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January 2009

Latititudes

Flippy wanted to know who was born first (Caroline.) For some reason I mentioned this question to Steve and it lead to my discovering that Edward was born a full ten minutes later than I had thought. For a year I have told people - not a lot of people, true, as it doesn't come up that often, but still - that Edward was born at 9:45 when in fact he arrived at 9:55. A thirty-six minute age gap which seems like a lot for twins but what do I know?

As Steve and I talked about it I realized that I really don't remember much about that night at all. I had some soup and I threw it up later. When they break the amniotic sac the contractions go from moderately uncomfortable to hurting like a motherfucker. You would think that they would ask about the timing of the contractions before they start poking into your spine with the needle for an epidural but they don't; they just ask you to remain perfectly still. The fact that it would be easier to do so if they started when a contraction was ending rather than just beginning seems fairly significant to me but in my vast experience of two whole deliveries I was the only one in the room who thought so. I got to cuddle with Caroline for a few minutes after she was born and then I did not see her for at least eight hours. Even the comparatively monstrous Edward disappeared for most of the night. For some reason this did not seem strange or alarming to me at the time but in retrospect you think I would have asked someone where my babies were. Instead Steve and I were in our respective sleeping spaces in my hospital room, too wired on adrenaline to sleep but with nothing to occupy our attention. We read our books until one in the morning. I could kick myself for frittering valuable sleeping time like that. Edward was born screaming his head off and he continued to yell the entire time he was in the delivery room. Now that I am getting acquainted with sassy toddler Edward (who is apparently only distantly related to sweetie-sweet baby Edward) I am no longer surprised by the vehemence of his early objections to everything.

I hated this photo of Caroline when I first saw it.

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Now I no longer remember why the picture with the feeding tube bothered me so much. Just like I no longer understand why I was terribly offended when the first - and second - thing people would say about her was "Oh my god she's so tiny!"

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She was really freaking small for a full-term baby. I'm just glad that she is as healthy as she is and... ah ha! I knew this was coming from somewhere... I have to admit that when we found that chest lump and the surgeon took it so seriously I was terrified that she had cancer and that it was caused by all of the goddamned fertility/preterm labor drugs I took. And I had the same concerns when she was born at four pounds. Like, did I do this to her?

Anyway, long, discursive and unnecessarily nostalgic answer: Caroline is older and, sure, that's why she laughs when Patrick drags her backwards through the entire first floor by her pajama'd feet.

Oh and speaking about fear and cancer and breasts I was supposed to follow up with my OB after the mammogram but I had to cancel the appointment due to the Great Christmas Plague that saw me huddled in my bathroom. By the time I felt well enough to leave the house my recurring breast whatsit had resolved itself. Again. So I didn't want to go into the doctor and point at the perfectly healthy spot on my breast and talk about how it had been bothering me two weeks ago and a month before that. So I did nothing. But now that duct is acting up again. So I suppose I can go in. Although having gotten the all clear from the radiologist I don't really want to bother.

Steve and I got an accidental babysitter last Saturday night. I actually wanted her for tomorrow because we have a dinner invitation but she accepted thinking that I meant the 17th. Once sorted it seemed like a shame not to use a perfectly free night like that so... we went bowling. Actually first we went to dinner, then we went and drank enough wine that bowling sounded like a good idea, THEN we went bowling. I should warn you, skill at Wii does not translate one iota, not one solitary pixel into skill at real bowling. For starters those damned balls are really heavy and then they don't roll in any direction that you might reasonably anticipate. It took me six frames to knock down a single pin and my only spare came when I sort of fell down and released at the same time.

We had a really good time. Not to knock the women's magazine genre that keeps me in, um, pencils but I have always sneered at the billion or so articles that tout the importance of marital Date Night. It seemed to me that if you and your spouse can't cobble together a pleasant evening at home for free then the relationship is hardly going to blossom just because you throw in some mini golf. However, I admit that I now think they might be on to something. Steve and I have gone through periods with semi-regular sitters and those without any childcare whatsoever and when we are able to go out alone a few times in a shortish period I find that we are eventually able to talk less about what - exactly - Caroline's diapers look like after she has consumed dairy (YE GODS) and more about whether the table next to us is on a first date (yes) and whether we think there will be a second (no.)

