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March 2015

Well, Hell

Let me preface this by asking: have you already eaten? If so, fine. If not, you might want to come back later.

Caroline had a birthday party tonight and I was too tired to come up with a dinner plan after spending the entire day on the couch watching basketball, so I suggested that we drop her off and then take Edward and Patrick out for sushi.

As we pulled into the parking lot Patrick said, "Mom, just to let you know, I've had a slight headache all day and it's getting a little worse. Do you have anything with you?"

And I said, "Yeah, I think so. We'll get into the restaurant and you can get a coke or a tea and I probably have an ibuprofen."

Five minutes later we were seated and I found him an aleve and he ordered green tea. Then he curled up and shielded his eyes with his jacket. Which... ok. Right? No need to assume the worst. A little headache and it's not like we were at chuck e cheese; it was a dimly lit, quiet Japanese place. 

Five minutes later he said, "I need to go home."

What I should have said is, "Fine."

What I actually said is, "Oh you'll be ok. Give the medicine a bit of time to kick in. Do you want some miso soup? That might feel good."

He groaned.

Five minutes after this he sat bolt upright and got that look on his face; the one that is all too familiar to anyone whose college roommate ever made what we now call 'some bad choices'.

"You can't throw up on the table!" I squealed. This, of course, was a lie. Of course he could throw up on the table. Fortunately he did not. He ran for the bathroom with a hand clapped over his mouth.

Steve looked at me. I looked at him. Edward looked at Patrick's ika.

"Is he going to eat that?" Edward asked, hopefully.

"Go after him!" I said to Steve. "Probably not," I said to Edward.

Steve and Patrick were gone for about ten minutes, during which time Edward methodically plowed his way through everyone else's dinner. When they returned Patrick looked much, much better. Steve, however, looked much worse.

"Well?" I said.

"What happened to the rest of  the sushi?" asked Patrick.

"Four or five times," Steve answered me, tersely, and then, "Don't eat that!" as Patrick reached for the tobiko.

We ordered Patrick some soup and then a salad and I told him that I was sorry I hadn't listened to him when he said he wanted to go. Steve stared into space, shuddering while he absentmindedly drank the coke I had ordered for Patrick and I realized that he doesn't usually do sick. Like most modern fathers he can get his children breakfast, match mittens, brush the back molars, detangle wet hair and he has certainly wiped more bottoms than can be counted but I suspect he's never had to hold a vomiting kid over an appropriate receptacle in his life.

Not surprisingly, Steve chose not to finish his dinner.

In sum: blech.

PS I have to take Patrick to a neurologist but I have a hard time imagining how Patrick will track things like what he was doing before a headache started. He always seems so unaware until he is fifteen minutes away from throwing up in a restaurant. His headache diary will read: sleeping, headache but fine, sudden horrible blinding pain! fine again

PPS Oh and GUILT. I feel so GUILTY. If I was getting a migraine and I said I wanted to leave a restaurant and someone told me to drink some freaking miso soup????? Guuuuuiiiiiiilllllllt.

Abrupt Ending

I took Patrick to see his pediatrician yesterday and waited as patiently as I could while Patrick explained what he was doing there.

"My mom," he gestured to me, "thinks I might have a sinus infection."

"And what do you think?" his doctor asked.

"I guess it is possible but I don't think it is likely. I mean, yes, I have had a couple of migraines lately... "

"Five," I interjected.

"Five? No. Maybe two."

I counted them off on my fingers, "One at the farm, one three days before we went to the farm and you were under the blankets in my bed, one the week before that when you came home from school and fell asleep at five in the afternoon, one in my bed again and... another one."

Having made my point I settled back to let him and his doctor hash it out. You know, it's an odd feeling to have this clear moment in which the little kid for whom you are used to doing everything takes another step toward adulthood. It's his head, after all, and it was his appointment. Ultimately Patrick said the fatal phrase ["Sure I get the usual morning headache but it's not so bad"] and his doctor told him that the normal number of headaches for people to experience is: zero.

"Really?" Patrick looked surprised and I thought, oh poor muffin.

I didn't even realize that he had been waking up with a headache every day; I just knew he'd been getting a lot of migraines since we all had a bad cold two months ago. That plus the black eye circles, the Gorey'esque pallor, the localized pain above the eyebrow and the gummy lashes... classic Patrick stealth sinus infection.

So he's back on sulfa but this is his first sinus infection in a year. Definitely progress.

