Posted by: alegra22 | June 1, 2011


“Come look at your daughter,” Dan calls to me from the hallway.

“What?” Joaquin is pulling at my shirt, shoving his head beneath it, attempting to scale his way up my body.

Your daughter, come look.” Every parent knows that ‘your‘ is code for ‘your genetics, your fault.’

I hoist Joaquin up to my hip, he wraps his arms around my neck and wails, pulling me toward the block of cheese on the benchtop. “Hush, you little beast!” I nuzzle his cheek, the noise bouncing against my ear, shattering, raining down. He redoubles his efforts. I flick on the water jug, grab the coffee, put it within easy reach. It’s going to take more energy than I have just to clean the frenchpress and grind the beans.

In the hallway, Dan stands, bewildered. Zaviera is crouched on her bedside table, her frog pajamas around her ankles, a small square mirror held at an odd angle in front of her butt.

“What is she doing?” He asks.

Zaviera looks up and smiles, nodding at me as if to say, “Go on, Mommy. Tell him. You get it.”

I sigh. “She’s trying to see the pimple on her butt.”

Zaviera nods enthusiastically, almost losing her balance. “I’m trying to see if it’s red!”

She returns to craning her neck as if the matter is now settled. Joaquin yanks me back into the kitchen, his nose scrunched, his lungs expanding, preparing for another declaration of the injustices served upon his small but sturdy personhood. Earlier, he expressed his sour mood by shoving a box on his head and walking around, his hands waving in front of him, happy for the solitude but not willing to sacrifice his need for mobility. He’d run into a wall and keep going, as if running into walls was nothing compared to what he’d been through at daycare.

“Nooooo more noise, Joaquin. No more complaining,” I clutch him and twirl. I lift him high above me. I blow fart kisses on his neck as his weight falls into me. The effort buys my nervous system a few minutes of peace. Scooping a kitty off the counter and dropping her to the floor unceremoniously, I begin to slice meat with one hand. Joaquin weedles his fingers down the inside of my shirt. Sol shouts from his bedroom, “Can I get out now? Has daddy left yet?”

I take a deep breath. “No, you can’t get out until daddy comes to get you.”

“What? What?” He is only a few feet away, hanging from the doorway. The cat is back up on the counter.

“You heard me.” The words are bulky, hard to form, even more difficult to launch into the air. They bang against my teeth, rattle my skull. I don’t have the extra oxygen to go over the lesson with him: It’s okay to be angry at your sister but it’s not okay to push her or hit her. Instead, I hiss at the cat. Joaquin grabs for the meat. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I have black lines of mascara or eyeliner or both smudged beneath my eyes. I’ve been walking around looking like a bad caricature of myself and my husband didn’t seem to notice.

Sol comes bursting out of his room, singing and dancing, as if this will distract me. “Da-nah-nah-nah-naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” he moves his arms like an electric squid, gives me a Sol-sideways-sly look and announces the real magic, “Watch THIS!” He yanks down his sweatpants. “Ta-DAH!” He puts his hands on hips and moves his hips side to side, continuing his herky-jerky strangely coordinated dance. He’s wearing shorts under his sweatpants. Dan is standing behind Sol, once again bewildered and disturbed.

And once again, I am looked to for translation. “He had shorts on underneath,” I say, trying to ease Dan’s confusion at his son’s robotic burlesque. “It was his cool transformer-ninja-I’m wearing shorts under my sweatpants dance.”

 Bored with the whole thing, Joaquin sticks his finger in my ear. Jabs at my teeth. Points at the cheese. Opens his mouth. I brace for the noise.

I shove a piece of cheese in Joaquin’s mouth, “Why didn’t you tell me I had make-up all over my face?”

Dan shrugs, “I don’t know. By the way, you have make-up on your face.”

I think about this as I dish soup into bowls, step around the movement of small bodies, get nearly toppled by Pepita, throw a load of laundry in the washer, butter bread, pour drinks for the children — I’ve been walking around with black smudges beneath my eyes and nobody noticed. I laugh quietly. Nobody notices this, either. Zaviera and Sol are fighting over who gets to sit next to me, who gets the green or blue plate. Zaviera is winding up to launch herself across the table at Sol, claws extended, fangs bared.

I sit down next to her, praise her, turn her attention away from her brother’s badgering. “We’re the girls, aye, mommy!” She smiles her gap-toothed grin and feeds me my lines, as she always does. “Say yes, Mommy. Say ‘we’re the girls!'” She nods her head, waiting for me to follow her cue.

I catch Sol slipping a bean beneath the table. “It’s not a bean,” he says. “It’s a boogar.”

“Your nose isn’t big enough for a boogar that big. Besides, you used to love eating your boogars. No excuse, eat.”

An hour later, quiet has descended. I move on legs that have lost their boundaries. My muscles and skin blend into air, into the absence of noise. Part of me ends at the walls of our home, part of me continues to bleed into the night. My vertebrae click as I breathe deeply. I glance up in the mirror, the make-up has returned. Small smudges beneath my eyes, at the corner of my cheek. I lick my thumb and wipe at my skin. I stop and study myself. Hair comes out in wisps around my face. There is cooking oil on my new shirt. Small patches where Joaquin pressed his mouth into my shoulder, kissing and mauling and howling.