So we went bowling and we had fun and I said something about how very nice everything is right now. We have these three children who we wanted more than anything and we are all healthy and the future might suck in any number of awful random ways but at this particular moment our lives are good. And Steve said something and I said something and then for some reason I mentioned the dreadful mosquitoes that we get here in the summer and Steve acknowledged that he is ready to have shorter winters and the next thing I knew we started talking - tentatively but seriously - about where we might move outside of Minnesota.

I know I have already told you this story but twelve years ago Steve and I sat in a bar in Oak Park Illinois and we wrote down on cocktail napkins lists of cities in which we would consider living. The first place to show up on both of our lists was Minneapolis-St. Paul. So we moved here. And although I like Minnesota very much and I love our house and friends there is nothing REALLY keeping us here if we felt inclined for a change. Steve's work is utterly portable and although it's a terrible time to sell it's a great time to buy. Besides, I have never liked the idea of being held hostage by a thing. The house is beautiful and Steve has done a lot of work on it but it's just a house. There are lots of them out there. 

Finally, and this is just between us, I was taken aback that Steve would even consider a move after swearing up and down that the Upper Midwest was it for him. After thinking about it I decided that he has a touch of the just-turned-41 angst going on. A burgeoning crisis of the middle life. So if moving the entire family to some random location is how he wants to express this trauma rather than the slightly more traditional and infinitely more irritating affair with a co-ed well, hell. I'll get the boxes.

Whether or not anything comes of it we are having fun thinking about places where we could live. So far we have ruled out Florida (no offense.) I think we would like to have four seasons, the schools need to be, you know, whatever, and I had a really bad experience in Kansas once that would take a lot of surmounting. Beyond that who knows? I think I asked this question once a couple of years ago but then it was just idle curiousity and now it's active curiosity: do you like where you live and/or where would you move if you could?   


Good Good

Leaping nimbly over the fact that the surgeon (who swore he would call me yesterday morning but if not I was simply to call the office and they would pull him from the very bowels of hell to speak with me) was not actually scheduled to work yesterday and therefore... anyway. I did finally talk to him this afternoon and he was very reassuring. Caroline's lump is mostly breast tissue. Don't ask me about the "mostly" qualifier; I don't know - I'll ask my pediatrician when we go into see him. The surgeon: does not want to do a biopsy now; does want another ultrasound in three months; thought we should talk to a pediatric endocrinologist in the meantime; and summarized by saying that in the absence of any underlying condition (see: consultation with endocrinologist) he thinks it will be fine.

I'm very relieved. Steve has this superhuman - one might say alien - ability to refuse to be concerned about anything until he is given a concrete reason to worry; so as I've been twittering around his office saying, "Oh good, oh I'm so pleased, aren't you relieved? I'm relieved" he's been looking been looking at his computer, like, uh-huh... sure... but could you... anything else?

I once asked him what it was like to live without an imagination and he replied by asking how the crippling insomnia's working out for me.

Patrick was home from school today (too cold and it didn't even hit -30; from Alaska to Calgary to Montpelier we've become the laughingstock of the lower Arctic Circle) and although I'll probably be sick to death of all three of them by the time school starts again on Wednesday; he and Edward and Caroline were very sweet together.

Years from now Surfer magazine will ask Caroline how a girl from Minnesota came to rank so highly in the sport and she will talk about her early days of training in the basement with nothing but a plastic slide and a dedicated coach.

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Edward wouldn't be caught dead being pushed around on the scary surf sled. Nor did he care for the baby obstacle course Patrick created from tunnels and tents. However, he's always up for a cuddle.

It was a quiet day and, in the end, a very very good one.


