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May 2010

Bookish

Last Thursday Caroline greeted my enthusiasm for the toilet with a near-bovine lack of comprehension. I despaired and wondered how bad pool furniture and roofing plastic would look in the living room, really. Friday morning she put up a struggle against being dressed that would have made Henryk Dobrzanski proud so I said fine, no diaper but you have to wear underwear if you want to eat.

[Pink Underpants Required - a nod to formality that falls below Black Tie but still higher than the afternoon wedding]

She agreed and after a leisurely forty-five minute meal (Caroline gets almost all of her calories at breakfast and Edward will only stop eating when you stop putting food in front of him so mornings take forever) she surreptitiously checked her panties and announced, "I am very dry."

Great, I said, now go pee on the potty. So she walked over, took off her underwear, sat down and peed a little. Then a few minutes later she said that she needed to pee some more and I said terrific and she did and that was it for Caroline and potty training. She's pretty much done. I mean, she's not so reliable that I'd ask you to hold her while you were engaged in restoration work on the Declaration of Independence and I still duct tape her into her diaper for naps and nighttime (Little Keeper Sleepers en route - shall advise as to their efficacy and thanks for the tip) but... she's good. Yesterday she decided she prefers the big toilet and although she needs help climbing up even with a stool she's, what, 87% percent human now? The couch and I couldn't be happier and I would be delighted to describe my easy seven step process for taking your toddler from blank incomprehension to housebroken in less than a day (perhaps in ebook form, for a modest fee) but I am as mystified as I ever was. One night Caroline had no idea what I was talking about or where or why and the next she was using the bathroom like a college sophomore.  

Weird.

Edward, meanwhile, is so disinterested in the whole thing that I found him sitting on the couch behind Caroline while she used the little potty and he was resting his feet on her head. True story.

And although he politely clapped with the rest of us as we celebrated Caroline's early successes he turned to me at the same time and said, firmly, "No go potty."

I said, "No one is asking you use the potty, Edward."

He repeated, "No. No go the potty."

Twins are (or should be) the most humbling of experiences because any time you feel like attributing your child's exemplary behavior to excellent parenting Exhibit B comes along (similar nature, identical nurture) and pees, both literally and figuratively, on your foot.

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I get your problem with AR tests now, I get it I get it!

I sat next to Patrick in the school library on Monday (I was there to resolve a missing book issue - don't get me started or I'll get annoyed all over again*) while he took a test on The Westing Game and I watched as he struggled to multiply choose an answer so specific that the correct one hinged upon a single sentence in the book; a fact I know because I have personally read The Westing Game about a million times.

And I was like ohhhhhh this SUCKS because you can read the book and enjoy the book and understand the textured nuances of the book and mix up amber grains with purple waves and not get enough points and then they don't let you ever take a test again which sucks even harder.

For the record Patrick did get the question right (thus meeting his AR goals and securing his attendance at the last party) but if you were to ask me why I was coughing and grimacing as he hesitated between C and B I will only say that I must've swallowed a gnat or something.

B for Boom!

So cross me off the list of people who indulgently said, oh well, don't all mandatory reading programs leave something to be desired and add me to the list of people who think AR test should have a brick tied to them before they are dropped down a well. Besides, Patrick's school doesn't own any of the Septimus Heap tests and they have tests for books one two and five of the Prydain Chronicles but not two and three, which... what? What price Llyr?

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* Well, ok, I guess you went and got me started just by sitting there.

Back in March Patrick was not allowed to check books out of the school library because the librarian said that he had two books out already and they were both overdue. The books? Rescuers Down Under and a Hannah Montana something or other. 

Patrick said that he hadn't checked them out and she showed him the computer screen which indicated that he had and told him to go check his backpack and locker and desk et cetera. He said ok and never mentioned it to anyone because he is a bit of a dummy dope.

Weeks went by and every Monday his class went to the library and Patrick did not check anything out because he was worried about the books. Finally he decided to try his luck with a Calvin & Hobbes and again she told him those other books were out and now they were really late and he needed to find them. So again he told her that he didn't check the books out and again she told him that he did. Then she mentioned it to his teacher. His teacher asked him about it and Patrick said he hadn't taken the books and when I went to pick him up that day the teacher asked me about it and I said I hadn't seen any library books at home or in his backpack for a while and when he told me what the missing books were I said "Patrick didn't check those out" and Patrick said, "That's what I keep telling them."

