“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When You Can't Reach Your Husband and Think He Might Be Dead

I'm going to start this off by being very clear that I don't think I am an expert on marriage and relationships. Like most people, I make a lot of mistakes and only learn from them sometimes. I think that, for me, it stems from the fact that in a marriage, there's very little you can hide about your personality from someone else. It's super hard to pretend to you're not flawed when someone hears you fart in your sleep, has caught you shaving weird parts of your body, and has, at some time or another, on purpose or by accident, walked in on you going to the bathroom. Because of that, it tends to be what I call the natural imperfections, our humanness, that leads to the mistakes made in relationships. And since as humans we are all unique, it is our unique flaws that seem to show up as issues most often.

For me, there is my insanity, I know. Though I'm mostly perfect, it does happen--infrequently, barely noticeably--that I get a teeny tiny bit overly nervous or anxious about the well-being of the people I love.

Yesterday was a regular day in my life. My niece had slept over, my own kids were wild and fun, later in the day I watched my nephew while my sister-in-law ran to the store. We had scrambled eggs for dinner because Joey injured his gums with a lollipop. You know, the usual.

So it didn't occur to me at first, in the midst of all the usual business and, well, whimsy, that I hadn't talked to my husband in awhile. 

He had called just before lunch, I knew, and it had been a bit chaotic, but things had been fine. With the kids making a ruckus I could barely concentrate on what Joe was saying, but I knew if it had been an emergency he would have made that much clear. So, a nice, normal check-in at lunch time.

It is quite normal for Joe to work through dinner. My children have a bit of an early bedtime, too, so sometimes Joe comes home just after that. I don't usually panic about this because I am used to it in Joe's line of work (Hardcore Accounting: watch out for those bad boys). After Joey and Noah were asleep, I distracted myself by reading a new book. I was pretty engrossed, but when I realized it was 8:30 pm and I still hadn't heard from Joe, I started to get nervous.

I called. I emailed. I texted. I repeated. Several times. Nothing.

Long story short, he was fine, had been in important meetings with important people and had then gone out with colleagues to get some dinner and hadn't heard his phone going off. But I was mad. Crazy, off the charts, foaming at the mouth mad. This had never happened before--ultimately ten hours of not knowing if Joe was okay--and I was really scared. I had been close to calling the police and sending them to the bank where Joe works. Worst of all, this morning, when I mentioned I was mad, he didn't apologize

He left for work thinking I was just a silly wife who worried too much. This sent me over the edge I think, only exacerbated by the fact that I had to get Joey to golf lessons--something Joe for which had signed him up but for which I had to do the running around--and I was running late (when I'm mad, I like to look REALLY good because it makes me feel more powerful, but putting on makeup set me back ten extra minutes) and then, of all freaking things, the road by the golf course was CLOSED. I had to battle the construction men to get through, and then got into a fight with them about whether or not I could get through later to pick Joey up. Based on that discussion, I don't think they'll mess with me again. 

To make my point, I called Joe about ninety minutes after he'd left for work to "see if he was okay." I know--really it was just to remind him I was still upset. But this time, maybe it was the time or the safe distance away from my insane temper, he did apologize. Heartfelt and all that. Unfortunately, I had just been arguing with the construction guy, so it didn't get Joe very far. I dutifully accepted his apology, but told him I was still angry and would need hourly updates on his safety and okayness. I sent him a text that said, "I love you, asshole." I'm not ashamed. I do love him, plus he is the father of my children and I thought he had been dead, and so it seems like the least I could do.

Finally, I had to dance it out. I turned on some One Direction, a punchy boy band that completely satisfies some ingrained need I have for the presence of a good current boy band in the world, and involved poor innocent Noah in a major dance-a-thon, and then felt better. Clear headed at last, I composed what I think is a very reasonable and proactive email to my husband. I'll copy and paste it for you to read below:

Dear Joe,

I have decided to forgive you, HOWEVER:
1) I don't really.
2) I need the cell phone numbers of Sally*, Francisco, and Geraldo. Possibly Geraldo's wife. 
3) If I can ever NOT get a hold of you again (and have not been informed you will be in a very long meeting with a VIP), I will be texting these people, one by one, by order of previously discussed and agreed-upon importance.
4) If I cannot reach you and cannot determine your whereabouts through the above means, I am alerting the police and sending them to The Bank to search for you.
5) If the police discover you are completely fine and just a massive BOOB, I will embarrass you socially and professionally by sending a male stripper to perform a public lapdance for you. He will be informed ahead of time that he will NOT be paid unless I see a photo via text message of him performing said lapdance for you specifically.
Have a nice day. Can't wait for my hourly alert that you are alive.

