Sunday, February 29, 2004
  How was everyone’s Leap Day? Did you all observe with solemnity the importance of the day? Yeah, me neither. The closest thing to a Leap Day celebration we had around here is when Raphael played with the Leap Pad.
Today is my friend Amy’s son, William’s birthday. Whoa, tangled sentence. Let me try again. Today is the birthday of William, the son of my dear friend Amy. He’s four. When Amy was pregnant and her due date was approaching around Leap Day, I urged her to have him on February 29. But she said noooo, she didn’t want her son’s birthday complicated by the whole leap year madness. She was hoping to hold out until March.
William was born March 1, and I’ve never quite gotten over it. I’m still convinced she could have had him on February 29 if she’d just wanted to, but no. And now the day is here again…sniff…it’s bringing up old wounds…sniff…
Nonetheless, William is now four, and a fine sturdy lad he is. Happy birthday, William! And Amy and John, you’re doing a wonderful job with him and Carolyn – even if you didn’t have him on the right day. I’ll get over that eventually.
I had a quiet day Sunday, here at home with my boys. Tre and Raphael have a cold so we stayed home from church. Max isn’t sick, but he got to go play with the Natalie across the street, so it was just what everyone needed.
I keep claiming to be fighting the cold, but the truth is it’s fighting back. I’m a little sick. Just a little, and it hurts my pride to admit that. I don’t get sick, see. But there really was no way I was going to avoid this particular disease. Raphael keeps climbing on my lap and pressing his snot-slimed little face to mine, lovingly patting my cheek as he covertly engages in germ warfare.
So I’m sneezing and sniffing and not writing engaging prose. Ah well. I’m off to bed. Better luck to all of us tomorrow.

Friday, February 27, 2004
  Ok, in everyone's life there comes the day. The unthinkable becomes irresistible, and you submit to...
The Quiz.
I couldn't help it. And I gotta say, it's fairly accurate. I don't know what to say about being a Belgian waffle...

You're The Poisonwood Bible!

by Barbara Kingsolver

Deeply rooted in a religious background, you have since become both
isolated and schizophrenic. You were naively sure that your actions would help people,
but of course they were resistant to your message and ultimately disaster ensued. Since
you can see so many sides of the same issue, you are both wise beyond your years and
tied to worthless perspectives. If you were a type of waffle, it would be

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
  I took the boys to get their hair cut today. Hair cuts are one of the details of mothering that I’m simply not good at. Their hair grows and grows and one day I look up to note mildly that they seem to be blinded by their bangs. Geez, I think, they need haircuts again. Already. Let’s see, it’s only been…three months.
Oh. Ok then.
Fingernails too. I simply cannot keep up with their claws. I try to justify my neglect with the thought that if you include mine, I’m in charge of eighty finger and toenails. Now that’s a lot of clipping. No wonder I get behind.
On the way to the hair appointment, Tre asked if he could have his hair spiked. I said that was fine with me, but he’d have to ask for it when it was his turn. Well, the idea snowballed from there, and by the time they left Kristy’s able hands, Tre had purple spikes, Max had green spikes, and Raphael had the silliest headful of wee blue spikes. They look like hedgehogs or rock stars, I’m not sure which. Sort of hedgestars, I suppose.
They were thrillllllled with their new looks, and Tre and Max immediately started pretending to shoot lasers out of the tops of their heads. If it’s cool, it can probably be used as a weapon.
I like the look, I do. But I’ve been surprised by how much I seem to run my fingers through their hair, because I’ve found myself reaching for it many many times today. This always earns me a hasty head-dodge, complete with sour look and the annoyed proclamation, “Moooooom. Don’t touch my hair!”
Life is hard for the mother of hedgestars.

One quick update from the post a few days ago, when I was musing on what the boys might be when they grow up. The other day Raphael decided to follow me into the bathroom. He likes to position himself at the flush handle. So there he was, and as I sat down his comment was, “Mama, yoo gotta big bottom!”
He meant it admiringly, but I don’t think I have to worry about his adulthood. Child’s not going to make it to three with comments like that.