Speaking of teenagers - we might not have been but I was thinking it as I watched Patrick negotiate his care practically alone and without a leader - my favorite teenagers in the world (Noelle's thirteen, fifteen and seventeen year olds respectively) have just arrived for dinner (the eldest one drove; I assume their parents will follow) and this means I have to go. It also means in exchange for feeding them I get to play games tonight. Mwah ha ha ha ha ha (although they made me play Munchkin last time - INCOMPREHENSIBLE. I have never lost a game so thoroughly and so quickly in my life.)

I think teenagers get a bad rap, actually. All of the ones I know are generally charming.

I Cannot Believe I Forgot To Mention Foyle's War

I have plans this evening (as does Steve but different plans - I feel so Regency) and a brand new sitter arriving in six minutes but I wanted to check in and say WOW on the television recommendations. And then you'll wonder why you never hear from me again: can't talk. watching.

I just looked at the bracket invitation I got from one of Steve's contractors this morning and saw toward the bottom of the thread Steve's initial response to the invite:

I am either out - or we have to let Julia in, who is madder in march than I am.

I'm so touched. And, if the situation had been reversed and I was in a position to join a pool without Steve or not at all, I am, ah, I am sure I would have... he's a better man than I am, that Gunga Din.

Also, Baylor?? CMON!

Cooking. Shows.

For Christmas Steve got me a bottle of very fancy fish sauce (dijon fish sauce - but not a real green dress) along with a package of noodles and a book called something like Pad Thai for Utter Morons. I smiled and thanked him and put the bottle in the pantry where it has remained, quietly aging, until today.

It's a funny thing. I like Thai food. Not pad thai, true, but definitely chicken with basil and chiles, and satay has been one of my favorite foods since childhood when I attended a never-to-be-forgotten barbecue thrown by a neighbor upon their return from an overseas stint in Thailand. My mother stopped me pouring the peanut sauce into a cup the better from which to just drink it.

But the first time I tried to make something Thai'ish at home I discovered that the smell of unadulterated fish sauce makes my bottom lip wobble and my stomach clench and the idea of then pouring it into something that I plan to eat - although intellectually I know I will like it - is untenable. But Steve has been in Boston since Sunday and I have been pining for him and after deciding on a stir fry for dinner I got all squashy and vowed to open the Very Special Fish Sauce in honor of his return tonight. I reasoned that anything sealed with wax and aged in a bourbon barrel couldn't be terrible.

Wrong. Good grief. I almost bailed and went back to the garlic, ginger, scallion stir fry trinity but I closed my eyes and poured it into the stock and... unbelievable. How can something that smells that awful transform into something so delicious? Ninety-nine percent of the time if I don't like how it smells I am certainly not going to like how it tastes (see: Edward and eggs) but there you go. I literally cannot think of another example.

Hey, which reminds me... oh of two things, actually. The first is that Patrick and I have watched the past several seasons of the Amazing Race (nothing like competitive reality TV to initiate discussions about the ways people treat each other) and it is always appalling to us when competitors are asked to eat some local food and they are such dicks about it. We just watched the most recent one filmed in Bangkok and although I can comprehend that preserved eggs are an acquired taste, the woman selling them is standing right next to people as they gag, squeal and hold their noses.

"Patrick, how would you feel?"

"Confused, possibly hurt, probably offended."


And speaking of television I am looking for series recommendations. Back in the day Steve and I would get the kids in bed, get a drink and then wallow in back-to-back episodes of whatever via Netflix. Off the top of my head our all-time favorites include: Battlestar Galactica, Rome (Rome! so good I am writing it twice,) Deadwood, Band of Brothers, Firefly, Sopranos, Upstairs Downstairs (ha! so long ago we own it on VHS) and Six Feet Under. Some of them were cancelled too soon and lack a great arc (Rome and Firefly) and others dragged on so long that the arc was lost (Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Upstairs) but for the most part we really enjoyed them. Right now we like Vikings but as I look at this list I suspect that we have missed more than a few years of good in-between. Oh and Game of Thrones but I straddle the fence on this one. Yes, it is good, but it also makes me uncomfortable every. second. of. every. moment. We watched the first season and have agreed to wait until they are done filming to watch the rest. Maybe by then I'll be... less creeped out by moral bankruptcy.

And again, oh! Those were the dramas. Comedies we liked.... hmmmm: Coupling (British. my personal choice for funniest series pilot ever) The Office (British one, yay! American one, also yay! and thennnn it went on too long) Better Off Ted (watch it for the company's commericals alone) Arrested Development, 30 Rock (again, though, America. take a tip from the Brits. Create a show, think about how to end it and then END IT.) Patrick and I just found Spy two nights ago (currently being broadcast on PBS) and we thought it was so amusing that we watched the only two episodes we had recorded, twice.

