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August 2008

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Patrick climbed into bed with me this morning, wriggling like a puppy, and asked, "How far is it from the Domestic Republic of Congo to Cameroon?"

It was a strange way to wake up and it took me a while to process. A better mother - one who is dedicated to nurturing intellectual curiosity no matter what the hour - would no doubt have grabbed her bedside atlas and flipped immediately to Africa. I just groaned and pulled the pillow against my head. Eventually I realized that I was not going to be allowed to fall back asleep (Patrick burrowing, offstage babies vociferating, ditto Steve's voice raised in song like a French Canadian woodsman) so I grudgingly got up. As I brushed my teeth I considered Patrick's geography question. It occurred to me that there was something not quite right about the phrasing and as I drank my tea I identified the problem: "Hey Patrick, it's the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

"What is?"

"It's not a Domestic Republic; it's a Democratic Republic."

Patrick looked up from the Lego dungeon he is building. "Mommy, that was an hour ago."

And, sure enough, it had taken me a full sixty minutes to frame that response. I am not a morning person.

++
Edward was doing very badly....

huh, I just received an email from a woman who asks me if I feel guilty when I do not post and tells me that it is rude to go so long without writing and mentions that I left you guys hanging for ten days re. Edward. She suggests that I should announce that I am no longer blogging if I can't pick up my game. Or something like that.

I had thought that I have been clear about my Divided Loyalties but apparently not; so to reiterate: the good people of REDBOOK pay me to co-write their Mom Moment blog, I update there at least twice a week, the link is on the sidebar, you certainly do not have to read anything over yonder but if you ever wonder what is up with me that is an excellent place to look, and you may always feel free to leave comments here or there or not .

I hope that covers it. And yes, actually, I do feel guilty when I don't post here but I feel guilty about a lot of things. Just this morning Edward was sitting up looking ridiculously sweet so I turned away to grab the camera and as I did so he reached for me and toppled over on his face. I felt guilty about that and as I described to Steve just how guilty I felt I failed to notice Caroline pulling herself up using my shirt and as I gesticulated to show how Edward toppled I knocked Caroline sideways. Oh the guilt. And then later I told Patrick to quit hassling the baby and he was hurt and said, "But I like her and she likes me!" and I looked at them smiling at each other and realized that the reason I had told him to stop playing with his sister was because her screams of pleasure were driving me batty. I apologized and I felt guilty.

Seriously, Caroline has a shriek that melts paint off the walls. It is painful when she is happy but the few times she has used it to express displeasure... my god I thought I was going to die. She starts about an octave above high C and then she just goes up and up and up until you cannot even hear her anymore but you know your ears are bleeding.

.... but back to Edward. Edward was doing very badly. The plan to thicken liquid for him so that he would stop breathing it into his lungs failed to meet with his approval and he opted to stall negotiations on the subject by launching a hunger strike. Or rather, a liquid strike since he was perfectly happy to eat Cheerios and those odd Gerber carrot cubes and bowls full of multigrain baby cereal the consistency of mortar. I got quite desperate and took him back to the speech pathologist and they gave me permission to backtrack with the thickened stuff and miraculously it seems to have worked. He abruptly started eating again on Thursday morning and now we are up to an almost-thick-enough consistency. I always wondered how people figure out the preferences of their nonverbal children ("Oh Leonard loves his WubbyDuck!" and you look at three week old Leonard and think, "Really?" but yeah he probably does love that duck.) Somehow you just piece things together and I know that when it comes to thickeners Edward is a 8-oz-to-6.5-TB-formula-plus-rice-cereal-in-BornFree-with-size-3-nipple-
during-the-day/Y-cut-nipple-at-night kind of a kid . He hated the various gel thickeners for some reason (bummer. AlexaFlotsam was kind enough to give me Simone's leftovers and then I bought some more while I was at the children's hospital... I have a ton of SimplyThick now and no use for it beyond a cheater's pudding - do you think I can donate it?)

