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This time, they disperse, slowly at first, then racing each other for dear life. I hear cupboard doors slam. The dryer buzzer goes off. The TV goes on. Tirzah puts on a CD and cranks up the volume. The dog is whining at the back door. He doesn’t need to go out; he just wants to leave the house.

I go back to writing.

“Mom, is a sidewalk part of nature?”

It’s Connor again.

I’m tempted to tell him, “Go away, I’m busy;” but I know that’s one of the worst things a parent can do.

“Sidewalks are man-made, honey,” I tell him.

Tirzah comes back in, grinning.

“Do you like my hair?” she says.

“Yes, I love what you did with those clips. They look great.”

“Oh, and Mom,” she says, her eyes growing huge with urgency, “Kira at school got these sparkly clips that are so cool. Can you buy them for me?”


“I want my hot chocolate,” she says on her way out.

“I need a can for school next week.”

Connor’s still here.

“It’s for an art project. It can’t be big like a coffee can, and it can’t be flat like a tuna-fish can. It has to be a soup can, and it has to be cleaned out, and the label has to be tooken off.”

“Taken,” I correct him. “Okay.”

“Mom,” Tirzah’s math book is shoved in front of my face. “I don’t get this part about estimating sums.”

“Do we have those kinds of cans?” Connor asks.

“Yes,” I say to him.

To Tirzah, “What don’t you get?”

“Do I estimate these parts first and add them? Or add, then estimate?”

“But we don’t have empty ones. They have to be empty,” Connor says.

“I understand,” I tell him.

To Tirzah, “Add, then estimate.”

I glance at the clock. It’s only 4:30.

“Please,” I beg. “Can I get a little more writing done before dinner?”

They walk away, poking each other.