 Is there a moral to the story? It's in there somewhere. In the meantime, I can happily inform you that Joe is, at this moment, alive and well. I just got a text. :)

*Names of Joe's friends/colleagues have been changed to protect their identities. Would YOU want to be associated with him right now?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Importance of Birth Order

I had the very amazing and lucky opportunity to keep my niece overnight last night. She is a year younger than Noah and completely the little girl I've always dreamed of. It's important to note, too, the rather unusual family situation I generally avoid talking about here because it's just so insanely complicated and I hate people's reactions. My brother married my husband's sister. NO IT IS NOT INCEST. Yes, we are "keeping it in the family." You're so funny, original, and clever.


This means my niece is notably similar to my own children, both in appearance and personality, and therefore notably similar to me. This means I adore her.

Complicated situation: EXPLAINED.

This morning after everyone woke up and had received their favorite flavor PopTart (oh great good fortune, my niece L.'s favorite flavor is the one I just bought that my boys DIDN'T like--she must get that from her mother, I guess), we turned on Aladdin and settled in for a nice calm Monday morning. Joey was in "the Big Chair," and L. and I were cuddling on the couch when Noah sidled up to me, all frowny and big-eyed.

"What's wrong, babe?" I said, rubbing his back.

He was not comforted. His eyes were all round and his chin aquiver. "Where should I sit?" he said.

"How 'bout with Joey?"

He looked dubiously at Joey and the mountain of pillows taking up the rest of the space on the Big Chair. "There's no ROOM."

I knew what this was about, but wanted to be careful to not make a big deal of it. L. doesn't stay with us all the time, so I didn't feel it needed to be an issue. I leaned over and whispered quietly, "You know you're my special guy, right?"

Noah frowned and his forehead puckered. "No I DON'T," he said. "Joey is the oldest and first and L. is the little one and I'm...I'm just...middle."

I felt horrible. I talked to my sister not long after this happened, expecting her to give a big long, 'Awwwwww,' like the one that had moaned in my own head, but instead she got all huffy about it. "Birth order is just an excuse people give," she'd said. Or maybe she snapped. Incidentally, she's an oldest.

Regardless, I had a whole long conversation with the pediatrician about this at Noah's last visit, however. I have two that I really like in the practice we go to, and this one is the older, male doctor. I usually see the younger woman doctor because I think she gets me, but as my boys grow bigger I recognize they probably feel more comfortable seeing someone who, well, gets them. Anyway, the doctor and I were discussing Noah's issues with talking-back and having tantrums, and the doctor said, "He is second, and he is dealing with everything that brings."

I have loved a lot of second-borns. There's my brother, and also interesting, his wife and my double sister-in-law. My sister's daughter Gracie is a total second-born. What I find most significant about all of them is how completely different they are from their older, first-born siblings. Especially Joey and Noah. Joey is our rule-follower, our straight-and-narrow, and Noah is...well, as we say in our house, Noah is Noah. He will not be bent or molded to be anybody else. And frankly, I think that's pretty awesome.

Like me, Noah is also the youngest in our house. Still, I think that being youngest and being second is not the same as being youngest and third. Especially in my house, I was youngest, third by several years, and also a SURPRISE (an announcement my mother likes to make loudly at social events). Oh, and I was a girl. There's also that.

I do think there is something to the idea that we are who we are, we will be who we will be, but how can all these other factors NOT affect us? Our personality will be put up against these things day after day, forcing us to deal with specific personality issues unique to us. Family, and how we fit into it, kind of what gives us all our quirks and issues, right? The normal bit of crazy we all carry around with us and hope no one sees? For me, I deal with the irrational fear of not measuring up--not even being a contender to measure up--and being left behind, because my entire youth centered around my brother and sister being big enough and smart enough while I got left with my mom. Always, I was too little or too young or too...something.