For reference, my certainty that this was a mistake stemmed not from my belief that my little genius is above a Hannah Montana novella; it came from my certainty that he is below one. Patrick views the library (school and public) as a vast resource for pleasure and therefore he sticks to what he knows and likes. In the six months Patrick has been at this school he has only taken out comic books: Garfield or Calvin & Hobbes. There was just no way he would have deliberately checked out anything else, especially not Hannah Montana who does not exist at all on his radar screen because he... doesn't watch TV (Caroline does. in fact Caroline will sometimes throw her arms wide and press her face against the dark screen and say, "Awwww, I love you, TV" and do you know what Edward says more than anything apart from "more please?" he says the Little Einsteins line, "Oh no! Baby piccolodactyl is trapped at the volcano!" and he says it REALLY well. it's not that we are anti-television. just Patrick. non-animated, non-science TV kinda baffles him. but anyway)   

I don't even remember what the subject was but I have never forgotten the teacherly wisdom left in the comments here which was along the lines of "I promise to believe only half of what they say happens at home if you promise to believe only half of what they say happens at school."

So I wasn't, like, pissed or anything by Patrick's account of the book incident; I assumed it was a mistake and one we could easily clear up. I figured a five second conversation with Patrick and me and the librarian would clarify the whole thing.

I kept poking my head into the library with Patrick before and after school and finally got a time when the librarian was there and we stood behind a couple of kindergartners who were checking books out. I noted that one of them instantly said, "I returned that!" the second the librarian mentioned that he already had a book out and I sympathized with the fact that she must hear that ALL THE TIME. I also noted that their system involves pulling up an entire class list and then clicking on the individual student's name before scanning the barcode on the book. Certainly not a human-error-proof system.

I smiled when she asked what I wanted and dragged Patrick out from behind my back and said that we were hoping she could help us clear up a book mystery. I explained that there were two books checked out to him and missing but he had not taken them out and thus we really could not do anything about returning them.

And then she pulled up his name and pointed to the books on the screen and said, "There they are. Those are the books he's lost."

And Patrick said, "I've never heard of those books and I really did not take them out."

And she said, "See the screen? Whose name is that?"

And my smile sort of flickered and I said, "He's quite sure he didn't check out Hannah Montana or the Rescuers - in fact he has never checked out anything but Garfield here - so there must be some mistake."

And then she said... OOOH... she said, all nasty, "Well that's his story now."

So I punched her in the nose.

Actually I did my favorite difficult customer service thing where I just repeated "He did not check those books out. There must be some mistake. Could you remove them from his record please?" while she accused poor Patrick of theft and lying and he writhed with embarrassment. Finally she said, "FINE! I'll just mark the books as Lost Forever!" and I said, "Great. Thank you."

It is not that Patrick isn't as capable as the next kid of lying; he's just not very good at it and it just didn't make any sense and even if it did - which it didn't - she didn't have to be such a tool about it.

So the librarian hates me but I'm not a big fan of her either. To be fair I am not sure how a woman who hears some iteration of "I don't have that book" five hundred million times a day is supposed to sort out the kid who really actually does not have that book but it completely flattened Patrick to be so repeatedly and patently disbelieved and I got frustrated within a minute of it myself. 

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Books - lawfully acquired and properly acknowledged, books.

Patrick and I are listening to The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke because the library had a copy, I wanted to save a major series for the trip and I had a vague recollection that someone had said something about a Cornelia Funke book and I thought it might have been The Thief Lord (it wasn't - it was Ink Heart.) We are about four-fifths of the way through and I am still not sure I like it. Talk about a plot that takes forever to come to a boil, my lord. Also, I always wonder about translations. Back when I took French literature I occasionally found it expeditious to read whatever it was in English and then work back from there. This was about as effective and sly as you might expect, like when I was trying to make a brilliant observation about the first of Flaubert's Trois Contes but I floundered around for the French word for parrot (it's perroquet - my professor failed to believe that it had simply slipped my mind and urged me to consider reading en francais unless I wanted to have my ass echoue'd back to the misery of straight grammar classes.)  

Have you really read War and Peace if you don't read it in Russian (don't look at me - I made it through most of the great Russian novels by skipping the less interesting plot threads, like the entire War.) Don't the words matter as much as the story? On a similar note I have always wanted to get a copy of the British edition of Harry Potter because I suspect that a few of the awkward parts might be Americanizations. Are translations ever any good? Discuss.

