I went to my favorite weight class tonight, but the instructor was late. We all milled around for a bit, then someone went to ask the front desk what the heck was up. A quick call to his home, and he was there five minutes later.
We gave him grief about it, good-naturedly of course, and set to working out. It did seem odd, though. Not like Pete.
About twenty minutes into the class I was doing a triceps press and Pete wandered over. I straightened up that extra millimeter you do when the trainer is watching, but for once he didn’t say anything about slowing down. He’s always telling me to slow down.
He leaned against a machine and gazed off somewhere. “I heard from a friend yesterday that an old friend of ours was in the hospital.” He made the universal bottle-tipping motion to indicate a heavy drinker. “He’s been messed up for a while…but I guess everything was just shutting down.” I couldn’t tell if he was talking to me or the guy on the other side of him. I’m not sure he was actually talking to either of us.
“So today I dropped my son off at a friend’s house to spend the night, and called my friend’s house to see if I could come see him. He just came home from the hospital last night. And you know what? They told me he’s dead. Just like that.” He shook his head and wandered off.
“I…sorry,” I said to his back. What do you say?
For the rest of the class Pete seemed fine. He moved us through the stations with usual irritating energy. He made us stop randomly and do push-ups. He cracked jokes and at the end of the hour wished everyone a happy new year. But for a brief moment when he faltered, I wouldn’t have known what actually ringing in his head.
I heard someone say once that you should never compare yourself to others, because you’re comparing your insides to their outsides. We really don’t know what’s going on with 99% if the people we interact with daily.
Unless, I suppose, they blog.
¶ 12/30/2003 10:17:00 PM
Monday, December 29, 2003
I had just finished a particularly disastrous trip through Costco. Did you know they don’t take Visa? Neither did I. I was very displeased to discover this fact, even more displeased than the nice checker guy who had to put back my cart full of super-sized groceries. Heh, heh. Sorry, nice checker guy.
Anyhow, I was annoyed. I had just succeeded in dragging three boys through the wasteland that is Costco, successfully hunted down all the required items, hauled the lot up to the counter, only to have them snatched from my grasp by a cruel twist of fate. Or a cruel twist of Costco, I suppose. I was annoyed.
Irritation like that has a way of leaking out, infecting the children of the host. Plus it was lunch time, and the boys were crushed by the loss of the 24 pack of Go-Gurt that was almost theirs. We were all irritable.
We got in line at the lunch counter. I may have been annoyed at Costco, but not too annoyed to eat their cheap pizza. In front of me was a man who kept turning around and grinning at the boys. Raphael darted away from me and I called out, “Raphael, come here. Stand right here. Here. Look at me. Right here.”
Grinning man said to me, “How old is Raphael?”
I sighed as Raphael started edging away from his assigned spot. “Two and a half.”
“I just had one. I mean my wife did. A son. November 24.” I looked at him; he was nodding and smiling so big I thought he’d pull a cheek muscle. A besotted new dad. Ya gotta love that.
“Well,” I advised in my best experienced mother tone, “buckle your seat belt, you’re in for an adventure.” Just then Max decided to break up the monotony of waiting in line by tackling Tre, causing the two of them to careen across the aisle. This forced a few heavily loaded carts to swerve to miss them, earning me some well deserved “control your children” glares. As I opened my mouth to order them to my side, Raphael made a break from his spot and freed the tape stretched between two poles. You know, that tape they use to give a line some definition. It was retractable, and as it zinged back into its retracted position, it startled several people waiting in line. Turned heads. Well earned glares.
I sat Max down on one side of me for a time out, Raphael on the other side. Believe it or not, this particular issue of messing with the stretchy tape is one we’ve discussed before. He’s been in time out in Borders, the bank, and now Costco over that very issue. He sat down with a satisfied look, as though the experience had been worth the punishment. Max, on the other hand, did not feel his time out was at all deserved, since Tre had said something to him in the car, and it was mean, and Max had just remembered it and that was why he tackled him and Tre should be the one in time out. When I failed to see his logic he resorted to wailing loudly and slumping over on the floor. Large tears and tortured tones earned me yet more looks, this time of the “what have you done to that sweet child?” variety.
I sighed (more of a Lamaze breathing exercise, really) and turned back, to discover New Dad still grinning like a fool. “They’re so cool, boys, aren’t they?” he enthused. I couldn’t help but smile back. “Yes they are,” I replied, “Congratulations on your son. Good luck.”
New dads. They’re just adorable.
¶ 12/29/2003 10:09:00 PM
Sunday, December 28, 2003
I had two sobering incidents yesterday. The first happened in the car. Now, recently whenever we’ve been in the car for any length of time, Raphael and I have had the following exchange:
R: Mama? Whatcha doin’?
M: I’m driving, baby. What are you doing?
R: Ah’m in mah car seat.
M: That’s good, baby.
Now, that’s not that amazing of a conversation, I’ll grant you. But it was repeated, word for word, seven trillion times. At least. If I tried changing even one word I would be corrected severely.
R: Mama? Whatcha doin’?
M: I’m driving. What are you doing?
R: NOOOOOOO! SAY dat ONE Ah drivin’ BABY!
M: Alright, sorry.
R: Mama? Whatcha doin’?
And so on. Sometimes he would repeat the whole thing over and over and over and over…until I was banging my head on the steering wheel.
But yesterday there we were tooling along, and Raphael pipes up from the back seat, “Mama? Whatcha doin’?”
I replied with pavlovian promptness, “I’m driving, baby. What are you doing?”
