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January 2012

Party Like It's

The party went quite well, if I do say so myself. As parents dropped off their children Steve told them that we hoped to have the movie finished by around 8 but that they (the parents) were welcome to come back a little early and join us for a beer or a glass of wine or, um, water or chocolate milk or whatever and chat with other parents from the school. A surprising (to me - I took the under on Steve's bet) number of people took us up on this - possibly because the movie did not actually end until 8:30 and thus we were holding their kids hostage - so we wound up with a mini grown-up party in addition to our movie party and it was very nice to put faces to the license plates at which I have so often shaken my fist.

-actually I am kidding. Patrick's old school parking lot was filled with the dregs of humanity (abounding in line jumpers and speeders and handicapped parking space stealers) but this new place is a miracle of both efficiency and courtesy and I did not grudge them my wine or my chocolate milk -

Since so many parents came back early we only had two and a half hours until reinforcements arrived and it was all fine. The pre-Celexa me would have freaked out anyway but the normal me recognized that the entertaining bar for the twelve and under set is pretty low and, anyway, they were all just so excited to be together and not at school that they barely noticed the food or the movie or anything. This has been a realization that took me forever to assimilate but has been incredibly liberating: people (big and little) just like being together and appreciate hospitality in pretty much any form. You do not have to meet each and every dietary need. You do not have to dust the antimacassars and bust out the good plastic glasses. Just invite people and be happy they came and it tends to be a pretty good party. 

One guest has severe food allergies and arrived with his epi-kit. Just as I was worrying what to feed him he solved my dilemma by explaining that I shouldn't bother because he never eats anything away from home. I said, "Oh? Never? Nothing?" and he said, "Would you if someone not knowing what an egg looks like meant you COULD DIE?" and I thought awww it's like a whole classful of Patricks bless their teacher's heart and I said, "No, I wouldn't. Water?" He declined.

One kid had already seen Ghostbusters and hated it so he wandered upstairs when the movie started. I took him to Patrick's room to find a book and then he and I sat on the couch together and read in companionable silence for about an hour. In twenty years of entertaining he was, without question, my favorite guest ever.  

As people showed up we put on that collection of Pixar shorts that someone mentioned, then broke for pizza and carrots and cookies once everyone had arrived (thirteen in all.) After a loud but tidy dinner (at the conclusion of which over 90% of the children picked up their plates and cups and cleared their places - Steve and I almost fell over in awe) they trooped back downstairs for the the main feature which was... Ghostbusters. We could have gone with practically any of your other suggestions but just as I was heading off to Blockbuster to peruse the classics for things like Willow and The Last Starfighter my friend Noelle reminded me that Blockbuster is going out of business and I would be lucky to buy discounted bright blue shelving there let alone rent a movie. D'oops. So Ghostbusters it was and THANK YOU for the heads up on the poltergeistian s-e-x because no one I consulted had remembered the ribaldry. Being forewarned enabled us to forearm Steve with the remote control. So he established himself in a corner during the movie and whenever something happened that might cause random parents to send us heavily underlined copies of the Bible he created a technical difficulty complete with tipsy cameraman.

(I actually wondered if the reason why none of us remember the sex scenes was because our parents had done the same thing lo these many years ago. Like, no one has ever seen the unexpurgated Ghostbusters because generations of parents have frantically tripped over the cord to the Betamax just as things started to get steamy.)

I went with the carrots, by the way, because you told me to and because you were right: carrots are easier than salad. I am not entirely convinced that salad would have been universally reviled (but but but my kids eat it - I mean, except Caroline who has never eaten a green vegetable in her entire life and views our nightly salad like so many caterpillars on her plate) but I also know that no quantity of personal experience can qualify a person to predict what children in toto will eat. Take Oliver Twist, for example. I'll bet that just as he was up there asking for more some orphan in the corner was poking dubiously at her bowl saying, "I don't like this kind of gruel."

But yeah, Caroline won't eat vegetables except maybe carrots despite having them on her plate every day for the past seven hundred years. It doesn't matter if they are steamed or roasted or raw or cut a la Parenting magazine into whimsical shapes like zebras and the Arc de Triomphe. I have served them with dip and butter and bribes and... nothing doing. Edward, in contrast, loves vegetables. He can eat an entire bunch of asparagus by himself. He has been known to clasp his hands together and say, "Ohhhhhh zukeemee!" He can polish off a pint of tomatoes, two ears of corn and as much broccoli as can be wedged into a plastic produce bag. And Patrick, who got the full force of our first child only child why won't he eeeeeaaat angst still eats exactly what we fretted over when he was three: red pepper, carrots, salad and raw spinach - broccoli and asparagus only under protest. Potatoes, never.

