Thursday, January 31, 2008

Devil's Intuition

Today clinched it.

For years, we've ALL heard how mom has eyes on the back of her head.

We all know what it means to a mother when the house gets quiet . . . TOO quiet.

But today, for not the first time, I have become convinced that Demon Baby has devil's intuition. In direct proportion to how stressed I am, to my deadlines, to my personal problems, to his siblings' problems, to my parents' problems, to the weight crushing my shoulders at times, to bills needing paying, taxes needing filing, and bank accounts needing funds, to lack of sleep, too much coffee, to all of that . . . he KNOWS. And he chooses THOSE times to be his most epic monstrousness of adorable demonology.

Hence, three thrown containers of applesauce, two thrown spoons, three pee-pee accidents (after near-perfection all week), one standing on dog crate and telling me it was "monkey bars," five times telling me that ham is really made from "pee-pee and dog poop" (guess he didn't want ham today), three fart jokes, one declaration of "I hate you, mom," one declaration that his nanny was mean and should go home (when she is a saint--she comes twice a week for a few hours), one freeing of the lovebird, and several hair pulls of his brother and sisters.

Demon, indeed. he is contemplating World Domination. It's his world. I just live in it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Something New

Demon Baby is very smart. He speaks in very long, complex sentences, and uses all the little oddities of adults speech:

"Well, generally, I feel that . . . "

"Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of . . ."

"I could possibly see . . . "


Not kidding. So we KNOW he's really smart. And we know, as a criminal mastermind, he is very clever. But all of a sudden, this imagination has emerged.

There are dragons everywhere. Monsters around every corner. Magic, flying things, secret sea creatures in the bathtub, and imaginary friends.

And with this? Has all of a sudden come some fears. I sent him into the family room yesterday while I made him lunch. The family room is connected to the kitchen, but it is dim in there until the afternoon.

"I can't go in there."


"It's scary."


"It's dark."

Then, I asked him to give a treat to the littlest of our dogs--a teeny thing about the size of a Jack Russell.

"I can't do that."


"That dog has scary teeth and she may swallow my arm."

Because he has raced through life unafraid of anything, this is new . . . but I also watch it developmentally. I see it with the emergence of the fantasy imagination--which he has an abundance of. His games and play time are so elaborate. I told him he just may end up a writer.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Super Dog

Today it is COLD here. And as I got the littlest of our dogs ready to go out, Demon Baby said to me, "You need to get Dreamer dressed."

I thought he meant in a doggie sweater because it was so cold. But I also know better than to assume anything with him, so I asked, "Why?"


"Why? Because it's so cold? We don't have a coat for Dreamer. She has fur. She'll be okay."

"No. She needs a Superman suit."

"A what?"

"A Superman suit. Pants and a red cape."

"Why? To keep her warm?"

He looked at me as if I was CLEARLY the stupidest woman on earth.

"No. So she can fly."


Thursday, January 24, 2008


I think Demon Baby and I have moved to a new part of our relationship. I have a newfound appreciation for him.

You see, I always LOVED Demon Baby. He was very, very, very much wanted and loved the minute he was conceived and born. I would say 90% of the people I meet look at our kids--ages 17, 12, 10, and . . . Demon. And assume, given my age, and given he's obviously a late-in-life kid, that he was an "accident." Hell, my own pediatrician at the time, whom I'd known for 15 years, took one look at him on his two-week check-up and said, "I have to ask . . . was he a planned blessing?" And yes, he was.

But then came . . . the Demon Years. Well, I guess it's more like the Demon MONTHS, as he's not that old yet. But . . . at times, as a writer, home alone with him all day . . . all night . . . with very little back-up, trying to get things done . . . I have had moments when, frankly, his decision to fingerpaint on the walls with ketchup is less than endearing. His frankly BRILLIANT decision to fill his cheeks with orange juice and spit it at the windows--all of them--to watch it trickle down the glass and make all kinds of dribbly patterns--and his DELIGHT at this--is, in a word, wearying. There are days when I want to cry, running from disaster to disaster. It's like he intuits I am in the shower and sees what he can accomplish in five minutes. No long, hot showers for me.

