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July 2008

Hi Again

Why did I take Caroline and Edward with me to the grocery store when it was raining and I had a perfectly good Steve just sitting around at home, you ask? Well, for starters, it wasn't raining at my house. It wasn't until I had driven for a while and then looked towards Canada that I realized that the gods were angry. If I had known this ahead of time I would have left them at home because there is no good way to transport two infant carriers in the rain; hence my prolonged stay in the car at the parking lot. Second, I was hoping to trick the babies into a mini-nap with a brief but soothing car ride; thus enabling them to stay up a little past six so we could show them off to Steve's cousin when she arrived. It did not work, by the way. They did fall asleep in the car but then we had to sit there for ever so long listening to the rain and assessing the able-bodiedness of strangers; so they woke up and were a little pissed (hence my need to sing ballads -  Roger Whittaker's The Last Farewell although thanks, Megan, I have now been singing Spanish Ladies since I read your comment.) Then they did not fall asleep by six but were obnoxious and up in fits and starts all evening. So much for showing off my wonder babies and let this be a lesson to you: little kids need schedules; mess with them at ye peril. Oh and the cousin had brought her (insanely cute) three month old and he sleeps all night, a fact which made me feel ragged and a little sad.

Although, back to the original question, I assume you were wondering if Steve has a one child maximum or something and the answer is no. Although I have an acquaintance who has two children just under two years apart and when the youngest was six months old she had to get a babysitter to help her husband when she went out one night because he had never been alone with both kids before. Ever. At all. I was dumbstruck when I heard this. I think the first time I went out to dinner without Steve the babies were about a month old; and although I fussed a bit before I left about blankets and hats and holding Edward at just the right angle I still took off like a rocket and didn't look back. When I came home I felt terrific but he looked older and he told me that they had cried the whole time that I was gone. I said, "What a pity." It has gotten better since then.

Steve just started our Netflix without me so I am going to leave this hanging here like a preposition. Or wait, here is a picture of Caroline that I took this morning. It makes me laugh out loud when I look at it. She quirks one eyebrow and it. kills. me.

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What do you think? Personally, it makes me sing that song from Damn Yankees.


Peevish

I am not usually the self-appointed arbiter of all things correct but I have another criticism to make. A pointed observation: you know the handicapped parking spaces at the grocery store? The ones that are close to the front door and extra-wide to accommodate people with mobility issues? Believe it or not, those spaces are reserved for those who actually need them. Not - as that woman with her tween-aged children appeared to believe - for the convenience of those who wish to lessen the amount of time they spend in the rain.

We just had weekend guests (actually first we had mid-week guests, then we had weekend guests - it was a crowded ten days) and I had mapped out an easy menu for the first night that involved grilling something and making a chunky fruity salsa thing to go with it plus a grain and a vegetable. Late Friday afternoon I was feeling fairly relaxed after getting the house mostly tidy and dinner mostly prepped when I realized that I had completely forgotten to get anything to grill. You know, the dinner part of the dinner; which is humiliating. So I left Patrick with Steve and I threw Caroline and Edward into their car seats and started for the grocery store, in a bit of a hurry since we were expecting our company to arrive within an hour. After a couple of miles I turned north and as I looked at the sky ahead of me I got a bit edgy. I called Steve and asked if he could check to see if I was driving into a tornado because the horizon was black. He glanced at the radar (what do you suppose we did before the internet? noticed that the cows were getting nervous and assumed a storm was a'comin I suppose) and told me that there was a line of heavy rain ahead of me but it was very very thin and should pass quickly enough. I thanked him and kept driving, hoping that I could get into the store before the rain began. As it so happened I made it into the parking lot just as the wind started to blow the little landscaping trees sideways and the rain came down as if it had been poured from a bucket. I called Steve back and asked if our guests were there yet and he said no. Then I asked if he was sure the rain would pass and even more sure that there weren't any tornadoes around (I'm not from around here; tornadoes terrify me) and he said yes yes you're fine just wait about five minutes. So I sat in the car and sang Caroline and Edward that song about the British Tar who is leaving his native ladyfriend because, you know, sceptered isle but he feels bad about it...  hmmm, not sure why I just gave you all of these superfluous details. The point is that I sat in my car in the spitting rain for a quarter of an hour last week with nothing to do but stare at the handicapped parking spaces. So I watched as the well-dressed woman drove past the empty space next to my own in order to park ten feet closer in front of the huge blue sign with the wheelchair printed on it.  I watched as she leapt nimbly from the driver's seat and I watched as she opened the back doors for her two partially grown children. I watched them squeal as the rain lashed down and I watched as all three of them them sprinted toward the doors. And I was completely disgusted. But I was also determined to be fair in my anonymous silent censure; so as I walked past the car I studied it carefully for any indication whatsoever that there might be a disability involved (license plate - nope; rearview mirror tag - nope.) And when I got into the store I saw them sitting at a cafe table drinking coffee - so it wasn't even as if they were utilizing the handicapped space on behalf of an absent family member who was anxiously waiting at home for, I dunno, epsom salts or crackers or something. Drinking coffee, forsooth, while cluttering up an access space. Besides, they all got out and ran. Ran pell mell. Shouldn't these spaces be kept free for people who can't run? Isn't that the point?

