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May 2009

Rustica

Category: Twin Study; Subheading: Blueberry Yogurt; Time elapsed: ten minutes-

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Note any, uh, differences?

I wish I could post a similarly aged picture of Patrick so we could do a singleton/gender/intrasibling/tidynik cross-analysis but there are no pictures of a toddler Patrick feeding himself yogurt. Because in a million freaking years it would not have occurred to me to hand Patrick a spoon and something slimy. I am not sure if I would have been more concerned about the mess or the fact that vital nutrients might fail to make it into my beloved knish but I know I continued to patiently spoon-feed him every bite well past the age that he could - probably - have managed all by his little self.

I used to think - as a youngest child myself; one whose baby book lists a birth weight and then leaps to kindergarten and whose early childhood was remarkably less photographed than that of my older brother - that first born children had lives made of awesome. That their existences were one sweet song, all undivided parental attention and toys without missing pieces. Has an eldest child ever had to play as a penny in Monopoly? No, they get to be the car and then mention is always made of some incident in the distant past during the course of which the youngest allegedly managed to lose/eat the dog and the thimble and the ship... anyway.

I now believe that there is something to be said for getting a broken-in parent. If it weren't for one of my three major (ir)rational fears (in this case: children choking to death; the other two are snakes and running into my ex-mother-in-law one day in a mammography waiting room - not necessarily in that order) Edward and Caroline would be able to eat complete meals without any interference on my part whatsoever. With Patrick I hovered like a hummingbird, cutting each bite into microscopic cubes and counting the number of times he had chewed before swallowing.

I am not saying that all first-time parents are tightly wound loons who demand zantac the first time Baby has a wet burp; I am just that I was. Tightly wound that is. Only Edward was on zantac and that was after his failed swallow study and frankly it was too late to help much. Now I am not so wound. Thus, Caroline plastered herself with yogurt but then cleaned right up when I accidentally let her empty a bucket of rainwater over her head.   

Live and learn. That's my point, one lives and one learns.

So if you studied the photos you can tell that I bought the first hanging seats I found at a local retailer, which happened to be made by Chicco. They seem fine and the likelihood that either Caroline or Edward is going to land on her/his head in the next few weeks has been drastically reduced. However, as a design choice I wish they had not opted to shape the table clamps like whimsical hippopotamuses. First, they have about a zillion little creases to attract the gunk splattering from gunky children (*cough* CAROLINE *cough*) and second, it was inevitable that Patrick would take one look at them before announcing with six-year-old gusto, "That hippo has a big silver pole stuck up its butt."

Which is true. Although we do not say butt. We say bottom. Patrick noted that at school they say pockets; as in "everybody sit on your pockets." Patrick suggested that the hippo has a pole in his pocket. I think this sounds even less appropriate than butt.

Patrick has his last day of school coming up on Friday. I wish I could say that this fact fills me with unbridled joy but it doesn't. It feels more like I have been given responsibility for ten additional manufacturing facilities with no increase in pay. Right now we have a weekday routine in place. First everyone oversleeps and then there is a mad dash to get Patrick fed and dressed and lunchboxed and take-home foldered, while Caroline and Edward totter around all bleary and hungry and demanding their damned breakfasts. Eventually Steve and Patrick make it out the door ten minutes behind schedule and Caroline Edward and I say, well, thank heavens that's over. Then some of us eat french toast and some of us drink tea. Then we play. Errands maybe. A walk. Lunch. Nap. All very civilized and leisurely. Patrick gets dropped off around four and depending upon his mood he is either a thing of beauty and a joy forever or forty-seven inches of grievance. Either way I give him a snack. Then the afternoon free-falls into sixty/ninety minutes of oh-my-god-shut-up-all-of-you- I-cannot-believe-you-do-not-shut-up while all three children decide they are hungry and a little tired and bored maybe and each one needs to tell me about their problems in agonizing detail; generally at the exact moment I am trying to move a cast-iron skillet full of hot grease. Or just as dinner prep reaches a crisis point the random starfish bath toy that has been lying under the breakfast bar for three weeks becomes as hotly contested as the Rhineland, with Edward screaming for it and Caroline running with it and Patrick swooping in to confiscate it without any authority whatsoever. The little ones howl and Patrick talks talks talks me to death about how, technically, it used to be his starfish bath toy and since he never officially gave it to them it is still his, so, really, he has the right to blah blah and the whole time he is holding it above his head and Caroline and Edward are jumping for it and screaming.

God I hate the hour before dinner.

This, incidentally, is what I am imagining all day, every day will look like come summer time. Screaming, jumping, tears.         

Although

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sometimes they're as sweet as a musical comedy.

He brought home his progress folio from school which has samples of the work they have done this year. My favorite was a poem:

Playful
Astronaut
Try my best
Read
Icecream
Cats
Kind

Camp, though. I still think I should have signed the big one up for more camps.

I am obsessed with food right now. I go through stages when I feel like cooking something new and interesting and other (usually longer) periods when the thought of having to actually boil the water before I put the pasta in seems like almost too much to bear. What's wrong with al broken dente, I asked all winter.

But, as I said, at the moment I am all about the new and the swell (which might be why I am even more annoyed by the childish pre-dinner antics than usual - nothing distracts from the pleasure of putting together a nice meal quite so much as a Wall of Sound and multiple human bodies attached to your hem.) Caroline and Edward are still at the age when they will eat anything (um, mostly. Caroline has finally embraced broccoli but only once it is doing the backstroke in dip - Edward's favorite spinach she finds disgusting) so I am frantically trying to cram flavor into them before they realize a nice way to drive their mother crazy is to refuse to eat anything but bread.  

We put more early plants in the garden this year (strawberries, lettuces, the asparagus is finally on its third season) and I did herb containers on the back deck which are thriving so far. Something about fresh green things popping up that makes me want to marvel in nature's goodness and then eat them with vinegar.

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Um, eat the plants. Not the children. All of which is to say that I am inspired to do some food posts soon and I will.

Question for you, now that I have gotten nowhere, slowly. I thought about this all weekend. I have a list of things I want to get done. Not the usual daily things like laundry and food and picking up toys but project stuff. I want to make the basement less Patrick-centric and more whole family-friendly. We have an entire giant play area down there (head-gentle carpeting. midget climbing toys) but it is currently covered in a billion of Patrick's little, dangerous (chokables, you know - I told you it was one of my major fears: I mentioned to Patrick that I might sign up to do communist play group with Caroline and Edward next Fall if I can get into the class they have at his school. Patrick said, "Are you kidding? Do you know how many chokables there are at my school?" And I quote. Chokables. He speaks my language) oojums. Also I am pretty sure the bookcases are not anchored to anything. And there is a bank of windows that Steve removed to create the breakfast bar that is just leaning against a wall. Anyway, it needs work. And every night I think, "Tomorrow I am going to go down and start on the basement." But then the next day arrives and all time gets sucked into a vortex of laundry and food and picking up toys. It never happens. Ditto sorting out the winter clothes, cleaning out my desk, emptying the junk drawer, taking the two laundry items I actually use and putting them into the cupboard that will have room for them after I first clear out the fifteen laundry items I bought in error... it goes on and on. I have a bag of glass tile samples in a kitchen drawer that irritates me every time I open it to look for tape or band-aids or the key to the safe deposit box.

Technically it is only nine o'clock so I could stop writing this and go downstairs for a few hours. But I am not going to do that. I have been running around all day and all I want to do right now is sit down with a glass of wine and watch something with Steve.

