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October 2009

1X1

Patrick's school had some sort of peace ceremony the other day and he came home all saintly and thoughtful. At bedtime that night he said, "I have just written a message of peace. Would you like to hear it?"

So I said, sure.

"We might all look different on the outside... but inside our hearts are all the same."

And he clasped his hands together and looked at me like a particularly well-behaved beam of light.

Then he resumed his normal expression and said, briskly, "It's true you know. And it's not just our hearts... all our organs are alike. Lungs, intestines... and of course we all process food the same way. Breaking down food particles with stomach acids that eventually turn everything we eat into po... ."

I thanked him for his lovely message of peace and left.

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I know we shouldn't try to pigeon-hole our children at an early age. Caroline has years until she decides what career path she wants to follow and - truth be told - the Neil Diamond impersonator field is already pretty crowded what with the King of Diamonds and Super Diamond and Black Diamond. However, I think her version of "Sweet Caroline" brings something pretty special to the arena and I just want to start sewing sequins onto her turtlenecks.

What do you think about Tiny Diamond as a stage name?


Resolutions

About a year ago I posted a picture of Caroline and observed that through her I could finally see Steve's Russian heritage (this is the picture - I said I wanted to keep cracking her open until I reached the teeny tiny Caroline in the middle.) Someone wandered by that post later and left a scathing "clearly you know nothing about eastern European phenotypes" comment that still makes me laugh lo these many months later because although I grant my grasp on biological anthropology is shaky; I assert that my logic is impeccable. To wit: Caroline looks like Steve, Steve looks like his birth father, and Steve's birth father was born in Riga to a Latvian mother and a Russian father. So, you know, while it might be true that Caroline does not resemble all of the people of eastern Europe she at least looks like the ones from whom she is descended. 

I mention this because lately there is something about Caroline that has me grasping for old Russian novels in search of endearments like solnyshko (little sun) and svechka (candle, I think - although I have taken Edward's word for her which is "Kaya" and tacked it on the end to make svechkaya; it's prettier than it sounds.)

Caroline burns. She glows. She radiates. She dazzles. On occasion she smolders with ire. She has all these feelings and she likes to talk about her feelings.

"I'm so HAPPY!" she said after dinner the other night as she beamed at us each in turn, hands clasped together and eyes shining like jolly old twin stars.

"It's too big," she said as I accidentally tried to snap her into a pair of Edward's overalls this morning. Then - pushing at my hands and slumping pitifully to the floor - she moaned, "Oh no... it's too big! Sad! I'm SAD!"

She finished by covering her face with her hands and I wasn't sure whether to applaud or crawl out of her presence backwards.

In contrast to Patrick with his five toddler sounds and Edward with his "car" "red" and "t'oo t'ee nine" she is like living with thirty inches of Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Not that she is always right, of course. The other day Edward slipped in his socks and did a neat Charlie Brown football flip that landed him right on his head. He cried.

Caroline assessed the situation: "Eddiebear's lonely."

Lonely?

I think the word she was groping for was: concussed.

Still... lonely! What a treat she is.

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You know how you watch someone do something several times a day, every day, for weeks and weeks and months and months then all of the sudden you think, "Huh, that just doesn't look right"?

I had that epiphany this past week as I watched Edward cram his cheeks hamster full for the thousandth time while Caroline took a bite, chewed and then swallowed before starting on her next bite. I looked at Edward again and contemplated the mental Choking Risk Threat Level chart I keep for all of my children. Caroline appears as a soft blue, choking risk: negligible. Edward, on the other hand, has passed red and seems to be stuck on a permanent blistering white that flashes DANGER DANGER DO NOT TURN BACK ON CHILD FOR A MILLISECOND DANGER.

I began to wonder if it is normal for a child this age to shove so much food in without swallowing and then I started thinking about his speech again and I had a thunder clap moment in which it occurred to me that perhaps these things are interrelated. Edward can make every sound individually (if you ask him what sound each letter makes he can tell you) but he does not tend to make sounds in sequence unless they are particularly lippy like "bubble" or "mama" or "puppy" or "baby". "Kaya" for Caroline is pretty much his piece de resistance when it comes to two syllables and his tongue.

So I think I am reconsidering the speech eval again. I know that sounds redundant but I considered it, then I reconsidered it so now I am reconsidering it again. Any thoughts? Or I should say, any thoughts again? Do you know children who horded food in their mouths like... well, like rodents?