No News Is No News

The surgeon examined Caroline for a minute or two and decided to get an ultrasound done on the mass. They called over to the hospital's radiology department and they fit her in immediately, which was nice.

"I have a little one year old baby here in clinic," said the receptionist over the phone, "and she's ADORABLE. Also, she needs a chest wall scan and she needs it today."

I loved that woman.

We went to Radiology, found out that we should have gone to Admitting, went to Admitting, sat there for ten minutes after she asked me if anything had changed since Caroline's last visit (the hip dysplasia check, I think - and no) and then took me line by line through possible changes (same insurance? yes. same telephone? yes. same address? yes. same zip code? aaiiiiiieeee.) Finally we were released back to Radiology where I had to pin Caroline down while they did her ultrasound.

And that was it. The tech checked with the radiologist to see if he wanted anything else and then we left. The surgeon had said that he will look at the images in the morning and give me a call.

So I know nothing more today than I did yesterday but I might be better informed tomorrow. I should probably get that tattooed on my face.

Edward and Caroline discovered a jumbo magnifying glass of Patrick's this afternoon. Much hilarity ensued.

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Well, Caroline and I thought he was funny.


Peony

Caroline's mysterious chest lump is worrying me. I mentioned it at REDBOOK but the shortest possible version is: Caroline has a lump about an inch in diameter that has developed in the area of her left breast and her doctor thought that she should be seen by the pediatric surgeons. When I called that office they gave me an appointment for a consultation on the 22nd but asked if I felt that she needed to be seen sooner than that.

"Oh heavens no," I said. "The 22nd will be fine."

But now I am second-guessing this insouciant acceptance, largely because I feel like I have absolutely no sense of how quickly this thing is/has been growing. Patrick was the one who first verbalized its existence, noting with interest during her bath that she has "breast pumps." Poor Patrick will never graduate from medical school because he will never pass anatomy and he will never pass anatomy because I failed to ever adequately explain breast feeding/pumping/formula feeding back when the babies were the size of squirrels. What can I say? I was tired. Also, um, the need to know principle seemed to apply. However my lack of full disclosure left Patrick to come up with his own theories and - as usual - he is mostly wrong about everything, including where the words "breast" and "pump" disengage in the corporeal world. This is (an even more) complete aside but Patrick has a set of words he uses which he saw in print before he heard them pronounced. If he was a little less rigid this would not be a problem. He would say, "Oh, is THAT how you say it? Well well well, go figure! Thanks for letting me know, mother." Instead he looks at me with pity and continues to say "suh-fear" as two very distinct syllables when referring to a three dimensional round thing; or "der-hanged" to describe Calvin's mutant snow goons.

Right.

So a couple of weeks ago Patrick noticed that Caroline has a mass in that area and I pointed it out to the pediatrician who prodded it and then brought in one of his partners to prod it as well. They concluded that it was not what they would have thought it was (if that makes sense) and that it might be something else called an idontremember but really she needed a surgeon to see it and further speculation from them was pointless. He did want to know if it was progressing very rapidly and I said no but to be completely honest I have no idea. Wouldn't I have noticed this BIG LUMP if it had been there a month ago? Clearly it was not around at the nine month appointment but beyond that... I have nothing specific to which I can pin my recollections. Meanwhile I keep poking at it every time I pick her up, which is more or less constantly, in an attempt to decide if it has grown since last week/ since Saturday/ since this morning. She giggles since she's pretty ticklish. I just decided as I was writing this that I will call tomorrow and see if they can get us in sooner. I mean, why not?

In other more frivolous news I have concluded that my ongoing debate about her hair is moot. It is not a question of whether or not she should have bangs, the fact of the matter is she does have bangs.

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Even when I scrape as much hair as I possibly can off her forehead and skewer it on the top like a unicorn she still has this wee dark fringe showing. She really is the hairiest child. Steve, by the way, took one look at her new pigtails this morning and said "Oh CRICKET what has your mommy done to you?" I forebore from asking for a show of hands as to which parent might be mistaken in dim light for a bearskin rug but honestly, what have *I* done to her?