For Noah, my little Me-Too?  I know we've only reached the tip of a rather massive iceberg. He's got stubbornness issues from both sides of the family, he's off-the-charts intelligent (well he is), and desperate to find romance (a weird quirk I can't explain with birth order or family roles). In addition, he loves his big brother more than anything--where Joey loves me more than anything--and wants to have all the glory and attention Joey receives for things  for having simply done them, since he is first.

I hope Noah will see, sooner than later--and I know it's my job to help him on this path--that the glory and praise he receives will probably mean much more than any Joey gets. Not that Joey isn't wonderful, he is, but we tend to dote on minor achievements, from rolling over in infancy to simply getting off the bus at the end of the school day, things that just mean to us we have a child. I think Noah will earn his praise more for talent and merit, because it won't be simply that's he done something. It will be that he, most assuredly, will have done something great.

I just hope it's not Voldemort/Darth Vader great.

Friday, July 27, 2012


I have sent my children to their rooms. It's awesome. I don't know how long I will make them stay there. They are up there pondering and pondering the unfairness of my actions, and I am loving it.

For Joey, Time Out is nothing more than a breather. We've actually reached the point where we can say, "Put yourself in Time Out" and he will do it, reflecting on his actions and coming to conclusions all on his own, until he calls out, "I know what I've done and I'm sorry." It's not just a line either. He will--somewhat grudgingly--recount his actions and explain why they were wrong. Lovely.

But if he can do that, it's not really punishment. That makes sense, though, because many parenting experts say that Time Out isn't meant to be a punishment, or jail. This came up at my last visit to the pediatrician with Noah. "He walks right out of Time Out," I'd said, my voice taking on a bit of a desperate tone as I feared my own failures as a mother coming out in the open so that this man now knew about them.

He'd only smiled gently and said, "That's okay. The point of Time Out isn't to force them to stay. It's to send the message, 'I love you but I don't like you.' You are the most important thing to the world to him, and he leaves Time Out because he recognizes that you don't want him around. That, in itself, is enough."

I think that what follows is important, too. That I sit down with Noah just as I do with Joey (even though he's three years older and wiser, I don't think that matters) and communicate about what made me put him in Time Out in the first place. Noah hates this--this really might be torture for him, to have to reflect on his wrong doings--but I know he hears me and processes the information.

But sometimes that's just not enough.

For about the millionth time this week, my kids started fighting when I left the room. They get along well for the most part, I think, but they are boys and they are brothers and they are HUMAN, so they do get into it. What I can't stand is the yelling and the indignant retaliating. "He hit me!" "Well I HAD to because he DID THIS OTHER THING THAT WAS EQUALLY BAD!" I break it up, we talk about it, we say what we SHOULD do as better conflict resolution, everyone agrees, and then it repeats itself. I'm not an idiot, I know this is just standard family living and learning as children grow. But as my mother always said, Enough is Enough. So today I said, "Both of you, go to your own rooms and close the doors. I mean it!"

Dutifully, they marched up the stairs. Noah went at more of a stomp, but I ignored it. He could stomp all he wanted, I wasn't changing my mind. I waited until I heard their doors close, and then I went about my business.

At this point, they know what they've done wrong. They know how I feel about it. This IS jail.

It occurred to me as I set about collecting laundry, changing the dishes out of the dishwasher, and tidying up (all in lovely peace, I might add), that sometimes punishments should feel unfair to my growing children. It should feel...unpleasant. Not in a physical way, of course. But more than a Time Out. Enough for them to realize that there are negative consequences--worse than a heartfelt chat and a few minutes of removal from playtime--to negative actions. Isn't that the way it is in the real world? You can't do whatever you want in the moment and then be real sorry later, and that's just okay. No.

Noah has apologized twice now. I appreciate that very much, and I believe that he is sorry. Mostly, I think he is sorry that he got in trouble, but it's a start. And Joey, who rarely gets in much trouble because he loves rules as much as I do, is upstairs muttering, "I've said I'm sorry. Why am I still up here?" And that's exactly what I want him to think. So that next time, he will remember that maybe it's not worth it to win Hungry, Hungry Hippos according to HIS rules. And I hope Noah will remember this if he feels like letting out a screech like the Headless Horseman is upon him and striking out at his brother for being a know-it-all.