But then there was silence. I glanced in the rearview mirror and he was staring pensively out the window. He seemed to be trying to remember the next line…but after a moment he shrugged and went back to telling knock-knock jokes with Max. I realized it had been a week or two since we’d done our little shtick. And in the meantime it faded from his mind. Raphael was done with that bit of his childhood, and now it only exists as an echo in my mind.
The next thing was a phrase I heard as I was attempting to serve the boys their breakfast. Raphael was newly-awake-cranky, and wanted me to pick him up. He trailed me in the kitchen, pushing on my knees and whining, “Mama, hold me up. Hold me uuuuuup” As soon as I could I picked him up and hugged him close, charmed by the wording, “hold me up.”
That afternoon, Raphael woke up from his nap just as I was fixing dinner. He trotted into the kitchen and took his place at my heels, shoving at my knees in great irritation. “Mama,” he moaned, “pick me up.”
The little bits of the boys’ childhoods get left behind them, scattered and forgotten except by me. And even I sometimes lose track of which bit belongs to whom. That was Max, right, who called sprinklers “splinkers?” Tre was the one who called chocolate "chlokit?"
I’m left with this ringing in my head, the remains of jargon I once shared with the boys. When one more piece of it moves from reality into memory, I’m reminded that it’s true, what they say. They grow up so fast. One day soon I’ll be dredging up all these goofy memories to comfort my lonely heart. Maybe I’ll even miss the moments like yesterday, when I found Raphael scrubbing the window track with my toothbrush.
Hmm. Then again, maybe not. That was pretty gross.
I’m sitting in a darkened house, quiet save for the rustle of the cat at her food. I’ve just given a sugar-hyped Tre a sippy cup of chamomile tea to take up to his room, in the hopes he will stay in bed this time. Ribbons and toy packaging lurk in the corners of the room, promising a long day of tidying tomorrow.
The question is how to write a post that’s not drippingly sentimental?
Christmas was wonderful this year. Truly wonderful. It was a very calm Christmas. I just let some things slide. We never got lights up outside. We used the fake tree. Things that in years past I would have struggled to get done just got left behind. I meandered through the holiday preparations, picking up activities that pleased me and letting others slip through my fingers.
It was lovely.
I had planned to bake some goodies for neighbors and friends, a small token of my affection. But December 23 I stood in my kitchen, looking at all the ingredients, and decided not to. There’s too much food everywhere right now anyway. I think I may surprise them with something on a gloomy day in late January. For now I hope they know I love them, but I’m sure they’re more interested in their own families.
As it should be. I’m rather interested in mine. We had such a nice day. We didn’t go anywhere, and the boys were in their jammies almost all day. The big gift today was one for the whole family, a nice electronic keyboard. From the other room I really can’t tell when Raphael is testing it that he’s not banging on a real piano. Max spent much time noodling around, fascinated by the “pinano.” Tre is ready to start lessons, but was more interested in a gift he got at his other grandparent’s house yesterday, some spy gear. He got a wrist camera (actually takes pictures) and a spy message center thingy. I’m not sure this is a great direction for him, because he spends enough time as it is sneaking up on people. But he’s delighted, and has taken untold numbers of pictures of unsuspecting people reading, putting on their shoes, or doing the dishes. The big hit for Raphael was a dump truck filled with those large interlocking building blocks. He has spent literally hours playing with that today.
But here’s the cool thing about the gifts. We’re not done. We celebrate the full twelve days around here, so all we opened today was the large family gift and the books I bought the boys. And for the next eleven days one person will open a gift a day. The boys complained about this a bit, but they truly didn’t fight it too much. And now there’s this whole lingering celebration to come.
¶ 12/25/2003 09:43:00 PM
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Raphael has learned to climb out of his crib. The first time it happened I tried to convince myself it was a fluke. But he kept mysteriously appearing beside my bed in the morning. Or at the top of the stairs after his nap. I suppose I may have been in denial. I would roll over in the morning to come nose-to-nose with his shining little face and decide not to think about it. Yesterday Tre and Max were going upstairs to watch TV. It was during Raphael’s nap, so I warned them to be quiet. Halfway up the stairs I hear Tre say, “Oh. Well, hi there, Raphi.” And moments later there was my pumpkin’ bug, trotting happily into the kitchen. “Ah did it my SEWF!” he announced with glee.
I chose not to think about it.
Well, this afternoon we arrived home from a hair cutting trip right at naptime. Raphael had slept for approximately 18 seconds in the car, and felt that was enough of a nap for any baby. I disagreed. I carried him up the stairs to his crib, trailing his protests all the way. “Noooo,” he wept, “ah don’ wanna go sweep. Ah wanna wake uuuuuup!”
“You will wake up. But first you have to go to sleep.”
“Nooooo! Ah wanna read a boooooook!”
“We’ll read a book after your nap.”
“Noooooo! Ah’m gonna cwy!”
“Ok then. Go ahead and cry. Night-night.”
I deposited him in his crib, kissed the top of his belligerent little head, and exited stage left. From behind his bedroom door I heard him warning me, “Ah’m gonna talk!” He waited a moment for my response, and getting none, proceeded to start the soliloquy that generally lulls him to sleep. “Ah’m Shooperman. An den Ah fly ober the houses…”
I heaved a sigh of relief and headed down the stairs. I had a million things to do, but instead I sat down at the table for a moment with a cup of tea. It had been quite the day already. Tre and Max were involved with a game on the computer, and for a moment I just drank in the serenity.
