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June 2011

Travels With Patrick V.1.a - c

I.

(Somewhere underneath Dupont Circle or maybe Metro Center)

Patrick: Do you realize I have never been on a subway before? You must be consumed with guilt.

Me:

II.

(Confronted with a pool of melting ice cream on Connecticut Avenue)

Me: Oh, hey, watch your step.

Patrick: Where? What? Huh? OH!

Me: Keep going.

Patrick: (bent over with his nose to the pavement) But I want to.. what is that?

Me: Once upon a time someone dropped some ice cream on the sidewalk and it melted. The end.

Patrick: (long pause)

Patrick: That is really a tragic story.

III

I regret not bringing his baby book (note to self: start baby book for Caroline. also, Edward) because my little superspecial had so many firsts today.

First time on a subway.

First time eating food from a vendor (Patrick "Is this food... legal?")

First time watching rescue vehicles simultaneously en route to different emergencies.

First eye-witness of a burglary in progress (guy [A] raced by us clutching six jugs of Tide. CVS employee [B] ran after him. CVS manager [C] jogged after the employee. B completed flying tackle on A who sent Tide bottles clattering skyward. Patrick and I jumped into the street. C said, "Oh %$#@, oh *&^%." Patrick said, "Is this sort of thing usual in Washington?" 

We went to the Washington Monument, the National Gallery, the American History museum, the Natural History museum, the Building Museum, the real Smithsonian (what is it called? the Castle?) and... something else. Oh right. Of course. Air and Space. We saw the IMAX Tornado movie which was exciting because this is Patrick's passion right now (tornadoes; he loves them - and yes one touched down while I was at the library but it was north of me by at least five miles) and we saw a planetarium show on cosmic collisions that Patrick snorted his way through in its entirety. The movie (according to Patrick) kept saying that x or y was fact when apparently (according to Patrick) there is still much debate on the various subjects. Anyway, Patrick got sort of heated and chatty which brings me to my holier than thou (not THOU of course because I am sure you would never but... the other thou's) moment.

I feel pretty strongly about the fact that children belong in the public sphere. They belong in libraries; they belong in restaurants; they belong on airplanes and they belong in movie theaters (within reason.) That said, I feel even more strongly that the reason that children should be permitted to hang out with people who neither know nor love them is because that is the best way for them to learn how to behave in public. The cardinal rule being: Never Disturb Other People in a Public Space. And it is pretty simple. If you are loud, if you are out of your seat, if your feet are anywhere other than the floor, if you walk to the left side of the staircase, if you try to go down when the sign says go up... you get gently - perhaps even lovingly - corrected. And if you do not respond to that initial warning, you get removed. Period.

My two pet peeves of the day were: the group of four 50-somethings who thought they were adorable every time they shouted out witticisms during the planetarium show (really? take me to your leader? for shame. if my 9 year old had behaved like that he would have found himself in the hallway in about half a second;) and the woman with two children whose entire family chatted their way through the tornado movie. Holy cats lady shut the fuck up. Yeah, I get it, your son was really excited to discuss what he was seeing. Mine was vibrating like a newt which was why I had to repeatedly hiss "Later!" in his ear before clapping my hand over his mouth. Not. Appropriate.

For Patrick's birthday we got him his own camera, presented three days early to take advantage of DC. He was pleased.

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I said: Oh, that's a nice picture of the bridge.

He said: Thanks but to me it is an interesting picture of graffiti (zoom in- look right- imagine Patrick talking about the color red.)

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Patrick: We should live here.

Me: You don't find it a little dark and creepy?

Patrick: Not really. It'd be like... like.. oh YOU know.

Me: No. I don't.

Patrick: That thing you sing.

Me: Oklahoma?

Patrick: No! The... the Phantom of Oprah.

Me: Ohhh. Oprah. Yeah.

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Patrick and I were pretty much dumbstruck by this one. It's a sculpture. That looks one-dimensional. Until you look closer and see that it has depth. And then you photograph it and... bam. It looks like a giclee cartoon on grass.

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He spent fifteen minutes taking this picture. It was a long time as far as I was concerned.

