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April 2004

I Am Very Good At What I Do

I didn't mean to start compromising my brand equity by fooling around with the colors again (we have enough marketing problems with the whole Julia/Here Be Hippogriffs conundrum - I am thinking about taking the entire JH brand team for an off-site to noodle it over. Yeah.) My intention was to just go into the earthworm-easy bowels of this thing and click on something so that my comments can be read chronologically instead of backwards. That was really irritating me. Anyway, I mucked around and voila - purple.

I said to Steve tonight, "You know, dinner doesn't always have to be good."

To which he responded, while morosely eating handfuls of those vile Tostitos Hint of Lime chips, "Or good for you, apparently. This was bad and bad for you." Pause. "And there wasn't enough of it."

Great, I married a Bazooka comic.

Dinner wasn't supposed to be Tostitos. It was actually Oktoberfest here at the House o' Hippo - kielbasa, sauerkraut, and a German potato salad. In theory it should have been delicious. You soak the sauerkraut to remove the brine, then sauté onions and apples and simmer them with some white wine and vinegar and the kraut. Sprinkle in some caraway seeds, add the kielbasa - serve it with good brown bread and tender new potatoes tossed warm with a nice vinaigrette. Lipsmacking. Unfortunately, I forgot to soak the sauerkraut. Then I realized that I had neither apples nor onions in the house. The new potatoes had started their own colony so I had to settle for two russets. I couldn't find the caraway seeds and we had no brown bread. I thought I could just make the potatoes ahead of time while Patrick was napping but I have to confess they sort of congealed during the wait.

Did I mention that Steve doesn't like sauerkraut? In point of fact, he despises it. He would walk all night, again, just to avoid pickled cabbage. But I like it, of course. I liked dinner tonight. Even with the shortcoming of being, essentially, a can of sauerkraut and a hunk of kielbasa floating in white wine I still thought it was pretty good. I mean, it was an excellent wine and mustard covers a multitude of sins.

And then there was the comedy. I started laughing when I saw the expression of near-ludicrous disbelief on Steve's face as he sat down for dinner. The tiny wedge of sausage (how was I supposed to know that Patrick would want so much and we'd have to share?) huddled next to an increasingly unappetizing lump of potatoes and the three shreds of sauerkraut that I spooned out for him because I think I am my mother (just TRY a little bit)... it did look awful.

When he took his first grudging forkful and then asked (J'accuse!), "Are these potatoes supposed to be so cold?" I laughed until I choked, then I died. You mean, soylent green is people?

I love being a housewife.

Huis Clos

I was sitting here yesterday, minding my own business, when I was suddenly felled by an axe.

Within about five minutes I went from thinking that I might be getting a headache to stumbling blindly towards the bathroom, about to throw up because my right eyeball was exploding. AWFUL. The light in the bedroom was excruciating, so I hunkered down in our closet for about two seconds until Patrick woke up from his nap - screaming. Steve was at a doctor's appointment (we are all about moles this month) and the cats are useless in a crisis so I crawled upstairs and brought Patrick into bed with me. He decided he didn't want to play "Let's Pretend We Are Lifeless Bodies" and howled as I tried to read Richard Scarry's "Mon Grand Livre des Mots" with a washcloth clutched over my eye. I realized that I was going to throw up again, so I hauled Patrick into the bathroom and proceeded to do so. With one hand holding back my hair and the other hand preventing Patrick from bodily investigating the contents of the toilet bowl, I had no way to stop him from slamming the toilet seat cover onto my head. Repeatedly. I started to cry. He started to cry. I became convinced that I had actually died during the eyeball explosion and this was going to be eternity for me.

Which is when Steve came home and I went to bed for 20 hours. I love Steve.


MIGRAINE? But... I don't get migraines. I get hangovers and canker sores and blisters where my wide feet rub new shoes. Do you really think it was a migraine yesterday? Aren't they chronic?

Nothing Could Be Finer

I'm back! Did you miss me?


Our trip to North Carolina was pretty fabulous, although I will now be checking into detox for a few months. Just until I recover from the moonshine, at least. Urgh. Moonshine, people. White Lightning. Fire from the Mountain. The Devil's, um, Gatorade.