So The Thief Lord was written in German - a language whose breadth I was just admiring in the last post - and somehow in English the text feels a little squashed and more than a little antiquated. I was surprised when someone mentions cell phones after a few chapters because based on the language alone I had been thinking the story was set in a pre-modern time. So a little slow and a little repetitive and a little clunky but it's possible that it will all come together in the end and I'll say ohhhhhh I get it now. That happens.

I have narrowed our recorded books down to either Percy Jackson or Artemis Fowl but having read neither I cannot decide which is more likely to keep us (specifically Patrick who as recently as last night was pleading with me to end this lunacy of a planned cross-country car trip and buy some damned airline tickets - he even offered to pay for his own fare; then reconsidered and offered to reimburse me for one way. I declined) riveted. We will eventually listen to them both but if you could only be trapped in a car with the people you love and one series which would it be: Percy or Artemis?


And as long as we are feeling all bookish, any thoughts I what I should read next? I did read (and like) the Flavia de Luce mysteries you recommended. I wasn't sure I was going to because I did not find Flavia particularly likable but she grew on me in time. Once we get to Vermont we have a week's worth of hot and cold running babysitter and my plan is to sit and read while the finks do *hand wave* whatever. I am toying with the idea of trying Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo again but I am not entirely enthusiastic about it. I loved (loved) her Lymond Series but I fully acknowledge that it was a slog to get into and by a slog I don't mean you had to grit your teeth through a couple of chapters. It was more like the first two entire books.   

So summer reading? Nothing too depressing. I am sitting here looking at my bookshelves for recommendations for you and I guess if I had two series I wish I could read all over again for the first time it would be the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian and the Lucia and Mapp books by E F Benson.

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Six seconds of Caroline 

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Sixty minutes of Edward

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PS An ad! There is an ad on the sidebar (among all the Dominos - good ol' Dominos) for a company called Golden Branch. The woman who did the site is a reader and this is her job and I was so touched that she bought an ad that I wanted to point it out to you. It is a very pretty site and they sell lovely things and isn't it always nicer to buy flowers from actual people, even online?


Repeat Without Rinsing

I had a couple hundred thousands reasons why I was not wildly enthusiastic about Steve's farm purchase and then I had two more. Although I can imagine a time in the not so distant future when Caroline and Edward will enjoy the chicken coop-turned-clubhouse as much as Patrick does, at the moment the place is just a giant death trap.

Oh that reminds me. I don't remember who left a comment about Wisconsin Death Trip but I laughed and then shuddered when I saw it. A few months ago I randomly brought that book home from the library and there are literally no words to describe how creepy it is (well, maybe in German - the Germans are so good at that sort of thing.) The book (in case you have never seen it and thus, unlike me, will not be haunted by it for the rest of your life) is a collection of photographs and newspaper accounts from the late 19th century about the county surrounding Black River Falls, Wisconsin and the INSANELY horrible things that happened there over the course of a few decades. My favorite (or least favorite as the case may be) were the people who successfully used what amounted to giant scissors to cut off their own heads. Steve found this improbable to the point of gullibility (mine and the contemporary authorities) but I don't know... it said it was suicide right there in the paper. Then there's cholera and murder and grim farmers and more murder and more suicides and coffins and children and children in coffins and it is just an awful awful book. So don't read it. Unless you are feeling exceptionally morbid. In which case, enjoy!

But, yes, commenter whose name I cannot remember from forever ago I, too, hope our rural Wisconsin experience involves far less decapitations. 

Which.... SEGUE BACK... is why we don't take Caroline and Edward down there yet because....

One house is inhabitable and the other has the floors torn up; the well needs to be shocked to remove bacteria ("I doubt the water would make you very sick," Steve temporized, "It wouldn't kill you probably" - note to self: avoid sinks) and if you trip in the pasture and the barbed wire fails to snag you then you will roll down a hill full of thistle and land in the unfenced pond.

It's about as family friendly as Saigon after the Fall.

So Steve and his friend have been doing tons of stuff to get it more live-able and that's great and all but it has left me at home and outnumbered by two to three children (depending upon the planned project Patrick has stayed home) A LOT in the past couple of months.

A few years ago this would have resulted in a quarrel but Steve and I have learned to communicate better (I no bite him!) and when I finally said "Aiiiiiiieeeeeee!" he said "Why don't you go out by yourself and leave me with the kids more often?"