PS When I delicately brought up the idea that I might venture out tonight I discovered that my mother was less concerned that I was going to be murdered and more perplexed by the idea that a guest in her home would consider going out for the evening. Without her. Leaving my child and sneakers and an increasing pile of dirty laundry. Apparently I was not raised this way. Thus I went to dinner with Patrick and my mother and then watched Gnomeo and Juliet on TiVo until they both fell asleep and I started a blog post. Would I rather be at the 4Ps? No comment. But just so you know I didn't blow you off so much as I was grounded. My loss.

PPS MY GOD. I just re-read this and nothing I said about children and the great world applies to airplane travel. You just survive that, feet noise and all. And no, children should not just stay off airplanes entirely. How else would they ever meet great grandparents?


And The Living's Easy'ish

Yesterday Caroline and Edward had their first day of summer preschool. As anticipated Edward wrapped himself around my lungs and moaned, "Noooooo I don't yike summah precooool." If he had spent the early morning picking me wildflowers and tracing hearts onto my palm with his fat fingers I might have been moved to pity but in truth he had woken me up at six by flicking the back of my head and had not stopped complaining. After three hours of bitching at me I no longer care all that much what you do and or do not yike. It was only nine am and I was already sick to death of him. So I attempted to untangle him from my bra straps while explaining how! much! fun! it was going to be once I left and he said no no no no no. The teacher came over to introduce herself and asked who do we have here?

I said, "This is Edward."

Edward said, "No! I'm Evil Edward!" and then he uttered a decently villainous low-pitched Ha ha ha ha ha.

I said, "OK this is evil Edward" and the teacher started to make him a masking tape name tag. I added, "His twin is over there" and pointed at where Caroline had seated herself at the floam table.

The teacher looked up and said, "I'm sorry. That's who? His friend?"

And I said, "No his twin. His twin sister, Caroline, is there in the pink dress."

She said, "Oh! Right! The twins. Yes. I'll make a tag for her too."

I carried Edward over to the trains and took his foot out of my eye and was just sticking the name tag onto his shirt when I heard the teacher a few feet away saying, "Hi Caroline! I have a name tag here for you!"

I glanced over and saw her crouched in front of a little girl from their last class - who happens to be of Asian descent - and who was looking at the teacher in blank confusion. I called out, "Oh wait, no, that's Q! Caroline is over there! In pink. At the table."

You know, the, uh, caucasian one. 

Every time I think about it I start to giggle again. 

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Patrick turns nine on Saturday and he is taking his increasing age very seriously. He somehow wound up asleep in our bed the other day and when Edward rolled in before seven demanding breakfast it was Patrick who opened his eyes, heaved a sigh and said, "I got it, I got it."

He padded out of our room with Edward in his wake and I heard him offering to make Edward some frozen waffles. Steve and I looked at each other for one startled, highly gratified second and then rolled over and slept some more. It was awesome.

I thanked Patrick profusely an hour later and he shrugged and said, "Someone needs to get up around here and I am almost nine." How true. And he makes giant, durable bubbles with coat hangers and his own secret soap mix. What's not to like.

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Patrick and I are going to DC tomorrow; partly to visit family, partly to celebrate his birthday and partly because he wants more than anything to go to Manhattan but we have a free place to stay in Washington and I know the subway system. I grew up in the city so I have some ideas about what we are going to do (the Hirshhorn and Air & Space spring to mind) but it has been twenty years since I lived there and I expect a few things have changed. If you live in DC or have visited recently I'd love suggestions on things to do and see with a Patrick-type child (Likes: contemporary art, dwarf stars, large-scale commercial architecture; Dislikes: cultural history and humidity - yes I know; I didn't claim it was a perfect vacation plan.)

Oh hey and speaking of living in DC, leave a comment (or shoot an email) if you are interested in possibly getting together Thursday night somewhere near the zoo. I italicized that possibly because when I kinda sorta mentioned the idea to my mother she said, "You want to leave Patrick and me and go meet total strangers from the internet in a BAR?" and when she put it like that I said no no no of course not how absurd heavens no but really... yes. Yes I do. It has however been a long time since I've climbed out a window in order to keep a social obligation so... maybe. Let me know if you're around and interested though and we'll see what happens.

What else? Oh right. I'm in the library and I need a book to read on the plane. Nothing depressing. Any thoughts?

