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February 2010

A Domes Day

When Steve and I moved from Chicago to Minneapolis about ten years ago we thought that one of the advantages would be a lower cost of living. What we based this upon I have no idea - maybe our perception that Minnesota seemed like an acquired taste and therefore it must be less expensive? In fact Chicago and Minneapolis are roughly comparable and both are pricier than, say, Denver or Atlanta. It's no Tokyo or New York but things weren't nearly as cheap as we expected, especially housing. When we moved here the Cities had a rental vacancy rate of less than one percent and trying to find an apartment was brutal. We had two - two! I still cannot believe it - potential landlords actually hang up on us when I explained that we were moving up from Chicago.

"Oh," one woman said in her slow and friendly Minnesotan burr, "we don't rent to people from Chicago."

[This state provides more generous social programs than many of our neighbors and as a result there was a perception - probably delusional but who I am to judge - that people were moving here by the caravans-full in order to take shameless advantage of this civic generosity. At the time I thought their refusal to let us see their damned rental property was mere (misplaced but still) racism but now that I have lived here for over a decade I understand that it was actually a blend of ignorance and xenophobia and short-sightedness... and racism.]

We eventually wound up paying fifty percent more than we had in Chicago for a slightly smaller apartment and although some things are less expensive (land, yes; houses, no) for the most part we have yet to see any of the anticipated financial advantage (plenty of other great things; just not showers of dimes) from the move. Until now. Would you like to know what are practically free in L'etoile du Nord?

Downtown hotel rooms on a weekend night in February, that's what.

I used priceline after you assured me it wasn't some sort of cyber-con and I got a "four star" hotel for... fifty-one dollars. I am beside myself with frugal glee. Other than the room we're just going to wing it. I am not even going to make a dinner reservation because 1) I am not sure what I will want to eat by then and 2) if the restaurant does tell us it will be a two hour wait for a table WHO CARES? They can find me at the bar and I will not be playing hangman or doling out raisins from my purse.   

I always think that Edward and Patrick look so similar but as I was going through old pictures of Patrick today I realized that they really don't. At two Patrick was an ice blond with blue-blue eyes and in every photo he just looks so sweet.

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Edward's eyes are gray, his hair is kinda auburn and what he lacks in sweet transparency he makes up for in cool. Edward is emphatically cool and a little edgy, like Paul Newman wrapped with Steve McQueen sprinkled with a little William Powell.

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You can tell they are brothers but you can also tell which one is more likely to crash his motorcycle into the pool while wearing a tuxedo.

[Hint: it's not Patrick]

Also unlike Patrick - who seemed to be constructed of nothing but quirks for the first several years - Edward's likes and dislikes are pretty straight-forward. He sleeps with two blankets and one pacifier and two teddy bears and Eardeer and a couple of trains and a stack of Richard Scarry books and four monster trucks and a little red car. He likes cars and bugs and trucks and trains and books and eating and Caroline, who has morphed from Cayayine to Tarayine in recent days. He also counts a lot, which I guess is his only little thing. I try not to mention numbers or say 'how much do you supppose' in his presence because the slightest thing can act like a motion sensor and once you get him started it can be hard to switch him off. He can count to twenty but he can only count to five or maybe six. Wow that sounded stupid. I should say that he can recite the numbers up to twenty but he can only count five objects before he loses track of everything like a soap opera amnesiac: "One truck, two truck, three truck, four truck, five truck... (*minor chords*) Who am I? What am I doing here?"

In the car today he said, "Tree!" 

And I said, yep.

He said, "Anudder tree! An anudder tree! An anudder tree! An anudder... ." I turned on the radio. We live in the woods you know. By the time I turned off the radio we were in the middle of the suburbs and Edward was saying, "... an anudder car! An anudder car!" 

So that's Edward.

I have a video of Edward counting to twenty that I was about to put in here and then I realized it is probably something only a mother could love. So I refrained.