Edward has recently erupted in curls and attitude.

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It's quite deceptive. He looks so sweet with his big blue eyes and pointy elfin chin but beneath his striped shirt there lurks the beginnings of a holy terror. Yesterday he actually threw himself face down on the floor and screamed, kicking his feet in rage after we removed the remote control from his grasp. Steve and I could not have been more surprised if he had started speaking Urdu.

"Is that... a temper tantrum?" we asked.

Patrick has his faults but he never, ever threw fits. In fact I can remember a toddler Patrick carefully checking behind his back before going into a carpeted room to lie down in a show of passive resistance about something. One of the nice things about having more children has been getting to experience things that we didn't get the first time around, like Caroline's ebullient and spontaneous one woman show (a thirty second montage of every trick she knows done in 9/8 time: how big/wave bye-bye/clap/Yeah yeah yeah/peek-a-boo/blow kisses/all done/Hi!) which she follows up by looking around for applause and panting like a figure skater after an arduous routine; or Edward's all-over body hugs that he starts by rubbing his cheek against yours and he finishes by flopping upside down on your lap and patting your leg. The crappy part is all of the things we were smug about avoiding the first time around ("Well, now, honestly, when a child throws a tantrum all you need to do is blah and then blah followed by blah - that's what we would do with Patrick. If he threw one. Which he doesn't. Because we're AWESOME") have started to come back around to bite us on the ass.  

PS I called the surgery office this morning and they have gotten Caroline's appointment switched to tomorrow.

PPS Thank you so much for creating what must be one of the world's largest online compendiums of gift ideas for young bachelors moving to New Zealand. I wound up going with the business school angle and we got him that lightpulse pen that someone suggested. I did (I swear) heed those of you who mentioned wanting to murder the loved ones who gave you more stuff to carry but it was a pen. Very small. And cool. You draw lines on a piece of paper with this thing and then you can play the lines like a piano. Which must provide a competitive edge in something. Bar pickups at least. Anyway, he seemed to really like it and the rest of your suggestions have given me care package ideas for the rest of his time down there. This is Steve's birth half-brother, by the way, and he had planned his trip to stop with us a for a couple of days. It was great to see him.      

PPPS When I said that I thought Caroline showed her Russian/Latvian heritage in that one picture a month or two ago someone slunk along a while later and lambasted me for my ignorance - apparently they failed to agree with my assessment. Clearly, they wrote, you know nothing about phenotypes or eastern Europe or eastern European phenotypes. And, golly, guilty as charged. So I hope it doesn't offend you if I say that I think in that last picture Edward looks like he knows where you can get the best bouillabaise in Marseille.


Gumbo

I knew before I even began my freshman year that I was going to be an English major. I possessed from childhood's earliest hour a laziness that passed beyond mere intellectual lassitude and transcended into the empyrean heights of pure torpescence, so I approached the need for a primary course of study with my usual vigor. Detaching two toes from the branch upon which I was dozing I surveyed possible majors with an eye towards that with which I was already familiar: Anthropology? As if. Biomedical engineering? Hardly. Chemistry, no. Chinese, no. English... why, sakes alive, I've been speaking English practically my entire life! Done and done.

This is why I already knew what my graduation requirements would be the summer before I started and why I was aware that before the dear old school would hand me the sheepskin four years hence they not only needed me to take umpteen classes offered by the department devoted to the study of English Literature (not to be confused with the Writing department which was located down the hall and taught god only knows what to a bunch of chain-smokers;) it was also necessary that I complete twelve credits hours in what were vaguely referred to as The Sciences and more briefly known as N (natural) Q (quantitative) or E (engineering) credits.

First semester freshmen at my school were given the courtesy of taking all classes pass-fail. A kind of "welcome to college thanks for the deposit try your best little buddy" present before they made former valedictorians weep like stupid babies in second semester organic chemistry. Being an above average slacker, I realized that first semester would therefore be a great time for me to knock out some of those dreaded science credits with little or no cost to myself. As someone once said with a completely different meaning about something else all together, when it comes to pass-fail classes, Luke, there is no try.

