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April 2015

Yeah, I Know

Caroline said, "Hey Mom, make sure you look in my take-home folder this time. There's an important medical bulletin in there."

I overlooked the obvious aspersion upon my school communications reliability (which, after all, was perfectly just) and checked the folder, where I found a sheet informing me that my child may have been exposed to pneumonia. I laughed.

"What?" Caroline asked.

"This is about Edward. It's telling people that someone at school - Edward - has been diagnosed with pneumonia and that he might have exposed other kids to it; exposed being a massive understatement in your case because you two are basically bunkmates."

Caroline frowned. "But everyone got one, not just me."

"Well, yes, they are just letting all the first grade families know."

"So ammonia is contagious?"

"Pneumonia (with an N sound although it is really a silent P at the beginning like ptarmigan)... "

"And psalter!" Patrick called down. I ignored him. 

"Pneumonia can be, I guess, although I doubt Edward was contagious. He started with a virus and he has had lung problems like this before."

"But it can be contagious?" she persisted.


She put her hand to her imaginary pearls and said, "Oh! I do hope none of my friends get sick!"

"Me too."

She thought about it. "You know, you shouldn't have sent him to school last week with that cough." 


As anyone who has ever watched me try to parallel park (hi Mom!) can attest; I am not good with spatial relations. I am really not.

I mention this because Edward climbed into my bed this morning, as is his habit, and...

"Since you're not doing anything," he began (actually I was sleeping but, you know, tomato... tomato) "I thought I could show you how to play Monument Valley."

Monument Valley is a game you recommended and if you ever wondered why Edward has named you as a beneficiary in his will, now you know. Edward loves it like the kindle fire app he never had.

"Um," I said.

"You said I could teach you this weekend and it is this weekend and it uses sacred geometry," he wheedled.

"Fine," I said and proceeded to try to get this little figure in a cone shaped hat from point A to point B over paths that I swear were completely disconnected from one another. It was impossible.

After thirty minutes Edward reached over and gently removed his kindle from my grasp. He said, "Mom. You know what game I think you might like instead? Angry Birds. It's... fun and... fun."

As Alison's father said in response to Jeremy's iron, "Mm hmm, well, that's... very good... for a first try. You know what? I have a ball. Perhaps you'd like to bounce it?"

But Of Course I Am Going Back For Arsenal

Nobody wanted to watch either the FA cup semifinal or Chelsea v Manchester United with me today so I left Steve and the children to their yard work and set off for St Paul in hopes of locating this secret soccer bar that I had read about online. I had driven in the general area a few times but it always looked sort of sketchy so I had never explored any further. Today, though, it was eleven o'clock in the morning, the sun was shining, the air was balmy and I had not one but two matches to watch so I decided to hell with it. I asked Steve if he would mind if I went out for a few hours to watch football (of course not) and then told him that I was going to try the scary bar so if I wasn't home by 2:00 he should call the police (sure, I'll do that. here. I am setting my imaginary paranoid alarm clock.)


I have been in a lot of bars in my time. Before I became a respectable matron it could be argued that I spent all of my time in bars.

I have never in my life been in a bar with more than forty people in it and been the only woman. It was bizarre. There was a group of Reading supporters. There was a group that I initially mistook for Chelsea fans but in retrospect I am pretty sure that they just really, really liked Didier Drogba. There was an Arsenal guy next to me at the bar who cried a little when Reading scored (for real) and there were two guys at a table that spent the entire match talking about how very much they hate Chelsea. Finally there was a big clump of Man U fans in the front. All male. A couple did come in for lunch (lunch? at this place? really?) toward the end of the second half and the owner turned the lights up when the woman pointed out it was too dark to read the menu. This caused everyone else in the bar to howl like the light-deprived cave beasts we were, so he turned the lights off again and I think she then had to order by instinct or maybe they just left. Not sure.

So it was dark but that just made it easier to see the beautifully positioned televisions; each one playing either Premier League or FA Cup. And not only did they have the volume turned on but it was quiet enough that you could hear the commentary because no one spoke. They just watched the football.

It was the lovely. It was grotty. It was surreal. The Arsenal guy started chewing on his fingers as they went into extra time and it was all I could do not to pat him on the back. When they finally blew the whistle after that, cough, questionable call against Manchester United, I clapped my hands for the Chelsea win only to discover that the Drogba supporters had left I was the only happy person in the bar. 