[We have been watching the Olympics and whenever possible we have been cheering for Steve's birth father's homeland of Latvia. During the course of this extended patriotism I discovered the Latvian name Guntis and I love it. So we picked new Latvian names for the entire family: Edward got Guntis, Caroline is Zazka and Patrick chose Voldemars.]

I just had my first OBGyn appointment in over a year. I was supposed to schedule my annual in July, forgot about it until October and then the earliest my doctor could see me was yesterday. I always get nostalgic when I go to my OB. I suppose there are at least six miscarriages worth of crappy memories associated with her office but all I can remember is how happy I felt once we knew that babies a through b were genetically normal.

Yesterday I was in the same exam room that she used the day Caroline and Edward were born. I sat there and I remembered being in that room two years ago while she and Steve looked at me, waiting for me to decide whether I wanted to go up to L&D and have the twins that night or if I wanted to go home and see what happened. It is an exquisitely pleasant memory; that moment in which I was given a choice between having babies that very day or waiting until the next and would I like the fulfillment of years of desire with or without butterscotch?

So we did the usual annual appointment whatnot and then she asked if there was anything else and I said, well, I guess as long as we were on the subject I wouldn't mind getting her opinion on my abysmal libido.

[Caution: sex]

So my OB cocked her head to one side, inflated her lungs and talked for forty solid minutes about women and sex.

To summarize and paraphrase she said: if, god forbid, something were to happen to your husband and you found yourself dating again tomorrow I guarantee you that you would feel like a randy teenager once more. Children are exhausting but it is not just about being tired. When it's Tuesday night and you are sitting on the couch watching the Olympics, you know that you could suggest a stroll to the bedroom and you know exactly how it will end. While familiarity is comforting it is not exciting and the female brain needs to register exciting in order for the female otherbits to rise beyond merely phoning it in. So the secret - and it is a secret because it is not the sort of thing we carry around in the front of our minds like where we parked at the grocery store - is to tap into our coca-cola selves and make an effort because no one else is going to do it for us. She mentioned her niece who loves her vibrator; a patient who likes to pretend she is picking her husband up at a bar; the vast sea of erotica; the world of tasteful European soft porn that beams via satellite; et cetera et cetera et cetera. 

I know this probably all sounds very obvious to you but I stared at her like a rookie who is just happy to be on the team. It really never occurred to me that the things that thrilled me at twenty and pleased me at thirty might by thirty-eight merit little more than a polite smile or that I am personally responsible for reconsidering things. She gave me a few pieces of advice: she told me to make more time for myself. She told me to figure out what I now find deliciously naughty and really roll with it. She told me that it is important to be playful in life and mentioned that she likes to moonlight as a torch singer. Then she checked my thyroid and vitamin D levels (pending) and gave me the brochure for an herbalist who does nice things with ginseng. Just in case.   

And because I like you and I want you to be happy I am passing this pep talk along to you in hopes that you may benefit from it.


RBG

Edward woke me up at one in the morning. I assume my intention was to go upstairs and assure myself that his head wasn't pinned between the crib bars before wishing him well in his future endeavors and returning to the warmth and toddlerlessness of my own bed but when I walked into his bedroom he held up his arms and puffed out his bottom lip and I melted. So Edward slept with his round head burrowed into my neck (on the futon that I should just take out of his room so that I no longer have this kind of temptation) and I dozed at infrequent and uncomfortable intervals. Edward snores like a kid who needs to get his adenoids checked (mem: get Edward's adenoids checked) and he roots around the bed like a truffle pig. I waffle between who I would least like to share a tent with: Patrick who slaps and kicks in his sleep or Edward with the grunting and the snorting and the constant nudge nudge nudging. Caroline is delightful - when she sleeps she lies perfectly still and absolutely quiet, like Snow White on macabre display - but I rarely get the opportunity to snuggle with Caroline; probably because she is such an excellent sleeper once she finally succumbs that I never feel the urge to wake her up in the middle of the night and drag her off to the guest room with me.

