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March 2009

This Started At Happy But Ends With A Small Sigh

Old friends from Chicago are in town so we had them (plus child) and another couple (minus children) over last night. It's hard to keep conversation general with eight people stretched on either side of a rectangle (I wish we had a big round table but Steve - oddly - dislikes curves) however there were a few moments during dinner when one person or another had the floor; like when Patrick mentioned he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up but added the caveat that he might not live that long.

"You just never know," he said. "You never know when you might die."

The child from Chicago said she is going to be an actress when she grows up and looked at Patrick with all of the withering disdain a twelve year old girl can muster when she is confronted with a turnip-headed six year old saying tactless things. I quite liked her. Apart from this brief interaction, I was amused by the fact that she and Patrick pointedly ignored each other. Two only children (essentially - Caroline and Edward have yet to impact Patrick's life as anything other than cute curiosities who sleep more than he does) at a dinner party are programmed to compete for adult attention like a couple of gladiators.

I'll be interested to see how the finkles develop in this area, having always had a Me and a Not-Me with which to contend. Will they perpetually be trying to outdo each other for attention (Caroline is swinging by her heels from the chandelier but you should know I'm setting a fire under the table, carols Edward) or will they be used to sharing a divided and dwindling resource, like my concentrated regard or my patience? 

Caroline is one of those busy I-do-it-myself types that I longed for as Patrick turned five and still expected me to put his socks on for him. At first she was content to hold a spoon, any spoon, while I fed her. Then she needed to hold the actual spoon with food on it. Now she battles me to take the spoon, dip it into the yogurt and feed her own damned self. And Edward, too, while she's at it. It's not that I am opposed to developing self-reliance and critical small motor skills but with two toddlers eating five times a day and getting only five percent of the food anywhere near their mouths... I need a calculator to work out the filth factor. And a fire hose to clean under these chairs; especially as both Caroline and Edward still like to end a meal by cheerfully flinging cups and scraps onto the floor when they're done - Opa! I kinda miss Patrick's fastidious refusal to do anything but open his mouth like a baby royal.

Speaking of and-Edward-too-while-she's-at-it I could kick myself for not taking a picture of the first part of this exchange: Caroline was sitting on Edward trying to shove his brown jacket on him for mysterious reasons of her own. He pushed her off and ran away crying; she chased after him. I intercepted them in the kitchen where Caroline was looking prissy and bossy and self-important and Edward was feeling martyred.


In Caroline's defense, Edward has all four molars cutting through and he has been walking around the house for days crying and chewing on his hands and moaning and looking daggers at me - like it's my fault his mouth hurts so much. The fact that his sister was WAH WAH TRYING TO PUT A JACKET ON HIM WAH WAH WAAAAAAAH was just insult to proverbial injury. She probably shouldn't have tried to dress him against his will but he most likely was going to start crying anyway.

Hey, I finally took a picture of them in which I think they actually look like twins.


Yes? No? The curls at the nape of the neck? The button noses? The seashell ears? Or am I just being misled by the fact that they are wearing the same color shirt; like when a closer examination of a team photo reveals that, in truth, the Dallas Cowboys actually look quite different from one another (and look virtually nothing like cowboys?) I realized the other day (a mere fifteen months into twin parenthood) that I tend to dress Caroline and Edward alike. Not usually the same clothes, different color (above) or different clothes, same color (below) but the same kind of things: pants and onesies and sweaters on one day; overalls the next. I was sort of shocked when I noticed this habit because I don't consider myself a cutesy person but I have subsequently decided that it is less twee than practical. If it is cold enough for Edward to be wearing fleece then it is probably cold enough for Caroline to be wearing fleece as well. And as I am standing there at the Carters outlet I buy x pajamas for Edward and x pajamas for Caroline and x pajamas for Patrick so that they all run out of pajamas together when I get behind on laundry. I'm not precious; it's a system. Speaking of Carters did you know that their size 12 months "girl" pajamas (as indicated by words like Sweetness stitched over the heart or a picot-edged collar) are smaller than their size 12 months "boy" pajamas? Caroline is wearing her pink-and-peaches PJs like a professionally fitted 18 button glove but the handed down same-sized stuff from Edward allows for additional junk in her little trunk. I suppose this makes sense as girls are smaller on average than boys but be advised if you are planning on intentionally cross-dressing your pumpkin or mistakenly believe that your boy is a Cutie Pie in addition to being Daddy's Little Helper.

You know, one could probably write a fairly convincing undergraduate paper on gender stereotyping based solely upon the words embroidered onto Carters baby clothing. There. My gift to you. Just in time for finals.

I have this whole other section I was going to write, complete with twenty year old pictures, but I think I'll save it for tomorrow. I just went through my meagre pile of old photographs and I am feeling uncharacteristically depressed. Not sure where it is coming from, either, since these were pictures of things I enjoyed... parties, trips, Great Loves and a few little lusts. Why so gloomy, then? I don't know. I swear by all that is holy I would not be dewdrop young again even if it came with a bowl of whipped cream but... oooh. I was so well rested back then. Do photos of yourself at sixteen or twenty or whatever kinda depress you?

PS I know, I know. Some of you are still twenty, bless your hearts. That's why I just gave you a perfectly acceptable thesis to research for your Feminist Rhetoric in Pop Culture class. And you are welcome.


I need to put on my most comfortable pajamas, pour a rundlet of wine and watch as much Veronica Mars as I can squeeze into the remainder of my evening. I have developed a thing for Logan - I'm not proud of it but there is something about a poor little rich boy... we all have our weaknesses. And for the love of all that is holy please don't tell me ANYTHING about what happens in seasons two and three. Like, "Oh yeah, Logan. Pity about that horrible evisceration... ." Leave me with my sad illusions until I get through the rest of the series. I thank you.

