The 8-year-old boys I know are receiving their First Holy Communions. They are helping their dads and uncles build backyard playsets. They are scoring goals and hitting home runs.

My boy born eight years ago isn’t doing any of that. And he won’t ever. I watch these other boys, amazed at what they do, amazed that I still miss that my son — my *first* son — won’t do any of these things.

I still cry sometimes about it. Usually in private.

It also lends me some perspective, of course. When one of my children is being difficult to parent, I think to myself, “Well, at least I get to parent her.” When Michael gets me up for the second time in the night for a snuggle, I am able to remember that the alternative sucks worse than broken sleep.

Which is not to say my live children get a pass. But it does, sometimes, give me pause.

My children — Flora, Kate, Michael — will receive communion, and score goals or do back flips, and will draw me into awkward conversations. Gabriel will never, and it’s weird some days to figure out if Gabriel is still their “older” brother since, from the moment that each of them drew their first breath of air, they lived longer than my first-born son.

I’m a little sad today, and I’ll be a little sad every time I watch an 8-year-old boy be an 8-year-old boy this year. Sadness goes with the territory as much as perspective.

I haven’t been to the cemetery in awhile, and I miss the ritual. It was soothing. Maybe I’ll try again this weekend, after Flora’s soccer game. Just a quick stop, some white flowers. Six now. To see his name, and to see my live children wander among the angels.

No Questions, Please

I was changing Michael’s diaper the other day, and Flora happened to be looking on.

She’s a curious child.

Flora: Does his pee come out of that (pointing at his penis)? Or out of that (pointing at his testicles)?

Me: It comes out of his penis.

Flora: What’s that? (Indicating his testicles.)

Me: Those are his testicles.

Flora: Do they hold pee?

Me: No. (And that’s where this conversation should have ended. But noooo.) They hold sperm.

Flora: What’s sperm?

Me (silently to self: Shite!) (out loud): Sperm is what a daddy uses to help a mommy make a baby.

Flora then makes a serious of extremely awkward and hilarious hand gestures, pointing toward her body, indicating that she seems to know that a man’s special part goes into a woman’s special part for said baby making.

Me: Yes, Flora, the penis goes into the vagina. That’s how babies are made.

How do I get into these discussions?

Memory Lane: Erie Ghost Story

(For Father Spoon)

Every town has one: The haunted house or field where one day a father (sometimes a mother) snaps and murders his spouse and children. (Doesn’t every town have one?)

In Erie, it was called Axe Murder Hollow. Mr. Jones (I don’t actually know the alleged family’s name) slaughtered his wife and four (?) children with — you guessed it — an axe. It was a deserted field on the west (maybe east) side of town.

And one night, after watching The Exorcist with some of my friends, including my prom date/boyfriend-for-six-weeks-afterwards Mike, we decided to pile in Mike’s beater and take a ride out there.

We weren’t even drinking.


The Exorcist is a very scary film. Still, I think Poltergeist (the original) is way scarier. And that’s because I suppressed most of my memories of The Exorcist. When people say, “Have you seen The Exorcist?” I say, “Yes.” And then when they’re all, “Do you remember the part when her head spun around/she said those things/she did that thing with the crucifix?” I’m all, “No. No I do not.”

Poltergeist, on the other hand, I vividly remember. Especially the part when the guy rips his face off. That scene may be a prime reason I’m a vegetarian today.

In terms of today’s horror films — the Saw franchise springs to mind, not that I have seen a one of them — Poltergeist is probably pretty damn tame (or lame, your pick). But nothing at that time was scarier to me than trees that could reach through windows and eat you, or clown dolls.

CLOWN DOLLS, people. *shudder* That’s like taking the scariest two things from my childhood and combining them. And then bringing them to life onscreen.


I love horror films, incidentally. I love the suspense and the chills, and being too scared to sleep. But I haven’t watched horror films in a long time. (And regardless of how scared I get, I’m too tired now-a-days to *not* sleep. So, win, I guess.)

Because my husband is a wimp. He *hates* horror movies, and won’t watch them. And I won’t watch them alone. I mean, what good is that?

Although we did watch 28 Days Later together. And Sean of the Dead. (Okay, technically speaking, not a horror movie.) And Identity. That was kind of an accident; we thought it was a mystery, plus it starred John Cusack. We like John Cusack.


So: I bring home The Exorcist from Home Video Exchange (where I worked) one night. I have a few friends over for a viewing.

