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January 2015

En Famille

Tonight we went to our local Italian restaurant for dinner where Caroline met (in the ladies' bathroom) a very nice older woman who raises purebred Persian cats. Caroline returned to our table and started to tell us about her new acquaintance and the kittens when her brothers set upon her like Sally Jersey and the Countess of Leiven, decrying her forwardness and warning her of the dire consequences that will arise from too much familiarity with the unknown.

Steve said, "SHE'S FINE!" at the same moment I said, "It's ok. She's just being friendly and we're all here."

Edward began to list every awful thing that can happen to short people and Patrick expressed his views on the social presumption of children who mistake kindness for interest. I snapped at them both: "Enough! Caroline is friendly and smart and likeable and she is perfect just the way she is."

Caroline grinned and said, "I'll bet I will be president one day."

Patrick said, "President?! Really?! Do you even know what a Democrat is?"

Which takes me to two very separate anecdotes that I am not telling in chronological order:

1.  I said:

Patrick. Look at me. This is important:

My brother is four years older than I am. He was bigger than me. He was faster than me. He could ski. He could swim. He was great at soccer and he played the violin really, really well. We couldn't go anywhere without meeting somebody who would recognize him and greet him as a friend. He worked harder, laughed more, knew more about almost everything than I did.

But all I remember is my brother telling me that I could do it. I could ride that bike. I could put on skis. I could speak French, write a novel, tell that boy who broke my heart to regret every second of his life that passed without me.  

And forty years later he is still one of my best friends. I talk to him at least once a week if not once every other day. We know each other like no one else can.

Patrick, my sweet love, you have the opportunity to be that brother. You are so amazing in your own right; don't be jealous. Don't be negative. You have Caroline and Edward for the rest of your life: enjoy them.

2. As the waiter came to clear our plates Caroline answered Patrick's question:

"Of course I know what a democrat is! A democrat is African-American... "

Steve snorted. Patrick laughed. The waiter bolted. I turned purple.

"Garwk! No!" I shouted."No!"

Then I found my composure.

"I mean, yes, our current president is President Barack Obama and he was elected through the Democratic party and, yes, he is an African-American; so I understand why you made that connection but it is more complicated than that."

The entire family, Edward included, turned to me in polite interest and you know what? I spend a lot of time pretending not to know things that I know and this time I just went for it.

"Well!"I said. "I'm so glad you asked. Let's start with 1783 and the farewell address given by George Washington. In that seminal letter... ."

Steve said, "I think you might want to dial it down."

"Fine! OK! Democrats! It's a political affiliation and a person can be African-American or Caucasian or Hispanic or Asian-American or a smurf. It has nothing to do with race. In fact do you want to know who identify as Democrats, Caroline? Daddy and me."

Steve said, "Actually I voted for Colin Powell."

"He wasn't running," I said through clenched teeth.

"It's called a write-in."

I thought about stabbing him in the eye with a bread stick but instead I amended, "OK. Dad doesn't like anyone telling him what to do. Ever. But... ."

Patrick made a Venn Diagram for us on a cocktail napkin: Presidents, African-Americans, Democrats.

I started to explain why the diagram was not usable and Caroline's new friend came over to show Caroline the cat pictures on her phone and Edward said, "Speaking of governments did you know that the Aztecs just killed their enemies? And that they had boy warriors ?"

Children. Sometimes they embarrass you. Sometimes it is a misunderstanding. Always it is in public.


Cu Differently

Stop me if I have told you this before.

I started life as a redhead. Orangehead actually. I had curly, flaming copper-colored hair that - coupled with my round head and Buddha-like proportions - made me look like a wooly pumpkin. Only my mother could have thought I was a pretty baby, but no one could deny that I was eye-catching.

