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September 2009

Give Me Your Hands

I know I have mentioned in the past that unless you are a gifted storyteller with a richly nuanced subconscious nobody wants to hear what you dreamed last night ("...and then I was back in the house where I grew up but it wasn't, really, because there was a roller rink in the attic and Lorne Greene was there and I could fly but I could not speak...") and no doubt that goes triple for recounting what your son dreamed.

However, I don't care. Do androids dream of electric sheep? Do midget astrophysicists dream of midget astrophysics?

Over breakfast Patrick said, "I had the weirdest dream last night."

And I said, "Really?" and sat down across from him with my hands on my chin because, frankly, every little thing he does is sometimes magic and this morning happened to be one of those times.

"We were on a bus going through a forest. It was a long bus ride and when we got to the end we were at a dock and we let the kindergartners out because they were going swimming. Then the bus turned around and we started to go back through the forest but by then it was very late, probably midnight. I looked out the window and saw the moon and then I realized that rather than normal" (fingers rounded like a quarter) "it was huge" (hands cupped like a bagel) "and I thought 'Wow! It's like our moon is as close to us as Phobos is to Mars! I MUST be dreaming.' So I woke myself up."

He was laughing and shaking his head.

"Wasn't that crazy? I mean, when we got to the water in my dream it looked normal but if the moon was really that close... I mean, just think of the tides! "

I thought, "Someday you are going to make some high school science teacher very very happy."

I said, "Wow! That IS crazy!" and went back to making his lunch. I stuck a note in with the Nilla Wafers saying "these cookies are more like Enceladus" and I freely confess that I had to google "tiny moon" in order to get the name right.

++

Caroline Edward and I started communist playgroup this week. We were supposed to start last week but I am far flakier than I realize and as a result we missed it like a train. For some reason I was convinced that our Wednesday morning class took place on Thursdays; so much so that I made special carpool arrangements weeks in advance to accommodate Thursdays. I wrote "C&E Play" on every Thursday until Christmas on the laundry room calendar and I added "Thursday Class" to the electronic calendar that Steve has finally (after two years) bullied me into using through his unremitting failure to accept that the laundry room calendar is the main iron-clad calendar for the family. I LIKE normal calendars. I LIKE things that hang from a thumbtack and have a different photograph for each month (2009 features pictures from the Hubble - you'll never guess who selected it) and little squares filled with scribbles like "9:?5 P dentst apt". However after months and months of Steve breezing through the kitchen looking like someone who has some place to be just at the moment I was about to ask him to watch the children for a few hours; only to be told that he is leaving for x and that it was clearly marked on his calendar... I gave in.

But, Thursday. I thought the class was on Thursdays.

Last week we went through this ridiculously complicated exchange so that Caroline and I could make the first class despite the fact that Edward was going back to the doctor that morning for his fevers. My theory was that I had failed to bond with the other mothers in almost every communist playgroup I joined with Patrick because somehow I missed the critical first day friend finding period. I didn't want that to happen again. One of the reasons I have been looking forward to doing this class...

Sorry. Let me stop. I have gotten ahead of myself.

Communist playgroup is what I have always called the state-sponsored, state-funded early childhood education classes of which Minnesotans are (justly) very proud. Through the school districts the program offers a huge variety of child, parent and child-parent classes to serve ages birth through five. They have day classes, evening classes, mixed ages, newborns, multiples, single parent centered, father centered... they cover the gamut and they are held all over the freaking place. For Caroline and Edward I had debated between a multiples class and a toddlers class. For what it is worth when I asked you guys the majority of you thought I should go with the toddler group but a significant subset - namely all of the mothers with twins older than mine - thought I would get a lot from the multiples group; so in the end I applied for both. However what I really wanted was to be able to take the one class that was offered at Patrick's school. I thought he (and the bumbles) would get a kick out of driving together once a week. So that was my first choice and we got in and it is a toddler only class.

The classes are divided in half. For forty-five minutes the parents stay in the room and help the kids paint or play with toys or use the sensory table or playdough or whatever. Then the kids are left with a cadre of teachers and the parents go sit around a conference table for the next forty-five minutes with a led discussion on some age-appropriate parenting topic. It's the last part there that has always, always made me want to drown myself in the bottom of one of their tiny styrofoam cups. I remember once when Patrick was about two and a half we were in a class and the day's topic was potty training. As far as Patrick and I were concerned it might as well have been Driver's Ed; that's how remote the idea seemed at the time. So the class facilitator handed us a little sheet of paper with a drawing of a baseball diamond and asked us to mark where our child was in terms of toileting - first base, second base etc. I drew a fence and then a parking lot and then a road running behind the parking lot and then a farm on the far side of the road and an apple orchard on the back forty of the farm and on the tallest part of one of the trees in the orchard I drew a small Patrick. In a diaper. It took me ten minutes and by the time I looked up again I had missed the whole discussion and everyone was walking out the door. No wonder I suck at potty training.