Anyway, I'm tired but even fatigued I should have realized that there were better places to tuck the two checks I needed to deposit than...

I'll let you guess. As I was leaving the house to swing by the bank before getting Patrick from school today where do you think I decide to put the checks?

In my wallet?

In the zippered compartment of my purse, perhaps?

Did I walk the three feet to my desk and put the checks into one of the deposit envelopes that I stockpile for this very purpose?

No.

Instead I took two checks that I needed to deposit this afternoon and I wedged them between the pages of a library book that I was going to return. Even as I did so I thought, huh, maybe this isn't the smartest way to carry checks to the car and then I thought, oh I'm sure I'll remember. And I did remember. Just as I pulled back into our driveway with Patrick two hours later I remembered that I had forgotten to go to the bank but I had managed to go to the library and I had returned the book with money stuffed in it.

I say this objectively: sometimes my flakiness knows no bounds.

I volunteered to chaperon a field trip last week for Patrick's class and we went to the art museum. I fail at capital-A Art. Always have. As a child I would trudge dutifully through the galleries of Washington DC with my parents but I would always want to hang myself from the Calder. I keep thinking I am going to grow into Art; that I will finally develop some sort of sophistication and I tried, god knows I tried this time, but good LORD it was boring. I sympathized utterly with one of the kids in my charge who finally flopped onto the marble floor and groaned as the docent spent twenty full minutes discussing the kit-kat portraits of a 17th C German burgher and his grim wife. It was fun to spend time with Patrick's class (each as looney in his or her own way as my beloved Patrick is in his) but with the mind-numbing drone of the guide and the anxiety of keeping my group docile under increasingly difficult circumstances and the guilt I always feel when faced with wall after wall full of paintings I just don't get... it was not very fun.

But the reason I mention this is that I had about ten minutes of utter panic as I sat on the floor of Patrick's classroom on what I had thought was field trip day but everyone seemed to be going about their morning routine. There were no other parents around and as more time passed I thought, oh my god, I have gotten the day wrong and now I have been camping in the classroom for long enough that Patrick's teacher must know I got the day wrong and he is probably trying to figure out how to tactfully tell me to go home and come back tomorrow.

Because that is just the sort of thing I would do.

I had the time wrong. Not the day. Just the time. And not so far wrong that I couldn't pretend that I had come early on purpose. Although anyone who has ever tried to get Patrick to complete an assignment must realize that the kid comes from biscuit stock:

Me - Do you have math for tonight?

Patrick - No.

Me - Are you sure?

Patrick - Absolutely. No math. I am absolutely certain.

Me - Hey [Child Whose Locker is Adjacent to Patrick's] do you guys have any math to do at home tonight?

Child - Yes. Mathquest Packet. Page 31. Both problems.

Me - ????

Patrick - Ohhhhhhh, math. Right. Mathquest. Those problems. Yeah. I'd better go back and get that out of my desk.

Now that Patrick has found his people and we can observe his daily grind a bit more closely we have discovered that he is an organizational disaster of near-biblical proportion. I think he tends to be a bit, oh, let's say dreamy. When he is excited about something he cannot do the work fast enough - like the bridge project - but he tends to forget the less glamorous stuff like math homework or his daily reading goals. At the end of the week before last his teacher sent a note home reminding parents that the AR goals needed to be completed by the following Friday and that kids who had met their goals would get to attend the big AR goal party. I sent back a note saying that I was sorry to be so dopey but... what, exactly, are AR goals and did Patrick have any? He wrote back and said that they use this computer program called accelerated reader and the kids read books and take tests in the school library and then accumulate points toward their goals and he was pretty sure he had remembered to get Patrick set up even though he came late to the class.

I asked Patrick and he said, Ohhhhhh AR goals. Right. I forgot about those.

So on Monday morning I discovered this GIANT CHART at the front of the classroom with every kid's name and their goals and neat little figures representing the points they had all earned stretched out like so many ants at a picnic and all of the kids were buzzing around talking about their AR goals and I thought, really, Patrick, you forgot ALL THIS? And at the bottom of the chart was Patrick's name with his AR goal of 39 and his AR total of... zero.

