October 27, 1986

The kids haven't had much trouble adjusting to life in the apartment. We weren't here ten minutes before the girls were dangling upside-down from the swings like a couple of baby bats, surrounded by scads of new "friends." Already Jamie has become a ring-leader, organizing the other kids into elaborate games of make-believe. ("OK, now I'm the teacher and you're the students.") And Kacie has a boyfriend named Micah. ("I wan' go to my boyfriend's HOUSE," she says.)

They've had rocks thrown at them by some of the older boys, and they're picking up some undesirable words and mannerisms from their new friends - last week Jamie pulled down her pants and "mooned" someone! - but I think this would have happened no matter where we were living. Sooner or later they would be exposed to the real world. (Now if only I can get Jamie to quit exposing herself to the real world ...)

Jamie does miss Ray. Once in a while she'll stop whatever she's doing and look at me somberly and say, "I miss my Daddy." When she asks me, "Will we ever live with Daddy again?" I say, "I don't know ... it depends." I think she understands that some things haven't been decided yet, and at the moment she appears to trust my judgment.

October 31, 1986

Hallowe'en. Feeling marvelously light-hearted ... we've managed to get through the first month in the apartment, and we're neither broke nor lonely! I've still got money in my checking account and some spending money in my purse, and I get my next welfare check tomorrow! I paid all my bills on time and kept gas in the car. I'm proud of myself.

Busy day ahead. Kyle, his tummy full of toast and milk, has gone down for his nap. Jamie and Kacie are keyed-up and anxious to go trick-or-treating. They're running around the apartment like wild Indians, bombarding me with questions and requests. "Can I have a spaghetti noodle?" "Which Grandma's house do we go to first?" "What time will Daddy be here?" "Would you play 'Ghostbusters' again?"

Tonight I'm taking them to trick-or-treat at Grandma St. John's, Dad and Valerie's, and Mom's, and then to a Hallowe'en party here at the apartment complex. So it's a big day for them. I bought their costumes at Value Village for 75 cents apiece. Jamie is a rag doll, and Kacie is a little orange bird. I also bought a makeup kit so I can paint Kyle's face a little bit, maybe make him into a kitty or a clown.

Jamie is all excited about seeing her Daddy tonight (if he shows up).

November 2, 1986

On Friday night after the kids returned from their Hallowe'en party and I was getting Kyle ready for bed, there was a knock at the door. Jamie and I answered it together, thinking it was another bunch of trick-or-treaters. It took me a full minute to recognize the person standing on our porch. "Oh my God!" I said, "It's Daddy!" He'd just gotten another one of those silly perms: his hair was a mass of Shirley Temple curls. He stood there grinning, holding a half-case of beer and a pizza. "Daddy!" Jamie shrieked, and then Kacie came running to the door hysterically shouting "Daddy! Daddy!" ...

... Even Kyle, who distrusts anyone but Mama at the moment, kicked his feet wildly and made "pick me up!" noises.

Ray brought a bunch of treats and food (pizza, apples, candy, rubber vampire bats for the girls, coffee for me) and stayed all weekend. Yesterday he watched Kyle for two hours while I took the girls to the library. Last night we made tacos and watched TV, just like old times. The girls have loved having him around, I can tell. He went out on the playground and pushed them on the swings for a while, and I could hear Jamie bragging "This is my Daddy!"

Bits and pieces

Fall 1986

Kyle has begun pulling himself around the apartment by his arms, like a little baby salamander: he'll be crawling in another week.

His sleeping problems are leveling off a bit, knock wood. He was only up once last night and the night before.

I have a phone! Our number is 242-6623.

Other things about my son: he can sit, unsupported, for thirty seconds or so. He loves his walker, and the wind-up swing that Kelli in Apt. A-16 gave us. He eats virtually anything except baby cereal, which he steadfastly refuses. He says this funny little thing that sounds amazingly like "HOT dog!" that I just love. When he wants my attention he goes "Mmmmm! Mmmmmm!"

We're still calling him "Henry" all the time, which, I'm afraid, is probably destined to be a lifelong nickname. Already he responds to "Henry" more than he does to "Kyle." In really awful unthinking moments I actually call him "Hen" ...