So the surgeon said he could do a biopsy by making a tiny incision behind the nipple, thereby minimizing damage to Caroline's future breast development. However, he said, if it were his daughter he would leave it alone for another six months. He and the radiologist feel fairly confident that the lump is normal tissue based upon its shape, its location and the appearance of the nipple, skin and fatty layers. We will follow up with her pediatrician and - most likely - a pediatric endocrinologist just to rule out any underlying disorder that could be causing the growth but for now she is cleared unless the skin starts to look funny.

"Funny how?" I asked.

"You know, different."

"Like different... how? Vein-y? Blue? Mottled? Bruised? Pasty? Dimpled? Bulgy? Flaky? Greenish? Rashy?"

"Yes," he said.

So at least we know what to look for.

I feel much better. Caroline thought the outing was a terrific lark and blew lip-smacking kisses at everyone who said goodbye to her. She's a bit of a diva.

IMG_1436 IMG_1437

Thanks for checking on us


Huh. So much for tasteful shoe ads. I... I am not sure what to say about the cloned milk thing. It just showed up this morning. I clicked on the link (thank you for the shoe clickage, by the way, it really helped - it is, incidentally, a two week campaign so if you, er, need to refresh your memory on the details - the curve of the sole perhaps - feel free to click again. and I promise I will not keep harping on the ads forever; I'm new at this) for the cloned cows and I cannot decide what the hell is going on there. It all looks vaguely alien and surely milk from cloned cows... yeah. Weird. But funny, no?

Anyway. Enough about the ads and the clicking on the ads and the money in my reticule that then results from the clicking and the fact that the babies need new shoes.

The babies in point of fact do not need new shoes. They have one pair a piece and they hate them. Well, Edward hates them. I put on his adorable new brown and blue baby sneakers and he cries. And sits there. And cries. As if I have just encased his fat little feet (he takes after his mother, bless him) in blocks of concrete. Caroline is more Gallic in her acceptance of the inevitable and although she would prefer her dainty red monkey slippers she is willing to walk in the shoes if she has to. Such is life, she seems to say, as she lurches along dragging her sized 4 (and a half) herring-boxes with her. She and Edward have the same sized feet, which both amuses and surprises me given the relative size differential with all their other parts. Her feet, though, are slender like a blade of new grass. Only Edward and I walk around on picnic hams.

I just looked at the clock and discovered that it is an an entire hour later than I thought it was. This means I only have thirty minutes to feed them lunch before I take Caroline off to the hospital for her proddening. I was so relieved that it was finally appointment day until I realized it probably won't tell us anything, will it? I mean, an ultrasound and a consult with the surgeon is just going to lead to either a more invasive follow-up or another let's-wait-and-see period. Oh, and the reason the doctor is hesitant to just remove the lump is because it is directly behind her nipple and scar tissue could affect future breast development. Fine if it is necessary, but not ideal if it is not.

I hope it is just... nothing.

I'm going to post this as is. Because. Update when I return from Children's.


I don't usually read my own blog posts for subtext but I couldn't help but notice a couple of glaring-yet-unspoken points from that last one:

1. I am subconsciously connecting Cricket's failure since Christmas to grow with her lump and it is freaking me out.
2. I have Tivo'd entire seasons of America's Next Top Model and I have been watching them in secret after everyone has gone to bed; thus my newfound familiarity with terms like broken down doll and my pained discovery of the fact that five foot three and three-quarter inches is considered too short for the runway. I mentioned modeling twice in that last post, which indicates five times more thought than I have given to the subject, um, ever. I weaned myself off the baby and wedding shows only to become an apres-midnight voyeur of the pretty, the weird and the pretty weird. I tried to decide if it was more embarrassing to admit that I have watched approximately twenty-five hours worth of Tyra's fivehead; or if I would rather leave you with the impression that in the absence of heavy external stimuli I would ever actually contemplate Caroline's model potential or lack thereof. I've opted for the former and - for what it is worth - I've got Caroline penciled in as a research chemist. A really perky, uber-giggly research chemist. Who is acquainted with her best angles and always knows where the light is.

Hey, remember back when Caroline was the scowling "spirited" baby and Edward was clinically proven to contain a 99-to-1 cotton candy/baby ratio? What the hell happened here, I wonder. My mother is visiting for the holiday (you know, the opening weekend of March Madness) and it is her objective yet still heavily invested insider's opinion that Caroline is an even-keeled, sweetheart of a honey-lamb of a child. Edward, she notes with the sort of pride only a grandmother can muster, is a total imp with a hair-trigger temper. He's like one of the Fighting Fitzmurphys or something - all convulsive belly laughs, Seamus get yer fiddle one second and nostril-flaring, hand-slapping, footie-pajama-stamping rage the next. Today I did the Itsy-Bitsy Spider six times in a row (Caroline indicates her desire for an encore by lacing her hands delicately together on top of her head and twiddling her fingertips while cooing "Ah-en?"; Edward hoots and grabs my hands and pushes them upward) and I had them rolling in the aisles. When I failed to oblige with a seventh rendition, however, Edward contemplated punching me. Seriously. I felt like the piano player when that sudden hush falls over the saloon. My mother suggested that Edward select some posters that he really likes for his room, as he looks to be a fair way towards spending the majority of his time in there.

Two photos of Edward sitting on Steve's lap; two good friends just hanging out, watching basketball:

In the first Steve is looking at him and Edward is all smiley (and curly, my god)


Then, three seconds later, Steve looks at the camera and we get this little jewel.