Since I have already finished the second grade this was, of course, not my problem but I pointed out to Patrick that in general he needed to start doing the work he was supposed to be doing and maybe it would be a challenge to see how close he could get to 39 points in four days. How do I describe 39 points? Mrs Piggle Wiggle is worth three points. The Westing Game? Eight points. Calvin and Hobbes? Tragically, no points at all. 

All week Patrick came home in the afternoon and read and complained bitterly about the unfairness of it all and read some more. He wrote a couple of book reports and he took tests in the morning before school and by Friday he had somehow managed to cobble together the necessary points and he didn't have to sit in the hall (sit in the hall! it's all so retro at this school) during the big AR party and he was very proud of himself and I thought well thank heavens that's over. Now let us never speak of AR tests again.

So I was waiting in the classroom today and I noticed the GIANT CHART looked different and I went over to discover that they have new AR goals. I see Patrick now has to get fifty two points and I am still laughing. Fifty two! I refuse to involve myself. I will borrow books from the library for him and I will return said books (occasionally stuffed with checks) but beyond that I'm staying out of it. He may A and R without me.

(I did ask him why he opted to try to get fifty two points when the thirty nine were so painful and he said that his teacher assigns the goals and I said oh, well, alrighty then good luck with that and he said thank you.)

We had a house guest this weekend who enjoys photography and he offered to take some family pictures for us.

So we have this one of Caroline being all campy: "Read the book about Sam and the eggs and the ham? I love that book," she gushed.

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I think this one is lovely.

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And pretty pretty Edward with his new haircut.

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Then the guest asked if we wanted a few of the family all together and I said well that might be nice.

(those underlined words each link to a different awful picture, you know) 

I have a whole new respect for holiday cards. There was not one goddamned picture in the set in which the majority of the family looks remotely normal, let alone one in which we are all smiling and facing the camera. And why didn't I realize that Edward's navy shirt and my black one would blend to make us look like floating heads? Why is Steve holding the remote control and why is he wearing that odd color? Why do Caroline and Edward keep staring upwards? Only Patrick behaved predictably, which is to say he was a complete pain from beginning to end.   

The children are kinda kicking my ass. I like driving Patrick - in fact frequently the commute is the most relaxing part of my day; we're listening to the third book in the Septimus Heap series and it is very entertaining - but it takes a solid two hours. Steve watches the twins while I'm gone which is great for everybody but by the time I get home he needs to get back to work again. I think I used to spread that shared daytime childcare out a little more... a shower here, a solo trip to the library there. Caroline and Edward are increasingly fun and funny but they require more maintenance than a couple of polo ponies. They need constant nonstop ceaseless unblinking perpetual attention and even then I discovered Edward eating AN UNQUARTERED GRAPE today that Caroline had gotten off the counter for him using means I have yet to discover.

Caroline and Edward flirted with toilet training in the Fall and I swear I gave it my very best effort. For two weeks I encouraged and applauded and not once, not one time, did either child manage to put anything remotely... productive anywhere near the potty. When Edward finally stood up from the little seat, walked around behind me and peed all over my back I declared the experiment officially over until further notice. Like the Overlook Hotel the potties were closed for the season, most likely to re-open with warmer weather. Recently, however, Caroline has been showing those little signs, giving those tiny indications that the connected parent recognizes as an interest in altering her habits.

"I WANT TO PEE IN THE POTTY!" she bellows.

"Open the door! Open the door!" she shouts as she pounds at the bathroom wall. "I want to sit on the potty!"

So I sigh and say, "Oh all right. If you must."