But, as I said, I thought about you today and I wondered if I am just preternaturally slack or if the rest of you maunder along like I do. Do you get Things done or do they just hang over your head for months and months? A sincere question. Steve thinks I have, ahem, trouble with my follow through so that I start projects and then abandon them to start new ones ad infinitum, thus never completing anything until whatver it was gets as messy as it was in the first place. Steve, however, is a crazy person who paints walls until four in the morning and who cannot stop slicing a tomato even when his spouse is being crushed to death by the dishwasher door. For example. Just saying.

PS I know that there is a possibility that Edward and Caroline will continue to eat tilapia and zucchini and curried wheatberries into their dotage. And if that happens it will be terrific. I'll be pleasantly surprised. When Patrick was their age I mistook his cheerful affection for all food as evidence of my superior parenting. Then I was unpleasantly surprised.


Whammo

For about five days the move from spacesaver highchairs with trays to spacesaver highchairs at the table worked well. Caroline demanded to be picked up the minute she was done and Edward would remove his socks at the end of every meal and clean up after himself with them. You know. As one does.

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Then Caroline perfected a little routine she has been working on during which she flings her body backwards in the seat and causes the whole chair to scoot a few inches. She was able to traverse rather surprising distances this way. Edward - never one to monkey see without monkey trying himself - realized that he could go even farther, even faster; what with his big old coconut acting as a ballast.

"I hope they don't go over and whack their heads," said my friend Noelle.

Yeah, I agreed. I need to come up with something else for them, I said. Maybe a hanging seat, suggested Noelle. And I put researching new seats on my list of things to do.

So this morning Caroline and Edward were eating poached eggs and toast. I sat in between them doling out non-chokable portions (Edward will put anything within reach into his mouth; he needs supervision.)

"Muh yeah muh? Eh? Yeah? Tuh? Didja seeeeeee it?" chatted Caroline [translation: More, yes, more? Egg? Yes? Toast? Didja seeeeeeeee it?] Caroline is less concerned with the quality of her vocabulary than she is with the quantity. I asked her to identify every picture in a book this afternoon and she confidently named each one:

Rabbit? "RUH"

Dog? "DUH"

Bat? "SKRUHNUH DOSH MAHHUNUH."

But back to this morning.

Edward put one fat foot on the edge of the table. He put a piece of toast between his toes.

"Duh DOB!" he said and clapped [Edward is very fond of saying GOOD JOB! and then applauding whatever it is he has done. his self esteem is just so plump and pink and healthy - he is his very own superspecial snowflake and more power to him.]  

"Yes Edward," I said. "But keep the toast on the plate." I smiled. He smiled.

I love Edward's smile.

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I also love it when he is being all thoughtful.

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Perhaps a bit more thought this morning might have prevented...

I turned toward Caroline to offer her more egg and Edward must've planted his other foot on the table, suddenly pushing backwards. The leg of the chair caught on a floor board and WHAM! he went down like Newton's apple. Poor baby.

Guess what I bought today? Hanging seats that hook onto the table. Not a minute too... well anyway. Edward was more startled than anything. He had a good cry and then finished the rest of his egg. Caroline came over to give him a kiss, a rare offering she only bestows upon Edward and only when he has been hurt.

You know, I was truly scared to be expecting twins and for months and months I was in denial about whether it would actually happen. Yes, part of it was the whole eleven previous miscarriages so don't count any chickens thing but the rest was bog standard what if this works fear. I thought newborn Patrick was so hard to deal with that I literally could not fathom having two babies at the same time. I have a very clear memory of standing in our bathroom with a positive pregnancy test. I had taken one every day since the embryo transfer (1dp5dt, 2dp5dt, 3dp5dt, 4dp5dt) waiting for the hcg trigger shot to disappear from my system so I could test "for real." It never did. Every day the test was vaguely positive and by day four or five or whatever it was I drew my own conclusion: namely that the IVF cycle had worked, that I was pregnant again and that it was twins.

I showed the test to Steve and he said something really memorable like, huh, I guess you're pregnant or well, we'll see, or I hope this works. Something you want to engrave on a Derby julep cup or print on a t-shirt.

I said, "But I don't WANT twins."

Steve said, gently, "No, don't say that. That's not a good thing to say."

And I felt guilty. But I thought it. Twins. Two babies. How on earth would I breastfeed two, I wondered, as a couple of cell clumps probably slapped at each other as they quarreled over who would get the good lining.

As it turned out, nothing I worried about mattered and many of the things I should have worried about never crossed my mind. Breastfeeding? Snuh. They did and then he didn't and then she did and then he thought about it and then she kinda stopped for a bit but then started again and pumping was awful and... who cares. Preterm labor and itty-bitty babies and the very real risks should have been a concern but they weren't. I mean, they weren't until they were.    

All of which is to say that I never considered that it might be... fun. That I might enjoy taking care of two children the same age in ways that I had not enjoyed taking care of the one. I kinda hated toddlerhood last time but, head trauma notwithstanding, I am finding it delightful now. Maybe I've mellowed. Maybe Caroline and Edward are just less demanding. I don't know. I feel lucky. I think I'm lucky.

PS Speaking of t-shirts, Patrick has intuited the concept of cafe press and he announced at dinner that he will be printing shirts and selling them. I suggested he go with something simple and classic like his "be silent like an e" line on white in black Courier and he just stared at me.

"COURIER?"

Patrick has never really liked that font. Why, I don't know but I suspect it is the post-typewriter age. They just don't get it.

My other suggestions ("My Name Is: Juhklum" and "Whaddaya, A Dummy Dope?") met with skepticism. I expect he will come up with something although I liked my ideas. I didn't have the heart to point out that if he really wanted to cash in he would set up a little morel stand on a corner somewhere and put out a wee hand lettered sign: Morels 10$ an ounz. 

Win-win.


Patrick of Citium

Patrick is stoic.

Not when I am ruining his life by forcing him to stop building whatever he is building in order to go to school - you know, like he has done every single weekday since September and yet every day: unhappy surprise! - but when it comes to sheer physical discomfort he puts up with a lot before he says anything. That is my disclaimer.

Last Thursday Patrick and I were... huh. I think we were actually rolling around on the floor for some reason. Gosh we're playful. But as we rolled I noticed that he had a big old lump on the side of his neck, just under the ear. I'm not a rookie. I've played ohmygodnecklump before so I am able to recognize a swollen lymph when I see one. I said, yikes, Patrick, your neck. And he said, oh yeah, it's been like that for about two days. So I asked if his throat hurt (no) or his head hurt (no.) I took his temperature (99.nothing) and I checked his entire scalp for ticks. We have removed quite a few ticks from Patrick this season (some deer, some not) and there was a scab from one above the ear that was just above the lump. I concluded that his body had reacted to the two week old tick bite and the lymph was swollen in consequence. No big deal but I decided to take him to the doctor in the morning just to be on the safe side. I was about to try to analogize the lump for you but I just remembered I took a picture. See? Lumpy.

Our actual (beloved. oh how I belove him) pediatrician was not there on Friday so I had choice between New Partner Who Has Yet to Build Her Practice and Very Very Old Partner Who No One Wants to See Because He is Cranky. I went with the Newbie. I liked her. She checked Patrick out, went over his head looking for ticks, asked whether the lump hurts ("Well," Patrick replied carefully, "it hurts when my mom presses on it and I am not sure what you are going to do yet. So maybe") and then agreed with my initial assessment: his body was just dealing with some small scalp wound. I took Patrick to school.