I felt victorious when he started drinking again until I realized that all I accomplished during the past grueling week was to return him to the point where he was at prior to his appointments. Oh wait, that's not entirely true. We now know that he is aspirating and I can tell he does it after he eats as well as during. So we have him on prevacid and I am optimistic that the combination of dealing with his reflux and thickening (mostly) his bottles will have a positive effect on his lungs.

-- I am writing this over the course of two days (edited: three days, I guess because the last bit is from Tuesday and I started this on Sunday) because that's how I roll now. Steve has taken all three children to run errands while I pack for our trip tomorrow. Steve asked what I needed and from where. I told him - in excruciating detail. As per usual he said ok, got it, and then he calls me from every aisle of each store because obviously he was never going to remember my saying I need the stuff that Edward likes that is green and some of those little things we had that time we went wherever it was with Patrick.

Five minutes ago he called to tell me that Edward has just said "da da da da da". I could hear Patrick shouting excitedly about it in the background. This is Our First Starting Consonant (I am sure there is a name for this - is it fricative? because I would love to write that word: fricative. it just sounds good in my head) and we are all very excited.

I have said this a billion times, but I cannot get over how different Caroline and Edward are from each other. Edward has just started getting up on all fours and rocking, occasionally propelling himself forward; always face first. Caroline has started pulling herself up onto her knees. When she gets there she doesn't know what to do so she just sways back and forth until she falls over. Last night she found her feet and stood up briefly in the bath tub. She liked it. I aged another six years. Caroline can pick up Cheerios with a pincer grasp; Edward rakes 'em in. However, once the Cheerio gets into her mouth Caroline just pushes it around with her tongue whereas Edward rolls it around his mouth like vintage port before slowly masticating it. Edward babbles (now with consonants!) Caroline squeaks or shrieks. I found out yesterday that Todd has taught Edward the sign for "tickle" and Edward will excitedly sign until Todd  tickles his thighs. It is very cute.

We are leaving for the airport in (oh god) twenty five minutes and all five of us are still in our pajamas so I should go. Steve swears this will be a vacation for me so I theoretically will be back to write again sooner rather than later. We'll see.

Take care.


Week, Day, Whatever

We had people here. Then some other people. More people coming tomorrow, different people on Saturday, ditto next week, et cetera next weekend...

I asked Steve if he knows why we are so wildly popular and he suggested that our central location gives us a competitive edge; nestled as we are between North Dakota and Wisconsin, just a stone's throw from Iowa and virtually on the way to Winnipeg.  The better question would be why no one is sleeping at my house tonight. Actually, that is an excellent question: why is no one sleeping in my house tonight? Steve and I are adults and it is only eight-thirty so that makes sense but Caroline? Really? With the loud little squeaks every ten minutes? And Edward - although his aaaaaaaaaouououououououououaaaaaaaaaaa scales thrill me to my marrow and leave me convinced that at least one member of this family will not be completely tone-deaf (you want pure comedy? ask Steve and Patrick to perform a duet) - shut up and go to sleep, kid.

I'm not complaining, I add hastily. I will take awake but happy children over awake and screaming ones any night. It's just hard to relax when you don't know if the yelps are going to escalate. Recently Edward has been waking up at four'ish am (about three hours after his middle of the night gorge.) He doesn't cry he just burbles. And even though I swore I would not do this unless he was actually crying I go upstairs and feed him again, because by four in the morning I am so tired I just want to get it over with so I can go back to sleep. I know I should just wait to see if he will doze off on his own but I don't want to lie there waiting for it; especially when I know that Caroline will definitely wake up around five and she will assuredly be hungry. I think the problem with most sleep adjustment strategies is that they involve an iron self-control just at those times when one is at one's weakest. Sure it is all good and well to suggest offering an older baby a pat on the back or your warmest assurances of love and good times on the morrow,  but when someone tries to mug me I give them my wallet. You'll go back to sleep if I feed you? Done.

Of course, this is probably why Caroline and Edward are seven months old and I am up with them four or five times between 11 and 6.