I don't know. It really irked me. And I don't even have a dog in this hunt - so to speak. I have been thinking about judging strangers (like the controlfreak swim lesson father; oh! so from your comments  I conclude that he was a helicopter parent. I had heard the term but I guess I thought they were something else) and it occurs to me that public disapproval can serve a valuable societal function. It would be nice if people always behaved with thoughtful consideration for others out of the goodness of their hearts; but lacking that innate courtesy, I think fear of universal scorn can work well too. Of course, I suppose in order for that to be a deterrent from disabled parking spot theft you need to not be such a self-absorbed knob in the first place.

A couple of you asked where one is supposed to change a diaper if there is no changing space in the airplane bathroom. Fuck if I know. Travel with little kids is fraught with these kind of logistical problems.  Steve just talked me into a vacation at the end of August and every five minutes I think about a new aspect of traveling with these three that I am certain will make the trip insanely difficult. The need for two pack n plays, two car seats, the huge stroller, diapers, clothes books games writing supplies for Patrick... yeeep. I asked Steve if he would wait until I consulted ya'll about this plan of his and he said ok and promptly bought the tickets. So this is a cow's-already-in-the-garden question: would you go on vacation with a six year old and eight month old twins? I kind of remember Steve and I vowing not to travel anywhere at all with the babies for at least two years but Steve just laughs and says it'll be fiiiiiiiine and I worry too much. I sometimes wonder if he has ever met Caroline. Edward is no problem. He likes to sit on my lap and look at things and when he feels shy he burrows into my neck and slurps on the edge of my jaw. An ideal traveling companion. Caroline, however... yikes. I just put up a REDBOOK post (Ready-to-Wear over on the sidebar there) which touches upon her  inability to stay still for more than a millisecond. She has a rapid commando crawl and an unerring ability to make a beeline for things she shouldn't touch. Today I left my yogurt on the floor for a minute while I went upstairs to get Edward. I came back down and found that Caroline had traversed about twenty feet in order to dump the yogurt upside down and squish it into the rug with her hands. She's... well, she's very funny actually. She is good at manipulating things with her hands and  quite coordinated with her larger movements and she is curious about everything. She's a different personality than I am used to dealing with - very bubbly, very active and into freaking everything. Patrick was always laid-back and willing to wait for me to engage him in something. Edward is like that too. But Caroline needs to hold the spoon, feed herself, rub her own soapy head, tug at the car seat straps... I think she is delightful and I am very glad that Edward is different because two babies exactly like this would do me in.

I was about to say that I think she will run roughshod over him but I just remembered watching them jockey for the same toy yesterday. It was absolutely fascinating in a Jane Goodall/Wild Kingdom kind of a way. Caroline had a fabric book in her hands that she was dragging with her across the living room floor. Edward was lying on his stomach (Edward can do a push-up all the way down to his toes but he has never tried to crawl; I suspect that he will just do it one day - unlike Caroline who has been practicing moving in any way possible for the last three months despite the fact that she still does not have a proper bottoms-up crawl perfected) and as she came close to him he grabbed the book away. Then he rolled on his back to chew on it. Caroline paused and tried to take the book back, so Edward switched it to the hand farther away from her. Caroline tried to reach over him but he blocked her by rolling on his side. So Caroline scooted all the way around him and grabbed the book. He held on to it. She tugged. He tugged harder. She left, thwarted. I think Edward can manage her just fine, and if worst comes to worst, he is big enough to clobber her if he wants to do so. Ah, twins. I probably mentioned this before but I wasn't all that keen on the whole twin thing at first (actually, I was terrified) so it is nice to know that everything anyone ever said about how much fun it is to raise concurrent babies is true true true.

