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October 2008

Several Ways In Which I Am To Blame

When the dentist asks me tomorrow how I managed to chip my front tooth I will tell him that I do not know; however, this will be a lie. I do know but I refuse to admit that I found an old Charms BlowPop in my desk drawer this afternoon and - just as I was dispatching it - Caroline woke up crying. Since you cannot put a sticky lollipop down and I had yet to get to the good part (the gum, obviously) I made the executive decision to speed things up by crunching one crunch too many and a flake of tooth enamel the size of... oh, say, a mini Chiclet... broke off. Steve swears it is barely noticeable but I am mortified. I probably could've gotten away with the Charms BlowPop story a few weeks ago but my birthday is on Thursday and I will be 37. At 36 gum-filled lollipops are whimsical but by 37 they are merely silly. Also the edge of my tooth is now sharp like a razor and I keep accidentally lacerating taste buds as I poke my tongue around like you do when something feels weird in your mouth.

Please for the love of god tell me that they can actually fix this so it doesn't look weird for the rest of my life. I had a friend in college who lost his front tooth and whatever they replaced it with was an unwholesome yellowish color and distinctly grey where it met the gumline. I guess I could learn to live with it but I suspect I would never smile again.

Stupid Charms and their surprisingly delicious gum.

Usually when you guys give me differing thoughts on an issue I get anxious and have to take an aspirin but the good news with Caroline's creeping crud is that my culpability spans such a wide area I was able to take all of the advice that was given:

1. When I first introduced Caroline and Edward to solid foods I offered them a small portion of rice cereal. Then I waited a few days to see if they reacted to it in any way. When no changes were observed in either their skin or their digestions, I tried a little applesauce and waited a week. Again they seemed to tolerate the new food just fine. So I gave them bouillabaisse, trail mix, seven-layer Nacho dip and a couple of handfuls of Girl Scout cookies.

As best as I can recall I got a little bored about two months ago and lunch went from baby oatmeal mush mixed with a little organic prunes to baby pasta primavera (wheat, squash, peas, tomatoes, zuchinni, onion) plus baby banana peach granola (bananas, peaches, oats, cinnamon) plus baby spring vegetable blend (green beans, peas, rice) plus maybe some kiwi or cooked sweet potato or Cheerios or yogurt.

And about two months ago Caroline got all rashy. Hmmm. Could she have food allergies/sensitivies you ask? Well, with my rigid system I don't see how something could have snuck by me but... 

I am back to boring single ingredient meals and I am keeping a food journal. Thanks for the suggestion.

2. We have a terrible washing machine. I hate it. Passionately. If I had my entire life to live over again and was given the chance to change just one thing (apart from picking the Colts to upset Tennesse last night) it would be the awful choice to move to a front-loading washer. Granted it looks cool but it doesn't actually clean the clothes. We picked this set for the new laundry room based solely upon the fact that the blue-grey color kinda matched the stone floor - which just goes to show that people who value form over function deserve vaguely musty clothing. I even asked Julie who had had front-loader issues of her own (different brand and everything) prior to making this purchase if she had any washing machine advice and she said something like, oh my god do not buy a front-loading washer or you will live out your days in despair and haunting regret. Then she cackled and disappeared in a puff of smoke and I said, "Oh look Steve! Don't you think this blue-grey one with the pretty window will match the floor?"

About two months ago I could no longer bear the slight but pervasive funk (that no one but me seems to be able to detect - I am like a wolf) and I asked Steve if we could get a new washing machine. He said there is no smell and I am crazy like really really crazy but he'd look into it however the way he had hooked up the lines in the back we would need to make sure a new appliance had a similar... I blacked out and when I came to I was leaving Target with three new, heavily-scented laundry detergents to try. Prior to this, you understand, we have always been a scent-free, dye-free household.

And about two months ago Caroline got all rashy. Could it be a contact dermatitis caused by harsh chemicals used on her sheets clothes or blankets you ask? Well, maybe, but wouldn't you expect a detergent called Waterfalls Flower Fresh to contain all natural ingredients like flowers and waterfall water and freshness?

I bought a barrel of All Free and spent yesterday washing everything we own. I did notice that the clothes just smell normal again. Not bad, not fake floral. Just normal.

3. You left a slew of product suggestions and I immediately latched on to the strangest one because that is how I roll. Also, I want to be an alchemist and I am pretty sure that Holly W used the word "miracle" when she gave me the recipe for it: three parts Aquaphor to one part Maalox; squish together in a plastic bag; apply three times daily; recommended for diaper rash as well.

In addition to the food and the laundry changes and the miracle minty goop; I am limiting baths and applying moisture to her limbs (I have yet to determine if Gentle Naturals Baby Eczema cream works but it is the best thing I have ever smelled. ever. and I am into how things smell - obviously) and using extra soft cloths when I gently dab her face clean and I am trying not to let food stay on her cheeks when she eats.

Today Steve said, hey, did you notice that Caroline's cheeks are looking much better? I told you she would grow out if it.

Yeah. Steve is a little oblivious, I think.

He did remember a hat when he tucked her into his jacket and took her down to the frost-covered mailbox this morning.

He did not remember socks.
So I am responsible for all the dietary and environmental eczema triggers in Caroline's life but the exposure to cold dry air? That is ALL STEVE.

