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June 2009


Even before Patrick became a subject for whispered medical consultation I had lobbied to forego the big kid-filled birthday party this year. He was supposed to be at invention camp last week (missed the whole thing, poor pumpkin) so I suggested we have our good friends over for cake and pizza after camp on the actual day and then he could pick a friend to do something Fun (waterpark, amusement park, Science museum, whatever he wanted) that weekend. He decided that he wanted to go ride roller coasters at the mall of America and we realized that doing so on a Monday was infinitely smarter than on a Saturday; so Steve took the day off today and that is what they did.

The cake turned out well - provided you define "well" as "that which made Patrick happy" - largely because I let him do most of it himself. I made the cake and cut off the rubbery edges (Steve looked at me like I was either brilliant or insane - "you can, just, cheat... like that? make it look all even with a knife rather than bake skills?") and I made the buttercream and then I handed Patrick the food coloring. The yellow looked like the yolk of a hard-boiled egg and the purple reminded me of a guest bedroom in our old house and Patrick said that they were both perfect. Then he and I used the decorating bag together and looped and swirled our way through Happy Birthday Patrick. Then we transformed a few accidental blobs into a 7 and an exclamation point. Then we made the 7 into a 7th because I brushed my elbow against the cake right there. Art is change.

Patrick is feeling better and I have that blinky disoriented sense I get when I see a matinée. You know? When you walk out into the sunshine and you have a hard time finding your bearings. In retrospect it is obvious that Patrick was sick for weeks and weeks and weeks. All of these little pieces that I noticed in passing (like the fact that for two months I could never seem to brush his teeth enough to get them clean? that would be because his entire head had become the Tokyo of bacteria) all fit neatly together now to form a picture of The Dawning of a Serious Bacterial Infection. For once, though, I am not beating myself up about the oh! I should have done! We kept bringing him in; they kept checking him. What else can you do?

This is just idle gossip from the lab but in case you feel like playing Infectious Disease Specialist at home when we saw our pediatrician on Friday he gave me some of the numbers that influenced their decision to admit him. Patrick's white blood cell count was 18000, his sed rate was 72 and his c reactive protein (aka CRP to everyone but me since I could not for the life of me remember the letters in order and kept babbling to my brother about CPR; much to his confusion) was a whopping 150. None of these things meant anything to me but the doctor said the CRP was the highest he had ever seen in clinic and that Patrick must have felt like hell no matter how FINE and GREAT he kept insisting he was.

If nothing else I have concluded that Patrick is never to be trusted again when it comes to how he is feeling and for the next two months or so I plan on personally examining his tonsils at every opportunity with a miner's helmet and a crowbar if needed.

Caroline, speaking of our walking wounded, is suffering from some kind of post traumatic stress disorder when it comes to people and her face. I took her to get her bangs trimmed again and this time rather than admire herself and flip through a copy of Glamor she opened her mouth like a gigantic "O"and SCREAMED. Clearly she has yet to forget the stitches. And, before I forget, a few people in the comments (notably Cris. hi Cris!) educated me about young children and sedation. Apparently it can be done orally with a quick wear-off and a pleasant goofiness. Versed, I think it was called.  So, you know, if it helps you and I hope it does.

Edward has eczema on his eyelids and legs and he is cutting two more teeth. Although technically neither ailment falls particularly high on the family's trauma scoreboard for the month of June they are his and he is making the most of them. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to make the eyelids feel better, although cortisone has almost cleared up the stuff on his legs. I trimmed his nails as short as possible to try to help with the King Lear look he is sporting but obviously it is uncomfortable and like Barbara Fritchie, Edward likes to scratch when he is itchy. Any thoughts on the eyelid eczema would be appreciated. We are seeing the pediatrician tomorrow (it's their eighteen month well child check, although the doctor asked me to bring Patrick along too - no appointment needed for him; just to check him over before our vacation) but ya'll always have such clever ideas about such things.