Just to clarify, Caroline, Edward is not suffering from ammonia. But thank you for looking it up for me and yes, it is a poison, and yes, that would have been a medical emergency.


Talking Pneumonia

I wanted to record the only moment of the day that Edward was not either asking me something

(if you multiply a nanometer by a nanometer do you get a square nanometer or a nanometer squared? why don't squirrels climb down trees backwards? how do you say cantaloupe in Gaelic? what is at the very center of the universe? why did you get your haircut like that if it was going to stick out?*)

or telling me something

(this medicine is disgusting. it disgusts me. I am disgusted right now)

before going back to the questions

(what do you mean by too many forms of the same verb in a row? why shouldn't I tell you how disgusted I am by this disgusting medicine?)


He was reproaching me with his eyes, sure, but at least his mouth was closed.

*The answer to all of the above: I have no fucking idea.


So after I talked to you last night I heard... something as Edward walked by me. I told him to stand still while I pressed my ear to his chest.

"Nice deep breaths," I told him. "Shhhh," I said to the other two.

Caroline started to tell me a story about her day. Patrick continued his lament about how much our internet sucks.

"No. Really. Quiet."

Caroline began to bounce a ball. Patrick drummed his fingers on the table and kicked his heels against the chair legs.

"SHUT UP!" I bellowed, shocking everyone including Edward, whose sharp intake of breath resulted in... a little crackle far in the Helsmdeep of his ribcage?

So on the one hand there was the sticky cough with possibly imaginary rattle; on the other there was cheerful ebullience paired with a good appetite and a stuffy nose. Probably a cold so, like I said, I was going to give it another day but then I decided his cheeks were pinker than normal and we went to the urgent care this afternoon.

Pink cheeks. Why I don't know but this was the tipping point for me; like he had a secret, otherwise undetectable fever that was revealing itself not through body temperature but blusher. As if that happens. I really am a loon sometimes.

However! Just because you're paranoid... it took the doctor less than thirty seconds to identify two separate areas of pneumonia (or possibly bronchitis, she amended before adding: but it's definitely pneumonia) in Edward's right lung.

"Good thing you brought him in!" she said.

I love it when pediatricians say that, I really do, because at some point - usually within five hours of bringing a baby or child into your home - you find yourself looking around and wondering who on earth thought you were capable of managing such a massive responsibility and nothing in the ensuing years does much to offset that initial feeling of innate incompetence.

So it's nice to get a pat on the head. And Edward, of course, will appreciate a return to normal oxygen saturation levels once the antibiotics kick in.

An excellent appointment all around.

PS Yes. I sent him to school with pneumonia. Well done, me. Fortunately, before she realized this, I had already absorbed the doctor's praise like a waffle takes in syrup.


Wow. The next time I am at a party and don't know what to say (i.e. the next time I am at a party) remind me to ask people if they can remember a significant book from their childhood so that I can just sit there and listen and eat all the Chex Mix.

I pride myself on the clarity of my modifiers but I definitely missed the canoe when I described the scenario yesterday. What I thought I had written was, "While we were at the library, Patrick asked me to find him a real book" and I could have added "after he spent a fruitless ten minutes picking through vampire romance in the section labeled Young Adult Fiction and a baffling thirty trying to figure out if any of the adult Sci-Fi had substance despite the garish covers."

So thank you for stepping up. He and I have tastes that seem to  touch only in that narrow isthmus of fantasy that isn't too science fiction-y and you came up with a lot of titles that I think he will love; many of which I was entirely ignorant. And not only titles but whole sub-genres, like the survivalist stories to which my first reaction was really? Isn't that a little... stressful?

I got him Hatchet and last I checked he was sitting at the dining room table with it, about halfway through. I expect I will have to move on to my next randomly selected recommendation tomorrow. It's so lovely to have a big stack of books to look forward to, don't you think?

Otherwise, I cannot decide if Edward has pneumonia or just a really disgusting cough. I *think* it's his classic post-head cold cough but every now and then I am afraid I hear that hint of a wheeze. I'm going to give it another day but... we'll see.