Monday, February 23, 2004
  I took Claire (our beautiful stupid cat) to the vet’s office today. She’d been just a month ago, but it was necessary to take her back for a feline leukemia booster. Last month the vet had told me soberly, “Feline leukemia is like cat AIDS. It destroys their immune system. They die a slow, lingering death. But if you don’t want her vaccinated…” He trailed off sadly, unable to finish the thought. Like I could say no then. I told him, practically begged him, to vaccinate our cat. He wiped away a tiny tear of joy and informed me I’d need to come back in a month for a booster after the original dose.
So today, while Tre and Max were in school, I loaded Raphael and Claire into the van. Claire is a sweet and docile cat, unless you try to put her in a carrier. She goes psycho cat. She claws, yowls, and rams her head against the walls. She destroyed the cardboard carrier we brought her home in. So all things considered, it seemed kinder to carry her into the office.
Oh, Claire was fine. She huddled against me, trembling. But the sight of my flagrantly unrestrained animal sent the vet’s office staff into paroxysm of self-righteousness. What IS it with people who work with animals? I’m an animal lover, I really am. Hey, I went for the feline leukemia vaccine, right? I care, I really do. But I simply cannot care about all the many rules that separate the “good” pet owners from, well, me.
First person who laid eyes on me, my cat, and my Raphael trotted over with a deeply concerned look on her face.
“Oh, no carrier. Well, why don’t we put you right in a waiting room? You know, we had a cat get away last week. She ran right out the door before we could stop her.”
I followed her to the waiting room, feebly explaining Claire’s aversion to carriers.
“She’s fine really. She won’t let me put her down, see?” And I set her down on the examining table and let go. She scooted over to me and latched onto my stomach with one pawful of claws. I winced, and then said breezily, “The last thing I have to worry about is her running off.” The vet tech shook her head disapprovingly at me, and then ducked out to get my file.
I lifted Raphael up onto the table next to Claire, and we spent a few moments petting her and saying reassuring things to her. Raphael seemed to feel that what Claire really needed was a finger in the ear, but was convinced to restrict himself to gentle pats on the back. After a while the vet came in with the syringe. She gave Claire the shot, then turned to me and asked somberly, “Would you like to buy a carrier for the ride home?”
“Uh, no thanks,” I said weakly, “Claire really hates those things…she-“
“Last week we had a cat get out the door. No carrier.” She raised her eyebrows meaningfully, “There is a very busy road right outside our door.”
”I’ll keep that in mind, thanks.”
We headed to the desk, to settle the bill. I handed the payment to the lady behind the desk. She gave me the itemized bill and as I was perusing it she asked if I wanted to buy a carrier. By this time I was annoyed.
“No, but thanks,” I said in a very unthankful tone.
“Just last week someone brought in a cat without a carrier and it got out the door. Ran away. It might have gotten hit by a car, I don’t remember.”
“Yes, so I’ve heard,” I replied through my teeth. “Um…fifteen dollars for an office visit that just consisted of one shot?”
“Yes. It’s office policy.”
The way I figure it, that makes five dollars for each rendition of the “cat with no carrier” story.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
  I know it’s pointless, but I tend to look at my sons and imagine what they will be like when they grow up. Tre will be fine, I think. He’s such a determined soul; I believe he’ll be successful at work. He’ll be a captain of industry. At home…well, my hope for him is that he’ll marry a kind and patient woman who will often say to him, “I know, you’re right. Now how about you just let it go?” A woman who can smile and nod indulgently, because LORD that child can persist.
The other day we were in the car and I had put it a Veggie Tales sing-a-long tape for Raphael (Raphael loooooooooves Veggie Tales). Tre was objecting vociferously, insisting it was his turn to choose the tape and he wanted this tape and why didn’t I take the tape from him and on and on and on.
I sighed, and explained yet again that even if it was his turn, I needed Raphael to stay awake, so I was going to leave the Veggie Tales tape on and he could stop asking now, thankyouverymuch.
Two seconds passed, and Tre launched into yet another diatribe on the unfairness, nay the HORROR of the airing of Veggie Tales yet again, when we had just listened to it the other day on the way down to Colorado Springs so now it was his turn and he should get to listen to the “Determination” tape and-
“Wait a minute;” I broke in, “what tape is it you wanted to listen to?”
“This one,” he replied, holding up the “Core Values” tape, “the one on determination.”
He still doesn’t know what I was laughing at.
What Max will be like when he grows up is more of a puzzle. For now my money is on either Nobel Prize winner or homeless person. On the one hand, he’s got this complex mind. He loves playing chess, and no one can beat him at mancala. On the other hand, he’s got this complex mind, and God alone knows where it will take him. The other day he announced he has a “lost and found” in his room. He took me to look at it, and there it was, a basket with assorted items from around the house. I peered in, and among other things there was my newspaper, the board from the Cooties game, a pair of socks from Raphael’s drawer, and Tre’s nightlight.
“Honey,” I said, “these things weren’t lost.”
He looked back at me with that inscrutable tiny smile, “well…now they are.”
“So they’re lost because you found them?”
He gave a sigh at my stupidity, “yes, Mama. Lost and found.”
“Where did you find Tre’s nightlight?”
“Plugged in his room.”
“Ah. Well, put it back.”
See? Who knows where he’ll end up?
And Raphael. Well, it’s hard to separate his personality from his two-ness. He’s so very loud and enthusiastic…the best picture I can come up with for him is a cheerleader. Our president was a cheerleader, right? But then, I’m not about to accuse the child of having what it takes to become president, for heaven’s sake. I mean really. Bite your tongue.
But like I said, it really is pointless. I mean, when I was eight I was an odd little girl who read books in trees and had a bad habit of lighting fires. Um, in the living room. I don’t know where my parents imagined my quirks would take me, but I don’t think they could have imagined I would be the person I am today. I almost never light fires in the living room anymore.
I guess I’ll just do what parents do, try to hold my hopes loosely, ignore the sweaty fears in the middle of the night, and hang on and enjoy the ride.