Hey, this has nothing to do with anything but I might as well ask: how much do you pay for your electricity every month, on average? I have been fighting with the electric company for months now but they keep baffling me with their rotating calendar and fluctuating kilowatt pricing and I don't know what else. They claimed our meter was broken so they came out and replaced it in February and the next month billed us $900. NINE hundred dollars for the month, which (considering the fact that we have gas heat and cannot be seen from fucking space) seemed a little outrageous to me. They said that this included underbilling from the previous four months but I went through every electric bill we have had for five years and pointed out that even so it represented a hundred percent increase over the same rough time period from previous years. They said don't be silly. They said that cannot be right. They said well maybe but you know prices have gone up. They said they had something boiling over on the stove and they would have to get back to me later. Steve and I have been virtuous about turning off every light in the house that is not in use. We do not use the central air conditioning. We unplugged the hot tub for the season. And still our last electric bill was over $300. I think we are being robbed at bulb point but I would love to get a global comparison, the better to ginger up my dander for my next call to corporate.

Is that it? Let's see, Patrick better and seven; the starting point for Caroline's metamorphosis into Cousin It noted; Edward itches, damn it; electric company steals from hard-working family because they can... yep, I think that covers it.

[Except: we are going on vacation on Saturday and I am so excited I can hardly wait. Not the 5:30 am departure part; or the traveling with not one but two 18 month olds; or the fact that we can no longer fit into a modest rented compact but need to reserve some sort of circus caravan... but everything else. Very excited.]

PS From today:


Between Edward dressing her and Patrick's affection for decorating her with bows, Caroline is going to start to feel like her brothers' own personal Cabbage Patch Kid.

Magnificent Seven

I had to swear on a stack of Captain Underpants books (the library cart stopped outside the hospital room. Patrick took one look at the string of Words We Do Not Say on the cover said, "Well THIS looks interesting") that I would wake Patrick up at midnight and four am and get him to ingest a combined 17.3 ml of clindamycin/cefdanir (the "a" in clinda? it's for ASS) and I would take his temperature every four hours and I would bring him back to the hospital if he was anything less than 115% perfect at any time; but the attending physician agreed to release him last night so he could be home for his birthday.


We were especially pleased by this unexpected doctorial pardon because the infectious disease doctor we saw yesterday morning just made a face when given the same request.

"Birthday tomorrow? Hmmm, well, I can guarantee you will be home before July. How does that sound?"

Patrick said, "JULY? Do you know how many DAYS THERE ARE LEFT IN JUNE?" And then he covered his face with his hands and started to cry.

We still do not know what the infection is, exactly, or where it is, precisely. We know a great deal about what and where it is not, however, and we know that his levels are heading in the right direction. If it had not been his birthday today they would have kept him on the IV antibiotics through at least tomorrow but it is and they did not. So Patrick slept at home last night (when I wasn't waking him up per my sacred oath) and he is very very very happy about this.    


Thank you so very very much for all of your good wishes and prayers. They meant a lot to me.

I apologize for not posting an update sooner. When I called his doctor on Monday afternoon and said that Patrick had just started another 103 degree fever they told me to bring him in. I was about 75% certain that they would send us to the ER after they saw him so I took the precaution of packing a backpack to bring with us. I had stuff for Patrick to drink and snacks and some books and a couple Sudoku puzzles and a warmer shirt for him. I also brought my laptop and a novel for myself. So when the ER admitted him to the hospital I patted my back for showing such foresight. Once we got upstairs to his room, though, I realized that I had forgotten a billion important things (toothbrush. pillow for Patrick since the hospital ones were hard and made his head sweat as if he had jumped into a pool. pajamas for me. fifty more Sudoku puzzles. my bedtime chocolate. a thermos full of wine) and I discovered that although the hospital has added wireless internet since Caroline was a patient seventeen months ago they have blocked all of the social networking sites like Typepad and Facebook. I think this is kinda crappy, actually. I understand why employers have done it but why would a hospital care how their patients choose to utilize the internet? That is a sincere question by the way; I really cannot understand why they put these restrictions in place. Not only could I not read any blogs to while away the time as Patrick complained incessantly about his IV site; I could not access a page to post anything to mine. It even blocked your comments from being delivered via email although I received other messages.