November 1986

Scene from this evening:

My frozen diet dinner is in the oven, and my salad sits waiting on the kitchen counter. I'm in the living room watching TV; Kacie and Jamie have been playing in the kitchen for the last half hour or so. "Girls!" I say, "Please come out to the living room while my food is cooking." Jamie wanders out and sits down next to me, but Kacie is still out of sight. "Kacie! Come here!" I say, a bit more sternly. "I don't want you playing around that hot oven!"

Kacie emerges finally, and I see immediately that her face - her mouth and chin - are covered with salad dressing. The little urchin has been out there eating my salad! I fly out to the kitchen and discover more than half the salad is gone. I'm tired, hungry and cranky, and I verbally land into Kacie. "YOU DON'T LOVE ME!" she shouts, in tears, and runs down the hall to her bedroom. The door slams shut.

A few minutes later I hear a furious pounding noise coming from the bedroom. I knock on the door. "May I come in?" I ask. "Yah!" Kacie shouts ... pound-pound-pound ... she is sitting on the floor of her closet, pounding on her old workbench toy. "I mad at you an' I doon dis!" she says happily, giving me a look of such goony, satisfaction that I burst into laughter. She has certainly found a way to manage her anger. "That's OK," I tell her, kissing the top of her head. "You can be mad at Mama." And she smiles at me sweetly.

November 1986

Interesting things heard around the apartment

Jamie: "Hi, I'm the Pugick Power lady, and I'm here to shut off your 'lectricity for six hours."

Kacie: "I wish I had an orange now ... I WISH."

Kacie: (putting her arms around my neck) "You a good Mama."

Jamie: "My favorite number is five."

Kacie: "My favorite number is salmon."

Jamie: (exasperated) "Kacie, this is cooperation - now co-op!"

Kacie: "I'm so hungry, my tummy is just falling apart."

Jamie: "Kacie put a color crayon in her ROOT-beer!"

November 1986

Kyle, age six months

... He's still moving around pretty well these days, considering the fact that he hasn't started using his hands and knees in a legitimate crawl. Well, he does use his knees, but he doesn't pick them up very far. Actually, it's difficult to describe the way he moves around because frankly I've never seen anything like it. I guess you could say he drags himself around by the arms! He's very strong and very determined.

His love for Mama is unwavering. I must confess (this is hardly a secret anyway) that the feeling is entirely mutual. I am besotted. I love his little body, his funny faces, his personality, his throaty laugh, his energy, his strength, his sense of humor ... I love all his silly hair, sticking out all over his head ...

December 1986

An interesting thing has happened suddenly this week to Kacie: the Terrible Twos have come to an abrupt halt. Considering the fact that she's three and a half, I'd say it's about time ...

On the other hand, Jamie is metamorphosing into this grumpy, bossy five year old ... refusing to help with anything, balking at any suggestions I make, throwing tantrums, ordering Kacie around.

I suppose I ought to be thankful the girls are developing alternately. When one is an angel, the other is a pill, then a few months later they switch. I'm not sure I could handle two "pills" at the same time.

Kacie just came over and put her arms around my neck, hugged me and said, "You a good Mama."

Tomorrow Mom is taking Jamie to see "The Song of the South" - Jamie's first movie! - and then the day after that we're throwing Jamie a birthday party in the apartment's clubhouse. A bunch of neighbor kids have been invited, along with her cousin Karen and a couple of other people. I've spent the past two days gluing cotton balls onto empty baby food jars, turning them into little "Santa Clauses," to be filled with candy and given away as party favors.

Last weekend the girls started Sunday School at Riverton Heights Presbyterian. As I expected, they adore it. They've been invited to sing in the church's Christmas program on December 21, a little song called "Gospel Bells" (sung to the tune of 'Jingle Bells.') Jamie sings it "Gos-mel Bells" ... Kacie sings "Gossel bells."

Jamie's birthday was a success. The day before her birthday, I took her and Kacie and Courtney - Kyle stayed with a babysitter - to Burien and had her ears pierced at Jorstad's Jewelers. She screamed bloody murder through the procedure, but afterwards she said she was "glad" she had it done. And she's very proud of her new earrings.