I cannot help but think that Edward has layers. Like an onion.

(If you are reading this in a timely fashion - as you should be - you will note that I have an ad. An ad for shoes. I think it looks quite tasteful and I said to Steve, "Come over here and look at my ad. Don't you think it looks tasteful?"

Steve read the ad and said, "Oh THOSE shoes. [Name] swears by these things."

And I said, "Really?" and clicked on the link - as you should be - to discover why [Name] swears by them. I still don't know but I can point out that [Name] happens to be a psychiatrist so I am pretty sure that the logical conclusion is that you are crazy not to be wearing these shoes. Or at least clicking on the advertisement for them.

Am I being too subtle?)

This is more like notes for a post than an actual post but it's the best I can do right now. More soon.

In the meantime and a propos of nothing, can I ask you a question? What do you make for dinner more than anything else? My mainstay is farfalle with canned tuna in olive oil, feta, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes and fresh basil if I have it. Olive oil. Salt and pepper. But I am sick to death of everything in my repertoire. Ideas?

PS My new theory, substantiated by nothing but observation, is that Caroline had a bacterial infection for the past several months that coincided with starting whole milk and was causing her diarrhea. Because ten days of amoxicillin (or possibly the lactobacillus, not sure which yet) and she is like a different child.    

All About A Girl

Back to Caroline's chest lump:

Before the doctor started examining Caroline for swampy ears he asked how she has been, in general, since her last visit. This gave me the opportunity to effortlessly call for the sidebar that I was going to introduce anyway - although I do recognize and sympathize with the fact that physicians hate it when you come in to be seen for your arthritic knee and ask additionally for a prostate check, bunion removal and professional assessment of the fact that your jaw pops when you eat corn on the cob - namely: Caroline's chest lump has grown noticeably larger since January. Her pediatrician frowned, checked it and then stared into space for a while.

"I'm trying to decide what we should do," he said.

I told him that the surgeon had asked for a follow-up ultrasound and consult in three months, which would put us back at the children's hospital in April.

"Let's move that up," he said. "Get her in this month if possible."

Okey-dokey, I said, and we went on with the ears and the nose and the cough cough coughing. They also weighed her and although this did not come up during the appointment I was APPALLED by the fact that little Mme. Cricket is currently eighteen pounds thirteen ounces. Steve points out that she has been ill and not eating well and, ok, true, but after months of climbing up the growth charts she had finally reached above the tenth percentile and this last check plunges her almost off the bottom again. No wonder she keeps biting Edward; she's probably hungry.

[I weighed her yesterday after her bath and she's up to 19 and 1/2. Tenth percentile here we come! She has been eating like a wolverine now that her ear feels better and she is no longer all congested. Unfortunately, she's a low-fat, high-fiber mostly vegetarian wolverine - Caroline likes tofu, all beans, all vegetables except broccoli whose combined mushy-crunchy properties baffle her, all fruit, lentils, oatmeal and wheat bread. She eschews dairy, beef, pork and chicken. If she was a yoga instructor she'd be all set. As a pint size whatsit aspiring towards quart sized status she needs to step it up a bit and develop a better relationship with bacon. Thank god for fried shrimp; it's the only thing she'll touch these days that packs more calories than a leaf of lettuce. Last night I carried her around the kitchen and introduced her to some of my best friends: butter, half and half, smoked ham... then I threw her in the air and shouted "Super Size Me!" about fifteen times. She was amused. I was the shortest kid in kindergarten and continued on the small size for a while (one of the comments on those elementary school Facebook photos was from a guy named Eric who wrote, "[I was] Shorter than JULIE??!!" - emphasis his) so I don't ever expect Caroline to be a runway model but I do hope that she is healthy and will not reach adulthood without ever having to duck as she walks under the dining room table.

I'll ask her pediatrician about her continued diminutiveness when we go for their fifteen month appointment - to date he has seemed unconcerned although, now that I think about it, to date she had been going up the chart.

Oh hey:

I went to my local'ish CVS pharmacy and asked the nice pharmacist if he carried Florastor, per your recommendation. He did a weird little double-take and said, "I... well, no, but... is it new? I have never heard of it before but you are literally the third person who has asked for it today. Is it new?" And I said I'm not sure if it is new but I think it is a... and then I realized I didn't even know what it was, I just knew that the internet has told me to buy some. You feel pretty silly asking for a product without being entirely clear what it is. I tentatively said that I thought it was a probiotic of some kind and he said, "Oh I have THAT" and gave me a box of packets containing lactobacillus granules. Whether or not this is even close to Florastor I have no idea but Caroline has been on it and amoxicillin for six days and she has been remarkably inoffensive in her nether productions. So much so, in fact, that it prompted a discussion on the part of myself and Steve during the course of which we realized that Caroline has had diarrhea at least every other day for months; regardless of her cow's milk intake. So I indulged in a little logical fallacy and combined her high-dive off the growth charts with her soy milk diet and concluded that if she was going to have a stomach upset either way she might at least being getting the fatty benefits of whole milk. She has been drinking half milk-half soy for several days and she seems miraculously unaffected by it. Not sure what is going on here but I am proceeding with caution - life in our house is a lot more pleasant when you can tolerate dairy.

I got so far away from my initial point that I will now have to take a bus to return to it: Caroline's chest lump scares the hell out of me and the surgeon is seeing her a week from tomorrow. Repeat ultrasound followed by another consult. I contemplated holding my breath until they agreed to see her sooner but I guess a week is manageable. My brother assumes that this time they will choose to biopsy it. We'll see.            