Then I heard it. A thump above my head, and the scamper of little feet. A distinct sinking feeling in my stomach suggested this was something I had to face. I walked over to the stairs and looked up. Around the corner came an ecstatic Raphael. His face was aglow with the joy of freedom, and a celebratory ribbon of drool extended from bottom lip to stomach. Seeing me he threw up his arms, as though to hug the whole wonderful world. “Tuprise, Mama!”
So now I have to actually accept the fact that he can get out of his crib, and deal with the consequences. Like teaching him that when I put him down for his nap he should stay there.
This would probably be an easier task had I not laughed quite so hard at his shining little face today. Oh well.
Max is really into drawing pictures and writing captions for them. Now, he’s just five, so his spelling is not exactly standard. For example, he signs every picture “by Tre and Max,” even though Tre has yet to ever draw a picture with him. Max just likes to include his brother. Anyhow, he spells this phrase something like “bi Tre end Max.”
These pictures are a sight to behold. They usually feature a tree in the very center, with happy people with square bodies and long thin necks gathered around. In one picture he showed me and Tre on one side of the tree, smiling ecstatically. On the other side was Raphi, who was pushing over a very annoyed Max. So not only is he a prolific artist, he’s a realist.
The other morning I wandered into the kitchen, where Dad was making his famous waffles for breakfast. I came upon Max, showing a newly drawn picture to Dad.
“See?” He was showing Dad the important details of the scene, “That’s me. And here it says ‘Boobies’.”
Dad chuckled. “Well, it sure does! That’s great, Max!”
I stood there, watching the two of them, trying to figure out why my son was drawing pictures of boobies, and why my father was encouraging him. Max set his picture down on the counter next to me as he walked by, and I picked it up casually. It looked pretty much like all the other pictures. There was a tree in the middle, a ripple of grass along the bottom, and three people with their arms splayed out and showing three fingers (I don’t know why three fingers. They all have three fingers). I gazed at it a moment until Dad noticed me puzzling over it. “Isn’t that great?” he enthused. I nodded, not knowing what to say, exactly. “Um…boobies?” I finally asked. “Yeah,” he replied, “See, there are the bees.”
I looked again, and sure enough there was a small cloud of specks near one of the figures. That person had his mouth open. He was clearly shouting something. Something like, “Boo!”
It didn’t say “boobies” at all. It said, “Boo, bees!”
I looked at the writing. It clearly read, “Bi Tre end Max. Bo bez.”
Well, if I’d just read it first…
¶ 12/22/2003 11:11:00 PM
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Today was the Nativity play at church. By the way, if you’ve been keeping notes, yes we left our church, and yes we’ve seemed to have found a new one. It’s fabulous in many respects, but after the “breakup” I’m not sure I’m ready to commit.
But I was ready to let the kids be in the play.
Oh, so sweet. Tre was a wise man, Max was Joseph, and Raphael was a donkey. Although if you ask him, he’ll tell you he was a dog, because he’s pretty sure everyone was calling him a doggy.
Tre did a stellar job, manfully striding to his appointed spots on cue, clutching his bottle of frankincense. He looked purposeful, embarrassed, and proud by turns. He didn’t even tug at his crown too much, even though it was so hot under there that his hair was damp with sweat by the time the play was over.
Max was something of a somber Joseph. He was tired and wanted to go home, so he sort of stomped his way through his part. I’m not sure why they chose him to be Joseph, since he’s a good foot shorter than Mary, but it worked out fine. I was nervous that he might decide to reprise the performance he gave at the school production last Monday. He had been on stage, right in the middle of the adorable huddle of wee preschoolers, and had decided to pull his shirt up and scratch his belly, then do a little dance with gyrating hips and waving arms. Then he went back to the belly scratch, then (not noticing or caring that his shirt was still hiked up to his chest), he reached back and grabbed vigorously at his underwear, which was apparently bothering him in some way. Fortunately for the dignity of the event today, Max did none of that.
Raphael was a hit in his furry little donkey costume with ears. I mean that both literally and figuratively. No one could resist his charm. However at one point when he was milling around the stable he tried to take the little sheep’s precious stuffed dog away. She wouldn’t give it to him, and he responded by hauling off and whacking her one. Then he turned and trotted back to me, announcing, “Ah don’ wanna play with the kids enny more.”
But we’ve survived another Christmas pageant, and tonight we finally got our tree decorated. My shopping is…almost done, and the baking is a good halfway there. I’ve been fairly relaxed about this Christmas, yet I find it’s mostly coming together anyhow. Go figure.
¶ 12/21/2003 09:48:00 PM
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Please permit me a brief parental brag. I took Tre to the Pack meeting tonight (in case you’re wondering, the small group of eight boys he meets with twice a month is a den. The gathering of all the dens is the Pack). He was very excited, because tonight they were announcing the winners of the greenery sales contest.
Well, I know you’re all agog, so I won’t keep you in suspense. Tre came in fourth in sales in the whole pack. Of course, he smoked the rest of his den. Um…please re-write that last sentence for yourself to make it sound more sportsmanship-like.
For his stellar showing he won a model electric plane, and a hockey puck signed by Milan Hejduk of the Colorado Avalanche. I am not proud to confess that my delight in the latter item is based mostly on the knowledge that it would reeeeeealy frost my ex’s hide if he only knew that if he were around he would have access to a hockey puck signed by Milan Hejduk. (Insert small, evil snicker here)
However, the true joy of the evening was watching Tre. He sat on the edge of his seat when they started announcing winners, fairly trembling with anticipation. He bounced a little. And when they called his name he turned to me and smiled, then walked up there to receive his goods with such poise. He turned to come back and the delight on his face set the entire room aglow. Plus he’s the cutest wee Cub Scout ever. Just reporting the facts here.