Ultimately it didn't matter all that much, though, because I managed to leave my laptop on all night when we got there and the battery died and I forgot to ask Steve to bring the charger when he came bearing supplies and that was the end of my ability to communicate electronically.

One quick story:

Patrick treated the entire situation like an abduction. Every time someone came into the room and asked, "So what brings us here?" Patrick would say, "WELL. I was feeling MUCH BETTER but then she [that would be me, thanks] took me to the clinic and I told them I was feeling MUCH BETTER but they decided to send me to the hospital and now here I am feeling MUCH BETTER except for all the blood draws and the IV."

He decided almost instantly that they would keep him if he was sick so whenever someone asked how he was feeling he would say, "Great! I feel great! Nothing hurts! I have never felt better in my ENTIRE LIFE."

He quickly became famous/notorious with the doctors and nurses for being the most argumentatively healthy sick kid on the floor. Also, I overheard his nurse telling the radiology techs, "Please don't talk down to him; it agitates him." You should have seen Patrick's face the first fifty times someone asked him if he had any "owies" or told him the blood pressure cuff was going to give his arm a hug. Sorry. I actually just laughed aloud as I remembered that. He is such a pain in the ass sometimes.

Yesterday, after he had a CT scan done on his neck, they brought him back up to his room via the main elevator. It was full of people and Patrick and his nurse and his IV were towards the back. As the elevator started to go up Patrick said, firmly, "I want two things: I want to go home and I want someone to take this thing out of my hand."

The doctor standing next to me whispered, "Um, is he taking us all hostage? Are those his demands?"

I looked at the ceiling and tried to pretend I was with the sweet, silent child in the front.

Patrick thought Caroline should have some birthday bows in her hair this morning to celebrate his awesome birthdayness . She patiently humored him.

IMG_3820 IMG_3819

We are very glad he is home.

PS He has to go back for more blood work tomorrow and I am pretty sure that they are sending him to an ENT in the near future. At last check his tonsils were mildly ok'er but his adenoids were disgusting and I think they will want him to get the structures back there checked after the infection is deemed to be fully under control. I am actually nervous about the testing because he really was on the bubble in terms of being released and if the oral antibiotics are not being as effective as we hope they are... no. It doesn't bear considering. Positive! Thinking!

PPS Sorry this is so mish-mashy. Patrick is still registering as a 10.6 on the Neediness Scale and I have a cake to make and decorate (every time they did something to him that was painful I tried to distract Patrick by asking him things. at one point I asked what his birthday cake should look like. "Bright yellow? Sure. Purple lettering? Absolutely. In a... in a what font style? I mean, YES I can do that!" I have basically committed to the Sistine Chapel of birthday cakes. I didn't have the heart to say, oh, sweetie, Mommy was just making false promises to help you ignore the fact that you had blood dripping down your hand; I don't know how to decorate cakes you silly child.

PPPS Thank you again, seriously, for all the kindness. I am reading through comments and you are making me cry. Cry, I tell you.


Patrick was admitted to Children's last night with a bacterial infection of unknown origin and location.
Good thoughts appreciated.

Lo Que Se Llama Cerveza

How are you feeling, Patrick?


And when your temperature goes above 103 again?


We are on day six seven of Patrick's plague and... everything is mildly awful. I took these pictures of him after we returned from the doctor as it was the first time all week he had been out of pajamas and I wanted to mark the occasion.

Other than the clinic trips, he has fallen into a routine:

5 am - climbs into bed with me complaining about the fact that he is hothothot
5:01 am - falls into a deep sleep after kicking the blankets off both of us and stealing my pillow
9 am - wakes up and wanders into the living room where he stares into space until someone takes his temperature; 103.infinity
9:01 am - downs motrin/tylenol
9:32 am - fever down to 100! never felt better in his life! WHY can't he go outside WHY can't he have a friend over WHAT book should he read no he's read that one and that one; not that one but he doesn't WANT to read it and it is back to the same four episodes of Tom & Jerry that we have on tivo
3:00 pm - stares into space as his temperature hits 103 again
3:01 pm until 5:01 am - feverish and miserable 

On Wednesday our pediatrician stated that every kid who has walked into his office in the past week with sustained high fevers has swine flu so... walks like a duck; quacks like a duck. Swine flu, for heavens sake. I said, ok, but no cough? No sore throat? He listened to Patrick's lungs, which are as clear. Then he looked at Patrick's tonsils and recoiled. What ho? I asked. He showed me Patrick's throat which is a gross pulpy mass of gross gross gross. Gross.