PS I am still lobbying for a washing machine that can actually clean clothes (this one has a "sanitary" cycle that seems to be effective but it takes an hour and fifty minutes to run. One. Fifty. that is insane) and Steve is fairly certain it will have to be another front-loader if we get one at all which he is much less certain about. A less optimistic person than I would even interpret his current mindset as "opposed." Julie's voice is still ringing in my head but surely there must be some brand or some model that is less awful than others, right? Do you have one you do not want to shoot?

PPS Frigidaire Gallery. You know you were wondering. In Glacial Blue.

From Friday, Mostly

For those of you keeping score on Steve's waterfowl death trip I would say the current tally is:

Steve & Co: 0             North Dakota: $3000

My mom, Patrick and I returned last night from a superspecialPatrickonlynobabies dinner out to a cryptic message from Steve.

"Your husband called," the babysitter said. "He said to tell you he's alive, something about a truck, they'll get home somehow." 

Since Steve had lost cell service about five minutes outside of the Twin Cities there was no way to call him back and ask for additional nouns, verbs and subordinate clauses. So I had to content myself with assuming that they had accidentally driven off a cliff (no wait, North Dakota... ok I apparently know nothing about North Dakota. do they have cliffs? buttes?) but everyone had survived. He called this morning and told me that actually the transmission had blown up on his friend's Suburban and there was talk of buying a new truck/fixing the existing transmission/getting to Minneapolis via an as yet undetermined method of transport whereupon the Chicago contingent would borrow my car for a week or so... just as I was trying to decide how to best frame the fact that I was planning on using that car in the coming week (how else would I achieve this coveted windswept look with my hair unless it was by driving around with the windows down - oh, yeah, and carpooling to school and Edward's next swallow study at Children's on Monday et cetera) when the cell phone cut out and that was the last I have heard from him.   

The original plan was for Steve and his friends to arrive here around seven tonight for dinner. The guys would sleep over and head off in the morning. Since my mom is still here this created a hostessing challenge that I was sort of dreading but now I don't know if I even need to bother. Am I feeding six adults and three kids tonight or can my mother and I just finish the Cheerios that Edward and Caroline leave, washed down with a little red wine? Do I need to figure out a place for everyone (plus the dogs) to sleep or not? You see my dilemma. On the plus side I am fairly certain that we will not be having grouse tonight or any other night. I think the car died first.

Aside: Patrick was so excited about our dinner out that he started talking the minute he got into the car. He sounded like a 33 being played as a 45 (that was a vinyl reference and if you don't get it you are too young to be reading this blog - move it along before you find yourself wanting to recommend a nice moisturizer for my eyes that really helped your mother.) As he babbled away switching from subject to subject at lightspeed, he said:

"There are really only 25 letters, did you know? They just put the X in for fun. It is not really a letter. In the dictionary there are only about two pages of X words and when x is in other words it's unnecessary. Think about it. "Etra" works. Ask for some etra bread and they'd get it for you at dinner tonight. And why not call it a "ylophone"? If someone said they play the ylophone you would totally know what they were talking about. I'm telling you they just did it to be funny."

I am dying to know who "they" are (a secret Alphabet Council - to which Patrick has probably been initiated; hence the insider information?) but by the time I wedged my question in Patrick had moved on to lecturing us on how dead we will all be when the sun dies. Very, by the way. We will all be very dead.

- I wrote about this at REDBOOK and have received some good suggestions aleady but I thought I would throw it out here as well: Caroline was diagnosed with eczema and keratosis pilaris. The eczema itself has been around since she was born and is pretty mild; some rough patches that usually respond to over-the-counter hydrocortisone. The KP, however, is on her cheeks and somehow the eczema conspires with the little bumps to create infected eruptions on a near daily basis. On her best days her cheeks are red and rough; on her worst days it's like prom night. A very unfortunate prom night.


Today is somewhere in the middle. She has about six of those bright red blemishes in total and the rest of her face is irritated to some degree. I'm not sure if it bothers her but I notice that she rubs her nose a lot as if it itches? I don't know. This feels like one of those things I am going to look back on in retrospect and think, wow, remember life before we realized Caroline was allergic to water? but right now I am baffled. The pediatrician and dermatologist both agreed on the eczema/kerotosis, by the way, and were in equal agreement as to the hopelessness of doing anything constructive about either. Vaseline and cortisone; cortisone and Vaseline: repeat forever.

Any thoughts?

And as long as I am sharing flattering family snapshots; this is my back (photo courtesy of Patrick who is fascinated by my ineptitude):


On Thursday I volunteered in Patrick's reading class. I escorted them to the library and I helped kids select Just Right Books. As we were leaving I was conscious of being very... I don't know, grown up. I gathered eyes, straightened my line and was feeling all Miss Clavell when I swung my hip to open the door and connected the small of my back with the corner of that damned fire bar thing. I thought I was going to DIE and yet I had all of these kids looking at me. I didn't want them to see me cry on my first day as a volunteer (hey! did I tell you? I passed the sex felon background test! Just squeaked by - what a relief. Oh and the report was a single sheet of paper that listed every felony and misdemeanor conviction in the city, state and nation. not that I had any but if you are wondering what your background volunteer check would reveal to the school secretary that's what) so I just sort of gasped and kept going. Patrick dropped to the back of the line to walk with me and I pulled up my shirt to show him the area that was already turning blue.