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A few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to give you guys a free ad space on my sidebar. I feel like I generally get so much more out of this blog than you do that I wanted to even things up a bit by offering you (singular) the chance to advertise your small business or craft shoppe or project whatever while offering you (plural) the opportunity to view what everyone else is working on. It took me a little while to get it set up but it went live today. I have a few people in mind that I would like to feature in coming weeks but if you have, say, a soap business or a knitting sideline or an etsy anything that you would like to get up here please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email and I will see what I can do for you.  

The first featured link is one that is very important to me and I am honored to be able to share it.

In the past month or two a series of random emails with a reader lead me to become reacquainted with the story of Oliver Mastin (Alexa wrote about him shortly after his death here - please read it.) After years of loss and infertility Ollie's parents were thrilled to have a baby boy, only to learn within a few months that he had a fatal genetic disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It is, quite simply, a horrible disease and he died two days before his first birthday. I look at the pictures of this shatteringly beautiful little boy and I think about what he suffered and it absolutely breaks my heart.

More information about the disease can be found at Families of SMA: curesma.org

The Claire Altman Heine Foundation has more information about carrier screening that can be found at:
preventsma.org 

So, please, visit the sites. Consider SMA screening. And if you could possibly donate even a few dollars to Ollie's fund that would be wonderful. I know it would mean so much to his family as well as to the other families affected by this condition.

Thank you.

PS I did send an email about the Twin Cities gathering to everyone who expressed an interest. If you didn't receive it this weekend please let me know.


Vir

In 2001 the NCAA Men's Basketball championship was held in Minneapolis. I was working downtown at the time and one afternoon a day or two before finals I called Steve and asked whether he thought we should get tickets. He said, oh that could be fun and then we went back and forth about whether we would want to watch Duke win (sorry) (and they did) or whether Maryland might have a chance (they did) (but then they did not.) We debated for quite a while. Then that night I went to my stats class and my professor devoted half the class to working out the statistical improbability of being allowed to purchase tickets to any given NCAA finals. In other words, Steve and I had wasted the better part of an afternoon trying to decide whether or not we felt like doing something that we could not have done even if we were desperate and had started the process a year earlier.

I thought about this when I called the pediatrician's office last week and said I would like to bring Caroline and Edward in for their missing vaccine (the Hib) and that we might as well get some flu shots while we were at it. Oh and I'd like to bring Patrick in as well. They said okey dokey, Hib on Thursday and... we'll put them on the waiting list for the flu shots.

Waiting list? I said.

Yes.

For the seasonal flu?

Yes.

And H1N1?

Yes.

Well ok then.

So after reading all of the comments and the links I thought and I bit my nails and then I thought some more and then I remembered how horrible it was when Caroline was getting oxygen through a nose cannula and I said oh to hell with that: flu shots for everybody! And having come to this momentous decision we are now on a waiting list.

It's actually sort of funny.

Meanwhile the father of our carpoolees is pretty sure that his scratchy throat is The Flu; a suspicion I tend to believe as he is: 1) a doctor and 2) a doctor who works in a hospital where H1N1 has been picking out paint samples.

I skipped communist playgroup today because my own throat is scratchy and although I just have a cold I assume the other parents would rather I kept it to myself. Also, despite my very best intentions and the nice people I still kinda hate playgroup and tend to leap at any chance to miss it. I feel guilty about this.

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I took Edward for his follow up at the eye doctor. As you may recall Edward has clusters of cysts around the perimeter of his irises that his pediatrician (and all of his partners who casually wandered in during Edward's newborn check as word spread through the office that there was Something Interesting in room 9) thought were colobomas. For the first few months the cysts crowded the pupils of his eyes and it is unlikely that Edward was able to see. Eventually however his pupil widened and light started filtering past the cysts and the impression at his last appointment a year ago is that Edward's vision is not impaired. Still, she wanted to see him again closer to two years old and at the time I said, yeah, sure, whatever, because the idea of an entire year passing was hard to fathom. 

