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December 2008

Just Before Midnight

Happy birthday, Caroline

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Happy birthday, Edward

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Happy birthday, gorgeous twinkly baby finks

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We adore you.

PS The other half of the cake is pink. Extended Family Consensus: ugliest cake ever frosted.


And How Are Your Children?

If you had asked me yesterday to name my most embarrassing naked moment I would have said it was that time in Utah when my loser boyfriend's high school friend's girlfriend's parents' friend accidentally got his penis stuck in my hair.

However, a new day always dawns, doesn't it?

Now if you stopped me on the street and asked me that same question I would furrow my brow and think hard: Moab? Or this afternoon when my next-door neighbor conducted the follow-up breast ultrasound to my mammogram? On the one hand the man's penis was stuck in my hair. On the other hand: the guy whose children supply me with all of my boy scout wreaths said the words "your" and "nipple" to me in rapid and frequent succession. And don't get me started on the gel and the wand and the just moving the tissue over to the side a bit... oh look at that. I blacked out again.

Yeah yeah. I am an adult. He's a radiologist. It was a clinical exam. My breasts are not that interesting. 

I. Don't. Care. I'm still mortified. How can I tell him his invisible fence is broken (again) and their dog is licking my windows (again) after discussing milky discharge in such colorful detail? The mind boggles.

The good news is that my breasts are monstrously dense (why... thank you!) but they looked ok to him. Possible - probable - infection; will follow up with my OB on Tuesday. My brother and his family have most likely beaten me to my house from the airport but I should hurry home anyway. A hostess may in all politeness be unavoidably detained by a mammogram; but when she adds hot chocolate and internet access and a muffin it becomes a little rude. So I hope you had a nice Christmas (if celebrated) or (are having) a lovely hannukah (ditto.) Should you fall outside of the Judeo-Christian realm of cultural tradition then I will just wish you a pleasant end of the year.

PS I thought I had told you that story before and I was right. The penis-hair tale of shame is here.

PPS I DID get a camera for Christmas. Yay Steve. I will be flooding you with pictures. Consider yourself warned.


You're Soaking In It

I threw the highchairs into the empty bathtub, stripped, and then climbed in after them. I clutched a sponge, a bottle of Palmolive and my beloved wooden floor scrubbing brush. As I started chipping away at the layers of dried sweet potato I tried to remember when I first dimly noticed that something is wrong with my right breast. August? September, maybe? I know I thought it was weird that I kept getting a plugged duct on that side, but I related it to the fact that my nursing relationship with Caroline had dwindled to a casual middle-of-the-night only thing. In October I switched bras in an effort to find something softer, something that would not chafe that nipple so much; since it has developed a permanent tender spot that I thought was being aggravated by what I wore.

It's like staring at the same place on the bookshelf that you have seen a million times before; only this time you suddenly remember who you lent your missing Wodehouse to three years earlier. One minute I was sitting there watching Netflix and scratching at my increasingly itchy nipple; the next I had ripped off my pajama top to investigate. It looks odd, I decided. The nice thing about breasts (one of the several nice things actually) is that they exist as their very own test and control groups. In one column I have Left Breast: no problem there; in the other I have... an increasingly misshapen purplish-red weird lumpy nipple thing. I gave the area a delicate squeeze and drew milk, discharge and some blood. Greeeeeeaaaaat, I thought, another blocked duct. But I wasn't sure. It had been like this last month and the month before and the month before that... maybe I should stop assuming I know what it is and go get it checked out. Maybe it is something awful. I went from being completely oblivious to rather anxious in the time it took Steve to walk to and from the garage for a beer. 

When I saw my OB/Gyn for my annual in July she had referred me for a routine mammogram, to be performed x months after I stopped breastfeeding and pumping (she said three; the radiologist said six.) I called the nurse line at the office today to tell them that I am having some breast issues and to ask if they would like me to come in; or should I schedule the mammogram early and then see them? The nurse called back immediately (have I mentioned a thousand times before that I have the best ob/gyn in the twin cities? email me if you are local and you ever want a recommendation for a new practice.) She asked me lots of questions and then put me on hold while she consulted with my doctor. A couple of minutes later they had me scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram (with ultrasound if indicated) for the day after Christmas and a follow-up with my OB on the 30th.