I know that I'm taking the time to write this because I feel both justified and guilty at once...I don't think I'm alone in wondering at every step, "Am I doing the right thing?" But I do know that they are, in a safe and reasonable way, feeling uncomfortably aware that their actions were unacceptable, and that they will NOT want this to happen again. It will, of course, but hopefully it will be later rather than sooner.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


My favorite book (right now) is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Seriously, how did I ever miss this book? All I know is I was in Target looking for a book to buy my boys, and I saw that title peeking out at me, and, well, it spoke to me. Best line? "I hope you sit on a tack." Yeah. We all have those moments, where wishing for some good tack-sitting-on is what gets us through.

And let's face it. I'm Alexander. I'm not a boy. I'm not even a kid! (Well, that's debatable.) But I'm the youngest in my family and I am NO stranger to Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days. I mean, do YOU even appreciate how important every word is in that title? I don't think so. It's not just a terrible day, or a horrible day, and definitely not just a very bad day. It's all of the above and then some. And that counts!

My brother never gave me a pillow and then took it back, but he did once swindle me out of this wicked awesome stuffed hound dog that my Grandma bought me. How did he do it? He traded me for a piece of gum. I was only four, what did I know? Well, I learned real quick. That piece of gum lost its flavor in ten seconds, I spit it out, and there was Pauly, all cozy with my stuffed hound dog. So lame. What did he want it for, anyway? Well, I guess if you've ever met his dog Rocky, you'd start psychoanalyzing and explaining, how all he ever wanted was a dog of his own, but this is about ME so stop talking.

Everybody getting the sneakers they want except Alexander? Him getting stuck with plain old white ones? That happened unfair amounts of times to me, I'll tell you. Maybe it wasn't always sneakers. Maybe sometimes it was the lunch roll with no sesame seeds while everyone else had sesame seeds. Maybe it was that everyone else got to go swimming in the deep water with Dad and I had to stay back and build sand castles with a red Solo cup because no one would buy me a real sand bucket. (Even though we didn't call them red Solo cups back then--we just called them cups.) I tried putting seagull feathers in the tops of my castles to fancy them up, you know--add some pizzazz. My mom slapped my hand and said, "Those are DISEASED!" and I had to use a rock. Who wants a rock on top of their castle? All I wanted was to go swimming in the deep water with my dad.

How about that part where all of Alexander's friends get fancy desserts in their lunchboxes--especially that kid who gets the one with little coconut sprinkles on top! Yeah. My mom was totally a dessert forgetter. Not only that, she entirely gave up making me a lunch at all when I was, like, eleven. Why, you ask? Because my sister had graduated high school, and my mom was tired of making peanut butter sandwiches. Jane got 'em for eighteen years. I got shorted seven.

Similarly (if you're this kind of thinker), at my Confirmation (a Catholic sacrament that's kind of a big deal in high school), all the parents had to write "I'm proud of you" notes to their kids. We received them right before we went out for the big procession. Most of the parents went Hallmark with this. One guy's card farted when you opened it. I received a business-sized envelope. Inside? A ten paragraph TYPED epistle from my mother about how I'm special and beautiful and outstanding. I had to pretend not to be crying. I was all, "Hoo hoo, hee hee, my mom's card is SO ridiculous, I can't show you." Why would she do that? Write me a sentimental LETTER when it was just meant to be a WAY TO GO, KID! Post-It. At the end, instead of typing, "Love, Mom," she signed it. In black gel pen. She loves pens. Okay. Maybe this one's not so bad. Or maybe you just had to be there.

I probably relate most to the parts where Alexander does nothing more than just try to EXPLAIN to others that he's having this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and NO ONE EVEN ANSWERS. I know, Alexander, I know.

I read this book at bedtime tonight, just another go with an old favorite at this point, because Noah is also a lot like Alexander. I know what you're think, you psychoanalytical reader. No, he is NOT just like me. I never bounced up and down in my bed at bedtime. I never yanked curtains down from the windows (they're on measly tension rods and practically in his bed here at the cottage, and it was an accident, but STILL). I never said to my mother, "I am not not NOT going to SLEEP!" I never faked a poop seven times to get out of going to sleep. I never refused to sleep until I had a picture of the Incredible Hulk in my bed (because who would, except Noah). Yeah. Noah does Terrible, Horrible, No Good, and Very Bad even better than Alexander. Even better than I do.