I had to think about this because it sounds perfectly fair but for some reason it wasn't really what I wanted. I realized that what would make me happy (we are all about the meeting of individual needs in this our third and most enlightened iteration) is for us to spend time together as a family. He can go down to Wisconsin as much as he likes as long as he is more present when he is present. Don't check work emails during dinner, don't sit on the couch with your book while I'm still unloading the dishwasher at 9:30 at night and please make time during the day for me and Caroline and Edward so that they can go down giant slides more often. When it is just me we stick to midget playgrounds because I have a serious unshakeable phobia about falling and it KILLS me when I cannot spot two kids simultaneously - one at the top of the ladder and one on his way down. KILLS me.

And, I said, I want to join the Y again and I want us all to actually go. All the time.

So Steve said fine and I said great and we have been having a veritable Golden Age for the past few weeks. I expect some fresh hell will crop up in a month or so but for now I am enjoying pretty much everything. The house is kinda tidy. I had time to do a revise for my next REDBOOK essay in a single morning. We are doing a lot more with Caroline and Edward during the day. And I love the Y. I have always loved the Y. I love the retirees with their coffee in the lobby and I love the teenaged life guards and I love the mix of people in the locker room from the naked nonagenarians to the women in burqas who swim fully clothed and everywhere there are lots and lots of little kids.

Although the rest of the family ranges from being wildly pleased by it (Edward) to harboring a passionate burning hatred for the place (Caroline) it was Steve's apathy towards the Y that prevented us from going more frequently, thus forcing me to acknowledge that I was spending roughly $35.72 per mile I ran on the track. Not cost effective, so we quit. But now with my new farmboy leverage I fully expect to become so regular in our attendance that we will get that damned $20 a month health insurance credit AND I will finally run more than two miles in a row. Eventually.

[Caroline, for reference, does like the pool. She just hates the kids care place. A lot. I figure that Edward likes it enough for both of them.] 

Speaking of Edward

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What's that on his head? A hat? No! It's... Little Red Car!

Technically it is Little Red Car II. I re-read that last post and got to the point where I said it looked like a birthday party goodie bag thing and all of a sudden I had an illuminating flash: Birthday party! Goodie bag! Thing!

After two weeks of not having a clue I suddenly remembered that I had gotten the cars in packs of four at Target in their party supply section for one of Patrick's birthdays and unlike everything else at Target (a retailer who seems to pride itself on getting rid of tshirts the instant I find one that fits properly) they still carry them three years later.

Hu-freaking-zzah.

I was all casual about handing it over to Edward in case he detected the substitution but he took it, studied it and then sighed, "Little red car" before rubbing it against his cheek. Then Steve discovered the original Little Red Car shoved between the crib rails and the mattress (d'oh!) and now we have two. This would annoy the hell out of Caroline but Edward has an accepting, not to say grasping, nature.

"Little Red Car an' annuder Little Red Car," he says complacently as he drives them around his face or the back of the couch or through the bathwater.

So that's Edward.

Caroline, as you can see, is still mostly naked but the duct tape is helping. She did finally pee on the potty a few times but she was so supremely unimpressed by the experience and the wild celebration we threw that I don't see this going anywhere soon.

When she's not naked - like when I came back from taking Patrick to school yesterday and was surprised to find her clothed - it's usually because Steve has duct taped her into her clothes. See the black strip across her back and at her chest?

"Mommy I've got stickers," she said. 

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Or here you can see Steve fashioned a cunning little belt today.

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I said, "Congratulations, Steve, you won the hardware store challenge and you cannot be eliminated in the next round!" and he skipped off to his office. Then I grabbed the child and untaped her because good lord does anything say Daddy Dressed Me louder than duct tape accessories? Besides some of us (ahem) are more easy-going about pee on the rug than others (AHEM.)

The biggest problem with keeping Caroline clothed is the fact that she does that Lethal Weapon thing with both shoulders. Remember back before Mel Gibson went crazy for real and he played the cop who could escape from strait-jackets by dislocating his shoulder? Caroline gets out of everything by hoiking her arms into improbable positions in front of her face and then she shimmies until something gives.

And then there are Patrick's lime green swim goggles that she has appropriated and wears everywhere around her neck like a pair of reading glasses. She took them on our walk and when we ran into neighbors she held the goggles to her eyes and kept them there

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Between the nudity and the duct tape and the goggles we are amassing quite a dossier on her.