Good lord where was I? Oh right I served carrots to strange children and some of them ate them and some of them did not and I did not really care one way or another. I didn't even care - much - when the pediatrician asked Caroline at her four year check if she eats vegetable and Caroline turned her head into her shoulder and did a full-on silent screen shudder and said, "Vegetables! Oh NO!" And then I had to listen to a lecture that was directed at her but really at me about how she needed to be presented with a daily assortment of fresh n' healthy blah et ceteras.

Oh hey, did I ever tell you about their four year appointments? They were pretty humdrum so probably not. In terms of size Caroline is 25/25 and Edward is 50/50-75. They tested vision and hearing but since Edward already sees an eye doctor annually for the iris cysts that blinded him as a newborn (he's fine) and has seen an audiologist after his ear glue issues (also fine) there was nothing new there. Caroline shook hands with the pediatrician and asked how his kids were doing. He said, "Fine. How are you parents?" She said, "Oh they're good." When we left he said that were both fine, healthy and developing normally; Caroline scarily so. She really is the most social of butterflies and we are so not and I think scary is a good word for it because the rest of us find her willingness to stop in a restaurant and admire someone's baby rather frightening.

So here's a discussion question: what happened to calling adults by their titles? I called every adult I knew Mrs or Mr and the only exceptions were family who became Aunt First Name. That went for my parents' friends as well as my friends' parents. I actually rented a room from my best friend's Dad for a few months after college and I still cannot imagine calling him Harry. But no one at Patrick's party even attempted a Mrs. I don't mind, mind you, and I'm sure if I had said "You may call me Mrs Danvers" while clanking the ring of keys around my belt they all would have done so but I am curious. Is this regional? National? Do they do this even in the - pearl clutch - South


An Affair To Forget

When I want to be alone I take a bath. Generally this works for about five minutes until Caroline's mermaid senses go all tingly and the next thing I know she has materialized from under the bathroom door and executed a neat swan dive as she enters the tub with me. Then Edward will wander in, look at us in surprise and say, "Oh, are we taking a bath?" and he'll plunge in too. That's when I climb out because bathing with three people in the tub is not really alone. Sure the butcher and the baker did it, but did Garbo? No.

When Steve wants to be alone he remodels part of the house which is further proof that Steve is much smarter than I am and not only because he understands which way to turn the wheel when he wants to back up to the left. Not only does no one strip off their dinosaur pants and climb into a construction zone with him but it is hard to prolong even the lengthiest bath much past an hour whereas the basement project alone took Steve two years. Two years of throwing up his hands apologetically and saying, "I would [whatever] but I have to flange the binnacles; unless you don't care if the toilet downstairs flushes... ?" And when I hastened to assure him that, yes, I do prefer those new flush toilets that everyone is talking about he said, "Well then I guess you'll have to [whatever] without me because those spy sprockets aren't going to monkeywrench the panel slotters all by themselves."

I mention this because Steve was without a project for almost a year and he started to get sort of twitchy and that's why this corner of our basement that used to be a good place to throw things we don't use but might want later (like the microwave with the broken door and the antique phone from Steve's grandparents' house in Ohio) is now painted burgundy and smells like popcorn. It's our new place to watch TV and although my intial reaction was Oh my god, really? Another place for Edward to watch television? I have to admit it has been pretty fun. We started Family Movie Night and at least once a week all five of us crowd onto beanbag chairs and fight over what to watch

[What is WRONG with these people? How can you NOT want to watch Tangled over and over and over and over again? It's awesome. That song? In the boat? With the floating lanterns? I LOVE THAT SONG]

Inevitably Patrick asked to invite some people over so that he could have Friend Movie Night (Patrick takes after his father in that he loves to entertain and doesn't quite get that hospitality is not manufactured wholesale by elves any more than clean towels are but fine) and after saying for the past six weeks, sure, we should do that some time I surprised the hell out of myself by saying ok how about Saturday?

Patrick made up a guest list that included every boy in his class but one and when I pointed out that he couldn't just not invite one kid he was horrified and said, "Oh I didn't mean to forget HIM. Of course we have to invite HIM. And all the girls too I guess."

So we have invited Patrick's entire fourth grade class (plus a very good non-school friend) for pizza and a movie at our house in two days.

These are my questions for you:

1. aaaaaarrrrruuuuugh

2. If I have a sufficient quantity of cheese pizza, water and lemonade and I make a giant salad and chocolate chip cookies do I need anything else except popcorn?