Saturday, Sunday... Patrick was fine. A little warm at times but fine. I kept checking his lump and it seemed to be staying the same. Then on Monday night I woke up to the sound of sobbing. I am not the sharpest zester in the drawer at 4 am so I stumbled around upstairs trying to figure out who was crying and where they were. I finally located Patrick in the bathroom, moaning about how much it hurt to swallow. I felt his head, registered a moderate but not crazy fever on my maternal palm thermometer, gave him Motrin and took him to our bed. I tucked him in between Steve and me; waking Steve up to let him know Patrick was there, so be vigilant.

"Yarb," said Steve.

When Patrick woke up the next morning I discovered that his original lump was now the size of Idaho and all the surrounding lymph nodes on his neck were swollen and hard as well. His entire jaw had swelled and you could feel the glands there like a string of pebbles. Meanwhile, the lymph nodes on the other side of his neck were starting to increase. He was pale and his eyes were glassy. Strangely, his temperature was still around 99. Bodies are weird.

I called the doctor's office and their first available appointment was at 12:15.

"OK," I said.

You know, as I am writing this I am asking myself what I was thinking. And I know - I was thinking Patrick had a crappy normal kid virus - but in retrospect I want to slap myself for being so cavalier. Remember when I said that the only thing I recall from Biology is that the lysosome is the suicide bag of the cell? Well that is not true. I also remember that the lymphatic system is the body's highway. To para-sing: if a bacterial infection can make it therrrrrrrrre, it can make it an-y-wheeerrre. I should have taken him to the ER at four in the morning; is what I should have done. 

Back to reality: I accepted the 12:15 appointment, made Patrick a bed on the couch, gave him icy cranberry juice and very thin oatmeal. I let him watch anything he desired on Tivo.

"Can I watch America's Next Top Model?" he croaked.

"Um, sure."

"Ha," he gasped. "No. Thanks. Your. Stupid. Show."

[Aside: Patrick has been taught by his school that "stupid" is a swear word. Verboten. Not Done. Which is fine with us because calling someone stupid is very unkind. However, I think basic critical reasoning allows for a sliding scale of verbal assessment when it comes to things like Bravo TV programming so I gave Patrick permission to say that reality modeling shows are indeed stupid. It is a word he is allowed to use only at home so he does it at every possible opportunity.

Speaking of which, when I was in kindergarten I did something quite naughty. Stop me if I have told you this before. I told Kathy of the red rubber boots - awful girl; never liked her - that I knew how to write the mother of all swear words.

She said, "Show me."

I said, "OK but you have to promise not to tell. Cross your heart, hope to die, stick a needle in your eye. But," I added reasonably, "you don't really have to put a needle in your eye. Just your hand or something."              

"OK," she said.

So I did. I wrote F-U-C-K (I have an older brother, what can I say) and with a shocking lack of judgment I did so on the wall. In crayon.

Kathy of the boots promptly took a straight pin (where did she even get such a thing in the classroom? this part cannot be true and yet I remember it all so clearly) and put it painlessly through the very top layer of skin. Then she ran to the teacher and told on me. Snert.

Patrick got in trouble at the very beginning of the school year and he was devastated. Punished. At school. Oh the humanity. To cheer him up I told him the story of the writing on the wall, fudging the details a bit. It became more of a morality tale. I, too, was royally punished but I bounced back better and more law-abiding than ever.

"What was the bad word?" Patrick asked since I had glossed over that part. "Was it..." he lowered his voice, "stupid?"

"YES," I said. "YES it was. I wrote the word 'stupid' and I am very ashamed of that fact."]

Where was I? Oh. So Patrick began to watch a show about dinosaurs and then he just started to cry because he felt so terrible. Steve and I kinda freaked. The kid looked terrible. I grabbed him and a book and a blanket and threw him into the car. We went as a walk-in (technically a carry-in) to our pediatrician's office. While we waited Patrick just curled up on my lap with his head on my chest and groaned.

This time we saw Very Old Doctor Cranky.

I think in the past my problem with Dr V. O. Cranky has been that he has never taken my superspecial snowflake's symptoms as seriously as I have. I guess you see nine hundred million ear infections and the nine hundred million and first fails to inspire either pity or terror. This was not the case on Tuesday. It was obvious that he was actually concerned about Patrick and this fact made me triply/quadruply/infinitesimally more concerned. He did a strep test which came back negative, so he ordered blood work. Patrick sat on my lap and wept. 

White blood cell count came back high. They repeated the strep. Found an odd strain. Ordered two shots of antibiotic, one for each leg. Thought about sending him to Childrens. Left to consult with others. Kept us in the office to observe for an hour. Tried to decide if he had developed an abscess in the lymph. Decided not but dourly noted that it was still possible; maybe probable. Eventually put him on clindamycin, which is a hardcore antibiotic they use to treat broad spectrum infections. Said Patrick needed to return to the office the following day and if we had not seen significant improvement they would hospitalize him.

Scared the beejeezums out of me.

It's odd how everything can change in a moment. Not Patrick's condition - that had been getting gradually worse - but my interpretation of everything leading up to the visit changed in a split-second. Why on earth hadn't I taken him to the ER that morning? I remember this feeling from when a very small Caroline got hospitalized with a respiratory infection. It had seemed so harmless: oh the baby has a runny nose; oh the baby is a little stuffed up; she has a little cough... then fifteen people are running around struggling to get oxygen into her as the EMTs bundled her into their ambulance as gently as Tutankhamen's very last treasure.    

By the time the doctor saw Patrick his entire face was swollen and one half of his neck looked corrugated and reptilian. He was a terrible color and he couldn't stop crying. In retrospect I should have asked for a strep test on Friday. I should have taken him to the hospital when he said it hurt to swallow. It seems so horribly unfair that children are at the mercy of their parents - of this parent at any rate - when my ability to distinguish between sick and SICK is apparently nonexistent. I feel guilty.

But we were lucky. The infection responded quickly to the antibiotics. He finally developed a fever that night but by morning he felt terrific. He bounced into the doctor's office and the nurse who we had seen the day before said, "Wow, you look like a different kid."

"Guess those shots worked," said Patrick.

Our regular pediatrician said, "Old Doc Cranky doesn't scare easily. You must have looked pretty rough yesterday."    

"I did," said Patrick. "And then I got two shots and I couldn't even walk*."

"How is the medicine going? I know it tastes pretty bad."

"Yes," Patrick agreed. "And it... lingers? But," he shrugged "you have to do what you have to do, you know?"

Like I said, Patrick is stoic.

*Carrying 49 pounds of weepy Patrick out of the doctor's office through the parking lot and then around Walgreens to get his prescription filled with a pause mid aisle for chocolate-pudding-as-lactobacillus-delivery-system - the package for which I then had to clutch between my teeth - ranks as my own personal mother lifts volkwagen off child moment. I thought my arms were going to fall off. And, unlike Patrick, I whined about it afterwards. 


1,980

I have just set the kitchen timer for twenty minutes. If whatever I do not really have to say cannot be said in that time it will go unsaid. Seriously. I felt embarrassed when I realized how long, how very very long that last post wound up being. My lack of self-control will be my undoing. But not today.

