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October 2013
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December 2013

Randomness, unexpected snow edition

I'm supposed to bring an extra girl home from preschool today (a playdate, not a kidnapping), and we'd planned to go to a candy factory! To watch them make candy canes! Because it's a Denver tradition, and I'm a genius, getting there before December, when it will be ridiculously crowded! 

Except it's snowing now (WHY is it snowing? Did anyone ELSE know it was going to snow? Is it ALLOWED to snow, if I'm not notified ahead of time?), and I don't think I want to go across town to the candy factory. I left the other girl's mom a message, saying that I was thinking I'd just take the girls home instead, because I wasn't sure it would be a good idea to drive across town in the snow. Doesn't that sound reasonable? What I MEANT was, "If I drive across town in the snow, especially if I have another mother's precious baby in my car, I'm almost certain to be smashed into by a semi with failed brakes, that is carrying toxic waste. There will be horrifying devastation and loss, and the only survivor of the accident would be me, left to live out my days in a broken body and a haze of pain and regret."

This disturbing peek into the mind of me brought to you by unexpected snow.


The other day Max handed Sophia a small basket to carry to the table. She dropped it, and he said, lighthearted and playfully, "Sophia! You're fired!"

She whipped around, stomped her foot at him, and bellowed,


Some day we'll learn not to laugh at the sassy. That day is not today.


Tre's getting his senior pictures taken this Saturday, and we're getting a family portrait done at the same time. I have officially become obsessed with what we're going to wear. The photographer (a friend AND a genius with the camera, Angela Giles Klocke) advised us to wear color, because we're going to be outside, and winter has caused the land to be colorless, bitter, and wan (word choice mine, and possibly affected by the SNOW. That arrived without proper and due WARNING). This seems like good advice, but now I'm realizing that we have six people in our family and that's a lot of color. Am concerned. I fear Angela is going to show up, take one look at us, and run blindly away from the riot of gratuitous jewel tones. 


Sophia's class is learning a fistful of holiday songs, so they can lisp them in concert some night soon (I should really figure out when that is). One of the songs is about Thanksgiving, and it's all about the Pilgrims sailing in, then landing on the rock, then toiling and working in the fields. (She sings that verse "twirl and work the field" which I adore, because that's how she'd do agriculture. Makes total sense to her.) Anyhow, after the twirling in the fields, the Native Americans help them plant, and then they gather for a feast, It's THANKSGIVING!

Max has taught her that the final verse of the song is "Then they kicked them off their land, off their land, off their land. Then they kicked them off their land, it's Thanksgiving!" I managed to quell the verse about genocide, but I can't bring myself to be as disapproving as I probably should be. This is what comes of failing to squash the sassy, you know.


Last but certainly not least, Joshilyn Jackson has a new book out! Now, Joshilyn is a friend of mine, and I know I've recommended every single book she's written right here. But I finished this new one, Someone Else's Love Story, at 1:18 Sunday morning. It is so, so good. It's her best yet. I actually found it very Catholic at heart, which sounds funny, because I know Joss consorts with Southern Baptists. I may not have much credibility, because I adore her, so obviously I want you to buy her books, but you have to get this one. It left me feeling brave, a rare and lovely feat. I would recommend this book no matter who wrote it.

Except maybe the snow. Because I don't know if I mentioned this? But I'm pretty irritated at the snow today.


If not now, WHEN does the parking lot fight happen?

One of the built-in benefits of parenting multiple children is that no matter how long you've been at it, you're guaranteed to run up against something you've never dealt with before. It's sort of a jerk of a benefit, but there you are.

For me, this year, it's been preschool. We've never done preschool before, so this being my first foray into the world, allow me to assure you of one thing: I am no good at it.

