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July 2011

Trip.2011.5

One of the nicest things about the trip so far for me has been how much I am enjoying Steve's company. I try to never forget that the goal of raising children is for them to leave you and then... there you are again. Just the two of you and how perfect if you have already taken up bridge or skeet shooting or whatever together. I was all set to tell you about this hilarious exchange Steve and I had outside of Missoula based upon a Holiday Inn billboard but when I went to type it up I realized it wasn't really all that funny. At the time, though, we both laughed until we were crying. It's nice to have some who understands you even if they don't necessarily agree with you. Like when I looked appreciatively around the Bozeman valley and asked how many acres, exactly, Steve thought he would need to be happy there.

He said, "If it was all flat like this? A couple of thousand I guess."

And I said, "Oh right. Or else you'd be all, 'Juuuuuulia. I just saw another person! Through my spotting scope!"

Steve said, "On that mountain over there."

I finished, "Now I feel all oogy. I'm going to lie down in my office."

And Steve said, "And you'd yell back 'I'm still looking up Thai restaurants online - I can't hear you.'"

Somehow I don't see us as ranchers.

+

Today we drove from Bozeman to the Spokane Valley with a couple of nice detours. The first was totally spontaneous when we realized that we were pulling into Missoula about 45 minutes too early for lunch but options were limited thereafter. I suggested we get stuff to go from the nearby eateries (for the children we purchased small chunks of chicken breast dipped in batter, flash fried, with a barbecued sauce from a little place called Mac Donald's and then Steve and I split a large sandwich that looked like an underwater craft from another local place called The Subway.) We put the food in the car and drove until we found a national forest (you seriously cannot throw a brick in this part of the world without hitting another 5000 acres of pristine wildlife lovingly protected by Uncle Sam - although I wouldn't recommend the brick throwing because the federal aspect makes it a felony.)

Anyway we drove until Steve said "Is that a brown sign?" and I said "Pull off! Pull off!" so he did. Then we drove for a while with absolutely no idea where we were heading until we came to this designated picnic area.

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We said something like HOLY CATS and ate our lunch. The the children went off and expressed their individuality in the most stereotypical (for them) ways.

Edward found pinecones.  

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Hippogriffs. Edward Hippogriffs. And he likes his pinecones stirred not shaken.

Then he found a stick that looked a lot like an axe and proceeded to "fix" the trees. "I am a working man," he shouted "and I am going to build this tree."

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Caroline hopped onto a tree stump and preformed the Hokey Pokey for an audience of imaginary squirrels.

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And Patrick promptly started building a gnome home around the most likely tree base.

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It was a lovely break. Even the pit toilet was clean enough to meet Caroline's standards. Not that she used it of course because she has gone from quirky to neurotic but still... 

You had such nice things to say about Coeur d'Alene that we made it our end destination for the day. Then I looked at hotel prices and decided that it could make a lovely afternoon and we'd move on to the Spokane Valley for the night.

All pretty much went according to plan. We pulled into Coeur d'Alene and discovered a painfully beautiful town with the world's most stunning park, which had a thousand public bathrooms, a truly fantastic play structure and a great beach. Why doesn't everyone live in Coeur d'Alene? We have no idea.

Patrick at the park.

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Caroline at the park.

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Edward is not pictured because Edward chose this moment to have an atomic tantrum. Why? We had no idea. Something about DSFHASLDGFNA/SLMGN/SDLMN!)&*^)*&(*&%(*&! (gasp for air) *&%^(&^Fjdhkasfjh;RW!

We moved on to the beach.

Caroline swims like a golden retriever (in seven inches of water.)

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Patrick immediately found a new building medium while Edward dared the lake to hit him with a wave. one. more. time. Seriously, water, make his day.

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Tomorrow we head to Seattle where we enter part two of our vacation: Super Family Fun Time. My mom and Papa Stan are flying in and we'll meet up at my brother's tomorrow night. Then on Monday we will all head out to the islands.

So, seriously, thank you so much for all the comments. You have truly made our vacation a thousand times better already and for that I am most sincerely grateful.


Trip.2011.4

Although my love for Jackson Hole remains undying, my excitement for being there with my children waned long before bedtime yesterday.

I suppose Steve and I got greedy but after a glorious afternoon and two and a half hours in the pocket-sized pool we thought we could just wander around town for a while and then find a place to eat dinner. It was at least an hour after our usual dinner time but, hey, I had a fetching new hat, Steve was happily lecturing on the various ways snow melt can manifest itself and we were on vacation. Laissez les bon temps, hein?

Here's a hint: never think you can push back feeding children and then try to free-form a plan in an unfamiliar location. We wound up death marching the kids around town until we had to carry the twins. Then we showed up at the restaurant that we'd found recommended online only to discover the steak place had closed and a biker bar had taken its location. Don't get me wrong. We like bikers. So much so that we had no desire to inflict our increasingly fractious children upon them. So we set off for another place but... no, it wasn't going to work either. So we headed five blocks in the other direction as I grew increasingly hysterical (fine. I say don't fuck with the children's meal times but to be completely honest when I haven't eaten I become a demon) and the children whined and Steve got exasperated with all of us.

Then Edward tripped on a curb and face-planted, striking his forehead so hard on the concrete I'm sure the bikers could hear it back at their place.

[Exhibit A:

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I sat down on the sidewalk to triage him; concluded he would live but he needed some ice and maybe a little Tylenol and definitely some dinner; and I told Steve we would be dining at the very next place we saw which happened to be an uber-fancy gastrobistropub. They took one look at us (maybe two at Edward) and said ohhhhh soooooo sawwwwry. I was tempted to tell them that Edward is Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago, but in truth they were right to shun us.