With Patrick I thought the classes were important because we knew no one and we never saw anybody and he was growing up kinda weird. I thought he needed to be able to play with other kids and although that did not actually happen for the first few years (he would go find a toy or read a book) I figured that although I loathed it I could take a couple of parenting seminars for the team. Caroline and Edward are much more social (a pet rock would have been more social than Patrick - he was a late interacting bloomer, our Patrick) but I still think it is important for them to get out and see other children and maybe make some friends next to whom they might parallel play. And, frankly, I have been really excited about the idea that I might make some new friends too.

-- I really did not intend for this to segue like this but since we are here... my essay on the many ways I failed to win f's and influence p's over the past decade is in the October REDBOOK and can be found online here. I am 100% convinced that the lovely editors at REDBOOK have made an effort to use me for freelance projects (I am working on another piece contracted by them with two more maybes - one funny one! - in the works) in large part due to the (extremely touching) outpouring of support you guys offered when they laid me off from the Mom Moment last winter. I know I said thank you at the time but I want to say it again. You left comments and you emailed and... wow, I am actually sitting here getting full-on teary... it made a huge difference in my life. So thank you again. If you read the piece and you like it and you want to shoot REDBOOK an email to that effect I would really appreciate it. Or not. No worries. --     

Going back now. One of the reasons I have been looking forward to doing this class...

...is that I was hoping to meet some new people.

I'm not sure why I am only able to connect with people during periods of obvious transition (new job, new school) but I am. Like, I was once trapped in an OB's waiting room for an hour and a half (he was such a good guy and/but he couldn't manage his patients worth a damn so by the late afternoon his waits were ridiculous) and I struck up a conversation with the nicest woman. Even as I was talking to her I thought it was a pity we would never see each other again and yet there was no real reason why we wouldn't other than the fact that I would have felt strange asking her out. Oh, you know what I mean. Haven't you ever talked to someone while you are waiting to get your oil changed and wished you could know them better? Or I remember the late (late as in no longer blogging) and much-lamented Getupgrrl writing about her mad friend-crush on her veterinarian, which I completely related to because at the time I had an OB who was just about my age and so cool and I kept trying to figure out how we could become best friends. Stuff like that, you know?

Anyway, Caroline and Edward and I went to communist playgroup. Edward found the corner with the cars and sat down to play with them. Then he noticed the dinosaurs and, although we are not a dino family per se, he intuited that cars plus dinosaurs equal a sum greater than the parts. He was calm and a little serious and he did not smile until the very end of the class by which time he had grown comfortable enough to try to hide as we were leaving. He laughed when I said, "Oh no! WHERE is Edward? Where can EDWARD have gone?" but - just between you and me - holding a piece of elbow macaroni in front of his eyes wasn't that great of a hiding place. Caroline was like a caricature of herself all morning. She was all over the fucking place. She used the easel, played with the playdough, drew another picture, went down the slide, played in the puppet house, took down every toy from a shelf near Edward, and had most of the adults in the room pick her up. She sat down for a millisecond during snack. Edward, in twinly contrast, was the last kid still eating. He slowly ate through his portion of Teddy Grahams, accepted seconds, noticed that Caroline had not even touched hers so he ate those too.  

At one point a little boy and his mother were sitting on the floor. The boy was arranging large colored beads on pegs. Caroline came over and flopped onto her tummy next to him. "Hiiiiiii!" she said. Then she picked up a bead and put it on a dowel. The boy had been carefully sorting the beads by color and he gave what I considered to be a very Patrick-like groan and said, in Spanish as that is his first language, "Amarillo! Amarillo! No! Aqui!" His mother said the soothing things about sharing and goodness that you say to toddlers as you attempt to cram them into civilization by force if necessary and Caroline cheerfully ignored his angst as she put blue on red, red on yellow and yellow on her finger. The whole time he muttered darkly about colors and she beamed at him as she "shared".

"Buh buh!" she said a minute later - much to his relief - and moved onto her next victim new friend.

Meanwhile I tried to be in six places at once and fielded questions about how many months apart my two are ("They're twins." "REALLY? You're kidding!" "Nope." "She's much smaller than he is!" - she isn't really) and about whether I have my hands full (during circle time the kids were given something to stick on the storyboard as we listened to a song. I literally walked on my knees with Caroline tucked under my elbow to help steer Edward and his fish in the right direction.) Oh and do you want to hear embarrassing? I have no official diaper bag (we don't really go anywhere) and I forgot to bring anything with me. I had to borrow diapers and then wipes. Twice. FLA-KY. 

I started talking with a woman who I immediately liked. She was very friendly and breezy and Southern (she moved here three weeks ago) and about a minute into our conversation she said, "How is it with twins? We did in vitro for [her daughter] and when we transferred two I wasn't sure what I should be hoping for."

I was charmed. I said the twins have been very easy so far; and I added that one of them was my morula and the other had been a blast. She smiled in understanding and I gave her my email on a piece of construction paper at the end of the class. Not that I only want to befriend people who have gone through infertility, just that her openness made it very easy for me to feel comfortable in general.

If you are one of my infertility compatriots do you talk about it like that? Personally, I never mention miscarriages or IVF although if someone asks if twins run in the family I generally say "Oh we had help" which answers their question. I thought after meeting this woman, though, that maybe I should be more forthcoming in the future. It was really pleasantly disarming.