3. What? Movie? Should? They? Watch?

They are 9-10 year olds, boys and girls. I have only met a couple of parents and am anxious not to offend anybody by which I mean that I am anxious not to have anyone call me afterward to say, "Lemuel never used the word buttmunch before he was corrupted at your house." So, you know, ix-nay on the seminal Tom Hanks' work Saving Private Ryan I mean Bachelor Party. Also I don't want it to be something they have all seen so often that they get bored and wander into the rest of the house to set fires in wastepaper baskets - that's Caroline's job.  

Please (please please) advise. Also if you want to come over and help I will be able to excuse myself and take a bath. Just saying.


Pended

By the time Patrick and I got home last night all I wanted was a very hot bath and a medium-sized glass of wine - we had a pharmaceutical odyssey; not the good kind - so forgive me for failing to get back to you sooner. For what it is worth I wound up skipping the bath, too, and instead plunged directly into the wine and then bed. Then this morning Caroline and Edward had a sports sampler class at the Y followed by a trek to the library and hey look at that the morning's almost over.

The pediatric infectious disease specialist pulled up the images from Patrick's two CT scans and took us through the Before and After. He said that Patrick in November wasn't the worst he had ever seen but he was pretty bad. He showed us all the parts of his head that should have been black (air) but were white (bacterial ooze) which was... all of them. In pleasant contrast, Patrick's more recent scan looked like a vase and an old lady. His infection has (almost entirely - more on that) cleared and the various linings have returned more or less to normal. So that's excellent. With the gunk gone they can see that he has a cyst/lump/mass in one sinus which probably resulted from the chronic sinusitis and is most likely either harmless and should be left alone or a growing thing that will be need to be removed. The way to determine whether it is lazy or sinister is: do nothing. If it also does nothing you're cool; live and let lie there. If, however, it starts to increase in size it will eventually start shoving bones around and then it needs to be managed. Air quote managed air quote. Since I am not sure what any of that really means I think we'll return to the ENT who also noticed something lumpy in the sinus and get her to benchmark it.

Brief sidebar:

The first thing the Mayo guy said (well one of the first) was that sinus surgery *breezy hand wave* never works for children. And I thought OH GOD because it's not like Patrick was begging us to get his sinuses operated upon - in fact, he was opposed to the idea - and we made him do it because we are bigger than he is and to find out that this decision was wrong wrong wrong... well it feels guiltifying.

I also thought WELL and HUMMPH and that I was never going back to that ENT again... the nerve of the woman... but the more time I spent with the Mayo guy the more I concluded that perhaps there is more grey in the rest of the world than exists in his. Perhaps the ENT who performed Patrick's sinus surgery made the right decision based upon her experience and Patrick is just an outlier or unlucky or whatever because it didn't prevent an immediate recurrence of the disease.

And the reason I concluded this is because the Mayo guy showed us on the initial scan where the openings in Patrick's maxillary sinuses had been completely blocked and noted as an aside that the human maxillary sinus is very poorly designed because those openings are at the top rather than the bottom.

"It is like a toilet where the drain is on the top and you can see how the cilia have to move mucus up and out. Very inefficient. I would have done it differently..."

And Patrick said, "What, evolution?"

And the Mayo guy gave a cocktail party laugh, the kind that goes ha ha ha ha ahhhh ha and smiled without any mirth.

And I thought, oh WHATEVER and made a note to take the ENT out of the untouchables column into which I had placed her. Which goes to show I am irrational.

End sidebar.

And speaking of managing things although Patrick looks infection free on the scan there were some (I don't know. I got lost. I just nod and wait for the report to show up in the mail) something something and the net is that Patrick is on an antibiotic solution that is to be slooshed through his sinuses every day until at least April. 

The doctor wrote the prescription and handed it to me, saying, "Please get this filled at our pharmacy. Other places tend to have never heard of it and then they call me... it is a lot easier for me if you just get it filled here."

And I said, "Yes sir of course sir no problemo sir fill it here check and thank you ever so much for your time" and went down to the pharmacy where I was APPALLED by the line. But I am nothing if not overly concerned about what people think of me so I stood in line and waited to be checked in and then sat down and waited to be called up and was finally allowed to hand over the prescription and our insurance card at which point I was told that there was a code problem of some kind and it would take 30, maybe 45 minutes to resolve it after which they would start on the prescription which would take another 30 minutes. Since Patrick and I had been in Rochester for nine hours by this time I thought oh eff this and said I would just take the prescription with me and get it filled closer to our house.

Back at the ranch, however, I learned that this was easier said than done. After going to three separate pharmacies I discovered that no one can fill this prescription. Well, maybe one of the hospitals downtown but not your average strip mall CVS or even your above average compounding Walgreens. So I guess when the doctor said that it would be easier for him to get it filled by the Mayo pharmacy he was implying that it would also be easier for me. And by easier he meant possible. This morning I had to call the Mayo and ask them to mail it to us and it won't be here for another week. Blast it.