I was in the bathtub last night making a mental checklist of the Issues we have dealt with so far between Caroline and Edward -

Caroline's tiny size - pending
Edward's eye cysts - deemed probably harmless, final assessment pending
Caroline's hip dysplasia - checked, questioned, checked again, cleared
Edward's hip dysplasia - checked and cleared
Caroline's reflux - resolved!
Edward's reflux - resolved!
Edward's aspiration problems aka the Old Eat n' Drown - resolved!
Edward's crazy loud breathing (see above) - resolved!
Edward's eczema - resolved!
Caroline's eczema - resolved, mostly
Caroline's keratosis pilaris - when not aggravated by the eczema, not noticeable so... resolved!
Caroline's chronic upset stomach - pending

and Caroline's rapidly growing chest mass - Aaaaaiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee! pending

I have nothing else to say about this subject. Good thoughts appreciated.

Caroline and Edward have added a new word to their itty-bitty vocabularies: deer. Caroline augments this with the word "see", which she pronounces with a sh- sound. "Sheeeeee Deeeeee?" she asks and points outside at the... well the deer, usually, although sometimes it's a squirrel. She is also anxious to know if we have noticed the trees outside (Sheeeeeee Teee?) or if we are aware that the wind is blowing (whuuhhhhhhhhh, she blows to illustrate.) Edward is mono word but bi-syllabic: "Deeeeee-ur," he observes and then pounds on the window with his fists until the deee-ur run for their lives.

Added to their first actual word (an actual word, in my opinion, being one that is used repeatedly and correctly in context) which was "Yeah" (pronounced "Yah") we have the makings of two pure-bred Minnesotans: "See deer? Oh, yeah, see deer." Taken in its entirety this could be a complete North Country exchange. My mother - wickedly - finds this hilarious.

Caroline loves songs that involve hand gestures - I sing, she gesticulates. "Open Shut Them, "Happy and You Know It" "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider".... crazy popular. She opens and shuts, claps, stamps, rolls those bus wheels - she's going to be a preschool Circle Time prodigy, I can tell. Although when the itsy-bitsy spider starts its slow trek upwards Caroline refuses to get all finicky with the finger twiddling - I say "The itsy-bi..." and she thrusts her hands straight up in the air, like the itsy-bitsy spider has chosen to just take the elevator this time. Then she sits there with her elbows against her ears, all bug-eyed, until the sun comes out, which she protrays by waving her arms as if she is trying to flag a diesel down. You know, just before it rains.

She also loves the shopping cart my mother got her for her birthday (or maybe it was Christmas?) Caroline puts the same surprisingly reasonable items (toy keys; hair brush; a lavender-filled sleep mask that I am pretty sure I have had since junior high - the lavender has gummed together inside; her very small stuffed bear; a spoon; and a toy cell phone that used to sound like Elmo when it was Patrick's, back before  Steve and I murdered it one dark night) into her shopping cart and sets off around the house. Every so often she stops and unpacks her belongings, then she packs them all up again and moves on. She's a busy kid.

Today she sat next to me while I changed Edward on the floor. After I wiped him up she helpfully handed me the new diaper. Then she less helpfully slapped him on the head. You know, as long as I was pinning him down for her.

She loves Patrick with the fiery intensity of a billion supernovas and every single time I say, "Hey Patrick! Stop [insert roughhouserish behavior]ing your sister!" he always directs the jury's attention to the fact that she is laughing her head off: "But she likes it" he protests.


Girls. Such suckers.

Finally, this could be my favorite picture of her, ever. She might be too short for the runway but I think she has a future in editorial high-end stuff. Break down that doll, Caroline Jane:


I just looked at this picture for a while and then looked at my hands to type some pithy conclusion and realized that I have bitten off all of my nails again. The chest thing will be ok, won't it?

Aural Dissatisfaction

I thought Caroline could not get any worse and then, last night, there she was - worse. She coughed so much she threw up. And later she was just screaming and screaming until I put her on my shoulder and started to jostle her in compound triple time, at which point she finally fell asleep and began to snore like a man twenty times her size. It's funny - in a biological instincts are the darnedest things kind of a way - but when Caroline and Edward and Patrick were up the other nights I was, like, oh god, why me, this again, must sleep. But last night when it was obvious to the meanest intellect that Caroline was well and truly really sick I moved into another frame of mind altogether. Like, it was absolutely no problem whatsoever to sit there like a Barcalounger for as long as she needed me, just happy to help, glad to the be on the team. I sat in her room and let her sleep on my chest until it started to get light out, then I shifted her to her crib as gently as one brushes flies from the highly-congested Venus. Poor little poppyseed mini-muffin.

So - speaking of the seeds of the poppy - I brought her into the pediatrician this morning. I knew it was a virus. I knew he would tell me it was a virus. But after the week we have had my plan was to fix him with my gimlet eye and ask him what we can do to make her a little more comfortable while she is recovering from this virus. You know, a little more comfortable. Surely there is something out there beyond sprinkling the child with eye of newt and aligning her crib with Mercury in retrograde. Are we or are we not the country that put a man on the moon in order to prove that decongestants work in reduced gravity? Yes, yes, the humidifer is going full blast, I did try the Vicks Vaporub on the feet (thank you for the suggestion - and the need to use old socks,) and I have been using the saline and a nose bulb with the energy of one who expects to extract actual gold - not that I resent any or all helpful suggestions in this area; just that Caroline seemed to have passed the point where mentholated anything was going to do much to improve her outlook. Or mine.