++

Caroline is finally tall enough to climb onto chairs and nothing is safe. She found my checkbook on the kitchen counter and threw it in the garbage (Steve saw it and called, "Julia! Did you mean to throw the checkbook away? It looks like there are still checks in it... ?" Really Steve? HONESTLY?) She turned on... something... on Steve's Mac that made it vocalize everything for him as if he were visually impaired and we couldn't figure out how to turn it off for an hour. In the space of the last twenty-four hours we have had to rethink our baby proofing entirely. It less about protecting her from stuff and more about protecting stuff from her. Menace Girl flies again.

The sweetness of this smote me between the eyes and I was, like, oh damn it when she moved at the last second because prior to this photo she had been lying with her head on Edward's lap while they watched a video together. I mean, while they watched me instruct them in the ancient art of kabuki. Because every moment is a teachable moment at my house. Ahem.

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I have long attempted to capture on film a trick of Caroline's that we call her Vampire Eyes. She tilts her head down or sideways and then slides her eyes over or up and peers at you from between her lashes. We are pretty sure she thinks she is being coy but the effect is actually kinda creepy. As my mother said, "Oh no no sweetie pie that is not a good look for you."

The first one is not it exactly but it is pretty close. The last two are just cute I think.

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And in conclusion

I said, "Smile Caroline! Smile please!" and she did this:

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So I said, "Fine, Caroline, look mad." And she did this:

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She's atomic.

It's Friday night and I have had a glass of wine and am feeling thoughtful and chatty. So my question is: when was the last time you made a new friend and where was it and how?

For me my last new friend was Noelle and I met her through preschool but it took a couple of years for me to feel comfortable enough to pick up the phone and say, "Hi I'm calling for a consult" if you know what I mean. Her willingness to act as Patrick's back-up mom while I was on bed rest has made me her lifelong devotee. That and the fact that she is funny and wise and knows her food and she has the most sublime ability to listen, validate and then offer useful counsel - in that order. It's a rare gift.  

PS You can tell that Caroline has a split lip in one of these pictures. She fell off a chair and landed on her face. She seemed unfazed. I was horrified.

PPS In the spirit of both full disclosure and sheepish apology... I had no idea that Susan Boyle was so FREAKING CUTE.


Punchline

Just when I was absolutely convinced that our pediatrician was crazy and Edward did not just have a virus and he was not going to just get better on his own... Edward got better. Thursday he was hot and damp like the tropics; Friday he was cool and grouchy like a Scottish isle. So I guess I was wrong when I chewed my bottom lip and said, "I just KNOW he has some weird bacterial infection; I just know it!" In defense of my hand-wringing and pointed referral to biotics and that which is anti, the week played out a lot like June only with the part of "Patrick" being played by a shorter but similarly featured newcomer we call Dreadward. There was the fever that was high and continued to be high. There was the lack of any other identifiable symptoms. There was the fact that no one else in the house was sick or had been sick or gave any indication that they might be getting sick. And it's not like Edward carpools to Cub scouts on Tuesday nights - it is still a mystery how he managed to be felled by a germ that bypassed the rest of the family; especially Caroline aka Licky McLikerson. But there it is. His doctor swore it was a virus and that he would be better by Friday morning and he was. Which is good because Friday afternoon we packed up the whole family and took them to spend the weekend at a waterpark.

Just typing that sentence made me laugh. I know, I know; that's some Grade A parenting right there, isn't it? But the weekend was a gift - a very generous gift - from Steve's birthmother and his one (birthhalf)sister was flying in from California to meet up with us while the other was coming up with our two (birthhalf)nieces... there was no way we could have missed this weekend if it was at all possible to get there. So we went and we had a lot of fun; even Edward. Although at times he was a bit more blue than a non-Smurf mother likes to see her non-Smurf offspring; he rallied admirably and he absolutely loved the midget slides.

"Mooooore? Mooooooore?" he would bellow, wrapping his arms and legs around me like a baby chimp and kicking his heels into my flanks in an effort to get me to canter.

I was anxious about the waterpark before we went. Second only to what might happen if I let Caroline and Edward eat unquartered grapes while bouncing on a trampoline, I worry most frequently about the twins and water. The idea of taking them to a massive, public, partially submerged playground originally struck me as absurd; but it was such a nice offer and it is so rare that the families are able to be together that I decided to suck it up. Besides, his birthmother treated us to two babysitters (one while the twins napped so we could all go on the big waterslides with Patrick; and then one on Saturday night so we could go out to eat like civilized people) and apparently my maternal angst can have the crap beaten out of it when confronted by my maternal desire to ditch my children for three hours in a row. So we all had a very nice time and with seven adults there was always someone to hold Edward or share a raft with Patrick or take Caroline on an Atlantian adventure.

-- Last night I went up to Caroline after bedtime and realized that for the past week or so she has been making a joke. You should have seen her relief when I finally got it. It goes like this:

Caroline (standing in her crib, arms up): Ah!

Me (or Steve): Bedtime.

Caroline (pointing toward the floor): Cat?

Steve (or me) (crouching to peer under her crib): What? Is there a cat in here? Is Kelvin under your bed?   

Caroline: NO!

And then she would laugh. We, naturally, thought she was making us crawl around on our hands and knees just for the hell of it but when I laughed last night and said, "Oh no, I'm not falling for that one again" she laughed so hard she fell over.