Thursday, February 19, 2004
  I’ve just finished watching “As Time Goes By” on PBS, and now I’m thinking in an English accent. Such a sweet show. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s about an English couple, in their…what…fifties, I guess. They were lovers when they were young, then lost touch. Years later, after his divorce and years of her widowhood, they run into each other and strike up an awkward but sincere courtship. So sweet.
So now I’m all emotionally gooey and thinking in an English accent.
I used to watch this show with my ex. It came on at ten every weeknight and I would be sure the kids were in bed and hope he would be home in time to sit next to me on the couch and hold my feet. He worked in the restaurant industry, so he came home late a lot. If he made it home in time for “As Time Goes By” it was a good night, an early night.
When I saw it was on again tonight (it’s been off the schedule for a while) I had to watch it. It was like checking in on old friends you haven’t seen in ages. Plus I wondered how I would feeeeeeel about it.
You know, since I used to watch it with him.
Well, I felt fine. It’s a funny show (luv that British humor…er…humour), and the characters were as endearing as ever. I didn’t find myself thinking about my ex at all. Instead I thought about the premise of the program, this unexpected meeting that sparks an entire new direction in both their lives.
You never know what’s around the bend.
I’m pleased to report that that sounds hopeful.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
  Want a news flash from the estrogen-American perspective?
Periods suck.
By which I mean the monthly menstrual cycle, not the punctuation marks.
But you probably already figured that out from the snippy tone of this post.
As if cramps, nausea, and a blinding migraine headache aren’t enough to make me just jump up and click my heels because I’m a woman, I also seem unable to form a coherent thought.
Case in point, I started this with some…point I had to make….
And now it’s gone.
I also misspelled migraine.
I hate those squiggly red lines in MS Word. They pop up the minute you hit the space bar after misspelling a word. Leave me alone, squiggly red lines. I'll spell check eventually. I don't need you bugging me.
I also hate the squiggly green lines. They’re there to point out grammar problems, and they seem to think sentence fragments are always a grammar problem.
I don’t.
Leave me alone, squiggly green lines.
I give up.
I’ll try again tomorrow when most mental functions should be back on line.
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
  Well, first of all let me say that I feel y’all’s pain as far as my comment server goes. Whoo, is that thing bad. I’ve been trying to respond to Cate all afternoon – no dice. In general, boy did you all have something to say. Feelings ran strong on this subject, pro and con, and allow me to congratulate all of us on a discussion maturely handled.
All except you, Josh. You’re a big goober head.
But a goober head with some good points. Yes, there is already a non-religious form of marriage widely recognized. I wouldn’t say a couple married at the courthouse weren’t married, although I would say that having a civil ceremony excises much of the beauty of the marriage ceremony.
On that point, no Cate, I wouldn’t presume to say you’re not married. First of all, I’m not Catholic, so I don’t play that particular game. Secondly, my own marriage ceremony was performed by my grandfather, who is an Alliance minister. I don’t belong to the Alliance church, yet I considered my vows to be valid.
Which brings up another good point, the irony of the divorcee trumpeting the sanctity of marriage. Don’t think that escaped me, and I thank you all for not mocking me on that. I don’t want to get into the details of my divorce. I’ve really avoided that here. But suffice to say that it wasn’t my choice, and it was what many (non Catholics) would call a justifiable divorce. And yet, given what I believe about marriage, the fact of what happened to mine will never sit right with me.
But there you go. I fell short of my own ideals. Some would say that makes me a hypocrite, to divorce and then go on to call marriage a sacrament. I would say that it actually makes me qualified to say what I’m trying to say.
On the one hand, here’s the ideal I hold to. It’s my cult, if you like. It’s the standard by which I decide right and wrong.
On the other hand I know, painfully and personally, that we humans ain’t gonna get there. We all fall short in our own ways.
I recognize that we all live in this space between the two, between the ideal and the real. We’re all in the same boat and how on earth could I judge my fellow passengers? The trick is to hang onto the standard without using it as a club against others.
I don’t know if where I stand on this does that. It’s the best I could come up with, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best.
Monday, February 16, 2004
  Ok, Lani, you asked.
If you clicked through there, you read the blog of fellow MomWriter, phenom NaNo winner, and someone I like to think of as a friend, despite the fact that she wouldn’t know who I was if I bit her. I mean, she knows who I am, but not IRL (in real life, Mom). So I guess she’d say, “Why are you biting me, short woman?”
Lani asked the question “…what the hell is up with people freaking out over gay marriage?” This is a question I do not want to get into for two reasons. 1) I hate confrontations and just want everyone to like me all the time and can’t we just ignore all the bits we disagree on and…*whine*. And 2) I don’t feel it’s my place to impose my beliefs on others who don’t hold to the same faith as I do.
Nonetheless, I fess up. I disagree with gay marriage.
Whew, there I said it. Now, let me back up a bit and tell you what I’m not saying. I’m not saying gay people are in any way less than heterosexuals. I’m not saying they can’t form loving relationships. I’m certainly not saying they should be discriminated against as far as jobs, insurance, benefits, etc. Laws should be fair to all people. Refer to point #2 above.
But marriage. Marriage is a word that means something in my religious tradition. It’s a concept that arose from a religious framework and to people within that religious framework it has a very specific meaning. (By the way, I’m not narrowing that religious framework to Christianity. All your major monotheistic beliefs have pretty much the same take on marriage.) To me, marriage is a sacrament.
Let me repeat.
Marriage is a sacrament.
Or to quote the Book of Common Prayer, “The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.”
It goes on to say that one of the sacraments (there are seven) is Holy Matrimony, “…Christian marriage, in which the woman and man enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows.” (BCP, Catechism)
Now, I realize that there are those who profess the same faith as I who disagree with this. Let me say that while I’m not bothered by the smiling couples lined up outside the San Francisco courthouse, the people who have vowed to defend the faith and choose instead to work to subvert it to their own will…those people upset me.
So speaking for myself, I do not support the idea of taking the name of something that holds deep significance in my religion, and using it to describe something else. Let me use an illustration. Say I decide I want to make a new holiday. I want it to be a month-long celebration. During this holiday we’ll eat huge amounts of food, tell dirty jokes, and get drunk nightly. Sounds like fun, right? Now I decide I want my holiday to be called Ramadan.
Ok, now we have a problem. That would be offensive. My new holiday runs counter to the meaning original celebration of Ramadan, and to call it by the same name is insensitive and arrogant.
Well, the word “marriage” already means something. Something with deep significance to believers around the globe. I’m fine with the establishment of a civil union for homosexual couples (or heterosexual couples joined in a civil ceremony), but to call it a marriage is wrong.
There may come a day when the beliefs of Christians, Jews, and Muslims hold so little significance in this country that no one objects to a new definition of the term marriage. For today it still holds a special, specific meaning for many people.