So tonight I put Caroline and Edward to bed and I got Patrick settled in his room and I pulled the spacesaver highchairs out of the kitchen and scrubbed every millimeter of them with lots and lots of soap and hot water. I cleaned the remaining crevices with a bamboo skewer, dried them off and tilted them both onto a towel on the floor. Then I poured myself a very large glass of very good wine. And I felt a better.

In no particular remaining order:

- I posted this at REDBOOK yesterday but I got the rest of the story today. Go read it and come back. I called it, um, oh something about burnt sienna. It's over there on the side. OK? So the deal is that they were doing paintings inspired by stained glass. They used some sort of thickened black paint to create the lead outlines and then they were supposed to fill in the spaces with color. Patrick used dark blues and greys and dark orange or something. The teacher felt that these colors did not provide sufficient contrast with the black outline and asked him to use brighter colors.

I say that this is a question of personal aesthetics. What's wrong with a sombre stained glass? Some of the best mausoleums have them, you know. However, Patrick - and I say this in the most loving possible way - does not exactly suffer from self-esteem issues. It'll take more than jewel-tone junkie to stifle his creative spark or his belief that he is quite the little artist. So... whatever. 

This is the same school, by the way, at which a different teacher told Patrick to rewrite his Hopes and Dreams. At the beginning of school every kid writes down their Hopes and Dreams for the year and Patrick's was considered too outre (it was something about wanting to invent a machine that would allow Sassy to become real.) He was asked to pick a new hope and dream. He wrote: My hope and dream is to learn much harder math. Zing! But also oh my god, pick a new hope and dream? Really?   

Oh and! (and then I promise I will leave the damned art projects alone) I noticed something odd about a different art project they had hanging nearby. It was a construction paper skyline (buildings with windows) against a black background with chalk fireworks spiralling above. They were very pretty, very nicely done, and every single one looked the same as the one next to it. Different colored paper, different colored chalk, different child artists but same layout, same firework shape... I'm just saying, is all.  

Auntie Mame would have been appalled.

- Every time I touch Caroline's head she immediately runs her hands through her hair to make sure I didn't sneak a barrette in there or something. I had hoped to let her hair grow long enough to put it into pigtails but she is going to be blinded by hair if I don't come up with something or cut those bangs. Even when I do outwit her and manage to wrestle some of it off her face... the kid has a lot of hair.

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Should I just get it cut?

She is about to get her second front tooth and constantly pokes her tongue out. She has a very pointy tongue. She has gotten overwhelmingly babble-ish in the past two days, chattering away. When you hold a phone out and ask, "What do you say?" she grabs it and yells "HI! HI! HI!" I think it is adorable but I suspect that family members might stop taking my calls soon.  

- Edward is the most cuddly child that ever lived. He will throw himself into your arms and wriggle with pleasure, sighing and patting you. He makes what I call "little eyes" at me - scrunching his eyes up over and over again to make me laugh. He loves it when people are laughing. He looks at Caroline frequently for validation and to make sure that she gets the joke: did you see that, OtherEdward? Wasn't it funny? He always reaches for her hand when they are in their (now pristine) high chairs. He cries tears when Caroline takes a toy away from him. Caroline, in crabbier contrast, screams with rage when he - inevitably - takes it back. And keeps it. Usually though they exist in harmony.

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They're delightful.

Forgive the stream of consciousness. I'm feeling scattered and I reek of Palmolive


Retrospect

Updated at the end:

Chilblains. Definitely chilblains. See that shiny red toe on wikipedia? Mine is more purple (and therefore prettier) but other than the palette distinction it's like looking into one of those short angled mirrors they had in the shoe shoes of my childhood (and very helpful they were, too, when you needed to know how your shoes might look to someone lying on the ground.) Thanks for the skillful diagnosis. Without that vital clue, that most juste, that "chilled blain" to google; my desire to learn about "sore toe dammit" kept retrieving information on gout. And although my fondness for rich puddings and port and luxuriant side whiskers and beaver hats makes this a not unreasonable guess; I do not have gout. I have a friend who has had gout and when I asked if my sore toes sounded similar to his ailment he answered my question with a question: is it so painful you want to die? When I said no, he said, then it isn't gout, you ASS.