So I signed up for microeconomics.

I know. I know. You are shaking your head over this is, saying, "Oh, Julia you FOOL. Read the damned catalog, you lazy banana!" Because if I had read the damned catalog I would have realized that economics is not an N, a Q or an E. It's an S science. S for Soft I guess. Or Squishy. But an S is practically an H and - for my purposes - neither fish nor fowl. In any event it was still completely over my head. I never had any idea what was going on. Usually I have a foothold for my ignorance, some point at which I realize I have plunged too far but economics for me was one nonsensical slide after another. There was one graph in particular, something about Guns on one axis and Butter on the other... no. It's too painful. I cannot continue.

And yet I passed. Barely I suppose but still, horseshoes, hand grenades and pass-fail classes.

However, and this was the point that it took me a surprisingly long time to reach, despite having received credit from a reputable university for completing a college-level economics course, it is not surprising that I turned to the nice man next to me at the gas pump today and asked, in a sincere desire for knowledge, "Why in the hell is gas down to $1.67 a gallon?"

He said something soothing and Minnesotan but left me no further along in my understanding of the vagaries of fuel pricing. I am not complaining but wasn't gas over $4 something a few months ago? What happened? It seems odd to me. I'm sure Patrick would have told me if they had recently discovered a new moon, like Chevrona or something, that possesses vast lakes of varying octanes and supply had suddenly whatsited while demand stayed something elsed.

It's weird, right?

You know, I thought if I sat here typing nonsense long enough Caroline would FINALLY go to sleep and I was right. She hasn't yipped in almost five minutes. Alleluia. She has an upset stomach (we were all horribly ill. it was awful. she lingers) and I sympathize but there are times when you want to say, "You know what helps an upset tummy, baby? SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!" And not in a croony way, either. More shrill and vibrato.

Patrick is in my bed (Steve's gone for the night - I have moronically started a tradition that I will never ever be able to live up to with three children. note to self: EXIT STRATEGY.) To keep him in my bed (as opposed to being in my face) until  he falls asleep I bequeathed to him my Calvin and Hobbes treasury and he is losing his little mind in there. He is literally choking on laughter. It must be nice to be six and reading Calvin and Hobbes for the first(ish) time, don't you think? Every - gah! there she goes again. I'll be back. maybe some music? or a throw cat for her crib? a ham sandwich? that sometimes helps me sleep...)

What a surprise. Cricket was delighted to see me. She switched from piteous to ebullient in half a second and could not have been more cordial in her little chirps if I was an old school friend or a rich uncle from Australia...

oh GOD. That reminds me of one of the reasons I wanted to post in the first place. I need suggestions and you always have such good ideas. I need to buy a present - a really great present - for someone with the following circumstances: he is male, early 30s, and he has just sold/stored 99% of his belongings because he is moving (in two days) to New Zealand to attend business school for a couple of years.

Tough, isn't it. But didn't, like, ALL of you move to the Antipodes recently? Any thoughts on something one might need or want or use as a recent transplant? All I know about New Zealand is that it isn't Australia; there are sheep; it looks like the most beautiful place in the world and you can't drive there from here. Or... business school? Man, what did I use in business school? Pens and, um, notebooks and other things akin to clay tabletry.

Let me know if you can think of anything.    

From today. I couldn't figure out what Caroline was doing:

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Closer inspection revealed that she had licked a straight line down the glass.

Almost-toddlers are bizarre and I confess that I love the way she looks like the world's tiniest Strongman competitor. Go Cricket. Move that wall.

On that note the children are asleep, I need a sandwich (maybe ham) and I just re-read this post. The only possible way to conclude it is abruptly. So goodnight.

PS Typepad draws my attention with rude red squiggles to the fact that New Zealand is somehow misspelled. I checked it four times. It's right, right? Typepad is crazy, yes?