The crappy part of a pediatric eye appointment is that they start late and then they check the eyes before dilating them. Then you have to wait half an hour for the pupils to open and then they are late again and at the end of it all you have had to entertain a toddler for two and half hours in a very small space. With Caroline I think it would have been impossible unless they had let me open a heating duct and allowed her to crawl around through the walls like a gerbil in a Habitrail. Fortunately Edward is more easy-going and he was happy to sit on my lap while I read the books we had brought. Then I whipped out the mini MagnaDoodle (if you are going to buy only one thing that you always have in your purse for small children, let it be the MagnaDoodle) and drew pictures for him for a while. This was before they dilated his pupils and I was worried that afterward he would be fractious as he would no longer be able to see the books or the MagnaDoodled letters. I was surprised and amused to observe that Edward - far from being freaked out by his blurred vision - was totally into it. He kept holding up his hand and moving it closer and further away from his eyes.

It was all very "Whoa dude" tiny stoner and it kept him occupied for at least fifteen minutes.

This morning, however, his eyes are STILL dilated which I find weird. I had to keep helping him with his fork at breakfast since he was stabbing into the air rather than the french toast. 

Before they broke him with their atropine, though, the prognosis was good. He is a little farsighted which is apparently normal for the age and he responded appropriately to the lights and the lens and the creepy stuffed duck that they operate through a switch on the floor and which scared the fuck out of both of us. It accomplished its job, though, which was to get Edward to look up and perhaps its secondary purpose which was to get Edward to stare suspiciously in that direction for the rest of the visit.

The doctor said she would like to see him again in two years and I said yeah ok whatever because the idea of two years passing is hard to fathom.

+

Remember when I was trying to upload the ABC video?

Not only did it not work but it completely screwed up our internet access for almost a week, preventing me from doing pretty much anything online. Sure I guess I bonded with my children and I caught up on my stupid TV and I baked a lot of bread but being unable to download email both blows and sucks. We get internet through a satellite and they have this fair use agreement which is neither fair nor useful and to which we would never agree given any other option besides squirrel power. We are limited in the amount of data we are able to upload and download and if we exceed that in any twenty four hour period they throttle us and reduce us to a snail's pace. So irritating and I compounded the problem because I forgot that I had a window open (sorry it is a Mac; I guess they don't call them windows do they?) that kept trying to upload the video. So it persevered and as soon as we were unthrottled the video would attempt to post and bing! we'd be throttled again.

All of which is to say that I have already suffered to show you this abridged version of  the video of Edward so I will not apologize for my singing.

Aaaaaand roll 'em! Wait! Adjust your volume first, it might be loud.

PS New ads up. One for Uma Thurman who I am trying to buy as a modern mother (I mean she IS a mother, I know that) with the pacifier and the hair and the other for a book that I almost did not accept because I was afraid the tagline "get your J.A.P. on" would offend pretty much everybody. But then I clicked on the link and saw that it is a memoir about an American who moves to Japan and, hell, who I am to worry about that which is intended to be funny?


Postale

Patrick told me to open the front door, hurry, quick!

So I did and then I screamed.

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Patrick collapsed from the hilarity of it all.

"Did you think it was Caroline and that you had left her outside last night?"

"That's not a nice thing to think."

"Yeah, but did you?"

"I thought it was some sort of snow goblin."

"A snow goblin named... Caroline?"

"Fine. Maybe." 

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From the mailbag:

I got an email from a woman named Kari asking if I would be willing to share my thoughts on the recent New York Times pieces on infertility, IVF and multiples. Julie is covering the topic in her inimitable style over here and her commenters have much to say on the points where expert opinion, media portrayal, public perception and personal experience intersect. It all covers a lot of ground but one recurring theme is that ART leads to multiples and multiples lead to preterm labor and early babies are a problem, which then draws an arrow back to ART and should we or shouldn't we and how do we keep people who want a child from ruining it for the rest of us by having too many at once. Or something like that.

So I got this email from Kari and I thought, oh well, I don't know. What is there for me to say, really? If IVF was a movie I would give it two fat thumbs up. If my experience is anything to refer from I think everyone should have twins, just like white-tailed deer. It's hard to be objective about reproductive endocrinology when you have spent the morning listening to Edward butcher the ABC Song. Just as it was hard to be objective about any of it back when all I wanted was an Edward, ABC Song optional. Or a Caroline ditto. The fact that I got both and that they are healthy and happy and constructed entirely of sugar makes me feel impossibly lucky and more than a little guilty. Our efforts to have children ultimately ended in this shower of confetti mixed with chocolate and rainbows and gold and if I am forced to reflect upon the ramifications of transferring more than one embryo it's hard for me to focus.

