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July 2010

Aposiopesis

Steve and I took the children to the pool yesterday. After careful consideration I think that going to the pool is my very least favorite thing to do with the kids. Worse even than accidentally dining at a nice restaurant or traveling with a layover at JFK. It has all of the stress of a normal family outing - random shrieking, mad dashes in opposite directions, FTS (floppy toddler syndrome)... plus water.

We've got Caroline who pulls herself up and out of the pool ad infintum only to immediately jump back in whether someone is there to catch her or not. The bad news is she cannot swim; the good news is she is really good at holding her breath. Then there is Edward who just wants to secure dominion over all of the pool toys. With Edward I am seeing first-hand how empire builders go awry because, ok, sure, Eddybear, you can have most of Spain and parts of northern Africa and, fine, Belgium but Russia, Edward? Really? If Edward was simply playing with a watering can I doubt anyone would challenge him. But when he gathers everything he can reach into his  arms and then starts trying to shove more stuff under his meaty thighs - it is going to cause a parental inquiry and a subsequent reallocation of ill-gotten ducks. Patrick, meanwhile, is fine as long as the water slide is open but once they close it (as they inevitably do) he finds that he has nothing better to do with himself than point out to Edward all of the toys he doesn't have (wah wah) or tell Caroline he'll catch her if she jumps and then he'll get distracted and paddle away as she is mid-leap. Not. Cool. Finally, trying to get all three kids dried off and back into their clothes while preventing them from slipping on the wet floors and cracking their heads open is a twelve man job for which we are clearly about twelve men short.

I watched another family at the pool a week ago. The Patrick aged kid climbed the stairs to the slide, waited her turn and then whooshed down while her mother and sister waited patiently at the bottom. It was the sister who fascinated me. She must have been about Caroline and Edward's age and she just... sat there. Waiting. Smiling. Clapping when her sister came down the slide. Meanwhile Caroline and Edward were going completely around the twist. As Patrick went down the slide Steve and I had to physically restrain the twinkles. They screamed and cried and thrashed and begged to go down the slide too, or back into the other pool, or over there or aaaiiiiiiieeeeeeeee aaaiiiiiieeeeeee aiiiiii... well you know. The pleasant child's mother gave me a look of sympathy. I expect it's the same look that the person in charge of the iguanas gives the howler monkey keeper when they meet at the zoo canteen.

I kinda hate the pool (how do you people with your own pools keep your toddlers from killing themselves? it seems unfathomable to me) so I keep trying to go all Meet Me in St Louis and fob the children off on the joys of our own front yard. Patrick has been quite helpful in this and with the aid of about a quarter mile's worth of garden hose and a few splitters, he and his friends created a waterpark (Sassyland Wet and Wild Thrillpark - he suggested we might need more parking; I told him to wait until we get an initial crowd count and then we can reassess the venue) using the swing set and a couple of sprinklers.

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When Edward isn't fooling around with the system the hoses shoot water down onto the slides and it works surprisingly well. Muddy, my god, there are no words to describe how dirty they get and Steve keeps making dark prophecies about sinkholes but it's fun and - according to Patrick who seems to have read every travel plaza sign between here and Vermont - Buses Welcome.

Caroline and Edward were accepted today into the toddler preschool class that starts in September. I always have a hard time with change (I worry about everything. Choking, mainly, and bear attacks) but for the most part I am excited. I think it will be fun for them (well, that is what I think when I am not thinking that they will be suicidal with the grief of missing me) and I like that it is a class just for two year olds. Caroline and Edward have their weaknesses but they are both extremely good at being two, so it should work out beautifully.

At the Y Caroline ran up to the short counter as I handed our membership cards to the woman behind the desk.

"I'm Caroline," she said.

The woman said, "You're who?" and looking at the cards said, "Oh! Caroline! Hello!"

Caroline said, "I'm going to the pool! Won't that be fun?"

And the woman said yes, yes it would be fun.

Patrick prodded Edward forward as well.

"Edward can you tell her what you name is?" he prompted. Then he said, "Oh! Did I give too much away?"