It is with a hollow laugh that I remember when the whole no-more-cold-medicine-for-little-kids thing first went down. I was pregnant with Caroline and Edward at the time and I wrote a post over at REDBOOK talking about how very hard I thought this sucked. I envisaged a future during which one of the babies formerly known as the thirteens would get a crap-assed cold and how sad I would be to not be able to offer Dimetapp or Robitussin or (my personal childhood favorite) Dimetapp and Robitussin swished together. Oh. I just remembered. That was the post upon which someone left a nasty comment saying something like, "Does anyone else think it is ridiculous that you are talking about not giving your kids cold medicine after all the drugs you have taken to get and stay pregnant?" And I read over what I had written and then re-read her comment and thought, "No. No one else thinks that. Also, you're a real dummy dope, lady."

[Dummy dope is a term created by Patrick and applied first to his sister when she tried and tried and tried - and failed - to climb onto a chair despite the fact that it was too tall for her to reach. Although we (of course) discourage name-calling and general sibling unkindness I had to laugh privately at Patrick's uncanny resemblance to a 1930s Hollywood thug: "Say, Caroline, you're a real dummy dope, you know that? Yeah, that's what you are, a real dummy dope." Pure James Cagney.]      

Anyway, my hope was that the pediatrician was going to say "Well, we now recommend not treating cold symptoms under the age of 29 but... since you are looking at me so significantly... here's a bottle of Big Dr. Pharma's Electro Magnetic Blood and Liver Tonic that has been clinically proven to improve recovery times by 1000%. It's what I give my own kids."  

What he actually said was, "Ear infection. Right ear. Pretty nasty." And he gave me a prescription for Big Dr. Pharma's Mug Wamp Specific (street name: amoxicillin.) Thus Caroline is starting her first ever round of antibiotics and I can only imagine what it will do to her delicate digestive system. It is to shudder but hey, maybe in just another day or two we can go back to my only waking up once per night per child. Wouldn't that be delightful.

I just wrote a paragraph about Edward's continued good health but hastily deleted it once I realized what I was doing. Call me superstitious but experience has taught me that the best way to insure that a child gets sick is to plan a vacation and the second best way is to speak cheerfully about how healthy he is. So scratch that. Edward has a slight cough. We are prostrated with anxiety. Nothing to see here, Comeupance, move it along. 

When they are not sick, they are walking. It's the latest rage. For Caroline walking is a novelty, like taking a borrowed Segway for a spin. When she really wants to get somewhere she crawls as the good Lord intended for her to do. Edward, in contrast, finds walking for the sake of walking enchanting. He walks therefore he is. I will be standing in the kitchen and he'll toddle past me like a tourist, all smiles and pointing (Look, Mom! Big Ben! Parliament!) before rounding the center island and passing me again (Big Ben! Parliament!) Lately he has been experimenting with running, which is a terrible idea. When one struggles with balance it is a good idea to go slower; not speed up. He's a phrenologist's dream. When he isn't slamming head first into walls he is being brought down backwards by Caroline's horse-collar tackle. She likes to wobble up behind Edward as he is taking a stroll and then grab him by the back of his shirt. One firm yank and down he goes, apples over elbows. There's a reason why that's a fifteen yard penalty you know - it's vicious.

My sister-in-law once loaned me a pair of maternity pants (this was before I went on bedrest and pants became superfluous.) When I tried them on for her approval she looked at me blankly, as she obviously had no recollection of ever having seen the garment before in her life.

"Maybe this will help," I said and hoisted the legs of the pants up until they resembled the capris they were designed to be.

"Oh!" she said and proceeded to laugh for about fifteen minutes.  

I found these pants for Caroline in a bag of hand-me-downs from my friend with twin girls.


And I thought they were cute. But I was confused by the odd fit - baggy is some places and snug in others - until I read the tag and realized they are sized 18-24 months and were intended to be worn like Bermuda shorts.

Shorts as pants: a little fashion trick Cricket learned from her mother.

Oh, and Caroline eventually pushed the music tables over to the chair and climbed up that way.


Who's the dummy dope now; eh wiseguy?

PS I do not mean to denigrate your helpful holistic suggestions as I lament a lack of baby cold drugs. I'm just tired. I actually quite like to read these ideas and I almost always try them out. So, any wisdom on ear infections? And any thoughts on how to keep the antibiotics from playing havoc on Caroline's tummy; bearing in mind that more than a tablespoon of yogurt tends to go right through her?

As If

Patrick has a yurpy cough. Caroline has a yurpy cough plus a completely blocked nose (Mem. should have outfitted baby with larger nose) plus two molars just breaking through the gums. Edward... well, Edward looks ok (apart from various swollen toothy areas of his own) and he sounds ok; but he kept waking up in tears every forty-five minutes. Unlike the other two it is hard to tell if Edward is sick. On the one hand it's as if his immune system was forged in the very fires of Hesphaestus himself - the last time Patrick and Caroline were completely felled by a cold they rattled around the house like it was act four of La Boheme while Edward was only momentarily troubled by a slight runny nose. On the other hand, Edward is a namby-pamby baby and the slightest ruffle in his night will result in sobs and shrieks and I don't know what else until I race in and rescue him from the fact that his hair is growing or he thought there was a moth in the corner.