Her birthday party on December 7th was disorganized, noisy, messy and nerve-wracking ... she loved it.

And the night of her birthday, Mom, Grandma St. John and Deb came over for cake and presents with us. I sprained my ankle that afternoon when I was walking to the laundry room, so Dad and Valerie did me a favor and went to pick up Jamie's birthday kitten. Jamie overheard my phone conversation with Dad so she knew ahead of time that she was getting a kitty, but that didn't matter ... she was still thrilled. We've named her "Molly."

Christmas 1986 was OK ... the kids had fun. Thanks to a couple of local charities that my mother gave our name to, there was an amazing abundance of toys, food and gifts. The girls spent Christmas Day having dinner at Ray's folks' house; Ray, Kyle and I spent the day quietly, barbecuing a turkey on the Webber (a hold-over tradition from last year).

Best-loved gifts received:

Jamie: Cabbage Patch Kid from Mom and Dad ("Christabel"); tape recorder from Mom; baby doll with clothes and accessories.

Kacie: Fisher-Price Zoo from Daddy; "My Child" doll from Mama.

Kyle: Squeezable ball; fire truck with beads and bell; plastic blocks.

Kyle has a tooth! He cut it on Christmas Day, although I didn't actually see it until today. (I had my finger in his mouth, and he bit me.)

He's crawling very well now, also pulling himself up to a standing position with ease.

His first and only word so far: "Da-Da."

January 1987 The day Jamie ran away

It was New Year's Eve, and late in the afternoon Stephanie and I went to the grocery store to buy some champagne and dinner materials for our evening together. Ray was watching the kids. When I got back from the store, shortly after 4 p.m., I noticed that there was nobody on the playground. "Where are the girls?" I asked him, and he said he'd sent them outside to eat their Tootsie Rolls. "They were here just a minute ago," he said.

Not overly concerned, I walked around the playground looking for them. I found Kacie right away, but Jamie was nowhere to be seen. I walked around the complex calling her name, and then I checked the blackberry bushes behind our building ... but no Jamie. Some boys playing on the stairwell said they hadn't seen her. I was annoyed now, but still not worried: I started knocking on apartment doors to see if she was playing with one of her friends. Amanda's mom hadn't seen her, and neither had Sandy's mom. I felt the first tiny tickle of fear then. Where the hell could she be? I went home and called Stephanie. By any chance had Jamie gone over to her apartment? No such luck. Ray put on his jacket and came outside to help me look. We checked the parking lot, the staircases, the laundry room, the clubhouse. A couple of people joined us in the search. By this point I was frankly worried. It would be dark soon, and it looked like it might rain. WHERE WAS SHE???

Stephanie came over to help us look, and she was as anxious as we were. Just then some boys on bikes stopped to ask what all the commotion was about. When we told them that Jamie was missing, Israel said, "Oh, I saw her get into a car." I felt like the bottom fell right out of my world. "NOOO!" I screamed, terrified, and Stephanie grabbed me. From that moment on I was hysterical. While the manager and other residents kept searching for her, I blindly found my way into the apartment and called the police. Then I called my parents. I have never, ever in my life been as frightened: it was the worst experience I've ever had. For nearly an hour I was in a total, agonizing panic. People tried to comfort and reassure me, but I was beyond comfort. I was sure that someone had abducted Jamie, and I was equally sure I would never see her again. What if she was being hurt (or worse) at that very moment? Wherever she was, she must at the very least be scared and cold. I stood outside in the rain, alone, and begged God to bring her home. "Please please please please," I moaned, "Let her be all right." I tried to send love and comfort to her telepathically, trying to reach her with my thoughts and let her know how much I love her.

Just when I thought I was going to lose my grip completely, Kelly Smith stopped by. "Hey," she said, "I just saw her, out by my car. I told her to get her butt home or she's in big trouble." Sweet hope flooded my heart. She hadn't gotten into a car with anyone! She was out there somewhere, maybe hiding from us to avoid punishment. And then, a few minutes later as Stephanie and I stood talking to Mr. Perkins, the manager's husband, he said "Hey - there she is!" I looked, and there she was, standing next to a policeman. It was the sweetest moment of my life. I ran and grabbed her, shouting her name, and then I carried her into the apartment, hugging her. She was crying, and I was crying, and I was thanking God over and over again for returning her to us safe and sound.