And she takes off her pants and pulls off her socks and stands impatiently while I assist with the diaper and then she sits for a millisecond before she races off again. Because really it is not so much that she is interested in doing anything whatsoever in the bathroom; she just wants to be naked and she has twigged to the fact that "potty" is the magic get-out-of-pants-free word. If I had my druthers I would continue to cram her back in that diaper until next year some time but you all gave such great advice back in September and were so convinced that they can do this that I have decided to bite the bullet and try potty training again. I continue to be deeply skeptical that a child of mine could be so wildly self-sufficient as to dispense with diapers before... well. But we'll see.

Finally, Steve and I are getting an overnight babysitter this weekend and wheeeeeee! I want to go to dinner and Steve wants to see Avatar and although I have nothing against Avatar I do feel like the only thing we DO is watch Netflix together so maybe an evening that involves a little more togetherness? Did I mention that this is the first time we will spend the entire night away from child/ren together, ever? Seven plus years, people. Please advise. Oh, and I was thinking about trying hotwire or priceline for a hotel deal since we don't really care - within reason - where we stay. Have you tried either?    

PS Sorry I did not realize that those pictures were so enormous. Lemme know if I need to take them down. 


Draft

Hello again.

It occurred to me that if I could remember to open a typepad window before I leave the house it would be possible for me to write a post while Edward does speech therapy - despite the sad lack of WiFi in the waiting room.

Last night Edward was sitting across from Caroline, carefully transporting rice from the bowl to his mouth with a spoon. Caroline tried this method for a while but then emptied the bowl onto the table and was picking rice up with her fist and cramming it in. Edward kept eating. Then Caroline hooked her hands behind her back and leaned forward to see if she could pick up grains of rice using only her tongue. Edward was moved to the point of rebuke:

"Cayayine Xhane," he said using her full name for the first time, like, ever, "Cayayine Xhane! Sssssts messy!"

Caroline waggled her rice studded tongue at him. He looked revolted.  

They amuse me SO MUCH.

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Does this look like a kid who would respond to a gentle "No" by slapping his mother across the face? I felt like I had been challenged to a duel. One second he was sweetly asking to watch Little Einsteins but upon being told no, darling, we're about to eat dinner he became... Slappy Kincaid, ladies and gentlemen. Children - and I say this with years of experience in the area of their care and feeding - are little savages hiding under a thin veneer of soft skin, dewy radiance and dimpled cuteness. Just like baby dolphins.

(This woman in the lobby of speech has been trying to get her two year old away from the toy corner and out the door for the past fifteen minutes. She keeps attempting to get him to agree that it is time to go have lunch and he keeps giving lip service to the concept while he continues to build towers. I think the twin thing has hardened me but we don't do that. What do I care whether Caroline or Edward is fully onboard with whatever transition is under way? I say "Time to go" and we go. Sure it is nice when they cooperate but it is most definitely not required. For a while it was doubtful that Caroline was ever going to leave a building upright; I had to keep tucking her under my arm like a clutch purse and bodily removing her. Now that Caroline has reached the age of reason (she's a young 45 in some areas) it is Edward that was named Child in the Family Most Likely to Leave the Library As If He is Being Abducted. I do not remember ever doing this with Patrick, which begs the question: was he more biddable [yes] or was I more concerned with making every moment of his little life perfect for him [yes.] 

Of course I got slapped so it's hard to say how my new staff sergeant parenting style is working out. Mutiny! That's what it is. Edward is suffering under the yoke of my oppression and is trying to foment rebellion through aggressive resistance. You know he really is so very... Irish

(In case you were wondering he received a firm "no hitting. we don't hit" and then got to cool off in his hanging seat while I put dinner on the table. Toddler tantrums - even slap happy ones - don't faze me much. I mean, yeah, whatever, you're screaming, you're throwing trucks, you're really really really mad... you come up to my knees, kid. Seven year old insurrection, though, my god. Patrick can make me want to slam my head in a door in less than thirty seconds. Edward seems more to be pitied than censured: so much volatility when all he really needs is some carbs and a nap. But when Patrick coolly announced, as he did the other night, "I'm not eating this. OK? I'm not. Get over it"... WELL! I'm clicking my teeth together just thinking about it. I am sure there is some positive parenting alternative to hissing, "EAT!" but I am damned if I know what it is.)