Meanwhile I have had an almost headache all day and if you migraine you know what I mean. It's not exactly a headache but it... it's almost a headache. My migraine app has helpfully suggested that my trigger is hormonal which... what the hell am I supposed to do about that? In any event I am taking it to bed.

PS Thank you again for all your recommendations and I love it when you chat and advise in the comments. I continue to be gobsmacked by how smart and interesting and kind you all are.


A couple of things.

First, several of you mentioned and I wanted to third/fourth/fifth that recommendation. It's a website that gives basic age ranges for things like TV shows, movies, books and apps but more importantly it tells you exactly what informs these ranges so you can decide for yourself whether something is appropriate for your specific kid. It is extremely useful and if I had checked it before renting Big Hero 6 I would have seen the following:

"One of the film's main themes is about coping with grief, as the main character's beloved older brother (his only immediate family) tragically dies early in the film; Hiro's sadness may be hard for sensitive kids*. Another near death is very upsetting, and there are sometimes-intense confrontations between the movie's scary supervillain and the protagonists that injure but don't kill people."

Very helpful. Also, you quickly realize that every movie we watched as middle schoolers was wildly inappropriate - remember when we got Ghostbusters for Patrick's fourth grade movie party only to discover that a ghost performs fellatio halfway through? Yeah, well, a pre-check with commonsense media might have prevented that remote control injury.

Second, Patrick asked me to get him a real book at the library. I'll go ahead and put that in quotation marks because he said it, but also to convey the emphasis. He wants a "real" book.

I asked him if he had anything particular in mind and he said no. I asked him if he could explain his definition of "real" to me in any meaningful way and he said no, he wasn't sure, he just wants to read something... real.

So I thought I would throw it out to you with a few explanatory notes:

1. I am quite certain he does not mean real solely in terms of nonfiction (I got him The Mathematical Secrets of The Simpsons for Christmas - huge hit. highly recommended for a math person in your life. probably not the actual title but you can google it)

2. They have just read Call of the Wild in class and I think he was struck by the difference in substance between the fiction he is used to reading (say Divergent or something similar) and a Jack London. Not that he told me this; I'm just guessing.

So the first books that sprang to my mind were by Dickens but I rejected those almost immediately. I've always liked Dickens personally but... no. So then I thought: The Outsiders, The Diary of Anne Frank and My Brother Sam Is Dead (none of which our library had shelved by the way.)

And then my mind went blank.

So, an adolescent asks you to recommend a "real" book. You say... ?

*I forgot to finish my asterisk! Sorry. I was just amused by this. I guess some children might be distressed by Hiro's sadness but it seems to me the really sensitive ones would start with Tadashi being blown to smithereens. 

Eggs Benedict Arnold

With three minutes left in stoppage time I found myself wanting Queens Park Rangers to score a goal and at least get the draw. Against Chelsea.

I'm not sure what to make of this.

PS Edward, incidentally, was fine with Big Hero 6. Tadashi's death seemed to him to be the outcome one should expect upon racing into a burning building that houses chemicals. You know, like, sad but hey, natural consequences. And he loved that first little battle robot.

I Had Billed It As A Treat

I know I am no longer in the first apple-blossom blush of youth but we watched Big Hero 6 this afternoon and... what? When did Disney stop following the accepted literary device - first employed by the Greek tragedians, no less - of having notable deaths occur offstage?


Big Hero 6 kills off (BLOWS UP) an established, very young, extremely likeable character a quarter of the way through the movie and Caroline SOBBED. Shoulders shaking, chest heaving, why GOD why sobs; and if that was not painful enough, it is later revealed that the character (despite his noble intentions) died for absolutely no reason. That set her off again and she had to migrate to Steve's lap from my own.

To a point, I get it. Most Disney hero/ine(s) start off as orphans or at least down one parent; usually the mother. It helps to move the plot along and explain why someone is hiding out in the forest with seven miners. But Hiro (not to be confused with the middle word in a title that was completely inexplicable until the last minute of the film when it became just mostly inexplicable) was already an orphan. Parents dead. Back-story established. Mechanism achieved.

I've thought about it and concluded that killing the older brother was not necessary for a narrative; it was just manipulative. Also, I am pretty sure that Caroline now views robotics in much the same way that I see hunting. Big Hero 6 is her Bambi.