People with gout are grouchy. People with chilblains are friendly, just cold and a little damp around the edges. I can tell you just when I got this one, too. It was the moment I decided not to wear big clunky boots out to dinner last Friday. I wore dainty slippers. Thus when I had to wade through a snowdrift to get from the car to the restaurant my shoes got soaked, then my toes got wet and cold, and finally they were blasted with hot air under the table. That's like a recipe for a chilblain, right there. Not that I knew this at the time. It's only now that I realize that I've been getting chilblains on the tips of my toes for at least the past five years and thanks to you I was able to look up what I can do about it. Boots would be a good start, I think. Although I will miss a streamlined silhouette, I would prefer to stop walking around with toes that look like blueberries.

Speaking of things I cannot google, I need your help. A couple of years ago Patrick went to a birthday party and one of the gifts the child received was this... this thing. It was a little larger than a basketball, plastic, curved, looked sort of like an upended turtle shell and it was a seat? A helmet? A footstool? A bucket? It was the weird combination of function - very mod; and the mother who brought it swore that it was riotously popular in her own house. I want to buy a couple for some kids on my list but I no longer have any idea what it was called. If this sounds familiar please tell me - this would be The Perfect Gift and it's killing me.

This just in, she says, abruptly changing subjects.

Steve has a birth half-brother. Actually, he has two, but one in specific just called looking for information on Steve's balanced translocation. His wife had a miscarriage a few months ago (her first pregnancy) and his brother is getting tested tomorrow to see if he has Steve's translocation. I don't know any details beyond that. I am nauseous when I think about it even being a possibility for them.

Part of me feels guilty that we mentioned the translocation to his brothers in the first place. I don't regret anything we did to have children but I wonder how much harder it would have been if I had known ahead of time how awful it would be, and how much of my life it would take. I think what kept me going for so long was a combination of groundless optimism and blind ignorance. For a long time - for years and years - I did not really understand what was going on. At first we had no idea there was a genetic problem, then we knew but believed the 50-50 odds we were given, then we thought IVF/PGD would magically solve everything... I was Candide in Wonderland, confused but trusting in an inevitable happy ending. In retrospect we made one ridiculous decision after another and I'm surprised we managed to emerge at the other end; intact unscathed and three children to the good.

There nothing you can do about a translocation. Test for it, sure, but then what? Decide not to try to conceive? Possibly. Conceive but do prenatal testing and terminate if it seems like the least of many evils? Certainly an option. IVF/PGD? Yes, but it failed us 2 out of 3 times (pregnant but unbalanced; pregnant but miscarried cause unknown) and it is really expensive. A translocation is just a crappy thing to have.

So I am sorry for their loss and sorry that there might be a possibility for more. Beyond than that I am sorry for existing like some grim crystal ball. For providing them with a glimpse of a possible future that I, personally, am grateful not to have known anything about. I realize that there is never certainty in these things; that our bad luck probably resulted from a mixture of things and not just the translocation. I know that the brother and his wife may very well go on to have children without any problems, balanced translocation or not. But I still feel guilty. Does that make any sense?

It's always better to be informed, right? That's been my mantra. Knowledge/power. Empowered decisions etc... man, I don't know. Without the diagnosis we never would have done IVF and without IVF there would be no Caroline and no Edward. Maybe. There would be a Patrick. And perhaps another a Patrick? Who knows. I am very very glad we did that last cycle but I know this is not an option for the brother so... how does that help them? Think of the worst time in your life (extended or otherwise.) Now think of the time just before that and (it is to be hoped) just after. I know that everything we went through was worth it, ten twenty a thousand times over. I know that I was happy before and that I am happy now. The beauty of inflections or the beauty of innuendos, as Wallace Stevens said about something else altogether. But in between? That sucked.

This is a legitimate question: would you want to know? And does it matter if you could make slight changes to mitigate the awfulness although you could still do nothing to increase the good? 