Did I mention that she has started calling me "Miss Julia" and Steve "Darling"? The darling I get as that must be what I call Steve (after Finky) but the Miss Julia has come completely out of left field. If we lived in the South, maybe, I could understand it as the Miss First Name practice is more common but here it's vaguely insulting, like, the miss acknowledges seniority while the first name underscores social inequality. But she's two. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. I'm pretty sure she adapted it from the Little Critter books and the schoolteacher cat, Miss Kitty. Miss Kitty wears a peplum and it gives her an air of distinction. Caroline is fascinated by her.   

I do promise that we will eventually get around to housebreaking Caroline but we are driving to Vermont in a few weeks and this just doesn't seem like the best time. Which reminds me

WE ARE DRIVING TO VERMONT

What was I thinking? Well I can tell you what I was thinking, I was thinking I didn't want to pay $500 a ticket for the privilege of a layover in JFK with one of their runways down; that's what I was thinking. And to be honest I am still not sure that it won't be preferable to spend 44 hours in the car with Patrick and the twinkles but... it is close.

We are going to do four days and three nights each way taking time to see stuff and do things. On the way there we are going through Canada, which I am very excited about. I have fond memories of Ontario and Montreal is my favorite city in the world. Not sure if we are going to take the southern route back or not.

I would love any advice you have to offer on extended car travel with children. Anything. What do we need? So far I have written down: bottled water and plastic bags. Clearly I will want to add to this list. Also, oh Canada. If you were driving from Sault Ste Marie (good grief how IS that spelled?) to Montreal what would you see/do/stay? The internet assures me that Sudbury has a science museum and Patrick and I checked it out online. We saw that they have a treasures exchange program for children: you bring them your eagle feather and take home a stalactite. Patrick is convinced that Canadians will think Minnesotan pine cones are like unto pearls worth more than our tribe and has been collecting sacks of them in anticipation of bilking the museum of, like, slabs of gold. There is a lot of early European in Patrick, I fear.

Anyway that's our deal. Please advise. And you can tell me we're crazy if you like. I drove behind Steve for five miles today on our way to get the other car examined (it needs a new WHEEL - not tire but WHEEL damn it) and Edward screamed the entire time. Then he chucked his sandals at my head. Then he screamed some more. The problem?

"I want ride in LITTLE RED CAR!" he sobbed. Good luck with that, kid.

PS Featured Reader. Why do I always forget until the end? Featured Reader this week is Rudy Leal Photography. This is an internet friend of mine who I have known forever and ever and I encourage you to check out their site. Houston accessible and the rest of us can admire their work.

PPS I am done with featured readers in my queue so if you have a business you would like to advertise on my sidebar for free just shoot me an email.

PPPS And speaking of not-for-free advertisements please go look at whatever Domino's wants you to look at over here They are paying me a relative fortune and I feel like I owe them at least a look.


Straightened Arrow

The other week I spent half the afternoon googling "ring worm" as I worried about a mysterious, circular red mark on Edward's upper thigh.

I eventually consulted Steve who promptly said, "Teeth marks. Human. Female. Aged... I'd say about two years. From the lack of wear on the bicuspids I would guess she is usually an oatmeal eater; so we can assume she was driven to this attack by either extreme hunger or - more likely - rage."

Then he wandered back into his office to take some more morphine.

I don't want to say that Caroline is a serial biter because she's not. Days or weeks can go by without Edward once shrieking "No biting Cayine! Stop it! Aaiiiiiieeee!" before racing toward me cradling his endented hand. However, she's not not a biter either. I guess I'd put her somewhere between a squirrel and a frog but we do strive towards a daily puncture wound tally of zero so we have been trying to eradicate the biting all together. 

[Not that Edward is a blameless victim. He generally has deserved something (a cut direct, a withering glance) and there is a reason why we call him Slappy Kincaid. So our children are thugs with the exception of Patrick who continues to find good in the most unlikely places and who triumphantly announces that he has dealt with a dessert stealing classmate by wedging himself between two non-dessert stealers at lunch. Uh, good work? Blessed are the peacemakers, I suppose.]

Anyway as part of the campaign to keep Caroline on the path of the righteous I checked a book out of the library called "Teeth are not for Biting" which features angry children paired with stricken looking ones and the line "Ouch! Biting hurts" oft repeated. Edward loves this book.

"Outh!" he shouts* as I read, "Biting hurth!"

Then we both look pointedly at Caroline who thinks this is the stupidest book ever written and says, hopefully, "Read 'Oh the Places You'll Go' again?"