Edward favors more physical comedy. Namely, I say, "Come here so I can change your diaper" and he runs away as fast as his stocky legs can take him, laughing like a maniac. Today I was folding clothes (oh FINE. I never fold clothes. I simply cram them into drawers. but I do sort them)... so today I was sorting clothes on my bed and Edward came to get me. It was obvious I was supposed to follow him so I did. He went into the living room and around the couch and then into the kitchen and around the table and then into the laundry room. He started laughing as we walked and when we got into the laundry room Caroline leaned out from her favorite hiding place on the bench and said "Bo!" Then she and Edward DIED with how funny it was.  

Speaking of being highly amused: my last book ad was for something that looked very civilized and book-clubby; three generations of women tied by music etc. So I pointed out the book ads in that last post and adjusted my horn-rimmed spectacles and said something highbrow about how nice it is that we have been collectively recognized for being bookish. Then five seconds later I got an ad for the novel Viking Heat. Steve read the blurb and was, like, "WHAT? Navy SEAL time-travels to become a Viking whatnow? Are you kidding me?" He opined that this must be the dumbest premise for a romance novel ever. I pointed out that the Outlander series did ridiculously well and that was basically the same thing (World War II nurse and the Scottish rebellion but hey, I read it AND the sequel AND the next sequel and I think the one after that until I got to some part where they were on a river on a boat in America and... my eyes rolled back into my head.) Anyway, I mean no disrespect to either Viking Heat or the genre and if you feel like anything between a fond chuckle and a roaring laugh I invite you to check out the excerpt via the handy link. Although my taste in romance lies squarely in the Regency period (lots of dampened muslin and rules. I like rules) I can see the possible appeal of Vikings. No, really.

--  A few things, mostly about Edward:

Edward has a very deep voice. I was wondering if I had just been noting this in comparison to Caroline who essentially squeaks rather than speaks but a friend a few weeks ago mentioned it when she saw him and this weekend the subject came up again. His voice is a little raspy and a bit chesty and I suspect it is related to his previous troubles with aspirating (yes? maybe? all that stuff going down and coming up and going down again?) but it is adorable in its own way. My fantasy is to set Caroline and Edward up as an anchor team with Caroline covering the serious pieces like floods and triple homicides in her helium chipmunk voice and Edward doing the fluff pieces from the mustard museum in his serious little growl. They would rock the Saturday morning slot.

Edward likes cars, as I have mentioned, but I think he was born to ride a motorcycle. There is virtually nothing he cannot do on his pushcar and the way he makes that thing corner at top speed by kicking out one heel and pulling up on the handlebars is nothing short of genius. One of my absolute favorite moments is when I am sitting on the living room floor and Edward pulls in going backwards. The look he gives me as he pauses in the archway is pure Steve McQueen. In a word: Edward is cool. And speaking of cars Edward thinks that everything with wheels is a car, unless it is obviously a truck in which case he calls it a tractor.

Every time Edward sees an animal he waves and says, "Hiiiiii!" and then he blows a kiss. When a deer shows up in the yard he runs to get his stuffed deer so he can hold it up to the window. I have yet to figure out whether he is showing the real deer his deer or his deer the real deer. Either way it is beyond cute.

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Edward is very good at looking thoughtful.

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When he is very amused by something he wrinkles his nose.IMG_5846

Caroline likes to give Edward sneak attack kisses. He loves it.

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(the first and last ones are worth a click to make them bigger. her expressions are funny and you get the full force of Edward's nose wrinkle.)

During dinner last night Patrick said "Caroline, say knock knock" and, in much the same way she would cheerfully leap off a bridge or plunge into a burning building if Patrick indicated that such actions would please him, she obliged.

"Nok nok!" she said

"Who's there?"

"Nok nok!" she repeated.

"Who's there?"

"Nok nok!" Every time she did it Patrick laughed. So she kept doing it. After fifteen minutes I considered throwing a napkin over her like you might do with a parrot.

Edward is adding more recognizable words daily (peach, again, slide) and Caroline has moved on to slang. As Edward and I read the 100 trucks book for the 10 millionth time (he likes the car transporter) Caroline sashayed over to us, "Whoah cool" she said. It is possible she wasn't being sarcastic but I dunno, there was an edge to her voice that sounded like pure junior high. When I called my mother and asked Cricket to repeat the whoah (it is a cross between wow and whoa) she said, "No way no no no" and shaking her head she picked up another phone handset and pointedly started having an imaginary conversation with someone who was neither me nor my mother. Thirteen (give or take twelve years) can be such a difficult age. 

Finally, returning to the subject of potty training, I don't mean to brag but Caroline seems to be displaying a genius in this area that borders almost upon the occult. Her ability to tell you what has just happened is unparalleled. Like when she says, "Wet! Pee!" and races for the bathroom it means that she is wet because she has just peed. Or when I take off her diaper and let her run around in the altogether she will unfailing start tugging at my knee and say, "Wet!" And sure enough it IS now wet under the dining room table. I know! It's totally spooky. Just imagine the implications. Seconds after the officials blow the whistle Caroline will be able to tell you who won the big game. Moments after a politician finishes his concession speech Caroline will be able to announce that his rival was elected. The horses will scarcely be back in the barn before Cricket's trifecta winners will be picked.