It was the first thing a stranger would say to me: "Oh look at that red hair!" or "Where did you get that red hair?" On a few never-to-be-forgotten occasions it resulted in actual swag; like when the florist said, "Any little girl with hair like yours should have roses" and gave me a red one. Or the time the pharmacist at the old People's drugstore on Connecticut Avenue climbed down from behind the counter and gave me a nickel for the gumball machine with the words, "My wife used to have hair that color." Later it would be, "Oh! You should be in Annie!" or "You could be Molly Ringwald" and I would nod as if to say, yes, it was true and such a pity that my schedule was so full; otherwise I would certainly be performing on Broadway or in Hollywood.

My point is that it was a part of my identity. It made me feel special.

So I was more than startled, I was appalled ten years ago when a very young Patrick coolly described my hair as "brown" and shortly thereafter a stylist peered into my scalp and said, "Oh, you have a little red in here, don't you?" Gak. Not yet! I thought and went to a new hair place, someplace edgy and urban and too young for me even at thirty'ish, and told their color person: RED. Thus I had my first experience with artificial hair color and I wound up looking like Carrie on stage at the prom. RED was an understatement.

[I am wandering from my point here but I just remembered something from that first color disaster. We left for a trip to DC a few days after I had it done and we can safely gauge how odd I looked by the fact that not a single family member mentioned my hair. Not once.

However, as we were leaving to come home a man stopped me in the gate area at National.

He said, "Excuse me. Did you grow up here?"

I said yes.

He said, "And did you go to Wilson?"

I said yes and then I got that panicky feeling you get when you have absolutely no idea who someone is but you should.

He turned to the guy he was traveling with and said, "I knew it!" Then he turned back to me at said "I saw you in the terminal and thought, only Julie Pre-Hippogriffs has hair that color."

He told me his name and I smiled and nodded and said... all of the things that you do say but between you and me I still have no idea who he was.

The point, though, is that he recognized my freaky hair color but it wasn't MY freaky hair color. Weird, right?]

Anyway, hair, identity, et cetera.

I have been getting it colored a couple times a year for almost a decade, just to keep it reddish. We began adding some highlights (a friend noted that I seemed blonder. I said, "Oh! Right. It's the carpooling. A person can getting very sun-kissed through these car windows") and I started to schedule appointments quarterly.  

And then, like in the past sixth months, all coup de foudre, my hair turned gray. Right there at the widow's peak. The bit I see every time I look in the rear-view mirror.

I... I...

Every strongly held belief that I have ever held about aging and beauty and grace now seems to be at war with a vanity I didn't even know I had and I am, sincerely, ashamed of myself. I go to the Y or the grocery store or, god, anywhere and see all of these attractive people: men, women; tiny, voluptuous; eighteen or eighty. I wasn't being precious when I stopped that elderly woman at the library to compliment her on how great she looked. Black hat, red coat, coral lipstick... she was terrific. 

But I look at myself with my dry winter skin and my morning plum eye bruises and the fading hair and I think, wow, that pharmacist and his nickel and his wife and the nostalgia for past selves? I think I get it. 


Thanks, Knute Rockne

There was no school today so over breakfast I asked if the children wanted to go swimming at the Y.

Edward said, "Yes!"

Caroline said, "Yes!"

Patrick said, "Waterslide."

I sighed. Then I said, "Yeah, ok. I can check if the slide is open."

Our Y has a two-story slide that they only open occasionally. It's giant, it's twisty, it's green, and it is off-limits to anyone under 48 inches tall who does not possess a pink wristband. In order to get a pink wristband you must demonstrate to a lifeguard that you can float on your back for x'ity seconds, then tread water for half a minute before flipping onto your back again for another x'ity. 