Last night was a morbid comedy. Steve and I had the modest desire to watch netflixed Veronica Mars (which - as of season one disc three - is excellent) until we passed out. But Patrick was hacking up a lung and needed water, colder water, a blanket, another blanket, a warmer blanket, no too warm, etc... . Caroline was a basketcase. First she couldn't breathe. Then she couldn't stop coughing. Finally she suffered from a stomach upset that resulted in a complete change in clothing, bedding and my attitude towards the desirability of having children in the first place. And Edward kept popping up like cuckoo in a broken clock, screaming the house down over god only knows what. At 12:40 Steve and I crawled gratefully into bed. At 12:41 Steve fell asleep. At 12:50 it seemed like that I too would be asleep shortly, oh frabjous day. At 12:51 Caroline started wailing. At 12:55 Edward started up in the next room. This simultaneous squawking does not happen very often anymore but when it does Steve and I have developed a system for it. I pound on the floor with my foot over and over until Steve wakes up. He then stumbles upstairs and flings open the door of the room where I have just that moment finally gotten the baby to sleep and says, "Whuh? Whuh izzit? Whuh huh?" And the baby in my arms snaps to attention and I hiss "NEXT DOOR YOU ASS." And he says "Uh uh huh" and goes to the room where even as we speak the unattended screaming baby has reached defcon one.

Last night was no exception. I had Caroline. He had Edward. He put Edward back down. I finally got Caroline to sleep. Then I went back to my bed desperate to finally fall asleep but I was a little disoriented by the fact that Steve was taking a shower in the next room. He got Edward to sleep and then decided to take a shower. At one-thirty in the goddamned morning. Who can fall asleep when they are worrying that their husband has lost his mind? Not me. So I was awake until Steve came back to bed (granted he smelled nice.) Then.. let's see. I forget which baby but one of them woke me up again around, oh, three or so and that took a while to deal with. By the time I got back into bed I felt like I had been hit repeatedly with a hammer. So the fact that I returned to find Patrick asleep in our bed, on my side, with his head on my pillow - I couldn't deal with returning him from whence he came. I just crawled over him and found a spot in the middle. A small spot. Fairly uncomfortable. And obviously too close to Steve because when I woke up a couple of hours later he was looking at me like I had invaded his side of the bed with a purpose. A sexy purpose. Like, after being up all night with our sick children I was making a pass at him. At dawn.

If I wasn't so tired I would still be laughing.

Soon It will Be Time To Implant the Impetunias

At first I thought Steve was just being lazy about getting a vasectomy. I really did. I mean there are times when I will have sorted clean clothes into piles on our bed (mine, his, finks) only to come into our bedroom to find that he has chosen to crawl under his pile of socks to fall asleep rather than put them away; but this does not imply that he is afraid of the sock drawer or worries that the act of putting his socks away will prove to be psychologically emasculating. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes he really would rather just deal with the socks tomorrow. However, it gradually dawned on me as one year became two that Steve's inability to follow-up on his vasectomy consult might be based upon more than a mere dragging of the... feet. It took him eight months to call the urologist. Another month to find a suitable time to go in ("Nine, ten, eleven, one or two o'clock on Monday Tuesday or Thursday? Rats! I might have to fly to Miami to donate blood for a critically injured jai alai player... I'll need to keep those times free.") After the doctor assured him it was no big fucking deal so just call to schedule the procedure whenever... nothing happened. For months. Then, just when I thought I had finally nudged him into Naming The Date, he googled himself into the information that some (tiny tiny subsegment - although I do remember that this happened to a reader's husband and I am very sorry) men suffer from hormonal imbalances post vasectomy and he freaked out all over again.

I started to get frustrated. And I mean that as written. I hate prophylactics. Even if I wanted to go back on the pill I cannot as I am: 1) over 35; and 2) at additional risk for developing blood clots according to my OB, who yet again read me the pathology report on tiny Caroline's placenta with an emphasis bordering on the ghoulish. What to do? On the one hand Scylla, on the other Charybdis. Irksome, occasionally ineffective, temporary contraceptive to the left of me; Steve sitting on his hindquarters with his ears back to the right. At first I tried the Lysistrata approach and was mortified to discover that Steve is a lot more patient than I am. So much for that. Then I tried nagging (stick with my strengths) but as I listened to myself I thought about how I would feel if Steve kept hounding me to get a hysterectomy, my god, and it made me feel really uncomfortable. So I finally did what I should have done, well, maybe six months ago and I went to see my OB yesterday. I told her I would like to start once again reaping the benefits of the old health-giving slap n' tickle without having it involve drah-ma and chest-heaving and oh-how-could-you-not-just-get-the-damned-vasectomy-after-all-the- TROUBLE-I-went-through-to-accommodate- your-combined balanced translocation/biological child issues not to mention the irritation of having to fumble around in the nightstand at the least convenient times; what did she suggest?

"For you?" she said. "ParaGard. Straight-forward copper IUD. No hormones. No fuss. Normal cycle continuance. Ten year lifespan. Easy insertion and easy removal, if desired."

"OK," I said.

"Do you want to do it today?" she asked.

"Um, sure, I guess. If you have time."

And that's how I got my surprise IUD yesterday. Note: it was briefly uncomfortable in the office but I took three ibuprofen and then went running afterwards. So no big deal.