Oh dear. Do you suppose the same rules for handicapped parking apply to bathroom stalls? Is one supposed to leave the extra-wide stalls free? What if there is a wait? I have been using them a lot lately because most of them are large enough to fit the jumbo stroller and I would rather never use the bathroom again then leave Caroline and Edward in a public place where I cannot see them but... wow. I actually have no idea whether this is thoughtless or not. Golly. Perhaps as I type this some other woman is writing about how rude it is when people commandeer the large public bathroom stalls when their only disability seems to be an inability to use birth control. 

I think I am embarrassed.

PS Apparently I cannot rely about my nonexistent work ethic to write posts here; I need deadlines. So I am going to try the post-a-day-for-a-week thing again because I choked last time right at the end and that makes me feel like a failure. A blog failure.   


Of Paris

Greetings from poolside.

That sounds much nicer than it actually is; "poolside" being evocative of palm trees and sunshine and drinks with umbrellas. In truth I am inside a swimming school and the humidity is 115%. I could not be any wetter if I were a mermaid. However, Patrick seems to be enjoying himself and there is certainly something to be said for ditching Steve with the babies right before bedtime.

Not to criticize the Y, the M or the CA but somehow Patrick spent three and a half years taking lessons there and he still swam like a golden retriever. Lots of splashing, lots of enthusiasm; not so much with technique.  A mere month into classes at this all swimming, all the time place and he is...

I interrupt this post to make a catty observation about the guy sitting right here. His twin boys are in the lane next to Patrick and are about three. They are quite cute and, all things considered, very well behaved. Almost every time I glance up they are attentive and where they are supposed to be. The father however is wound so tightly that he is just hovering on the bench next to me, clenched in a state of agitated readiness. At first I thought he was afraid his children might drown but I now realize that his concern orbits the correctness of their behavior. When one of the kids started to drain the water from his eyes his father shrieked, "GET THOSE GOGGLES BACK ON!" and every time one of the boys looks around he bellows "PAY ATTENTION!" which of course causes them to snap their little necks in his direction because, dude, you are the only parent in the place screaming like a maniac. Patrick was executing a twirly little vortex dance while he waited his turn to swim a minute ago but you don't see me freaking out. Besides, his teacher squashed him for it, which is one of the things she is supposed to do. But back to this guy, I know I should be supportive of my fellow parents as we all trod this long road together but I dunno. It's kind of fun to judge him for being such tool. One assumes that he is worried about eliciting rigid perfection from his children because he feels their behavior reflects poorly upon himself; and yet here he is, doing a bang-up job of assitude all by his lonesome.

Generally, I tend to judge parents more for laissez-faire neglect of their shelf climbing offspring (Madam your child is standing on my hand and my hand is reaching for bleach five feet off the ground - what's wrong with this picture?) than for hyper shrieky overparenting so this current situation is providing me with a much needed breath of fresh air (I have never been in the forests of Burma but I am quite certain they feel exactly like this pool area - remind me next time to just wear some netting.) Maybe he is not the primary (or even secondary) caregiver so he just doesn't know any better? I am a fan of rules and appropriate conduct and letting your children know that being in public carries certain responsibilities, chief among them: thou shall not irritate others; but a three year old splashing his brother once during a thirty minute swimming class? Not a big deal.

Not to digress but I feel fairly strongly that children are not inherently annoying in a public setting. As long as they keep their hands to themselves, their bottoms on the seat and their voices low I will take a kid over a drunk businessman as a dining companion any day of the week (and I waited tables for seven years; I know of what I speak.) However, the minute these conditions change you stand up, pay the bill whether you have eaten or not and you leave. For what it is worth I sympathize completely with the frustration of some people who choose not to have children. I do think society is lopsided in trying to accommodate parents. It is weird that the US gives tax breaks per child regardless of income level. If a company lets Jim leave early to coach his daughter's soccer game then they need to nod tolerantly when Bob goes home to work on his oil painting while the natural light is still good. And 88% of people with young children in Starbucks are self-centered and rude. On the other hand, simply bringing a child on an airplane is not an act of war; even if the baby proceeds to scream from Detroit to Stuttgart (changing a dirty diaper in the aisle; however, is - I know, I did it once and I blush hot at the recollection of my zombielike self-absorption.) The Golden Age of Air Travel is over.