As a complete aside when we read "Oh the Places You'll Go" Caroline points to one of the black lumps with the eyes on whatever page that is and says, "Ed-wad fell down that dark spooky hole. Oh no Ed-wad is trapped in a cage!" and Edward, sitting on the other side of my lap, always looks very concerned to hear this. Years from now Edward will be able to tell some sympathetic young woman all about the physical and emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of his twin and she will look at barrel-chested Edward and pixie-feather Caroline and think mean things about his mother who allowed this to continue.

But the point is that we are anti-biting. So I glanced into the play room this morning just as Caroline grabbed Edward's face and pushed him backwards. He landed on his bottom and said, "Hey! Thath not nith."

"Caroline!" I said.

She put her hands up, like, don't shoot and pointed out, "I no bite him!"

Which left me in the complicated position of trying to figure out how to praise the dental self-control while condemning the ol' palm-n-shove. I think she has a jurisprudential mind.

*And Edward, in case you couldn't tell, has developed the most delightful Barcelona lisp and I love it.

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Scene I. Hallway at school. Enter Friend and Patrick.

Friend: Hey Patrick! I almost forgot I was wearing this shirt today.

Patrick: I almost forgot I was wearing my BUTT today.

Friend: And I almost forgot I was wearing my BUTT CRACK today.

Patrick: Weiner!

Friend: Pickle! Hairy pickle!

Patrick: Indeed! Ha ha ha!

Friend: HA HA HA!

Friend slings arm around Patrick's shoulders and they walk off to class together.

It was all so normal and boyish and stupid that I felt a little misty. Also, very glad I'm a female.

I picked Patrick up the other day and while I was standing there his teacher told me they had done their standardized testing for literacy and Patrick had done well: x up from y or whatever. And I said oh that's nice.

And then he said, oh hey, does Patrick do the reading thing at home?

And I misunderstood and said, yeah, sure he reads at home.

And he said, no, the thing where he reads upside down?

So I said huh?

And he said, "Patrick's problem is that he reads too fast and then he misses stuff. When they read aloud the other kids are always, like, Patrick SLOW DOWN because no one can understand him. So I have been trying to get him to figure out how to slow himself down and the other day he flipped the book upside down and read it that way. His comprehension seems to be better and he's much easier to understand when he reads aloud. Of course he can't do that with a computer screen but for the MAP test today he twisted his head sideways."

I said well that's... "interesting" at the same time the teacher finished the sentence with "weird" and we laughed and he said all that matters is that it works for him and then I got Patrick and we left. 

Practical encouragement toward creative problem solving coupled with total acceptance of differences = why I love this class so much.  

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There is nothing particularly memorable about this photograph (I mean, you can get a good idea of their relative sizes and you can see the back of Caroline's bob which I adore but which is already growing out because Steve's gypsy blood converts Cheerios into keratin at previously unrecorded speeds) except it is the last known sighting of Little Red Car. See it in Edward's hand there? Yeah well it's missing and it's been missing for over a week and OH MY GOD HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CAR PLEASE?

Every. Single. Day. Edward wakes up and says, "Find little red car?"

Every night before bed he cries, "LITTLE RED CAR!!!!" up and down a hellish scale. It's become a euphemism for general peevishness. Edward will realize that he is not as happy as he might possibly be at a given moment so he opens his mouth and says, "Little red car!"

Caroline walks around the house saying, "Little red caaaar where are youuuuuuu?"

I offered Patrick an insanely generous bounty for it but he has yet to locate it. It's driving me a little crazy. I don't think it left the house. I hope (although I fear this might be the case) that no one tossed it into the trash. Steve said last night that it is probably behind a piece of furniture or in a bin or something and we'll find it when we are old and moving into a home. So I congratulated him on being simultaneously useless and horribly depressing and continued to look under the stove with a flashlight.

For reference I have no idea where this car came from and no way to track down another. It looks like a birthday party goody bag item, frankly, and why Edward chose this among all God's vehicles with which to form a forever bond I have no idea but there it is. Edward has loved and lost and he is now driving the family mad with his grief. It's like Hamlet around here.

On the topic of children and their odd attachments Caroline has developed a passion for a little yellow towel/ cleaning rag from Sam's Club that she calls Towelie.

"Oh TOWELIE," she breathes, "I'm so proud of you!" or "Towelie? Do you want to take a little swim?" she asks lovingly before dropping it in the tub.

I'm just glad I have a box of the damned things although Steve keeps muttering something about South Park (me, I don't do South Park) and my mother wondered if I have differentiated her collection of Towelies from the ones we use to scrub the stove. Oh, I said. Huh.