But now that he's sleeping, I sure do love him.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Outside Joey's Window

Wow! I couldn't get my kids to bed fast enough tonight. That might not make me Mother of the Year, but my kids were NON STOP today. Crazy. And the poop...oh, God, the poop! I won't make you sit through that.

I had just had my hundredth good-night hug from Noah (because he procrastinates, not because he loves me), and I had my foot on the top stair to head down to freedom when I heard, "Mommy? Mom? Can you come in here?" Joey's little voice was calling from over his white noise fan and through his mostly closed door. I sighed and bumped the door open with my fingertips. He was sitting up in his pool of superhero blankets, and relief came over his face that I'd entered.

"Can I just have my curtains open?"

This is his new thing. It's a major reversal from the days when I had to Scotch tape his shades down to block all traces of light (as I must do with Noah, because he thinks headlights turning into the driveway make it Awake Time), and I've attributed it to his longstanding struggle with night fears. In the old days, it was monsters, but as he's grown and learned more about the world (to my chagrin), it's been more realistic fears that are harder to refute. "But a burglar could get into my room, Mom. I mean, he could. It's not that hard." Well...yes. But it isn't probable, honey; I doubt he's after your Batman collection.

Anyway, I learned long ago that just doing what Joey asks of me at bedtime is the simplest way to get him to relax and go to sleep. If I dismiss him, he grows more anxious and needy. But if I just leave on the closet light/check behind his dresser/give him one last kiss/sing him a song, or, in this case, open the curtains, he finds immediate comfort and goes to sleep like the darling little boy he is.

I was curious, though. As I opened his curtains, I asked, "Is this good?"

He leaned forward in his bed. "A little more."

I realized he was trying to see something specific out his window. I glanced along his line of sight. All I could see was the hideous yard of my unfavorite neighbors: an oversized garage, rubble, and an overgrown garden. They are the reason we put up a huge and unfortunately expensive privacy fence, though from here the fence blocked nothing. I asked, "What are you trying to see?"

He smiled dreamily. "Sometimes I see the deer come out and eat at night," he answered. "It's nice. And in the morning, I love the way sun makes spots on the roof of the garage."

I love him and his big heart and his dreaminess so much I could cry. Really. I have a lump in my throat right now as I type.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Lesson in Manners

Today's lesson started something like this: my sister stopped by our house for a few minutes before she had to pick up her son at swimming. Lately, my children have been more exposed than usual to me being in adult conversation that sort of...doesn't involve them. Like, at all. And they haven't been handling it with panache.

They were in the middle of eating lunch, so you'd think their mouths would be busy chewing and swallowing, but no. They raucously talked right through my sister and me, embarrassing me and, to be honest, ticking me off.

Now, I'm not a super huge fan of lecturing my kids in public if I can help it. I will say I'm around my family so much that sometimes I just have to, and my family is used to it. We're all so close that there's almost a...parenting overlap. My kids think of Jane as a second mother, and I think of her girls as my surrogate daughters (I'm not sure her son likes me very much; he seems generally offended by me and I try not to take it personally). Just the same, when you yell at your kids in front of others, it makes everyone uncomfortable, not just the children. So I refrain when I can.

Encouraging them to eat quickly and go play was my alternative, which they did. After Jane left, I found the boys in the playroom.

"Boys?" I said. "We need to talk about our manners when Mom has visitors."

"We do?" asked Joey. "What did we do wrong?"

"Well, when I'm talking to a grownup, or a grownup is talking to me, you may not interrupt. It's rude."

"Did we do that?"

I closed my eyes and took a breath. "Yes. You talked right over both me and Jane. It was embarrassing." I decided to go a step further. You know, really drive the point home. "You need to understand that when grownups visit, just grownups, they are here to see me. Not you."

"WHAT?" gasped Noah.

"That's right. They don't really want to talk to you. They want to talk to me. Believe it or not, people like me."

Joey's jaw dropped. Noah frowned. He said, "Are you sure? Because I'm pretty sure they just like me, Mom. I'm super cool."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Still Me

Tonight was one of those amazing summer nights that outsiders can't believe exists in Buffalo. Pitch black and filled with fireflies, the trees were still and the air was heavy. It is eighty degrees out. These are the nights when I feel the most like myself.