But

I know and care about several women who faced the same risks and made the same decisions that we did, but who did not have the same great outcome. So it feels both blind and cruel to say that I would do it all over again or IVF is without its dangers. The only reason I can be so breezy is because I am coming from a perspective where the hindsight is pleasant. We were lucky. That's it. Life is not fair and we were lucky. So that was my initial reaction to the most recent of the NYT pieces. I know that the goal of infertility treatment is a healthy single birth and I recognize all of the reasons why this is true and yet I cannot feel anything but wildly happy that we transferred two - the mighty blast and the poky morula - and that they both grew. And for the record I did not want twins. I dreaded them. For me the choice at transfer was which did I fear more: having multiples or not getting pregnant at all? So I read the expert opinions and I thought "umm-hmmm, yeah, that's true, I know" and I read the comments and threw up a little and at the end of the day I love that Caroline and Edward are twins. Like I said, I am lucky. And I still do not know how to reconcile this with the knowledge that we should have transferred only one.

[So here's a twin parent question for you: given the choice and all other things being equal, would you rather have had your twins one at a time?]

The other thing I was thinking about as I read the Times comments is how firmly we are entrenched in the notion of consequences and accountability and how any hint that someone might have avoided x by doing y robs many people of all sense of reason, pity and compassion. The first thing - almost without exception - that people ask when they learn someone has cancer is: did he smoke? If there is a car accident they will want to know: had he been drinking? I think it is just fear and the belief that if you can distance yourself from things that are terrible you are somehow insuring your own safety. A baby born at 26 weeks following a traumatic injury to the mother is awful. A twin born at the same gestation... well, did the parents do IVF? Then they should've known better. There but for clear-sighted prudence and righteous living go thee. Which is sanctimonious bunkum.

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Also from email, a woman named Vikki is wondering what to do about flu shots and that makes two of us. Of course, Vikki is due with her second child next month and has a three year old, which complicates things but the question is a good one and I thought I would ask you guys. In addition to being bookish I generally find you well-informed and diverse enough in your views to be truly helpful.

I always vaccinated Patrick on schedule but he never got a flu shot until last year. Why I have always been suspicious of the flu shot I don't know but there was a Simpsons episode once in which it is revealed that They are controlling our minds with them and I stood on the couch and said, "AH HA!"

I worried about vaccines with Caroline because she was four pounds when she was born and although the neonatologist said that her small size made her an even better candidate to vaccinate because she was at greater risk, I was dubious. I mean how could her little body handle the exact same vaccine as was being given to babies three times her size? As it turned out she breezed through innoculations but Edward had a really rough time with the ones at four months. He developed a high fever afterward and screamed for three days and although the pediatrician assured me that it was a coincidence I was completely unconvinced. So we started giving Edward and Caroline one vaccine at a time and I would stagger them by three to four weeks. This was a pain because we had to keep going back to the office but it was not nearly as painful as screaming hot sleepless Edward, so we dealt.

Generally, I believe in vaccines for everyone despite having a family friend (I know I told you about this before) who received a bad vaccine as a baby and has subsequently been non-functional and institutionalized ever since. Mass immunizations lead to better overall public health and enable those people who cannot immunize due to compromised systems or will not immunize due to strongly held beliefs to not do so. I mean, to not do so without necessarily giving me measles. 

Right now we are one vaccine short with Caroline and Edward but I do not remember which one at the moment. I have been planning to call and schedule that last immunization and my intention is to bring Patrick along when we go so as to get a flu shot for him as well. They have thoroughly spooked him about the swine flu at school and he was asking when he was going to be vaccinated as recently as eleven-thirty last night. But... as you know if you are doing the math at home... that means that C&E need three shots a piece (missing random vaccine, seasonal flu, H1N1) and Patrick needs two and my one shot-per-visit, three weeks between shots rule is being blown all to hell if we are going to get this done before they all get sick regardless.

So I don't know what to do either. Seasonal flu for all? Plus H1N1 for the kids? All at once? Is the seasonal flu really that bad to get? What do you do about vaccines?

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I have been trying to figure out how to phrase this so I sound friendly but not entirely pathetic: if you are local do you want to get together some time? Not just with me, I mean, but like a group of us? People who live in the Cities and who write blogs or read them or comment or lurk? I asked Alexa and she said she would come and I thought it might be a nice way for people who are interested in getting to know new people to do so. I have been thinking about friends and making friends a lot lately and it occurred to me that if we moved to a new state I would use the internet to get to know people. So why not here? My idea is to pick a location (like a place with wine) and a date in the not so distant future and just show up. If you are interested in joining us shoot me an email or leave a comment and I will add you to the list.