After the awards they brought in jugglers for the boys to watch. That was fine, but then they decided to break up the 100-plus little boys into four groups, give them each three bean bags, and teach them to juggle. Oy. Hand out bean bags to hordes of hyped up little boys and say, “here, guys. Why don’t you juggle these?” It would have been calmer inside a popcorn machine. Bean bags were flying everywhere. They were whacking into the ceiling, whizzing past ears, being shoved down shirts. Some boys took the direct approach to juggling, wherein they would choose a partner (with or without the partner’s knowledge) and rapid-fire the bags into his chest. That was fun.
I watched the teeming crowd of manic little jugglers, my son gleaming like a jewel in their midst (again, only reporting the facts here), and had to admit it. These Scouts are pretty cool.
¶ 12/18/2003 10:07:00 PM
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
I went to the eye doc today for my three week check after the lasik. I was supposed to go Monday, without the kids, but a snowy morning scuttled those plans. So I ended up there this afternoon, with all three boys.
Right at Raphael’s naptime.
Now, if you’re thinking to yourself this may be a recipe for disaster, give yourself a gold star for astuteness. To make matters worse, I was ten minutes late. Now I don’t want to make excuses for myself or anything, but I would have been on time had Raphael not decided on the way out the door to…require a clean diaper. BADLY. Birds were falling out of the air. It was potent.
Hmm. Possibly y’all get the point there. Moving on.
So anyhow, I arrived with my tribe in tow. The people behind the desk were all raised eyebrows and subtle glances at the clock. Yes, I admit it, I was late.
And when you’re late, you have to pay penance by waiting an extra long time for the doctor. I know it’s deserved, that people who are late screw with the Almighty Schedule, but this left me in a room roughly the size of a shoebox, completely lined with things that should not be touched.
I passed out candy, I told stories about belly button snatchers, and I sang songs about ducks that go “wibble-wobble.” I did all I could to entertain the boys – by which I mean Raphael, who was in full destructo-baby mode.
Finally the doctor came in, and glanced around the room with a look something akin to horror. Max crawled out from under the chair. Doc gave a somewhat forced chuckle and asked, “Well, my goodness, how many children do we have in here?”
I was holding Raphael in what I hoped appeared to be a normal way, although my true intent was pinning his arms to his side. He really wanted the doctor’s light off the desk.
“Just three,” I replied cheerfully.
“Um…and their mother,” he responded.
Not sure how to take that.
I sat down and proceeded to be examined. One thing about an eye exam, it makes it hard to shoot death glares at misbehaving children. But the boys were behaving themselves…um…fairly well. Tre was sitting in the chair quietly, only occasionally kicking Max in the head when he bit him on the shin. Max was…well, climbing under the chair and biting his brother on the shin. Raphael unsnapped all the snaps on the legs of his overalls, and when that got boring, moved to emptying my purse. He found some feminine hygiene products, which he proceeded to unwrap.
The doctor, meanwhile, was being a doctor. He pronounced my eyes wonderful, my vision better than it had been in contacts (I could have told him that). He asked if I was using my artificial tears. I replied that I had a hard time remembering, because my eyes felt fine. A little dry in the morning, but that’s it.
“Well, that’s fine. You’re young and moist,” he replied.
I don’t know that I’ve ever been called moist before. Not sure how to take that….
But we all survived. I made my next appointment (three month check), and hi tailed it out of there.
If I have to take the boys to another doctor’s appointment, I’m bringing duct tape.
Here’s my trip, the condensed version. Waaaaay too early Friday morning I dragged myself out of bed and away from my home. As Dad pulled out of the driveway I waved frantically at my boys, who were waving back from the front window. Max was sleepy and a little fuzzy on what was happening. Tre was crying, but trying not to. Raphael was still asleep.
No sooner were we out of the driveway then the cell phone rang. I answered and Tre’s voice piped, “Hi, Mama! How’s your trip?” I laughed and talked to both of them for a few minutes. That was good.
The rest of the morning passed in the usual airport blur of ticketing agents and security officers and Starbucks. I was fine. I settled in at my gate and read my book. Finally it was time to board. I found my seat, stashed my carry on luggage under the seat in front of me as instructed, and clicked my seatbelt low around my waist.
And burst into tears.
What was I doing? I didn’t want to leave my boys! I like my boys. I didn’t want to go play and go out to dinners and go to a spa. I wanted to go home.
Well, I didn’t go home. I went to California. I met up with Amy and we were off for San Diego. Amy’s employers opt to take their employees on a weekend retreat of sorts in lieu of a Christmas office party. Everyone’s allowed to take a friend, and I was lucky enough to be Amy’s guest this year.
Let me tell you, these people know how to treat their employees. Very nice. We stayed in the Hyatt overlooking the San Diego Bay. We ate fabulous food at gorgeous restaurants. We went to the San Diego Zoo, and got a behind-the-scenes tour. We were so close to a giraffe at one point, Amy nearly got giraffe drool on her head. It was amazing. Fabulous. I went to a spa and was scrubbed with sugar and coconut oil. Oh my. I’ve never been to a spa, but that day I decided the hype was true. Spas are very good things.