I didn't show up for the Halloween party, somehow missing the fact that parents were supposed to come. I almost never take the papers out of Sophia's backpack until we're walking back into the school the next day. I forgot Sophia's show-and-tell last time, even though it was RIGHT THERE on the calendar, and show-and-tell is the BEST THING that could happen to a four year old EVER (making the missing of show-and-tell the WORST THING, a fact that was only made worse when I apologized to Sophia and she smiled gamely at me and murmured that it was okay, then scurried away with a muffled sob. Shoot me). 

But easily the worst part of preschool is the social aspect. All the other moms are about twelve, and they all know each other, and I sort of feel like a thousand year old leper who wandered into their circle as we all wait for our children. It's nice how being 42 has made me all rational and confident and stuff, isn't it?

I'm no good at arranging play dates (although we've managed a few), and some of the girls Sophia wants to play with I think are tiny little jackasses. Sorry. Actually, there's just one, and she's...hmmm. How would Blessed Mother Teresa put it? She's a horrible little monster.

I'M SORRY. I know she's just four years old. I AM A BAD PERSON. But what can I say? Even her mother sort of dreads seeing her when she arrives to pick her up. And so of course Sophia finds her FASCINATING (can I TELL you how much I'm looking forward to her dating years?), and talks about her all the time.

But today, after I picked Sophia up, and we'd lunched and she'd "helped" Clay, who was home from work today installing baseboards, be still my heart, we went out to run and errand. We had parked, and Sophia requested to hear the end of the song, so we were just sitting there in the parking lot, chilling to the dulcet tones of Veggie Tales. 

"You know what MonsterChild said to me today?" Sophia said after a moment. (MonsterChild is not her real name...OR IS IT??) "During story circle, she told me she doesn't want to play with me because I'm a little boring."

"She...what?" I said, drawing on the deep well of wisdom that comes with 18 years of parenting and an early childhood development minor. It may not look like that stellar of a response, but I also gripped the steering wheel REALLY HARD and hyperventilated a little. Pretty professional, really.

"And then she said that it wasn't mean, what she said."

"Hmmm. Wha...gar...oh..."

"But I think it WAS mean. She can be mean sometimes. I don't think I want to play with her anymore."

And then we got out of the car and toddled off into the store, where I bought an entirely unnecessary book for Sophia because I JUST DID, OKAY?

These are definitely new waters. No doubt. I have spent many a silent minute today staring at nothing and trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do here? I mean, I assume there should be some sort of hair-pulling, screeching fight in the parking lot with MonsterChild's mother, right? I'm not sure what the protocol is. I suppose some people would suggest that Sophia has figured this one out on her own, and will distance herself from MonsterChild and be just fine. Some people are, as my sons would say, chumps. But one thing I'm sure of so far: Sophia is more mature than I am. 

A Sad Melody

As of today, Max has been gone on a school trip for nine days. This means that he's scheduled to come home tomorrow, and not a moment too soon, for a few reasons.

First of all, he is the only Max we have, leaving us entirely Maxless, which is unacceptable. Max does all sorts of annoying things that only he can do properly. Like, sometimes when we're driving somewhere, he'll decide that we're not going fast enough, so therefore he must engage HYPERDRIVE. So then he proceeds to push every button in the car, while intoning in a deep and sonorous voice, "HYPERDRIVE. HYPERDRIVE. HYPERDRIVE." It's super annoying, because then the windshield wipers are going, and the emergency flashers are on, and the radio is blaring some random station, and the whole time I'm slapping at his hand futilely because he's faster than me and besides, I'm laughing my fool head off. 

But the other reason I'm really glad he's coming back is Melody. His ridiculous, adoring cat. I expected her to wander around, meowing, like she did this summer while he was away at camp (and like she does every flipping morning when he gets up to go to school, like it's A SHOCK that he's getting up AGAIN and leaving her alone, only after seventeen urgings from his father to do so, WHO SAW THAT ONE COMING?), but instead she's just decided to comfort herself by sleeping in my armpit.