Caroline frowned at Patrick, patted Edward and said to the woman, very formally, "Thank you." Then "Come on Edward," and he came.

They've been getting a little more twin-y lately.

At breakfast they sit across from each other and have some version of the following conversation:

Edward: [Observation]

Caroline: That's pretty stupid.

Edward: No Cayayine! Sep out! Not soopit! Comkal!

Which just goes to show that Caroline has absorbed Patrick's second-grade vocabulary while Edward has taken to heart our attempts to modify the same with a wide-range of possible adjectives (that's... funny! ridiculous! hilarious! comical!) Caroline has countered with: that's really... stupid; that's pretty... stupid; that's kinda... stupid.

If you can't tell, we seem to be losing at word games.

Oh and I have no idea where he got "step out" as a reprimand but he accompanies it with the extended palm of negation. For some reason it always makes me think of James Brown: push with the palm "Step out!" heels up "Yow!" and spin.

But the twin thing. She gave him a hug the other day. 

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He helped her push a heavy chair over so she could climb onto a new table and investigate a new lamp while he played lookout. Granted he was looking in the wrong direction but it's always hard to get good henchmen.

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And he not only let her ride his pushcar, he drove.

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It's possible they are growing fond of each other.

Patrick qualified for OT and started something called IM two weeks ago, which is... OK, I really don't know what it is. It has the word "metronome" in it and it involves him patting his right hip and tapping his left toe 500 times and then switching to his left hip and his right toe. This is REALLY REALLY difficult for him and he hates it, mostly, but to his credit he is working very hard and making fairly remarkable progress. Last week he was toward the bottom with the IM stuff, this week he hit the average range. I have gotten used to Patrick picking up on things (most things) pretty quickly and sometimes I do not give him enough credit for it. Patrick was in the bottom percentile for speech at two and a half but by three he was around the ninetieth. Every week he would master a new skill and then he was done. At the time I was, like, good, fine, ok, that was easy, but in retrospect he's pretty amazing. Watching Edward's more leisurely progress in speech has been an introduction to normal, which is fine but I find I have needed to adjust my expectations. I had assumed that Edward would be done by the end of the summer but the fact that he still drops final consonants when he strings words into sentences makes him an interesting conversationalist, to say the least, and I don't see him graduating from speech any time soon. In fact, I have asked about moving him back to twice a week because he seems to have plateaued. 

I just got my final final deadline for my article and between now and then Patrick and Edward have three therapy sessions between them, Steve has two meetings, we're having a little dinner party and we are driving to Colorado. This would be cause for moderate concern but additionally I just realized that I had misunderstood how they wanted the intro written, so it will need to be completely re-written. I am so screwed. Excuse the abrupt departure but I need to go breathe into a paper bag and then maybe throw up a few times.

A propos of nothing and assuming I survive: what is the best book you've read this summer?

PS Whoops. I was so busy freaking out I forgot to tell you what my favorite book of the summer has been. Um, it was not Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief although I will acknowledge that it was better when I started reading it than listening to the recorded books version. The voice actor we heard just seemed to emphasize the less than stellar writing with weird pauses and odd inflections. "Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"? Did I read that this summer or was it more late spring? Regardless I liked it.


Twit

I have had more than my fair share of D&Cs so I thought I knew what to expect with my procedure. I mean it's all the same general area, right? There is the slow and pleasant slide into unconsciousness, the warm air blanket afterward that lets you know what ice cream feels like after fudge is poured all over it, the fact that I was just getting some stitches and there was no emotional baggage or loss involved... frankly I was looking forward to it. I didn't expect to wake up in pain - feeling like my tender bits had been stung by a million hornets - and I didn't expect to have them manage the pain with multiple doses of fentanyl which is a kickass opiate that left me completely looped. I was in too much pain to sleep but too drugged to do anything but sleep. A murky half-world of disorientation and discomfort - I don't recommend it. 

