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August 2008
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September 2008

Fest

Steve hit himself in the face with a hammer, creating an apex for violent physical comedy that I doubt this household will reach again any time soon. He has a nice black eye. When asked (innocently) how he managed to suddenly misjudge the distance between his eye (his eye) and the back of the hammer, he replied "Shut up."

On the plus side the breakfast bar is almost done. Yet again I am forced to admit that Steve's eye for these things (ha ha! his black eye for design - I slay me) is better than mine. I thought the mini-addition was silly and now it is my favorite part of the house.

We went out on Saturday night. Dinner first and then we met friends for a birthday at Oktoberfest. After hacking our way through the crowd to locate our party I suggested that Steve go back and forage for beer and sausages. He said that it was too crowded and refused to move from his six square inches. Also, sausages? With his cholesterol issues? Was I trying to kill him? Since standing at Oktoberfest without beer is akin to standing in an overcrowded subway (without beer) I was obligated to hunt and gather for myself - and I don't even like beer. I tried to remember the last time I fought my way through clogs of smoky people in search of a drink and I am pretty sure it was college. The experience has gained no charm in the past fifteen years. I gave up after two bone-crushing, beer-sloshing excursions and we left at a eleven o'clock. This enabled us to be home by eleven-thirty which was pretty early all things considered; but not so early that I wasn't surprised to find Caroline and Edward playing in the living room when we got home.

"Oh! My!" Steve and I said in unison.

The babysitter was apologetic and explained that Caroline had woken up crying and then Edward woke up so... so, ok, we said. No problem. It happens. Actually, to be strictly accurate, it doesn't happen. When the babies wake up in the night I offer them something to eat and then I return them to their beds and I leave. 98% of the time they fall back asleep. 2% of the time they cry and then fall back asleep. 0% of the time do I say, oh, well, since you're up you might as well come downstairs with me and work on those small motor skills. But it really was fine. I think an occasional babysitter's only responsibility is to insure that the children are just as alive when you return as when you left. Anything beyond that is buttercream frosting.

I had a babysitting job the summer I was fourteen. Two afternoons a week I took care of a 7 and a 4 year old. The kids were fine but the mother was completely over-the-top. There were many many Rules for me to enforce: no television, two healthy snacks, 45 minutes of vigorous rain-or-shine outdoor play, one craft project per day that I was instructed to design and implement - in retrospect I wish I had had the aplomb to say, "You know, lady, you expect an awful lot for $4 an hour. Perhaps you should either pony up for an actual camp or just be grateful that you have someone in the house who likes your children and is capable of dialing 9-1-1 as needed. I don't think thirty minutes of Inspector Gadget is going to harm anyone and have you personally tasted this organic nut butter? Your kids won't eat it and I don't blame them. We made cookies instead."

So although it was a little weird to have both Caroline and Edward rootling around the toy basket five hours after bedtime I am happy we were able to go out and the children were all in one piece (or rather, three separate pieces; one per child) when we returned. Todd, of course, always managed to have all three kids fed sleeping and smarter than they were when we left them but 1) Todd walks on water, regularly and 2) the last we saw Todd he was in no shape to take care of anyone, what with all the ziggy-zaggy-ziggy-zaggy hoi-hoi-hoi!ing. It was his thirtieth birthday we had been celebrating.

[Todd is an old friend of Steve's. When Steve sent out an email at the beginning of the summer asking if anyone was interested in helping him and his rotten knee with some outdoor projects (the house has settled since it was built and rain/melting snow channels towards the foundation; Steve wanted to build a wall that would redirect the water away from the basement) Todd offered to come out. He is a special ed teacher in real life and had the summer free. So he was here almost every day and worked on various outdoor stuff but he would also come inside and roll around on the floor with the children - getting Patrick to eat anything he was given and making the babies laugh their heads off. Eventually he offered to babysit so Steve and I could go out at night and.... what can I say? He had me at goodbye. 

Here's his chin (apparently I have a thing about cutting people's faces off when I take pictures; possibly I am so obsessed with Caroline's pretty mug that I don't even notice the adults holding her) with Caroline. It wo100_3855_2uld not be overstating matters to say that I love Todd madly. I was heartbroken when school started again and he went back to the other side of the cities. PS: He's also (mostly) single('ish) and I cannot stand the fact that I have no one to fix him up with - what is it about married women and matchmaking?]

And in answer to a recent question: grey. Caroline's eyes have settled on a slate grey/very dark green with a few brown streaks . I love them. I love them I love them I love them. I could drown in them, just like the Atlantic Ocean.