Sunday, February 15, 2004
  Two more signposts recently on the road to my babies growing up. Raphael has hit “normal dysfluency,” a period where his machine gun fast mind outpaces his motor mouth, and he stutters. It’s disconcerting to him. He’ll start to say something and get hung up on a sound. Yesterday the boys, Mom, and I were out to lunch with my grandparents and Raphael leaned over and said to me, “Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh..” he stopped, looked irritated and started again, “wh-wh-wh-wh-wh. Ah can’t say wh-wh-wh-.” He broke off in annoyance, then shrugged and went back to his chicken fingers.
I’m not worried about it. I was when Tre did it, because I worried about everything Tre did. But I’ve seen Tre come out on the other side with his language intact, and then Max survived it fine. What’s a little sad about it is that I know in a few months when this resolves Raphael will have moved into a new level of language. He’ll sound less like a baby and more like a little boy. Not sure I’m ready for that.
And yesterday Max was looking at a music box. He was watching the workings inside the box, whirring under the glass. He was transfixed, leaning against my arm and watching the teeth of the drum pluck the metal bands. “It’s like a pinano,” he breathed. Across the room Tre snorted.
”PIANO,” he corrected disdainfully. Max watched the music box in silence for a moment.
“Piano,” he murmured.
I glared at Tre, but it was too late. Pinano has become piano. This is just how lallow became yellow. You would think Tre would have learned not to correct his brother’s adorable mispronunciations, but nooooooo. He’s got this thing about accuracy.
And so we move on.

Thursday, February 12, 2004
  I’m going to have to make this quick because it’s late and I’m tired. Now, I know I’m whining, but it’s all true. Allow me to explain.
1) It’s late.
After Tre and Max were in bed I decided to let Raphael have a bath. Yes, I know Raphael’s the youngest and it’s bizarre that he should have the latest bedtime. It’s my own personal problem. He still takes a nap, you see. If I’d just cut out the nap, he’d go to bed with the other boys. But I can’t even begin to imagine…no nap…I try to think about that and my mind slips gears…I go away to my happy place…
Tre was happily reading, Max was sound asleep (the child falls asleep faster than anyone I’ve ever known), and Raphael was splashing around in the tub. I puttered around, put things away, cleaned the cat box, thrilling stuff like that. Normally I would have started writing the blog right around then. But I couldn’t exactly go downstairs to the computer and leave the cherub in the bath alone, now could I?
He stayed in there for one hour and fifteen minutes. And then he was hauled out under protest. He played and talked to himself. He carried on dramas featuring the alligator and the dinosaur. He did water pouring experiments over his head. I swear the child would still be there, but I put my foot down.
I dried him off and tucked him in my bed to warm up. The water had cooled off considerably, after all. I had turned on my electric blanket, so it was nice and toasty in there. He had his favorite pre-bed snack, animal crackers, and was very happy indeed. After a while I realized it was nearly 10p.m. Enough already.
“Time for bed!” I announced cheerfully. I reached for him and I swear to you, the child growled at me. He clutched the cover under his chin and growled like a cornered cat.
Fortunately I’ve been a mother too long to be intimidated by children who seem possessed. I managed to wrest him free from my bed and into his own, thankyouverymuch.
2) I’m tired.
Tre has been trying to kill me. Ok, not literally. At least, I don’t think he could be convicted. But he’s hit a new high in schoolwork avoidance. Usually it’s really not a problem, but every so often he gets in this non-working rut. Today it took him TWO SOLID HOURS to finish his math. And the really horrifying thing about that is that math is his favorite subject.
Oh, he tried, he really did. He would start to work on a problem, then become stymied by the fact that he seemed to be turned around in his chair, with his legs lopped over the back. You think it’s easy to do multiplication like that? Huh?
He’d turn around and lean over his paper again, only to have his pencil spring from his hand to the floor. So he’d lean over to pick it up and fall, ending up suspended between two chairs by his shoulders. This would remind him of a joke…
Two hours.
I’ve learned when he gets like this it’s best for everyone if I just stand back. Put his work in front of him and retreat. I’m available for questions and I’m clear with the consequences if the work isn’t done, but other than that he’s on his own. Otherwise I end up sitting next to him, barking, “Look at the paper! Look at it! HERE! What does it say? No, HERE!”
Not good.
So I let him be and he diddled around until time was up and he’d lost GameBoy privileges for the day. Heartbroken wails, gigantic tears.
He was pretty upset too.