In the end we wound up at some random place; the children ate three baskets of bread and nothing else; Edward reclined on my lap after he fell off his own chair (no he does not have a concussion but I thought that too); Caroline spent the evening grimacing horribly at a nice old lady who had smiled at her; Patrick played with the Kanoodle set I had purchased for just such an emergency and Steve ordered antelope and ate it with what I considered to be unseemly enjoyment considering we had almost picked one up as a hitchhiker.

Not our best night and I guess the moral is there is much to be said for Pizza Hut when travelling with children.

But today dawned bright and clear and our hotel had an excellent free breakfast (Lexington; nice place, huge rooms.) After we ate Steve and I read your travel ideas and we planned the rest of our itinerary accordingly. Steve had originally thought the drive through Yellowstone would take forever but after reading what you had to say we went anyway and we are so glad we did. Thank you so much.

We saw buffalo (what is the difference between buffalo and bison? is there one?) and elk and a grizzly (maybe. from a distance. unless it was a tree stump) and a mud volcano and waterfalls and an amazing canyon and the river and it is almost unfathomable to me how many different, interesting, beautiful things can be accumulated in one place.

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Spectacular and unusual things aside I have to say that the highlight of the day was pulling off the road and playing in a creek for an hour.

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Tonight we're in Bozeman Montana after dining in Livingston (Pizza Hut! It was... Pizza Hut but the children ate a ton, no one cared if they were cheerful and I had a locally brewed ale that was so delicious [Bozone - I think] that I ordered another. Our waiter asked if I wanted him to bring the next one after I had finished the first or before and I looked at him like are you kidding me? and he said "Totally" just like Crush in Finding Nemo. When he brought my second beer he gave me a knuckle and I knuckled him back. As I suspected, I am much much cooler in the West. Yeehaw, as Caroline would say.)

Tomorrow we are heading to Coeur d'Alene.

Thanks for all the suggestions.

PS An eagle! I was taking a picture of the bald eagles and that house suddenly got in the way like an inconsiderate tourist. One of the hazards of passenger side photography I suppose. And yes it is true that we have bald eagles by the sackful where we live (one actually was nesting between our house and preschool this year and on the way down to the farm we have to practically wave a broom out the window to keep them from carrying off the car) but these were Wyoming bald eagles. No doubt they have cowboy hats.


Trip.2011.3

Today was a short driving day - just up to Jackson Hole from Riverton. It was fortunate that we had planned it that way because the finks were getting a little restless after the first fifteen minutes in the car.

Caroline pitched a fit about something (my singing?) and I said, "Caroline, calm down."

Edward said, "Cayayine! Cahm down, ok? Cahm down."

Caroline said, "No, Edward. I won't calm down."

So Edward started throwing air punches at her while screaming, "CAHM DOWN! CAHHHHHM DOWN! CAYAYINE! NO! MY GAHD JUST CAHM DOWN!"

I think he would make the world's worst hostage negotiator. 

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Still pretty, of course, but volatile. A bit of a maverick. The guy that no one in the precinct wants as a partner.

But I digress.

The drive from Riverton is jaw-dropping and forgive me while I whip out the slide projector but...

this is what happens after three hours in Wyoming.

You go from this

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to this

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to this

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and then you get to Jackson Hole.

By all that is holy - Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is so beautiful. The air is like champagne; probably because this much charm packed into this small of a space robs it of oxygen so it, um, turns into wine.

We got here around noon and went to lunch at a brew pub. We sat outside in the sunshine and squawked "How lovely! How spectacular!" while the children behaved with decorum. Here's a picture from lunch although I would like to point out that it is like one of those old lady/young lady optical illusions because it looks like Steve is drinking water while I am having eight enormous beers. In fact, they were very small beers and I only had seven of them because the stout tasted like it came straight from the La Brea tar pits. Also, Steve helped drink them.  

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After lunch we walked around town and then went back to the hotel to enjoy the smallest indoor pool I have ever seen.

See this?

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Notice anything awesome? It was small enough that Steve and I could literally reach the kids from every side and therefore I got to have my first pool visit in nine years in which I was not personally required to go any further into the icy water than my ankles. Alleluia. I told Steve we should bring this pool home in our luggage and put it somewhere in our house. He said he'd get right on that.

A few random pictures and then a question for you.

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I love this thing. Patrick and I have decided to always have it in our car so that after our trip we can see how it takes us to see all 50 states just driving around Minnesota. Oh and please note we have snagged both Alaska and the ethereal Hawaii and we still have two weeks to go on our trip.

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Steve says you will not be able to guess what I was taking a picture of here. I think you will. What was I photographing?

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Speaking of Steve, I amuse myself. I really do. I had no idea until the last comments that I have a habit of cropping him out. 

Finally, here's a question. We are in Jackson Wyoming. We want to be in Seattle by Sunday, so three days from now. Our original plan was to head to Boise tomorrow but we are both so smitten with Wyoming that we are thinking about heading north into Yosemite and then crossing the tip of Idaho and eastern Washington. But we're open. If you are a Westernite or merely a Western enthusiast what would you do? Where would you stay? We had been thinking Boise then Bend then Seattle but maybe northern Idaho and then Washington wine country? Any thoughts?

Oh and when I say smitten I mean smitten. Clearly I have gone all native.

PS Hi Yatima. How are you? I hope you are well.

PPS Oh heavens did I say Yosemite I meant Yellowstone. Good old Yellowstone.