"Your throat doesn't hurt?" we asked, incredulous.

"No," said Patrick.

The doctor took him off the antibiotics, checked his platelets (up significantly but still subnormal) and told me to call him on Friday (uh, today I guess) to check in. Since Patrick still had his morning/evening fever and his lymph nodes have begun to swell like sponges I am bringing him back into the doctor this afternoon.

As I said to my mother, if he doesn't have swine flu yet he'll certainly get it if we keep going back to sickville. Ho ho ho.

As I have absolutely nothing new to report from quarantine I might as well pick up the humiliating story of my early 20s, at least until it's time to go back to the pediatrician (as I left on Wednesday he asked if I had any preferences regarding our wing; I told him the only thing upon which I insist is an ornamental fountain.)

Let's see, where was I? Oh right, Honduras part one.

Random story:

After sweeping me into a passionate embrace and swearing eternal devotion Julian promptly ditched me at his place and went back to his peaceful corp work designing water systems for remote mountain villages. As a human being I commend his dedication. As a taxpayer I applaud his diligence. As a spoiled 22 year old I took stock of my new situation (very occasional electricity; a pipe sticking out of the wall that trickled cold water and acted as a shower; mosquitoes the size of my very wide feet; no Julian around anywhere) and I thought, are you fucking kidding me? What am I supposed to DO all day? Why am I even here? [hint: I shouldn't have been, of course.]

After about three days of staring at the concrete walls and playing with the children next door I decided I needed to get out of the house. So one afternoon I crossed the highway and started off for a bar I had seen a mile or so down the road. The place was deserted when I got there except for the guy behind the counter.

"Una cerveza, por favor," I said carefully. Spanish is not my second language. Or even my third.

"No," he said.

I mentally reviewed my request for errors. Seemed ok to me.

"Cerveza?" I repeated, pointing at a bottle of Salva Vida (a Honduran beer for which I have always maintained a fondness - it had the catchiest damned jingle.... "Salba Bida! da da da DA cerbeza!")

"No!" he said.

"Oh! Are you closed? Um," I frantically tried to remember the word for closed. Unable to come up with one I attempted a hand gesture that might have been anything and then mimed leaving and coming back later. I probably even pointed at where my watch would have been if I have ever worn a watch.

Then a guy walked in. Sat down. Ordered a beer. Was given one.  

What the... I mean, QUE?

So I pointed at the new guy's beer and then pointed at myself and repeated please and beer a few more times before I finally held up a couple of... oh what is Honduran currency called? lempira? no, I think that's a kind of eggroll in the Phillipines, I dunno, anyway... I held up some money and smiled. I assumed this was a linguistic misunderstanding, easily remedied with a round of charades augmented by props.

Whereupon the bar guy started yelling at me - really yelling - getting all finger stabby in the process. The first time I went to Honduras I was terrified that I would be murdered by banditos. What I should have been worried about was being bored out of my mind but nooooo I was in loooove... so my major fear was machete attacks. I had no idea why this person was shouting at me because I wanted a beer but he seemed fairly keen on not giving me one and how was I to know how long it would take for him to go from hollering at me to throwing my body into a ditch somewhere? So I fled. As an aside, I later learned that Honduras is actually a very nice country; friendly people, generally fond of Americans (a man once followed me through a grocery store in San Pedro Sula; nodding, smiling and shouting "Ronald Reagan! Ronald Reagan!" - not a DC native's favorite president but a nice thought nonetheless) and they are not remotely predisposed to hacking innocent travellers to death. Guatemala on the other hand...