Speaking of Edward, he's adorable. I read him Goodnight Moon today and he laughed so hard he got the hiccups. Personally, I have never found the book all that interesting, let alone hilarious, but Edward starting cracking up at the red balloon and by the time we got to the old lady whispering hush he was practically having convulsions. Every time I try to read to Caroline her gaze darts around like a squirrel and then she tries to stuff the book in her mouth. Sometimes it is hard to believe they are related.  Caroline zips all over the place with her labored-but-effective commando crawl so we have constructed a temporary holding facility from an old play yard while we figure out how we are going to provide adequate spaces for both them and Patrick's billion Legos. We call the new structure Baby Jail and the twinks spend time in there expressing their different personalities. Caroline buzzes around the perimeter playing with toys, rattling the gate and crawling over Edward. Edward either chews on a readily available toy or he does push-ups. Honest to god, push-ups; palms and toes.

See?

100_3841
Semper Fi, Edward.

He had a hard day yesterday (REDBOOK post here, I am not rewriting it - too draining.) The short version is that we learned that Edward aspirates when he drinks (and eats anything too runny, now that I think about it) which is why he frequently sounds like a lawn mower. The speech therapist gave me a sheet on how to thicken liquids for him and I tottered off to buy new Y-cut nipples and look into the relative merits of Rice Cereal (cheap, readily available) and Simply Thick (tasteless, handy little packets.)

Now that I have had time to calm down and think things over I have a few questions I wished I had asked either the speech pathologist or the radiologist. Things like: why is Edward breathing rather than swallowing? Will he outgrow it? We are supposed to return in ten to twelve weeks for a follow-up but I don't even know what we are looking for with that. Also, what do I do when he chokes even more on the sample packet of Simply Thick than he has ever done since I stopped forcing him to try to breastfeed?

--Oh. And speaking of breastfeeding. I understand that without a swallow study it was impossible to really know what was going on with Edward but FYI to the billion lactation consultants we saw over the course of two months: it wasn't his latch, his frenulum is fine, he doesn't have reflux, the nipple shield made things only marginally better, it wasn't thrush, I really did not need to perfect the football hold, the supplemental nursing system made things worse, tandem breastfeeding was never going to work, and I no longer believe that the reason he was fighting me was because *I* was stressed. *He* was stressed because he could not simultaneously eat and breathe. And it retrospect it was unfair of me to ask him to choose. I know this sounds sort of huffy and snarky but I swear I do not feel that way in the slightest. I wanted to breastfeed both babies and I sought help in order to do so. I received good support and helpful suggestions and in the end it turned out that none of it had anything to do with our particular situation. The only reason I am even mentioning this is because I want to put the following fact on record: I have two babies; one is breastfed, one is not. If someone wants to tell you that you gave up on breastfeeding because you did not try hard enough or want it enough or care enough because every baby can breastfeed I state with authority that they can shove that mawkish propaganda right up their collective asses.

OK, a little snarky. The swallow study was hard and I am still feeling fragile.

* A Patrick story from this evening:

A few months ago Patrick announced that he was afraid of the dark.

"No, really, I'm terrified," he said with absolutely no emotion whatsoever; and no matter how skeptically we expressed our doubts about this newly developed nyctophobia of his, he repeated this assertion. "I am completely afraid of the dark. Sooooooooo, I'm going to need to fall asleep with the lights on."

What he really wanted was to read himself to sleep every night and we knew it. Hell, it's what I do, but I am not six and I have a husband to turn off my light for me. For Patrick we first moved a night light into his room but when Patrick continued to complain we finally agreed to leave the closet light on all night.

Patrick goes to bed at eight but we do not go up to check on him (read: tell him to stop reading) until after nine. This is usually a multi-visit process but the past few nights I have been surprised to glance under his door when I went up and see only the glow of the closet light; indicating that he had turned off his reading light and gone to sleep already. I tip-toed back downstairs and thought that the transition back to school-year hours was going to be easier than I had feared.

Today Patrick and I were in his room cleaning up (books, actually) and I noticed that he has flipped his pillow from one end of his bed to the other.