Edward.

Edward is a thoughtful baby. He likes to study things. He waits until he is absolutely positive he can do something (like crawl) before he even attempts it. Patrick was this way too. I can remember times when he would deliberately go into our bedroom (which is carpeted unlike the rest of the main floor) before throwing himself on the floor and having a tantrum. Today I watched Edward reach to pull himself up and then hesitate. You could see the doubts roll through that round head of his: do I know how to stand? have I tried this before? what if I fall? Caroline moves before she thinks; Edward always thinks before he moves.

They have started playing together. Or rather, they have started realizing that they want what OtherBaby has and the resulting struggles are epic.

Caroline Loses Her Rattling Cube; a ballet in four acts:

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Someone recently asked me if I ever feel overwhelmed by the fact that all that trying finally worked for us. The short answer is yes, every damned day. Every single day I am profoundly grateful in a way that makes my cynical heart shimmy and blush. I am infatuated with my children.

Nine month appointment tomorrow. They will get their final six month vaccination (staggering has worked out so well for us - I'm pleased) and I can talk to the pediatrician about Caroline's apparent weight plateau (Edward has gained at least two pounds this month; he's pushing 20 lbs and elongating daily -  Caroline feels like down and her shrimpiness seems accentuated; I think I need a doctor to tell me it is relative rather than absolute.) Also, Edward's reflux/aspiration was briefly better when we started prevacid but is back to being as crappy as ever. He eats and then yurps at some point during the meal, resulting in an empurplening and hacking mid-dinner cough. Yesterday I worried that he was finally getting pneumonia from all the green beans he's inhaled and wondered if I would be the first parent to show up for two separate well-baby checks with two separate babies and have them admitted for respiratory distress within the same year. It's a pity mommy bloggers don't have the statisticians like MLB.   

Oh and one last thing, per my last REDBOOK post there has been some discussion on synesthesia. Synesthesia is a condition in which people have an extra sense of sorts. They perceive certain things in additional ways. I mentioned at REDBOOK that Patrick has a very (very very) strong opinion about what color every letter is (a-red, b-green, c-light blue, d-purple, um e-orange? I forget but I know y is tan) and I got some interesting mail about it. My mother thinks he most definitely is a... um, a synesthete? They talked on the phone the other day and he confirmed that yes, he does see letters and numbers in colors. And yes, it is always the same color for each one. But I admit I am skeptical. When I asked Patrick about the letters he cheerfully took me through each one, pausing occasionally to say, "Ohhhh, the F is.... gosh, like, a very light dark pink? Can you see that Mommy?" When I asked him about numbers though he ran through them very quickly (zero is white... I forget the rest) but when I asked about eleven he said, "There is no eleven. There is only 0123456789102030405060708090100."

So I'm skeptical. However, I'm always open to everything so let me know if this rings any bells for you.


Mme. C

I have been trying to convince my mother that Caroline scowls, actually scowls, when something displeases her but to date I had been unable to produce any evidence to support this claim. She tends to get all smiley when she sees a camera

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Or at least pleasantly noncommittal (Edward next to her, babbling away as per usual - also he is holding her pants. not sure how that happened)

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However

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I rest my case.

Fifteen (and three-quarter!) pounds of pure Caroline Jane.

PS I don't know why I am so photo-happy this week. Maybe from playing with Picasa again while my Mac was being repaired? I don't know. I still loathe iPhoto.


Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Steve sings the following to the tune of On the Good Ship Lollipop:

On the pirate ship Sweet Potato
My little first mate she's a pink tomato
And anchors aweighhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.....
Sinking ships, every day

So I was only slightly surprised when I found him and Caroline sitting in a laundry basket in the middle of the living room, thusly:

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"Thar she blows!" yelled Steve when I entered; showing an astonishing lack of tact for someone who aspires to have marital sex again at some point in his life. 

When I coldly inquired whether they were pirates or whalers, Steve told me that pirates don't answer stupid questions and that he and his crew required grog and Cheerios or they'd blow me out of the water.

Aye, aye Cap'n Rubbermaid.

I wrote that last post so badly it embarrasses me. I was monstrously uncomfortable at Patrick's computer...

oh! do you want to hear something amusing? When I left my laptop with the nice people of Apple they took my telephone number and promised to call in four to six days when the fan had been replaced. On day five I started twitching so I called the automated system and learned that my computer was ready to be picked up. I wondered why they had not called as promised but... no worries. When I got my laptop home and back online I discovered that they had attempted to contact me to let me know that the repairs were completed. Only for some reason they decided to do so via email. Not so helpful.