And it is terrifying. (Incidentally, I think I got in trouble for bringing it home, too. My father was not pleased. Although that may have been another movie… Darn if I can remember though.)

And somehow the subject of Axe Murder Hollow comes up. Six teenagers decide to get in a car, and drive out to the scariest part of Erie.

And we were *smart* teenagers, too.

The entire ride, we were giving each other the willies. I believe Tim made up an entire story line about a gypsy that cursed the family because they wouldn’t let said gypsies camp on their land, and one of the gypsy children died in a car accident.

So, as we descended the hill into the “hollow” of Axe Murder Hollow in Mike’s car, and H “saw” a gypsy woman on the side of the road, we started getting even more freaked out. Crying may have been involved at this point.

Mike parked the car and turned it off. Then something — a noise, a shadow, a raccoon — spooked us, and that pretty much sent this carload of teens (three girls, three boys) over the edge. Pleas to get us out of there started.

Mike’s car wouldn’t start. Or so he claimed. I was sitting in the front seat, and I saw him turning that key for all he was worth. I may have even given it a shot, because by now we were sure we were going to be pulled bodily from the car by ghosts and ripped into tiny pieces.

Scary movies, ghost stories, and teenage hormones. Do not mix.

Mike’s car finally, mercifully, and reluctantly came back to life, and we drove hell bent for leather out of Axe Murder Hollow. I’m sure we recovered over cheese fries, with ranch dressing and ketchup, at the nearest Perkins.

The next day, Mike called. “I took my car to the mechanic,” he said.


“He said he couldn’t believe it had started again last night. My [very vital car engine part] is fried. He can’t even get it going.”

“You lie!”


True Story.


What’s the scariest movie you’ve seen? What’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you? Does your neck of the woods have an Axe Murder Hollow?

Six Months and Forever

Dear Michael,

You have been here, in the outside world, for six months.

You have one of the most pleasant personalities I have ever encountered in a baby. You smile easily, and you are a shameless flirt.

You are *lunging* for things these days — not scooting, not crawling, but laying on your belly and pushing, hard, with your feet. You are fast, too, you little bugger. I have cracked out the playpen — a tool I didn’t employ with your sisters. I had to; it’s the only way I can keep you safe and still get things done. You don’t seem to mind too much, but I’m sure that will change as you become even *more* mobile.


It feels like you have been with us longer than these six months. Mostly in a good way.

Sometimes it feels longer because of late nights. Sometimes it feels longer because of long days.

I swear, sometimes you get up at 2 a.m. just to have a cuddle with me. You will fuss in your crib until I come get you, change your diaper, and plop down on the couch with you and a comforter. After an ounce or two of a bottle, you are snoring in my arms. Dude, it is super adorable, but at 2 a.m., I have to admit, I would like to be sleeping.

The long days are because you are absolutely determined not to go to bed until your big sisters do. Even when you doze off at 7 or 7:30, you pop awake — sometimes in an outraged fashion — an hour later. You want to be a part of bath and bed time with your sisters, darn it all!

But it seems you have always been a part of this family. We have been expecting you, I guess, our third baby to raise, our second son. It’s a weird feeling sometimes, and hard to explain.

When you are parents of a still baby, and you go on to have more babies, you know that no baby is a replacement for the lost child.

And yet, somehow, you and Gabriel are conflated in my mind. Sometimes you wake up in an unfamiliar setting — because our social calendar doesn’t always conform to your nap schedule — and you look around, a little confused, a little pissed off. I think, “Well, ya should have come along first.” But that of course wouldn’t have worked out so well. Because it didn’t.

It’s like you are our family’s missing piece. I knew, after Kate, that we weren’t done, that we didn’t feel done. You complete us; as soon as I knew I was pregnant with you, I knew you would be my last baby. Which is why I’m so glad things worked out. To put it mildly.

Of course, that feeling — that we weren’t done — is going to always be true, in some way. You are our missing piece, and yet, we still miss a piece of our family.

This is garbled and confusing and it doesn’t quite get to the root of what I am trying to say. So let me just leave it at this:

We are so happy you are here. You fit with us. You are living large: literally, at almost 20 pounds, and figuratively, with two big sisters who make you belly laugh and who want to feed you (as long as it doesn’t interfere with play time too much). Your daddy and I love nothing more than to kiss your cheeks and have you fall asleep in our arms. You are amazing and beautiful and I’m glad we have been given the gift of you.


Your Mama