"Oooh," said Patrick. "You're going to want to get them to take a look at that."

"Them", again. Do you think that the Alphabet Council also has a line in salves and unguents? 


If you had told me back when I was young and starry-eyed that a person could be married to someone with whom they were not in perfect accord on all things I would have been shocked. Shocked and horrified and forced to put down with shaking hands the Signet Regency romance I was reading in order to press said hands against my brow, preferably after drenching them in eau de cologne. I liked my ideals on the fluffy side, back in the day. But now that I am mature and matronly (and Regency romances are most emphatically not what they were back in my girlhood - it's all capital S Sex these days; that and ball-bearings) I realize that you can actually be happily coupled with a person who does things that mystify you. And I am not just talking about Steve's dislike of almonds or (my GOD!) his hatred of peppermint patties. I am referring to the fact that Steve is in North Dakota right now communing with the local waterfowl on the most visceral of levels, and yet my first (and second) instinct upon meeting a goose or a duck is to offer it a crust of bread. I tease him about it when our yard inevitably fills with deer and their twin fawns in the summer (did you know that white-tail deer almost always have twins? NATURALLY? it's like they're from Hollywood.)

"Gosh, Steve, it must be all you can do to keep that blood-rage from boiling over and punching that baby deer in the face right now."

To which Steve always responds, "Don't be a fool. If that baby deer could it would kill you and everyone you love."*

To Steve's credit he is a bowhunter, which - short of actually arming the deer with guns - bestows about as much of a disadvantage as can be granted. I literally cannot think of the last time he actually, um, terminated one. And we live in the Upper Midwest where an argument (no really) can be made for ethical and humane hunting of just about anything.

But, oh please don't make me defend this any longer I'm trying to get to my point, ultimately I don't like hunting and I don't understand it and it kinda skivs me out. And yet there I was this morning bidding Esteban (I actually DO call the big one Esteban) a fond and wifely farewell without ever once screeching "Oh how COULD you?"   

Which has me wondering as I am sitting here listening to Edward kvetch and paying bills online and finishing my glass of wine whether I could tolerate other stuff as well. I am voting for Obama because I really really like him. Ditto Steve. But if things were different would I be able to keep from murdering my husband if he started every day by reading me McCain's voting record and explaining just how great it was?

I don't know. I know I cannot handle racists or bigots at all period no question (and yes I mean people who feel that only heterosexuals should marry. or exist) and it would have been REALLY awkward with our sad situation to be married to someone who opposed to abortion under any circumstances, but a socially moderate Republican with a streak of fiscal conservatism? I guess that would not be horrible. And what about religion? I wonder if I could be married to someone who was very committed to a different faith (which in my case would be, um, any faith.)

Someone left an amazingly astute comment on my REDBOOK blog ages ago. She noted that paid-blogs always have a junior high essay quality to them, a touch of the: Write about a time YOU felt like the protagonist. She went on to say something like, but, in case you are really seeking input... and answered a question I had posed. I think about that comment quite a bit and laugh.

But I am, I swear, really curious about this. Also, I have had two glasses of wine which always makes me pensive (my mom's here. I'm not drinking alone. well I am now that she's in bed but... huh.)

Do you have major differences (political, philosophical, moral, caramel) with your spouse/partner/whatever? And do you just ignore it or do you argue about it?

*This is a Simpsons quote.
**You are welcome to tell me that you think hunting is disgusting if you like. I will just nod and Steve can't hear you - he's in North Dakota where the internet has yet to be invented.
*** I just remembered that I dated a rabid Republican in college. He was totally worth it when he shut up. And on that giggly note I am going to bed.

Call Me Esteban

I know people who successfully imposed schedules on their babies. One friend with twins swore by Gina Ford (yikes) and who am I (scary) to question (seriously) her success. Whatever (potentially dangerous regimen condemned by the AAP) works, right?

Personally I am much more comfortable being the imposee than the imposer, so the whole put-'em-down-wake-'em-up-constantly-changing-schedule thing was not going to do it for me. Not surprisingly, my house guests always stay too long. As you can imagine with two babies (Caroline; Edward) or screamy demanding neversleeping constantnursing dictators (Nameless) my willingness to accommodate any expressed desire no matter how unreasonable or ill-timed led to the sort of chronic sleep-deprivation you usually see in documentaries on torture through the ages. Infants should come with warning labels that discourage operation of heavy machinery while under their influence. Also, when we updated our wills this summer Steve yet again convinced me that I do not want to be kept on life support in the event of some horrible brain-crushing injury even though I am pretty sure I do; which just goes to prove you should not make any major life decisions either.      

I think if I was not already an insomniac/chronic light sleeper accustomed to very small amounts of frequently interrupted sleep; or if I had to get up every morning and be a fully functioning adult (as opposed to a partially functioning one); or if either Caroline or Edward weren't so very agreeable after their pat/cuddle/feed and their twenty minute wakings stretched to an hour I would have been compelled at some point in the past few months to Do Something. Doing Something (from the billion blog entries I have read on the subject) generally involves some version of crying and it and out. I mention this to stress that it is merely luck and circumstance and individual constitution that kept me from that path; not a lip-curling disdain or eye-widening horror. My personal belief is that up to about three/four (ok, six, really, but I'm a patsy) months you are screwed and if your baby wakes up every fifteen minutes you are obligated to go be nice to them no matter how tired you are or how much you kinda hate them at that moment just a little. However, after that I think it is ok to balance the needs of the family as a whole and if that means you have to make some nighttime adjustments in order to keep from sobbing in the middle of a budget meeting the next day, then god bless you.