Caroline - who has been more or less indifferent to literature; certainly when compared to her brothers - suddenly developed a passion for one particular book: Hush Little Alien. She rootles through the toy basket (when Edward outgrew the Moses basket in which he slept I moved it to the floor to hold toys; I still think this was resourceful and I mention it because I am not usually clever like that) looking for this one book and when she finds it she races over and chucks it at my face. Endearing. So I read/sing it to her (it's Hush Little Baby with aliens, a Patrick hand-me-down) and she dances and then when it is over she picks it up and shouts "A'un!" which is either "again" or "alien" or possibly "di di mao" and repeats the whole face chuck. Ad infinitum. Precious.

Actually I do find it precious, which is how toddlers manage to survive to preschoolhood despite the foot stamping and the neverending hilarity of waiting until you finally get up from scrubbing whatever it is off the floor before letting the next round fly...

the toy phone is all alone in the living room saying HELLO! and then GOODBYE! every thirty seconds, which is the toy's subtle way of announcing a decreased battery charge. it did the GOODBYE thing at four in the morning once and I almost had a heart attack - imagine waking up to a creepy disembodied voice saying goodbye from a dark corner... excuse me while I go slaughter the phone and bury the remains in the garden - this is not counting toward my twenty minutes...   

So Caroline had one of us read Hush Little Alien to her eleventy billion times this weekend and she wanted to take it to bed with her last night.

Sidenote: as part of my patented Path of Least Resistance parenting approach I have always let Caroline and Edward (and Patrick before them) clutter their cribs with whatever they think they might require in the night in the hopes that it will prevent them from summoning me in the dark watches. Patrick for months slept on top of a quilted alphabet wall hanging with a three foot-long metal fire truck  surrounded by twenty books. Edward has two blankets, his music player, his bear, his lion, EarDeer, LegDeer, a rubber duck and (probably the same) twenty books. Caroline has her two blankets, a puzzle toy, a frog (frrrrruh) a duck (duuuh) a very small bear (baaaah) and some books as well. Yes, they probably take longer to fall asleep at night because they play first. Yes, they probably wake up in the night and play some more. And yes, they definitely wake up in the morning and start playing. Like the bartenders of old, though, I firmly believe that you don't have to go home but you do have to get the hell out of here. In other words, I don't care what you do after bedtime just as long as I don't have to be personally involved.      

Ha! Look at me swaggering around like a badass now that it has been two whole weeks since the twinkles stopped - mostly - screaming for me in the middle of the night. Caroline was crying this morning around 4:30 and she had a thirsty sort of look about her but did not want water in a cup and I was really fucking tired (why? I don't know. I have been sleeping so much lately that you would think I would have caught up by now) so I did the one thing my pediatrician said specificially not to do: I gave her actual milk in an actual bottle. Then Edward woke up a little later so I gave the rest to him. They both slept until a quarter to ten this morning. I'm not sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

Gracious. My point.

Caroline took her favorite book to bed with her last night and there is precedent for doing so. However, I am now regretting this because when I went to get her this morning I discovered that she must have been busy trying to figure out what, exactly, makes this book so good. She has performed a board book autopsy and it is now in nine distinct pieces.

"A'un?" she asked hopefully, holding up the tattered spine.

Did I mention this is her favorite, her very favorite, book?

As Steve walked out the door to drive the car pool I said, oh, hey, Cricket's disemboweled the alien book so would you swing by Borders after you drop-off the kids and grab another copy before she realizes what she has done and becomes unbearable?

Over indulgent? Most likely. Practical? Indubitably. Clueless about publishing cycles and book retailing? Apparently. Not only did Borders not have a copy they acted like they had never heard of it. Ditto Barnes and Noble. Amazon has a few used copies but fails to distinguish between an actual hardback and a hardback paper on board - the former being completely useless unless we need confetti - and I don't feel like springing twenty bucks to find out which one I have purchased.

Any thoughts on how to get an out of print board book before Caroline's lovely green-grey eyes fill with tears? I would be grateful.

Paraguard! IUD! As promised:

I have now had four post-IUD cycles. The first month things were normal but my period lasted for just over two weeks. Meh. Meh, I say. The next month was much shorter and painless but I thought I was going to bleed to death the entire time. So there was that. Third and fourth month started with half a day of hideous cramps (I never got cramps before. never) followed by a day of near-desanguination followed by a normalish five day cycle.

So in conclusion: Actual insertion was kinda painful but not ohmygodI'mdying. I do have a high tolerance for pain, though, so take that for what it is worth. Periods for me are now heavier with some additional discomfort. I would call it "acceptable but not ideal". My arrangement with Steve was that I would try it for six months and then we would reassess the vasectomy option at that point. I am pretty sure I am going to re-lobby for a trip to the urologist but I am willing to deal with the IUD in the meantime.

I have gotten a lot of questions about this and I am just one data point so I would really appreciate it if you would leave your IUD (Mirena or Paraguard or... is there another one?) experiences in the comments if you have one. That way someone trying to figure out what to do re. semipermanent birth control can read our wildly divergent opinions and be more confused than ever. At least they will know they are not alone.

Steve and Patrick were very busy this weekend now that morels have come to Minnesota. I swear to god I am never going to be done with these horrible little things [Confidential to Sarah in Michigan from Patrick: tell your husband to look for morels around dead elm trees. I will now pull my fingers from my ears] and Caroline and Edward and I are getting a little sick of each other's unalleviated company. We read books. We look for cats under the bed. We color until 66% of us start gnawing on the crayons like crudité and 33% of us say "Oh for heavens sake! enough! your teeth are purple!" and remove the crayons leaving the original two-thirds in tears. It gets a little boring and I am always looking for new things to do.  

So I was pleased when I discovered on Saturday that my Christmas camera has a timer that lets one take a series of pictures approximately half a second apart. I figured I could do a bunch of tasteful studies: Exurban Grass Mushroom Widow with Child(ren)

What I discovered after about forty of these is that Edward and I are ready for a Coke commercial and Caroline finds us both appalling.

Observe:

Continue reading " 1,980" »


'Tis A Fine Barn

Last year Patrick presented me with a homemade Mother's Day card that featured the memorable line:  I love my mommy she is so so sweet she is my favorite mommy... But more I love my daddy.

This reminded me ever so slightly of my friend Christine's friend Kristine's father who reportedly punctuated the birth of his third child by telling his wife, "I want you to know this doesn't change anything - I'm still leaving you." And he did; although I am sort of surprised that the L&D nurses did not beat him to death first. Not that Patrick is a rat bastard like C's friend K's f. just that one sometimes wonders at the male of the species' need for emotional clarity over tact: although I love you, Mother, I fear it would be dishonest of me to imply through construction paper and crayon hearts that my love for you exceed that which I feel for my Dad.

You know, the traditional Mother's Day disclaimer.

This year he and Steve were gone until after dark, having driven down to Iowa in search of the warmer soil temperatures that herald earlier morels. They left on Saturday morning in a buzz of self-importance and oatmeal packets, brandishing tent stakes and talking a lot of mushroom hunting smack. Caroline, Edward and I rolled our eyes, waved them a cheerful bye-bye and then went back to enjoying all of the hot and cold running water that we have here. It was Patrick's second camping trip and his first overnight alone with Steve. They both had a great time and it is unfortunate that I find morels so unspeakably gross (avert your gaze if you are a wild mushroom fan but: I think they look awful and they smell like the underside of a sac - and I know you know what I mean) because they returned with over one hundred of 'em. Steve is eating them for breakfast lunch and dinner. I keep opening a window to stick my head out while I wait for the mushroomy perfume to dissipate. We're a fun couple.