GOOD LORD. I must be suffering from heat stroke. What the hell am I talking about now?  Oh, parents children public behavior this guy sitting next to me... kind of a stretch, but ok.

In conclusion: Patrick's ability to swim has increased tenfold since we started here; judging people is fun; parents walk a thin line between foolish indulgence and over-the-top totalitarianism; childfree Americans sometimes get a raw deal and I'm mellllllllting.

PS I wrote this last night and never posted it, so here it is.

PPS I hesitated for a long time before putting up that first picture of Caroline and Edward because, frankly, it is not a particularly flattering photograph of Caroline. But they looked so cute together, like little flying superheroes, that I decided to overlook the jowls. In fact Caroline is much daintier and flowerlike than some photos may convey. She has gorgeous eyes and long lashes and lovely chestnut hair that is beginning to curl and a nicely shaped little head - and her father's eyebrows. I, of course, think that she is stunningly beautiful.


Super (Best) Friends

We are still trying to decide which one is Zan and which one is Jayna:

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probably because they both took the shape of a giant popsicle

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and the form of a little purple ape.

If you never saw the Wonder Twins then you have no idea what I am talking about; so, hey! Look! Babies!


Quaternary Care

I had to deal with four doctor's appointments in the past two days: there was my annual OB/Gyn (hey did you know that this is pronounced Obee Gine-rhymes-with-wine-and-Caroline? I have always said O-B-G-Y-N, five separate letters - my doctor said this indicates an ana... a meticulous personality) visit; Patrick had a six year well kid check, Caroline and Edward went in for their six month appointment and then for a surprise second encore I took a cat to the vet. So in case you are wondering, yes I have read this month's issue of everything.

1. I finally got a chance to ask my OB about the pathology report on Caroline's placenta. As you may recall she was 4lbs 2 ounces at birth which is just not normal for a 36 weeks (and six days. and 21 hours) fetus. As you may also recall I was injecting blood thinners on a daily basis for nine months because my OB was convinced that even a single gene MTHFR mutation can lead to clotting issues. So I suppose she can be excused for being ghoulishly pleased by the pathology report that showed a compromised placenta (infractions? villi something? and something something else?) that was a little less than half the size of Edward's. She opined that without the heparin Caroline would not have survived to be born.

I never really believed some of the stuff I did with the pregnancy. Every night I spent hooked up to monitors in the hospital I was like, "Really? Isn't this a little dramatic?" I injected the blood thinners because I was afraid not to do it, but it felt more superstitious than medical. The terbutaline pump certainly helped keep the contractions down but I was never certain that the contractions were doing anything anyway; until I went off the terbutaline and delivered within fourteen hours. It was a bit sobering to reflect back on the things I thought were optional overkill and realize that they probably saved Caroline and Edward's lives.

I thanked my OB but in retrospect I should have offered to detail her car. With my hair.

2. I switched Patrick from his old pediatrician (who was fine) to the pediatrician Caroline and Edward lucked into (same practice) and with whom I am madly in love. What is it with women and their doctors? I cannot count the number of females I know who have one-sided attachments to their physicians and yet I have never once met a man who gushed "Oh I just adore my cardiologist."

Patrick is tall'ish, lean'ish and he has a spider angioma where his lip meets his face.  This is a benign lesion that looks like a small cut from a distance and like a possible little tumor if you are his freak of a mother and study it very very closely for over a year. When asked how he liked the new babies he replied, casually, "Pretty ok, I guess." When asked how the babies are doing he became animated and said, "Caroline is a MENACE!" Then he laughed merrily and told stories about all of the things she gets into that make me blench.

This is an aside:

I have a plastic bin under the couch that contains diapers, baby nail clippers, diaper cream etc. I also have a tub of wipes stashed under there. The first time this happened I thought it was a fluke but by her fifth time I realized that she was doing this intentionally - Caroline likes to roll under the couch, knock the wipes tub over, click open the lid and pull all the wipes out; possibly chewing on one for good measure.

One of the problems with having a six year old is he is privy to all the family secrets and he has absolutely zero discretion. Let me assure you that I had not planned on telling our pediatrician that I have carelessly let Caroline get into the baby wipes on more than one occasion.

3. After Patrick yammered yesterday I took the babies in for their appointment today. The doctor said, "What was it Patrick called Caroline? A menace? I have never heard a six month old baby described like... ."

