It was one of those nights. Five had asthma attacks, so I was up giving him aerosol therapy, and then checking on Lou, who hadn’t eaten all day and was uncharacteristically sprawled out on the couch in my office, one of her usual spots.

The couch has been covered in plastic for days because of her kidneys. She drinks and drinks and pees and pees, and most of the time, because her kidneys have not been functioning, she can’t think straight and pees wherever she happens to be.

I could have taken her to the vet and ended it, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I figured as long as she was eating and didn’t seem to be in pain, it wasn’t time. Last night, as I stroked Five’s hair to the monotonous hum of the aerosol machine I decided the time had come.

This morning she was a grim sight to behold, still sprawled out on the couch, and Nine said his goodbyes before we left to take him to school. Five stayed home with me and we arranged her as comfortably as we could on a towel, until the vet’s office opened and I could call to see what they recommended.

I sat down next to her and saw that she was barely breathing. By the time I could call the vet, she’d died.

Five minutes later the new people renting the offices downstairs rang the bell to say there was a pretty serious leak coming from the laundry room in my apartment and could they come in and check it out with the plumber?

Then it was time to take Five to the pediatrician, then Lou’s body to the vet, then home to work and wait for another plumber.

While fixing Five’s lunch, I kept glancing down at the space around my feet to make sure I didn’t trip on Lou. She always stands right next to me, or behind me, whenever I am in the kitchen.

We knew it was coming, and she hadn’t been herself for a long time.

Five will be fine, my work will get done, Nine has comic book class tonight, which he loves.

I took the plastic off the couch but I will leave her water dish and dry food out another night.

Posted in Lou, nostalgia | 9 Comments

more on five, the bossy one

Our bedtime ritual involves a hot water bottle, a book and snuggling. Almost every night, as he feels around for the mole on my neck, his security spot, he says to me:

“Rub my back now.”

Sometimes he adds:

“You can give me kisses. If you want.” And he sighs audibly, to be sure I realize the extent of the concession he is making for me.

“Rub my back! Rub my back and give me baci.”

Last night, he clarified:

“You always rub my back when we start to snuggle. Ok? And you can give me kisses. Ugh! If you want.”

Posted in The boys | 2 Comments

one of the countless joys of motherhood

I eagerly wait for Five outside his school and I know that his smile for some reason will be brighter and his little face even more endearing than I remembered.

He drops his backpack at my feet and the litany of complaints begins.

Today I asked, “Before complaining why don’t you first say ‘Hi Mommy, I’m happy to see you’?”

“Because I not.”

Posted in The boys | 5 Comments


My cat is sick, has been sick since this summer when we left her with trusted friends. What at first seemed like nothing very serious swiftly spiraled into a rash of ailments and the vet has spoken two or three times those very terrible words, “There is nothing, really, that we can do.” Which of course I hear and understand, and gulp and say I’ll take Lou home and have a think about it, but then at home she’ll ask for food or limp all the way to her litter box for once and I say, “Well, now! Look at that. Maybe we were wrong.”

But we were not wrong. As I reread what I have written, even as I wrote it, I realize that there is nothing, really, that we can do and to tell myself otherwise is self-delusion. My cat is very sick and it is getting more and more difficult to take care of her. Her kidneys aren’t functioning properly and so she drinks and drinks and drinks and the water goes straight through her. I can’t change out the newspapers under her fast enough.

The vet gave me two choices, take her home and let her die or bring her in and do that other thing. My mind is almost made up, I just need a little more time to brace myself for it.

Her condition has nothing to do with our friends who took the absolute best care of her possible. It is just one of those things that could have happened at any time, and probably the stress of us leaving her in a different house brought it all out.

Posted in Lou | 13 Comments


Today feels like the first true day of fall. It stormed last night and was still very dark when I woke up this morning, but the sky brightened to a brilliant blue and the air was crisp and cool for the first time this season. On our way to school Five noted, “Brr! It’s cold today!”

I was so enjoying the unseasonably warm weather we’d been having, and although it’s a shame that it will soon be cold, this feels good and right through and through; this is what a real October is.