Caroline and Edward went in together on a Mother's Day present for me: they both slept the night through on Saturday, thirteen glorious baby free hours. I woke up at a quarter to nine on Sunday morning to the dulcet strains of Edward singing in his crib. I was so well rested that I was shocked to find myself actually touching the bed; I assumed I would be levitating. Actually, over the past couple of weeks they have been sleeping through the night with greater and greater regularity. Caroline woke up last night (head cold again; can't breathe; needed sympathy and suction) but it was her first time in a while and Edward is on a several day streak himself. I KNOW. And they are only sixteen months, too! I overheard Steve telling his business partner the other day that Caroline and Edward are really starting to sleep through the night now. He sounded so proud of us. Like, not to brag, man, but my kids are freaking sleep prodigies. Not even a year and a half old! Solo sleeping! I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or hide my head in a grocery bag. I assume that his business partner - father of four that he is - did the laughing for me. Yes, we are pathetic. But! Apparently even pathetic people get their nine hour nights back if they wait long enough.

Rally!

When Patrick got home he gave me (in addition to the morels; aw, thank you! three pounds of sweatyball fungus - you shouldn't have) the Mother's Day present he had made for me at school: five personalized note cards with envelopes.  Very sweet. And practical, he pointed out, as I can use them to write notes to people like Nana telling her about all of the morels he found. The fact that he had personalized the note cards with the word PATRICK printed on the front in letters three inches high... well. Miss Manners does say it is appropriate to use a thin penciled line (Plaza Hotel, HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH) in these circumstances. Patrick. He makes me laugh.

On blog topics, a very nice and talented woman named Christi re-did my banner for me so that it is now readable and appropriately hippogriff'd. I really like it and I am very grateful for her help. I have a couple of new ads this week: the vaguely disturbing weeping child and handbags. I am excited about that last one because it is fun. Clothing and purses and belts and whatnots are fun. I just sell (for a nominal fee. one might say a pittance) the space, by the way, so technically I do not get paid any more or any less if people click or buy or click and buy. But google tells me there are things called clickthrough rates whereby advertisers see how many views their ads get and then how many of those views result in someone clicking for more information. The higher the clickthrough the more successful the ad campaign. The first time I ever ran an ad here I think about three people actually clicked on it, which I suspect put me on some dreadful Avoid at All Costs; Readers Insusceptible to Consumer Marketing subheading Poss. Amish Query Mark blog list secretly circulated by advertisers. I just made all this up, you know, I have no idea if anyone even checks to see whether their ads are clicking or not. Still, I appreciate them giving me a small (very small. almost nothing) payment and as such I appreciate you giving their products your potential consideration. Like summer handbags. Fun! Not so sure about whether having a child become addicted to making me happy is a goal of mine but *primly* I am sure this works for some.

Speaking of completely unsolicited product testimonials do you want a suggestion for those on your gift list who are music-obsessed and, say, less than thirty inches tall? I bought Edward the Playskool Made for Me music player for his birthday and to say he loves it would be a criminal understatement. It's this... thing, this music playing thing with a handle and you can copy CDs for it and it has a jumbo play button and, really, like the sleeper sofas of yore it is so easy a child can use it. Edward carries it around, hits play, hits rewind, flips it over to access the menu (PLAYTIME! it screams; SOOTHING! it bellows) and generally acts like it is his boombox, yo. If I was more clever with the internet I would figure out a way to cut and paste a picture for you but I am not. Sorry. Also, for the record, it was $80 and he is almost equally as fond of this babyeinstein Takealong Tunes thing I bought for $9 at Target. It stays in his crib with him and when I go in to get him in the morning he is invariably sitting up with his yellow blanket between his knees, his blue blanket under his bottom, a book in his hands and the music playing next to him. When it stops after thirty seconds or whatever he smacks it and then returns to studying his book. Ah, he seems to be thinking, DUCK! Of course! You know, it's kinda hard to get Edward out of bed in the morning, now that I think about it. Caroline almost always wakes up first from both naps and bedtime (she gets two hours less sleep than him daily - children are different, I note. sagely.) When I finally succeed in getting Edward up I carry him downstairs and Caroline is always waiting for us. When she sees Edward she starts to clap. It is very cute but I pity the future spouse/significant other/life partner/valet who has this greeting to live up to: "Yeah, thanks for the coffee but.. why don't you ever break into spontaneous applause when I walk into the room in the morning?"     

We have one vacation planned for this summer. There was a period there (let's call it March) when almost all of Steve's clients shriveled up simultaneously and died like so many salted slugs followed by another period (let's call it April 15th) when I wrote, honest to god, checks in excess of forty (40) thousand (000) dollars ($$$) to our respective state and federal revenuers and I thought bitterly about this prepaid vacation of ours. It seemed stupid. I mean, REALLY REALLY stupid. Do you want to know something from financial planning 101? Never use money you do not actually have to take a vacation. You don't charge a vacation; you don't refinance for a vacation; you don't do anything other than take cash from your little shoebox and... anyway. Stupid. But we had already paid for it and it was mostly nonrefundable so I decided to just suck it up and look forward to it. When vacation is inevitable, relax et cetera. Then in the past month or so our uberdomestic economy began showing signs of rebounding somewhat (the clients apparently were only mostly dead) and I moved from a grudging grin and bear it approach to a more cheerful wheeeee! vacation! all I ever wanted! attitude. Then the airlines started fucking with me.  

When I bought our tickets back in February I got five seats

[Dear Julia, I will be taking a trip with my eighteen month old soon and our travel arrangements involve being on an airplane for more than two seconds. Should I sell a kidney in order to get the child his own seat? Sincerely, First Time Travel Mama

Dear FTTM,YES! For the love of all that is fucking holy YES! Under no circumstances do you want to try to hold a toddler on your lap during a flight. Try this: Move your couch until it is twelve inches away from the wall. Then sit on your couch with the child on your knees. Now try to stay like that for three hours with nothing but a baggie full of cheerios and a couple of board books. You want to kill yourself, don't you? Love, Julia PS Don't forget to bring ziploc bags]

on a direct, two and a half hour flight departing at eleven am. If it had been any more civlized it would have come with strawberries and clotted cream. Then I got an email in late March notifying me of a "schedule change." And by "schedule change" they meant that they had canceled the direct flight entirely and we would now be leaving three hours earlier and changing planes in Detroit. With THIRTY-FIVE minutes in between our scheduled Detroit arrival and our scheduled Detroit departure. I spent Thanksgiving in the Detroit airport once and I can assure you, this was not fucking happening. So I called and said what the hell, people, are you joking about this connection? And they said, no, no that is perfectly reasonable. And I said I am traveling with my husband, my seven year old and eighteen month old twins - we cannot get from our living room to our front porch in thirty-five goddamned minutes. So we kidded back and forth and they finally moved us to a slightly later flight and although it sucked so much more than my original purchase it was what it was. Fine. So this week my mother (who will be joining us for the vacation) and I realized we had a mere 58 days left until our departure so we needed to start worrying about something. We spent several days figuring out the logistics of her arrival and our arrival and we concocted an elaborate plan with many comings and goings and to'ing and fro'ing.

All of which amounted to nothing when I got yet another email yesterday from the airline informing me about yet another schedule change. This time they have canceled the mid-afternoon flight and have put us on a seven pm flight that night. So we would be arriving in Detroit at ten in the morning and could plan on spending the next nine hours there before they ditched us at our final destination around midnight. 