PS Sleep (or lack thereof) stuff later. I put a REDBOOK post up on the subject earlier this week and I have a follow-up but I got distracted by genetic disorders.

PPS Don't forget the plastic hat/seat/turtle/bucket. 

Edited: I woke up this morning and read your comments and wanted to sink through the floor in embarrasment. How brainwashed am I? Sooooooooo brainwashed. Somehow I seem to have gotten it so firmly lodged in my head that Our Way was the Only Way that I had, what? Completely forgotten? Utterly disregarded? the numerous other things that a balanced translocatee can do to build a family. So... color me pink (apart from my toes. which are still purple.)

But I still feel guilty.


On This Day

If I had realized that Caroline and Edward would both be teething like little minks last week I would definitely have been less ambitious in my party planning. I had all of these things that I intended to do while they slept but they cleverly thwarted me by never sleeping. Or by sleeping in such miserably abbreviated snippets that it was almost worse than not sleeping at all. So that plus a general lack of organization plus my REDBOOK obligations plus the theft of my babysitter resulted in my not being quite ready when our party started. This is always my big fear - that we will invite people over and I will not be ready for them when they arrive. And, really, I need to get over it. It's like I have this 1950s sitcom stuck in my head in which Steve is up for the big promotion and we are having the boss and his wife for dinner to finalize the deal and if it all doesn't go perfectly the family will slide into despair and destitution. What really happens when your friends arrive and find you standing there with appetizer components all over the place is that they get themselves a drink and then help you dollop and stack and smear. Which is more fun for everyone and why modern houses tend to have open kitchens as their center. So it was a good party, I think, and if I spent the first hour and half working on getting the food out; then at least I was able to spend the next three hours talking to people.    

Don't get me wrong, I hyperventilated when I realized that the party was starting in fifteen minutes and I was still wearing Steve's shirt as an apron - I just got over it and had a good time anyway and this is my zen lesson for the week.

We had access to a better camera this weekend.

This is my proof that Edward is not really so very very pale. Also that he is all teeth:

 

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And Caroline (whose cheeks are a mess again. curse you cold dry air) invites you to ask how big she is:

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[Answer: What is sooooooooooo biiiiiiiiiiiiiig?]

Patrick went with his class to see the Nutcracker last week. He was very excited, which sort of puzzled me but many of his enthusiasms puzzle me so I figured he must know something about ballet that I do not. Personally I have never seen the appeal. But the night before the field trip he was buzzing with anticipation and that morning he could hardly contain himself.

"It's going to be GREAT!" he said.

We had friends over after school that day and I was busy getting ready for the weekend house guest and the party so it wasn't until we sat down to eat dinner that I was finally able to ask him how he liked the Nutcracker.

"Well, it was like this," said Patrick. "Halfway through I turned to Nolan who was sitting next to me and I said 'This is BORING'."

"Oh no! Was it not a very good performance?" I asked.

"We just sat there and listened to music." He was indignant.

"Wasn't there any dancing?" I asked. What I don't know about the ballet could fill a barn but I am pretty sure that dancing of some kind is usually involved.

"Well, yeah, there was dancing, too, but that's it. The Nutcracker was just people dancing to music. BOR-ING."

I laughed and said, "Patrick, sweetheart, that is what a ballet is: music and dancing. And to be completely honest I think it is boring too. But what were you expecting?"

"I thought it would be like that game that they play in Iceland with the ball? You know, in my book? The big kinda pointy one?"

I had to think for a minute to decipher this.

"You mean England? And do you mean rugby?"

"Yes! Rugby!"

"You thought the Nutcracker was going to be like a rugby game?"

"Yeah."

"Well, no wonder you were disappointed."

"Yeah. Boring."

I still don't know how he got from the word ballet to rugby (which, by the way, he has also never seen as we seem to be following a strict parenting regime of cultural deprivation) but there it is. He's still annoyed.

PS Happy birthday, Steve. Go 'topes!

PPS There is no good place to stick this question: I get these very sore places on my toes at random. No cut, no blister, just very red and swollen like an infection under the skin? Steve suggested it is some sort of wide-foot-person leprosy but he is taking birthday liberties. Google is baffled. Thought I'd ask you.