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.
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.
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.
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.