I am a rough-edged stone picked up by the hand of motherhood. I am tumbled and polished into something precious by my days.



  1. That pimple-observing made me laugh for a minute then think that if she had two mirrors she might not have to strain so hard to see it. Ah, to be a girl!

    Our cats are finally smart enough to know they can’t go on the counter when we’re around…mostly. However, we put crickets in a container to feed the scorpion (yeah, went a little too long between sprayings again) and the temptation was too much. Fortunately we were able to reposition them to a spot the kittens can’t reach.

    Smudgy or perfect I’m a little bit in awe of your eyeliner. I have never once put it on in a way that can be deemed attractive. Makeup and I have a strange relationship and I’m a little suspicious of its promise to look natural so I use very little and mainly in low light situations so people won’t be able to immediately tell that I have no idea what I’m doing with it. One day I may invest in a class to tell me how to wear it but in the meantime I just pray that I don’t look ridiculous.

    The promise of chaos still intimidates me at times but then I read your blogs and it really helps me realize that I will be able to handle it. So far Nick has been a gem, noticing when I get a little too stretched and taking over so I can get a bit of quiet. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Logan fits into our family and what element he adds to the mix of personalities we have running around. However, I think right now I’m actually happy to have a scorpion over a dog as a third “pet”. He’s much quieter, easier to clean up after and I don’t have to worry about him making a mess when Nick and I are at work!

    • I’m not going to lie because you’ve known me long enough to observe my slow adaptation to the chaos – I still reach a ‘breaking point’. Luckily, like Nick, Dan doesn’t really have a limit on the amount of noise and bustle he can tolerate. He has an ability to tune it out that I don’t. I know I’ve said it to you before (either through blogs or conversation) but I feel like the first year or two of motherhood is like a second stage of pregnancy – you’re giving birth to your ‘mother self’ and your entire nervous system gets rewired. I think the trick is being gentle with yourself, investing in earplugs, knowing when you need to let off some pressure or give yourself a quiet ‘time out’. Sometimes I just stand in the middle of the room and take it all in – it reminds me of how crazy-beautiful it all is.
      I used to think applying eyeliner was my single talent in the ‘female’ department – now, I’m no longer sure it was ever a talent. I think I might have been in denial all of these years! Like you, I’ve never quite mastered the girly things, but hey, I’ve given it a good effort (not consistently, mind you…)
      I can’t wait to watch you transition into motherhood!

      • Earplugs I have, combat-style no less! I love that Victoria is getting more into reading so I can enforce reading time when I need the time out (and reading relaxes me so double bonus). There are times when I look around and feel like queen of the house-mountain, proud of my family and relieved that I still have the ability to remember that when V has 5 or 6 friends over and Nick is out that it’s only temporary and the smiles definitely make it all worthwhile. (Crafts, games and baking/decorating baked goods go a long ways towards helping during slumber parties and other multiple friend events too!) I can definitely see the rewiring happening and I’m so glad you’re here to cheer me on!

  2. I’ve just finished reading “Always Looking Up” which is Michael J. Fox’s sequel to “Lucky Man” and they way that he talks about his family reminds me of you and your family. If you haven’t already read them, I highly recommend them both to you! He is an amazing man.
    Also – reading through the comments posted on here I am reminded of a lecture that I went to the other day at work where we were talking about brain activity. When resting, a woman’s brain shuts down 10% and only operates on 90% but a man’s brain shuts down 30% and only operates at 70. I think this harks back to older/cave womany times when Woman was in charge of the children and had to be hyper-vigilant and it explains why husbands are immune to the majority of the noise. . .
    I can’t wait for the chaos of children. . .

    • I read this percentage out to Dan over breakfast (and yes, I was cackling). It makes perfect sense to me! I’ll read that Fox book – whenever I’ve read his thoughts I ‘ve been deeply inspired/humbled.

  3. ” I am a rough-edged stone picked up by the hand of motherhood”. How do you come up with a line like this? Where does it come from? And what a perfect way to end this piece. You Deeply amaze me. Your writing reminds me of the way Copper Wimmin would come up with certain harmonies or phrases-I believe it is called channeling. It’s as if it already exists somewhere in the universe perfect and completely formed and if you are in the right state you can simply *pluck* it down and it is yours. Thats how perfect this felt to me. All the detail, raw and uncensored, creating almost a musical cacophony and then this gem that ties it all together so poignantly. I hope this makes sense. I think you are so gifted. Micheal J. Fox? How about Eros Alegra in the house with a New York Times bestseller? O.K. now my low threshold for caffeine is really showing…..I love you.

    • can I just say: I LOVE ALYX ON CAFFEINE!

  4. Oh I know those says. And dear lord, your writing makes it impossible to say anything other than “wow.” So good.

    • Christina, I thought of you after I wrote this. I thought, “She’ll get this, even if I didn’t capture it as well as I wanted to, if anyone will get this, she will…”

  5. This was great Alegra! It really made me laugh…especially Zaviera.

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