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Finally please help me. Caroline has turned Houdini nudist and I am losing my mind. I had to put her clothes and diaper back on her THREE TIMES yesterday in the time it took me to find and put on Edward's shoes. Clearly she thinks it is funny and that she is very clever and yes yes fine but it is forty degrees here and she has yet to ever successfully use the potty at all. Ever. In fact just yesterday she sat for almost an hour while I read stories then she stood up and walked a few steps and peed on the rug. I think she wants to do it but she cannot quite figure out the mechanics of it and I have no idea how to teach her. I have read a few guides and websites and an e-book that Carla was nice enough to send me a million years ago when I first started talking about it but they all seem to center around a notion that the kid might get it right every once in a while and then you, like, build on that success. Meanwhile she is turning blue and leaving puddles like a spaniel and don't even get me started on the great nap and bedtime strip routines which involve my least favorite thing in the entire world (changing crib sheets) and soggy stuffed animals who get carried off the battlefield to the accompaniment of keening as they head off to the laundry.

I have had some limited success with safety pins and duct tape. Two feet of duct tape wrapped all the way around the waist of her diaper seems to (usually) keep it in place. A jumbo sleep suit turned backwards with the zipper safety pinned in place also helps overnight but I freely admit that these are not great solutions. We are, I hope, a tolerant and broad-minded family and if Caroline prefers to run around in the buff all the time I am fine with that provided a) it is warm enough and b) it does not add significantly to the amount of upholstery cleaning I have to do on a given day.

I'll take any advice you have to offer from patented diaper cinching methods to behavior modification techniques. My asking her (nicely/firmly/frantically) to keep her clothes on or use the potty does not seem to be working and I'm fresh out of ideas.   

PS You know what's funny is that I can remember agonizing over Patrick and potty training and it was this complete ordeal but it eventually worked itself out and even while I know this logically I cannot feel anything other than hopeless as Caroline races by like a naked pink elf for the millionth time. She's never going to use the bathroom and she's never going to wear clothes again. I just know it.


Patrick Calls Leftovers Used Food

Caroline and Edward have not been sick in months, which is like five millennia in toddler years. So I was neither surprised nor distressed when Edward started snuffling and then Caroline got all whuffly and now they both have full-blown streaming colds. The Generals were due. Fortunately - for me; fat lot of good it does the twinkles - I got a post-flu sinus infection last Fall that was so awful and lingering that I finally listened to you about the neti pot and I am now a crazy-eyed convert who breathes freely and easily while those around me gunk up the place.

Seriously. If you are not using a neti pot you are a fool. A fool, I tell you. Sure it's kinda weird and gross and I worried that it would be like inhaling pool water after a bad dive but after years of feeling like I was perpetually a little runny I am now the center of sinus envy by all and sundry. I got mine at Walgreens and it cost like $0.95 and it came with some alkaline packets and it works like a dream and I am very very grateful to those of you who nudged me in this direction.

However, some of us are not big enough to irrigate yet so we've got this today

IMG_9550

I know I am his mother but I think Edward is SO PRETTY even when he feels like death. He's got some golden era movie star thing going on but I can never decide if it's the 20s 30s or 50s. Anyway poor Edward always gets so much sicker than Caroline although you would not know it from her behavior. Like her father she tends to cosset herself at the first sign of illness.

First she made a bed for herself on the couch

IMG_9554

the she took to it.

"Poor Caroline," she kept saying while she lolled under the blanket and grinned at me. Meanwhile Edward had to lean over and rest his cheek against my foot at one point because he was too weak to push a Matchbox car. 

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The tramampoline. Even when you all say different things I find it helpful. In the case of the Super Fun Bone Breaker Family Togetherness Spinal Injury BestWorst Gift Ever I read all of your thoughts and we were able to make an informed indecision. Our insurance company said it would not affect either our home owners' or our personal liability policy (called an umbrella policy if you're into that sort of thing) provided the trampoline has a safety net and provided our house is not within 1000 feet of another house in the absence of a fence or provided there is no visibility or access from either the road or the neighbors. So they were cool with it. Steve and I talked about it while we took Caroline and Edward for a walk this morning. Steve is inclined to say hell no. I am inclined to say yes with the caveat that I am only interested in the springfree trampoline a few of you mentioned and there would have to be a one person, no somersault rule in effect. Yeah I know you all just said suuuuuuuure that will happen with kids but you'd be amazed at just how hypercontrolling and hovering I can be when I put my mind to it. Or maybe you wouldn't.