Seriously, I am trying to have faith. I believe you when you say that she has both the desire and the capacity but... could you talk me through the specifics a little? When Patrick was finally ready - oh let's just say "around three'ish" - the what and the how of potty training were evident to him; it was the why of the whole thing with which he struggled. Oh certainly I could do that, he would say, but I prefer not to do so. Caroline in bright-eyed contrast is more than willing to give it the old pre-preschool try but something seems to be losing in the translation. I keep trying to tell her that she needs to let me know before she goes but it turns out "before" is kinda an esoteric concept. Do I just keep letting her run around making puddles like a puppy? I did buy her a pair of underpants at Target (speaking of which, do they make these things any smaller than 2T/3T - the label says it fits down to 20 lbs but they must mean 20 lb children whose weight is in their spare tire because Caroline can barely keep them on, elf maiden that she is) and she just as cheerfully wets those as well. I don't know. Please help me. Oh and I SUPPOSE you can yell at me if you like (I am looking at you, late commenter) but you should know I actually don't very much like being yelled at.          

Caroline brings over books and shouts "Singing?" while thrusting both arms into the air. Not sure what the arms are about but the books she brings always have some parts that are sung (Boynton, mainly, although like with my beloved Frances books I always wonder what the songs are supposed to sound like - what do dinosaurs singing a dinosaur song really sing?) So I sing and she and Edward dance. Caroline is a great dancer. She has rhythm and she moves her shoulders and undulates her hips (over Christmas the family decided that Steve is most likely just nominally Latvian in origin and more than a touch gypsy - this is an observation that is a lot less loaded in the States than in Europe, just so you know, and also we were only partly kidding; he has a Romany look about him as does Cricket, don't you think?) Edward dances by shaking his head and picking up his feet without bending his knees. The word lumber was coined just for him.  

Finally finally a picture of Edward again because I think he is so pretty. And because he dances like a bear.

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PS As always I appreciate your checking out my advertisers. Viking Heat! Rwoar.

PPS I have an essay in October's REDBOOK which should be hitting newsstands right... about... now. I'm thrilled to be all national and public even if the piece is about my loserish inability to make friends for, like, a decade.

PPS I am truly sorry it took so long to update.

PPPS Huh, my ad expired. Nevermind. Next time!


Hot Timbale

Guess whose fever last night registered as 105 (one zero five) and who was diagnosed this morning with tonsillitis? The HH Munro twist would be Patrick, I suppose (and we would later discover that after all that the ENT had accidentally not removed his tonsil but instead his sense of perspective or most of his good intentions) but the correct answer is: Edward. He seemed fine yesterday and then an hour after he went to sleep he woke up screaming. I went to investigate and discovered that in the space of sixty minutes he had become hot enough to fire pottery. His head was dripping wet and his ears were bright red and scorching to the touch. Prior to this I thought that Patrick was the only kid whose ears flame like the beacons of Gondor when he is fevered but apparently Edward has inherited all kinds of quirks from his brother. And this was early in the evening when his temperature was only 104. It went up and therefore downhill from that point and, like I said, 105. That sort of speaks for itself. I made a note to take him to the doctor in the morning and in the meantime I patted him with a cool cloth, blew on him like soup and gave him another dose of ibuprofen. He eventually dozed off again. You know, although my well-documented maternal neuroses come in many flavors (drowning and falling from roofs - why is that not spelled like hooves? - choking and peach) high fevers don't do much for me. Well, this is one hot baby, I thought, and went back to fanning myself as he drooled down my neck.  

So poor Edward has picked up the tonsil torch from Patrick, which is kinda awful. Wasn't I just swearing that I would never again subject myself to a childhood tonsillectomy? Not that one tonsil infection books you an automatic date with Dr. Slashy but still... it brings you that much closer than zero. So that hollow sound that was making you think this blog was haunted? Just me groaning and wringing my hands. If I was now forced to line the kids up in the order in which I think they would lose their delicate tissues Edward would no longer be second to last. I told Patrick that Edward has a throat infection. He wanted to know if Edward felt as badly as he did last week. I said, probably and asked what he (Patrick) thought I could do to make him (Edward) feel better.

Patrick said, "You really think he feels as bad as I did?"

I said, "Yes."

Patrick said, "Then you should probably shoot him."

I said that wasn't a very nice thing to say, even pretending, but HAHAHAHAHA. I know I have been faulted in the past for being more than a little fatuous where Patrick is concerned (the best parents show greater detachment) but I can't help it. I just think he is so droll.

For the record my intention was to post a picture of me and my new hair, or lack thereof, on the last post. I set up the camera on the dining table and hit the timer and grabbed Patrick to use as my prop, like a Sears baby photo with those jumbo alphabet blocks or little rocking chairs. Then I forgot.

But this was the result and, yes, I know it is hard to see the actual hair because I am wearing Patrick like a hat. However, hand to my heart, it is the only one in which Patrick is not doing something unspeakably gross with saliva. On a parting note: if your kid has not yet read Calvin and Hobbes I urge you to carefully consider placing the six year old equivalent of the Anarchist Cookbook into their small and devilish hands.