It turns out that she was hiding from us: she was afraid she'd get in trouble because she ate Kacie's Tootsie Roll! I honestly didn't know whether to smother her with kisses or hang her up by her heels. Mostly I just sat and held her. She seemed to comprehend the gravity of what she'd done, but I suspect she was secretly quite pleased by the commotion she'd caused. Policemen and everything! She sat behind a bush and watched everybody looking for her.

She's been grounded for a few days - probably until the weekend - but it's hard to punish her for being alive and well. I just want to kiss her over and over again ...

January 1987

Kacie is back to being impossible again. If I so much as tell her to get her muddy boots off the couch, she dissolves into wails, sticks out her lower lip and says "You don't love me!" I hear this two dozen times a day, and it drives me crazy.

Equally grating are her constant requests for food. She wants to snack all day long. "I'm gettin' HUNGRY!" she says, ten minutes after lunch, and then again fifteen minutes later ... then again, and again, on and on, all day long. Usually I cave in and let her have a cracker, or a raw carrot, but I'm worried about her preoccupation with food. Is she just bored? Or feeling that "middle child syndrome" again? Or genuinely hungry?? Are the "You don't love me" and the "I'm gettin' hungry" message connected?

Jamie is suddenly announcing that she doesn't want to go to kindergarten in the fall. Her reasons vary, from day to day: she's upset because moms aren't allowed to stay at school with their kids. She's afraid there won't be enough seats on the bus. She's scared she might have a "man teacher." She's afraid she'll get lost on the playground." She's scared she might "fall down in the mud." Etc.

Kyle loves the TV show "Jeopardy" ... the minute it comes on he breaks into a huge smile, claps his hands, bobs up and down in excitement, and refuses to budge from his spot in front of the TV until it's all done.

He claps his hands, waves, puts a sock on his nose when I ask him to. When I ask him, "Where are your PANTS?" he pats his diaper. He flies around the apartment in his walker at breakneck speed. He hates taking baths. He also hates being dressed now ... he used to love it. He says "Mama" all the time. He can also say "no-no" and "cookie." He climbs up onto the furniture, but can't get back down again. He has cut another tooth: that makes three altogether.

He's a really cute little boy.

This morning I was playing an old Talking Heads song ("Take Me To The River") and he got so excited ... bobbing in time to the music, clapping his hands.

February 12, 1987

The girls are chasing little Terry Ward (our newest babysitting kid) around the apartment, playing Hide 'n Seek ... he looks at me in passing and roars with excitement. Kyle, in his walker, struggles to keep up with the bigger kids, but finds it difficult to maneuver around the toys on the floor. Finally he gives a little scream of protest.

March 5, 1987

Rainy, soggy morning ... the fourth or fifth such morning in a row, with more predicted to come. The kids and I have oppressive cases of cabin fever. "You're a mean Mommy!" Kacie shouted at me, a little while ago. Even Kyle feels the tension: for the past two or three days he's been unbearably cranky. I feel like a time bomb, waiting to happen. (Interrupted by Stephanie's daily 9 a.m. phone call. "Trouble in paradise?" she inquired sweetly, and I burst into hysterical giggles.)

The apartment is a mess, my throat feels like sandpaper, the noise level is deafening, Kacie asks me for food every ten minutes ... Kyle just tipped over in his walker ... how will I survive this day??

March 26

Three weeks later. Spring is here now ... Kacie had her fourth birthday last week, and Kyle has begun taking his first tentative steps.

April 6, 1987

This morning Kyle was laying on the floor after having his diaper changed, kicking his feet in the air. He said, "Da? Da?" (his favorite word). Casually, without expecting any real response, I said "Daddy went bye-bye." Kyle looked at me for a few seconds, and then began waving his hand and saying "Da Da" at the same time.

"YES!" I said, excited. "Daddy went bye-bye! Good boy, Kyle!" He was very pleased with himself. We're really beginning to communicate!