Then he said "Oh my!" as he realized what we were talking about. I wrote about that appointment (hmmm, at considerable length I see) here at REDBOOK. Oh, before I forget, as he checked her eyes I asked him - in his professional, medical opinion - to tell me what color they are. The question was subject to considerable debate while my family was here and I wanted an objective, expert opinion to confirm that I am right and that everyone else is wrong wrong wrong. Green, he said. Possibly gray-green. Not brown? I clarified. Oh heavens no, said the good doctor. So. There. Certified green.

4. Darwin and Rusty were very close. They slept together. Rusty always groomed Darwin (although we never saw him return the favor - there is always a Giver and a Taker, isn't there?) When Rusty died I was worried about how Darwin would handle the loss. Cats are very sensitive; so I tried to make sure he was given lots of extra attention and I think he was ok for about a month. Then about a week ago he peed on the couch. Twice. And the rug. Last night (morning?) at 5 am I was on my way back to bed when I heard that tell-tale sound of covering (paw scratching rug) that makes every devoted cat owner turn cold and pale. I went in search of the sound and found him in the playroom, having just peed in poor Patrick's Lego bin.

Oh.... cats.

Repeatedly urinating in the same wrong place is probably behavioral. Defecating, almost certainly ditto. But randomly peeing all over the place is usually the sign of a physical problem so I called the vet and they saw him this afternoon. Turns out he has a bladder infection, the poor thing, but I have never been happier to hear about a disease in my life. You can treat an infection, it's much harder to treat grief - particularly when it expresses itself in urine.

PS I should have said yesterday that the early bedtime is only relevant if you have problems with the way things are going. If your baby happily goes to bed at midnight and you happily wake up at noon, rock on.


Delay

Aw rats, I missed a day. You will be shocked to know that I place the blame for my inability to write anything yesterday squarely on Steve and his stupid deadline. He was hanging drywall last night until eleven and the bangbangbanging prevented me from being able to complete a coherent thought anywhere in the house. So I checked in with my fitness Mii instead - I love my Patrick's new Wii; remind me to get back to this subject - who gleefully informed me that after a solid ten days of running every other day (I am up to a mile and a half now) I have gained 1.3 pounds. It then marked this fact on my permanent Wii record and made me stamp it.

The question that I meant to get back to before I started blubbering like a wide-receiver was from Shannon who asked: "But...why is it better to put [a baby] down early? Logic would tell me that if I put the baby down at 9 pm rather than 6 pm that he will sleep 3 hours later into the morning."

Let me start by saying how much I enjoy being the lucky bastard who gets to pretend that her easy babies are the result of skilled parenting rather than sheer good fortune. The day after they were born I fed Edward, wrapped him like a buche de noel and then tossed him into the hospital bassinet where he promptly fell asleep. I goggled at him for a while and then started to fidget because surely any second he would start screaming? My previous experience with newborns was limited but unequivocal: from the moment he was born Patrick - oh my god Baby Patrick, what a nightmare - could not be put down without yelling his abnormally small head* off. He would nurse/doze/cry nurse/doze/cry in hour long cycles. This lasted for, um, a year? OK, maybe it was only six months before he would sleep for three hours at a time but it was the longest six months of my life. As early as nine days into it I turned to Steve (stop me if I've told you this before) and said, "I was happier before he was born." Steve agreed but assured me things would get better. And, sure enough, it couldn't have been more than 396 wretched, sleepless nights later that I stopped falling asleep while eating.

Where... oh right. Patrick was a terrible baby. But Edward was happy to sleep in solitary splendor right from the beginning. So I watched him sleep that first day until I started to feel at loose ends. I had brand-new twins for chrissake; shouldn't I have something else to do but read? I brightened when I realized that we could go visit Caroline in the special care nursery where she was no doubt in desperate need of me, poor little monkey. But no. If anything she slept more deeply than he did, sprawled legs akimbo like a frog in her super-heated incubator. I sat in a chair and watched them sleep while the nicu nurse told me lurid stories from her past (she eventually invited me to join her book club - I was touched.) And that is pretty much how it has been ever since. With the babies sleeping peacefully on their own, I mean, not the friendly nurse part. We have gone through stages where one or the other of them wanted to sleep on top of me, but for the most part both babies have always been pretty good about waking up, eating and falling back asleep again in their own beds. Now that I have moved dinner a little earlier ("dinner" being a couple tubs of pureed whatsit and a nice bowl of tepid grain-based sludge plus breastmilk and/or formula depending upon who it is) they don't even eat first. We do dinner, bath, pajamas, two books from Paradise Lost (I'm kidding of course; I hate Milton) and then down they go into their cribs. Edward always snatches his blanket and snuffles it before passing out; Caroline scoots across her crib to grab a pacifier, then she rolls over to whatever toy I have in there and starts to do a thorough examination with her clever little hands - pausing every so often to pull the pacifier out so she can turn it around to chew on the other side. Now that I think about it Caroline is a little like Kojak - with lots more hair and a pacifier instead of a lollipop. Uncanny.