So there you go. To sum up, 1) late 2) tired.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
  I am not panicking. See how calmly I’m sitting here, not panicking? I’m typing. I’m writing coherent sentences. Certainly not panicking.
My lawyer’s office called yesterday. It seems my ex has scheduled a meeting – a review with the county’s child support office. I don’t know why. I’m not afraid of money issues.
But I have to see him. March 26 I’ll be in the same room as him.
What’s that term psychologists use? Compartmentalizing? There are pictures in my head, representing the eras of my knowledge of my ex. When we met and dated. When we fell in love and married. The children being born and changing both of us – forever, I thought.
Then there’s the era of the end. The marriage splintering around us. The unbelievable cruelty of divorce. I still can’t look at that unblinkingly.
Then he was gone. Just gone. Slowly we all came to understand that the phone ringing wasn’t him. The doorbell wasn’t him. He was out of our lives.
Now if I think of him, it’s the early years I think of. There are many good moments to recall. He’s a memory, harmless and misty. Sometimes I blurt out a sweet story from our early days to people who know what the end was like, and there’s an awkward silence. But the early picture is good. And the later picture is shoved out of my mind.
Every so often, though, it hits me that he still exists. He lives, out there somewhere, and I don’t know where or what his life is like. What clothes he wears. If he’s flossing his teeth. Who he rooted for in the Super Bowl. But even though I don’t know anything about his life, he’s out there, living. It’s jarring; to admit the reality of him into the peace I’ve grown into since the divorce.
He exists.
The last time I saw him it was an accidental encounter, and it was horrible. He was so angry and I argued with his anger weakly, my words dissipating into thin air between my mouth and his ears. It was like a dream, where you scream and nothing comes out. I felt like my lungs would collapse from the useless effort of trying to make myself be heard.
He exists, and he hates me.
If I can sit in the same room as him and not shake with that knowledge, if I can refuse to argue with his logic, if I can respond to his anger coolly, I suppose I can do this.
He may have gone on with living but so did I, after all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
  This morning after breakfast and a brief newspaper reading/hide-n-seek playing session
I hauled the many school books to the table. I flipped through them for a moment, pondering all we’ve accomplished thus far this year, and I felt like a successful homeschooler.
Then it took one solid hour to get Tre to settle down and start working, complete with tears and arguments and consequences, and I felt like a homeschooling sham.
We survived the morning, and for lunch I served homemade spaghetti and meatballs (cause yes, I’m just that cool), with grape juice to drink and followed by actually remembering to give them their vitamins, and I felt like a nutritional genius.
After school I let them eat a few of the leftover chocolate candies from their school valentines, and that became one more, became one more, became one more. Soon they were all three sitting amidst a pile of pink and red foil, faces smeared with chocolate, eyes glazed, and I felt like a nutritional child abuser.
There was a moment while we were doing school where Tre and Max were both bent studiously over their work, scribbling happily away. Raphael was in the other room, listening to music and quietly working on puzzles for FORTY FIVE MINUTES, and I looked at them and glowed with love. I thought how amazing my kids are and how great a mother I am and wished I could have at least two more.
Then a while later Raphael somehow got a Go-Gurt tube out of the fridge, punctured the bottom, and carried it around. Sort of an indoor evil blue sprinkler system. Tre and Max watched me dance around, trying to grab the Go-Gurt from a flailing Raphael. They got a good laugh. When I finally had it in hand and was surveying the damage, Max remarked, “I saw him with that and wondered when you’d take it away. What a mess.”
And I wasn’t sure I even wanted to keep the kids I have.
Now all the darlings are tucked in bed and as I think about the many moods of me today I realize…
What? You expect a moral of the story here? Please. Have you been paying attention at all? Mine is not the most stable of minds, and I’m taking it to bed.

Monday, February 09, 2004
  James Lileks had a plea on his Bleat today for disastrous Valentine’s stories, preferably from grade school. Being (as previously noted) a simpering Lileks fan, I dutifully sent off my wee tale of woe. It turned out much longer than I’d expected, so I thought I’d share it with you too. Enjoy.

Ok, here's my sad tale. When I was in second grade I fell in love with Johnny. Not a shocking thing, all the girls loved Johnny. He was beautiful, with his glossy black hair and soulful brown eyes...*sigh*
Anyhow, by the time Valentine's Day rolled around in the third grade I was ready to declare my devotion. I had tackled him on the playground once and kissed him on the cheek, but that hadn't been received as well as I'd hoped. So I decided to give him a Valentine's card. Not just any card, but the perfect one that expressed just how I felt. I pawed through my stack of tear-on-the-perforation-cards, looking for the one that said it just right.
And there it was, a sweet scene with two puppies under a flower. One was smiling at the other, who was shyly gazing at the floor. It read, "I really like you."
Except that wasn't enough. Oh no. I scratched out "like," going over it with my pencil again and again, leaning hard into it until the word was hidden behind a glossy black box. And over "like" I wrote "love." And underlined it. Then I filled his envelope with about twenty conversation hearts (my other classmates got one to three conversation hearts, depending on where they stood with me at the moment). And oh yes, I chose the conversation hearts with just the right messages. And I'm pretty sure I kissed them too.
The next day, during the Valentine's party I fished his card out of the paper bag of cards I'd brought. It wasn't hard to find, it weighed about a pound from all the candy and sentiment. With a thundering heart I dropped it in the paper pocket taped to the front of his desk and moved quickly away. I finished delivering my cards and retreated to my desk. I nibbled a cupcake and tried to imagine what Johnny would say.
Well, what Johnny had to say, he didn't say to me. Soon there was a group of boys (odious creatures) in the corner, huddled around Johnny. There was much laughter. I watched, aghast. Surely they weren't...Johnny wouldn't...they weren't looking at my card! I stood slowly, trying to see what was causing the commotion. Johnny looked up and saw me. The crowd drew back, and he looked from me to my card, in his hand. There was a long pause.
Then he rolled his eyes and dropped the card in the trash.

I cried for hours.