I dressed like a grown up, I ate meals without interruption, I had long conversations with Amy and other intelligent people. I laughed, I wore high heels until my feet screamed. And you know what? I enjoyed myself.
I may have talked about the boys a tad more than was necessary…but everyone was very kind about it. Amy works with the nicest people. And the boys would call me several times a day, which was great. I’d be sitting in some fancy restaurant, nibbling on my appetizer, and the cell phone would ring and I’d leap up and dash for a quiet spot like some rabid poodle. I’d leave people hanging mid-sentence. And for a few minutes I’d press that phone to my ear like life itself depended on the goofy conversation I was having. Max would blow me kisses and make noises into the phone, asking me to guess what they were. Tre would finish every conversation with, “Have a fun trip and a safe trip, Mama.” Raphael would babble incoherently, totally unconcerned with whether or not I was understanding him. Mom or Dad would get on the line for just a moment, to reassure me that everything was fine.
Then I’d hang up and go back to acting like an adult. I was relaxed and confident that the boys were ok, all was well and I could enjoy myself.
Until it was time for the flight home. Ok, truth be told, I woke up Sunday a bit anxious. Time to pack. Time to go. Home. Boys. Now.
By the time I got to the airport I could barely form sentences. I hugged Amy goodbye and I hope she knows that just because I sprinted away, into the airport, doesn’t mean I don’t love her and appreciate her including me on her weekend. Smooches, Amy. But…well, you know. Home. Boys.
Then, heaven help me, they delayed my flight. They pushed it back by five minutes, then ten, then twenty. By this point I was pacing and muttering. People were casually moving to stand between me and their children. It was bad.
After an eternity, we boarded. Those damn flight attendants insisted upon reading about the freakin’ seat cushions and showing us those oxygen masks. I was fairly sure they could be doing something to make the plane get moving.
Eventually it did move. I tried to read, but I ended up staring out the window, willing time to pass. As we approached Denver, the sparse dusting of lights on the ground below slowly morphed into the unmistakable smear of light that is a city. My city. Home. Boys.
I cried again.
And soon they were in my arms and all was well.
They were fine. They aren’t traumatized and Mom and Dad seem to have weathered the weekend well too. All told, it went just as well as could be hoped. I’m grateful to everyone who pulled it off. What a gift.
¶ 12/15/2003 10:23:00 PM
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
I took Tre to buy new jeans tonight. What is it about eight year old boys that causes them to erupt out the knees of their jeans? Sheesh, I swear the fabric weakens while he’s just sitting serenely, gazing out the window. (Like that ever happens!) In the morning I glance at him and notice, hey, I think there’s a hole in the left knee of his jeans. By lunchtime both knees are sporting tears of at least two inches, and by dinner one pants leg is entirely gone, the other is hanging by a thread.
What is that?
Anyhow, it was time to buy his week’s allotment of jeans, so we went off to the store. Max and Raphael were home with Amma and Appa, so this was a doable expotition. We charged into the store and found the boys’ section. I grabbed a selection of jeans and we were off for the dressing room. Now, I learned my lesson last time I took him shopping, and didn’t head in there with him. No need to earn that withering look again. I handed him the stack and positioned myself at the door of the changing room. He turned to go in the little stall, and then turned back.
“Wait right there,” he instructed. I nodded, leaning against the wall. Department stores just suck the life right out of me. I think it’s the lighting or something, but after five minutes inside one I can feel my will to shop just draining away. He was not satisfied with my cavalier assurance, and fixed me with a steely look. “Don’t. Move. From. That. Spot.” By this point I got it. He was getting a little worried. I looked steadily back at him and said in what I hoped was a reassuring tone, “Don’t worry. I’ll be right here.”
“Stay right there.”
“I promise. Right here.”
”Honey, I won’t. Go try on your pants.”
He went in and shut the door behind him, only to yank it open a second later to glare at me. Just testing. He went back and proceeded to try on jeans.
Tre is…well…a touch intense on certain matters. And ever since his dad left, being left alone is a huge fear for him. If he comes in from outside and I’m not in the room he expectes me to be in, he panics. We even have a rule around here, “if you can’t find Mama, look in the basement, the garden, and the garage before you freak out.” Because if he can’t find me in 2.3 seconds, he freaks out. By the time he does find me (4.3 seconds), he’s screaming “Mama!” and tears have filled his huge brown eyes. He races over to me and hollers, “You scared me!” and when I hug him, I can feel him trembling. When he goes to bed at night if he can’t hear us talking in the living room he comes tearing down the stairs, wailing, “Mama?”
He’s gotten better, he really has. Right now he’s up there, awake in his room. I’m typing at the computer and Mom and Dad have gone down to their room in the basement. It’s quiet. But he’s just come down to check on me once, and it was very calmly. He’s made real progress.
But I’m going away this weekend. A girls’ weekend away, with a dear friend in California (hi, Amy!). This is a good thing, I think. Healthy for me…right? But I worry about my boys. I’ve done everything I can to make them feel secure. Heck, until a few months ago I didn’t even make Max sleep in his own bed. Their fears seemed like a natural response to the unexpected turn our lives took. So I did what I could to bind up their broken parts.
The question is when is it time to remove the cast? If my kids didn’t have “abandonment issues” a weekend for me away wouldn’t be that hard to imagine. Stressful, sure, but not unreasonable. But now, in our situation, I watch them and wonder. Am I stepping gingerly back, letting them get their own strength? Or am I removing supports too soon?