Eventually they got it sorted out and I was merely dopey and sore so my friend Noelle got me into my underwear and into her car and into my bed again. She's a good friend. I discovered this morning that I have a slow leak (one of the stitches pulled out) but apart from that I feel ok.

Thank you so much for the reassurance about sending Caroline and Edward to the Y preschool in the Fall and thank you even more for resisting the urge to beat me over the head with my own clumsiness. I should have taken more care over my phrasing when I asked about school for them - thank you for the gentleness of your responses. I read them and stiffened my backbone and mailed in my application. So, yes, they will enjoy it and, yes, it will be good for them to get out and, yes, they will build new skills and, yes, it is ok for me to want a break from them. As always any neuroses expressed are solely those of the management - now I just worry that they won't have two spaces open in the two year old class. Steve said, "What if the only have o.." and I said, "CAROLINE!" but I don't think it will come to that.

I have been trying to get an article done for the past couple of weeks (every time I think I am finished some new problem arises) and between the twins (if Caroline naps she stays up until 11; if Caroline does not nap she is my shadow for twelve straight hours) and Patrick

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who keeps saying we wouldn't even notice if he DIED and was DEAD I am feeling a little martyred.

Speaking of this article I have one last favor/request/plea. I need to interview a some single moms who share a house. Do you know anyone? Know anyone who knows anyone? You guys were so terrific with the co-housing and intentional communities that I have my fingers crossed you might know a couple (or three) enterprising single mothers. Please?       

PS I couldn't get any more photos to post on the last one because typepad is sometimes very finicky about getting files up but here are two more from the other day:

Edward is holding her head still like he does face-painting for a living

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and this is the finished masterpiece

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Sorry to be brief and woogy. Lemme know about the single moms, please. I am feeling a choking sense of panic.


Vortextual

My aunt and uncle were in town last week for a balalaika/domra convention and they came to visit one night bearing gifts and Ukrainian food. My side of the family is English and Irish and my uncle, last I checked, is a Swede but apparently we all like stringed instruments and pickles and horseradish and we had a great time. I especially enjoyed catching up with my uncle who is an historian and a folklorist and the de facto repository of all matters genealogical for the family.

I picked up some new trivia about my grandmother's family that I think is common knowledge but I had somehow missed, like the fact that the two families emigrated together from County Antrim and settled together in Cherokee County and the two great-grandfathers fought in the same company during the Civil War (pick a side) and then the one's son married the other's daughter and they had four children: John, Nonie, Arizona and Dove. I am more grateful than I can say that I was never aware of G-G-Aunt Dove because I can guarantee you Steve would have been all over that name for Caroline. It was all I could do to pry him away from Arizona. I can just imagine the twins, Dove and Drake. Yibbity.

On Saturday the conventioneers gave a performance at the University concert hall and Patrick and I attended. It was a good concert and... actually, I had the weirdest thing happen and I am still perseverating over it so I might as well tell you about it and then you can tell me what you would have done and I can get over it. The concert was mostly sold out with general seating. Patrick likes to be close to the front so we were about six rows back and six seats in from the aisle. It was a long first half and after almost two hours Patrick whispered that he had to go to the bathroom. I asked if he could wait and he said no so I sighed and waited until the song was over and then muttered my embarrassed apologies as we climbed over the four people between us and the aisle. Patrick went to the bathroom, we returned to the theater doors and waited for the piece to be over so the usher could let us back in. Then we waited at the back of the theater for the next piece to be done. I didn't want to disturb the people in the row we had been sitting in before, so I looked to see if there were open seats available anywhere on the aisle. There were, in the front two rows. So in the next lull between pieces Patrick and I went to the front of the theater, only to discover that the front two rows had a sign saying No Seating, Reserved. So I looked around and saw four empty seats in the middle of the third row and I did the whispered grimace pointy thing to let the two women seated on the aisle know that we wanted to get past them to the empty seats. And they shook their heads NO. No! I'm still shocked. Who says no?