I mean this literally. I like to sleep on my side, and as soon as my head hits the pillow, she leaps up on the bed and drapes herself on my side, right under my arm. If I push her away, she trots to the end of the bed with an aggrieved little meow of displeasure, waits a full second and a half, and repositions herself. On my self. Ridiculous cat.

Sad Melody

Here, she's irritated with me for holding a camera. As soon as I put it down, she's going to trot over and settle herself on my chest. 

Now, I like having a cat to sleep with. It's cozy. It's supremely soothing to feel the deep rumble of a contented cat dozing off next to you. They can be warming to the feet. But this cat has to be RIGHT IN MY FACE. ALL NIGHT LONG, and a woman only requires so much coziness before she contemplates nudging a cat off the bed with extreme prejudice. 

It's as though she senses a great gaping hole in our home, as though she knows some irreplaceable part of our chaos has slipped away, and we're all poorer without him. 

It's like she just knows things are too calm. Not right.


She really is a very smart cat. 


I have gone silent, I know. Not just here, either, but generally. Phone calls went unreturned, texts not answered. I have gone still, watching and waiting it out.

My mom was in the hospital last week. She had surgery on her ankle, and then she had a complication that turned out to be only tangentially related to the original surgery. That landed her in the hospital for five days, with another surgery to boot. She's better now - she's getting better. At one point, when she was finally home, she settled in on the couch, looked around, and sighed. "It's like a tornado just blew through our lives, isn't it?"

And it was. When she was in the hospital I neglected my family shamelessly, failing to cook meals or clean or exert what force I have to beat back the entropy that closes in on us every day. I walked out the door whenever I could, drove to the hospital (mercifully, five minutes away), and sat by my mom's bed. I'm sure I looked like a dutiful daughter, but the truth is that life does not stop for tornadoes, and I just wanted my mom. 

I wanted her to be okay. It's not that I ever really thought she wouldn't be okay - you just don't go there when someone you love is surrounded by the plastic and bustle and smells of hospital care. I just didn't like the trajectory her health was taking, and I sat there and held onto her, racking my brain for something I could do to help. She couldn't eat - all week - and it turns out my skill set is severely limited when someone can't eat. 

I drove there and back to home, what seemed like a million times that week. I couldn't really do anything for Mom, and at home, well. There are currents that I am powerless over, even when everyone can eat. 

The other night I sat in a dark room, in front of the fire, and just worked on not believing anything that isn't verifiability true. You just can't do everything you have to do, my mind whispered, and I said no, I can't. But I got through today. You will lose your mom and your dad and everyone. Not today. Your boys will succumb to the same demons that stole their bio dad. You don't know that. No one can know. 

Sophia danced in and out of the room, playing with Clay, then coming back to check on me. "I LOVE you," she declared. "I love you more than ICE CREAM! I love you more than ANYTHING! Except I miss Max more than I love you."

Max is away on a school trip for ten days, and I understand what she means. It's not that she loves Max more than me (or maybe she does, and why shouldn't she?), it's just that he's gone, and the contentment of secure love can never drown out the wash of anxiety for someone who is missing. Even Jesus said He would leave the 99 sheep to seek out the one lost one. As a child, that sounded awfully unfair (I always assumed I would be one of the safe sheep). As a mother, I understand.

The road between my house and the hospital is narrow. One lane each way, with no shoulder. Along some stretches, you can still see jagged scars cut in the land by the flood waters two months ago. And occasionally you can see the tire tracks of someone who swerved off the road. Sometimes this road feels treacherous. Deer leap out onto it sometimes. Cars sway across the middle line. The margins are too narrow. It seems unreasonable to expect drivers to hold safely to their lanes.

But driving back and forth, I studied those lines, mown into the plants beside the road. They curved away, but they curved back again. Like parenthesis, into the wild and back again. No one was sitting there, lost forever beside the road.

The line may wobble, but we keep moving forward. 

I went silent for a little while. If I didn't answer you, I'm sorry, and I'll try to soon. I wobbled.

But life goes on.