Wait, IUD inserted or IUD implanted? Huh, the website says an IUD is "implanted". How odd. I rarely touch the ol' infertile hot-button subjects, largely because my friend Julie (alittlejulie, as I like to call her) renders any further comment on the topic superfluous. Her treatment of all things infertility is always dead on: eerily well-informed, beautifully lucid and funny as hell. If anyone ever wanted to know my views on anything related to IVF or high-order multiples or mandatory insurance coverage for infertility I would just pass them her way. Or copy what she has already written, I guess, scratching out her husband's name and implanting (ha ha) Steve's name in its place. But the use of the word "implant" for "transfer" when describing what one does with an embryo during IVF doesn't bother her and I admit it bothers me. The connotation is just so different. I can yell, shriek, or scream and although the definitions are more or less the same, to me those words produce very different sounds in my head. If you transfer two embryos there is a sort of vade in pace sense to the phrase that adequately reflects the lack of control any of us really has during IVF. If you implant two, well, good lord, twins ho! Ladybug onesies for two, stat. Right now I think the word "implant" is being used to demonize Nadya whatshername (Julie also objects to the moniker "Octomom" - I point out that Octopussy was already taken. whoops, yikes, sorry. I'm not usually so vulgar) more than is even necessary. Like she deliberately had octuplets by implanting them. Her circumstances are spacebat crazy. She seems to have serious emotional problems. It is unfortunate that assisted reproductive technologies played a role in her dysfunctional life. And you know when the infertile community looks at you and says "what the fuck were you thinking?" you've got capital-I Issues. Because most of us reach a point where options that we would normally not consider even after fourteen shots of tequila start looking kinda reasonable. For example: what the hell was I freebasing when we transferred three PGD'd blasts during my second IVF cycle? NOT RATIONAL. Or the whole superovulation idea? You know, when I decided that maybe if we could just... I cannot even finish this sentence. Again NOT RATIONAL. I think this poor woman is crazy and I think she has made some awful decisions and I feel very very sorry for her. That said, every time I think about her I get angry. Pity wars with resentment. Making horrible horrible decisions that lead to consequences one could never hope to manage on one's own? Faugh.

And now (per Julie) states are getting their panties in a bunch and looking to limit this and curtail that and won't SOMEBODY think of the tax payers?! I keep remembering my online acquaintance who once upon a time transferred ten embryos. Ten. Sounds like a horror story in the making. And yet if you had followed her story you would know that it made sense. She had a good doctor and a reasonable grasp on her personal odds. And no, she did not wind up with ten babies, or eight, or two. Or even one. It sucked.      

I'm not sure what my point is with any of this. I just started writing and now here I am, contradicting myself and feeling vaguely ill as I remember the comments I kept reading at the end of every online article about the octuplets. The general consensus of the masses seems to be that infertile people need to get over themselves and adopt, while people who might need public assistance should be sterilized. Oh and these particular octuplets should be distributed to other families like so many underbred puppies in a box at the Safeway. It's enough to make you want to throw up in the sink. Do I think Steve and I were selfish in our decision to pursue IVF? Yeah, probably. Do I feel like apologizing for the existence of Caroline and Edward? Um, no. Not at all.

Two comments about two comments on my last post. First, KidKate told an hilarious bidet story and I encourage you to go read it. Second, someone called me a pretentious prat. This is not - I hastily insert - an invitation for you to vilify the commenter or tell me how unpretentious or unpratlike I am. My desire to impress you has actually been something I have really struggled with here. During the miscarriage years I... I don't know. I felt like a loser. I loved the sympathy I received but I didn't want to be pitied, you know? So I tried to point out the good things in my life even as I was reporting on the bad and sometimes it came across as bragging. And maybe it was. I don't know. I am a work in progress, I say sententiously. So I am not the least surprised that someone finds me irritating, nor am I bothered by it. You know what I have figured out lo these many (seven) years of writing a web log? That some people read you because they like you and other people read you because they intensely dislike you. I do it myself. I have a couple of blogs I read solely because they irritate me like an itch. Why this is one of the pleasures of blog reading I have no idea but it's true. I am just grateful that the presumed like/dislike ratio of readers is not reflected in the comments because that would start to be a drag. Imagine if half my comments came from people anxious to tell me how much they despise me - blech. Anyway. My only reason for mentioning this comment at all is because it fit so neatly into the Euro-American Understanding Day we were having. Because what sent this commenter into a tail-spin was apparently the smoked pheasant. And I wondered if pheasant has some kind of uber-rich elan in places where they use "prat" as an insult? Because here in America's granary it would be considered elitist not to eat what you have killed. And I am having a hard time imagining anything less glamorous than Steve in a ditch in North Dakota and the awful looking Ziploc bags that now clutter up my freezer as a result. My life-long study of Agatha Christie informs me of a time when the Shooting across the pond was an upper class pastime but is this still true? The smoking of the pheasant was such a back-to-the-good-earth moment here that I was startled to be told my Daimler had been parked on someone's foot.

Because I cannot let a post go by without at least one picture of my selfishly acquired and slavishly adored get:


Have a nice weekend.

It's What's For Dinner

Last week I had an envy (an ahnvee) for cajun food and my friend Noelle was moaning about king cake (which she finally just whipped up - BEAUTIFULLY - on her own; I was purple and green and gold with admiration) so we decided to do a dinner here on Friday night. The plan was that her family was going to bring the gumbo and I was going to eat it. But Steve and her husband somehow inserted themselves into the social organizing and the next thing Noelle and I knew our Vendredi Gras had become a pheasant smoking party. Steve had to repeat this phrase to me a few times before I realized it was not a euphemism for anything more, shall we say, Californian? They were actually going to take plucked pheasants (for they are pheasant pluckers) and put them into a smoker. And although the change in plans was a roux'd (ha ha - punny) awakening I have to admit that eating something that has been soaked in brine, wrapped in bacon and then held for several hours over smoldering hickory chips before being grilled is a damned good substitute for pretty much everything.


But my point is that I was already feeling a little New Orleans when I got the nicest email late Friday afternoon from REDBOOK. Two actually. The first was from my online editor (I love her) introducing me to a senior print editor who had asked for my email address. The second was from said senior editor saying how sorry they were to see me leave the online site and how pleased she would be to have me write features for the magazine. It was very, well, nice and flattering and I thought it could turn into something so I was excited. And when I get excited I tend to become a little exuberant. So it was unfortunate that I also felt like I was on Bourbon Street and a young'ish 22.