But all in all things are much improved. Patrick at the Mayo, a picture of health.

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Pending

We woke up today to a moderate snowstorm which was pretty for about two seconds until I remembered that I had to drive to Rochester to take Patrick back to the Mayo Clinic this morning. As per usual Patrick and I left the house twenty minutes later than I had intended only to discover (STEVE!) that the last person to drive the car had ignored the soft yellow glow of the empty fuel tank light. If one lives sandwiched between two gas stations this isn't a big deal but the line from my house to the Mayo Clinic is straight only if I don't have to first drive several many miles in the opposite direction to get gas. Then the entrance ramp to the freeway was (literally) backed up for over a mile and after crawing along for half an hour I decided to take a clever country backroads route that was not only not plowed, it looked like it was where they had dumped all of the snow that they had removed from other, more travelled roads. Bite me, Robert Frost, is what I mean to say and look at that: my hands are still shaking.

I loathe being late for appointments. Loathe it.

Anyway we showed up at 10:15 for a 9:30 CT scan and I was perfectly prepared to have to crawl through the door labeled Supplicants before being asked to reschedule for March but they actually got him in within five minutes and all was well. Go Mayo.

Last night, knowing that we had a big chunk of time to kill between appointments, I looked up Things To Do in Rochester. I was thinking an art museum or an historic house tour or something. I was kinda shocked to discover that there is actually nothing to do here apart from blood pressure checks and bowel resectioning. You would think it would have occurred to all of these snowbound medical types that they could put a community center with pool tables right here in this old barn and then charge visiting invalids thousands of dollars to use them but... no.

So Patrick and I have taken refuge at the top floor of the highest building (Patrick is like King Kong - he always goes up) in town. I am writing this (hi) and Patrick is playing Angry Birds on my phone. I think we'll wander out for lunch in half an hour or so and then I'm going to spring the good news that I brought all of Patrick's homework with us so he can get back to work on the damned slope intercept before he sees the infectious disease guy. ! I know. I'm thoughtful.

For the record I have absolutely no idea if Patrick's head is better. No idea at all. I tried to sneak a peak at the screen after his scan but I couldn't figure out whether his head was right side up or down in the image and that did not bode well for my ability to discern healthy from unhealthy tissue.

I shall check back in this afternoon and let you know what the doctor says. In the meantime - much as I regret the reason for our trip - I am quite enjoying the day alone with Patrick. Sometimes it is nice to have nothing to do with one of my favorite people.


One Liners

From the living room I heard, "Oh just shut up, Hehyo Kitty!"

I poked my head around the corner and saw Edward sitting on the floor by himself. Held up to his face was one of Caroline's one inch Hello Kitty figurines. It looked serene, pastel, vapid. Edward was scowling at it.

"Everything ok?" I asked.

"Yeah," said Edward without pausing in his glower.

"Sure?"

"Yeah."

I raised my eyebrows and backed away, leaving him to his quarrel.

"I mean it Hehyo Kitty - BE QUIET!" followed behind me.

I have this vague memory from somewhere - here? the comments? - about a boy whose imaginary friend was an older girl who refused to play with him. I always thought that was deliciously hilariously weird (clearly a trait we cherish around here) and Edward's one-sided feud with Hello Kitty ranks right up there.  Also I've never thought of Hello Kitty as particularly brave but I admit I was impressed that she was taking him on like that. He's pretty fierce.

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Caroline is all about questions. Mostly what does that spell? or how do you spell... ? or - worse - why is that spelled... ? She is at the stage when children actively try to make sense of things; understanding, sorting and categorizing: boy toys and girl toys; cat food and people food; big kid movies and little kid movies.

This morning she crawled into bed with us rather early? Six? I don't know. It was dark and cold. It quickly became apparent that she had a very stuffed up nose and after listening to her snuffle for a couple of minutes I groped around on my bedside table until I found a handkerchief.

"Here Caroline," I whispered, "lean towards me and I'll help you blow your nose."

"No, I'm good," she whispered back. Then she picked up the edge of our duvet, held it up to her face and thoroughly blew her nose into it.

Which was completely disgusting and prompted a rapid evacuation of all parties from the bed. I started to gather up the bedding and Steve staggered toward the bathroom with Caroline trotting after him.

"Do you need to pee? I already went pee. Are you going to go pee? Boys pee standing up. Edward pees standing up.  Girls pee sitting down like delicate little flowers. I pee and poop sitting down. Daddy? Daddy Daddy Daddy? What about you? Do you poop like a delicate little flower?"

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Patrick is irritated by negative numbers. Why? WHO KNOWS. But they annoy him. He was sitting at my desk the other day, working out the equation of a line and lambasting the entire premise of negative numbers.