So Patrick and I were standing in the front of the theater as the next performance began and I was mortified (ha! right there embarrassment vs shame) and I looked frantically around the theater but couldn't find two seats together until finally this very nice man stood up so we could sit behind the women who refused to let us pass. I spent the rest of the act glaring at the back of their heads. My brother says I should have just smiled as brightly as possible and plowed over their feet into the empty seats. I think this is a pretty good idea but I was too surprised to think of it. What would you have done?

Then intermission came and the stage manager announced that they would not be letting us out of the theater into the lobby because we were safest where we were, thank you. And Patrick said, "WHAT? Do they mean tornadoes?" and I thought about it and said, yes, that is probably exactly what they do mean. And Patrick said, "And I am missing it? Do you know that I am eight years old and I still have never seen an actual tornado?"

Eventually they let us into the lobby and we watched the storm through the giant windows. I called Steve who checked the radar (in a future life Steve will be a meteorologist, probably called Drake Starr but that's just a guess. oh! maybe he'll come back as a woman! then he could be Dove Morning) and Steve assured me that although the storm was severe it was thin and passing. So we could wait ten minutes and it should be ok to drive home. Patrick and I waited fifteen, decided the rain was letting up and left.

As soon as I turned on to the interstate I knew I had made a giant mistake. It was raining so hard I couldn't see and there was lightning everywhere and the tires kept slipping every time I hit a new pocket of standing water. I probably should have just gotten off the damned highway but it felt safer to just keep going in a straight line so I drove 35 mph with white knuckles and the whole time Patrick regaled me with tornado facts, like how far they can toss a car or what the highest recorded wind speed is.

It wasn't the greatest date I ever had. 

+

Tomorrow I am having surgery to remove a Bartholin gland cyst. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that the Bartholin glands were first described by Danish anatomist Caspar Bartholin the Elder. In fact it was his grandson Caspar Bartholin the Younger. A common mistake.

I have had this cyst for the past seven years and I kept suggesting we get rid of it and my OB/Gyn kept saying it wasn't bothering me so we shouldn't bother it. Finally this past Spring at my annual exam she acknowledged that it probably needed to go since it was beginning to increase rapidly in size. I, naively, thought she could just... do something about it while I was there and she laughed and said it's the bloodiest procedure she does so it gets done at the hospital. 

She said it was a pity she didn't take it out while I was delivering Caroline and Edward and I said yeah I guess so. To this day I still shake my head over how I could have wound up so confused about my delivery options when I was seeing them practically every day. As you might recall, Caroline spent about two months head down and ready to go. Edward was sideways. As I got closer to having the babies I knew I was going to deliver in the OR because they wanted to be ready in case they had to do an emergency C-section. I thought we had two options: either baby B would flip head down after baby A had exited and we would have him vaginally; or baby B would do anything else and I would have a c-section.

I was shocked when baby B descended bottom first and my OB sat there looking at me expectantly, like, ok, go for it! Go for what? Who has ever heard of delivering a baby butt first? Well, you maybe, but I hadn't. I thought she was crazy but it didn't seem like a great time to discuss it. Nor did it seem like an appropriate moment to mention the old Bartholin cyst as she made the split-second decision to help things out with a massive episiotomy although in retrospect... anyway, tomorrow I am having a procedure.


+

Edward and Caroline were waiting for dinner and slamming their forks into the dining room table.

"Caroline! Edward! No!" I said. "No banging! I'm coming."

So Patrick - whose need for attention exists in inverse proportion to our ability to give it to him - started gouging the table with his fork too.

I said, not nicely, "PATRICK! FOR THE... STOP IT! STOP IT!"

Patrick said, "But Caroline and Edward were doing it... ."

And I snapped, "You're eight! They're two!"

Which is when Caroline slapped her hands on the table and bellowed, "I'm TWO AND A HALF!" and glared at me.

We laughed but I made a mental note to try to not sound so shrill. It's hard not to wince when you hear your shrieky shrieking echoing back at you.

+

Speaking of two and a half Edward starts most sentences with the word "no". We still do this:

Me: Edward may I have a...

Edward: No kissth! No haugh! No I lob you!