Trip.2011.2

Historically the first night of travel with the family has resembled one of the circles of bedtime hell with much gnashing and wailing so this time we took a new approach and decided that the concept of putting children to bed is overrated. Instead we went to the hotel pool. Then we turned on the television and when the family channels failed to deliver preschool appropriate shows we let them watch vaguely inappropriate ones (have you seen the new Scooby Doo? it's bizarre.) In the absence of a repressive milieu they found no cause for rebellion and everything was like chocolate chip cookies for dinner - sweeeeet. Eventually Patrick passed out, followed by Edward and finally Caroline. Sure, it was almost midnight by the time the children were sugarplummed but Steve and I were left to watch Sherlock Holmes (the delicious new BBC one) in peace and in bed on my laptop. It was lovely for the five minutes we were able to stay awake.

We started the day here.

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Steve and I engaged in a lively debate on the relative merits of the four presidents represented (my motion: Teddy Roosevelt, What the Hell? while Steve took the opposing view that anybody who did that much for generations of hunters - do you know the history of the teddy bear? - deserves the head space.) Edward was enchanted with what he called the funny faces, Caroline quickly assumed first name basis and kept asking where George was and Patrick trooped along and whuffled.  

I call this one "Mount Rushmore! (not pictured: Mount Rushmore)"

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It was all very nice and then it got even better

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Wyoming is cool. Wyoming is very very cool. Observe:

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An antelope on my list of things to see? Why yes, yes I crossed that one off. I love this picture. It's like STOP! or else... antelope (crashing minor chords.)

Edward's passion for maps has made him the family navigator.

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His obsession with the Florida Keys has made him the family navigator to whom nobody listens.

I was trying to figure out who Caroline reminds me of as we made our fifty-third bathroom break at her request. It's a little old lady, that's who. 

Caroline walks into a public restroom with all the suspicion of one who's lived through two world wars. I have to nudge her into the stall with my knee and then she comes to an abrupt halt in front of the commode.

"Is this a nasty toilet?" she asks.

"No of course not it's fine just go."

She sniffs. Pointedly. Then she examines the seat like a forensic pathologist. If there is a paper towel on the floor she won't go. If there is any kind of odor she won't go. God forbid there is a fan that automatically turns on with the light. That can put her off for another 100 miles at least. When I told her the fans were perfectly normal she asked, "Then what are they hiding?"

She is driving me CRAZY, just in case you couldn't tell.

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Do you want to know what she is doing here? She is giving two sharp claps having just barked, "Come on! Let's go big guy!" at her father.

Patrick, in contrast, has been delightful. He has an awful habit of winding the twins up with tickling and/or shrieking at the worst possible times but given the proper encouragement (I threaten him with bodily harm if he does it again) he has morphed into a veritable Poppins, Mary. 

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Tonight we are in Riverton Wyoming and the pool plus movie plan has resulted in all three kids asleep by ten this time. Huzzah. I will always remember Riverton as being the home of the Great Twinkle Swimming Breakthrough. Prior to this Steve and I have had to physically support a twin apiece in anything deeper than 12 inches making pool time not only stressful but a bit of a drag. Tonight we paired Speedo swim vests with vintage arm floaties and after a few minutes they got it. Eureka. Caroline would jump in from the side and paddle to the stairs shouting I'm doing it! I'm doing it! Edward was more cautious but once he realized he could propel himself and stay afloat he only did lengths. He'd jump in one side and paddle to the other, climb out, walk around and jump in again.  

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Ta DA!


Trip.2011.1

Steve called Mike and explained the situation. Mike said - to paraphrase - good god you certainly don't want me there if your kid is having surgery; I'll just come some other time. Steve offered to pay any change fees, Mike said of course not, and two hours later he had rebooked his flight for the week before Patrick's surgery. Done and done.

I'm reminded of the business adage about how solving a problem for a customer earns more loyalty than simply delivering on expectations in the first place. I was originally fine with Mike's visit but not - you know - wildly excited about it or anything. Now that Mike was so incredibly nice about something that was stressing me out I cannot do enough for him. With the original plan I would have made sure that the guest room had clean sheets and towels but now I want to stock it with rookie baseball cards and, I dunno, what do single men like? Hookers? I've stocked your room with rare liquors and gift baskets filled with sports memorabilia; you'll find prostitutes in the linen closet - welcome to our home.

I have to admit that it took an enormous leap of faith for me to follow you on the etiquette question. I kept thinking surgery! Houseguest! And then I would go all cataleptic. I really wanted to hammer some boards across the windows, hang the lintel with garlic and call it a day. However the overwhelming majority of you seemed to think it was all manageable so after saying really? really? REALLY? in tones of increasing hysteria I accepted that I was wrong about the panic. Patrick's surgery does not constitute a twenty-four hour emergency during which time courtesy can be abandoned like civil rights under martial law. It took more than a few rational comments but eventually I came to believe you and thank you.

As a side note your thoughts helped me to correctly categorize what I had originally framed as a hosting problem as the anxiety issue it is and that was very helpful. People who think they are Napoleon really, you know, believe they are Napoleon. It's not just that they like to wear their big hats sideways. People who have an overactive AAAAAIIIIIEEEE are likewise. Or at least I am. I kept remembering the nights after his tonsil/adenoidectomies that Patrick slept in our bed and woke up choking on his own blood and then I imagined one of Caroline's infrequent but technicolor nightmares and then I pictured Edward coughing his lungs out and then I triangulated that with what was supposed to be a fun visit for Steve and I threw up. The end. 

But you are right and Mike was totally cool and charming about the choice to delay and soon he will be swimming in the caramel that I will pour into the guest bathtub and then Patrick will have his surgery and THEN I can feel sick with worry again.