"I mean how many elephants are sitting on this desk right now? Zero? Negative two? Negative twenty? Pah!"

Pah, says my eleventy-eleven year old fourth grader. Pah. Or maybe it was Bah. Whichever. Anyway, I was fairly sure he was teasing me about the whole negative numbers thing but just in case I wracked my memory trying to come up with the history of negative numbers? Fairly recent, maybe? Like, seventeenth, eighteenth century recent. Dutch perhaps? And they had a commercial start I'm pretty sure. Someone pointed out that accounts receivable and payable needed to be recorded and voila, negative numbers.

For the record I am not looking this up and therefore am well aware of the fact that I am making a fool of myself. But this is what I sort of remembered and duly repeated to Patrick in an effort to defend the negative. In an ideal world we would have wikipedia handy at every parental turn but sometimes you just have to fake it. With authority.

Patrick continued to work on functions and listened to me bumble on about numbers and finally said, "So you are saying that negative numbers are necessary because they allow people to pretend they have money that they do not - in fact - have. That they might - in fact - never have because just because someone owes it to you they might not give it to you especially in the 1700s when they basically dropped dead all the time?"

And I said, "...yarb?"

And he asked for a snack and I hurried to get it for him because I am VERY good at making Boost milkshakes as indicated by the fact that Patrick has gained two pounds.

Feel free, of course, to offer me a better defense of the negative numbers. Clearly I need one.

This is the family portrait Patrick drew for his Spanish class. He said that his teacher asked him not to show it to his mother for fear it might upset me. She is a very very nice woman but she overestimates the tenderness of my feelings. Please note little stick Caroline and little stick Edward and the little stick gatos. I laughed until I wept. Speaking of deliciously weird.

I am trying to find an art class for Patrick but striking out in the obvious places. He loves to paint but needs to learn technique. This is his latest (excuse the glare and it doesn't do justice to the colors) and personally I think it is great although of course these things are subjective. It's called Alien Moon, by the way, if you want to know what he was seeing. He took classes last year at the very formal Art Academy and I thought it was going to be a good thing but not only did he not enjoy it; he finished up feeling terrible about what he does and did not pick up a pencil or brush for months after the class ended. That would be, um, the exact opposite of what I was hoping to accomplish. I looked at MCAD but it doesn't start drawing and painting classes until age 12. I tried Craigslist because I thought maybe some art teacher might be looking to tutor... but nope. Any ideas?


Our Babysitter Has Winter Break And I Have Time To Myself This Week

Good heavens was I in a good mood when I wrote that last post. I think the thrill of being alone for the first time in ten days must've happied up my blood to the point that I was no longer safe to operate a moving vehicle.

Love! Happiness! Mary Tyler Moore!

- In high school I once watched an anti-drug filmstrip that purported to be actual footage of a man after consuming *GASP* lysergic acid diethylamide. LSD. Acid. The devil's hubba bubba.

When an Edward R Murrow knock-off intoned "What do you think about when you are... on a [rabbit ears] trip [rabbit ears]?" the guy replied, all squeaky like he had been taking a helium chaser with that tab, "I think of heavenly things... love. Happiness. Mary Tyler Moore."

He then couldn't get past C in the alphabet, stopping every time to say, "A. B. C... what was the question?"

I laughed so hard I fell off my chair and was sent into the hallway -

So anyway I was clearly as high as a kite during that last post. High... on preschool! This puts me in sharp contrast to Edward who was less than excited about his return to lower education. In fact he... any guesses? Yes! He screamed. Gar. He really is driving me crazy. The only silver lining with him is that I have noticed the hint of a smile as he refuses to say "please." A glimmer of mischievousness as he arranges himself on the floor in order to deliver his manifesto against eating dinner. I think he is testing his wings as much as his lungs and our patience. Otherwise he's the evil one and that just doesn't make sense.

Which returns me to my original point, which was the blinding roseate glare that skewed everything on Tuesday. Not that Caroline isn't a lovely love but how did I forget to mention her... oh how to say... the steel at the heart of her sugar magnolia? Some are born good; some achieve goodness; some have goodness thrust upon them and still others are keen natural observers who quickly process that a fascimile of goodness is the quickest route to achieving one's desires. I'm just saying she seems sweet but it is possible even probable that she is faking it.

I have, on more than one occasion, overheard Caroline muttering "Idiots" under her breath. True story. I don't even know where she learned that word or how she realized it is best muttered but she does it.

Last night she walked into the kitchen and said, "Next Christmas can I get maybe headphones so that I can't hear Edward any more?"

Actually that last one made quite a bit of sense.