Kyle can walk across the room and back now without stumbling. His vocabulary has expanded to include "icky," "gone!" and "boom!" (it comes out "gung!") ... and a sort-of "God bless you" any time someone sneezes.

Yesterday was Easter. The kids all got four baskets apiece and all the candy in the world. There was an early morning Easter egg hunt for all the children in the apartment complex. Afterwards, Dad and Valerie stopped by with more goodies for the monkeys, and then Mom took the girls over to Grandma St. John's for the day. Of course they all ate far too much candy, and by dinnertime all they could manage was a bowl of soup and a hard boiled egg.

Kyle's first birthday

May 1987

Yesterday was Kyle's first birthday. I can't believe that my baby is one year old already. Where have the past twelve months gone?! In the blink of an eye, the tiny infant with the "stork bitten" face and the wrinkly feet has been transformed into this sturdy, noisy, busy, wonderful little boy ... a little boy with opinions and humor and spirit ... It's so amazing to watch him walking around this apartment. He's already so muscular! His back, his arms and his legs are so strong and sturdy.

His birthday was decidedly low-key, but nice. We had a small cake that said "Happy Birthday Henry" on it, and my mom and Grandma St. John were here to share it. We gave him a little football, a fireman's hat, some big inflatable stacking rings, a toy telephone and some toys for the bathtub.

Kyle's vocabulary at age one year (in order of frequency):

1. No!

2. Da (Dad)

3. Ma-ma

4. ah! (hi)

5. bah (ball)

6. boom

June 1987

Jamie is going through a nice phase right now: all of a sudden she has become very affectionate again, and very sweet and agreeable, and very cooperative. I just gave her a little piece of coffee cake. She looked at me, smiled brightly and said, "Thank you, Mommy!" Then, when she finished eating, she spontaneously hopped onto my lap for several minutes' worth of hugs, kisses and jokes.

This is not to say she is all sweetness and light. She has her balky, horrid, mean-tempered moments, just like always. But mostly age five seems to be a period of equilibrium for Jamie. She is a joy.

Kacie has become the family dare-devil. Ever see a skinny little four year old shinny up a ten foot pole?? Kacie can. My heart is in my mouth every minute she's on that playground. She's also going through a compulsive chatterbox phase. She talks faster, louder and more continuously (even when she's asleep!) than anyone I've ever known.

Meanwhile, Kyle is going through an aggressive phase -- biting, pulling hair, hitting, pushing Kacie down, etc.

July 17, 1987

Ray and I have decided to give our marriage another try. He has a new job at Seattle Packaging.

The girls and I are leaving this afternoon for a camping trip with Tammy and Terry Ward. This is the girls' first camping experience, and we're all sooo excited!

We had fun on our camping trip. We camped at Greenwater (near Enumclaw) and spent two nights. Terry and Tammy have a nice big RV with plenty of room for everybody - the girls and I slept in bunks - we camped in the woods, next to a river. Everyone was especially nice to the girls, taking them for rides on the four-wheeler and fishing in the river. We roasted marshmallows over the campfire, hunted for pine cones in the woods, went for long walks along the river, collected pretty rocks and picked wild flowers ... it was a lovely, special time for my daughters and me. We came home mosquito-bitten, bruised, dirty and exhausted ...

but elated!

Ten minutes in the life of my son

August 1987

Diapered, tousle-haired, pot-bellied ... plops his juice ba-ba onto the kitchen table, glares at his sisters who are standing nearby (and ignoring him), and announces imperiously, "MINE." Snatches his bottle back, swaggers out into the living room, glances at TV, comes back to the kitchen table where Kacie is playing with the See 'n Say. Watches her for a moment; accidentally loses his footing, slips, says "Don't!" to no one in particular. Regains his balance. Courtney (age 14 mos.) comes into the kitchen carrying a damp brown washcloth, which Kyle promptly yanks out of her hands. Walks around the living room wiping his face with the washcloth and screeching noisily. Looks at Mom from time to time with an "Ain't I just the dickens?" expression.