Right? Right.

To sum: I do not think that everyone needs to get up with a baby night after night, month after month ad infinitum and if everyone in your house is now sleeping well as a result of your having Done Something then rock on.

However, I'm not talking to you right now. I am talking to the least of us who just keep plodding into the baby's room (or - I suppose - rolling over although I will say if the kid is over six months AND you are getting woken up all the time AND this makes you unhappy AND you are sharing a room I would strongly urge a change of venue for one of you; we finally evicted baby Patrick and it instantly cut the night wakings in half) and offering whatever gets us all back to sleep the fastest. I have recently started to be hopeful that this too shall pass and I wanted to share my sense of optimism that one day we will all sleep through the night again. I promise.

After nine months of my doing absolutely nothing but responding to every cry Caroline and Edward have uttered with an assortment of snacks and/or soothing bouncy walks they are both finally (finally) gradually (gradually) sleeping for long, civilized stretches. Last night they went down at 7:30. Caroline woke up to eat at 9 and then slept until 7:30. She squeaked once around 6 but then nothing happened and I stayed in bed. Edward woke up around 8:15 but he just needed his blankie. Then he ate at midnight, grunted at 5 and woke up for good around 7:15. It was terrific.

In the beginning the twins just slept and ate roughly every three hours. Then around three months they were awake for longer periods of time and someone made the brilliant suggestion to make sure they go down for a nap every two hours at the latest (meaning two hours from when they last woke up.) That worked until about six-seven months when they would yowl when I put them down because they weren't tired yet. It took me a while to figure out it was time to make an adjustment but I eventually got there and now the day looks something like this:

Wake up at seven, seven-thirty. Nap at ten or ten-thirty which lasts about two hours. Afternoon nap around 3, three-thirty or 4 (depending upon when they woke up from the morning nap.) Bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 depending upon how they slept during the day. I usually put them down for naps about three to three and a half hours after they wake up from the last one. I never let them go longer than four without trying to get them to sleep. I generally leave them alone once they are asleep but I will wake up anyone who is still napping at five o'clock in the afternoon. Also, as a concession to twinhood, I will wake either of them about thirty to forty minutes after the other one woke up if he or she does not wake up on their own - um, if you follow me. That last sentence got a bit twisted but I meant I don't let the either twin nap for more than forty minutes longer than the other. Unless they are sick (like the first two weeks of October) or teething. Edward cut his upper front teeth in the past few days and he was a mess. A complete mess. Caroline has a much higher pain threshold than he does. The only reason I knew she cut a tooth is because she bit me with it. And she meant it too, the little minx.

Caroline is fearless, incorrigible and as upwardly mobile as possible. She made it onto the window seat the other day after getting on top of an empty Duplo bucket. I found her six inches off the ground yesterday when she managed to get both her fingers and her toes into the plastic mesh of Baby Jail and started scaling. At her last appointment she was a diminutive 26.5 inches tall so it is funny to see her cruising around and getting into everything. She looks like a doll. Caroline also has a teeny tiny voice. Remember her paint-melting screams? I was sure when she started babbling that she would be just as loud with her words but when she opens her mouth to say Da Da or Mah or Na Na Na Na this itty-bitty little sound emerges. She likes to say (squeak) "hi" a lot and I like to pretend she means it. Steve has started calling her Cricket and Patrick and I have picked it up. It's true - she chirps.

In addition to being 900% more dramatic about teething Edward is just more tender in general. When they bump heads, he is the one who cries. When Caroline takes a toy away from him he cries (he also retaliates by creating a pile next to him of all the toys until Caroline is left with a plastic spoon. then he takes the spoon.) When I move out of view and Edward remembers I exist; he cries. He is also extremely ticklish. The pediatrican tried to check his soft and squishy bits during his nine month appointment and Edward alternated between being afraid and laughing so hard he almost fell off the table. It was cute. Weird to watch, but cute: aiiee! no! stranger dange... HAHAHAHAHAHA! no! scary! wheeeee hee hee hee hee hee... . 

A couple of stories about Patrick:

Steve and I love board games and card games (Elfenland. Ticket to Ride. Lost Cities - I realize that between this and the Lord of the Rings marathons you are getting a seriously mistaken view of our lack of cool but trust me, we ARE cool.) I could not wait until Patrick was big enough to start playing with us because three player games are almost always better than two player games. So I waited and waited and although Patrick probably could have handled some simple strategy games a while ago his need to be perfect at stuff prevented me from attempting to introduce him to anything. You should have seen him with Chutes and Ladders that time he hit the big chute, good lord. So very much not fun. But over the past year Patrick has mellowed tremendously and he takes his inevitable losses with better grace. He doesn't LIKE to lose but then neither does Steve. So I am used to celebrating my victories alone and besides it is good for both of them. Someone will always be better than you at everything so it helps to realize that sooner rather than later and just enjoy the damned game. You can tell I have a competitive older brother, can't you?