It's a miracle on the Plains: two babies, neither of whom need to be nursed to sleep and neither of whom object when I put them down and walk away. This is not to say that I am not up all the goddamned time, I am. Between the two of them I get woken up anywhere from two to five times a night, but it's ok. It'll pass.

But back to the question, sorry. Why don't babies sleep later if you put them down later? Actually, I have no freaking idea but they don't. It is sort of like when you stay in a hotel and plan on sleeping in really late since you don't have to be anywhere specific until noon; only to discover that you are wide-awake at 6 am and the sheets are scratchy and you think you might have been cryogenically processed in the night and there is absolutely nothing you can do to go back to sleep again. Babies are like that. As far as I can tell they just come pre-programmed with a personalized wake-up time and although I have heard rumors that it is possible to gradually shift this time in a desired direction I have no personal experience with it working; hard as I have tried.

As I mentioned with my pathetic little sleep chart Patrick went to bed at 9:30 and woke up at... 5:45. I kept trying to put Caroline and Edward down at 8 despite much wailing and gnashing of the gums (a billion thanks to those who urged the early bedtime: you were right, you were right, oh you were so very very right) and they would wake up at... 5:45. Now that I put them in their cribs by 6 they wake up at... 5:45. Actually Edward does, Caroline will often eat and then go back to sleep again. A comment a few posts ago  (I am sorry I don't remember who said this) really resonated with me. The commenter talked about shifting her perspective so that she treated six like bedtime and the subsequent wake-up like a night waking, rather than thinking that six was the last nap and bedtime was at 9 or whenever. I had a bell go off when I read that although for me it had to do with their early morning habits. Since then I have been trying to treat the 5-6 am waking as a night waking and have put them back to bed again after they eat. Like I said Edward isn't buying it, but Caroline has been sleeping until seven'ish. 

In conclusion: although one might think that early bedtimes lead to anarchy lawlessness and rebellion all before dawn; the fact of the matter is that most babies do that all on their own regardless, so you might as well buy yourself a free evening and go with it. The End.

PS Speaking of a. l. and r. Patrick keeps encouraging Caroline in her waywardness while Edward tries to pretend that he doesn't know either of them

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*Patrick's head circumference was in the 8th percentile when he was born. He turned out fine.


Of Course

I was trying to look back a few pages so I could properly credit this next question but I accidentally wound up in my archives. So I spent some time reading old posts about the beginning of my last pregnancy (the good one. see also: Caroline; Edward) and I got to the part where we had a suspicious looking nuchal translucency prior to scheduling CVS. I sat here and cried as I read it. I can remember having that ultrasound. I can remember the certainty that one of the babies carried an unbalanced translocation. And I can remember how stupid I felt for having ever dared to be optimistic in the first place; for somehow forgetting that I was doomed. And then there was the waiting - there was always more waiting - and finally the amazing unexpected unbridled joy of good test results and the hope which came crashing down like snow off a mountain. I just cried like I have not cried in... I don't even know how long.

If I have not said this before I should have: I would do it all again. I would relive every moment of the past nine years to bring Caroline and Edward into the world. No question. And I only hope that I would spend each second of that time recognizing how lucky I was to even try.

Two nights ago I had Edward's nice round head pressed under my chin; his long body curled on my chest. He was snoring, of course, and I fatuously contemplated what a sweet snore he has - part grunt part wheeze pure melody. Like the Country Bunny in my little gold shoes I have already decided that Edward will be my musical child and he will sing to me with his hands clasped together; soft, sad ballads in which the hero is pierced by arrows and the maiden throws herself down a well. As we sat there in the dark, Edward and me, I told him, "I waited for you I waited for you I waited for you ."

It took nine years. It was hard. You keep your head down; you keep your chin up; you remember that so many people are suffering more than you are and you feel ashamed; you learn compassion; you feel grateful and you feel anguish and you hope for better days to come.

My children are perfect and I would not change a moment that has passed.