"You changed your bed," I said.

"Yeah."

"I like it."

"Me too," he said. Then he confided, "It's a trick, you see. I figured out that on this side I can just keep reading using the closet light."

"A trick," I repeated.

"Yes!" He was proud.

"So you turn off your reading light but keep reading with the light from the closet?"

"Yes!"

"So no one can tell you are still reading?"

"Exactly."

"And who is it, exactly, you are tricking with this change around?"

"I'm tricking... oh. Oh no."

Yet again a master criminal is hoisted by his own arrogant need to explain how clever he is.

Finally, Edward recommends the superthick peas, Caroline has never seen him before in her life, the Baby Jail walls close around the growing boy loom behind and I think we need actual high chairs.

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Unless you have the Fisher-Price space savers and they work for bigger babies too? Or do you have a high chair you like? Caroline's newest affectation is to grab the spoon, feed herself and then throw the spoon on the floor. She needs... boundaries.


Indoor Summer Sports

On Wednesday Steve told me he was going out to dinner on Saturday with some clients. I said, ok.
On Thursday he looked rather flustered and said that there had been a misunderstanding and someone had thought his wife was... anyway, it appeared that Steve was on the verge of a social gaffe and that this disaster could only be avoided by my presence in a pillbox hat and one-button gloves; so how would I like a night on the town, baby, and get a sitter. I said, ok.
On Friday Steve said that everything had gotten worked out and it would just be a business dinner after all - cancel the babysitter. I said, ok.

On the minus side I got a disinvitation, which is never pleasant. On the plus side I had completely forgotten about each conversation within seconds of having it, so I had never called for a babysitter in the first place.  Sometimes inertia works for you.

Speaking of inertia...

during one of my five thousand visits to the obstetrician last year I read a brochure on some kind of semi-permanent birth control for women. Mirena, maybe? I don't remember. What I do remember was the marketing line: "Tired of waiting for him to schedule the vasectomy?" At the time I laughed out loud because it struck me as an absurdly precise marketing niche. Could there really be enough women out there whose male partners were being coy about surgery to justify an entire print campaign? How silly. Surely if two adults in a committed relationship jointly decide that the best way to avoid unintended pregnancy is for the man to undergo a minor procedure then all that is left is looking up U for Urologist? Right?

Flash-forward... no, actually, flash backwards first.

I have fairly strong views about permanent birth control methods like vasectomies and, in general, I am not in favor of them. I have a great capacity for imagining all sorts of catastrophes; so it is very easy to picture a happy couple who believe their family is complete with x children. He gets a vasectomy. They buy a lake home, take up racquetball, plan an anniversary trip to Stellenbosach. Then the wife dies. Devastated he goes through the days like a zombie until one day he realizes that he will always love her but he is still living

[No, perdóname.
Si tú no vives,
si tú, querida, amor mío, si tú
te has muerto,
todas las hojas caerán en mi pecho,
lloverá sobre mi alma noche y día,
la nieve quemará mi corazón,
andaré con frío y fuego
y muerte y nieve,
mis pies querrán marchar hacia donde tú duermes, pero seguiré vivo
-

my favorite part of Pablo Neruda's La Muerta; gives me the shivers every time]

and eventually he meets someone - someone younger - and they fall in love and want to marry but she also wants the experience of carrying a baby and raising children... unfortunately he got that vasectomy ages ago when he thought his life would run a much different course. So they find themselves at a sad impasse. Sure, you can always try to get vasectomies reversed but it is not as easy as pudding and having spent ten years of my life taking the hard road to parenthood I would not wish "not easy" on anybody. Thus when someone like, oh, I don't know, a close friend mentions that a vasectomy might be an option for them I think, "Nooooooo!"

However

Steve is a (beloved) mutant and I had eleven fucking miscarriages and the kindest thing I could possibly do for the future Mrs. Him is to insure that this buck stops here.