Anyway, sorry to go backwards in a post but you were so helpful that I wanted to let you know what happened and why.

Right now I am in South Dakota on day one of our massive trip. This morning Caroline was in tears before we had even gotten to the stop sign at the end of our road and five minutes later Edward was shrieking "I hate stupid!" which is the absolute worst profanity he knows. Patrick asked how much longer we'd be driving (answer: 620 miles) and then said we must be joking. Good god. Steve and I looked at each other and wondered what we had done. It got better from there and although southern Minnesota looks a lot like central Minnesota and eastern South Dakota looks a lot like that by the time we got to our first butte we all said Ooooooooh.

Onward and upward. My goal is to do a daily post as we travel so synchronize your watches so you can know how long it takes me to blow it.

PS I have been meaning to tell you this - delicately - for a long time but if you leave multiple comments under different names I can see it right away because the ip address comes through with the email. Just so you know. It's fine with me but I thought you might want to know, especially when you decide to choose opposing viewpoints (AHEM.)

PPS I bought the (oh what are their names? the wooden puzzle people - Melissa & Doug) I bought their license plate game for our trip and it has been keeping Patrick happy for the past ten hours. The puzzle is wood, the license plates are exact and attached with elastic bands and every time we spot a new one Patrick gets to flip it over with a satisfying thwap.

PPPS The antibiotics are not working for Patrick and I felt guilty dragging him across the country (literally) because he is clearly functioning at about 40%. I called the ENT before we left and discovered that the dose I had been giving him was supposed to have been repeated twice a day (WHOOPS) and it is not a suprise that he is still infected since the ml's he has been getting wouldn't cure a hamster. We've upped the dose accordingly and I hope he rallies.


Miss Mannered

This past week after the children have finally fallen asleep (CAROLINE. also EDWARD. although no longer Patrick, thank you Trader Joe's chewable peppermint flavored melatonin; as approved by our physician - our friend the physician but close enough - and taken nightly by Patrick thus giving him at least three more hours of sleep per twenty-four than he had been getting since birth) I have had a glass of wine, watched something pointless with Steve and trolled Amazon prime for small but clever items to help the children while away the tedium of road travel. The combination (wine + distraction + free two day shipping) has resulted in the shopping equivalent of drunk dialing; I wake up with no recollection of having ordered anything but large boxes keep mysteriously appearing on the front porch containing the most random assortment of things.

What's in the box? Steve asks.

I have no idea so we open it to discover... a two inch tall barn owl puppet. A slide puzzle. A plastic tube full of itty bitty scaled models of great world architecture. It's been like Christmas. A weird, small, sad Christmas.

But three-quarter inch plastic Arc de Triomphes notwithstanding the trip should be fun. I hope. I am worried about the length of the drive, though. Last year as we drove to Vermont and back Edward admired other cars, Caroline sang Frances-like songs, Patrick looked for license plates, Steve entered his driving trance and I tried (and failed) to get everyone involved in looking for things to see off our great big list. Eventually I realized that they were just keeping me down so I shook them like so much dust off my shoes and went on to spotting greatness. Speaking of which here is a link to the new great big list of things to see. Oh and here is another in case that one doesn't work for you. And thank you so much for all your suggestions. I fully intend to annihilate my family again in spotting competition and I wish you likewise.

Patrick is in camp at the college of art this week. Fort building camp, if you can imagine. Space and structure as art and Patrick has been so illuminated by the experience that you have to wear sunglasses to look at him. As always I have no idea from whence this child came (although I now have a very good idea about the origination of capital-A Artists who simulataneously bore and terrify) but he was pretty cute as he earnestly discussed his "volumes." So much so that I almost didn't begrudge him the forty-five minute drive to get him there. Almost.

Caroline and Edward are in summer preschool again this week. Caroline is thrilled; Edward resigned. They continue as expected although a surprise twist in the twinklebot development is that Edward is emerging as the more creative of the two. When presented with two stuffed animal cats Edward thinks for a moment before naming his Purr. Caroline thinks longer and names hers... Purr. Caroline can frequently be heard requesting that Edward make something talk. The lawnmower, a blanket, the cereal. He does it quite well and Caroline hangs on his every Scheherazadian word although inevitably all of his stories end with a grumpy wizard sending a dark storm cloud which can only be defeated by his (Edward's) car power. It's his narrative trademark.

Edward, by the way, tested negative for all common allergens. What the hell? I am zero for two thousand in diagnosing this child. Next stop reflux although right now the Flonase is working so well I don't know what to think. Flonase does nothing for Patrick. Absolutely nothing. So I was shocked that it opened Edward up like a highway by-pass. We'll keep him on it for another month and then reassess. My hope is that he just had a particularly stubborn (say, two year long bout) of bad cold and we have now conquered it.

Oh hey, I'm just chatting but I want to ask for advice before I forget to do so. I have an etiquette problem and I really and truly have no idea what the right (or least wrong) thing to do would be.

This: Steve has a friend from college, Mike, with whom he has kept in desultory contact; they have not seen each other in over a decade. Mike has mentioned a desire to break one of his frequent trips from coast to coast here in Minnesota, visiting with Steve and another friend who now lives in Madison. After talking about this for a year or two (like: we should really do that some time) they eventually made concrete plans to have Mike come here for two days and then he and Steve would drive down to the farm where they would meet the third friend who would take Mike from there and have him fly out from Wisconsin. OK? OK.