In truth, the moonshine didn't play much of a role in the weekend but I was so impressed to be drinking something besides pickling juice from a Mason jar that I had to mention it. We used to have an old family photograph of my Great-grandmother's grandfather. You know those sepia studio portraits where everyone looks sombre and the little girls have large bows in their hair and paterfamilias is in a high stiff collar? Well, it was sort of like that only my patriarch is sitting on the front porch of a shack that most likely fell over when the bulb flashed, is so heavily bearded he looks like he is trapped in a raspberry bush, and is grimly clutching a rifle on his lap. A mangy dog lies at his feet, licking its anus (this is why I remember the photograph so well- as children my brother and I would take turns handing the album over to my grandmother and asking, round-eyed, "Whatever is that dog doing?" My grandmother would frown and reply, "Something FILTHY.")

Anyway, I have always suspected that the bearded horror knew first-hand just how pesky those damned revenuers can be. No doubt I have moonshine in my blood. Hmmm, actually, you know, there IS no doubt, after this weekend. Hence the proposed visit to some nice rehab facility, although it really wasn't the moonshine it was so... much... wine.

"Julia!" Marion kept saying, "Where's your wine glass? Finish it up, girl, so I can refill it!" She was like a 60-year-old Southern pixie shrieking, "Chug chug chug!" at me. I loved her. I even liked how they called me Jewel-yuh and I am unabashedly sporting a drawl right now. I just got off the phone with my brother and he said, "Jules, did you pick up a little accent during your massive 36 hour visit?" Um-hmmm.

So we were visiting Steve's business partner and his wife, if I forgot to mention it. They were in Georgia until 2 years ago, when they finished the new house and moved up (down? whatever) to western North Carolina. They have the most amazing piece of property- 55 acres with their own little green lake just below the house. Patrick was in paradise, amongst riding around in the Gator and looking at the baby cows and feeding the catfish that came right up out of the water and hugging Gypsy the dog and having Marion turn on all the ceiling fans- he was a happy little maniac. Marion insisted he call her Mimi, like her grandchildren do, and promptly snatched him away to spoil him rotten. I told Steve it was like coming home should be. Marion pleaded (pleaded!) to be allowed to babysit, so Tom took us for a tour of the charming old town and out for a nice lunch on Saturday. Really, the whole trip was just so lovely that if it wasn't for this weird little flu-like thing I woke up with each morning (sand-papery tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, headache, nausea and a burning thirst for gallons of icy Coca-Cola - strange, huh?) I would say it was perfect.

Next time I’m takin’ ya’ll with me.


* We are going to North Carolina tomorrow. I am dreading it. I actually dread most things and have since I was a child. My mother likes to describe how different my brother and I are by using a summer camp example.

My brother would depart for summer camp saying, "This is going to be great! I am going to make a ton of friends and I will learn how to sail and we are going to go swimming every day and I'll bet I'll win all of the prizes for everything!"

I would contemplate summer camp like this, "Nooooooooooooooooooooo! Don't make me Goooooooooo! Everyone will hate me and I won't care because they will all be boring anyway and the food will be horrendous and how, pray tell, do you expect me to use, you know, the ladies' room with all of those people around?"

From which you can infer that I was a little prig and I only went to camp once. For a week. And I hated it. Now I like to tell stupid spoiled rich Steve (who grew up with a pony, I kid you not, and a pool, for fucks sake and probably a pool just for the pony to use) that camp is where people send their children when they don't like them. He looks lovingly at his camp archery badges and says nothing.

Anyway, tomorrow morning we leave to spend the weekend with Steve's business partner and his wife at their place in North Carolina. I have never met these people. They are going to hate me and the food will be horrendous and they won't have any wine just bourbon and I can't drink bourbon anymore and Patrick will spend two days throwing food on their expensive rugs and not sleeping.

* My doctor's assistant called today to let me know that one of my moles was normal. The other was precancerous, so stay out of the sun and keep an eye on the crater. The way she said it was bizarre, "It's PRE- cancerous!" Like, Congratulations!