Towards the very end of my last pregnancy Steve came with me to an appointment and while we waited in an exam room we read a large poster that charted the differences between various methods of birth control. Under Vasectomy, Side Effects it listed: pain, tenderness, swelling, bruising, inflammation, infection.

Steve looked at me with round eyes and said, "ONE! Any ONE of those is a deal-breaker!"

I laughed with all the scornful assurance of a woman who has had five spontaneous losses, five D&Cs, one D&E, one vaginal delivery, one FET, three IVFs, nine months of injected blood thinner, a grommet in my leg, seven medicated stays overnight in L&D, fourteen weeks of bedrest and ten pounds of twins that I was shortly to deliver with the big one coming bottom-first: "You will get that vasectomy, Steven," I said merrily, "AND YOU WILL LIKE IT."

He agreed.

When I went for my six week postpartum check in February my OB said something like, please tell me your husband is going to get something done and I said, my god, yes, of course he is, and she gave me  the card for a guy she likes a lot who is in that line of work. I brought home the card and a pamphlet and handed them both to Steve in his office with the cheerful news that my doctor has cleared me to tango, so to speak, so he might want to look into this. He glanced at the brochure to see what this was and although he said, sure, sure, I noticed that he didn't, like, pick up the phone or anything.  A few days later I further noticed that he had paid a visit to the family planning aisle as our bathroom cupboards suddenly contained boxes and boxes of a latex product that this house has not seen in a decade; and in quantities that caused me to reel a little in my tracks. I wasn't sure exactly what Steve was planning between that moment and his (surely) upcoming surgery but unless it was a risque water balloon fight with the neighbors I didn't think I wanted any part of it.

Now we can flash-forward.

So what was that, February? Yes, so, February, March, April... last week I went through Steve's office like a sirocco. I don't know how he gets anything done in there, the clutter would drive me mad. It does drive me mad, actually, so I try to just avoid his office as much as possible. Then something snaps and I start tidying up his desk while he holds his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and hisses, "What are you doing?" This last time I excavated down through a few layers of catalogs and legal pads and discovered... the urologist's business card still neatly clipped to the vasectomy brochure.

Once Steve got off the phone I handed over the card and asked whether he wanted me to call and make the appointment for him.

He looked surprised.

"What, now?" he asked. "I thought that was more of a winter thing."

I laughed.

"Steve, skiing is a winter thing. Wood-burning fires, mittens, New Year's Eve... those are all winter things. Vasectomies? Not so seasonal."

"But..." and he sat there furrowing his brow and trying to come up with some reason, some valid reason why he couldn't possibly schedule anything before the killing frost.

"Let me guess, you have big plans for your manparts in August?"

"Yes! Yes I do" and the conversation circled downward from there.

So now I know exactly who that marketing campaign was targeting: me. Tired of waiting for him to schedule that vasectomy? Actually, I am, rather.  There was a time in my life when the awkward fumbling towards the nightstand was rather more alluring than otherwise; but that time has long passed.

Do you know what I find completely mystifying? It's SEX for heavens sakes. My entire life I have been led to believe that deep-down all men are depraved sensualists who will do absolutely anything to maximize their prospects for intimacy by even a scintilla. And yet here we are talking about increasing probability for lurid acts by a thousand-fold and all my husband can do is babble about there being a bright golden haze on the mead'er but, hey, we'll talk when the valley's hush and white with snow.

It's bizarre. 

You think he's just scared?


Mac-a-lishess

I now know how the Almighty must've felt on the eighth day when he was finally within spitting distance of completing a PC to Mac conversion: terrifyingly powerful yet sobered by equal parts of hysteria and glee. I have just in this past hour - finally; it took all day and I had babies dripping from my ears - figured out how to move Steve's g+&damnedm&%$therf&^^ckingc&%cks**&%$g email files from Outlook to Entourage after being hampered first by Microsoft, then by Apple, then Microsoft again before finally running headfirst into the mystery of why all of our computers (two PCs and two Macs) were able to access the same wireless router and printer and yet none of them could see each other. Observe the bite marks in my desk here and here; and the chunks of hair scattered thusly.