Where was I? Oh. Games. So Friday night I thought it would be fun to try a board game after Caroline and Edward had gone to bed and the one that seemed most promising was Clue. We explained both the rules and the strategy and settled down to play. At first I thought Patrick was a Parker Brothers natural although he kept trying to move his piece diagonally. He had his little notepad and his pencil and he would say, "I think it was Col Mustard in the kitchen and he KILLED MR BODDY with the wrench." It was fun until about forty minutes into it when Patrick leaned forward on his elbows and asked, "So what's the point of this game, anyway?" This was when we learned that Patrick had not been marking off anything we had shown him and was no closer to solving the mystery than he had been when the game started. He had just been moving around the board asking things at random. Neither Steve nor I laughed although we really, really wanted to do so. We re-showed him everything we could remember giving him before. Then I won in the next round because 45 minutes is my Clue limit and you know what? It really was Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the wrench.

Patrick's given name is Steven Patrick. If I had this to do over again I would name him Patrick Steven - Steve and his multi-generational traditions be damned. The school system is really stupid and annoying about the middle name as first name thing and refuse to just label him Patrick and be done with it. So I had to make a point of reminding everyone I could think of that he goes by Patrick at the beginning of the year.

He took Spanish last year and he is looking forward to starting it again this year.

"Do you know what Patrick is in Spanish?" he asked the other day.

"No," I said, because I was supposed to say no.

"It's Esteban!"

Um. Huh.

"Oh, actually, Patrick, I think maybe the Spanish teacher just didn't know your name is Patrick not Steven. Esteban is Spanish for Steven."

Patrick got this insanely patronizing expression on his face.

"Did you learn to speak Spanish in Minnesota, Mommy?"

"No." Thank god.

"Then I guess you don't know what Minnesotan Spanish is for Patrick, do you?"

"I... ."

I really hope Patrick enjoys his junior year abroad in Bemidji. Really I do.

Finally, Steve went away for a weekend and I told Patrick he could bring a few books and come read in bed with me one night. Please note the joke book he is reading. Did you see the Al Smith dinner? Did you wonder about McCain's funny speechwriter? I cannot say anything else in the interests of national security but... his sticky notes slay me


Edward is trying to tickle Patrick. Or maybe claw his eyes out.


During the height of the babies' colds Patrick said, "I know what will make Caroline feel better. I will make an exact replica of her out of Duplo blocks." The resemblance is uncanny, isn't it?


I will still never forgive the person who interrupted my seven hundredth miscarriage to tell me that nothing surpasses the joy of watching your children make each other laugh. But yeah. It's true. It's nice.


PS Patrick briefly gave up mismatched socks and I was very sad. Then he got over it.

Til Death Do Us Part

Wow. That was extremely kind of you, thank you so much. Patrick was... there are no words to adequately describe how excited Patrick was to get so many answers to his question about mashed potatoes. He originally wanted to record the data on a 100ft long roll of paper that I have been saving for an emergency (an emergency like: Steve and I have two broken legs each and the television catches on fire) but I objected. Scroll writing is so very 1st century. I introduced him to a little wonder I like to call "Excel" and then wanted to strangle myself because he now keeps saying, "Mommy I'm going to need your computer again. I have to work on my research." It's the same catch-22 I discovered when I got him Lego Racers - he was perfectly happy to leave me alone for hours while he played with it but he was using my computer so what was I going to do with the free time? Laundry? What a drag.

Anyway, thank you very very much for responding and Patrick is working diligently to produce a report that he will share with you, provided the Idaho Potato Council does not snap it up first. The background, in case you were wondering, is that Patrick and I were arguing about whether anyone would willingly try mashed potatoes unless their parents were abusive sadists (I'm paraphrasing.) I told him that he was crazy and that everybody in the entire universe loves mashed potatoes and when he (rightly) questioned this assertion I amended it to say that I bet over 80% of the kids in his class like them and from that we could conclude that 80% of the universe does as well. He narrowed his eyes and said it was not enough people (the term he was groping for was "sample size" but whatever. he's six) and when I suggested he ask everyone in the classroom next to his as well he said it still wasn't enough. One thing led to another and now he has enough data on the mashed potato eating habits of the English-speaking (although one person responded in Portuguese - which Patrick and I agreed was the coolest thing ever) mommy blog reading populace to last him until middle school.

Moving on.

I was going to tell you about Steve's latest cholesterol results but first I want to tell you an incredibly long background story. Just because I think it is funny.

Caroline and Edward were born and Steve decided there was no way I was capable of providing for all three children in the event of his demise. I suggested that I could marry again. For money. As a trophy wife. But Steve just looked at me with pity, patted my tangled hair and told me to try putting on my shirt again because none of the buttons were in the right holes. Then he called the insurance guy. We played phone tag with him for a while (probably because someone was always spitting up on me when he was available) but eventually the three of us wound up on a conference call last February. I explained that all I really needed if Steve was gored by a bull or fell off a roof or was electrocuted by eels while skinny dipping in the Orinoco was enough money to pay the bills while I finished the last several classes I need towards my MBA. Say, a year and a half of living expenses - and that takes into account that they might no longer accept some of my completed coursework (I probably have to take ledger entry again; I'll need new quills and ink.) Then we'd be fine since I would be working as soon as I was done.

The insurance guy listened patiently to my local-girl-bounces-back-and-makes-good plan and then said, "But what if you are so prostrated by grief that you are unable to function? What if those last few MBA classes are all in finance" [they are] "and you fail them? What you really need is enough life insurance to keep you at your current standard of living for the rest of your life without ever having to work again. Plus college for the kids. And a race car - you deserve it."