So Steve cleared the idea with me and I checked our schedule and said okey dokey and then Steve failed to put it on our joint calendar and I forgot about the entire thing until Steve appeared like Banquo's ghost in the kitchen last night. I can always tell when Steve thinks we might be about to engage in a conflict because he actually takes the time to stop moving as he is telling me something. This time he SAT DOWN before he spoke so I immediately assumed that he had been diagnosed with a fatal disease. Or, worse, *I* had but they were going all Love Story and keeping it from me.

"We're double booked," said Steve and I said "Eh? What? When? How?"

Steve said, "My friend Mike is flying in on the day of Patrick's surgery."

I said, "Oh for the love of Christmas" and Steve stared at me like, um, so, ok but are we're still cool with The Plan? Steve - if I hadn't mentioned this before - has a hard time changing Plans.

My initial reaction was: what? are you crazy? I could not imagine the day as described: We take Patrick to surgery, he gets knocked out, roto-rootered, vomits from the anesthesia, crashes in our bed, Caroline and Edward race around biting the cats, Patrick gets opiates, Steve and his friend remember the time they did that thing, Caroline hotwires the lawn tractor, Patrick vomits some more and then I... make dinner for a house guest I met once thirteen years ago? And then we repeat this the next day minus the surgery but with the addition of post-surgical ick? And then Steve goes to the farm for the weekend?

To Steve's credit he was not advocating this but he is not sure what the alternative is. His friend has bought tickets after all. Of course that was before we knew that Patrick was going to be having holes drilled in his skull. On the other hand maybe Patrick will just lie there and the twins will cooperate and it will be fine.

And just so you have all of the data before you weigh in this was the first available day for surgery, she only does it on Wednesdays, and if we push it back a week it gives him five days to recover before school starts.

So: what do you think? Do we have him come and suck it up? Can we ask him to change his plans in light of the face opening? Opinions welcome, nay, encouraged.

More later. I have to drive to get Patrick back from MCAD and with traffic it takes an hour. I expect when I get there he will be hovering six inches off the floor in the ectasy of his artistic fulfillment, which I guess is something.     


With That Kind Of Precision

Ten seconds does not sound like a very long time.

Imagine, for example: how long will take-off be delayed? Ten seconds. Well, ok, then back to SkyMall. Or: how long did it take to make these profiteroles? Ten seconds? Excellent and to hell with fig newtons.

But as I sat on the couch with Edward and a timer this weekend I got a whole new persepective on just how long ten seconds can be. I was trying to prepare him for his mini CT scan with the vague idea that it is possible to coach someone into preternatural stillness. It went something like this.

Edward, look at me. Look at Mommy. Hey! Ho! See what I have in my hand? Chocolate! Yes, that's right. OK. Now here's the deal. See this timer? See the number ten? We're going to try to sit perfectly still - no moving our heads - while the timer counts down to zero and if we do a really good job and stay nice and still then you will get to eat this piece of chocolate. Do you understand?

OK!

You'll sit nice and still?

OK!

I'm going to push the button. Ready?

OK!

All right, here goes. Now sit very very still.. Ten!

*Feet hit the floor*

Nine

*Edward streaks out of the room*

Eight

*A door crashes open somewhere in the house*

Seven... Six...

*The sound of rummaging*

Five...

*A door slams shut*

Four... three...

*Edward races back into the room*

Two

*Edward throws himself onto the couch*

One... BEEEEEEEP!

Edward held up his hand to reveal a squashed miniature Reese's cup, presumably from the Patrick Holiday Collection (Patrick hordes.)

"I got my own chocyate."

D'oh. 

Patrick was still complaining of fatigue no matter how much sleep he got and I decided that I didn't like the way he looked sort of pale and interesting, with dark smudges under his eyes and a tendency to wilt like a Victorian heroine every time his will was thwarted. On a whim I called the ENT's office yesterday and asked to schedule a sinus follow-up for him because my maternal instincts were telling me that he has another infection. The scheduler was able to get him in today and when I asked if we could squeeze him in with Edward she said, certainly. I remember waiting months with this place in the past so I am extremely pleased with how quickly they have been able to get us in and how flexible they are with scheduling stuff once we are there.

Anyway the three of us spent the morning at the ENT and there was good news and bad news.

Edward failed the first scan by wiggling too much but then I got some preemptive Hershey's kisses into him and he nailed the second one with perfect tens from all of the judges even the Bulgarians. Based on the images the ENT was able to say that his adenoids are fine and his sinuses look great. She suggested we go back to our pediatrician to follow up on both reflux and allergies as a potential cause for his chronic gunkiness. As for his ears they are still glue-y so the plan is to treat him with Flonase for six weeks while we investigate the other things. If he still has fluid behind the ears after that she'll put in some small tubes.  

So that's that and I'm glad I didn't have any money on the diagnosis because I was certain that Edward had wonky adenoids.

After dealing with Edward she turned to Patrick and I explained that I think he got a cold in mid-May, his sinuses never cleared up from it and he has been getting progressively sicker since then.

She looked at his ears, his nose and his throat and said, "He looks great. I don't see anything at all. So either he is so completely blocked that I just can't see or he is fine."

After being so wrong about Edward my confidence was shaken and I hate looking like a hypochondriac by proxy but I looked at Patrick and he looked back at me and there was something so very Gorey about him that I went outside of my comfort zone and got firm.

I said, "I really think he's got something going on with his sinuses."

She looked at his chart and looked at him and looked at me and looked at Edward who had started doing some kind of tribal dance around the room to the beat of choc-o-yate, choc-o-yate and finally said, "Do you want to do a quick ten second CT scan on him?"

And I said, yes, yes I did.

So they did (Patrick said hey where's my plastic bag of Kit Kats? Where's my bribe? I said oh do shut it) and when we met back in the exam room she said, "He's got it."