Gaaaaaaah!

I went online last night and puttered around looking for flight alternatives because this latest arrangement was really not going to work for me. Surely there was some way to get from point A to point B via airplane that was not actually slower than walking. This is when I discovered that ticket prices had miraculously decreased to the point that buying them yesterday would save us $900; provided the airline was willing to let us cancel our now unrecognizable existing reservation, refund the price and allow me to start from scratch. Reasonable, right?

Three hours. It took me three hours online and then on the phone and in the end I had to cry before they agreed to refund our money. All very embarrassing but I was just so angry at that point and it seemed so unfair - if I had wanted this horrible schedule in the first place it would have been half the price from the get go - and when I get frustrated I cry. Yet another reason (in addition to almost everything I did between 1988 and 1994) why I will never be elected president. 

So on the plus side I am $900 to the good. On the minus side the best new flight I could find has us leaving Minneapolis at 5:30 in the morning (five thirty! every time I think about that I want to throw up a little.)

I know I had something else I wanted to talk about but, you know, Deadliest Catch. Oh! Right! The paraguard IUD - a tale of four months and counting. Oh well it will have to wait.

Any advice on traveling with toddlers that I can worry about in the meantime? I came into Steve office today and started talking about gate checking, rather mid-thought. He stared at me for about half a minute before saying, "Oh my god, how did you know I was just sitting here worrying about whether the blue duffel bag will fit under an airplane seat in July?"

 We flew quite a bit with Patrick but by their age you could just give him a book full of grammatical errors and a purple pen and he'd be fine. Caroline? Eddybear? Will need more substantive entertainment. Also, how do you get three children, one double stroller, two car seats and enough carry-on luggage to meet every possible in-flight disaster on and off four separate planes?

PS Bedtime conversation. Patrick and his little friend have started on religion again. Somehow Friend simultaneously taught Patrick the old middle finger upwards gesture - one beloved by automobile enthusiasts from coast to coast - and then related its use to eternal damnation. This led to my having to explain swearing to Patrick in a dialogue that reminded me of nothing so much as George Carlin and the seven words you cannot say in front of your child's teddybear. Speaking of George Carlin does anyone else find it funny that he narrates some of the Thomas the Train videos? Patrick loathed Thomas and broke my heart. I tried during my solo weekend to ressurect them for Caroline and Edward ("look! Edward! that train's name is Edward too! Caroline see that train? it is sort of like a car" - Cricket is obsessed with cars since it is one of the few words she can consistently say to everyone's satisfaction) but they both continue to hate the television. Edward is good with buttons and he just turned it off after Caroline crawled on the couch to retrieve the remote.

We went back to playing with the laundry basket but I admit I was a little bitter. He is a really useful engine, damn it.


Ad Matrem

Oh damn it.

For a better (read: not completely wrong) explanation of the cranial nerves, check out Katherine's gossamer comment at the end of my last post. She nudges me from nerve VII to V and generally sorts everything out; all while giving me a nice scalp massage and without ever saying oh, you IDIOT. I was not kidding when I said that a D+ would have been a grade improvement for me in AP Bio. I am abnormally stupid when it comes to biology; although I have never been entirely sure why. Geometry was and always will be a horrible mess in my mind (true story: when I drive the carpool I have to open my door and lean out in order to drive backwards down our friends' driveway - the eleven year old used to tease me mercilessly about this but now even he views me more with pity than contempt. the spaces and how they relate? baffle me. also no one will ever convince me that proofs aren't dumb) but why I am unable to memorize even the most basic of facts related to that which is living is a mystery. I don't know how I wound up in advanced placement in the first place and I assume my teacher asked herself the same question; especially after having the career-fulfilling privilege of teaching the subject to my older brother. My brother - as you might recall - eventually got his doctorate in a related field and from all reports he made that classroom sing with an appreciation for science. I once accidentally broke the tail off the cat skeleton my lab partner and I had assembled (from scratch. from cat. it was nauseating) and then used it as a pointer. Not. My. Forté.

In conclusion: I have no idea why my face is numb but it is not Bell's Palsy and I doubt it is lupus. Also everything I told you about nerves was wrong. And I was so proud of myself, too, when I thought I had followed the neurologist's lecture like lynx. More like a lemur. From now on I promise to stick to the biology I remember; namely: the lysosome is known as the suicide bag of the cell. I'll be sure to tell you the instant this becomes relevant.

Patrick's kindergarten-first grade Spring concert was this afternoon. Any thought I might have had about skipping it was quickly nullified when he woke me up this morning to tell me that although the concert was scheduled to begin at 2 pm I would need to allow time to park and to get a good seat; so I might want to leave our house around one. Then he handed me a crayon map of the parking lot he had drawn the night before to assist me. So attendance was mandatory but I am glad I went. In the opening words of the principal: it is necessary to experience a K-1 musical for yourself. There were songs about Spring. There were songs about bugs. There were streamers taped to drinking straws. There were enough songs about the rainbow to fill a campy GALA event. Patrick's group performed the Mexican hat dance complete with hats and I watched while he dragged his partner by her hand halfway across the gym and back looking for their spot. He reminded me of his father many years ago when he refused to ask for directions in Belgium and we wound up spending the night in France. His dance partner had that same look of quiet desperation that I well know. Like, oh you stupid stupid boy. Let me GO so I can ASK.

When Patrick was three I taught him the sign language alphabet because he was crazy. I mean, because he loved letters the way some of children love superheros and every new iteration of the alphabet was like a brand new Superman pillowcase.

[That reminds me of a funny Patrick story from three years ago. With my new search function I can... ta da. ]

Where was I? Oh right, sign language. So I taught him the alphabet and we used to amuse ourselves with it while we waited in restaurants for the bread to arrive (things you can do with one small child that you cannot do with three - #1 Dine Out) but it has been a while since we have done anything with it. Then as I was watching the concert I wondered why Patrick's hand gestures were so wildly different from the other performers. While everyone else was waving to Mr Sun, Sun, Mr Golden Sun; Patrick was twiddling his fingers and staring at me with bug eyes. I finally realized that what he was doing was signing M-O-M over and over again. So I did the shoulders/hands lift-and-open-and-extend to indicate WHAT? He signed H-I M-O-M and gave me a big wave. At that moment the concert ended. From beginning to end I do not think he sang a note. It's like he was so busy choreographing his end zone celebration that he missed the ball entirely.          

Four pictures:

Caroline's hair has erupted into curls at the ears and around the nape of her neck. I think she looks smashing. When I took Edward to get his haircut I did ask them to give Caroline a quick bang-lite. I am not entirely convinced that this was the right thing to do but her hair is so heavy it was hard to find anything short of rubber cement to push it out of her eyes. And speaking of eyes I swear hers are not brown. Not that it matters (I have brown eyes myself and hardly a day goes by I don't say, my, what pretty eyes you have, Julia) but for the record Caroline's eyes are dark green with some muddy streaks. Just like a pond. Why do you suppose they always photograph as brown?

IMG_2643

(This next one isn't from today, it is from the day we got her haircut but I forgot that I had flagged it.)

I think she could have walked into any silent film studio and named her price. And to think Edward is the dramatic one.

IMG_2073  

Patrick and Edward.

IMG_2502_2

Edward and Patrick.

IMG_2507

Finally, two school stories, both from my volunteer mornings:

I was gathering my group together to administer what we used to call a spelling test and what the good people at Patrick's school soothingly refer to as "spelling feedback."