Patrick struggled with this for a long time but eventually a combination of OT and PT clicked for him and, seemingly overnight, he went from drowning in a glass of iced tea to joining the swim team. As for Caroline I don't even remember when she passed her pink wristband test; I think she might have been in utero. But Edward. Oh my beloved Edward. The last time Edward tried to pass the float, tread, float test was before Christmas as I watched through tiny cracks in the fingers that I held over my eyes: there was the lifeguard bent over the pool with a stopwatch in her hand; there was a tremendous churning of water reminiscent of feeding piranhas; and there was the moon of Edward's face turned upward, just breaking the surface of the water. He was floating and treading like a maniac; unfortunately his entire body was vertical rather than horizontal to the bottom of the pool.

He didn't pass.

We walked over to the slide stairs and checked to see if maybe he was now as tall as the post. It was close so I looked questioningly at the lifeguard. She shook her head. I pulled Edward's wet hair up into spikes and gestured, like, TA DA! She smiled but she shook her head again.

So Edward spent the last ten minutes of that swimming excursion wrapped in a towel on my lap, crying.

I know one cannot pre-rationalize grief but I tried.

I said, "If the slide is open, you guys, Edward, we can use it but it's likely that you might not be quite tall enough to go without the wristband. And although I know you are really close to passing the deep-water swim test we haven't been to the pool in a month to practice so I wouldn't count on it this time. We can all go and swim and have fun but it is possible that you won't be able to go on the slide, sorry."

Edward said, "What? But..."

Caroline cut him off. "Look Edward! Listen to me. Mom, Dad, me, Patrick, everyone... we all know you can do this. You CAN do this. You just need to try to do your best."

Sweet, right, but Edward heard the possible condescension and not the words and started to wave his spoon at her in a menacing manner.

I said, "Edward, hold on. Listen to her. She's being nice. She's being supportive. She believes in you."

Edward looked mollified but Patrick said, "Oh god not another Caroline pep talk."

I started to intervene again but Patrick was smiling.

"Remember, Caroline? Remember that pep talk you gave me when I was upset about something?"

Caroline started laughing. "Oh yeah," she said.

Patrick continued, "You said 'Hey! Pep talk: STOP IT!' and then you walked away."

PS We switched health insurance at the beginning of the month (remind me to share with you our thirteen year odyssey in the world of the self-insured) and after having numerous referrals for PT rejected because Edward scored in the bottom sixth percentile but not the bottom fourth, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that our new health insurance company doesn't care about that sort of thing. They don't even need a pre-authorization. They take the novel approach that if the pediatrician and therapist feel that a patient could benefit from therapy they will cover it like any other medical expense. So Edward is starting PT this week. Should be good. 


Sportif

Yeah, well. You know how it is. You meet a tall Londoner, he kisses your hand, you drink a few glasses of wine... then you wake up the next morning and you're a Chelsea fan. Do I feel dirty? Sure. Am I pleased that they're back on top of the BPL standings? Ummmmmmhmmmmmm.

But now I have to coax Steve out from the couch cushion grief fort he constructed when the Packers lost to Seattle this afternoon. Fortunately I have chocolate chip cookie dough in the freezer because it... it wasn't pretty.   

PS Since we are going all sports mad - an extraspecial holler to Sammyx from this afternoon: we are right there with you on F1. Did you know that every time Ricciardo smiles a Clag Fairy is born? It's true. 


Because It Is Played With The Foot

I just skimmed this before hitting publish and realized that I have written a thousand words about soccer. If you lived with me since this summer or visited over Christmas this would come as no surprise but I thought it was only fair to warn you.

 

I don't remember when exactly it was during the World Cup that I fell madly in love with soccer but the next thing I knew I was facedown on the bar; moaning as Belgium defeated the United States. An elderly gentleman stopped to pat me on the back.

"There's always 2018," he said, sadly.

I nodded but my lip was trembling. It wasn't just that our team had failed to progress (and I liked them. there aren't a lot of times you can point to an American anything as the scrappy global underdog.) It was the fact that I couldn't bear the thought of going four years without any games to watch. So I made the somewhat clinical decision to become a soccer fan; possibly even a soccer hooligan, should the opportunity arise. I was invested. I was passionate. I was... clueless.