I said, "Got what?"

And she said, "Infection. Everywhere. All that grey area. His sinuses are a mess and I think that" point "looks cystic. See how it bubbles?"

Patrick peered over my shoulder and said "Ah yes" and I looked and saw... nothing... and said Ummm-hmmm.

She talked for a long time about options and possibilities and concerns and at the end of the day she said she wants to get in there and clear out the infection, make sure she deals with the possible cysts and opens things up so he can drain more easily in the future.

So Patrick is scheduled for sinus surgery on August 24th and - you know the drill - any advice on the subject would be most appreciated. Poor kid, he hates it so much.

Between now and then we are taking another massive road trip and we are very excited about it. We are going through South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington (four days just outside of Seattle to see my brother and his family including their new baby - yay!) and then up into Victoria, across BC, into Banff and Calgary before going home through Montana and North Dakota.

Last year you guys were nice enough to help me put together a big list of Things To See from a car window and I promised Patrick I would ask again and I promise you that I will compile all suggestions and post them up here so you can use it for your road trips too. Things like stone barn, red car, whale... YOU know.

So please help with our list and thanks for your thoughts on that last post and I'm bringing Edward in tomorrow to start looking into allergies and I'm sure we'll have Patrick tested too.

I think that is it.

PS As we were leaving I thanked the doctor and Patrick, who was a little weepy once he twigged to the fact that this surgery we had been discussing was for him and not his baby brother, said mournfully, "Yes, thanks. Thanks for sending me for life threatening surgery."

The doctor and I - in unison and with the exact same inflection as if we had been practicing for weeks - said, "It is NOT life threatening surgery."

I'm pretty sure he is her favorite patient, like, ever.


The Ears Have It

Edward went to the ENT today. First we saw an audiologist who did a hearing evaluation and created a tympanogram. It was unfortunate that the office's air conditioning system had broken over the weekend because that little audio booth was hotter than blazes. It was the whole body equivalent of walking barefoot across a black sand beach and Edward was not amused. He is a child that likes his comforts and being parboiled is something that not even the most heat-tolerant person can enjoy.

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I mean, this is Edward on Monday at a parade. A parade: fire engines, cherry convertibles, people throwing candy at him every three seconds and he was Queen Victoria in miniature. Every time I look at this picture I laugh. So other than that how was the parade, little Lincoln?

Anyway Edward doesn't like being too hot (or too cold for that matter) so the hearing eval was a trial from the beginning but even allowing for less than optimal testing conditions it was still pretty obvious that Edward is suffering from some moderate (one hopes, temporary) hearing loss.

They tried a few different strategies but eventually had him point to pictures of various things, which he did with aplomb. Then they put headphones on him and asked again. He did fine at first but they must have changed the volume because he did much less fine. You could tell that he could hear they were asking him to point at... something... but he had no idea what it was exactly. It was startling to me (I had no idea that Edward was having trouble hearing things at lower volumes) and more than a little sad. Poor baby, stabbing his fingers at random airplanes and hotdogs and then looking hopefully around like, was that it? Did I get it right? Can we get the hell out of Death Valley now?

Then they did a tympanogram, which is quick and easy and checks to see if the ear drum is boing'ing back when hit with sounds waves. Edward's (plural) are not. Rats! but not unexpected as chronic fluid build-up was one of the reasons we were there.

Speaking of which, I scheduled the appointment with the ENT right after one of the pediatricians at one of our urgent care visits diagnosed a lingering sinus infection as a probable source for the lingering ear infection. Then we saw our regular pediatrician and he flipped through Edward's history, noted that they had seen fluid behind his ear drums at virtually every appointment and suggested we go to the ENT. So prior to showing up yesterday I called the office and said, hello, by the by, I mentioned chronic sinus infections when I originally scheduled but now we have a dueling or possibly concurrent chronic ear trouble diagnosis - just wanted to let you know and see if that changes the appointment parameters at all? They said thanks for letting us know, we'll make a note of it and she'll just check it all out when you come.

When we registered they gave me a stack of forms and I filled them out. When I handed them back across the desk they asked if I had gotten them all done and I said, sort of, because they had only given me a diagnostic sheet for sinusitis and he has a possible ear thing as well. They said oh! Thanks! That is very helpful, here is a sheet for ears and we'll get you into the audiologist before you see the doctor.

So that was all very good and well and useful.

Then the medical assistant took us from the audiologist to the exam room (pausing to weigh and measure Edward) and asked, what brings you in today?

I took a deep breath and mentioned pretty much everything I thought was relevant: the aspirating and feeding difficulties as a baby, the chronic cough, the hoarseness, the stridor, the snoring, the perpetually gunky nose, the chronic ear fluid, the six weeks of infected ears...

She cut me off, "So he had three ear infections or one ear infection?"

I said, "Well, I really don't know. Over the course of a month and a half we repeatedly went to the pediatrician. They prescribed three rounds of antibiotics but every time they saw him his ears were still infected."

She said, "So what am I supposed to write down?"

I said, "Um, that? Oh, also, on the last visit the pediatrician noted that his ears were infected but his sinuses were as well so the last antibiotic round lasted three weeks but a week after stopping he became congested again."

She gave this gigantic sigh and said, "Look. She won't have time for everything and you will need to schedule different appointments. What is the PRIMARY reason you are here today?"

Fortunately I was glued by sweat to the vinyl exam room chair or I might have leapt up and shaken her until her piercings fell out. If I knew what his problem was I would have stayed home where the temperature is lower than 90 degrees and had one of my witch doctor friends whip up a potion. I was trying to give the doctor every symptom I could think of relating to Edward's ears, nose and throat with the - perhaps naive - layparent's assumption that it is all related. 