For awhile tonight, I was at my parents' house. My mom sat out back with me by the pool, what used to be 'my' pool and is now everybody's pool. The trees that used to be small are huge, but everything else is the same. The silhouette of unmoving summer leaves against the night sky is probably my favorite thing in the world, something that brings me complete peace, and I sat staring up as the fireflies blinked around me.

Sometimes I am struck by who I am on my own, without all the associative members of my life. Does that make sense? Without my children, my husband, and all the influences who can make a day turn bad or good or exciting or disappointing. I'm struck, too, by how often I forget that that person, me by myself, even exists anymore. But she does. She's in there all the time, underneath the germophobe, the anxious mommy, the worrying sister/daughter/granddaughter, the teacher, the super-exhausted-but-awesome stay-at-home-mom. Underneath all that, I'm still the same person who loves hot, still summer nights.

As I drove home, a whopping hundred yards or so, I pressed my foot on the accelerator all the way to the floor. The car, a shameless mom-mobile, roared under the pressure and tore forward. I used to drive like that every day, all the time. Every time it was time to accelerate, I put my foot on the floor. Can you imagine that? It was so fun. Now when I drive I have to worry about everything, some crazy loser who drives like I used to, for example, flying up out of nowhere and crashing into my beautiful innocent children in the backseat. I have to worry about all kinds of things. But boy, I miss the feeling of speed under my right foot. A lot.

I wouldn't trade my present life for the old one, not ever. But sometimes it's nice to remember what it's like to drive fast on a hot, still summer night.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Not Really the Whole World

Joey had, I think, a wildly successful seventh birthday. He spent the day--his actual day--at the Toronto science museum, where he walked on an actual tightrope.

Then he had his Friend Party on Saturday at the Buffalo Zoo, who took him and all his friends (almost his whole class, a really cute bunch who all get along well) on a personal tour through the reptile house (his choice) and brought a snake and a turtle for him to hold (also his choice). Sunday was his family party, where he got just about everything he asked for, including his best cousin and friend, Ryan, back from Cape Cod in time for the festivities.

It was hard this year, I thought, to get it right with the whole birthday thing. When he was four, I threw him this wicked awesome Star Wars bash, complete with theme music, life-sized Jar Jar Binks, and a Darth Vader pinata to be attacked by light sabre. When he was five, he had a bounce house. Six, a mad scientist party at the science museum. And in the meantime? The kid has everything he wants. He doesn't exactly ask for much, either. In Toronto, we offered to let him pick anything he wanted out of the gift shop. What did he pick? A Chinese yoyo. Seriously. Joe felt chintzy and made him take a boomerang, too.

And I thought and thought and thought about all of it, wondering what it was that I really wanted Joey to have this year, this boy who has everything (including the world's best mom). And really, it's always come down to this. I want to give him the whole world.

Oh, you know I went all cheeseball with THAT.

Yes, I went online and Googled "illuminated globe." I searched, read reviews, and found the perfect one at Frontgate.com. I ordered it by phone, not online, to make sure it processed right away. The day it arrived, Monday, I typed out a heartfelt letter to Joey and then waited until he was in bed, and brought him the letter. He read it out loud to me and gave me a hug. I said, "Joey, close your eyes. I have one last present for you."

"Okay!" he said, grinning and scrunching his eyes closed. I had to make sure he wasn't peeking, and then I dashed into the hall, grabbed what might be the coolest globe ever, brought it into his room, and plugged it in. In the dim light of his room at bedtime, it looked perfect.

"Okay!" I said excitedly. "You can look!"

Joey uncovered his eyes and looked expectantly at my flourished presentation.

"A globe?" he said.

"Well, yes," I said, feeling a little hurt. "I wanted to give you the world."

Prepare yourself for the great disappointment I felt: Joey rolled his eyes. "It's not really the whole world, Mom. It's a model of the whole world."

"But...it's what I wish I could give you." I forced my smile to stay plastered on my face. Weakly, I added, "Buffalo's on it."

Joey climbed into his bed and snuggled under the covers, reaching his arms out for me. I bent down and hugged him close, glad to hide how absolutely crushed I felt that my cheesy, ridiculously corny gift had failed.

Joey held my neck tightly and didn't let go for a long moment. Just as I was about to pull away, he whispered, "And anyway, I still love you more."

...Kid, there's just no way.