Things I Would Change - v.1

Steve, when he is not out with his little bow and arrow playing Chingachook, loves the woodland creatures. Oh, he loves them all so much. For Christmas he requested a stump feeder (it looks like a tree stump; it feeds deer) and every other day he carries another 50 lbs of corn up the hill to refill the damn thing. Around dusk our back yard looks like Friday night at the Gas n' Sip, only it's whitetail deer hanging around smoking and getting into knife fights. Recently the wild turkey have shown up (they must have seen Steve's flyers) and between them and the deer herds and squirrels the size of terriers we are spending a couple of hundred dollars a week to keep this all-you-can-eat-buffet in business. Not to mention love is in the air, and there is so much flagrant turkey copulation taking place it is like The Opening of Meleagris Beethoven out there. Disgusting, she sniffs, having sex outside like that... I suggested that maybe God's creatures could go and forage for their own food in, you know, the 80 acres of berry-filled woods back yonder. Steve was shocked, and shushed me before I offended the little cornholes. He is like Francis of Assisi, with the major exception that St. Francis was never inclined to thread some internal organs on an arrow, come Autumn.

I cry over roadkill and was so overcome by The Lion King (you know, when the little lion's father, oh god...) that my mom had to take me out of the theater. I was 22. How I wound up with a hunter I have no idea. Steve is a trophy hunter, which means he will only take a shot at something the size of a Mack truck and most years the venerable population remains unscathed by his hand. Still, he has a few heads in his office and it is all I can do not to scream when Patrick points at them and says, "Deer."

"Sort of, baby, but that deer doesn't feel very well. He has an owie where his body used to be."

Actually, and this is why Patrick doesn't talk, what I really say is, "Yes, he used to be a deer but then Daddy decapitated him. Now it's just a deer head on a wall. Want a grape?"

The little quirks one can tolerate in a spouse, like heroin addiction, seem somehow less forgivable in your child's other parent. I think that sentiment goes both ways in this house, as Steve is as baffled by my repugnance as I am by the blood lust. I love him, of course, but why can't he knit? Perfectly respectable hobby, knitting.

"Fuckpuzzler": All Rights Reserved

Remember kids, you can't spell "Are you kidding me?" without an RE. You could spell "Unimaginably Complicated Fuckpuzzler" without Managed Care, but why would you?

In the background, the reproductive wheels have been continuing to turn. As you might recall, we met with an RE who agreed that we should have Steve's sperm tested via FISH to figure out how many assassin sperm we are dealing with on any given sexy day. Do 80% of the little suckers have dynamite strapped to their tails, or is it more like 60%? Once the RE waved his hand over my research article and murmured Vade in Pace, I was able to start the laborious process of trying to get the test covered through my insurance company. For a while Nurse RE and I played badminton with my primary care clinic until I realized that it was a sperm test, uh-huh, and although I sometimes feel like I have the balls in this family (heh heh, love you baby) I, in point of fact, do not. So we slammed on the brakes á la Starsky and Hutch and began courting Steve's primary care physician, bearing in mind of course that the RE referral is mine and no one in his health care system has ever heard of any of this. No genetic lab reports on him or me or any of the pregnancies, naturally. And, equally of course, his internist was not up on the latest in genetic testing for the freaky. So there were many many many calls and many many many requests for medical record transfers. Something that kept mystifying me is the actual genetic report on Steve never showed up. I kept asking for records from my old OB and then my new OB and then the perinatalogists and they would send along what they had but it was never what we needed. Yesterday I finally learned that the cytogenetics lab that performed the actual test guards those results like the Secret Harbor Defense plans. And you have to admire their zeal, really, since your chromosomal make-up should be private. Very private. Stay out of my genes private. Nevertheless, it was frustrating, since without the actual report the Andrology Lab could not confirm that they have the specific probes required, thus adding yet another scene to the scheduling drama.

I finally got the proper requests faxed to the proper people and was very pleased to get a phone call from Steve's managed care elf, Debbie, saying that she had gotten the referral written and approved and we were good to go. I am a trifle skeptical about whether my insurance company will pony up after all, but the odds are greatly improved by an honest-to-god certified pre-authorization. In triplicate. So I called the Andrology Lab, who had finally gotten the right report, and scheduled delivery of Steve's, er, product, for next Wednesday. It had to be in before 9 am because they, in turn, FedEx the goodness to Utah (of course, Utah) for probing. Not a problem, and I even remembered to borrow a sterile specimen container from my primary care clinic while they were gouging me yesterday.