Three years ago, another October, the boys and I moved into this apartment, and in the first days of November I was legally separated. Like most things and as impossible as it seems, that was a lifetime ago and also not much more than a mere second.

The apartment has slowly evolved; I am always moving the furniture around. A good friend recently gave me a desk, one of two, and she kept the other. I am sitting at it now, and it is just the right size and the wood has loveliest yellow hue to it, and whenever I am admiring it I think of her, possibly working from home herself at my desk’s sister, and it feels good and right; this is what a real desk is.

About a month ago, another good friend patiently listened to me complain about my living room again. “You need to get rid of those couches,” she said.

“I need to get rid of those couches,” I said. And I have been saying that to her for years. As much as I wanted to be rid of that big, bulky living room set, I could barely stand to let it go to anyone but him, and he would have none of it. They were the first big, grown-up furniture purchase we ever made.

My friend, though, she is an architect and designer, and she is studying Feng Shui. “Seriously. You need to get rid of the couches. They are holding you back. Find a way to do it. Whatever it takes.”

And so I did. I found someone – another good friend – who needed them and would pick them up and take them away, and it hurt a little bit to let them go. I almost came up with an excuse at the last minute, but I didn’t let it stop me.

The couches are gone. And yes, it is a shame, they were very nice couches, but too big and manly for my taste. Now they have a new home to which they’re better suited. And now, for the first time, I like my living room. I go in there. Even when I don’t have to. And I sit down. Last night I read in there and almost fell asleep on the couch, a small, comfy yellow loveseat, a hand-me-down from another good friend. It is just the thing. The space felt good and right. Yes, I thought. This is what a real living room is.

My ex and I have almost reached the end of our mandatory three years of legal separation. We’ll be eligible for a divorce in a week and a half. There will be paperwork and legal fees, but soon it will done. It’s a shame since he is a good person and we have the boys and all that, but not everything is the right fit. I like my life now. It feels good and right through and through; this is what my real life is.

Posted in Separation anxiety | 10 Comments


Yesterday morning, before I opened my eyes and it was still dark enough outside to not know what the sky was like, I assumed it would be another beautiful, sunny day, like most of the days before, but soon I saw that it was dull and rainy on the first day of October, and I thought of that poem by Robert Frost about nature slowing down before it climbs into its cozy winter bed, and the poem invites us to slow down too.

Today, though, it is sunny again with bright blue skies, the perfect backdrop for shimmering leaves about to turn.

We haven’t had an October like this since the year I was pregnant with Five, when my firstborn son and I spent every afternoon at the park. I didn’t know it at the time, but life was slower then. (You never know it at the time.)

All summer he had asked when his baby brother would be born and I had told him it would happen when the leaves had fallen from the trees. One day, we were sitting on a wooden bench outside the small nature reserve by our house. A leaf flitted down from above us, swirling and curling as it fell. He gasped and our eyes met. It was magic.

By Robert Frost
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Posted in nostalgia, something beautiful, The boys | 4 Comments

my practical son

Five has an electric toothbrush and, since Monday, he had a loose tooth.

He was brushing his teeth tonight and decided he might as well use the toilet at the same time, little did he know that he would lose his first tooth just as he was standing over the bowl, and it would be lost forever.

(We couldn’t see it in there, even with the flashlight, and I was glad we couldn’t. Did I really want to fish it out for him? I don’t think so.)

He wasn’t very clear on how the Tooth Fairy operated, and when Nine briefly filled him in, he had a host of questions that Nine has still not asked.

“Does she come every night just to check? How does she know to come?”

“She’s a FAIRY,” Nine explained. “Duh!”

“Magic,” I offered.

“Or she looks on the computer,” Five said.

Nine suggested we write a note to her explaining what happened, so he’d still get his reward. “Just say that your tooth fell in the toilet.”

Five considered this, but only very briefly. He had a better solution: “Mommy, why don’t you just give me some money?”

Posted in The boys | 2 Comments