More later once Edward cools down and is able to go more than fifteen minutes without laying his perfect round head on my collar bone and shuddering. In the doctor's office waiting room he started shaking with fever, teeth chattering like the little matchgirl and I got all anxious until I realized that there are much worse places to be introduced to the febrile seizure than within the confines of a well attended pediatrics practice. Not that he had one but I was ready.

I CANNOT BELIEVE that Edward has infected tonsils. Good grief.


Domestic Interiors

I cut off all my hair yesterday. Not me, personally, like Deenie (Splendor in the Grass) or Deenie (Judy Blume) but I did ask the nice woman who usually just trims the ends to hack away until her shoulders began to ache. Eight inches gone, maybe nine once you take into account the way the much-shorter strands bounce toward my ears like so many helium filled balloons. Lately my mermaid hair was making me feel less like I was luring sailors to a watery but sexy grave and more like they would need to send the dive team out to try to free the propellers. When your own head starts making you think of red tide it's time for a change.

Patrick said it looks nice. Caroline was curious and said "Har? Har? Har?" a few times while walking around me like she wanted to kick my tires. Edward knows that I don't have tires and therefore I am of limited interest to him. Steve got the most horrible fixed smile on his face when I walked into his office and said, "Oh! My! Look at that! Your hair! Is Shorter!" Steve has always been abnormally attached to my hair so I think it's good for him to adjust to change suddenly. Keeps him young like a week at the seaside.

Patrick cried the first day of school because someone accidentally grabbed his lunch and it took a while to get sorted out. The old Patrick would have probably shrugged and said oh well tra la la but the new Patrick EATS and the threat of going another five hours without sustenance was too much for his delicate system to fathom. It turned out someone in another classroom has his identical lunchbox and took the wrong one by mistake. When Patrick came home and told me the story I mystically channeled an organized crafty mother (was it you? did you feel light-headed on Tuesday and cannot account for thirty minutes from that afternoon?) and I rummaged around in the kitchen junk drawer where I found fabric paint from two Halloweens ago. I added yellow stars and blue galaxies to his lunch sack (Patrick said, critically, "Um, have you ever heard of elliptical galaxies? Yours are all spiral" I said, "Have you ever heard of shut up." Well, I thought it at least.) Problem solved. Then Patrick collided cheek to skull (his cheek, the other kid's skull) while playing tag on day two and he cried again.  

-- Steve is gone tonight so Patrick is sleeping in my bed. I was letting him read in there until ten as a special treat but he just clumped out and very accusingly told me he was turning out the light because he was so tired he couldn't stay awake another second. I was, like, uh, ok? He clumped back again.

Despite the initial setbacks he has declared school thus far to be "not so bad." When I asked him over dinner tonight what his favorite thing at school was he said Gym. When I asked for his second favorite he said Art. This amuses me: Patrick, my arty little jock.

I have book ads up. I think we have collectively been identified as people who might be interested in books and since this is most likely true (and they pay me to run them) I am encouraged by this perception of us. The book being advertised right now is called Three Part Invention and I know nothing about it beyond what I read from the link. Go look. Have you read it? Do you recommend it?  

Caroline is chattering away in her crib. It is 9:45. She went to bed TWO HOURS AGO. I guess she is not technically bothering anybody but who's ever heard of a baby insomniac? What does she do in there for all that time? I heard her last night yakking about something at midnight.

-- She just escalated to crying. I went up and she was very excited to see me.

"Window?" she pointed. I asked if she wanted to look out the window (I'm a sharp one.)

"Yes," she said.

"OK but then back to bed." I took her to look out the window.

"Moon?" she asked. "Tar?"

"No moon tonight. No stars. Too cloudy."

"Cowds," she agreed shaking her little bobblehead.

"Bedtime. Time to sleep. Do you want music?"

"Yes."

So I turned on her music and I gave her another board book, dimmed the lights and left her to it.

I know what you are about to say. I do. You are about to say that we should ix-nay the usic-may and the books. Then she might go to sleep earlier. And you are no doubt correct. But this way they sleep until we wake them up at 8 or 8:30. Edward gets his thirteen hours and Caroline gets her eight and I get my five or six and we are as happy as larks. No. Bad analogy. As happy as a lazier bird altogether. Pigeons maybe.

I cannot get over Caroline's language boom. Like, window? Never heard that from her before, ever. I love it. I love it I love it I love it. Patrick was a total delight and the joy of my heart but he never uttered anything that made any sense for the first two and a half years and it is now so much fun to have a little creature who TALKS. This must be why people get parrots. When my mother was here we got Chinese food one night. I gave Patrick and the twinkles some chicken noodle soup because I am selfish and I didn't want to share the Chinese. Caroline looked at her bowl and then looked at my plate and was, like, oh no no no, I don't think so.

She pointed.

"What? Taste it? Me?" she said in such ringing bell-like tones that Steve and my mother and I goggled at her.

So she got moo shu.

Then Edward said, "Dada doo?"

So Edward got  moo shu too. 