One of the kids asked, "Are you Patrick's mom?"

"I am."

"Do you know Vietnamese?" he said.

"No, I don't," I admitted.

"I am Vietnamese," he said. "I am Asian. I am an Asian-American."

I said, "That is great!"

Another boy said, "No, you aren't. You're Mexican."

"I am not; I am Vietnamese."

A boy sitting at a table chimed in, "He is Vietnamese! He's not Mexican! Vietnamese! He is!"

"Look," said Boy #2 belligerently, tapping his own chest. "I am Indian and I KNOW Mexican. India and Mexico are neighbors. You're Mexican!"

I interceded like the UN, separating North America from the subcontinent and asserting everyone's right to their own heritage. The only little girl in the group finally spoke up.

"I think I am a little Irish."

"I'm a little Irish too," I said.

She stared at me.

"You don't look like me," she said. "You look tired."

She and my neurologist would get along just fine.

++

The class did a unit on the works of Dr Seuss, during the course of which they read The Cat in the Hat. The teacher asked, "Can anybody tell me what they think the lesson was in this story?"

One girl answered, "The lesson was that you need to have fun! Just... just relax. Don't worry so much! Have a good time; play; run around... who cares if things get crazy? It'll be ok!"

Another girl replied, "The lesson was that you should never, ever open your door to strangers because they might come into your house and break things and make a mess."

All I could think was that one day these two girls are going to wind up as college roommates and, man, are they going to hate each other.


Queen of the Mayhem

I liked the neurologist. The last time I saw a neurologist she neither sat down nor took her hand off the doorknob as she breezed in to tell me that although I probably could not feel my pinkie it was not caused by any damage to the major nerves; so buck up, little numb camper. Then she left. Huh. Would you believe that until I typed that sentence I had completely forgotten about the fact that half my hand went numb last year? And here I have been telling everyone who asked that I have no history of anything, at all, ever.

The woman on Monday, in attentive contrast, spent a good half an hour whacking me with little hammers and engaging me in games of pat-a-cake. Then she delivered as comprehensive and comprehensible a lecture on the nervous system as I have ever heard. I could walk into AP Bio right now and demand (twenty years later) that my grade be raised to a D... PLUS. So apparently you have twelve pairs of cranial nerves and the seventh of these (known as VII to the cognoscenti) works the face. It branches into three sections to do so: top, middle and lower. The middle branch controls the musculature and when it is damaged or attacked you get Bell's Palsy. The lower branch controls sensation and when it is damaged or attacked you get numbness. That is what I have. Since it is resolving on its own (yesterday it was almost indiscernible; today it is a little worse again) she saw no reason to treat it and said that in general an isolated instance of nervous whatsit is not cause for alarm. It is most likely caused by a virus but she did want to rule out any underlying conditions; so she has ordered blood work for Lyme's, something, something else and lupus. She was very hot on lupus but I could not decide if it was because of the numbness or if I just have a lupus look about me. She said I should be tested for lupus; asked if I have already been tested for lupus and then sat patiently on the phone with my OB's office while someone there looked up everything about me while scanning for lupus. I was nonplussed so I checked google as soon as I got home (well, as soon as I got home and finished a falafel sandwich the size of my head.) Eh. I am not convinced that there is even a remote possibility that this is something I have. Yes, I am fatigued but I'll bet if I came over to your house and woke you up every few hours for almost a year and a half you'd be looking kinda sickly too. Um, what else? I do get mouth sores (but I have gotten canker sores for years) and I suppose my chilblained toes might, possibly, sometimes, have a whitish-blue look about them á la Raynaud. But for the rest of it; not so much. 

She said she would call when she gets the test results back. And she gave me a pamphlet on lupus.  

Moving on.

I had forgotten how annoying retailer seasonality can be when you are trying to buy clothing for little kids. Right now it is mild Spring in my living room but a scorching August sun blazes away at Carters and Target and the fifteen other places I have reconned in an effort to find a couple of things to fit Caroline. It is driving me crazy. There will come a time when she will need sleeveless playsuits and charming bloomers to match airy sundresses but that time is not yet upon us. It is May. It is Minnesota. It is the time for lightweight yet long sleeved garments. If I had realized that Caroline's recent growth spurt would extend her long-waistedness even further while leaving her short little legs untouched I could have stocked up on the next size of long-sleeved onesies when they still had them. You know, back in January. And I would have known not to bother buying any new pants because she has yet to outgrow the old ones. However, I am not psychic and children grow in such random fits and starts that it is impossible to accurately predict what size they might be in a month or two. I was at the Carters outlet the other day - lashing my tail and gnashing my teeth over the fact that the only long-sleeved onesies they had were the boring undershirt-y white ones (how is anyone to know that Caroline is My Sweet n' Pretty Cupcake Princess unless it is clearly stitched across her prow, preferably on a nice dotted or striped cotton?) - when I saw a woman with a teeny-tiny brand new baby. And this woman was throwing summer outfit after newborn summer outfit on the counter. I wanted to warn her that her baby was going to be three different sizes in the next week alone but then I thought about the good of the economy (and the fact that she might believe what she was buying was none of my business - as if!) and I stayed silent. But I thought it.

Back to Cricket. Not only have I been unable to find what I am looking for (spring clothes) but I have been unable to buy what is available (summer clothes) because I really have no idea what size Caroline will be by July or August. Her legs might catch up. She might plump out. She might stay the same. It's a mystery and I do not have the slightest interest in spending x dollars on something that she will never wear. However, I know that by the time the hot weather rolls around all of the retailers will have moved to snowsuits and fleece. In anticipation I bought two five packs of short-sleeved onesies (one for Edward and one for Caroline) and as far as I am concerned they can live in 'em until they hit the 2Ts. Eventually sizes start lasting for a whole year - I stocked up on shirts for Patrick at the end of last season and he is set - but until that happens I will continue to answer the inquiry "May I help you find anything?" with a rather curt "Yes, do you sell anything that a child could wear today without flying to Aruba?"

And I mean it to sting, by god.

Caroline is very different from a similarly aged Patrick. She wants to Do things. A week ago she grabbed the wipes and started to assist with her own diaper change. Over the weekend she realized that she can push her shopping cart from hazard to hazard and increase her climbing range by 100% (when she woke up she discovered that her shopping cart has been impounded - I cannot spend entire days following Caroline around while she climbs something with wheels and tries to access the kitchen counter.) On Monday she unsnapped the shoulder straps on her overalls and celebrated the freedom of being pantless. Yesterday she learned how to play the harmonica (well... "play".) This, incidentally, is quite possibly the cutest freaking thing I have ever seen in my life. Cricket walking around blowing on her harp... crazy crazy cute.

And Edward? Edward just wants to look at his books and have someone else handle the diapers. When you hand him the harmonica he chews on it. The current plan is that Caroline is going to be a movie star astrophysicist brain surgeon blues legend and that Edward will live at her house and write textbooks about the runes of Elder Futhark. I mean, not to stereotype, which I know is always a problem with twins: are you the cerebral pretty one or the multi-talented dynamo?

Hmmm, I wonder if I can figure out how to post video?

Did that work? Helllllooooooooo CLEVELAND! Actually Caroline's newest word sounds a lot like "Chicago" which I suppose makes sense if she is going to be the littlest girliest bluesman in history. It's her spiritual home.