I suspect this is a good step. I am, after all, leaving them with their Amma and Appa (my parents), so I know they’re in good hands. And hopefully by this time Sunday night my boys will have seen and believed what I told Tre when he came out of the changing room.
Ok, apologies all around, but this is going to be short. I did two things today that shouldn’t go in the same day. I gave blood this afternoon and then this evening I went to the weight circuit class I haven’t been to for a month. Now, neither of those things would knock me out by themselves, but put them together, within a 6 hour span…not good news.
I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box tonight, and I’m going to bed. But first, a few quotable moments from my boys.
A couple of days ago I was in the process of making dinner and Max came into the kitchen swinging his arms around vigorously. “Whatcha doin’, honey?” I asked, dodging a fist.
“I’m being an experiment. I have four arms.”
“Really? What’s your name?”
“Well, Four Arms, you need to go be an experiment over there, because you’re getting in my way here.”
“Ok. I’ll just go over here and four play.”
If you didn’t get that, read it out loud. I nearly passed out, trying not to let him see me laughing. I just didn’t want to explain what was so funny.
*whew* Ok, next.
Some time last week Dad called with the news that he’d gotten a promotion at work. I congratulated him heartily, and after a few minutes of being impressed, hung up to let him get back to being a high-powered financial whiz. Max, seeing I had hung up, wailed, “Nooooo! I wanted to talk to Appa!” So we called him back, and Max crowed happily into the phone, “Appa, you rock.”
Then it was Tre’s turn to talk, and he spent a few minutes alternatively describing his breakfast and chewing in Dad’s ear. Finally he handed the phone to Raphael, who was about to spontaneously combust if someone didn’t let him talk NOW. He snatched the phone out of Tre’s hand, pulled it to his ear, and inquired earnestly, “Appa, yoo gotta rock?”
That’s it for me, I’m going to bed. But I want you all to know, yoo gotta rock.
It’s snowing right now, sifting down over the four inches of snow that have fallen since about 1 this afternoon. They expect somewhere between 6 and 10 inches by morning. I have a confession to make.
I kind of like it, all this snow.
There is a breed of people (you know who you are) who live here in Colorado, who looooooove the snow. When the weather forecast calls for 5 or more inches, they happily talk about it standing in line at the grocery store. These people grin up at the clouds when they see the first snowflakes. Blizzards make them giddy. These are the people with the bumper stickers that proclaim, “Colorado Native.”
I am not a Colorado native. I’m not a native of anywhere, really. I was born in Chicago, but we moved away when I was just a toddler. Since then I’ve lived in places like Texas, Mexico, New Mexico, and New Zealand. Not a lotta snow in any of those places. Well, we got a bit in parts of New Mexico, but not that much. I moved here about…what…eleven years ago. It was August when I came to Denver, and I had come from Las Cruces, which is in southern New Mexico. I went from 110 degree days to balmy 70’s. I was freezing. I went down to Las Cruces to see my friends over Halloween that year and I remember the morning after I got back to Denver. I was walking to my car, and a snowflake lazily drifted past my eyes, right down into my cleavage. I watched it, thinking, “What the hell am I doing here? Yesterday I was wearing shorts.” I spent the rest of the day scowling out the window at the snow.
I am not as insane as all those Colorado natives. But I do have to admit a certain growing affinity for the stuff. As the impressive dark clouds rolled in this morning, I watched them and quietly wondered just how much snow they’d leave. It was…kind of exciting.
See, here in Colorado we don’t have to live with the snow for weeks. Heck, it usually doesn’t stay for days, even. Just two days ago I was standing in a store and a woman came in wearing sandals. I looked at her and thought, “It’s December, woman!” But the truth is it wasn’t too cold for sandals. And sometime in the next week there will be a 60 degree day. All these dramatic weather swings leave one with a sense of anticipation. What’s next? Five feet of snow, like the blizzard of last March? Or a 75 degree Christmas?
I went outside tonight to shovel the driveway with Dad. Tre was playing out there with us, tossing snowballs at us and asking us to throw shovelfuls of snow at him. We obliged. Eventually the driveway was clear (for a few minutes…you should see it now), and Dad and I turned to go inside. Tre begged to stay out for a while in the snow. I said ok, but he had to play in the back. It was, after all, nearly eight p.m. and DARK out there. He agreed, so I went over to the gate to let him into the back yard. As I swung it open, Tre stood silent for a moment, staring through the open gate. “Now I enter Snow World,” he breathed. Then he charged in, and spent the next half hour romping in the snow. In the dark. Alone. He’d still be out there if I hadn’t made him come in and go to bed.
Now THAT is a Colorado native.
I was at the pediatrician’s office the other day, getting flu shots for the boys and myself. I was feeling very smug, having gotten my flu shot like a good girl. Aren’t I the responsible one? Then today I read in the newspaper that they’re running low on the vaccine, and are asking healthy people to hold off on getting immunized.
Anyhow, while I was waiting for our turn for the shots (in a packed waiting room with kids that probably gave us the flu before the shot could work), I was thumbing through a Parents magazine. And I, um, took it home with me.
ANYHOW, I was reading it and came across a Q and A column about “Good Manners” by Peggy Post. One of the questions was from a mom who noticed a woman at the park letting her baby feed herself grapes. The mom was wondering how she should have pointed out the obvious choking hazard.
The response was typical for this sort of column, suggesting a gentle, inoffensive approach. If she just worded it the right way, the other mom would probably be grateful for her help.