She calls Steve "Dee"; she calls me "Mee"; she calls Edward "Eee". Patrick? He gets both syllables. "Pah-tuh," she says lovingly. But for Caroline herself she really puts in the effort: she is either Ka-ha-hine or Ka-yuh-yine. And sometimes she pats my chest and says Mee (short for mommy I assume) and then pats her own chest and says ME! Like, and don't you forget it.   

Edward has the funniest assortment of words that he says well: otter, tractor, wheel, car, heart, hexagon (hexagon?) more, read it, cracker, one two tree, TV and yes. There are a whole bunch more that he says terribly but I have decided after judicious consideration to give him the benefit of the doubt until he turns two. Unlike a young Patrick he appears to be improving in his speech, albeit much more slowly than other twins in the house. A propos of nothing else: at breakfast today he had his (formerly Caroline's) deer talk to his (formerly Caroline's) otter. He held them both by the scruffs of their necks and waggled them as he babbled. Apparently there was a quarrel because he starting shouting No no no (nah! nah! nah!) and then he slammed them against each other. But they reconciled (Yah? Yah) and kissed (mwak mwak mwak.)

End scene.

-- And now Edward has woken up crying for the first time in weeks and weeks. Criminey.

Hey, here's a question for you. I would have thought based upon our experience with Patrick that it would have been more likely for me to investigate teaching Caroline and Edward to pilot single-engine aircraft prior to kindergarten but Cricket has developed an avid interest in bathrooms and everything people do in there and I am wondering... you don't possibly suppose a twenty month old child, a baby really, practically an infant, could learn to use the potty? A few weeks ago Patrick brought down a copy of some toilet training book (the potty book for boys; it is written in really badly scanned rhyme) and proceeded to read it to Caroline and Edward. He then brought up one of his old potties from the basement (Patrick will make a great manny one day, I'm just telling you) and left it in the powder room. A week ago (two?) Caroline started grabbing her, oh, bikini area and shouting, "Pee! Wet!" before racing off to the potty where she would attempt to unzip her footie pajamas. Then two days ago a series of circumstances conspired to leave her naked for about five minutes during which time she, ah, well, relieved herself in a tidy, well, yes, about six inches to the left of the potty. I found her in the kitchen grabbing a cloth with which to go clean things up - they really are the anti-Patrick in so many ways. Where was I? Oh right. I have zero interest in potty training or toilet learning or whatever the enlightened are calling it these days if it means I spend the next year and a half inconveniencing myself when I could just as easily wait until she is ready and be done in a week. But I don't want to, oh I don't know, stifle the kid either. Can a twenty month old ditch the diapers? Please advise.

Our Lady of the Laundry Room (what's the feng shui on a cluttered laundry room?) 

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Edward cannot hear you because he has a bin on his head.

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Stage Six: Pickled

Patrick slept most of the day on Friday. I kept thinking I would wake him up and take him to the doctor but he looked so pink and peaceful as he lay sprawled in our bed that it just didn't seem right to do so. When he finally woke up he was starving and after watching him plow through five bowls of soggy Cheerios I decided that he was probably going to survive without any further interventions. Whether it just took a solid week to start recovering from the surgery or he was battling some random virus I guess we shall never know. However, I now feel all headache-y and gross so if I had to bet I would say the latter. Of course, now that I think about it, I had a Bloody Mary before ten o'clock this morning so perhaps that is contributing to my mid-day malaise. We are just a houseful of medical mysteries, aren't we? Anyway Patrick, at least, is finally much better and after considerable debate we decided he was well enough to attend the first day of school. Which was today.

Tonight I told Patrick that after I dropped him off I went to a party.

"That's weird," said Patrick. "Who would have a party in the morning?"

"It was a bunch of moms who were excited about the first day of school," I said.

"You mean the party was to celebrate kids having to go back to school?"

"Yep!"

"And all of the other people were happy about this?"

"Yep!"

Patrick looked sympathetic.

"What did you do when you found out?" he asked.

"When I found out... ?"

"When you found out that they weren't sad like you were?"

I blinked at him. He's very cute. Delusional but cute.

I have been holding onto this picture for months. It's from March and it is, like, visual proof that Patrick was sick for MONTHS and MONTHS and yet Steve and I had clearly lost all sense of what a healthy child should look like. Because why was he out hunting for mushrooms when he should have been, oh I don't know, getting a transfusion or something. Doesn't he look horrible? All gray and peaked? He could have walked into a casting call for a particularly gritty Dickens' production only to be told thank you, but we are looking for something a little less starving consumptive orphan.

Yet again I want to be able to flow in two directions:

1. I found these pictures in the same folder as that one of Patrick (not pictured, the Grim Reaper) and I have been meaning to ask you for months; what do you think this building was before it became a picturesque ruin? [Someday I hope to be similarly labeled on a photo "Julia, before she became a picturesque ruin."] Patrick and Steve stumbled across this structure in the middle of the woods in Wisconsin a few miles from the river. You can click on the pictures to make them bigger but it had one wall that was solid stone, one that had three narrow window openings, one with a door and a small window and evidence of a staircase, and one with a large double door. Brick chimney. Constructed of local stone. Any guesses?
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2. Patrick finally moved back up to his room but I have left the inflatable mattress on the floor for a few days because Edward and Caroline LOVE IT.