Feel The Caine

Thank you for the design input. I squashed the banner, moved the title around, spent three hours trying to get the pretty dropdown link menu to work before giving it the digital finger... I think that's it. I would love to make the text column wider but typepad charges another seven bucks a month or so for the privilege and it doesn't seem quite worth it. For the record, though, I agree. It should be wider in the middle. Oh, and I had made an effort to pick a universal browser color for the background but some of you are reporting that it looks stark white and some see pinkish and others maybe something in a pale green - I realized that I cannot be all things to all displays so I went with the one that looks the nicest on my computer. For what it is worth I also don't like change but I had grown to dislike the purple even more. So that's that. Thank you.

Where were we?

Oh I wrote that my face was numb and I added a few pictures to the post and stood up. And then I sat abruptly back down again as my eyes crossed and my head did that swimmy thing it used to do back when my brother and I were young enough to spin in circles until we fell over. I told Steve that I felt odd and he told me to just go to the goddamned doctor already. I called the new clinic back and asked if anyone could see me that evening. No, they said, but the urgent care is open.

So I trundled off to the urgent care feeling like a fool. I hate going to the doctor with vague symptoms like "I feel a passing malaise" or "I have that sense that have I forgotten something but I do not know what it is." Or "half my face feels numb." I was once on fairly close terms with an urgent care doctor and although he was an outlier (one hopes) in that he absolutely hated people; I will never forget the scorn with which he recounted the absurd symptoms of the patients he saw. Like the woman who walked in claiming to be in a catatonic state. I don't want to be that woman. But Steve said I was not allowed home without a note from a doctor so I went.

At the urgent care I read my book and surreptitiously slapped my face and poked my tongue around trying to decide if it was starting to go numb as well. I finally saw the doctor who took a quick history and then played charades with me: smile, raise your eyebrows, kick your feet, push my hands.

He thought I might have had or was having or was about to be having a stroke. So they sent me to the ER.

If I hate going to the urgent care without any obvious medical crisis you can only imagine how much I writhed to show up at the emergency room without an axe in my head. As I walked in I saw a woman with her hand wrapped in a plastic bag - THAT looked like an emergency. Me and my ice cream face? Not so much.

I only had to wait about five minutes before I got a room and a nurse. Then a doctor. We repeated the urgent care stuff (waggle waggle push push slap slap) and he went off to check with a neurologist. Who ordered an MRI. The ER doctor threw in an ultrasound to check for clots in my legs for good measure and then left me with my book.

I like ultrasounds. They sort of tickle, what with the cold gel and the delicate mopping up afterward. It helped that this ultrasound was held in the same room that I had a late scan with Caroline and Edward, which also happened to be the same room where I had had two previous crappy sorry-but-we'd-expect-to-see-a-heartbeat moments. We have a history, this room and I, and it was nice to see it again. That reminds me.

Confession: I am not sure quite when that late ultrasound was (33 weeks? 34?) but it was one of the nights I was admitted for preterm labor. The hospital tech asked if we knew what we were having and I said no; so she told me to look the other way when she measured the leg bones during the BPP. But I looked at the screen anyway and I was convinced that Baby B had a penis (he does) and that Baby A had one has well (she doesn't.) Since I had suspected that we were having two boys I felt vindicated but then horribly guilty because we weren't going to find out. So I kept my secret knowledge to myself. Then Caroline was born and Steve said "It's a girl" and the nurse said "And she is TINY" and I thought, seriously, oh for heavens sakes they got the wrong baby. Like I wasn't right fucking there at the time. So I said, "Are you sure?" and someone said, "We'll weigh her but, yeah, she looks pretty little." And I said, "No, that he's a girl? Let me see."

So they gave me the baby. And I said, "Well, then, hello Caroline."

She looked just like Steve if Steve had been born a monkey (a singing monkey - she spent the next nine days either asleep in the isolette or yodeling. silly girl) so I concluded she was probably ours (to get an idea of how small she was those are preemie diapers wrapped halfway up to her neck.)

But back to Tuesday night. The tech scanned my thigh, my knee and my calf. Then she got to my ankle and was there for about twenty-five minutes. Does that hurt, she kept asking. Um, no, should it? She went to get the radiologist - NOT my next-door neighbor this time, thank god - and he scanned. Then she wheeled me back to the ER. I kept expecting someone to tell me what was so fascinating about my ankle but they never did and then I forgot about it in all of the excitement of the MRI. I should probably follow up on that.

MRIs are horrible. I am not claustrophobic. I like machines. I do not mind loud noises. My idea of a good time is to lie perfectly still and do absolutely nothing. And yet even I found the MRI to be awful. It took 45 minutes and after the first five I thought about screaming for help. Something about keeping your head perfectly still... urrrghh. I shuddered all over again just thinking about it. I was so happy to get out of there that I tried to sit up too quickly and cracked my forehead against the bar thing that had been over my face. When I later saw another doctor she noted the red mark and her first suggestion was that my facial numbness might be related to the head trauma I had sustained.          

MRI was fine. My brain is apparently bleed free since '71.

The diagnosis was early onset of Bell's Palsy (see how good you are at this?) and I am going to see a neurologist on Monday. However! I think it is actually an atypical migraine since... well there is a wonky eye component and a headache that is not quite a headache and Bell's Palsy is supposedly characterized by paralysis on one side of the face. I do not have that and I am pretty sure I would notice it.

That's my week so far. Caroline and Edward have colds and are reacting in their typical fashion: Caroline has stopped sleeping and Edward barely wakes up. I had that brief moment as I listened to Caroline cough when I thought Aiiiiieeee! SWINE FLU! but then I got a grip. I am not saying we are protected out here from contagion but for the twinkles to rank in the top five confirmed cases for the state when they rarely pass the driveway? That would be unusual.

I ran into a... oh what's the word for someone you know well enough that you have to make small talk but have never liked? An acquaintance? I ran into an acquaintance at the library today and she told me this and told me that and then said that she just prays the swine flu doesn't make it to our little hollow because she really cannot imagine skipping {small child}'s classes. She'd go crazy. It's a good thing I cannot feel half my face because it made it easier not to laugh in hers: Pandemic Worsens as Gymboree Closure Forced. Saints preserve us.

I have probably already told you this story but my great-grandmother Arizona (one reason I was so quick to greet Caroline by name is Steve was pretty hot on the name Arizona for a girl and I - burning with the knowledge that we were having two boys - almost kinda agreed on principle) died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 along with her five year old daughter. The other four children lived, of whom my grandmother was the youngest at 15 months. Less than a year later my great-grandfather approached the spinster who lived next door, keeping house for her brothers.

"Willie," he said. "I feel sorry for you."

"Why, whatever do you mean Mr Norton?" she is reported to have replied. This was in Alabama, by the way, so get the accent right as you read it.

"I feel sorry for you because you are going to have to marry me and raise my children."

She said yes. At least that is how my grandmother always told the story to me although as I repeat it I wonder to what, exactly, Willie was saying yes. Not much of a proposal, was it. My grandmother said that Willie had been told she would never have children after a riding accident and that she was a nurturing soul. My great-grandfather probably thought this was an ideal arrangement. Four motherless children and someone to tend to them - perfect. Of course Willie went on to have five more so... . It was a crowded house. Also, he could not have been completely indifferent to her personal charms, now could he?

I saw quite a bit of my grandmother when I was very young. She liked to tell stories and I liked to listen to them. Someone once asked why I write a blog. I had no answer. Narcissism? Sure. But I also think I just like to tell stories; and I like it when you listen to them.