Anyway we're still thinking about it. I looked at bounce houses as a compromise but you have to keep taking them down all the time and they don't seem to last very long; ditto big inflatable waterslides. I asked Steve what he thought a good outdoor childhood activity gift might be and he said "dirt bike!" so he is clearly no help.

Someone in the comments (I forget who, sorry) pointed out the absurdity of juxtaposing Patrick's coordination issues with contemplating a bouncy death trap and I laughed when I read it because when you put it THAT way it does sound a little odd but the two things are related. I am trying to come up with fun ways for Patrick to practice using his body in conjunction with physical therapy and (I hope) eventual OT and a trampoline... safety issues aside... seems like a great way to do just that. We'll see. Steve seemed pretty unenthusiastic and he generally gets his way in the end. I am open to other suggestions. I mean open to other normal suggestions - not dirt bikes. For Patrick. Talk about absurd. He likes to hike and he likes to run but he might need to be encouraged in other directions. Any ideas on fun things you can play with outside that won't cause orthopedists to click their tongues at me?

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Sorry. This whole post is running like a boarding house hash of the last post but you had so much to say and I have so much to say back and...

Clothes. One of the best suggestions I got was from Jennie who recommended a site called My Shape. The set up is a big pain because they take a million footling measurements (I dragged Steve out of bed to come measure me and when I got to the distance between my shoulder blades he was, like, OH MY GOD ENOUGH) but once they get all of your dimensions they (claim) to only show you things that (allegedly) flatter your shape and they have a thing called sizeless dressing where you find something you like and add it to your cart without a size because they will pick what will fit you based upon your measurements. Granted I thought many many many of the garments were... not to my taste... but I found a goodly handful of things that were quite fetching.

So I thought I would pass it along.

Oh! And if you go and you see stuff you want to buy email me first and I will send you a referral from my login and then we will both get a $25 credit. This isn't one of those weird bloggy things, by the way, like when a company pays a blog to introduce them to young ladies of refinement for temporary companionship or tries to get a mommy blogger to sell you a car by letting her drive one for a month. It's just like if we were neighbors and I told you about it. My Shape doesn't know me from Adam Ant.

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What else?

Oh right.

MAYDAY!

Patrick and I are within five tracks of finishing the Septimus Heap series on CD (the series so far that is) and I need more recorded books suggestions. I don't remember what you said last time or even what post it was on. If I was more organized I would gather all these suggestions into a centralized place so we could access them easily but I am not. Or I am not yet. Maybe in the future.

I had planned on starting Percy Jackson next but I think I might save that for our cross-county trip in June. Personally I am listening to Bill Bryson on Shakespeare but I need something that Patrick and I will both enjoy. We have only done Horatio Hiccup and the Heap books so far so I suspect there are a lot of possibilities. I'd love suggestions. I had no idea how much pleasure I would get from these audiobooks but it is really a highlight of my day, definitely the sanity protector for my drive and Patrick and I have bonded like crazy over Septimus.

"Oh HA HA" Patrick says like a young Sloan Ranger or "That is your wish? You wish for me to not call you stupid?"

Love it.

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This thirty second video of Caroline and Edward is basically a punchline but I thought it was funny. I call it "Hey Ed-wad... fetch!"


AH HA! I have escaped typepad and am trying Vimeo to get this damned video up. It's probably not worth it but the password is "fetch".

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I got an email from a woman I like and respect a great deal who mentioned how impressed she is by the quality of collective advice you guys are generous enough to offer and who hoped you might be able to help her with a school dilemma she and her daughter are having. I promised to ask you.

She says:

My daughter is finishing up first grade. It has been a difficult year for her with some playground bullies, not having many good friends among the girls, and not doing very well academically. Between a very small preschool experience and being diagnosed with bilateral mild to moderate hearing loss just before kindergarten, she comes across as more immature than the other kids and needs much more direction from the teacher. She's a bright girl and very social but for whatever reason she just hasn't seemed to click with the other kids. We have plans in place for the summer and I think she will get almost fully caught up this summer in that aspect. But I'm wondering if we should hold her back in first grade. It's a very small school and doing so will be very noticeable to her peers. Do the pros outweigh the possible social cons?

Any thoughts for her?

PS Ollie is under Featured Readers. He was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and he was delightful and gorgeous and he died before his first birthday. His family could use prayers/good thoughts right now as his baby brother and sister were just born very early and the nicest thing we could do for them in addition to sending positive whatsits is to educate ourselves and others about SMA. Thank you.