The thing about the internet and soccer is that it assumes you already have a handle on the basics, like what team you like and in which league or leagues they play. I had neither and I became utterly confused. Did you know that there are about a billion soccer teams all over the world and they only play within their own country except when they don't?

I toyed with the idea of following American soccer but... I dunno. It seemed to me that the vast majority of the very best players in the World Cup played for teams in Europe and if one has the luxury of growing a devotion from scratch, as it were, shouldn't one seek out the people who are really, really good at it? 

So I ordered the Soccer Plus channels and watched old games. I asked my brother who he follows (Seattle. thanks.) I tried to think of some past connection upon which I could legitimately build my fandom. I considered the Tottenham Hotspurs because a guy I once dated had grown up in East Finchley. Then I remembered the last time we saw each other and... I rethought that. I strongly considered one of the Scottish teams - we all know how I feel about the Scots - until I watched a rerun of one game between, um, someone and someone else.

"Oh my god," I wailed to Steve when he walked into the room, "the Scots can't play footer for toffee." He laughed at me. He really laughed at me. I think he might still be laughing at me.

So the new season loomed and I had resigned myself to just watching a whole lot of games in the hope that some team might beckon to me when, during our last dinner at Tyler Place, I found myself seated near an Englishman and a Canadian with English parents.

"Hey!" I said. "You're English. Sorry," I amended to the Canadian, "English'ish." He shrugged.

"You're male."

They agreed.

"You can tell me which team to follow in soccer this year."

Whereupon they launched into an intense discussion on the rival merits of Arsenal and Chelsea. I listened and nodded and in the end I decided that I liked the sound of the word Chelsea more than the word Arsenal. It's just more melodic. Also, Chelsea uses this really pretty royal blue.

The Canadian, the Arsenal fan, clapped me on the shoulder and shook his head as he left.

"They'll only break your heart," he warned.

It's not easy being a devoted but untrained Chelsea fan in America. For starters I had to adjust to the fact that the English seem to take perverse pleasure in using completely different words than one might expect. For everything

soccer = football

field = pitch

game = match

tie = draw

coach = manager

cleats = boots (boots! for pity's sake)

team = club

and so on.

However, this is offset by that fact that they use absolutely dreamy terms like "cynical". In American football (which Patrick has conveniently renamed 'tackleball' for me) when a defender tangles with a receiver and does not have a legitimate play on the ball it is called pass interference. In football football they call it a cynical challenge. Tell me that isn't delightful.

Then there is the fact that despite my SoccerPlus (HA! Plus, my arsenal) package I never know what games I am actually going to be able to watch. I got all set this morning in my Chelsea scarf and my Chelsea knitted cap (Christmas presents, thank you Steven) and rallied the house with my favorite Chelsea chant (Chelsea, Chelsea - it's actually worth a click and listen. we find it hilarious. nothing like several hundred drunkards tunelessly shouting the same word over and over) only to discover that the game against Swansea had not recorded. It was like sitting down with your beer and your plate of nachos only to find out that the Browns' game is being preempted by a Dolly Parton bio-pic.

And it took me a long time, months actually, to figure out what the hell was going on. Chelsea plays in the Premier League against the other top British - English? see I don't even know. Scotland has its own league as does Ireland but I guess not Wales? - teams. They also play in the Championship League which is where the top European clubs compete against each other. And there is something I only just discovered called the FA cup where pretty much anybody can enter but usually your grandmother and her friends don't win. Unfortunately I missed all of these other games because I didn't even know they existed. Thanks, internet.

My final issue, beyond the fact that no one really wants to watch with me, is that it turns out Chelsea is good. Very very good. Diego Costa, Fabregas, Hazard, Courtois, Willian good. They are so good that André Schürrle, who was key in Germany's World Cup win, usually isn't even played until the last eight or nine minutes. And while I find it immensely gratifying that they play such beautiful football and win so very often it also feels a little opportunistic.