Your turn! Tell me your tales of love scorned! Or, you know, leave me hanging here like the only pathetic sap to ever make a fool of herself. That'd be cool too. 
Sunday, February 08, 2004
  I was reading Lani’s thoughts recently on racism. She wrote about being shocked by what people have to live with (except in California), and it got me thinking about my own experiences with racism.
When I was eleven I went to school on an Indian reservation. I was the only white kid, and never a day went by that I wasn’t reminded that I didn’t belong there. I was actually hated just on the basis of my skin color, a shock for a naïve white girl. An actual minority for once, I knew what racism felt like. It tasted like your own blood running down the back of your throat after a few girls caught you in the bathroom. It sounded like your voice dropping to a whisper in public because your language wasn’t the right one. It looked like the ashen tones my memories of the reservation are colored in.
But I moved away.
I’ve always said that although I knew what is was like to be discriminated against for those few years; it’s not the same as what some people experience, because I could move away. A new town, and no one looked at me with the thought, “look, there’s that white girl.”
Then years later I got engaged. To a Mexican.
Honestly, it hadn’t occurred to me that this would be that big a deal. I hadn’t really thought about it while we were dating. But when I started flashing my little bitty diamond around with that newly engaged glee, I started getting surprising comments.
“Wow. Your mom must be upset.”
Well, yes she was...but why do you say that…
“Huh. Well, at least he’s not black.”
This one left me speechless. I just stared for a moment, then walked away. After a few hours I had sufficiently regained my composure to walk back and say, “If he was black, at least we would have grown up speaking the same language.” But I’m not sure what my point was supposed to be there.
“What?” one person spluttered, “Why? Why him? Are you doing this…I mean is it because you’re being chaste?”
I actually thought she was asking me if I was being chased. When I realized what she was asking was if I was marrying just so I could have sex, I gave her a withering look and said sarcastically, “Oh yesssss. I’m only marrying him to get me that Latin lovin’.”
And it wasn’t just the anti-Mexican voices either. My…let’s see, what would that make her…future former mother in law? Anyhow, when I met her she was in her kitchen, folding laundry. She leaned across a basket of clothes and shook my hand.
”Nice to meet you. I want you to know it’s not in God’s plan for people of different races to be together.”
I stammered something lame about us not being of different races…and besides at that time we were only dating…and within me grew a resolve that hadn’t been there before. Shoot. Crazy woman never should have challenged me like that.
But I was busy picking out a dress and didn’t care what all the fools had to say, so I didn’t give it too much thought.
Then our first child was born, and the comments again. A good friend was holding him one day and speaking dreamily of the day she would have children with her boyfriend. She cuddled my brown wee boy and brushed her fingertips across his mahogany colored hair and said, “And you know we’d have to have beautiful babies! Since we both have blonde hair and blue eyes, they’d have to be perfect!”
Because, you know, blonde hair and blue eyes=perfect.
You can imagine how well that went down with the mother bear in me. I was and am to this day extremely protective of my boys.
Well, now I’m divorced and the trails get more difficult. My ex is…non participatory in his kids’ lives and there are things that he did that I can’t agree with. So. When I hear about other fathers who are Mexican who have abandoned their kids there’s a part of me deep down inside that snorts, “figures.”
And I know when I hear that voice that it’s my part in this. I’m playing my role in the same drive that left me bleeding in the bathroom. There, inside me, is where my fight is.
After all, “The line between good and evil does not run between nations, but through every human heart." --Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Thursday, February 05, 2004
  I was working out tonight in the weight room and got into a discussion with some of the other women in there about the mirrors. Like most weight rooms there are mirrors on all the walls, but recent construction has required removal of one entire wall of mirrors. We were all agreeing that this was a fine idea, and talking about how nice it would be if all the mirrors in the gym were replaced with particle board.
I know, I know, you need the mirrors to check your form. But most women hate mirrors. Irrationally, intensely, and abidingly.
A while back I read the winning entries in a writing contest. The subject was, “Write a letter to your mirror.” The entries, almost ALL of the entries were full of such loathing. I believe a contest with the subject, “Write a letter to Osama bin Ladin” would have elicited kinder responses.
Why is that? Is it as simple as the line that we’ve been taught by society to hate ourselves as women? I dunno. There’s something to that, I’m sure. We do get bombarded with a whole lot of unrealistic images. Airbrushed photos, sliced and injected celebrities, all of that. I’m sure that’s one element.
But I like to watch this one trainer who works at the gym, Olga. She’s from Russia, and came here almost two years ago…and lost about a hundred pounds. I’ve seen the before pictures, and she was a big girl. Now, she’s got a trainer body – except with a squishy little tummy. Some things just don’t snap back the same. I can say that, I’ve had three kids.
Anyhow, Olga looooves looking at herself in the mirror. When she’s leading a weight circuit class she dances with herself during the sets. While we sweat and lift, she fixes a pleased eye on herself and gets down to the music. She turns to the side and checks out the back view; she flexes her muscles and looks pretty happy with the whole package (except that tummy I mentioned. It leads her to require waaaaaay too many tummy crunches of the rest of us).
Now, that’s a cultural difference. Easy to pass it off. But what does that mean, a cultural difference? Does it boil down to the fact that when she was in high school, she could check herself out in the mirror without the other girls accusing her of the unforgivable sin of “being stuck on yourself”?
And who gets to decide what the culture is anyhow? Maybe it’s us. And maybe we don’t have to hate the mirrors quite that much. Tell you what, if you’ll look at yourself today and grin and nod – just find one thing you really like - I promise not to call you “stuck on yourself.”
Dare ya.
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
  Occasionally I believe it’s important to look at certain assumptions with a cool, logical eye. For instance I’ve been musing today about the idea that has simply run amok among parents today, that imaginations are something to be encouraged in children.
Oh, I know that limber minds and the ability to approach problems from several angles will serve them well some day, out in the real world. But I’m talking about now.