So: first request is for shows that Steve and I might watch. We are partial to histories (I just went back up and added Band of Brothers as I typed that.) Second request is for shows Steve, Patrick and I could watch together since we are no longer able to get rid of him in the evening (nor, to be honest, as desirous to do so - children reach some sort of magical age and they can become deo volente quite good company.)

Thank you!

[Oh and thank you very much for the Texas suggestions (forever Pern in our hearts) and the teacher help guidance. You are always so incredibly generous with your knowledge and I appreciate it very much.]

PS Oh my god! Why didn't anyone remind me that brackets are due tomorrow! I have been so caught up in the football I almost forgot about the tallball*. Does anyone know how they are going to fill up all those other non-Kentucky spaces?

*New sports nomenclature courtesy of Patrick.

Time Well Spent (As Measured By Broken Watches)

I reached into the kitchen junk drawer today looking for a paperclip and pulled out a lollipop. Not a charms blowpop or I would have eaten it already, nor a flavor favored by any of the children. I contemplated the sucker for a moment and decided it came out a birthday party gift bag, mostly like one of Patrick's and therefore about four or five years old. Then, having completed my mental archeological field notes, I put the lollipop back, took a paperclip and walked away.

Fifteen minutes later I thought, wait, what? Did I just put a five year old piece of candy back into a drawer that is intended to hold office supplies?

Let me stop you right here. At some moment in the future you are going to be at this exact point. You are going to find yourself struggling to find your W-2 forms in a drawer full of twist-ties or using your foot to shove things back into the freezer. You will think: enough! I am just going to empty out this drawer on the floor while I watch Bradford City play Reading (or... whatever) and I am going to throw out everything that doesn't need to be in there. Shouldn't take more than half an hour, you'll tell yourself, and then I'll get right back to the tax stuff that needed a paperclip.


Ho ho ho ho.

Things I excavated from my kitchen drawers this afternoon:

- Five regular screwdrivers, three allen wrenchs and two sets of mini screwdrivers, which, fine, until you realize that Steve has an entire workroom in the garage with cabinets and drawers and those pegged wallboards with special hooks for, you know, screwdrivers

- Four watches that were too big or too itchy to wear

- a handheld... thing that imitates the sound and feel of popping bubblewrap

- two dozen photographs of Caroline and Edward sent home by their teacher at the end of their first year of preschool

- a beautiful marble hanko with a carved dragon on top and our last name engraved in English and kanji that I have never seen before in my entire life.

- five hundred million billion thousand paperclips, exactly

- a full set of event pins from the 1980 Moscow Olympics plus a tiny lapel pin featuring Lenin in rainbow colors

- a battery powered hermit crab! who knew? no batteries

- several carabiners designed for actual mountain climbing

- a 1944 50 Centimos piece from Venezuela

- a tile with Patrick's hand print from 2006

- 3 rub-on Maori arm tattoos from New Zealand

So I threw out the lollipop, spent several hours sorting the rest of the stuff into piles by category (tattoos, bubblewrap thing, carabiners, broken 4th generation ipod in one group; chargers for unknown devices, pens that have sentimental value but no ink, tiny red beaded clutch purse into another) aaaaaaannnnnnnnddddd

then I dumped it all back into the drawers.

The end.

PS Since you asked. Right there. Texas. See what I meant?



But My Typemanship Is Excellent

For the past five minutes I have been staring at a scribbled note that I left for myself this morning, presumably in the hope that it would serve as a clear reminder to do or buy or write about... fruh? Seriously, I have no idea what this says. It looks a bit like 'Perm' but that's ridiculous. I already look like Orphan Annie's raddled great-aunt as soon as the humidity kicks in. Pernod? Doubt it. Isn't that the stuff that tastes like licorice? I would hardly need to remind myself at eight in the morning that I dislike the taste of licorice-flavored liqueurs. Although I have reached a point in which I frequently find myself in the laundry room with absolutely no idea why I walked there, only to return to the kitchen to find a disemboweled remote-control in need of new batteries... which we keep in the laundry room. D'oh! Repeat as necessary.

And we wonder why I leave myself notes.

Soon I imagine there will come a time in which I wake up to: "Julia! You think uni tastes like regurgitated baby tongue - don't eat it!" or "You look terrible in yellow." It'll be like a sad, boring remake of Memento. 