I am not sure how I wound up being responsible for tech support in our house. As I best I can recall with all that Scotch and beer and poetry; I was an English major and a fairly helpless one at that. I can remember many a time when my roommate Doug would walk me over to the  campus computer lab, get a blank word document open for me, put in a floppy disk (as was the style at the time) tell me to hit "Save" and then come back to pick me up two hours later because I could never figure out how to make the stuff on the screen show up on pieces of paper (hint rhymes with PRINT) and the computer lab help people thought I was too stupid to live; let alone graduate. Later I dated a computer type who tried for six months to get me to understand the difference between software and hardware while I just shrugged and wondered if my toenails would look nice in coral-pink.      

But somehow over the past decade I began to appreciate the beauty of a well-run system. There is a logic to computers that appeals to me and I have gotten pretty good at messing around with them until they do what I want; or at least until I want what they are able to do. Why, I even installed a disc drive the other day with my own two hands (and a screwdriver) which, as you are no doubt aware, is hardware. So when Steve finally decided to follow one of his business partners into the Mac world I was fairly confident that it would be easy for me to move all of our existing files over and get the Macs running within a day or two of naptimes.

That was a month ago. Good lord was I wrong. Converting from PCs to Macs is not as easy as plugging in that clever magnetized power cord and opening up Safari (which I loathe by the way - Firefox for Mac, no question) particularly when you are working for a clutterfiend (cough STEVE cough) who has saved every email he has sent or received in the past four years in an increasingly elaborate series of folders and subfolders and subsubfolders; and who insists that each and every byte is both precious and absolutely essential to future financial success. I sat here this afternoon toying with different methods of rewriting his Outlook data into something Mac can read and I watched as such business critical subject lines like "Fwd: TOO! Funny" and "Cute pics" flashed by and I rolled my eyes. But ours in tech support is not to wonder why, ours is but to do or die. And - as I started this by gloating - I think I did it.

Since I have no set agenda here (although I acknowledge that I tend towards the ubermommy in mommyblogging) and since I am feeling like I just created the unicorn and Mt Olympus; I am going to use tonight's post to share my newly won knowledge.

How to move Outlook Express files to Entourage:

After trying six different things (including a shareware that never worked) I think the best way to move these files is to: import them into Thunderbird for Windows on your PC, export to Thunderbird for Mac, then import the files into Entourage. Oh, and don't forget to rename each file that end .mbx as .mbox.

How to move Outlook files to Entourage:

If you do not have a lot of folders you can move the files from Outlook into Outlook Express, then do the Thunderbird thing above. If you are Steve (or married to Steve; although I have to say I'd be concerned) then pop the $40 and download Message Save from TechHit. Quick and painless conversion.

How to see your PC/Mac from your Mac/PC without the fuss of creating a network so you can easily move your beautifully converted files:

I spent FOUR HOURS trying to figure this out so I will share it for what it is worth.

1. On your PC create a workgroup. Then allow sharing on at least one folder.

2. On your Mac go into System Preferences/Network and create a new location (I named mine New). Then click Advanced and on the WINS tab enter the same Workgroup name.

3. On the Mac go into System Preferences/Sharing and allow File Sharing and change Users and Everyone to Read Only.

Then! and this is the really exciting part so wake up, damn you

4. On your PC go to Start/Run and type "//1.1.1.1" (where 1.1.1.1 is the ip address of your Mac - you will see your ip address when you turned on file sharing)

This opens up your Public Folder on your Mac and enables you to drag and drop all of the files you want to move from your PC over.

Finally, I stupidly thought my cute ipod would just plug into my cute macbook and they would talk and it would be a seamless transition. No. So....

How to Move your iTunes library from PC to Mac:

1. Google Senuti. Download it. Use it. Move your library. Then (and only then) plug your ipod into the new Mac. When it asks you to reformat (double check that you have really and truly moved all of your files) say yes.

I realize that this whole post was of limited interest but consider it part of my community service.

Tomorrow: Steve says, "But... but summertime is testicle time!"