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I was going to add this picture of Patrick and his trusty chunky sidekick, Darwinfish, to the last post but then I didn't because I worried that he looks peaked. But, ok, he looks peaked. Clearly the daily cookies washed down with Boost just haven't kicked in yet.

I got a call yesterday from the saint at our pediatrician's office who manages referrals. Actually, let me back up.

When we saw his pediatrician back in October he (the pediatrician) said if he (Patrick) were his kid he would take him to Rochester. I went home and called our insurer and said that I wanted to take my child down to the Mayo clinic; was there anything I needed to have done on their end? The woman put me hold and then came back and said, oh, you're fine, it's in network for you.

[ALWAYS, ALWAYS make a note of the date and name of whoever gives you information like this. seriously. I didn't. D'oh]

So I took Patrick to his appointment and three weeks later I got a call from his pediatrician's office saying that they were having an issue with the referral. I called her back and said what referral and then called my insurer again who put me on hold for five years. When this woman came back

[while I waited I wrote her name down. and the date]

she said, yeah, huh, you see, the thing is, the Mayo is in network for you but not for your son since you have the same insurance but he has a different primary care clinic.

Which, what?

But before I could even get through the hy- of hyperventilating (do you KNOW how much a CT Scan costs out of pocket at the Mayo clinic? an oil well. that's how much) she offered me three different possible ways we could get them to pay for it and I called the pediatrician's office back and the referral saint was wildly helpful too and I thought it was all managed.

I didn't check our home voicemail for a couple, five days last week and when I finally did it was three in the morning on Tuesday and I was up because Edward had had a nightmare and then our babysitter's cell phone randomly dialed our number and I couldn't fall back asleep because I was afraid she was being murdered and had just managed to get her hands on her phone before... awful.

(Before I started Celexa I used to think like this all. the. time. I lived with a knot of worry in my chest over car accidents that didn't happen; murderous thugs with baseballs bats who were not actually in my basement. Now these thoughts are noticeable from their usual absence. I thought it was normal but real normal is much much better.)

So I checked our voicemail at three in the morning and there were four messages from the referral saint at our pediatrician's office asking with increasing urgency to call her back. Between that and worry about our sitter (she is fine) I never went back to sleep.

The short version is that at first they refused to pay for the initial visit but she wrestled them into submission (whew) and that is covered after all. However they were refusing to pay for the follow up in two weeks and this concerned me. I mean the kid is currently taking copious quantities of a drug prescribed by Doctor X with the clear followup plan of a CT Scan to compare to the last one and a return check by Doctor X. It's all very good and well to talk about getting us back into their system with local providers but Patrick is taking the sulfa right now. He needs another check to determine if the six weeks of anti-everything have worked or not and if not we need to move onto the next plan.

I paced outside of Steve's office door waiting for him to get off a call and then I swept in and announced that they weren't going to pay for a follow up for Patrick at the Mayo.

Steve said, "OK" and looked at me, like, "Anything else?"

"OK?!"

"OK."

I thanked him for giving me a continuing reason to live; namely, it is unthinkable that he should ever be left in charge of advocating for our children and their healthcare needs.

"OK." What the hell is that about?

I left Steve in his happy tout est pour le mieux haze and called our insurer and asked for their help in convincing the intermediary whatsit (the managed health sub-group or whatever) to refer us for one more visit so we can have closure on this current treatment before transitioning him to someone else. I then called the local infectious disease people and spoke to a wonderful nurse about the fact that Patrick was about to be abandoned mid-treatment and she got him in for the first available appointment with them, which unfortunately isn't until February but still it's better than nothing.

In the meantime - I learned today - the referral saint was busy on her end working on the powers that be to allow one more visit on the basis of the fact that Patrick was in the middle of something. When we spoke this morning she let me know she had been successful but I had to promise to get a plan from the Mayo doctor that we would then move to whoever up here. I promised.

I would like to leave a little something at the office for her because I feel like she went way above and beyond the call to get a complicated situation sorted out for us. What do you think would be best? A flower arrangement? Potted plant? Baked goods?

PS Patrick and I started Wee Free Men and although I worried that the accents would be incomprehensible to Patrick he coolly informed me that he understood it perfectly, thank you, and would I mind not talking over the book as I tried to translate English into English for him.

I was reminded of watching the news on the day of the Lockerbie bombing. A local was describing the impact and Peter Jennings was repeating, word for word, in English, what the Scottish person had just said... in English. Do the Scots get that a lot, do you think?

PS Barbara Hambly. I haven't read her in a while but I am at the library and saw that she has a new book out in a series that I enjoyed very very much about Benjamin January. First book in the series is A Free Man of Color and while they are technically mysteries her writing is superb and they can stand alone as outstanding historical fiction. You know, in case you are looking for something new to read.  