And before I forget, a very nice woman named Andrea sent me an email two years ago with a link to a duvet cover from Ikea that was covered in numbers. I went and got it for Patrick and he loves it. The exact pattern is no longer available but this one is close. I see that it is not available online but I have a weakness for numbers-obsessed kids so if you don't have an Ikea within driving distance and you really really want it just email me. I can probably figure something out.

Anyway my laptop has been returned to me and I am no longer crammed into Patrick's desk. So I am at liberty to recognize how silly some of the things I wrote last time must have seemed.

1. My father's oncologist told my brother that he (the oncologist) believes there is a link between vasectomies and prostate cancer. I repeated this to Steve and he (Steve) reacted by suggesting we therefore keep looking for birth control options. Many (many) of you pointed out that research has shown that there is in fact no link and there have been numerous studies done etc. Okey-dokey. So noted. I just repeat what I am told. Sorry to rumor monger.

2. In the post I also felt compelled to mention the oncologist's addendum to his statement re. vasectomies; to wit: those who are genetically predisposed to prostate cancer should be even more wary of the procedure. At which point I launched forward several synapses and said that we had decided Steve would not get one. Which implied that Steve had a family history of prostate cancer. Actually Steve has a family history of being killed by the Nazis. I do not write that to be flip. Steve's birth family attempted to flee Latvia as World War II engulfed eastern Europe but only a few (his birthfather, his birth grandmother) survived to emigrate to the United States. So although we are lucky to have contact with his birth father and to know, for instance, that high cholesterol runs in his very immediate family; a broader medical history is still nonexistent. So when Steve hears "family history increases risk" he always favors caution.

Hope that clears things up. Sorry for the disconnectedness.

As for the cholesterol levels, oh, fuck if I know. Steve is six feet tall and weighs 165 pounds. Until his knee blew up he ran about five miles a day for the past twenty years. He likes: sushi, all fish, wheatberries, tea, most fruit, every vegetable. He snacks on dried cranberries. He never ever eats fast food. He has a weakness for: chocolate icecream (reduced to a once a month indulgence after his first borderline cholesterol reading) insanely expensive Scotch and Reese's miniature peanut butter cups. That's it. Compared to me (my weaknesses could fill a phone book and my likes start with ribeye and meander down to foie that is grasd'd, pausing briefly at real salted butter and whipping cream) he is a monk. One of the extremely boring ones, too, not a cheesemaker or anything. And yet I have arterial walls reminiscent of a blade of new grass and as far as we can tell he is one thinly sliced coconut cream pie away from the everafter.

Life, and you can quote me, is just not fair.


Quincunx

-The comments on the last post did not cause me to completely revise my opinion on volunteer background checks but quite a few of them enabled me to expand upon my assumptions - so thank you. The idea that a person might use a volunteer situation to assess children for future harm was one that had never occurred to me and I found it compelling. I like the opportunity to learn from other (generally better informed; I don't get out much)  viewpoints and I appreciate your willingness to indulge me.

-My almost brand-new Macbook started making a hideous high-pitched buzzing noise. I wrapped it in a blanket and drove it to the Apple store where one of the tech guys examined it. He had to take it into The Back where one presumes it is less disco noisy and when he returned he agreed that it was making a terrible sound. He said it was the fan and then he said that it's funny because Macs almost never have fan trouble.

Ha ha ha.

I left it with them and they said they would not be able to get it back to me for another four to six days. I am back to using my old computer which I had given to Patrick and I cannot decide if I am getting gout or if sitting on a small chair at a small desk is cutting off all the blood circulation to my extremities. Both, probably and this will be brief as a result.
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-My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer this summer. On Monday they removed the (large aggressive) tumor and the pathology report should be available next week. My brother flew to Arizona to be there for the surgery (I had intended to join him but just as we were making plans Edward 's aspiration diagnosis spiraled into a hunger strike and I realized that I could not leave the babies - I just couldn't.) The oncologist told my brother that his chance of developing prostate cancer was now 1 in 3. He also said that vasectomies increase the risk for the disease, particularly when there is a family history. So among other things related to this situation, we have decided that Steve will not be getting a vasectomy after all.

Since that has been the plan forever I find myself at a complete loss. Could you tell me about Mirena again? And is there anything else out there other than the usual pharmacy stock that we should look into, bearing in mind that the concern is not so much a fourth child (we should be so lucky) as a twelfth miscarriage?