What’s best for ME?
If Tre didn’t have such an active imagination I wouldn’t be subjected to quite so many fanciful scenarios.
“Mama?” he said as I was filling his bubble bath, “what if I put so much bubble stuff that the bubbles went whoosh and filled the bathroom and went out in the hall and we were all like waaaaahhh and the bubbles swept us down the street and –“
“Tre,” I interrupted, “get in the bath.”
“Ok, but what if I could fly and I was sitting up on that ledge up there and when you said ‘get in the bath’ I jumped down and you went aaaaah because you thought I was going to make a huge splash but since I could fly I stopped myself right above the water and then I just floated down?”
“Tre. Get in the bath.”
“Ok, but what if I threw these bath toys and one went whoosh over on this side and the other went over here on the other side and the other went zing right in front of me and –“
“Tre. [heavy sigh] Get. In. The. Bath.”
It’s not that any one of his what if’s are all that bad, it the constant stream of them all day. I’m thinking what if he was the kind of child who sat meekly in front of the television all day? Now that would be peaceful.
If Max wasn’t so imaginative he wouldn’t have had to try sucking on his arm until a dark purple hicky the size of a silver dollar bloomed. Pair that with the crying Quentin of yesterday, and I just know social services are starting a file on me.
If Raphael weren’t so imaginative he wouldn’t have to try things like taking a mouthful of milk, then leaning back and gargling until great milky bubbles foamed over his lips and down his face.
So I say DOWN with imagination! Let’s take away the good books and park them in front of the television. Let’s discourage exploration of their environments and encourage exploration of naptime.
Who’s with me?
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
  There’s a mom I know from Max’s preschool class. She has a seven year old girl, a four year old boy, another boy who’s almost two, and a daughter who was born just a few weeks ago. Last week as we were waiting to pick up our respective preschoolers, I noticed her leaning against the wall rather wearily, and a bright idea occurred to me.
“Hey,” I said to her, “I was planning on taking the kids to the zoo Friday, and Max would love it if Adam could go. Would it be ok if –“
“Yes,” she broke in.
“Oh – great! Um…since Ellen and Tre are so close in ages, would she like to –“
I’m pretty sure she would have given me her dog too, had I asked. Poor woman needed a few moments peace. Well, unfortunately we didn’t get to the zoo last week, what with all the illness around here. Today I was looking at the weather, hoping to find a day in the near future where I could schedule a zoo trip. No dice. This week and next, nothing but snow and cold and ickyness. So instead today we went to the museum. It used to be called the Natural History Museum, now it’s the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Eh. The museum.
It was interesting, having two other kids along. I don’t actually know them or their family all that well. But spending time with the children of a family gives you great insight on who they are as a family. For instance, at lunch they showed me the tags they wear around their necks. They look like dog tags, with their names, addresses, pertinent information like that.
“Our dad got them for us on line,” Ellen informed me.
“Oh, do you wear them all the time?”
“No, just when we go out to crowded places like here or the zoo or the amusement park,” she replied.
So there you go. Already I know that this family is careful and organized. Although I supposed I could have gleaned that from the fact that their garage is cleaner than my kitchen. And then there was the fact that my boys seemed to make them pretty nervous. Every time one of them would climb up on something, like a bench or stone wall, Adam would shake his head at him and say, “You really should get down. You could fall and break your head.”
But lest you think I’m judging this nice family, I’m really not. I know that kids provide glimpses into a family, but they’re like core samples. Narrow and not necessarily representational of the whole.
Monday when I picked Max up from preschool, his teacher handed me his papers from the day. One was a picture of a boy, with the words “Quentin is quiet because…” and space for the child to dictate the rest of the sentence. Max had completed the sentence with, “…he’s in trouble because he yelled at his mom.” He’d added many many tears to Quentin’s face.
Yes, Max had just recently gotten in trouble for yelling at his mom. I’d told him to do something and he hadn’t wanted to. With characteristic Max intensity, he’d turned around and shrieked at me, “No! I WON’T!”
All I did was send him to sit on the couch. You gotta believe me. It wasn’t a scene or a scarring experience for anyone. Except Max seemed to be brooding about it a bit.
It would be easy to look at this picture (Quentin has MANY tears) and assume that our home is simply rife with tension. But it’s not.
So although I learned some things about this family through their kids today, I’m not making any assumptions. What I know for sure is that these kids are polite, they had a great time with my kids, and I’d be happy to take them to the museum any time.
And if I forget their names all I have to do is check their tags.
Monday, February 02, 2004
  The hour is late and the day was long, so I’ll skate by here with a cheater blog. I don’t have time for a long and deliberate train of thought tonight. If you really miss that, re-read yesterday’s post (oh, like you read the whole thing anyway!).
No, tonight what you get is nothing more than a few Raphael-isms. He’s at such a ripe age for cute little sayings, and I just have to share.
The other morning Raphael woke up early and climbed in bed with me. He snuggled up, feeling all cozy and happy to be free from the crib. I lay there with my eyes closed, vainly trying to snatch a few more moments of sleep while he chattered.
“Ah’m gonna be nice to Mama,” he promised solemnly. I mmm-hmmm’d an encouraging response. He’s been doing that a lot, verbally rehearsing behavior he intends to do. He wants to do what’s asked of him, he really does…but it doesn’t always work out that way. So he gives himself these little pep talks. I consider it another positive sign of a developing conscience. But then I’m something of a sucker.
“Ah’m gonna be nice to Mats. And ah’m not gonna hit Ona.” He meant Iona, his beleaguered friend I’ve mentioned before. “Ah’m not gonna boo Cwaire. And…” he paused to think, “Ah’m not gonna hit all the stoopid kids.” He smiled proudly at me.
What do you say to that?
Then just yesterday he was accompanying me to the bathroom and hopped on the scale. He’s come to believe that the scale makes him big, since every time he gets on it I peer down and exclaim, “Wow, aren’t you getting big!” So now whenever he gets on it he pats his tummy and says smugly, “Ah gittin’ bigger an’ bigger an’ BIGGER!” Today he was looking at me, making sure I admired his rapid growth. He followed up his announcement of imminent bigness with a shake of the head. “An’ yoo gittin’ small and small and small,” he informed me.
You know, there’s some truth to that.