Jumbo

For Christmas I got Steve a pressure cooker/indoor smoker with the vague idea that he could use it to make his revolting collection of small frozen bird corpses slightly more palatable for the rest of us. And by the rest of us I mean me. You know, smoke em if you got em.

Initially we called the device the PreCoSmo but we quickly changed its name to the more accurate: Homer. Merry Christmas Steve now give me that kitchen gadget. Oh how I love this thing.

I started by smoking some salmon filets. Disastrous. Mistakes were made as I interpreted buttons labeled Hot Smoke and Cold Smoke and the end result was like chewing on the sodden remains of a campfire after a heavy rain. Blech. From there I have tried cold smoking and then searing scallops (not bad;) smoking a pork roast (excellent;) pressure cooking dried white beans and ham hocks to make soup in twenty (twenty!) minutes; pressure cooking chicken breasts for the children (nuff said;) and smoking kosher salt (brilliant. absolutely brilliant. it makes everything taste like bacon.)

So that's what I have been doing. I've also been recovering from all that holiday socializing. It's not that I don't enjoy it; it's just that I find it exhausting. That reminds me of one of my favorite comments. We were talking here about extroverts (Caroline) and introverts (the rest of us) and where people get their energy and someone repeated her husband's observation which was, to paraphrase: introverts get their energy from being alone, extroverts get theirs by sucking it out of the introverts.

Steve and I celebrated our thirteenth wedding anniversary on New Year's Eve. I woke up that morning and told Steve that although we don't usually do anniversary presents I would really really really like it if he would help me organize the house. I mean, REALLY organize it and to add a touch of compulsive glee to the process I had written down all the rooms on strips of paper and placed the strips into a hat. We would take turns drawing rooms out of the hat and then we would work together until that room was completely tidy before moving on. Didn't that sound FUN?

Steve squirmed a bit but eventually complied and we spent a madcap morning putting away the Christmas ornaments and doing fifty loads of laundry and finding homes for new toys. After a couple of hours of this we lost the hat. Or rather, I couldn't find it and Steve looked vague and eventually I discovered it on his desk.

"Oh there it is," he said.

It was my turn to pick so I reached into the hat and pulled out... "Have hot sex." All of the rooms were gone and every single slip of paper read: Have hot sex.

Steve looked over my shoulder and clicked his tongue. "Oh well. The hat has spoken."

What's a woman to do?

I frequently read - entirely in the comments of advice columns, I admit - about how hard it is to be married. This is not my experience at all. Being married to Steve is the easiest thing in the world and every single day I marvel at how lucky I was to meet him and how bizarre it is that none of the things that initially interested me (his green/gold/brown eyes, chiseled jaw and automobile figuring largely) have anything to do with how happy I am now. He makes me laugh. 

It was a great anniversary and after we put the kids to bed we split a bottle of champagne and watched Netflix.      

EDWARD

To say that Edward is driving us bananas would be a criminal understatement. He's awful. I was on the phone with my brother last night and mentioned the word sociopath and from upstairs Patrick shouted "Finally! Yes! Sociopath! I've been wanting to say that all day!" I shouted back up that Patrick needed to stop eavesdropping and not yell from his room when the twins are trying to sleep.

There is a lot of doing as I say in my parenting, you know.

+ TOTAL ASIDE - When we bought this house I had a moment's anxiety about the fact that the master bedroom is on the main floor while the other bedrooms are upstairs. I worried that we might not be accessible enough for the child(ren) and since I have seen this concern echoed about ten thousand times on House Hunters I wanted to take a moment to say: HA!

Also: Snuh.

Should you ever find yourself on the verge on not buying an otherwise lovely home because you worry about the sleeping distance between yourself and the kids - don't even. The children, they will close that distance. Trust me. +

Anyway, Edward the Terrible. I think, deep down, he is still the charming little lump of sugarrainbows we know and love but right now it is hard to ignore his more piercing air-raid siren qualities. He screams. This dreadful high-pitched explosion which occurs every time his will is thwarted; in other words, pretty much every second he isn't sitting on my lap watching TV and/or playing cars with Patrick. Yesterday I heard him go off and Patrick, calmly, said, "I'm not going to play with you if you scream like that." Patrick then went to his own room and shut the door; the door that Edward proceeded to beat upon while shouting, "PATRICK! PAY WITH ME! RIGHT! NOW! DO IT!"

I scurried up to intervene, explaining that Patrick wasn't going to spend time with him while he was shouting. Edward took a deep, shuddering breath and said, "But I just know that Patrick and I are best friend brudders. I just KNOW it and I want him to pay with me!"