Status of Gibraltar

If we were having this conversation in person you would find that I have a very hard time sticking to the point. One thing reminds me of another thing and even though I will waggle my thumbs at weird angles to mark the place - saying "Oh oh oh I want to get back to that" - the chances are very good that a discussion starting with "De vous, chez vous, sans vous" and leaping naturally to the Treaty of Utrecht will wind up on the subject of cats, their care and feeding, without ever returning to the reason I brought up proverbial sayings in the first place.  Steve finds this habit of mine very trying and frequently says, "Focus! Julia!" in an attempt to avoid the verbal maelstrom and figure out where, exactly, he needs to drive Patrick for swimming lessons before I wander too far off the subject and start telling him about the pony I rode the one time I went to horse-riding camp.

So although I frequently have responses to various comments here I rarely manage to get back to them before my attention gets distracted by something shiny and then enough time goes by that it no longer seems worth it - even if I could remember whatever it was in the first place. However, in my effort to set a goal and stick to it (the goal being to write here every day for a week) I find that I am sharp like a cheese and as dedicated as a drive. 

Thus:

To Lisa V, I nod and repeat, carefully, "water heater". A hot-water heater, she informs us, is redundant and silly. But, to mitigate my crime I would like to add: "You've painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tinted hair - Ruby are you contemplating going out somewhere?"  I sing this all. the. time. I think it got stuck in my head shortly after Steve's knee surgery when I found myself perseverating on the line "it's hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed." See how funny I am?

Speaking of how funny I am -

Anonymous asks if it is my intention to portray Steve as an asshole. I really like how this was phrased because it took me right back to my English major days. Depending upon the program an English major might be a writer; but at my college we were all literary criticism, all the time. Serious students of textual analysis understand that the whole point of reading anything is to suck the life from it, but they also know that you can ascribe to a few different schools of thought in order to do so. The formalists, for example, believe (or did back when I was a slip of a girl) that nothing outside the material can be considered. The answers to questions like what was the last puzzle that Frank Churchill gave to Miss Fairfax* were not only irrelevant, they were deemed frivolous. Bastards. But no matter. My point is that I like a question that understands that authorial intent and what winds up on your plate might not be from the same barrel. Or even a pickle.

So, is it my intention to... hold on how was this phrased exactly... oh, I was right, "portray Steve as an asshole"? Good lord no. Of course not. For starters Steve is terrific. I love him with a fervor that often threatens to unseat my reason. If anything I am embarrassed by how foolish I am about him. More than once I have come to a start from a daydream and found that I have written Steve + Julia with a heart around it. Why just this morning I woke up at 10:45 (TEN! FORTY! FIVE!) after a refreshing three hours of unbroken sleep to find that Steve had gotten up with Caroline and Edward, fed them, played with them, fed Patrick, put Caroline and Edward down for a nap, gotten them back up again, oh, and moved an exterior door all while I drooled peacefully in bed. And when I did finally stumble out of bed he made me tea. What's not to love? Also, why on earth would I want you good people to think that I was married to an asshole? How shaming for me. I do not mean to give that impression at all.

But - as I learned in college - beer, baby aspirin and a raw potato are not a balanced breakfast. Also, what a person means to convey and what can be interpreted are not necessarily the same thing. I have no doubt Shakespeare meant every one of his sly homoerotic thrusts (ha!) but did he intend to bury enough material to supply an essay entitled Castration Fears and Matriarchal Power in Macbeth with adequate citations? Probably not but hell that's 8 to 10 double-spaced pages right there, easy.        

In conclusion if it has been possible to read my descriptions of my husband as derogatory then I am truly sorry. I just thought that last story was funny: two differently compulsive personalities intersecting in a bathroom discussing a painted rock... hmmm. Yeah. I don't know. I still think it's funny.

*Jane Austen wrote in a letter that the puzzle spelled "Pardon". Which, ok, but it has always seemed to me that Frank Churchill behaved like a complete cad from beginning to end. Pianoforte notwithstanding.


Love You, Baby

Steve's breakfast bar (I do not know why I am so pointedly removing myself from any involvement with this particular project - possibly because he conceived/designed/implemented it all by his lonesome and my only two suggestions thus far have been deemed impractical [the words he used were "outlandishly unrealistic" and they stung] by the Breakfast Bar Committee of Steve) has come galloping up towards a crucial deadline; so Steve spent the day working on it like a thing possessed. I kept trying to coax him inside so I could land him with a baby (two) and bolt off somewhere; but he would only glare and continue to babble 5 and 15/48th by 12 and 11/433rds.