As Steve said, "Hold on. Did you pick up soccer to become a Patriots fan?"

I told him his challenge was unattractively cynical.

PS Thank you very much for your thoughts yesterday. Verrrrrrry interesting. I was all over it today with my calm yet firm redirections and my tossing of the children outside to build snow forts. It really helps to get outside perspectives and I thank you for it. 

This morning Patrick woke up and came downstairs with $10 for Caroline. She refused to take it.

He said, "It's for your wand thing."

She said, "I know but it's ok."

He went back upstairs with Rochester and you could hear the creaking of the vault hinge as he replaced the money.

Heeding your advice, I ignored it and let them work it out.


Baffled

I am completely exasperated with Patrick and I have no idea what to do about it. Right now he is confined to his room, following an episode that ended with Caroline's Elsa scepter being snapped into four pieces. If it was merely that Patrick was malicious or vindictive I would know how to react. I would strip his life of everything that makes it remotely pleasurable until he either became nice or learned how to fake it. But it was not Patrick's intention to break Caroline's present - thereby spiralling Caroline into a paroxysm of grief the likes of which has not been seen since Queen Victoria went into mourning - he was just trying to make the twins laugh. He is always trying to make the twins laugh and it is unfortunate that it always, always ends in shrieking of one kind or another. 

Take the Scepter Incident. Caroline and Edward were playing in Edward's room. Patrick entered and began some riff about being frightened by Frozen. Caroline and Edward started to sing about snowmen. Patrick pretended to cower in terror. Caroline and Edward howled with mirth and told him that Anna was hiding under the bed. Patrick whimpered. Edward brandished the Elsa scepter, waving it in Patrick's face, whereupon Patrick shrieked (again with the shrieking) "Nooooooooo!" and flung it across the room where it hit a wall and disintegrated. Cue despair.

I mean, right, we don't throw toys and Patrick snapped, "I said I was sorry!" with that half-guilty, half-defiant adolescent glare that makes me want to ship him to Outer Mongolia until he's thirty, but it wasn't that big of a deal. The situation could have been resolved with an apology and perhaps a small monetary offering in recompense if it weren't for the fact that this happens over and over and over and over and over again. He does the Tickle Spider game at breakfast (thus preventing everyone from, you know, eating breakfast) until Edward laughs so hard that he falls off the bar stool and hits his head. He pulled Caroline's oversized winter hat down over her face a dozen times at Target while she giggled until she walked into the corner of the cereal aisle.

He's like the Crazy Fun Uncle who gets the children so wound up at Thanksgiving that someone finally invented football just to get the guy to sit down. But unlike CFU who leaves to go back to college or the army or whatever Patrick is here all. the. time. And as often as Steve or I say, "Hey settle down" or "Hands to yourself" or "It sounds like it's getting a little wild up there" or "BE QUIET YOU SAVAGES!" he just keeps going and going until someone cries or Edward hauls off and punches him. 

It is driving me crazy. "Stop playing with your brother and sister!" sounds like the opposite of what I want but I don't know. Can't he just help Edward with his snap circuits or Caroline with her chemistry set? Must he construct Patrick's Fantastic Flashlights-Only Fort of Doom when he, I, you, everyone knows that Edward's fear of the dark is matched only by his desire to play in that fort? Does he have to keep bringing back There's A Monster Under The Purple Blanket and His Name is Frank? What's wrong with a nice quiet puzzle?

Seriously. I don't know what to do.


Good Grief

Do you want to know what kind of day I am having? This morning I bought everything I needed to make a quick chicken noodle soup for dinner... except the chicken. And the noodles.

So I just pulled an emergency pizza from the depths of the chest freezer only to have to pry all the toppings off with a knife as I realized that none of the children would eat a single one of them. What's the point of frozen pizza if the kids wind up with yogurt and peanut butter toast anyway? I might as well have made a big pot of spicy mussels and to hell with the lot of them.