Notices that Courtney has now gotten hold of his ba-ba and is drinking his juice! He walks over and glares at her for a moment, then shakes the washcloth at her menacingly, saying "Guh! Guh!" Still, he doesn't seem to care very much about the ba-ba right now ... he runs over to his broken riding horse, pats Horsey's head affectionately. Courtney follows him. "No no!" he says to her, warningly, and she moves away. "Gung-gung-gung," Kyle sings tenderly: it means "boom boom boom," and refers I think to his broken Horsey.

... Hears the opening theme music of his second-favorite TV show, "Wheel of Fortune." With a delighted roar he rushes to the TV, swinging the washcloth and shouting. Stands in front of the TV, clapping his hands and bobbing in time to the music. Then he abruptly waves, says "Bye bye!" to Pat and Vanna and stalks off. Finds his football in the dining room and starts throwing it around, laughing. Gets himself tangled in the dining room draperies, then deliberately hides behind them and shouts something that sounds like "My MY BALL!" Coming out from behind the curtains, he has his football in his mouth and is hitting it with his hands. He puts the ball into a toy wagon. An empty box catches his attention next: he puts the football into that and lugs it around for a while, until the football falls out. Kyle turns the box around in his hands and examines it. Then he notices Courtney, who is playing quietly by the toybox. He crawls over to her, and they promptly begin to tussle over an empty plastic mug. They scream at each other. Kyle grabs the mug, and Courtney bops him over the head with a baby doll. He screeches at her. She reaches over and hits him with her hand. "No NO!" Kyle yells frantically, looking at me to see if I'm paying attention. "No Courtney!" I say sternly. Kyle, buoyed by his Mama's attention, swats Courtney on the rear and says "No no BAD BOY."

Courtney comes back and begins clobbering Kyle again, only this time he smacks her back. Soon they are both screaming like banshees, but just as I am poised to interfere they break it up on their own. Kyle goes back to playing with the washcloth, and Courtney climbs onto the loveseat and picks up a storybook. Kyle bats at the TV, swings the washcloth around some more (I'm getting really tired of writing about the frigging washcloth). Kyle laughs, says "Bad boy!" to nobody special, swings the washcloth around (sigh), picks up an abandoned Barbie and carries her out of the room, murmuring "Baby, baby, baby." A moment later he is standing next to my chair, hitting me on the leg with the Barbie doll. He pulls at my typewriter cord. "No way!" I tell him. He throws Barbie onto the floor (so there) and picks up my yellow dustpan, a favorite plaything these days. He walks over to where Courtney is sitting, and for a moment I'm afraid he intends to bonk her on the head with the dustpan. Instead, the two of them start tearing little pieces of paper out of the storybook. There is a moment of companionable toddler silence, which, sadly, is too good to last ... the next minute they are fighting over the book. Courtney hits him squarely over the head with it; Kyle, exasperated, yanks the book out of her hands; Courtney bursts into anguished tears. "Come here, Honey," I say to her, and she toddles in a rush to my arms. I hug and kiss her. Kyle is furious!

How dare I show affection to this interloper??

He runs over, grabs Courtney by the shoulder and shoves her to the floor, where she bursts into a fresh round of tears. Distressed, Kyle looks at me, and then he begins to sob. He didn't mean to get so carried away, I can tell. I decide it's definitely time for a cookie break. Tearfully, Kyle and Courtney each grab a vanilla wafer from my hand and scurry off in opposite directions ...

July 1987

Didn't sleep well last night. I had Kyle in my bed with me, and he spent most of the night rolling around and flailing little arms and legs and bonking me in the head with his bottle.

He has some new words. "Bleah-bleah" means splash-splash (which means bath). He throws a couple of Jamie's dolls into an empty laundry basket and says "Ni-night!" And he'll kiss me now when I ask him ... if he's in the mood.

August 14

Kacie accidentally shut Kyle's fingers in the bathroom door yesterday (under the door hinge). Ray had to rush him to the emergency room at Riverton Hospital to get his fingers x-rayed. He lost the nail on the ring finger of his right hand, but that was the extent of his injury, thank God. I was so scared. Thank goodness today he's back to normal, except that his finger is very tender, and he keeps pulling his Band-Aids off.

Continued ...


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