Sunday, February 01, 2004
  Hi, all. Did ya miss me? Well, I survived the illness around here and more to the point so did the boys. I know I've been lax in my blogging, but I'm back on the blogwagon...or whatever.
So I had a busy weekend, with three, count 'em three parties. Friday was a baby shower for a cousin, Saturday was a surprise birthday party for an old friend (I can call her old now, she's 30) and then there was the obligatory Super Bowl party today.
Babies everywhere.
Of course, you expect a baby at a baby shower. At this baby shower there was the baby of honor, two other babies, and one pregnant woman. At the birthday party there were two babies (including the birthday girl's two month old daughter - I had no idea she'd had a baby. It's been a while since we've gotten together), and two pregnant women. Many many ultrasound pictures.
Then there was the super bowl party, with some of the dearest people I know. Two of them are pregnant, but they're both old hands at this baby stuff.
Now, the thing about pregnant women and new mothers is the drive to talk about your baby. This is fine, this is normal. Lord knows I did it. Ahem. Some would suggest I still do prattle a bit on the subject of certain wee boys. But new moms are just starting the journey of figuring it out. Some are well read and confident, some are bewildered and questioning. But most of them want to talk about it.
I love talking about baby stuff. I love babies. And new moms are just adorable. But I've come to feel a bit wary about entering these discussions. They're simply fraught with landmines.
I've run across some great blog entries lately about the "mommy wars." This one at Strong Coffee, for instance (read the post titled "My Parenting Pet Peeve"). They point out the ridiculousness of mothers attacking one another over their parenting choices. I've been on the receiving end of that sort of righteous indignation, and it's not a good thing. There is so much parenting guilt out there it drives me nuts. Personally, I blame the "parenting experts," who have undermined parents' confidence by acting as though there are rules every parent must follow in order to be a good parent. We've bought into the stories about "Six Things You Must NEVER Say to Your Child" and it causes an atmosphere of guilt and anxiety. Add on top of that the proclivity toward competitive parenting (my six month old is sitting unassisted. Yours?), and it gets ugly.
But truth be told, the well said objections to the "mommy wars" cause me a twinge of guilt. Because I don't attack other women, but oh my I think it. I've spent many years now sincerely working to understand this job of motherhood and what works for my kids. I've made mistakes I regret sorrowfully, and I've figured out solutions that make me smile just a bit at the tidiness of them. I care about the subject, and it's hard for me when I see a fellow mom doing something that I have come to believe is a mistake.
But I usually don't voice my opinions, because like I said, there are a lot of landmines out there. So while I was biting my tongue this weekend I had a lot of opportunity to muse on why this was so emotional.
I remember when Tre was a newborn and I would take him out into the world. I was simply besotted with my child. I remember saying in all seriousness, "I just don't know why people walking down the street don't burst into tears when they see him, he's just so beautiful." I had it bad.
And I heard a lot of advice from a lot of people. Cover his head. Take that sweater off, he's too warm. You should never put socks on a baby's feet; they'll cut off the circulation to his toes. I remember one woman walked up to me as I held Tre. He was sucking on a pacifier. He used to work at his pacifier with such a serious expression and steady pace that we called it "putting him on binky duty." Anyhow, she marched up to me and snapped, "Get that thing out of his mouth. I just HATE to see babies with those disgusting things in their mouths."
I was taken aback. Not just by her, but by all the people who felt they needed to give me advice. Was I that inept of a mother? Could they recognize my complete inability to raise a child? Were they right about the sock thing?
I thought about it a lot. I only had one child then, so although I thought my days were unbelievably busy, I still had time to think.
And the conclusion I came to is that the advice of strangers is a compliment of sorts. Not to me, but to my son. We all go around with unexpressed opinions about the people around us. Whether it's the smell of the guy next to us in the elevator or the way the woman ahead of us in the parking lot is driving. There are things we notice in the people around us and would change if it were up to us. But we don't go around telling people these things. I may be certain that the woman in line ahead of me at the supermarket should rethink the gold lame pants. But I'm not going to grab her by the elbow and set her straight. Because it would hurt her feelings, and ultimately what do I care what she wears?
But babies...ah, we care about babies. So whether it's our business or not, and whether it will be well received or not, people tend to speak up when they think they see a baby that's not being treated right. Because those babies are just so precious.
What I have to admit to myself is that my desire to lecture some hapless new mom comes from that itch in my arms for the wobbly heft of a newborn.
So what I think I'll try to do when I feel that urge to pass along my unsolicited parenting wisdom to some mother is to say what I really mean.
"Your baby is just so precious. Good luck"

My new baby. Ain't she cute?

06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 / 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 / 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 / 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 / 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 /

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