I considered the whole thing a job well done until this morning. This morning I got a call from Cindy over in Andrology. She talked to the head of the Utah lab and it turns out they are switching to St. Barnabas in New Jersey for future PGD testing. You want to have PGD (if any) and FISH done by the same place. Fine. However, they haven't quite finished their contract negotiations with St. Barnabas, so they will have to let me know in two weeks about things like timing and pricing. OK? So, rather than getting the results of Steve's sperm test by, oh, say, the end of next week, we may or may not have anything by the end of May. By which time my hard-won referral will have turned into dust.

I guess it doesn't really matter, for a few reasons. One, I can always get the referral extended if we have to. Two, I have an appointment on Monday with my OB to talk about checking into any uterine scarring I might have from all of those D&Cs. I expect that it will be a few weeks anyway until we have something definitive about that. Three, I had already decided that I am (probably) willing to try again without interventions at least one more time. The FISH results will have no impact upon that, just upon future IVF, so there is no great hurry.

I am human, though, man am I human, and it snarks me off to think about the hours I have put into getting this test set up, only to be derailed by inter-lab contract negotiations.

It reminds me of a story my mother’s gentleman friend tells. He met a very old lady who had driven from Charlottesville to DC to consult with him. She was complaining about the drive and he, thinking he was being charming and sympathetic, started to tell her that he has a long commute every day himself. He lives 60 miles away from the office and…

She cut him off.

“I don’t care where you live,” she said in a rich, Virginian drawl. “I don’t care anything about you. I am telling you that I have just driven over two hours to get he-ah and you had better make damn sure you are worth it.”

Right on.

Sunday Was Better

Steve gets up with Patrick, usually between 6 and 6:30 am. Sometimes I hear him, sometimes I do not. Yesterday Patrick must have woken up in a really good mood, since the little morning noises were muted and happy ones. There are few things in life more peaceful than half-listening to my husband and son discuss breakfast and blue cars while I doze nearby. I fell back asleep and woke up to a perfectly still house and brighter morning sunlight. I lay there and thought about how nice it was to wake up in the woods every day. Steve and Patrick had apparently gone to Home Depot and when they returned they burst into the bedroom to say good morning. Patrick climbed into bed with me and Steve handed over a stack of books, which Patrick and I read together, cheek to cheek, for almost an hour.

Eventually we tired of helicopters and cows who say Moo and got up to explore our options. Patrick loves my elaborate morning ablutions (washing my face! brushing my teeth! putting the hair back into a ponytail!) and sits on the bathtub step, enraptured. He likes it when I brush my hair upside-down and he'll close his eyes and walk through the curtain of hair, over and over again. Like his father (and come to think of it, every man I ever slept with- all 7000 of them) he dislikes it when my hair is back and vastly prefers it loose over the shoulders. Of course, he doesn't have to keep pulling it out of his mouth all the time. "Off," he said, "blue off?" pointing hopefully at the navy scrunchie. No chance.

Patrick is a vegan by taste. He consumed an entire jumbo zucchini for morning snack yesterday and we have learned that you have to hide the vegetables if you want him to eat any protein. As he polished off the zucchini I read the Washington Post online and wondered what the fuck the Israelis are doing. "Patrick, my treasure, what do you think the Israelis are doing?" He didn't know either.

Having orchestrated the transfer of the heir in the morning, Steve had trundled off to the basement to put in the plumbing for the guest bathroom that will eventually emerge down there. Every so often a melodious expletive would rise from the depths and I would pause to make sure this wasn't followed by the pounding of footsteps that will one day presage Steve rapidly exiting the basement covered in his own gore.

It was unusually hot yesterday, 87 F, and very windy - tornado weather. The idea of being smashed to pieces by a tree trunk or my Wodehouse collection or part of our roof unnerves me, so Steve was summoned to explain to me (again) why we will never ever be hit by a tornado in this house.

"We are in a valley."

Well, what if the tornado gets stuck in the valley and has nowhere else to go but here?

"Tornadoes almost always travel north-east. It would get stopped by that ridge."

How does he know these things?