-Speaking of Steve, he started the process to increase his life insurance after Caroline and Edward were born. We dragged our feet so it took months and months to get the paperwork done and to have the doctor come out for his exam. It was only last week that our guy called to say that the premium he had quoted originally was about half of what they would be willing to offer now. He does not have access to the specifics but reading between the lines he told us that Steve's cholesterol came back in excess of 250. Yikes. Steve has been flirting with borderline numbers during his last two physicals but this number (if true) represents a tremendous leap upwards. When Steve's birthfather was here he mentioned that he has been on cholesterol medication for over twenty years. I suspect that recent inactivity due to his damaged knee and heredity and turning forty have conspired to hit Steve behind the ear with a sack of metaphoric waxy celled nickels. I think we eat a fairly healthy diet already but there is always room to improve things. I need to get some cookbooks or diet books or something but I don't even know where to begin. Any thoughts on heart-healthy eating will be vastly appreciated. I am rather fond of Steve.

-Finally (Edward just woke up) I was just looking through the photos on this computer to make sure I had moved everything I wanted to the Mac and I found these two pictures of Patrick's room that he must've taken. He kills me:

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Lovejoy

As many times as Steve has tried to explain the term "play action" to me I still remain mystified by it. Not the actual play - that makes sense: fake a handoff, then pass - but "play action" sounds like it was coined by someone who did not really know what either of those words mean. Patrick does this a lot. Not the fake pass thing; the slap a couple of likely words together and hope for the best thing. Today he told me he was going to need me to start assuaging his lunch.

One of the fifty million camps Patrick attended this summer was an afternoon sports camp. Three high school seniors and a college kid took about twenty first and second graders through the rudiments of basketball soccer and baseball over the course of a week. On the first day I arrived a little early and sat in the car watching the basketball court. As the children were herded back toward the soccer field to be distributed to their parents I saw one child drop behind the others, hobbling slowly. It was like a reenactment of the Pied Piper. The straggler, of course, was Patrick and I easily caught up with him as he lurched across the parking lot.

"I... I hurt myself," he whispered.

At this point one of the coaches came jogging over and told me that Patrick had tripped while playing basketball and they had given him a bandaid. I thanked him and escorted Patrick to the car as he hung on me, weak as a kitten.

"I think we'd better go to the hospital," Patrick said so faintly he had to repeat it four times before I could understand him. I suggested he allow me to examine the wound first. I removed the bandaid while he groaned and I studied the entire knee in bright light. It is possible that there might have been a scrape there of some sort but... I would not have bet on it.

"Alas poor Yorrick I knew him Horatio," I said to Patrick for the billionth time, meaning that I appreciate his dramatic gifts and I believe that he is one of the greatest tragedians this century might ever see. Also, I'm not taking him to the hospital.

For the past few days Caroline has been pulling herself to standing using the Baby Jail mesh. She looks delighted and then abruptly lets go, falling and thunking her head against the carpet. Then she cries. Patrick watched her routine today and said, "Oh Menace Girl, I lack poor yogurt you know you're horrible."

Now why... oh right. I was talking about how Patrick strings words together sometimes that make no sense. Like play action. Or Shakespeare in a blender. I think Patrick is hilarious and I am very very happy that football season has started again.

- This is something I am sure I will be rebuked for treating with anything but reverence but Patrick's school is requiring that all classroom volunteers undergo a background check and I think it is stupid to the point of Ionesco absurdity. Not that I object to protecting children from those who would do them harm; it's just that I find this particular attempt 1) naive 2) alarmist 3) ill-conceived and 4) detrimental.

1. There are horrible people in this world. Children are vulnerable. It is natural to want to protect them. It is natural to want the reassurance that comes from knowing your child is safe because you have managed to prevent any and all harm from reaching them... by having people voluntarily complete a form. This is naive.

2. I realize that there are predators who prey on children. I realize that it is possible that these predators might have children of their own. Therefore there is a possibility that a parent within a school community might have dreadful intentions. What I have trouble imagining is that this person would go to the trouble of filling out the volunteer calendar and then attempt some kind of transgression within a classroom containing a teacher and 20 other children. In fact, I am interested to know if anyone, ever has been convicted of harming a child under these circumstances. Not by sneaking around a school but by going through the channels that a background check implies. Seriously. Anyone? Ever?