Pent? Cripes what is this word? I just took it out to Patrick (who seems to be watching some bizarre combination of MythBusters and America's Funniest Videos... I entered on some poor man stepping out of his car onto black ice and then sliding face first down the street; whereupon a chemical engineer popped onto the screen to explain what was happening.

"What the... ?"

"Science!" Patrick grinned at me.)

I asked him what he thought I had written and after explaining that no one can ever read my handwriting so why even try, he suggested, "Pern." Then his eye was caught by another bit of the page that clearly reads "avrcdo" and "bluvert" and he asked if I had placed his dye order yet.

[Short answer: no I forgot; long answer: now that he mentions it I had promised to get him a specific green and some more blue-violet. Patrick is planning to open an online tie-dye shop this summer (socks mainly) and has been slowly building his inventory in anticipation. I have hopes that he'll produce things he feels are good enough to sell but his muse is a fickle one and his personal wealth (due to extreme stinginess) can more than recompense his backer (Steve) for material outlay if needed. So we'll see. After all, Patrick is still working on his license plate piece (your contributions were much appreciated and I swear that one day there will be a great reveal) two years later. Of course that project involves cutting metal and dye involves splashing color around... like I said, we'll see.]

You know, I have very clear memories of getting a G- (good, minus) on my first grade report card for handwriting and feeling ashamed but also exasperated. Didn't they think I wanted to write the best R I could? Didn't they know that if I could make the damned R any clearer I would obviously do so?

One of the many things I love about Edward's current teacher is how understanding she is about Edward's developing small motor skills, while still having expectations for him. Edward started with half the number of vocabulary words that the other kids received - not because she thought that he would struggle with the content but because she knows that the actual act of forming the letters is such an effort that he gets frustrated. She said she would rather he do something interesting with three words or five than laboriously just print his way through more.

Which brings me to a question that I have been meaning to ask (and clearly I'm not going anywhere with the mysterious P reminder.) For teachers and former teachers: what can parents do that would be the most helpful for you? Do you need classroom volunteers to handle some of the rote work? Parents to help with smaller teaching groups? Supplies? Money for supplies? I am so grateful for the year that all three kids are having that I want to give back but I am wondering about the best, most legitimately helpful way to do so.


PS Also... OH MY GOD IT SAYS TEXAS! Ha! Not a P it's a T. Yes. Texas. My mother and I are going to San Antonio for her birthday in early May. The reason she chose San Antonio is because she has never been and neither have I so... yee haw. However, I was looking at trip advisor and its ilk and I am just confused. We are pretty sure we want to stay on the riverwalk. We are planning on not getting a car. We are - provided my mother's ankle has healed - intrepid walkers. We prefer quiet to rowdy. We like museums, food, somewhere to read and a glass of wine with a view by day's end. This will be the first birthday trip I have ever taken with my Mom so I would like it to be special for her.

Where do we stay? Where do we eat? What do we do?  

The Wanderings

I watched Chelsea play PSG on my phone while sitting at a playground in one of the river towns through which we drive to get to the farm. It was my first attempt to stream anything, ever...

Aside: at our house we have no cell service and the only internet comes from satellite. Satellite internet is not only slow; it is rationed to the point of austerity: by which I mean that we get a total of 20 GB of download every month (plus another 20 we can use between midnight and eight am. thanks.) Once we hit 20 gigabytes we get throttled (I hate it. so. much) which means that our download speeds drop to sad umpteen kilobytes per second. Virtually useless.

There is literally no package available that will give us more data and the few times I have called hughesnet and threatened their pets if they didn't figure out a way for me to have a page load before world's end they've suggested I use one of their $5 restore tokens. Which, of course, I have done only to have those 500mb seemingly evaporate within hours. We're throttled right now, actually; have been all week and will be until tomorrow because I got data crazy earlier in the month, downloading system updates and Java for Patrick's ailing computer.

So if you ever see me at Target - after I have smelled all of the shampoo and a few bars of soap

[absolutely total digression but I just bought some sort of Old Spice citrusy deodorant for myself after sniffing my way through twelve linear feet of the offerings for women - baby powder or fake rose - gak. I initially felt a little defiant about my purchase but when I think about it, isn't the point of male washes and such to make them olfactorily attractive to potential dinner partners? Well there you go. I smell great and I would totally go to bed with me. In fact, I am planning on it.]



So if you see me at Target (or the library. or the parking lot of Patrick's school. or Noelle's driveway when I get really desperate - she gave permission!) with multiple kindles hanging out of my bag I am just borrowing wifi* and downloading books with impunity.