"Bow bow bow?" Edward asks. "Bowwwwnse?" Caroline clarifies.

Once Patrick started feeling better (say, Saturday) he was more than willing to bounce up and down on the mattress and send them flying like ninepins.

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I liked the fact that although Edward was amused by the up and down he never released his little writing tablet and he kept diligently practicing... something, scratching I think... even as Caroline and Patrick were, literally, bouncing off the walls behind him.

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He is like the guy at the frat house who keeps trying to finish his paper despite the fact that people are using his room for kegstands.

Once upon a time I was devoted to the works of Maud Hart Lovelace, authoress of the Betsy-Tacy series. In fact, one summer vacation in Michigan I almost managed to convince my father that we should swing over to Mankato, Minnesota and view firsthand the town that inspired the books' Deep Valley. Unfortunately, my mother (O thou enemy of Culture) pointed out that it was about fourteen hours each way, so I had to wait until Steve and I moved to Minnesota to make my pilgrimage.

I mention this because in the books Betsy's family had a hired girl named Anna who had previously worked for a family named McCloskey. The McCloskeys assumed near mythic proportions and they always had muffins on the first day of school. Therefore Betsy's family always had muffins on the first day of school and today I made muffins for the first day of school. Jambalaya muffins and, if I ever stop writing here, I will put the recipe up over at Scrambled. Hey, speaking of which, someone asked if it was possible for me to make a printable version of the recipes over there. And since I am always willing to try to oblige I tried to look up how to do something like that but was stymied when I searched the Typepad help files. So if any of you know how to create something like that and feel like telling me or linking me or just generally shoving me in the right direction I would be grateful.

The first time I took Patrick to school I cried in the parking lot. Today I had a Bloody Mary. You know, because I was so sad.


Fugue

I have been planning a post that would start, "Well, it was a difficult [period of time] but fortunately things have taken a turn for the better and... ."

And nothing.

Patrick might have turned a corner in the past day or two but he hastily turned right back around again. He is still sleeping in our bed and Steve (who would rather hang upside down by his toes than share a bed with Patrick - the kid tickles and kicks in his sleep; I find it endearing) has become a more or less permanent resident on the little inflatable bed we set up in the corner. I keep telling Steve he should just go sleep in Patrick's bed or, hell, the guest room now that my mother has left but no... he says it is too far away. It's sweet. Weird and possibly a touch martyred, but sweet.

I cannot quite figure out what is wrong with Patrick. I mean, yes, he had his tonsils and his adenoids out exactly seven days ago but he seems more... sick. Like at first he was recovering from the anesthesia and then his throat was bothering him and then he was dealing with the codeine effects and now he just seems sick. He had the night sweats again last night, which is what I think he usually does rather than run a fever. We finished watching Top Chef (is it wrong to love Top Chef?) and I went to check on Patrick. He was asleep on my side of the bed and his entire head was as wet as if he had been swimming. Today he woke up at ten in the morning, lumbered to the couch and then collapsed again. Does this sound normal to you? It sounded normal to the ENT nurse but maybe I should press the issue? He is on clindamycin as a preventative antibiotic but I worry that maybe it is not so effective with him after being on it for over a month this summer? I don't know.

Baffled over here.

Not much else going on. My mother visited and gave it as her objective opinion that the twins are so cute it is almost disgusting. Edward has been in a great mood. He continues to ride his pushcar with a reckless abandon. Once he starts pumping those fat little feet of his he gets up some serious speed. Then he crashes into the wall. Then he laughs.

Caroline joined Edward on his car but she insisted that she get to drive. She's a sensible girl.

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Caroline has a formidable vocabulary and a nice turn for mimicry so what she is not volunteering on her own we are getting her to say like so many parrot-masters. Patrick is particularly excited by the language development. I think he has concluded that the babies are not as dumb as he had feared. Not that he didn't love them or enjoy dragging them around by their footie pajamas but he did feel the need to keep pointing out that they didn't seem to know much. Then Edward (and now Caroline) demonstrated a facility with some of the letters and he decided there might be hope for them after all.   

A conversation from yesterday that you may and or may not find as funny as I did:

Patrick: Caroline can you say "one"?
Caroline: Whah!
Patrick: Caroline can you say "two"?
Caroline: Two!
Patrick: Caroline can you say "three"?
Caroline: Fwee!
Patrick: Caroline can you say "four"?
Caroline: Fwah!
Patrick: Caroline can you say "five"?
Caroline: Fiiiii!
Patrick: Caroline can you say "six"?
Caroline: Six!
Patrick: Caroline can you say "seven"?
Caroline: No!

Patrick: (pauses) Caroline can you say "seven"?
Caroline: No!

Patrick: Caroline can you say "eight"?
Caroline: Eaaaht!

A few minutes before bed last night I discovered Caroline wearing a jacket and hat over her pajamas. What ho? I asked Patrick. He said that she had brought them to him and he helped her put them on. She was also carrying a Fisher Price stable like a handbag. Not sure where she thought she was going.

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Some place fancy I guess.

Sorry to be such a dullard. I am feeling shades of this summer when Patrick was sick every day and we would wake up, manage needs all day long and then go to sleep again. Repeat.