchen and offered her breakfast (I think my exact words were something like, "Ergh. Wanna? Somethin' eat?"), and she piteously requested oatmeal. Oatmeal. Excellent. I can manage that. I started making it, and was interrupted by a full-on screaming fit that required her to grab fistfulls of her hair and slide to the floor in despondent rage. The problem was that I was using a different pan to make oatmeal than the one her father uses. And that pretty much sums up my day.

So I guess what I'm trying to say here I'm tired.

Randomness - Snow Day Edition

We had a snow day today - which is sort of silly, given that 2/3 of my school aged children only have to manage to reach the living room to do school and thanks be to God, snow has never yet stopped them - but what I mean is that Tre's school was closed, and I declared it a snow day in solidarity. Or something like that. I just couldn't bring myself to make them work during the first really good snow of the winter, when every other kid in the neighborhood was out there frolicking.

So they bundled up and went out to play. I puttered inside, cleaning and tidying and baking banana bread (now with baking soda for 100% less FAIL), and helped kids on/off/on/off with their snow gear. I was feeling pretty accomplished and smug until I looked around and saw that the kids were all back inside, creating a total morass of snow pants, boots, soggy gloves, melted snow puddles, and board games that Sophia had pulled out of a cupboard and scattered. Wow.

So anyhow, today was a cozy sort of day, and I achieved absolutely nothing (other than banana bread, which really shouldn't be that big of a deal). And so I thought I would share with you a few of my random snow-day-thoughts. They are free. And nearly worth it.


I think I should write a book, detailing my flawless plan for maintaining order in the home. I shall call it, And Why, Exactly, is There a Jenga Piece in the Bathtub?


When I was a teen I read a book, wherein some aliens came to Earth and connected everyone's brain, to make the human race into this enormous, cooperative organism. In the book the humans used this new ability to defeat the evil aliens who were trying to enslave humanity, drawing on the vast wealth of experience and understanding available in this  new, massive hive-mind. Once upon a time I imagined that the Internet might, in some small way, provide humanity with the same sort of combined mental richness. Instead, what it seems to provide is the sure knowledge that whatever you do, for whatever reason you can imagine, somewhere in the world someone thinks you are absolutely, completely, reprehensibly WRONG. And stupid. And they have studies to back them up.


I have eaten NONE of my children's Halloween candy. Not one morsel. This is for two reasons: A) it offends me that that size of candy bar is called "fun size." I have HAD fun, sir, and let me assure you, YOU are not the size of fun. And B) I do not wish to be any more fat. Sheesh. So I decided that it is easier to completely abstain than to try to negotiate a reasonable portion of pawed-through candy from the bottom of a pillowcase. And it is, it really is. 99% of the time I am content with my choice or not even aware of the many calories in chocolate that are available to me. The remaining 1% of the time I am completely soaked in resentment and possibly eating marshmallows out of the cupboards. So. There is still progress to be made.


Tre took Sophia outside and patiently carried her around, since the snow was about as deep as her legs are long. She was completely blown away by the fact that snow was EVERYWHERE and kept shaking her head and saying, "Silly snow!" When they came back in, she promptly pulled off her mittens and I remembered that there is very little in this world that is as cute as a pink-cheeked toddler, immobilized by snow pants, and amazed with the whole snowy world.

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(Those are Raphael's bare toes behind her, and you can just see that he is swooping in to bestow a kiss on her head. Poor neglected 4th child.)