3. When I asked a fellow mother who supports this new initiative who the background check is supposed to weed from the volunteer rolls she replied, "Criminals." When I asked what kind of criminals she was confused. But, really, DUI? Check kiting? Drunk and disorderly? A long time ago my inebriated but generally harmless roommate, Doug, was on the roof of a party in Baltimore dropping bricks off the roof. One fell as someone turned the corner. The brick missed the guy but was close enough to cause the man on the sidewalk considerable alarm. Since that guy happened to be a policeman on foot patrol he was able to translate his alarm into something concrete like an arrest. When Doug called me to discuss bail he was being charged with attempted murder. True story (the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor which he pled out and he spent senior year dividing his time between engineering coursework and community service.) I spent two years working for the Public Defender's office as a flunky and I have always retained the very strong impression that I recieved there: people accused of crimes are just people. Some are ignorant. Some are vicious. Some are greedy. Some are innocent. Some serve their time and grow up and move on with their lives and why in the name of all that is holy should they not be allowed to come and cut out construction paper letters for their kid's classroom? The idea of a bunch of sheltered suburbanites shuddering over a ten year old possession and distribution charge really sets my teeth on edge. I understand that this particular volunteer provision is trying to prevent child predators from accessing children in the schools. Great! Couldn't agree more. However, isn't this clearly pointless? Either the predator has never been caught in which case they will pass the background check or he has and he is already prohibited by the terms of his release from coming within x hundred yards of a school. I am not saying that this existing prohibition is ironclad, just that it should be as effective as asking people to announce themselves and provide a social security number. Oh, and I did read the actual Minnesota statute that was passed last year to enable schools to require these checks. The statute is fluffy like a marshmallow, simply allowing schools to determine if they want to assess volunteers but providing no guidelines for what they should do with the information. I'm not impressed.

4. Public schools rely heavily on volunteers to compensate for inadequate funding. Requiring people to complete a form, pay $15 and wait weeks to be cleared creates a barrier to entry for volunteering that I suspect many will not be willing to overcome. Steve flat-out refused to complete the form on principle (so he says - for all I know I unwittingly married a lieutenant in the Medellin.) I meant to return my form in July, then August but I just got the damned thing to the office this week; only to be told that the original sheets they had distributed were incomplete and I needed to fill out another one. At this rate I will be cleared to play Hangman with Patrick's class again by Christmas; although his teacher said she would be happy to have me do things for her in the back until I am vetted. When I consider the probablity that the school lost volunteers compared to the likelihood that they have tangibly increased the safety of their students I just roll my eyes.

So it's stupid. In my opinion.

PS Feel free to tell me I am wrong and if you are persuasive enough I will gladly shout mea culpa. Heaven knows I believe someone needs to think of the children.


Glossy

Patrick was in the bathtub tonight, narrating as he is wont to do. As he pushed a lego shark through the bubbles he intoned: "In the beginning there was nothing but vastness darkness... then! The Shark of the Universe! arose from the depths snapping up molecules" - Patrick scooped bubbles into the hinged plastic mouth - "before returning to the blackness." Down went the shark. "But! then! the Shark of the Universe opened his jaws and each baby shark bubble released into the void became... a planet. In this way the universe was born."

I applauded.

"So if there was nothing before where did the Shark of the Universe come from?" I asked.

"The Big Bang."

"And what was before that?"

"Mommy?" Patrick asked. "Could you bring 126 cardboard perfect squares to my bedroom? And a boxcutter? And some hydroclorisone acid" [note: I think he meant hydrochloric but got twisted with hydrocortisone - kids are so sweet when they get their corrosives all mixed up with corticosteroids.] As a change of subject it was hard to ignore but it's a pity he never answered me because I have always been curious about how the originators of creation mythology managed to get around the inevitable "and before that... ?"

Patrick started school yesterday and although (of course) we miss his ability to talk nonstop without ever answering a direct question it has been a pleasant two days. Absence, fondness, etc. Caroline and Edward have had a ridiculously busy week - developmentally speaking - and they are now officially eight months old, tooth├ęd (Edward has two bottom teeth jutting through; Caroline is sporting one) and mobile. After two months of scrumming from place to place using her knees hands elbows and tummy Caroline popped up into a proper crawl one day in Colorado. That same afternoon Edward realized that he could tuck one leg under his bottom and voila he was sitting upright. The next day he leaned forward and started to crawl. Later Caroline pulled herself to her knees and by the time we arrived home she stood up in her crib. On the plus side they are adorable. On the minus side I found Caroline in the pantry after I got distracted by Edward crying when he cracked his melon trying to crawl under the couch (Caroline sneered - unfamiliarity with spatial restrictions is soooooo seven months.)

More pictures than you ever wanted, unless maybe you're my mother:

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Real post tomorrow. I swear.