I like our insurance guy. He's hypnotic. The more I insisted I really did not need a race car or a beach house or new shoes for the children the more he explained that I really did. You know, it was almost like he had some ulterior motive in selling us more insurance than we need.... no. That's just cynical. Eventually it became obvious that neither he nor Steve was listening to me so I told them to figure it out themselves. They were going to do so anyway but my walking away from the call made it seem like I was in control of the situation. It's a little trick I invented during my business school days right after I wrote that paper on how subprime mortgages would inevitably lead to contracted liquidity in the global credit markets - wink wink.

Anyway, the upshot of the call was that Steve agreed to apply for a ginormous amount of life insurance. I naively thought that they would just bump up the amount of his current policy and charge a higher premium and we'd be done. I was wrong. Apparently there is a threshold for life insurance over which the company that is betting you will live forever begins to wonder if you might know something they don't know. Something dire. So rather than have the applicant see a nurse to collect a urine sample and ask if you skydive; they request a much more rigorous screening.    

After several reams of paperwork were sent to Steve, ignored, misplaced, located, ignored again and finally completed by me and signed by him only because I was standing on his back and refused to move until he did so; they were returned to the insurance company. They then requested that a complete medical exam be done by one of their physicians in our home. OK, fine, we said and selected a random date in July.

If I was filming this as an art project this is the point when I would suddenly cut to a scene shot in the small office of a midwestern granite importer and you would say, "What the hell just happened? Why are we looking at an import office and what's with the insurance exam? God I hate art projects." Fortunately I am narrating this so I can explain that this might seem like a major digression but it will all come together in the end. Trust me.

As you may recall, Steve's hobby this summer was working on a breakfast bar addition to the kitchen. It went pretty well but he did hit a few snags. One of the them being that he wanted to continue the same countertops we have in the rest of the kitchen but the stone fabricator we used no longer had any of that granite left. And the granite was an unusual color that had been given a completely made-up name by the fabricator (tropical tabashi - it literally does not exist anywhere) so we could not find another slab just by calling around. We thought about other surfaces (you guys had some excellent suggestions) and were torn between wood and glass when Steve thought to call the place that imported the stone (importers and fabricators are two different things - who knew) and see if they could track any down. They found one slab (hooray) but said there was a crack in it that rendered only half of it usable (hmmm). Steve determined that the uncracked portion was large enough for our purposes and reserved it. He said he needed a few more weeks to finish the carpentry so he asked them to hold it and scheduled delivery for a random date in July.

See how that works, two different threads moving inexorably toward the same point in the loom?

The insurance doctor arrived reeking of marijuana. Seriously. REEKING. He sat at our kitchen table and Steve and I tried not to make eye contact with each other for fear we might break into Scarlet Begonia and disgrace ourselves. I had not realized (not being on the phone at the time) that Steve had decided to bump up the life insurance policy on me as well. The insurance guy pointed out that a nanny/housekeeper/chauffeur/laundress/comedienne/short-order cook charges more when there are three children in the home and Steve realized that he might as well get a replacement cost on me. So I was surprised to be jabbed with a jabbing stick and asked to pee in a cup. However, even with the increase in my policy I barely registered on the company radar so after the doctor got the blood and urine and asked me if I felt like I was going to die any time soon he was done with me.          

Then he pulled out a form the size of a phonebook and started with Steve. At one point I thought he was going to ask Steve for the names and addresses of every woman he'd ever slept with (HIV risk, you know) and Steve puffed up with a smirky-smirk like he was about to say, "Well, doc, how much time do you have..." so I blurted out, "He was a virgin when we married."

"That's a lie!" Steve roared.

Dr. Puffnstuff looked at us like we were both crazy. I guess the question was actually about speeding tickets.

After he took a pint of blood and a gallon of urine and wrote enough details about Steve to fill three (very very boring) biographies he whipped out his portable EKG machine and asked Steve to strip to the waist. Steve went to lie down on the couch and the good doctor started sticking wires to his chest.

At this moment someone knocked on the front door. I wanted to watch Steve's exam so I shouted "Come in!" and three strange men walked into the living room. They were the granite guys and they were there to install the granite. Great, I said. NOW? Steve asked. He looked kinda vulnerable, lying half-naked and hooked up to a machine while a glassy-eyed man stood over him. I can only imagine what the granite guys thought. I gestured them towards the kitchen where they looked at the space and then they said they would return with the stone from the truck.

Steve lay still. The doctor hummed tunelessly. I watched the machine squiggle lines.

Abruptly there was what Shakespeare described as a confused noise within (although I suppose it was without.) There was shouting and a crashing noise and then total silence. Todd raced in, looked at Steve on the couch and raced out again. The largest of the three granite guys walked in next, hesitated, and then said, "The granite just shattered on the walkway. But don't worry! We're sweeping it up!" He left. Steve turned purple.

Jackie Paper, MD said, "Wow."

He packed up his machine and floated out, picking his way carefully around the chaos on the walkway.

The rest of July passed and then August without our hearing anything whatsoever from the insurance company. Steve seemed to think this was normal and finally got irritated when I asked for the billionth time if he would call the insurance guy and see what was going on. He accused me of trying to nag him into an early grave and I was like, what? Before the new policy is in place? And give up my polo ponies? Are you crazy?