Now, however, I don't care that I hit Patrick in the eye with a piece of frozen sausage and dinner was a misery. I am ditching Steve, abandoning my children and turning my back on an NHD exhibit board that has no title and nothing glued down and is due tomorrow. I don't care. I am meeting my friend Katie out for a glass of wine and I am going to have a lovely time. 


2015 Books.1

Today Caroline, Edward, Patrick and I sat in the car in our dark garage and finished the final fifteen minutes of the last book in the Septimus Heap heptalogy. Patrick and I had listened to the first six books a couple of years ago but we restarted the series with the twins at the beginning of last summer and it felt bittersweet to finally end it.

Angie Sage created a believable, livable fantasy world and each one of her seemingly endless cast of characters are extremely well crafted. The last two books in the series were the weakest but by that point we were so invested in the people and their places that it was easy to overlook the obvious: if she hadn't killed off her archvillain quite so early (see: Voldemort) it would not have felt like each subsequent book groped for a reason to arc. But, overall, we loved these books and highly recommend them to pretty much everyone. Adult with an affection for fantasy and a long commute? Enjoy. Kids six'ish [some scary stuff especially in the beginning. check commonsense media and assess per child] through twenty? You're good.

So now what? Patrick is advocating for Artemis Fowl since we liked them before and Caroline and Edward haven't heard it but I would prefer something new. Suggestions?


I Coulda Been A Contender

Grudgingly, oh so grudgingly, I will acknowledge that the use of lasers on a canker sore does provide some relief. The process isn't pleasant but it wasn't awful and it's true that the one little wound is completely better and the big pulpy mess that used to be my frenulum no longer makes me want to kill myself. Him, maybe, but not myself.

Anyway kiss kiss hugs all around thank you for all of your niceness and practicality. For what it is worth, should you find yourself in a similar position heaven forfend, this is what helped when my mouth was raw: alternating ibuprofen and acetaminophen around the clock, warm salt water, cold drinking water, tea, whining, ice cream, a prescription dental paste called triamcinolone acetonide that I horde for cankergencies and an OTC oral rinse called Therasol. The paste actually only works if you dab it on before a canker sore takes hold and was thus pretty useless in my current state but I thought I would throw it out there for you fellow sufferers. Ask your dentist or primary for a prescription but write it down first since they probably won't know what you're talking about. And Therasol... well, I got my bottle from my mother but she probably isn't the most reliable source for everybody. Ah Amazon has it. There you go.         

Moving on.

Around this time every year Patrick's former schools would notify us that the annual science fair was approaching and then they would gently remind us that the students needed to do their own work. This always struck me as laughable. Ever since the fourth grade when I ripped some leaves off my control philodendron in order to demonstrate that talking to plants encourages growth I have loathed science fairs. I hated that you were supposed to start months in advance. I hated the way the scientific method is so fussy. I hated the fact that it always took place after Christmas so the assignment hovered like a guilty shadow over winter break - not that I ever started earlier than the weekend before but I knew it was there and I cursed it.

Therefore I have found it quite easy not to impede Patrick in this particular learning process. I have never had the slightest urge to proof blueprints for a robotic chicken or to check to see if all space epoxies infringe upon existing patents. My son has been liberated from parental oversight; free to stand or fall upon his own research into the rates of baby tooth decay. I might, if asked, have helped to stencil the foam board, but that's it. So I would get those Back Off Parent notes and feel smug. Clearly I have no lingering issues regarding juvenile success or failure that I need to use my child to work through unlike some people.

Apparently my helicopter just hadn't flown over to Historyland yet.

Patrick has no science fair this year. Instead he is required to submit something for National History Day and oh my god it is all I can do not to duct tape him to a chair while I enact the entire second world war using sock puppets. You know, just to provide him with additional context. The theme this year is leadership and legacy and I had a couple dozen quite brilliant suggestions but he decided to go with Oppenheimer. I thought, hmmm, a little science-y but ok I we you can work with this. 