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Finally, I tried to upload this in all its minute long glory but my crummy internet connection refused to cooperate. So I had to chop it in half and you miss Edward gamely getting the entire alphabet song wrong. I mean, wrong except G H P and O because even a broken clock etc. He's still cute and I like his wild celebration at the end.

OH CURSES! Even though it is half the size I am still struggling to upload a video. I don't twitter and I don't have text capability on my phone because I don't have cell service at my house  (see: we live in the middle of nowhere in a valley) and it seemed silly to get oojahs and now I cannot upload a file more than a few bytes. It's like I live in 1999. So check back later and when the sky is less crowded I will upload a video of Edward.

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Even more finally, Caroline seems to be channeling her inner Southern Belle. She has a rather pronounced southern accent (and I don't mean southern like Iowa, I mean Southern like Mobile.) Today I was telling Edward to chew (he eats like a duck) before he choked to death and she leaned forward and said, "Ch-uh-ewww, Edduh-bear!" and tossed her curls like Scarlett O'Hara. I think it is hilarious. My mother thinks it is odd. My grandmother, may she rest in peace, would be thrilled. She always called me Jew-lee-buh-ug (Julie Bug, naturally.) 


Small Plates

I loved your stories in the comments on the last post (who knew there were so many dry cleaners among us) and I am only sorry that we are not all sitting here together because I would say: "Everyone who was a semi-geisha in college raise your hand!"

And then we would all be looking at you, Stacy. 

My friend Carrie - who I have loved since I was five - was in town on Monday and she came out to spend the night with us. 

"Caroline has never thrown a tantrum," I told her as we drank tea, raising my voice slightly to be heard.

"Really?" she replied with polite incredulity as we watched Caroline hover off the ground supported by nothing more than the force of her rage. She kicked. She shrieked. She did an odd backwards scoot across the length of the living room. She banged her head against the floor and then she yelled because something had banged her on the head. She was a white hot disaster and let this be a lesson to you because I never, ever should have said that Cricket doesn't know what a tantrum is. Whether or not she knows is moot; she is able to do a damn fine job of faking it.

Edward, meanwhile, watched Carrie from the far side of the room for about an hour. Then he walked over and handed her his truck book, looking at her with his solemn Edward face.

"Do you want me to read this to you?" she asked.

He blinked at her. She sat down and started reading and Edward has been her devoted slave ever since. It's been three days and he still looks pensive, as if he is wondering: where is she now? is she thinking of me?

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In Patrick's spare time he puts the twinkles into their old Moses basket, calls it the SS Alphabet and drills them on the letters. I keep wondering if I should intercede on their behalf but I don't know... it's sort of very cute.

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Caroline looked out the window for a long time today. Then she said, "Pahrick running?"

I said, "No, Patrick's not outside."

She said, "Pahrick goschool?"

And I said, "Yes, Patrick went to school."

She said, "Go out findhim?"

"No, he's not there. He's at school."

She looked all tragic and puffed out her lip and I said, "Hey, but since he's not here to freak out about it do you want to go ride his old tricycle?"

IMG_6802

She can be bought.

Patrick is very very generous with the twins unless he doesn't feel like it in which case he swings his arm from one horizon to the next and says, "ALL MINE. EVERYTHING YOU SEE IS ALL MINE. Except that and that and that and that. But the rest of it, babies, is ALL MINE. Remember this!" And then he sweeps off to school. It's a pity he doesn't have a cape because it would really add to the exit.

Anyway, technically this is true. Between my mother and me we bought Patrick every toy and book and DVD on the market. He in turn made letters out of scraps of recycled paper and frowned over my excessive need to buy videos and Geotrax. With so much stuff in the house already it seems silly to ever buy anything new so apart from one birthday and Christmas present a piece, Caroline and Edward have hand-me-downs. They don't care but Patrick occasionally finds Edward palming half a yo-yo that he (Patrick) got as a party favor four years ago, played with for three seconds and then never looked at again and he decides to have a conniption about the injustice of it all. In the book about seven year olds that was recommended to me, the authors talk about seven as a year of anxiety and fairness but they don't mention what one is supposed to DO about it. When Patrick worries about catastrophic meteor impact am I suppose to validate or soothe, do you know? And when he says he doesn't want Caroline and Edward playing with HIS kazoo do I get to say oh for the love of Christmas Patrick you were SCARED of that kazoo, stop being a twerp; or do I have to give a speech about families and love and sharing?