But now, Demon's unbelievable intelligence is just blooming. Just like his siblings. And his power of conversation is amazing. His insights and observations. His moments of unadulterated joy at life. The way he just wakes up ready to embrace every second of every day. And, the way he now lies down next to me in bed and tells me things. How we communicate with one another--like we're becoming these wonderful pals in this journey together. I LIKE him. I like being around him. I find he makes me smile. Not just in the cute, "Aww, he's my kid" way, but in this . . . God, this kid's just neat to talk to. He's smart and funny. I really like him.

Which doesn't mean he's not a Demon. But does mean, maybe, that I am learning to appreciate his way of looking at the world. Either that, or I have gone to the Dark Side.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Today the house was quiet.

Too quiet.

I knew that meant trouble.

Oldest Daughter said, "You are so paranoid. WHY do you think it automatically means Demon Baby is getting into trouble?"

"Umm . . . because I carried him for nine months, gave birth to him, have been raising him his entire Demon Life, and I KNOW him."

Of course, silence meant he had dragged a chair to the candy stash, taken gum drops upstairs, and found creative uses for them, mostly having to do with designs in the carpet.

Just now, the Mom Eyes In The Back Of My Head felt he was in trouble just behind me.

"What are you doing?" I called out over my shoulder as I worked on my new novel.

"I'm not doing something."

"That form of denial usually means you ARE doing something."

"I'm not!"

I will spare you the details of what my kitchen looks like right now.

Paranoid? Or psychic. Or simply Mother of the Most Mischievous Boy Ever. You be the judge.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


As a parent, I am proud of all my kids, but I try not to "own" it too much. I worked hard to get Oldest Daughter her violin lessons, her expensive violin, send her to camps each summer, hire good teachers, but SHE had the innate talent, the inner drive, SHE has a passion for it. So I can't own it.

I realize so much of parenting is a crap shoot. You can't be with them 24/7. They are GOING to make bad decisions--and good ones. And you have to hope the combination of unconditional love, nagging, leading by example, prayer, kindess, talking, nagging (did I mention nagging), and the friends they choose, their experiences in school, all combine to create a reasonably wonderful person. Yet as a parent, you are ever aware--gun violence, drugs, underage drinking, sex . . . eating disorders, abusive relationships . . . it's all around them.

My moments of pride, yes, are when my kids win awards or honors--Older Son winning an award last year in Math class, Older Daughter being concertmistress of her orchestra, Baby Girl getting straight As, Demon Baby winning the award for Naughtiest Baby Ever in a Performance By a Two-Year-Old. But for me, my BIGGEST moments of pride, are when they do the right thing. When they show me how good they are as people and human beings.

Oldest Daughter said to me yesterday, "Remind me to make sandwiches on Tuesday." She said it out of the blue, and it was kind of a weird thing to say, so I answered, "Why? Are you getting hungry at school on Tuesday?"

Then the story came out. On Tuesday, EVERY Tuesday, downtown where she has rehearsals, she is approached by the same old woman and old man, homeless, begging for money. Homelessness is a big problem in Richmond. But she said she felt giving money maybe wasn't the best choice. So she decided that this Tuesday, she would bring them food.

It was all I could do to not cry. So then we talked, "What about blankets and sweaters, too?" It's cold this time of year here, and it's been rainy and snowy lately. So, on Tuesday, she will go off to rehearsal with a box of blankets, a soft pillow for a tired head, food, maybe hot soup . . .

And I will watch this kid, not a girl anymore, this woman, actually, put this stuff in her car. I will watch her drive away, this child of mine, and I will feel as proud as when she stands on stage and plays her Bruch Concerto.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Demon Baby has a new phase. Two of them. First, he's got a case of the "why's."

"What are you doing, Mom?"
"Because that's what I do." (I contemplated getting all existential on him, but . . . )
"Because I have to earn a living."
"Because that's how I buy things, like food, our house . . ."
"Because we live in a capitalist culture."

You get the idea.

But he's also, being a Demon, in this phase where ANYTHING he doesn't like, he says will "die." The word is meaningless to him. I think he picked it up from his siblings. "Oh, I was so embarrassed. I almost died." You know, an expression.

So . . . conversations go like this.

"Eat some broccoli."
"I HATE broccoli."
"Eat some anyway."
"NO! Broccoli will DIE!"

We ignore him. He curses the dogs, me, his siblings, wearing diapers, bedtime, to death.

"I don't want to go to bed. I HATE SLEEP! SLEEP WILL DIE!"
"You're going."

In the confines of our won home, we know it's a phase.