A couple of months ago Patrick was writing his draft thesis paragraph and asked me to check it for him. I read over his shoulder and said, "Oh you have a typo here. Let me... ." My arms snaked around him to the keyboard. Five minutes later Steve turned and barked, "Julia! Are you writing that for him?!"

I pulled my hands away as if I had been scorched.

"No!" I protested. "Of course not."

Patrick yelled, "Help Dad! Help! She's just written something about ineffable moral complexities. Grab her!"

His final first draft or first round pre-draft absolute or something is due on Friday. Last week I happened to be at the library and I happened to be in the history section and I happened to come home with a couple or seven additional books on the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, pre-war physics and Oppenheimer. Oh and a Feynman biography.

Patrick looked at the stack of books. He looked at me. He said, "What do you want me to do with those? Drop them on Mrs. A's head and hope that when she comes to she has forgotten all about NHD?"

I take back every snarky thought I ever had about those parents who built their kid's science fair display board out of burled walnut. It's not that I don't think Patrick will do a fine job on his own. It's not that I don't recognize that this, after all, is an infinitesimal blip on his academic horizon. It's just that I know I could do better. There. I said it. Given half an opportunity (and greater unrestricted access to Patrick's keyboard) I am quite certain I could enter this junior high history competition and kick their little asses.

And yes, I did do a history day project in sixth grade; and yes, I did go to the national competition which coincidentally happened to be held in DC where our school was the only one that had entered; and no, I did not win.      

I just offered to annotate Patrick's bibliography for him. I am so ashamed.


Meh

The morning after my holiday houseguests left I got out of bed, grabbed my book and a pillow and went to the couch where I remained for the rest of the day. True story. Eventually the children realized I really wasn't going to get up to do, well, anything so they gathered atop me like so many nesting octupi and asked, "Can we watch a show?"

"Sure," I said without looking up from my book.

And thus it continued - me reading, them watching TV - all day long, which is why I am able to tell you that there is a Phineas & Ferb episode in which Dr Doofenshmirtz snares Perry the Platypus in the trap of societal convention. Facing his nemesis and yet unable to make a scene in a fine-dining restaurant, Perry is temporarily thwarted.

I thought about this today at the dentist. Oh, thank you, by the way for urging me to call them. I really thought that I was supposed to just suck it up but your reassurance that it is normal, in fact expected, to return to the dentist if one is in howling torment was very helpful. So they got me in this afternoon and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back again explaining that I didn't think it was the tooth that was bothering me or even the lingering numb bits, so much, as the open wounds here here here here and unner' eeyar.

Then we blinked at each other. Now you know and I know and he knows that I didn't get the serpentine gash running under my tongue through injudicious whistling.

He said, "Hmmm, I guess you are prone to canker sores?"

Ha! You think? Yes, it's true, I get canker sores when I am stressed. Also when elves strap on barbed wire boots and go spelunking in my mouth*.   

Then he said

- and this is the part when Perry the Platypus sprang into my mind -

then he said, "OK. What I am going to do is use the laser on these ulcers."

See? What I thought, what I would have instantly said to Steve if he has suggested the same thing is, "Are you out of your fucking mind?"

But I was trapped by social norms. All I could say was, "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

He was. I think I need a new dentist.

PS I googled it when I got home and apparently using lasers on aphthous ulcers is not completely insane or uncommon. Sometimes it even works, I guess. I think one of the little ones he zapped might feel a bit better. Maybe.

Overall I would have been better if he had just hit me over the head with the nitrous tank. Oooh and an extra thank you to Susann who noted that her own experience with nitrous etc made her realize that she was unable while loopy to communicate her discomfort during treatment and was often left with damage similar to mine. I suspect that she is right and I will have to forswear the strawberry fields in the future. Pity.

*This might be the dirtiest thing about elves I have ever inadvertently implied.