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I am being inundated in book ads, which I think is really fun. Fun and profitable. I TOLD you we were identified as bookish. Maybe not highbrow exactly but definitely bookish. The ads keep moving around so in no particular order on the sidebar we have:

1. Dog On It by Spenser Quinn - According to the blurb it is about a detective and his dog who may and/or may not also be a detective. I assume from the cover that they drive around the desert solving mysteries. I ordered it from the library because I like that sort of thing.

2. Shadowlight by Lynn Viehl - "With just one touch, Jessa Bellamy can see anyone's deepest secrets" This has got to be the worst gift since Cassandra. Can you IMAGINE? Why would want to get inside everyone's sordid psyches? It must be like scrounging around the bottom of dumpster in New York.

3. Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult - I have never read anything by her but I get the impression I should be embarrassed to admit this. I kind of remember about a million of you recommending various books by her every time I ask for book suggestions. Should I try one and if so which one? This one?

4. 13 1/2 by Nevada Barr - Psychological terror at its best, says the ad. Not my cup of tea since I scare easily but, you know, could be for you.

5. Double Cross by James David Gordon - It is described as a page-turning thriller but it also notes that the sassy dialogue is laugh aloud funny. I like sassy dialogue.

I also seem to be advertising links. Considering how much time I spend here I am remarkably stupid about the internet but I guess it is some kind of search engine? I don't know. I was a little dubious because I was afraid I was sending you off into some porn site but I clicked and it's fine.

So as always, get home safely and tip your waitresses (I know some of you cannot see the ads and I suspect it is because some of you have cleverly installed things that block advertisements. So there's that. But the rest of you... surely you are dying to know what they are planning to do with Jessa Bellamy's DNA?)

Speaking of books, Jude left the suggestion for Patrick when he had his tonsils out that he might like the books of Eva Ibbotson. I got Which Witch? out for him and was smitten. She wrote a bunch of ghostly books for children and I have now read them all and just started on her quasi-young adult romances. Pure gossamer. I mean very silly and over-the-top romantic and I am embarrassed that I am loving every syllable. I'm on The Reluctant Heiress which comes complete with a fierce but tender hero, a gamine princess committed to the republican ideals of √©galit√© and a restored castle. Ooh. La. La. 

What are you reading right now?

PS I have been working on my articles. I have a gap in one where I could really use an interview with a couple of single moms who are currently sharing a house. Julie twittered it for me yesterday and although I appreciated the suggestions of Kate & Allie I am pretty sure they are not still together. Lemme know if you know of anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone that might be willing to talk to me. I have one group already that I am very excited about but I could always use more.

PPS Someone I have known online for a very long time has asked for my help in getting word out about her blog. She is very personally invested in the current American health care debate and can be found at http://healthcareorphan.wordpress.com. Whatever your views I am certain you will be respectful if you visit her site.

PPPS Totally apropos of nothing

Caroline at one year with green-gray eyes

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Caroline today with indisputably brown ones.

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Isn't that weird? Who ever heard of eyes changing color so long after birth?

She also sporting some very smooshable cheeks these days. And I just got her hair cut for the sixth or seventh time two weeks ago. It grows like nothing I have ever witnessed before in my life. Maybe alfalfa. I asked Steve why his people are so hairy and he says I am just jealous. Probably true.


Funny Scary Rock Moved

Back when Caroline and Edward were wildly interested in the Itsy Bitsy Spider and the Wheels on the Bus I tried to make up choreography for Boynton's Oh Me Oh My Oh Dinosaurs. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the book goes "Dinosaurs happy, Dinosaurs sad" so I would first grin and then look sorrowful. It continues until it reaches "Dinosaurs Cute; Dinosaurs not." For cute I pressed my index finger into my cheek, making a dimple. You know "cute." Caroline has since forgotten all about it but Edward for some reason instantly committed my nonsense to memory and every time the book resurfaces he is standing there waving his hands in the air (Dinosaurs big) and pinching his fingers together (Dinosaurs tiny) and when we get to Dinosaurs cute he firmly sticks his middle finger into his ear and wiggles it around.