Recently I was on the phone with my mother as Edward was telling me about the things he saw in a book.

"A dog!" he said.

"Do you like dogs?" asked my mom.

"Yes," he whispered.

"Can you say 'yes I do'?" I asked and moved the phone closer to him.

"No yes I do," said Edward firmly.

+

It is possible I was gone from the room for longer than two minutes. Maybe it was five. But when I left Caroline and Edward were painting their usual pictures (Caroline pouring water over the entire page and then smacking it with her hands; Edward doing careful brush strokes in every color.) When I returned they had moved on to performance art

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Caroline stretched out like a canvas and Edward painting her all over.

The plan has been for them to start at Patrick's old preschool in September. Technically they are not allowed until they are 33 months but the director had agreed to ask the county for an exception and I was very excited that they were going to start doing something pretty soon. Unfortunately the more I thought about it and the closer we got to Labor Day the more I realized they aren't quite ready yet. Not only is Edward potty averse, they are just.. young. I have a hard time visualizing them hanging out with the 3s and the 4s or even some 5s in a mixed age class. I think they'd be more trouble than they're worth, bumbling around like a couple of fireflies in a coffee can and looking blank when it was time to start gluing autumn leaves to construction paper. So I called the school today and said we're going to wait a bit. She said they had some families on the waiting list and I'm glad that will work out and we'll sign them up next year.

The problem is that I am now left with 14 months until Caroline and Edward can start preschool there and (see above and the home tattoo work) I think they are ready to do SOMETHING.

I just inadvertently re-discovered that our Y has a preschool and it has a two year old class and the class has vacancies for the Fall. It would be two days a week, from 9 until 2. They would eat lunch there and take a nap and the rest of the time they'd do... stuff. What do you think? It sounds like a lot to me - like a long day - but I tend to hover so I could use an outside opinion or several.


We Went To The Zoo Zoo Zoo

I got Edward up yesterday morning and even though it was almost nine he was still very sleepy. I left him on the couch while I went to make his breakfast. You know, I have a whole new respect for the posted breakfast hours of a B&B - getting Caroline and Edward and Patrick to all eat at the same time each morning requires a militancy I clearly do not possess. Patrick is more of a bruncher - he doesn't really want to eat until he's been awake for a couple of hours. I sympathize with this. Caroline is a vole - she likes to eat a bit and then a bit of something else fifteen minutes later and then a tiny bit more fifteen minutes after that. Edward, meanwhile, will open his eyes and ask, "Eat uh yiddle sumpching?" and by a yiddle he means three bowls of oatmeal and two cartons of yogurt and a banana and maybe some Cheerios and then a piece of toast and half a pound of grapes.

Where was I? Oh right. Edward was sleepy so I left him on the couch while I went to get his full English and when I returned I found this

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there was something so sweet about his chunky little boy frame tucked into the fetal position - toes folded inward and all. 

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On a more or less daily basis the thing I feel most guilty* about is how infrequently I do anything interesting with Caroline and Edward. I mean we do things but we generally do them at home. A big week for us involves the library. So our recent car trips have been a revelation to them. Like, so the whole time we've been home getting excited when you break out the watercolors there has been all this STUFF out here?

And I'm like well uh yeah I guess so hey you want to make some play dough? I'll add food coloring! And Caroline and Edward try to jimmy open a window

So (when I am not freaking out about this article - thank you so much for the commune help; you were absolutely invaluable) I have been trying to get out more and as a result today the whole family went to the zoo.

Edward saw a tiger.

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First Patrick feigned disinterest

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then he recruited Caroline and staged a sit-in.

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There was a slightly scary bear

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which prompted a reassuring hug

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and an even more reassuring Snoopy-esque kiss

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Holy cats (I say holy cats! so Caroline and Edward say holy cats! and every time they do it Patrick looks at me accusingly as says, "Now look what you've done." Patrick disapproves of my meaningless slang) but holy cats! could that picture be any cuter?  