I was just inflating my lungs to express this when the doctor walked in and sat down in the other vinyl chair and listened thoughtfully to everything I had to say. God I love her even if Patrick does still refer to her as The One Who Has My Tonsils, as if she was keeping them in a jar or something.

She listened to me and then checked Edward. She said his tonsils look great and he has fluid behind his ears to account for the subpar hearing. She also said he has a blockage which could be caused by one of four things: adenoids, sinuses, adenoids and sinuses or reflux. 

She said that she didn't want to leap to tubes right away because she suspects that the ears are not the first site with him and that draining the fluid might not fix the underlying problems. She has ordered a mini (10 second) CT scan for next week so that she can see both the sinuses and the adenoids. If they are fine then we'll look into reflux. Oh and allergies. She said we certainly want to look into allergies if he is structurally ok.

So that is the deal with our Eddybear. The only child that appeared to be listening to me and it turns out that he had no idea I was saying anything. Kinda like Steve only with Steve it is a learned skill and Edward feels like he is underwater.

In other news the fourth of July was really really fun. We went to our town's parade and discovered that Caroline is a born parade goer. She waved her little flag like she was starting a Nascar race and people crossed the street to thrust things into her hands. The child got 8 freezee pops, two necklaces, 25 pounds of candy, stickers, some beer cozies, two Vulcan kisses, and at least three business card magnets for sewer services. 

She was in her element.   

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Then we had to hose her down in the yard.

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As for Patrick, we were with our good friends and he had a bag full of blue raspberry lollipops. Life gets no better than that.

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Thank you so much for your comments on the weight gain. I really do love you and I am not just saying that. I love the way all of your different perspectives mesh together. I thought about what you had to say and how a desire to be and feel healthy might lead to something other than... (ha ha! I just typed "depravation" and looked at it for a minute trying to figure out why it didn't look quite right)... deprivation and the long and the short of it is I am using Weight Watchers like a food journal because I am all about the apps and I went to Walmart and bought a bicycle.

I am five feet four inches tall, which the internet tells me is average for an adult woman. So I was confused during my bike search by the fact that I pulled cruiser after stylish cruiser off the racks only to drop the seats to their lowest heights and still find myself dangling there like a preschooler on a pony. I finally realized that I have - there is no other word for it - abnormally short legs and if my body were properly proportioned based upon my torso I would be about seven feet tall and a super model and we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

Anyway I lingered in denial for a while before slinking around to the other side of the aisle where I tried to find the most sophisticated child's bike on offer. Eventually I said oh to hell with it and I am now the proud owner of a turquoise beauty with white flowers and hot pink fenders. It looks like I beat up a Brownie and took her bike but who cares? Yesterday I drove it over to the flatest bike path I could remember and zipped three miles around the lake: Lance Armstrong's baby sister (minus the doping allegations, largely because one can safely assume that anybody using performance enhancers would not have had to get off and push their bike over a gopher hill as I did.)

So thank you.

Oh and if you have any thoughts on little kids and their gunky heads I would like to hear them. The ENT did say that with the hearing problems she was not going to sit too long on Edward's ears, which I took to mean that in the absence of a treatable primary cause he will probably get tubes put in. Maybe. We're still waltzing around with Patrick and his sinuses. He has ANOTHER infection right now that I am tackling with the neti pot and Flonase but if it doesn't clear up soon we'll have to go back to the doctor and see if she has any more strategies. His nose has been getting worse rather than better and he woke up today complaining of feeling exhausted. I am trying not to imagine Edward and Patrick in side by side recovery beds. Bleh. I'd feel like a ward nurse.

Hmmm wah wah wah. Sorry. Everything is really quite nice right now. Just a little worried about the boys.           

PS I have no idea what is up with that book ad and the images that must be from a 70s sex manual, no? I hate to offend you so I just contemplated rejecting it but then I thought of the pennies and concluded we can all grin and bear it. Right? Also the Florida ad is paying me a fortune (like, DIMES) so go ahead and click on it and then go to Florida and have a good time.

PPS On the topic of summer reads (or listens) I have gotten the Stephanie Plum series out of the library on audiobook and it is amusing me. Well, amusing me enough to pass the time while I unload the dishwasher. What I like best about it is the fact that I heard this same narrator reading an Erma Bombeck book so as far as I am concerned Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, is an alter ego for Erma Bombeck, Midwestern housewife for the ages. It adds a piquancy to the whole thing.


1 800 What Now?

My mother was supposed to come here for the long weekend. She got to the Washington airport at 6 am yesterday but called me a little after seven to say her 8:30 flight had been delayed for an hour. She waited. Then the flight was pushed back to 11:30. She went in search of a Delta customer service agent (the delightful Beryl) and asked whether Beryl thought there was a chance in hell that the flight might actually depart. Beryl said no. Then she moved my mom to the 2:30 flight, upgraded her to first class and showered her with food vouchers. My mother - in case you are wondering whyfore - is very sweet and charming. Anyway, Mom waited some more and I continued to build expectations at home about Nana! coming! soon! and the hours passed and then the second flight got delayed until 5. Mom said, "Beryl?" and Beryl said, "Sorry. Go home. Not happening. Oh and here take this telephone number so you can call about your refund."

Her trip was already so short that it did not make sense for mom to come a day later so the entire visit has been cancelled and our fun-filled weekend is now stretching before me like a Nanaless desert. I am bummed and my mother is bummed and Steve is horribly distraught (he loves my mother) and Patrick is philosophical (he just saw her in DC after all) and Caroline and Edward were very sad until I gave them each a pudding pop.