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Summertime.

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Holy cats. Tornado sirens going off all over the damned place. Just checked the radar with a nice older gentleman sitting next to me here at the library and we have concluded as a crack duo of amateur meteorologists that the sky "doesn't look good."

Think I'll go fetch the child from art camp.

Don't forget the books and DC, please.

Tornadoes scare the beejeezums out of me.


Something In The Air

Poor Edward. He's still 80% insane so I took him back to the pediatrician who confirmed that his ear continues to look terrible despite the two rounds of antibiotics. She asked if his nose had been leaking that green junk for weeks and I said why yes it has and she diagnosed a sinus infection. I mentioned that his older brother has been battling the same thing for months (he has a new one now) and she said some people are just structured that way. I supose this is true but it seems odd to me. Steve just had his first sinus infection a few weeks ago. I have started getting about one a year. And now Patrick and Edward have one (well, two. one each.) Do you suppose there can be an environmental factor? A miasma? I asked Steve if thought our house might have a mold problem and he looked like I had just suggested he carries a particularly unsavory venereal disease.

"I have been inside the walls of this house," he said and when I asked if he might have spilled a lemonade or something while he was in there he challenged me to a duel.

Hence the sling (don't worry, he just pinked my shoulder) and my promise to never speak of it again but I dunno... COINCIDENCE? I think not. And! As an extra data point I was talking to a neighbor the other day and he said that he had been getting horrible sinus infections for the first time in his sixty-odd years and that he heard another neighbor had almost been hospitalized with one. Steve pointed out that our respective houses are separated by a couple of miles and that my need to find patterns is indicative of a ill-formed mind but for the record we all share a creek valley. So there. Actually, seriously, you always collectively know everything, do you think it strange that both Edward and Patrick have incurable sinus infections and is there a way to test for... whatever it is?

I called the ENT to bring Patrick back for a recheck and mentioned that I would like to bring our younger son to see her as well. The receptionist told me that our ENT's first openings were July 5th and that she was at office A in the morning and office B in the afternoon. So I scheduled Patrick for 11 o'clock at office A and then said that I supposed I could bring Edward into office B that afternoon. There was a long pause and then the receptionist said, "Ohhhhhh kaaaaaaay. But are you sure you don't want to bring them both in together? She could see one and then the other."

I just started laughing because, yes, that WOULD be easier wouldn't it?

So that's everything you need to know about mucosa and my family. Perhaps even more than you needed to know.

Stop me if I told you this before but when Caroline and Edward walked out of the building on their last day of preschool Edward paused on the sidewalk and spontaneously pumped both fists into the air, shouting "Whooo HOOO! Last day of pre'cool!"  As we drove away from the parking lot and Caroline suggested we turn left rather than right (she likes to direct me as I drive. it's... so charming) he said, "No Cayayine. That way's precool and we never going precool AGAIN."

I didn't have the heart to tell him about a little something for which I've signed them up. A little something I like to call: Summer Preschool. But it exists and they are going to do four weeks scattered thoughout the summer and I am quite certain that when Edward twigs to what I have done he is going to lose his deliciously rounded mind. 

In the meantime Patrick got out of school yesterday (he waxed philosophic: "First third grade's over, then fourth, and then the next thing you know... death") and I'm getting to enjoy all three kids together in undiluted wonderfulness. When I tell you that Patrick had bitten Edward (yes you read that correctly) by two o'clock this afternoon and by four I actually said "The next child who opens their mouth will be locked in the garage" it gives you a good sense of how the summer is going so far. Another few days of this and I swear they will all be in summer preschool plus summer pre-preschool and summer after-preschool. Even Patrick. 

We have a lilac bush that blooms a solid four weeks after every other lilac in the area and it has no scent and very little color. It's like a ghost bush. What is up with that? Should I fertilize?

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Caroline shows off her summery bob... and split personality. Kai Lan? Or la femme Nikita?

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Aaannnd... Patrick is now done with his tumbling open gym and I have sworn that I will no longer tinker with posts for days on end. Done and done. Don't forget the m-o-l-d.