>> I am interrupting this maundering to tell you that I am just back from a doctor's appointment. An appointment that I didn't even bother to mention in the first place because... well, so what. So what is that I now have seven, SEVEN, stitches in my abdomen and I am so fucking annoyed about it I could scream. Scream like this, AIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Yeah, fine, so those moles had to go. They had been getting stranger looking and leering at me for too long now, but shouldn't someone have warned me that I was going to wind up with these massive bloody craters due east and west of the belly button? HUH? What if I had a photo-shoot (tasteful, of course, all very artistic and quite professionally done, considering the props) scheduled? You should never assume that just because I am a housewife I don't have outside interests, you know. Anyway, I am utterly crabby and my wounds are oozy and starting to sting. Wow. I actually just GROWLED.

Ouch. They hurt. This sucks.

Placeholder (Drinkholder?)

Steve and Patrick apparently threw a party in my absence. I am too tired to get all forensic, but whatever transpired involved a whole fuckload of Lift-the-flap books. Someone chose not to just lift those flaps, oh no, someone has lifted and then torn and shredded those flaps into 1000s of pieces. They are everywhere. I kid you not, there are teeny tiny bits of Spot adhering to the soles of my feet right now.

I'll be back later to write something. Something trenchant, I have no doubt, and deeply moving.

In the meantime I need to trouble you for some cocktail recipes. Why not harness the power of the Internet for good, says I? I am a wine drinker, obviously, but my long-suffering husband likes to tip a concoction every now and then and I am fresh out of ideas. Kristina, perhaps you wouldn't mind posting that lemon thing? Anybody else? Come on, it is time to give back to the community.

In the spirit of the recipe exchange I offer:

1 cup of frozen Limeade
1/3 cup of fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup of vodka
3 1/2 cups of icecubes



I hope I don't shock anyone by admitting this, but I am hungover. I am REALLY hungover. It took me three hours to gingerly get myself into the shower this morning. I have every reason to believe that an injudiciously sudden movement on my part will result in my head flying off my shoulders and rolling under a coffee table somewhere.

If you are incredibly good at riddles you will have guessed that I picked up my imaginary best friend at the San Jose airport yesterday and we stayed up rather late drinking not one, not two but three bottles of excellent wine. She is now lecturing at Stanford (I'm so proud) and I am struggling to compose this memorable piece of biography on her mother-in-law's damned ergonomic keyboard while investigating the curative properties of peppermint tea. If I weren't so pale and weak I would venture off in search of lunch but unfortunately I AM pale and weak. I wish someone reading this would bring me a sandwich.

I will be back home tomorrow and am giddy at the thought of seeing the husband and child again. Sometimes, are you sitting down, sometimes the bluebeard of happiness is... is where? Why, right in your very own backyard.

Au Revoir

Well, I have

- cleaned the house
- washed every garment this family owns and put them all neatly away
- made a detailed list of what Patrick eats morning noon and night
- piled all of the clothes I am taking with me to California in a corner of the bedroom and wondered why everything I own is covered in cat hair
- stocked the refrigerators and freezers with nourishing, easy-to-heat meals
- carefully arranged stamped piles of all of our completed tax returns with sticky notes indicating when they should go into the mail
- told Steve how to sauté peppers and asparagus and zucchini for the baby (To jump. Jump! Sauté!)
- printed out new pictures of Patrick and put them in my purse
- asked Steve if he thought my gray jacket would be warm enough
- confirmed Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday plans
- threw out everything in the refrigerator that might expire while I am gone, lest Steve be tempted by something suspicious
- wept a little
- drank some wine
- wondered why the hell I am going away
- asked Steve if he really thought my gray jacket would be warm enough
- tidied up Patrick's playroom and wept a little more
- chased away two cats nesting in my clothes pile
- flung my arms around Steve while he watched the basketball game and said "I never, ever want to leave you, my precious angel dream rabbit"
- moved my head out of the way of the television as instructed
- asked Steve if he really thought my gray jacket will be warm enough, really, really, did he really think so
- left the room as requested
- finished off the wine so it won't turn in my absence
- thought of something and grinned, wickedly
- posted au revoir here at Rancho Hippogriffy

I'll post a little something from the Big Foggy, if I can.