Caroline said, "Oh! Banilla is DELICIOUS."

Edward said, "I yike chocyate."

Caroline said, "Yeah, well, that's the way it goes sometimes, little guy."

Little guy? At last tally he was three inches taller and seven pounds heavier than she is. Her condescension towards him transcends time and space and I look forward to seeing what mechanisms he develops in response to being perpetutally patronized by an elf.

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But back to my mother. This morning she called the number she had been given by Delta. Then she called it again thinking she must have mis-dialed. The third time she started laughing because apparently Beryl in her haste had written the number incorrectly and my mom wound up calling a recording that offered free sex.

My mom said, "You know, I really admire Delta's committment to their customer satisfaction initiatives."

She later observed, "But I'll bet it isn't really free. They probably charge for baggage."

I think my mother is hilarious and that is why I talk to her five hundred times a day and why I am so sad that she isn't here. Also, now what? It's the fourth of July weekend and we were all set to show her the farm and grill things but without her the effort just doesn't seem worth it somehow.

What about you, American compatriots? What are you doing? And you, my far-flung friends? You must enjoy it when America shuts down for a day or two. It's like when our neighbors go out of town and take their dog. It's quieter.

I hesitated before mentioning this because I am pretty sure that someone will take offense about something and I dislike it when you scold me but... I am thinking about it a lot and transparency and all. 

Between the ages of 21 and 38 I slowly gained ten pounds. This seemed about right to me: I once lived on camel lights, aspirin, alcohol and egg rolls only when I could afford them; so I was thin and unhealthy. After that of course I was pregnant a million times, had three kids, got older... fine. I did try the cabbage soup diet last summer to get into some pants and then again to get into a different pair of pants but I have to admit that was more an experiment in the joys of self-denial than an actual weight management initiative.

Then, somehow, between March and now, I have gained another ten pounds. Blammo. Just like that. And it is all in my ass and my stomach. Oh and my breasts but no one is complaining about that - that's fine. Keep it up. And wouldn't it be nice if it worked like that? "Oh I'd love another piece of cake but I can't... it'll go right to my boobs if I do." Or "I had to stop putting whipping cream in my coffee since it was making my eyelashes so thick and long."

Where was I? Right. Ten pounds in three months. Since I have not started eating an icecream cake every morning I am wondering if the sudden weight gain is somehow related to the anti-anxiety medication (Celexa) that I have been on since last November. I seem to have cycled through most of the other possible side effects (and to be fair most have passed after a few weeks - best advice my doctor has ever given me : "Give a side effect two months to resolve itself") and maybe this too shall pass but I don't know. On the one hand I feel better than I ever have in my entire life. I feel like a painting that has been straightened - my view on risks and dangers and impending tragedy was skewed and now it is not and it is marvelous. On the other I googled Celexa and weight gain and found stories about people who gained gained thirty forty fifty pounds and I thought GOOD LORD. I don't want to have to choose between mental and physical health. That sucks.

I mentioned the sudden weight gain to my doctor (also the sleepiness) and he suggested cutting my dose in half and seeing if it helps. I have been doing this off-and-on for about a week and so far the only measurable difference is that I rolled down my window and yelled "Do you MIND?" at a gaggle of roller skiiers who not only insisted upon occupying the dead center of my road they scooted along; they then congregated en masse at the stop sign, preventing me from turning and thus delaying my ability to get rid of my children at camp by THREE WHOLE MINUTES. I am perfectly willing to share the road but just for reference (Edward) sharing doesn't mean that you get the whole thing.

So I am a little crabby is what I am saying.

Anyway, having lauded the emotional miracle that is Celexa I felt compelled to tell you that it's not all peaches and cream. Well it might be but I wouldn't know because I have stopped eating. Actually I signed up for Weight Watchers because I do well when I get to obsess about controlling things (points! earning points!) I started last night and was amused to see that I used up 70% of my daily allotment on red wine. I mentioned this to Steve and he said that this struck him as disturbing but I started at 9 at night and the other 30% went to brown rice.   

Not sure what I am expecting you to say, really, but there it is. If you have any advice or philosophy I'll take it.

I recently made a genealogical breakthrough (I am fascinated by family history and always have been. I just like stories I think) and part of our trip to DC was dedicated to what I called Patrick's Family Heritage Tour (he referred to as The Compromise) which started with the houses where Steve and I had lived as children and ended at the new-to-me Litton family Cemetary. I never realized this before about a month ago but once upon a time 400 acres just north of Washington were farmed by my great great great great great great great grandfather. So Patrick and I went... back to Rockville. Rockville, home of my ancestors.

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The graveyard used to be near the house but in the intervening three centuries the house fell down and a suburb grew around it. It was sort of charming. The backyards of a block full of 1960s ranch homes formed a peaceful ring around the place. Like a Brady Bunch Stonehenge.

I almost forgot! The NICEST thing happened. The first stop on our tour was the house where Steve's grandparents had lived. There was a woman working on the garden when we arrived so I explained that Patrick's great-grandparents had lived in the house (because I thought she would wonder why I was about to take a picture.) She promptly invited us in, gave us a tour, explained that Steve's grandfather had practiced medicine out of the house and showed us where he had had his exam room and where people would wait. She could not have been any more gracious and as we left she took down a framed sign that was hanging on their porch and said, "I would like to give you this. I think it should go back to the family."

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Steve's grandfather made it. Isn't that just so... KIND of the new owners? I got all weepy as I accepted it.

Enjoy your holiday if you have one and if not, there's always August.