This was cute and I softened and Edward saw my hesitation and seized that moment to fling himself back at Patrick's door, kicking it and screaming "SO OPEN UP! Or Else!"

He's young (by which I mean he is a solid six months behind his chronological age in terms of emotional development; in contrast to Caroline who has the social chops of a ten year old. straight up) and it will pass. In the meantime we all spend a lot of time gritting our teeth and repeating calm, firm boundaries except when I lose it and say "That is IT!" and carry him bodily up to his room, tossing him inside and then holding the doorknob until he stops screaming. Anyway. Edward. My beloved Edward. Is going through A Phase. A really really annoying phase.

On the plus side he creates delicious malapropisms (my current favorite is his timeless holiday greeting "Happy New York!") and really adorable grammatical hashes (like "Oh no I am isn't!" or the way he doubles every past tense so that he didn't just jump; he jumpeded.) He shares well. He is the creative mastermind behind everything he and Caroline do that departs even one scintillia from reality. Last night I briefly left the twins in the tub and when I returned with towels I found that Caroline was literally coated all over in strawberry hair conditioner. 

"What the... ?" I started and Edward explained, "I covered her in my special oil."

"Is that the WHOLE bottle of conditioner?"

"Yeah," said Edward, "but it's okay. It works magic on people AND mermaids."

Caroline nodded. "And I'm his mermaid."

Oh and Edward will only wear pajamas. I have managed to convince him that some fleece pants I bought at Target are pajama bottoms so he wears those outside but from the belly button up he is bed-ready 24/7. It seems like a harmless thing over which he can exert control.

Here he is happy.

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Here he is contemplating whether or not he is as happy as he could be.

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Aaand here we have Caroline and Edward posing for their birthday photo. So sweet.

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CAROLINE

Caroline is amazing and fun and lovely. She has genius social skills and since the rest of us, um, do not, she is a constant source of delight and awe. She was invited to the birthday party of a preschool classmate over the break and if it had been Patrick or Edward we would have been a little anxious about all of the pitfalls inherent in spending time in a strange house with strangers but Caroline practically drove herself and not for a moment did we worry about whether she would eat the lunch or find the bathroom. Granted she was wearing something completely different when we returned to pick her up which made us go ooooooooooh maybe we should have warned them.... ? but it turned out the little girls were playing dress up and all four of them were clad in gowns. Whew.

We discovered just before Christmas that Caroline can read. She's no Patrick (oh come on. I'm not comparing them I am simply noting that Patrick was enjoying Shel Silverstein on his own by 4 and he is extraordinary in that way and that is fine and when he is living on $6000 a year in the desert outside of Sedona creating giant sculptures from recycled school bus parts he will no doubt still like Silverstein) but she can cobble together sight words and sounding out words enough to make her way through a level one Easy Reader and she is SO PROUD OF HERSELF. It's very cute.

She passed Pike on her first try (again, no Patrick. he was a Pike for YEARS) and is taking swimming lessons as an eel. I was amused by her end of session evaluation which showed that she had mastered about two of the ten eel skills but noted "Great self confidence!"

I laughed. She has no idea what she is doing but her confidence in her abilities is fantastic. I suspect we'll hear that a lot about Caroline.

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Showing us silly

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Happy

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Unhappy

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Sneaky

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She's like the doll I never knew I wanted and I get to play with her all the time.

PATRICK

Patrick is better. Patrick is better? I don't know. Patrick has been on sulfa for three weeks and I think his sinuses are better but in truth I have no effing idea. My mom mentioned (a couple of times) in passing that Patrick seemed rather skinny and eventually this penetrated and I weighed him. I then put his weight and his height into one of the online calculators I used when Caroline was tiny and I was appalled. His BMI is literally off the bottom of the chart. Below fifth percentile. Skeletal. Famine victim. He's always been a fifty-fifty-ten kid (50th percentile for height, 50th for weight, 10th for head circumference back when they still measured his head which I still think is akin to phrenology) and now he's a little above fiftieth for height and nonetieth for weight.

I have started a campaign to fatten him up and after he finished a giant bedtime snack last night he said, "Wait a minute, are you trying to fatten me up?"

I said, "Yes."

He said, "Are we going to go all fairy tale?"

And I said, "No."

He said, "So if I ask for an icecream sandwich right now you'd give it to me?"

And I said, "Yes."

So he did and I did and I expect he'll start plumping up again any day now.

He had a good Christmas. As expected the Jonathan Coulton (or JoCo as we now call him since we are suddenly cool) was a big hit. I got him a DS and he plays it and the other night as I told him to shut it off and go to bed he said, "Isn't this pleasantly normal." I had been thinking the same thing but I was startled that Patrick made the observation. You know?

Raffle to follow.

Missed you.

Affectionately.