*I explained this to Patrick one day and he pointed out that "borrowing" implies an intent to return something; did I intend to give Target back their bandwidth at some point? He suggested "stealing". I countered that it was being freely offered with the expectation that while I was accessing that wifi I would also be purchasing yogurt, plastic bags, a pizza cutter, two dresses, a Minecraft sword and a 3D printer.

We settled on "consuming". If you see me covered in devices and loitering fear not; I am just consuming wifi.

... so I streamed the Chelsea match and it was probably a good thing that it cut out so much. I had just started to process the fact that Jose Mourinho is only two pixels tall when the screen froze. Stop, reboot, start again... did SG actually get a red card?!?!? Play, shoot, goal... no? Yes? Freeze... and so it continued until I gave up and was thus blissfully unaware of the fact that Chelsea was eliminated on the away goal point differential.

Today, however, there was nothing between me and the match but a pile of unsorted clean clothes and... well, Edward, who looked at the screen and then looked at me and said, wait, is this a different football game?

I had saved Chelsea for last after recording and watching, ah, a couple of the other matches as well. Just QPR. And Arsenal. And parts of Man City.

I admitted that it was, indeed, a different game.

He said, "There is so much football! You said I could watch something maybe later after football but there is no after football! The football never ends!"

This was such an uncanny echo of that very funny video that Sammyx and Bronwyn Joy recommended ( that I was tempted to stop watching Chelsea and show it to Edward.


Major (Sermonizing) Design Flaw

Our new car (it's a Toyota) is mostly... fine but there are a few annoying quirks: the driver's door beeps when it is opened and continues to beep every millisecond until it is closed again, the cruise control functions but was clearly designed for a person who has two thumbs on their right hand and there is no way to override the rabbit ears security feature rabbit ears that prevents someone in the passenger seat from entering an address into the navigation system while the car is moving.


But the thing that I find most irritating is the fact that the audio system turns on as soon as the engine is started. You can turn it off after a few moments but the fact that OFF isn't the default setting makes me want to punch it right in the console; especially since - having once paired my phone with the car - it always looks for it again so I constantly find myself on speaker phone.  

Which I thought was the height of this particular nuisance. But no!

Follow me on this: on the drive home from the farm we listened to Artemis Fowl which was playing through Audible. We got to the house and then Steve and Patrick left to go out to a dinner that they had been planning  for a while. I fed the twins and then put on my (wireless) (therefore bluetooth) headphones and starting listening to my book while I cleaned the kitchen and unpacked farm stuff. After I was done I paused my audiobook and then sat on the couch with Caroline and Edward so we could play Grim Fandango together (it's our thing. Caroline gets bored and wanders off but Edward and I are riveted.)

Eventually Steve and Patrick returned from their dinner and from the look on their faces I realized that something... odd had happened. Steve was amused and Patrick was smirking at me.

Steve said, "Ah, Julia? Did you know that the car picks up your phone before it even enters the garage?"

I took a moment to process this and then said, "It... ? Ohhhhhh BOLLOCKS."

Patrick looked thoughtful, "Bollocks, bollocks... no that wasn't the word. Dad? What words did I just learn from Mom's audiobook? The rake was vowing to do... what was it?"

Damn it. Ninety-nine percent of the time I use audible to listen to 17th century sermons and the one time I accidentally download something smutty my stupid car goes all pirate radio with it.

PS Oh wait that's not true. This is the second time I accidentally dittoed ditto. The first time was the day we picked up the new car, which also happened to be my birthday which also happened to be the day my mom flew in for a visit. She and Steve took me out to lunch so we got into the car and admired its new car smell and its attractive, dealer-issued paper floor mat covers.

And then the speakers picked up the last thing I had been listening to on my phone and a chocolate-covered Scottish burr was suggesting that some clearly willing lass might be more comfortable if she... explicit explicit explicit while he took his explicit explicit and then they exxxxxxxxplicit (also probably impossible.) I kept trying to shut it off but the car kept starting it again. After five minutes of this Steve was laughing so hard I thought he was going to have an apoplexy, my face was burning with embarrassment and my mother was giggling like a pixie.

With dignity, I blame the car.

More Like Cailleach/Brìghde

Yeah, no. Not Tartarus. Our neighbor came over last night with a bottle of his homemade raspberry wine and... let's just say that by the time he left it was all I could do to move over some photos and slap up a title. In my... sleepiness I looked at those pictures and thought: thawing Winter but frozen Spring, Persephone packing before a long visit with her mother, the midwestern striptease of snow melting to mud only to be iced over again before April.

And yes. Very beautiful.