Oh and don't even think about asking how there can even be a deadline with a project that was undertaken as a hobby to create a space that - while it will be nice - is hardly mission critical. It's not like the time in our old house when he completely dismantled the hot-water heater or (more recently) when he ripped apart the kitchen and I had to use the gas cooktop balanced atop two sawhorses. Because I asked that very question and I was almost nail-gunned in response. These home remodeling geniuses are so touchy.  Apparently he needs to do [blah] [blah] and [blah} (I am the Far Side dog, futilely waiting for my name to come up) before the guys come to put the floor down on Wednesday. And whatever you do don't ask, "Why Wednesday?" Just don't.

I still find it amusing that I somehow completely missed this aspect of Steve's personality during our courtship and early marriage. I thought he was some lovable loafer and the whole time there lurked a maniacal do-it-yourselfer possessed of such breathtaking obsessive-compulsive tendencies that it is not unheard of for him to repaint a room three times. At dawn. Who knew?

So you might expect that his attention to detail would by necessity slop over into other areas of our life. And yet I just accosted him as he showered off bits of insulation and particle board and spider and told him that I have had it up to here (imagine my eyebrows) with his leaving of crap that he never, ever retrieves on every surface he walks past. And I challenged him to progress from the shower to our bedroom door - taking his time to look carefully around - removing any items that he thought might possibly not belong where they currently reside. Also, put some pants on. He laughed and said he was on it. Count on him. No problem.

Would you like to know a few of the items Steve missed?

Lollipop, electric razor, wet dirty swimsuit, button, four pennies, empty juice glass, safety pin, eight wadded up receipts, the Lemony Snicket he finished a week ago and a five inch rock painted red green and blue.

When asked What the hell, Steve, he replied, "Those things DON'T belong on the bathroom counter?"


A-Flat Major

I have been singing that White Stripes song a lot. Enough that Patrick picked it up and I can hear him warbling "Oh I can tell that we are gonna be friendsssssss" over and over while he works on his Legos.

I told him that the song makes me think of him and Edward and Caroline and how much fun they will have together over the years. He seemed pleased by the idea and asked me later how I picture the song. I didn't understand what he meant.

"Do you imagine me in the middle with Caroline and Edward on either side and our arms all hooked together? And are we dancing?"

Um, yes?

"Me too! That is just what I imagined, too!"

My son, Busby Berkeley.

Of course, my son, the six year old, made a few changes to the lyrics with each iteration he sang*; the most recent version he presented to Caroline went something like, oh I can tell that we will not be friends and your eyeballs will explode and there will be blood all over the carpet and you will need a decillion stitches. She just laughed. It is safe to say that the babies think Patrick is absolutely fascinating.

Here he is telling them the story of his other brother and sister. The ones who were hit by a meteor. "It's true," he's saying. "Yep. Very sad, I know. But it happens."

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Edward was amused.

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I keep struggling to find a photo that does justice to Edward's delicate beauty. He always winds up looking either deceptively pale or preternaturally worried or both - Casper the Ghosts meets Woody Allen. But in truth he has a rose-leaf complexion that the Gunnar Sisters themselves would envy and he smiles almost constantly.

This one isn't too bad.

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He isn't smiling in it but the photo does highlight his obsession with his own feet and the fact that Caroline keeps pummeling him. Note that although her attention has been drawn by something on the other side of the room she maintains her viselike grip on his onesie. She's a menace.

Patrick calls her Caroliney. Rhymes with briny but more specifically rhymes with whiny in keeping with the song he made up that goes "Whiny whiny Caroliney/ she is strong and she is tiny."

Steve tells me that we are about to be walloped by a rainstorm and will most likely losing our internet connection so I'll post this before that happens. Besides, we have the next season of Psyche rented per your Netflixamendations and are enjoying it in a gentle way. It's like an homage to the great hour-long silly mystery shows of my childhood: Remington Steele. Hart to Hart. Matlock. And could that theme song be any catchier? No.

PS LEMON! Yes! The scallops needed lemon, of course. And the smoky paprika sounds good. Bacon. Basil. Et cetera.

* Patrick just walked by singing yet another original composition. This one goes, "We all speak English but they only speak cow." I have absolutely no idea what that is about.

We are a musical family and - clearly - gifted lyricists.