Now, maybe this is just my guilt complex because I actually fed all three of my kids grapes before the age of two. I worried a little and I watched them closely, but I did feed them grapes.
Ok, see how I was back-pedaling there in my confession? I was trying to justify my decision to feed MY kids grapes, an event that they clearly survived. And that’s why this column bothered me. There’s a whole new morality about child-rearing. There are clear “right” and “wrong” choices, and it is wrong to feed food that are high choking hazards to kids under the age of two. No popcorn, nuts, hot dogs, or grapes. All parents know that. And if another parent is breaking that rule, it is clearly our job to correct them. Not to assume that they know their child better than we do and have the knowledge and skills necessary to make those sorts of decisions for themselves. Not to grant them their God-given right to raise their child as they see fit. We are to gently, inoffensively, bring them back in line. They will be grateful.
What are some of the rules of the current parenting morality? Well, let’s see. Don’t spank your child. Use time outs to help them learn to control their emotions. Don’t feed them too much sugar. Express your displeasure at their misbehavior with “I” statements, so as not to personally criticize them. Buy organic food. Put them to bed in fire-resistant approved sleepwear. No pacifier after the baby turns one. Make them wear helmets when they ride their bikes. And for heaven’s sake, don’t smoke – you might as well just hold a pillow over their little mouths.
Now, I’ll agree that these rules include some very good ideas. A parent who follows parenting morality to a “T” would probably do a very good job of parenting indeed. They’d annoy ME greatly, but that’s neither here nor there. What bugs me is the assumption that these rules must be followed to be a good parent. I believe parents (especially mothers – sorry) have a sense of what their kids should and should not do that no set of rules can encompass. Good parents can break the rules and still be good parents.
But for me the icing on this particular cake came later in the same magazine, an article titled “Romance After Remarriage” by Holly Robinson. It’s well written, with suggestions for easing the transition into a blended family that seem great. What would I know? But then there’s a sidebar with the heading “Sleepovers for single parents?” It talks about keeping your dating life separate until you’re in a “committed relationship”, telling your children you’ve invited your friend to spend the night when “you feel the time is right.” Then, “if your preschooler asks why this person has to spend the night, you can simply answer that adults who love each other sometimes have sleepovers so they can cuddle.”
Ready for some “I” messages?
I believe that this attitude is reprehensible. I feel that to expose your children to the risks inherent in a casual sexual relationship is wrong. It seems to me that's putting your physical needs above your child’s needs for safety - emotionally, physically, and morally. And I don’t feel it necessary to take moral advice from a forum that would recommend lying to your young child (unless…do people have dates spend the night just to cuddle?).
So perhaps I was wrong in feeding my kids grapes before the age of two. But I am a better mother because I can read a magazine like this and give it the response it deserves, a snort and a fling across the room.
Don’t bother trying to gently bring me in line. I won’t be grateful.
I was giving Max and Raphael a bath. Raphael was in a MOOD, so his bath time consisted mainly of swiping toys from Max and protesting whenever Max managed to hold onto something. Anything. There was much shrieking and flinging of sodden washcloths.
It was fun.
Max, on the other hand, had discovered that the yellow foam disk they had among their bath toys was…biteable. He was tearing chunks out of it with his teeth and spitting them into the water. By the time I noticed what he was doing he was already surrounded by a small yellow foam armada. “Hey! Stop that!” I ordered in my most enlightened parenting style. He looked up at me quizzically. “We never play with this, Mama.”
“I know, but…”
“Well, now I’m playing with it.”
He did have a point, and I had been planning to throw it away the next time I cleaned the bathroom, but still…
“Ok, but I want every piece of that stuff in the trashcan before you get out of your bath,” I said sternly. Showed him.
Tre was doorway climbing. This means he was bracing arms and legs in the doorway and shimmying his way up. Then, once his shoulders were pressed against the top of the doorway (what’s that called? The bottom is the door jamb, what’s the top?), he’d release the pressure just enough to slide down to the floor. And then he’d start back up again. Once when he was at the very top he looked down to see Raphael get mad at his shark toy and yell, “Meanie! Stoopid!” at it. This struck Tre so funny that he erupted into fits of laughter, which caused him to lose his grip and tumble to the floor somewhat faster than usual. He laid there in a heap, giggling and pausing to grab his shin and comment, “ow.” Then giggle some more.
He’s fine. Probably won’t even have a bruise.
I, on the other hand, am getting old.
Oh, I wanted to give you a quick update on Tre and the knife. He is indeed being very responsible about it. He’s only used it once, to cut a ribbon, and he asked permission first. No horsing around, so I suppose those wacky Cub Scout people were right about this one. He’s just so very impressed with the seriousness of having a pocket knife. Once today he was walking through the kitchen and Claire (our beautiful, stupid cat) saw him and freaked out and ran away. She’s a cat. They’re not the most mentally stable of animals. Anyhow, Tre watched her run away and turned to me, very seriously. “I think Claire saw my pocket knife and it scared her.”
¶ 12/04/2003 11:05:00 PM
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
This morning I was getting breakfast for the boys, which consists of a routine something like this: Stand, befuddled, in the middle of the kitchen for a solid 14 seconds. Determine that I was about to get milk to go with said breakfast. Stomp over to the cupboard, pull out three glasses. Glare at glasses. Wonder what I was about to do with them.
And so on.
Morning, as I may have mentioned, is not my best time.