Steve witnessed this performance today and asked me, "Is that ear thing supposed to be cute?"

I said, "It's adorable."

Steve said, "Isn't he going to puncture an ear drum?"

"With those fat fingers? No way."

I continued reading and Steve stared at Edward. "Does he just keep doing it?"

And I said, "Of course not" and got to the part where dinosaurs are looking right at YOU to say goodbye.

Edward unplugged his ear and waved at Steve. "BYE BYE!" he shouted. "BYE BYE!"

I consider myself the Bob Fosse of the board book set.

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Speaking of Edward, I was carrying him toward the stairs the other night and he became increasingly agitated.

"Down," he said. "DOWN!"

And I said, "Oh no we are going UP. UP to bed! UP UP UP!"

So he repeated DOWN and I repeated UP and just as I turned to mount the staircase he had an inspired flash: "Feet?" he said very carefully and touched his foot.

"Oh," I said, "do you want to walk up the stairs yourself?"

"Yea-s!" he said, visibly relieved.

So I put him down and he walked up the stairs. It reminded me of an old Erma Bombeck story in which she took her family to a rented villa in Spain but among them they only had about eight words of Spanish.

"My son will be coming with the verbs," she kept telling the locals. They would nod and smile and have absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Edward could use some verbs but in the meantime he is a whiz with his nouns.

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Caroline, meanwhile, has launched into sentences.

"Touch it?"
"I'm dancing!"
"Shall we sing?" I love that. "Shall we?" It feels so Hodgson Burnett 
"Sticky? Me? Up? Touch it sticky me up taste it too?" meaning, of course: let me at the bread dough.
 "Get remote we watch racing?" I told you before that I like Formula One. Caroline ADORES it. I'm sorry but it's exciting and although I know the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically advised against children under the age of two watching television I am pretty sure they were referring to stock cars.  

This morning she dropped her sippy cup over the gate that keeps her and Edward out of Patrick's Lego-filled space. Patrick said, "I'll get it for you" and he did. When he handed it to her she said, "Sank you."

Patrick gasped and said, "Wasn't that the CUTEST THING? Quick! Call Nana!"

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If you entered my house right now you would notice:

1. when cinnamon swirl bread is baking it smells like all of the angels of heaven are making muffins in your kitchen  (I'll put the recipe up at Scrambled)

2. it is really fucking cold in here (61 degrees Farenheit last I checked - I am trying to see how long we can go without turning the heat on. I have never figured out how people put blankets over kids in cribs. I mean, I understand how they do it; I just don't understand how the kids stay warm when two seconds later s/he stands up/rolls/scoots/wiggles/moves to the other side of the crib. Patrick used to rotate all night long like hands on a clock. So I am a big fan of wearable blankets and an even bigger fan of the ones made by Grobag, which are quilted and warm and cute and snap at the shoulders. I inherited one from my British friend when the twins were little and managed to track down ever larger sizes in the US through a site called Keen Distributing. In thanks for my patronage they send me annoying emails about their footwear but anyway. How do you keep little kids warm when the house is chilly?)

3. we no longer have any dining room chairs

Exhibit A

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Exhibit B

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When I was lamenting the Chicco seats (I was completely wrong about that by the way. It wasn't the seats; it was my children - however for what it is worth the Regalo hanging seats are cheaper and by crossing the shoulder harness straps behind their backs before passing them over the shoulders we have been able to continue keeping even Caroline seated) someone left a comment saying she was amazed the twinkles hadn't started climbing onto the dining room table via the chairs anyway. And some minor Fate heard that and said, "Wait, what? The Hippotwinks haven't started running around on the table yet? They've never even touched the hanging light? That can't be right."

So Caroline made it her daily mission to spend as much time on the table as possible and I got really really tired of hauling her down again (she is short so she had to kick her feet as she climbed up, shoving the chair back as she did so and making it very difficult for her to get back down again) and I finally said oh to hell with this and lugged all the chairs onto the porch. We carry them back in for dinner. For lunch we lean against walls and pretend we are in the middle of a well-attended cocktail party. Steve said, "This is really annoying." I said, "Do you have a better idea?" He said, "No."

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Edward started to throw a tantrum.

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A millisecond later he forgot what the trouble was.