I surveyed the kitchen the next morning through squinty eyes.

"We drank a lot of wine last night," I said.

"YOU drank a lot of wine last night," Steve corrected. He looked rested and gorgeous and had already made blueberry pancakes for the children. I muttered something in troll and spent the rest of the day sipping small quantities of tea and turning on Bravo whenever I managed to get the living room to myself.

Laissez les bons temp rouler.


Peek-a-boo in two interpretative styles.

On the one hand, Caroline the consumate performer who is peering through her fingers and counting the house.

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On the other hand, Edward, who finds himself so amusing that he grips his face hard enough to leave marks in his unbridled glee.

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Out of the corner of my eye I kept catching the hole in the kitchen wall and it felt like something disturbing - a bat or a freakishly enormous box elder bug - so I covered it up with Patrick's artwork.

"Don't worry," I told Steve. "It's a load-bearing painting."

As much as I would like to criticize Patrick's art teacher who thought he needed to head towards the light with that project I have to say that I think he does really nice work under her tutelage. Clearly she does not fuck around when it comes to art instruction, even with first graders. Personally, I think Patrick has a good eye for these things (by which I mean his taste is my taste) but I also know that given so much as a millimeter to work with he will paint the entire mile green and call it done. Everything he has brought home from school has been well thought out and carefully executed and not to deingrate my offspring but a little discipline applied to completing tasks is not going to kill him.     

The story, by the way, was that I saw Patrick's painting in the school hallway and I told him how much I liked it and he sighed and said oh THAT painting I did it wrong my teacher said I needed to use nice bright colors, and then I put up a REDBOOK post asking whether there can be a "wrong" in elementary school painting. And quite a few people responded in the affirmative and almost all of their thoughts made sense to me. One commenter freaked out - as per usual with the internet - and got all frothy about (I love this line and I have shamelessly been using it ever since) my "super special snowflake" implying that I could not bear to have Patrick's genius questioned. It's been a couple of months and I am still laughing. Hand to my heart. I know most of you never believed this when I used to bite my lips bloody over the fact that Patrick seemed abnormally... academically inclined... but I was really worried about him. He was three and he was WEIRD. Seriously weird. It's nice to be smart but it's better to be happy and I agonized over my fear that he would spend the rest of his life as a font-obsessed misfit rather than a font-obsessed bon vivant and boulevardier.

He's good, though. He likes school and I think the multi-age classroom is right for him. When everyone in the class is working on a different set of books it is easy to apply the lesson (say, aspects of characterization) to a really wide range of readers. I was skeptical that 30 kids (I volunteer in his reading class; it's huge but she keeps it well run) could each be taught to their own level but I am now a convert. Math class... well, he reads a lot of math theory at home in his spare time. Favorite books (many recommended by you, thank you) include: The Number Devil, The Cat in Numberland, the Penrose the Mathematical Cat books, and the Murderous Maths series. The last one is British and some of the phrasing both amuses and exasperates Patrick. I have tried repeatedly to tell him that it's the English language; we just borrowed it (and made it a lot more fun in the 1920s) but he remains convinced that math should not be pluralized. I kinda agree. What's up with the whole maths thing, sceptered isle?  

Veering wildly off course here for a moment: as long as I am talking to you over yonder there, could someone explain bidets to me? NOT their purpose, thank you very much, but the etiquette involved. We do not have bidets in America and I had always assumed they were an antiquated item in Europe as well, but recent House Hunter International episodes have forced me to reassess this belief. Is this something that one actually uses outside one's own home? Is there a towel involved, like a hand towel in a guest bath only... not? I don't mean to sound unsophisticated but if I don't ask how will I ever learn?

Back to Patrick. His favorite class is gym. I think the twice-weekly Spanish classes are kicking his ass (he must take after his father in that respect; he of the four years of first year espagnol.) A kid in his class was allowed to invite one friend to his older brother's birthday party and he asked Patrick. That made me really happy although I know it should not because *I* wasn't the one invited anywhere and it is always important to separate oneself from one's child. Otherwise you wind up getting into cat fights on the sideline of your kid's soccer game. Which is shameful.

Speaking of soccer I was looking at possible summer programs last night. I flipped through a YMCA brochure and found a sports series they were offering for grades 2 through 5. I asked Patrick what he might be interested in and he said swimming. I said ok, anything else? How about baseball?

"Baseball?" Patrick said. "BASEBALL? No way. I could get hit in the head."

I handed him the catalog and he read it and then handed it back to me.

"I'll do golf," he said.

"Golf?" I asked.

"Yeah. It's the safest. Definitely golf."

He makes me laugh, even when he isn't trying. Oh, and he finally made me laugh (for real) when he is trying:

Dinner last week. In my new role as superthrifty housewife I turned a small ham into four distinct meals (ham with sweet potatoes; jambalaya-inspired breakfast corn muffins; spinach and ham frittata; navy bean soup - my favorite food quote: "Eternity is a ham and two people.")

Patrick looks at his bowl and asks, "What is this?"

"It's bean soup."

Patrick replies, "I don't care what it's been; what is it now?"

Ba da BING!


The violence depicted in this final image might not be appropriate for children. I thought she was just being affectionate, perhaps intending to give him a gentle nuzzle, but no. In her defense she is cutting two molars and three cuspids. Also Edward does have a tendency to run over her with the shopping cart; a habit he might now be reconsidering.