Halfway to the zoo I realized that we had forgotten the stroller and I thought OH DAMN IT. The zoo is big. Caroline and Edward are little. I had visions of them making it about twenty feet before we had to carry them from exhibit to exhibit in the blazing sun. Steve said it would be fine. Patrick said we should just forget about the whole thing and turn the car around. I was inclined to agree with Patrick but Steve's set face and palpable disdain at my neurotic conviction that unrestrained two year olds are 500% more likely to be eaten by tigers won the day. So we drove and I fretted and when I got there I discovered that the zoo rents double strollers for $7.

SOLD!

This reminds me of an interaction we had at Tyler Place. Another couple there had twins who are about two weeks younger than Caroline and Edward. We saw them one day as we were all heading toward the Toddler Playhouse. Caroline and Edward were in their stroller; the other twins were poking along under their own steam. The father with whom we had spoken a few times came over and peered at Caroline and Edward.

"Well well well," he said. "So these two are the same age as ours, eh?"

Then he said, "They look so much more... constrained."

And I said, "Ah."

And he said, "Huh."

And a bicyclist swerved to avoid his daughter who was spread-eagle on the road and we strolled on and he went to talk her through the next ten feet. 

I have spent the past four weeks coming up with witty rejoinders as to why I preferred to make the mile walk from our cabin to the toddler playhouse with Caroline and Edward securely stowed in a locked and upright position but too late, alas.

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*Guilt. I mean I feel most guilty about this in the narrow confines of parenting. After I typed it I wondered what I feel most guilty about, in my entire life, period, and the subsequent mental gymnastics I performed to answer this question amused me.

"Oh I know!" I would think. "I feel really guilty about that time I got caught making fun of that woman in college who cited Yom Kippur when she publicly forgave me for having been mean to her boyfriend who had been my boyfriend, like, three years earlier."

But then I would think about it some more and I realized that it wasn't guilt I was feeling; it was embarrassment. I was embarrassed that she was standing directly behind me as I gave a fairly deadly impersonation of her but I don't really feel guilty about it. I still think she was being ridiculous. This kept happening. I kept remembering things and then I would confuse feeling guilty about them with being really really embarrassed. I wondered why until I realized that both emotions are founded in shame; one is just more vinegary. 

Ultimately I decided that the thing I feel most guilty about is being horrible to a guy named Ed who tried very hard to help me as I was busy trying to drown myself in alcohol during law school. The nicer he was the more I took advantage of him and the lower I sank and I feel terrible about it to this day. I almost want to Facebook him but that would involve Facebook (which I do not do) and a message that would start like something from the AA forgiveness speech (which would be misleading.) I don't know. Maybe I should track him down. What did Nora Ephron decide was the statue of limitations on apologies?

As for embarrassment I have no idea why it stays so scorching no matter how much time has elapsed. Seriously, why is that? I can remember how it felt to be hopelessly in love with any number of people when I was 16 but I certainly am no longer in love with any of them. Why do I still feel just as embarrassed now about completely misunderstanding what that one guy was trying to tell me (ohhhh THAT kind of coke. and that kind of gay - uh, wow) as I did at the time?

What do you think? What keeps its emotional freshness for you? Anger? Affection? I still say embarrassment trumps all but I'm willing to hear other takers. What's still keeping you cringing or moaning or clenching your fists years later?


Shameless

Hi! Hello! How are you? Good? Good.

So usually I would at least make an effort to tell you a story before begging for help but I don't have time to observe the niceties, please forgive me. About a year ago I started to work on an article (and you helped me. I probably even talked to you about it; thank you) and then it sort of languished and to be honest for the past six months I thought it was deader than the jitterbug. Then yesterday I got an email saying it was actually quite alive but in need of some significant changes and the long and the short of it is... I need to talk to someone who lives in/on a commune and is willing to share their thoughts about great it is.

Please! Do you know anybody? Know anybody who knows anybody? Know of a blog or... or anything? I am desperate and will gratefully grovel for any help you can offer. Please, if you can think of anything, leave me a comment or email me any leads you come up, no matter how weak or odd or fifth person-y. Thank you! I'll make it up to you.