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Edward's funny. On the one hand he has a tendency to flare his nostrils and get very upset about things really, really quickly. Like his brother before him he will make sure that the ground is carpeted and clear of any toys before he throws himself down upon it in a rage, but he'll do it. On the other hand, he is a very even-keeled little person. We went to a birthday party for Noelle's husband Ted Friday night and we brought the twins, guacamole and baby jail in an effort to limit collateral damage. Edward sat on the couch, read books and played with trains. Caroline climbed on the table and then climbed on the table and then she gave Ted's grandma a very nice hug and a kiss and then she climbed on the table and tried to eat a taco the size of her head. Then she and Edward discovered the piano.

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Edward is playing I-vi-IV-V. Caroline is taking the top. I mean the bottom.

I don't think Caroline even knows what a tantrum is. She has two moods: ebullient and tired. When she wants something that Edward has she will circle him with something else and then try the Indiana Jones switcheroo - you know, when Monsieur Jones put the bag of sand in the place of the golden idol? Caroline will put a piece... something... into Edward's empty hand and snatch the toy/book/cup he is holding in the other. It works out pretty much the same way as it did in the movie - arrows shoot from walls and huge boulders tumble down and Edward opens his rosebud mouth and ShRiEkS.

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My very first job was in a restaurant as the dessert bar tender. I was 16 and a dessert bar was a semi-circular counter where people could come and ogle the cakes and the Napoleons. It had a gigantic brass cappuccino machine and I learned to make an excellent cappuccino provided I have access to a gigantic brass cappuccino machine. It is, as you can imagine, not that useful of a skill. They used to keep liqueurs behind the counter, too, but in the first few months of my employ I drank them all and they sensibly decided to keep them at the service bar after that. All night long I cut neat slices of cheesecake (now that is a useful skill - you need very hot water and a very clean knife) and fielded hilarious questions from guests like "these are all low-calorie, right?" (tee hee hee - oh YOU!) and "are you on the menu?" (tee hee hee - oh YOU!) I eventually moved on to hostess and then busboy and then waitress. The first table I ever had was two businessmen out for lunch. At the end of the meal I left the check and when I came back to pick it up I panicked and rather than the suave "Will there be anything else?" that I intended; I squealed, "WILL YOU NEED ANY CHANGE?" with a horrible grimace. I will never forget how startled that guy looked as he said, "Uh no that's ok, keep it" and I blushed as I pocketed the $3.14. I continued to wait tables through college and then afterward when my English degree failed to get me interviewed anywhere. I finally got hired as a receptionist by a very small company in Chicago where my boyfriend soon to be fiance soon to be husband soon to be ex-husband now bizarre footnote in my personal history worked. I liked that job. When I wasn't answering the phone I read the entire collected works of Trollope and Eliot. However, it was not a particularly fulfilling position and although they were required by law to pay me they certainly did not pay me very much. I got a different job with that company and then another and then I became a buyer for a grocery chain which sounds like more of a leap than it was. That job was ok but I always had more work to do than I could ever get finished so I would spend twelve hours at the office, come home and cry and go to sleep, wake up and throw up and then go back to work again. I moved to Minnesota because I got a job in manufacturing (HO HO HO) and I went into marketing and it was very pleasant. In fact, I had the opposite problem in that job, which was I had hard time finding enough things to do to fill my days. I became quietly notorious for the quantity of paper cut-outs that slowly began to fill my cube. You know, where you fold a sheet of paper like an accordion and then make a string of dolls holding hands? One day I cut a chain of small islands with palm trees on them (you did not know I was a paper cutting master, did you?) and left them on the keyboard belonging to my boss. He sent me an email thanking me for the thoughtful gift and asking how much they paid me, again? I loved him but the job not so much. What I always wanted to do (what I still want to do, frankly) is be a buyer for Target. I would be great at that.

Where was I? Oh I never told you where I was going, so how would you know?

My point is that I have been working for over twenty years but for the first time in my life I am doing something for money that I really and truly love. I am researching and writing two freelance articles right now (hence the bloggy silence) and I have never been so excited about work, like, ever. I love thinking about what to pitch and I love listening to stories and I love getting to retell them and trying to frame them into some larger narrative. I LOVE it and many thanks to all of you who responded to my request for interviews in the past month. I really appreciate it.

I'll end with a question because (see above) I like hearing stories (this is a segue; it has nothing to do with an article): what was your first job and/or do you love what are doing now?