PS Patrick and I have just finished listening to Sabriel, written by Garth Nix and read by Tim Curry. It was E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-T. A well conceived, well written, well narrated tale. Although warning! warning! warning! it was very very dark. Extremely dark. Full of death and more death and animated corpses and eyes of flame and then more corpses. In this book when they talk about worse things than death they mean, really, things. worse than death - and they're not talking about rape, which I always thought was a particularly stupid male Victorian point of view. I mean really? Worse? But Sabriel. Not for the easily spooked child but - without ruining it - they don't shoot Ol Yeller and Bambi's mother doesn't die so it didn't bother me. We both enjoyed it and will be starting the second book in the series tomorrow despite the fact that I am going to have to drive all the way over to the civilized part of town where the librarians buy good audiobooks in order to pick it up.    


Preschool Let Out For The Summer And No One Was More Surprised Than Me

Robins built their nest on top of one of our front porch columns. There was snow on the ground when they started and the site must've seemed like an excellent one: quiet, no cats, an easy commute to worms. Since then, however, Spring has sprung and Caroline and Edward have figured out how the front door works (turn, push. turn, push. and it works on every door in the house - amazing) and now the Family Robin is feeling shellshocked. Like a couple who went house hunting in August and saw only the silent expanse of playing fields next to the cute house by the school; September rolled around and they're asking themselves from whence in hell came all these children.

I asked Steve yesterday if he had seen the baby birds yet and he said: yes, he had.

I asked him if they reminded him of anything and he promptly said: oh you mean our kids?

I said: yeah, somehow the constant, open-mouthed need and the incessant yeeping seems familiar.

He glanced out the window  and then asked, abruptly: did you know that Caroline is on top of the playset in her ballet leotard?

I said: she's outside??? and that was the end of our nature talk since I had to race out the door to try to talk Caroline down from the top of the swings and then into shoes and pants - not necessarily in that order.

Actually - apart from being repeatedly absent from the house without leave - Caroline has been brainwashed by Kai-Lan and as a result she has become the sweetest thing ever. She's like KoolAid in the 70s made with a cup and a half of your own sugar.

Every time I turn around she has her hands clapsed together and she is saying things like, "We're sorry, Mommy, we didn't mean to make such a big mess" or "It's ok, Eddybear, you can have half of my raspberries." Then she rounds her eyes to improbable diameters and bats her lashes at me. She also keeps holding hands with everybody and saying things are super. Super nice, super exciting, super great. Super super super.

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(This will most likely be the first and last time Caroline and Edward are ever dressed to match but Patrick saw the Be Careful I Bite! shirts on the clearance rack at Target and insisted we get them.  Who am I to resist, ehn?)

So Caroline is 103% cotton candy and just when I wonder what happened to the Caroline we know and love she forgets her new super persona and... there she is again.

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Something about this picture - not the pink plaid shorts, maybe the sneer - reminds me of CBGBs circa 1985. You look at her and think, "Hmmm. Maybe I should be careful. Maybe she bites."

Meanwhile Endymion here

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This sweet boy

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has become a maniac. A deranged lunatic. A complete pain in the ass. I finally asked Steve if he thought Edward had been radicalized.

For a week and a half  he has stopped throwing tantrums only long enough to pitch fits. I turned off the TV the other day and he emitted a scream that started at high C and went up and up and up until I thought my ears might bleed. He kicked, slapped, de-boned himself and shouted his outrage in alternating shrieks and bellows. I understood what a Viking berserker looked like. My attempts to soothe fell flat. Ditto my loving firmness. In exasperation I finally asked, "Edward what in the name of the magnificent Ambersons is WRONG with you?" and Edward the literalist replied, "MA EAR HURTH!"

Oh.

The urgent care doctor actually winced when she looked at his ears that afternoon and I think the term "significant" was thrown around - as in: his ears are "significantly" infected. I mentioned - while we were on the subject of my inadequate parental skills - that I had noticed a bit of a wheeze in his lingering cough and she agreed that he might also be nursing a little pneumonia. Since he had just been on amoxillian for his ears a couple of short weeks ago (we assume it failed to clear up the infection and it has been progressively worsening from there) she put him on azithromycin, which doubles as a good lung drug.