Anyhow, I had just put two pieces of bread in the toaster and, after a moment of glaring concentration, pushed the little lever down. I was stomping over to the fridge for jelly when Raphael tiptoed up behind me and dropped a small red plastic tube in after the bread. It came with some play-dough, sort of a small rolling pin. Anyhow, I had gotten out the jelly for Max (pomegranate) and jam for Tre (strawberry) and laid out the plates and knives before the thought, “That smells a lot like melting plastic,” finally penetrated the morning fog. I looked around the kitchen for the source of the smell. A smell that was fairly overpowering by this point.
The stove was off. I looked at the toaster. There didn’t seem to be anything touching it, just a plume of oily smoke coming out of it.
Wait. Smoke – that’s not a good thing.
I did remember to unplug it before investigating too far into the insides. Yay, me.
Well, to sum up, we need a new toaster. But at least we have a new red plastic sculpture. It’s very…unusual, and I plan to incorporate it into the Christmas centerpiece somehow. Raphael spent the rest of breakfast skulking around, muttering, “Ah sowwy, Mama.” I’d pat him and say, “That’s ok, baby. Just don’t put anything in the toaster unless I tell you to, ok?” To which he’d reply, “Ah didn’t do it, Mama!”
When I told the story to Mom she pointed out that what he probably meant was that he wished he hadn’t done it. That’s probably true, and a much more charitable explanation than mine about him being some sort of psychopath.
I will tell you one thing.
Nothin’ but Honeycomb cereal for breakfast from here on out.
¶ 12/03/2003 09:51:00 PM
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Tre had a Cub Scout den meeting tonight. Big night. I am proud to announce that tonight Tre earned the coveted Whittling Chip. Do you know what this means? This means he is now allowed to carry a pocket knife.
What the hell are they thinking?
Now, I have to admit this whole Whittling Chip thing is done well. They started the meeting by sitting down the boys around a table. On the table was a whole range of knives, from a little pocket knife, up to a giant meat cleaver. For once the entire gaggle of boys was silent. They stared, in awe. Rules about the proper use and care of knives were sternly read to them, and read back by them. They signed cards bearing these rules, as a promise to live by them. The rules include things like “I will not throw my knife for any reason.” These rules were written by people who know boys. And the boys have to carry their cards whenever they have their knives. If a Den Leader catches a Cub Scout with his knife and he doesn’t have his Whittling Chip card, he LOSES his knife. And if a Den Leader catches a Cub Scout doing something he shouldn’t be doing with his knife, he gets a corner cut off his card. If he loses four corners, he LOSES HIS KNIFE. And he can’t get another until he’s a Boy Scout. Serious stuff.
After the rules portion of the evening was done, they moved over to a newspaper covered table to practice opening and closing their new pocket knives. They carved soap. It was very manly and sober. These goofy eight year old boys all took to the task of carving bars of Ivory like the survival of the village depended upon it. They grimly discussed all the ways you could hurt yourself with a knife, if you weren’t careful. I stood in the corner and observed Tre as he gingerly opened and closed his knife under careful supervision. His glossy brown head bent over his work and he scraped soft curls of soap onto the newspaper. He glanced up, and seeing me watching he squared his shoulders and gave me a very adult nod. And grinned.
But see, I’m a mom. And I watched them hand my little boy, my baby, a knife and thought, “Oh no. I don’t think so. That simply cannot be a good idea.” I wanted to march over, snatch it out of his hand, and glare meaningfully at the Den Leader. Which is why, I suppose, Tre is in Cub Scouts. So someone will give him a pocket knife. Because LORD KNOWS I wouldn’t.
Well, Tre is thrilled. And he’s taking the seriousness of it very earnestly. I think it’s good for him. I think this will help teach him responsibility. I think letting him take this on helps him develop his sense of self as he grows and matures.
I went to get my hair done today. I may have mentioned before that Kristy, my hair genius, has a bit of a chaotic life. Well, her news today was that she’s separated from her husband. Booted him out, actually.
They have two little girls, 2 ½ and less than one year old. It’s not an unusual story. He’s been doing…things and…women he shouldn’t. She had enough and packed his things and changed the locks. As she told me the story, I watched in awe. I wasn’t that together, I thought. She is in charge. I was at sea at that point. In shock. I forgot the baby in the car once. I was not in charge. Kristy tossed her head and announced her intentions as far as child support and visitation. I listened and marveled at how in control she was. I thought all these things because I wasn’t able to get a word in edgewise. “It’s not like I wanted us to split up!” she practically shouted, “He wasn’t coming home at night! I mean, ALL night! Can you imagine?”
Um…I don’t have to imagine. What I couldn’t get my mind around was handling it as well as she was.
Her cell phone rang and she glanced at it and tossed it in a drawer. “It’s him,” she shrugged, and went on. Then the salon phone rang. No one else was there to answer it, so Kristy stepped a few feet away to the desk to answer it. It was her husband. I watched her talk to him. Her posture changed, just melted from the angry woman who had been laying out her battle plan a few minutes earlier. Her shoulders sagged and her eyes fell to gaze dully at the floor. Suddenly she looked like a frightened little girl.
My dad says you can tell a gift from God because it blesses both the person receiving it and the person giving it. The transverse reality is true. Divorce is a gift from Hell. There is no one that goes unharmed in a divorce. The kids, of course. They hurt. The broken couple hurts. Families hurt. Friends hurt.
I sat in the black swivel chair, my hair dripping, and relived the shattered feeling of listening to someone you made babies with speak to you with such rage it sucks all the air out of the room.
No one gets through a divorce without damage.
¶ 12/01/2003 10:44:00 PM