- Home again

Caroline and the Game of Kings (and ungulates)

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First she rearranged the chess board into that odd perpendicular configuration which I am pretty sure is unplayable. Then she went to get an opponent - Legdeer, a crafty choice. Then she took off all the white pieces saying "Oh no!" and "Be careful!" Finally, she threw both arms into the air and shouted "Yay! Clap for Caroline!" I assume she was playing black. And cheating.

So I have a question for you. A very important question, much more urgent than the discipline problems we have springing up like mushrooms in a wet yard. It's about my hair. I seem to be going gray at the temples. For a while I managed to convince myself that they were touches of the sun's kiss glinting prettily. But no. It's just gray. And do you know who is gray at the temples? George Clooney. Do I want to look like George Clooney? No. I don't even want to look like Rosemary.

I have had my hair colored professionally in the past with mixed results. There was the time I wound up with a stark white streak like a poorer man's Bonnie Raitt. Then there was the time I had my request for "redder" interpreted so literally that a woman in an airport first asked if it was my real color and then told me it was the exact shade she wanted to paint her bathroom. The stylist I see now has done nice highlights for me a few times and I am sure she could handle my current plunge into ghostly but she charges $100,000 to do so. I am not saying this is completely out of the question, just that my new budget-conscious self wonders if there are any options and if so are they any good? My questions for you are: can I get rid of the gray at home, is it easy because I have poor small motor-skills, are some products better than others and at the end of the day will I wind up paying a professional to fix it anyway? Please advise.

Oh and have a nice weekend.

The electric bill! We never came up with a truly satisfactory explanation for the $900 electric bill although I spent two and a half hours on the phone with them. The conclusion we finally accepted was that our meter had been broken for the first four months of the winter. They fixed the meter and then charged us retroactively for the electricity we had consumed but for which we had not been billed. I think this sucks but whatever. Meanwhile, although they had a very very hard time admitting this, the cost of electricity per kilowatt had gone up over 150% in our area versus the previous year. Together the undercharge plus the upcharge combined to present us with a face-slap of a bill worthy of Edward. Bastards but what can you do?

PS Patrick incognito

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His spelling assignment this week is to make trading cards. Because we live in a cave on Mars he said, what are trading cards? His teacher explained, adding, you know, Pokemon or sports guys or... "Or mushrooms!" said Patrick. Oh right. Or mushrooms. Sure. Talk about a limited edition collectible.

He amuses me even more than the twinkles.

PPS Don't forget about the hair. I cropped myself out of the picture with Edward because I look like Mother Hubbard.

PPPS Mia just left a note in the comments that I feel compelled to acknowledge as promptly and publicly as possible. You make a mistake and you say you are sorry and it is to be hoped that you are forgiven. So Mia pointed out that the child at speech therapy might be autistic and that the slow-dance out the door could be a necessary part of moving him from point A to point B. And I opened my mouth to say that I wasn't judging exactly I was just observing the behavior of others and marking my own e/de-volution as a parent but I realized that this would be dishonest. I really was thinking oh heavens, lady, stop saying, "We're going to have lunch now, ok, ok, ok?" and just GO. But Mia is right. Perhaps the child is autistic and how he reacts to being manhandled is worlds apart from, say, Caroline when I turn her into a tote. Or maybe he's not. Maybe it's just his personality or his mother's style or the day or the place or the time or the moment or any combination of the above and, really, what does it matter? Nobody owes me an IEP and I am embarrassed that I allowed that weedy stream of consciousness to go un-edited.

I'm sorry.   


Everyday Is Like Sunday

I have been adding piecemeal to a post for the past week but when I went to finally put it up last night it was swallowed whole by the internet. At the time I was irked but in retrospect it's probably all for the best. It took me about thirty paragraphs to say: everyone in the house except me has been randomly and variously sick. Steve, for example, was walking around like a guy who was told 25 hours ago that he only has 24 hours to live. At one point I picked a blanket off the couch in an attempt to tidy and almost had an apoplexy when I discovered Steve underneath it.