This was all well and good until we went to church on Sunday. We climbed out of the car. And then, in the loudest voice possible, he yelled, "I HATE CHURCH. I HATE JESUS. JESUS WILL DIE!!!!"

There are times, lately, when I wonder if I should even leave the house.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

White Babies Can't Dance

White men can't jump, as the saying goes. I've been to a lot of weddings where it's proved time and time again that white men can't dance.

But Latino men? Well, suffice it to say, my guy is an awesome dancer. He's not a little guy, and I can't tell you the number of women over the years who have come up to me at a wedding or party and said, "Wow . . . who knew he could MOVE like that? No wonder you have four kids." So my half-Mexican kids? Demon Baby has got this funny little rhythm. He MOVES his whole body. He does it perfectly, to the beat, and the beat moves him--you can see how music speaks to him.

But the funniest thing is his favorite song to dance to is a completely stereotypical Mexican-Chicano song, "Low Rider" by War. I have it on this little Mexican Santa Claus who rides in a low rider with his reindeer (don't ask). Demon Baby plays it over and over and over again, and each time he hears that bass, he does this little trick with his hands. to the beat. And he smiles.

So white babies may not be able to dance. But Demon Babies? They're smooth.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Life Isn't Fair

It seems like life, sometimes, is one long journey in which you discover that life isn't fair and justice often is just a dream. We raise our kids with the idea that ANYTHING is possible--you can walk on the moon, become president, do anything you put your mind to. And, to a large extent, I believe that's so. But along the way, we all learn that life isn't fair. That poverty and racism or bad breaks or illness or . . . you name it . . . sometimes strike. That life metes out its own unfairness in often random fashion.

And so it is that I often look at my kids and want to delay that lesson. At the same time, I have brought them to the projects with me when I mentored unwed teen moms; they have wrapped Christmas gifts for girls as young as 12 having their SECOND baby. I have done this in matter-of-fact fashion. I have done it because I want to BE the change I want to see in the world, and I want them to believe that though life isn't fair, each citizen can do something--large or small--to even things out. To make the world a little more fair for a child with few chances to escape poverty. I model what I want my children to believe. I model what I want them to someday do themselves.

Like all human beings, I also model horrible days when I am a terrible and mean mother, when I am at the end of my rope, when I am crabby and overtired, and I just don't FEEL like doing five loads of laundry and sewing the new patch in the Ninjitsu uniform.

I suppose that's the "not fair" part. Sometimes, I'm June Cleaver. Sometimes? I'm more like . . . hmm. Psycho mom. (Though somehow I can't picture June Cleaver working in the projects.)

And in a funny lesson of life's not fair? Demon Baby is very underweight. He has what they term "Failure to Thrive." Thus he is to be given butter, fats, whole milk, pudding, ice cream . . . cheese, anything and everything to gain weight. If he wants ice cream and cheese for breakfast and will eat it, he gets it. He has sausage at as many meals as we can fit 'em in. And Older Son and his best friend were sipping diet soda the other day, heading into adolescence and concerned that they stay . . . more trim. And Older Son looked at Demon Baby eating butter on a spoon and said, "You know, life isn't fair sometimes."

And me? Walking four miles a day in the frigid cold right now to get fit, as a woman who looks, well, like a woman whose had four kids, I could only nod and say, "You're right. It's not."

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Laugh, Yawn, Be

I noticed something about Demon Baby this morning as he curled in my lap. He snuggled against me, curled his toes, stretched and yawned. Not a yawn like an adult, when we try to stifle it lest we appear bored or rude. No, this was a full-on Baby Yawn, with rubbing of eyes and stretching. He looked adorable.

But then I realized he laughs with the same abandon. Doesn't care who see, or how raucous he gets. He claps his hands, sometimes does this flapping thing with his arms. He bends over, clutches his tummy and LAUGHS.

There's that old adage Dance as if no one is watching. I pride myself on dancing that way. I'm always first one out on the floor at a wedding. And it's not that I think I'm a candidate for "So You Think You Can Dance." It's that life is short. Dance when you want to dance. But it took me a while to learn that lesson.

And Demon Baby already knows this. Funny, how we come out of the womb with wisdom and then LOSE it as we become aware of the approval or disapproval of others. He yawns and laughs and cries and screams as he sees fit, without care that's it's impolite or in church, or noisy or messy or any of it.

Laugh. Yawn. Be.

I think Demon Baby is onto something.