When we finally did hear from our insurance guy it was with the news that there wasn't actually any official news yet. The company was willing to offer Steve a policy but it would be at roughly twice what he was originally quoted. So, like, two space shuttles, but it was not in writing yet. Steve said my god, why, what's wrong with me and the insurance guy said it wasn't totally clear but from what he had gotten back it looked like Steve's cholesterol was well over 250.

You remember this part?

So Steve freaked and I freaked and we started eating cardboard at every meal and telling each other stories about times we had eaten bacon. Steve requested that the results from the medical exam be sent to us and when they assured him they would rush the results back to him in ten to twelve weeks, he scheduled an annual exam with his primary care physician. That was last week and we have just received Steve's bloodwork. His cholesterol is... 193. A few points lower than last year, roughly a percentage point within the range it has been for the past five.

Steve called the insurance guy and said what the fuck, man? The insurance guy said hmmm, well, either the blood test in July was inaccurate or... hey, is there any chance your EKG was weird for some reason?

So in conclusion: Steve is considered an unattractive insurance prospect because he is at increased risk for heart accelerations when home remodeling projects go awry due to the unforeseen breakage of unique pieces of stone. The end.

PS The insurance guy resubmitted the application based upon Steve's latest blood test results. I'm hoping they send Dr. Jones again.

PPS The reason the granite broke is because they tried to give us the cracked side. They realized their mistake when it exploded into five billion pieces and cut the remaining piece for us. It looks quite nice.

PPS Steve celebrated his new cholesterol levels by making himself a cheddar and Canadian bacon omelette and a milkshake. I can only hope this new policy comes through quickly. I can't wait for my car now that Formula One has that night race in Singapore.

PPPS I have NO IDEA why there is an enormous antidrug campaign in my sidebar. I thought it would be fun to see if anyone wanted to buy space and I set up this thing and Julie had to help me because I am too dumb to live and I thought I would approve something but... anyway. I'm baffled but I don't know how to take it down and Julie is apparently busy living her own life right this second. For the record, I could not care less if you talk to your kids about drugs or not.


hi it's me patrick writing for my mommy. and, please answer me. okay, ...DO YOU LIKE MASHED PATATOES?
we are making a statisticks progect.                    YES                                                 NO
                                                                                     THANK YOU!

Oxbow Lazarus

Caroline and Edward are sick and it has been a crummy week. It's all so illogical. If babies are going to insist upon both breathing and eating then they should either have greatly increased nasal capacity or possess a backup system that defaults to cutaneous respiration as needed. I have spent four (five now; no six... this post should be better considering how long I have spent writing it) very long nights trundling back and forth between Caroline and Edward's rooms degunking their faces, slurping out their noses, patiently negotiating the one tiny swallow-detach-gasp-gasp-gasp-attach-tiny swallow at a time... and all they can do is bitch at me. In Edward's fantasy world I would recline at a perfectly still 87 degree angle while he slept on my chest, rousing every so often to do something disgusting in my hair. For Caroline the perfect snot-filled night would involve sleeping in my arms with her face smashed into my left breast and I would not move a muscle. I yawned last night while she dozed in her preferred position and she snapped her eyes open and gave me the most furious of looks. How DARE I yawn - I now know what it is like to live through the instant before "Off with her head" is uttered. There is something imperious about young Caroline. I hope she winds up being clever enough to make a lot of money because she will need to pay people handsomely if she expects them to let her work off all that excess personality in their direction. I mean, anybody besides Patrick Edward Steve and me. We're all goofy about her. Edward follows her everywhere and Patrick carries her around saying "I love you! I love you!" all the time.

But back to the lazar house. Under normal circumstances both babies lose their minds like vapid groupies whenever Steve walks into a room. Caroline in particular has perfected this bouncy twiggle thing that draws Steve like a beacon. I am quite certain that laundry basket pirates is merely the tip of the iceberg and we will one day find Steve in a tutu and fairy-wings while Caroline dictates, "No daddy, the dance of the daisies goes like this." So you would think that either baby would be happy - nay, refreshed - to see Steve's face in the middle of the night. But no. I would have baby one and Steve would zombie upstairs to assist newly awake and crying baby two, only to have the cries increase in volume with his presence. They wanted their mommy and they were willing to accept to no substitutes. Which brings up a question that I been asking myself since we first realized we were having twins: what do you do when you have two babies and both of them need you at the exact same instant? It always seemed like that must absolutely suck.

The answer is there is no answer. It does suck. It is terrible. I sat in the dark waiting for Edward to finish his bottle and I listened to Caroline grow increasingly frantic in the next room. I walked Caroline around as she fell into a deep enough sleep that I could put her back in her crib and I heard Edward crying as if his heart would break.

So that's the downside of concurrent babyhood. Sometimes you have to wait your turn and sometimes the waiting is harder than others.

Fortunately they are both feeling better today. Still snotty but less miserable. Edward is taking a nap right now, Caroline has woken up from hers and is doing everything she can to get at the laptop again. She's one of those button-obsessed babies; phones, laptops, remotes... she loves them all. I learned this the hard way (also just how far she can reach and pull on her tiptoes):

Here's a hint. Even if the baby is having one of those Awwwww, she thinks she's people! moments - do not leave a spitty child with your laptop while you go to get the camera. You will regret it if you do.