"Don't touch the Shroud of Steve!" he snapped and pulled the blanket back over his face.

Caroline had a runny nose and then a stuffed up nose and then a runny nose again and now she sounds like Bea Arthur. She keeps going into the kitchen drawer, grabbing a washcloth, scrubbing her nose with it and then putting the cloth back into the drawer. While I applaud her self-care instincts and I am glad she is no longer throwing everything she touches into the trash I have to say... ewwww.

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I think she is starting to look a bit like Sarah Palin; the bangs, the roguish twinkle, the determined jaw.

Edward. Oh poor Edward. Yet again he had four straight days of high fevers... 104, 105. It's like that thing he does. He fevers, hot and slow like well-seasoned wood. Edward was miserable all week, what with the fever and the congestion and his second molar stabbing through his gums and the fact that we are all just so stupid and mean and stupid that he cannot stand it. Yesterday morning he lay on the floor and cried from the pathos of it all. Then he rolled onto his stomach and cried some more. Then he went over to Caroline and tried to smack her and she promptly grabbed his hand and bit it. So he cried harder. Poor poor Edward. He reminds me of Job as a child. 

Patrick insisted he felt fine, looked gray, told me he had never felt better, developed black circles under his eyes and then woke me up at midnight, three and five in the morning suffering from acute distress in his, ahem, southern hemisphere. We kept him home from school for the day and were planning to keep him home for the following day as well but he insisted he go. You know, we will never get a note from Patrick saying, "Dear Mother and Father, You were right. [New school] is the best place for me and I am very happy with the change. Sorry I accused you of trying to ruin my life. Sincerely, Your Son." However, I think the graceful acknowledgment was implied by the indignation with which he rejected my offer to let him stay home on that second day.

What else?

Patrick's school is continuing to go really well for him. I don't know if I said thank you at the time but I am so grateful for the insights you guys provided. You helped a lot.

Right now his class is working on a bridge unit and Patrick has become an incredible bore on the subject. His ability to suck the life out of even the most interesting of topics (I like bridges. and trains) is actually kind of impressive - he's destined to grow up to be a cocktail party Grim Reaper of some renown.

I say, "Oh that's a pretty bridge!"

And Patrick starts telling me about the piers and the cable and the deck strength and why steel is preferred over iron these days until I say, "That arch looks like a rainbow!" and he tells me there are no arches in beam construction although there is an arch-beam hybrid. But that's not one of them. We're fun.

He had to research a bridge to model. He wanted to do the Golden Gate but the idea of Patrick trying to get a suspension bridge constructed from popsicle sticks and string to support two pounds was enough to make me want to smother myself so we googled "interesting bridges" and landed on this one

Isn't that a cool looking bridge?

So after some challenges including the need to abandon trapezoids for triangles and drop from an octagon to a hexagon, Patrick built this version

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which he is going to flip over and reinforce with more braces for the weight bearing challenge next week. The spelling assignment this week is to write a song, they are finishing long division and starting fractions and his reading book this month is the Phantom Tollbooth, which I keep calling the Phantom of the Tollbooth, much to Patrick's irritation.

It's like I sat down with crayons and designed a school just for him. I feel very lucky that he's happy and I'm happy because I don't have to DO anything other than drive him.

Edward's speech therapist thinks he can drop to once a week for now and that he'll be done with sessions entirely pretty soon. He is still struggling with two syllables but he is getting into an age-appropriate range for articulation, which was the goal. It's a relief to be able to understand what he wants. Like when I gave him raisins with lunch and he asked for a fork. A fork. To eat raisins. See? How on earth would I have had the slightest idea what he was upset about without that vital ffffff and oh and kkkkk? Who eats raisins with a goddamned fork?