He finished that a few days ago and I look forward to the return of my little pumpkinbutter. Obviously he has been sick - not sociopathic - and now that he is feeling better I hope he stops screaming at me every time I open my mouth. It's unnerving and it makes me want to spank somebody.

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Patrick has been having a rough couple of days at school, largely because he has spent them in disgrace. This surprises me because there are only a few days left but apparently tough love doesn't take a vacation and Patrick's boisterousness has led to his being forbidden to go out to recess. ALL WEEK. Now I ask you - school ends next Thursday. We are having the first warm days in eight months. What could possibly justify such a heinous punishment? Patrick and seven cronies (all boys. watch me fall over in surprise) spent Tuesday through Friday this week sitting on the wall outside while the rest of their class played. I asked if they had murdered someone and Patrick laughed and said no but I am having a hard time imagining what else they could have done. I expect they are spring feverish and disruptive and probably were driving their teacher batty but no recess? For a week? Under the circumstances I think my instinct would be for them to get more exercise not less. I'd have them running laps or something.

Patrick's third grade experience makes me roll my eyes. I cannot fairly say that he has had a bad year. In fact his MAP scores for math went up 28 points between winter and spring, which if you know MAP testing is, like, unbelievable. Once he got his math facts down (and this teacher made it imperative for him to get his math facts memorized. or else) his reasoning skills took over and his math abilities (which have never been shabby) skyrocketed. So, good. On the other hand Patrick got into more trouble this year....

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you know I just this second realized that he stopped complaining about being teased right around the time that he started getting skulls and crossbones in his planner for behavior. I... I think Patrick might have consciously Gone Bad. Darth Vader reached out his hand and groaned, "Jooooin meeeee" and Patrick said, "But the rebels... and the Ewoks... and.... oh... OK!" And off he went to get fitted for a respirator.

I basically ignored it apart from saying "Really Patrick? Eight check marks? Really? SETTLE DOWN KID." But since he is a genuinely nice child I didn't harp too much on it. He would talk too much; she'd take away his art privileges and that was that. I don't know. His teacher taught him well and I guess that's what is important but her discipline methods left a lot to be desired. I still cannot believe that these eight boys spent four perfect Spring days watching recess from a wall. Meh.

So I felt sort of sorry for him this week (without telling him that I thought he was being unfairly punished - Patrick's martyr instincts are plenty strong without my feeding them) and I decided to give him a treat. Steve agreed to watch the twins and I picked Patrick up after school yesterday and we had a mini adventure. First we went to examine the tornado damage in Minneapolis and then we went to the Walker sculpture garden where he took a lot of pictures

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So did I cover everything... Edward congested not psychotic (maybe); Caroline trying out new super sacchrine personality; Patrick recovering from no recess trauma through art therapy. Yeah. I think that's it for the week.

Oh and thank you very very much for your thoughts on my troubled and troubling friend. You gave me a great deal to think about but I have yet to come to any conclusions.

YIKES! The MOST IMPORTANT THING and I almost forgot. So after much marital... discussion about priorities and silliness and needs versus wants and whatnot I finally managed to convince my belovable Steve that the only practical way to insure that my mother (my city-dwelling mother. who lives in the city. and do you know who else lives in cities? criminals!) be given the added protection of a mobile telephonic device was for me to get a smartphone. So I could give her my old one, you see, and add another line to our friends and family plan. Which gave us a crazygood price on the HTC Thunderbolt that is curled up in its ladybug charger case on my desk as we speak.

Now that I actually have a phone that does stuff I finally understand that smartphones are not intended to replace the dumber kind. I mean yeah sure they do. You can call people with it. But that is not the point. The point is that you suddenly have all of these amazing THINGS. Right there. In your purse. Patrick keeps asking, "Does your awesome new phone have a camera?" Why yes it does. "Does your awesome new phone have GPS?" Why yes it does. "Can we track tornado conditions with your awesome new phone?" Why yes I think so. Maybe.

I have Our Groceries and I have Google SkyMaps and my question for you is: what apps (look at me talking the talk) do you love?

Also, total aside, but this occurred to me yesterday and I wanted to ask you. Sincere question: why do women carry purses and men do not? I mean, what is it that we carry in them that we cannot live without and yet men seem to manage just fine with a little wad in their back pockets?