- This is another rambling multi-day post. Sunday and Steve and Patrick woke me up so they could go to Home Depot for god only knows what. Steve has that look in his eye like he is on the verge on yet another project but I have no fucking idea what it could be. I need to take up a hobby that involves vast amounts of time but is ostensibly for the common good so I can stick Steve with all three children for entire weekends. Then when he complains I will look hurt and say, oh, but this seven-tiered elaborately decorated confection is for the whole family to enjoy. I'm slaving away for us, baby. That'll larn him. Also, cake.

- The problem with two (still and it is Monday) sick babies is that they have been sleeping at odd hours. Edward is napping in little snatches and Caroline is doing so at long stretches but none of these times seem to line up with each other. Under normal circumstances I try to align their sleep schedules by waking Caroline a little after Edward first wakes up and jollying Edward along in the morning so they can both go down for a nap around the same time. This is called "keeping twins on the same schedule" and although I publicly sneered at the notion when they were very little; doing so became both desirable and practical for us around six months. However, I cannot bring myself to wake up a sick child so they have each been doing their own thing this week and they obviously have very different sleep temperaments. Edward woke up at 6 today after getting me up at 11 and 1 and 3 and 5, Caroline slept until 8:30; waking up just as Edward went down for a nap. So I have had at least one baby 24/7 and thus I feel like I have been writing pointless tiny blurbs since the stars were born. I am posting this damned thing today regardless of whether or not it goes anywhere.

- Your comments on synesthesia amused me - what a bunch of freaks you people are. Letters are black as the good Gutenberg intended them to be. Black I say. Numbers too. I just sat here feeling righteously purinatnical in my non-synesthetic way which reminded me of Cotton Mather and then Nathaniel Hawthorne which lead of course straight to The Scarlet Letter. The scarlet letter A. Someone noted in the comments that most synesthetes who experience letters in color describe the letter A as being red, like Patrick does. Coincidence? I am more convinced than ever that you extra-sensory types are nothing but trouble.

- My friend Noelle came over the other day and was hanging out with us in baby jail. She asked Edward if he wanted to do something in that squeaky rhetorical voice people use with babies. He stared at her and then very solemnly shook his head "no". We died. 

I am not sure if I have posted this picture of Edward before or not:


It nicely captures his sincerity. I want to buy insurance from him, or elect him to office.

- Oh what the hell, I have never figured out how to work this into a post. Since nothing is working together anyway I might as well... Lord of the Rings. The movies. Have you seen them? More than once? More than four times? If yes then this question is for you, otherwise start contemplating knee-high boots on short-legged women and I'll get to you in a second.

Steve and I made a tradition out of watching (and then re-watching) the entire extended Lord of the Rings around the end of every year, culminating in the Return of the King on New Year's. Since last New Year's Eve was celebrated with Steve Patrick and me going to Outback near the hospital at five in the afternoon before I returned to watch the isolettes where Caroline was fattening and Edward was de-yellowing [note: I still remember that night fondly. the nicu nurse asked if I wanted her to give them both a bottle for the three am feeding and I slept for six uninterrupted hours. it was the last time I have done so] we missed it. It then took us about nine months to feel inspired so it was only last week that we watched it again - drinking red wine, fast-forwarding 98% of Frodo's slow and increasingly pale march to Mordor, cheering when the beacons of Gondor are lit, and saying what the hell when Theodin congratulates Eowyn on choosing Aragorn. Are you familiar with the scene? After the Battle of Helmsdeep the Viking-types throw a Viking-type party. Eowyn offers Aragorn some wine (or mead - I'd offer Viggo a drink of whatever he fancied myself.) They exchange a significant look. Then Theodin wanders over and says to Eowyn something like, this is your night and you've made a fine choice. The fine choice being Aragorn.

Every time Steve and I wonder if we have missed something. Is there a tacit betrothal? It bugs us and I have been meaning to ask the internet. So I'm asking.

- Edward just pulled himself to standing for the very first time. He is ENORMOUSLY pleased. We need to lower his crib another notch. He is my only child with a normal head circumference (Patrick was in the tenth percentile at birth, Caroline was like a golf ball) and I worry that that his comparatively oversized melon will flip him right over the bars now that he is upright.

- I bought a Fall skirt that I am in love with. It is composed of strips of different silk prints, cut like a school kilt and it falls just to the knee. I say that it is a Fall skirt because it is in autumnal colors but from a practical standpoint it could only be worn alone in tropical climates where Fall is a concept more than a season. I will freeze in this if I wore it without tights. And by "tights" I mean something knit, not pantyhose like you Brits infer (see also the hood of the car and zucchini and mailmen who deliver things from trucks.) Which begs the question: is there any other shoe type that a 5' 4" woman with short legs can wear with a knee length skirt and tights beside boots? I feel like a Lego person in boots because they come so high on my body it is like I am all legs and torso. Or at least that is how it feels, maybe I am more stylish than I know. So two-part question: what else can one wear with tights and do you know of any good petite tights out there? I find that small pantyhose just bunches up at the crotch.   

- This has become like a jigsaw puzzle on a table in the corner. Every time I walk by I add a piece. Enough. I'll strive for arc the next time. Patrick has a friend coming home with him after school so I need to make brownies.