But Edward is very tidy. He likes to eat neatly. He switches spoons between courses (a habit Patrick has as well: Patrick will not eat his salad with the same fork he used for the rest of his dinner; Edward needs a new spoon between yogurt and cereal. I look forward to their shared bachelor apartment - The Odder Couple: Felix & Felix.) And whenever he spills something he goes to fetch a cloth (probably one that Caroline has already grubbed about with - again I say... ewwwww) and mops it up as best he can. I have no idea where he gets this from.

I like this picture although he is obviously not feeling well.

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I am drawing a complete blank on what you asked about with the last post. Um, oh, what Steve does for a living? Can't tell you, sorry. He made me promise. He's fine with almost all of my lack of boundaries but my delving into his professional life makes him uncomfortable. I can tell you that he owns his business, it is very small, he did pretty well until about two months into 2009 when all of his clients evaporated like the mist and we were without any income at all for - oh - ten months? - which was stressful but strangely empowering. We went on super triple X austerity budget, ferreted into our savings (I felt sick about this at first and then Steve was like, oh, right, we shouldn't spend the savings; what if an EMERGENCY ARISES?) and planned an escape in the event of our total economic collapse which included selling the house at any price and downsizing somewhere else, like Colorado. Fortunately things have improved about twenty-fold since then and Operation Aiiiieeeee is on hold. We were interested to see that our neighbors on both sides have put their houses on the market in the past week and they are moving to... Colorado. Apparently this is everybody's back-up plan. Who knew?

Oh the blog ads! I almost forgot. There was a kerfluffle brewing in the comments last night over one of the ads on my sidebar and I wanted to talk about that. I started accepting ads in the first place because I was trying to make a little money - a very little, a pittance really - and it seemed like an easy place to start. I do approve all the ads so it is perfectly appropriate to complain to me if you find something troubling or offensive, as a few of you did with the ad for the book Healing Our Autistic Children. I actually thought the ad this week that might upset people was the one with the baby elephant (the baby elephant) in chains but the anti-circus people have had me since Dumbo so... where was I? Oh the book.

I checked it out on Amazon before I accepted the ad (just as I looked up the one whose tagline reads "My name is Gin. I kill people." I wondered if the latter was some kind of temperance ad and I was going to be advertising against Mother's Ruin but no, it turns out she's just a female assassin) and from the notes it seemed that the author's thesis is that some of the behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorders can be positively affected by dietary changes. This did not seem patently offensive to me - although it might be completely stupid, I don't know - so I accepted the ad. I can imagine that an ad for a book promising to cure recurrent pregnancy loss with meditation and herbal tea would make me want to throw my computer at someone's head, though, so if the very idea of this book is hurtful to you I am sorry. If you want to tell me that anything associated with Jenny McCarthy makes you want to claw your eyes out please do so. If you want to free-form from there into a vaccine debate you are welcome to do that as well. I was worried enough about vaccine risks (not autism so much as general toxicity and volume) that Caroline and Edward have only gotten caught up with the recommended schedule in the past month. And if you are feeling scrappy and want to point out that my concern for baby elephants and love of animals clearly does not extend to the walls of Steve's office where several deer seem to be missing their bodies I promise to look uncomfortable. All of which is to say: I'm sorry if ads ever upset you and I am always willing to discuss it. 

Caroline in living color. And sound, so adjust your volume. I had to listen to that middle part a few times before I understood that she is saying, "Take a look at that animal. What animal is that?" (long pause) "Ladybug, right!" She's like a game show host with an imaginary panel of imaginary contestants answering mutely to the accompaniment of silent applause.

I am having the hardest time with typepad today. Nothing is going in properly and there are long pauses as I type. Can you see that video?

PS Go Saints.

PPS Under featured readers this week and next there is an ad for Scrollwork Designs. She's a reader and a small business owner and she sent me a few very funny emails and she makes truly truly lovely sparkly things so I thought I should point out that now could be an excellent time to buy yourself a Valentine's present. Just saying.