Just back from the doctor's office. Patrick's temperature (of course) dropped to a chilly 97.7 the entire time we were there. However, the pediatrician accepted that this was a fever anomaly and looked at Patrick's hideous tonsils and took more blood... the new/old assumption is that whatever else is going on Patrick has an abscess in his tonsil. He is back on clindamycin (OH MY GOD IS THIS STUFF HORRIBLE. DISGUSTING. AWFUL. I cannot believe that Patrick will not eat delicious eggs or buttery mashed potatoes but he will swallow this vile concoction three times a day) and if that fails to eradicate the whatsit then Patrick has bought himself an -ectomy next month. But I am hopeful that the new drugs will do something positive. Soon. It's his birthday next week and he is supposed to go to inventor's camp on Monday... oh and he is driving me crazy being on the couch all the time.

Every day Patrick counts aloud the hours he has spent watching television this past week and then he gives me a limpid stare, knowing that it bugs me.

"Remember, mommy, when you said I couldn't watch TV when school got out because we were not going to spend the summer that way? And now I have watched, um, twelve... thirteen... fourteen and a half hours!"

Oh, shut up and drink your bright blue medicinal Gatorade (Patrick has lost five pounds since Sunday - he officially gets to eat and drink anything he wants.)

[GOOD GRIEF Patrick is lying next to me watching a movie with his feet on my stomach. The soles of his feet felt warm so I took his temperature again and it is up to 104.2. Must go bathe child.]


Poor kid.

So I eventually learned that further down the road from me was a place called the Hotel Paradiso, a brothel. In order to discourage the ladies from plying their trade there, the bar from whom I was trying to purchase a beer had instituted a firm no unescorted women policy. So what the nice man was trying to tell me was: we don't serve your kind. After my initial irritation I was charmed by the idea.

"Julia, my god, how tan you are and whatever did you do with that English degree?"

"Well, I had planned on law school but a misunderstanding lead to a surprising and yet lucrative career in freelance Central American prostitution. And you?"

For the record before I left Honduras I started picking up vagrants (male) near the bar and buying them drinks in exchange for acting as my escort so I could just have a beer and read my book in relative comfort. They had a ceiling fan in there, for fucks sake. As you can guess my Spanish had improved by that point while my fear of being cubed had decreased. Besides, it amused me that yet again a policy designed to influence morality produced unintended consequences. 

I need to go check on Patrick again. He's hot like a waffle and the only caution my pediatrician gave me today was that we need to keep an eye out for signs that he's getting worse. IV ho, you know.

Two pictures:

Caroline with her luscious new bottom lip


Edward looking overwhelmingly Edwardesque - he disapproves of so much, I'm afraid, that his own bottom lip must be compressed in concern.



I keep trying to figure out where I incurred the gypsy's wrath. Target parking lot? Family changing area at the Y? I am usually so careful to avoid an Evil Eye that I am baffled. But cursed I am, so I must have done something to the caravan at some point.

In the past six days we have had: one emergency room encounter, two trips to Urgent Care, and three office visits. And counting.

Caroline has rebounded from what was becoming her Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows look


to a more stitch-free ebullient demeanor


We had her stitches removed yesterday at the pediatrician's office (I had to hold her down again - remind me to get back to that.) Stitches come out a whole lot faster than they go in so just as Caroline was ramping up to get really REALLY angry; it was over. Then she was embarrassed because she had to abruptly dismantle her pitched fit. It reminded me of the person at the customer service desk who starts to get screamy just as he is given everything he has asked for, like, "... AND ANOTHER THING I REALLY RESENT... oh, full refund and a free set of knives and a foot massage? Well. Um. Good. Fine. Thank you."  

After the doctor's office I decided to take advantage of the fact that I was down to one child and I ran a few errands. Among other things I went to the Carter's outlet for a friend who lives in Outer Mongolia (practically) and while I was standing there I bought Caroline a pair of pajamas. Cotton. Pink with monkeys. Two-piece, as it so happens, because that was all they had. I put them on her last night and thought about how cute she looked and wondered why I have never tried two-piece pajamas on her before.

*cue minor chords*

Last night Cricket woke up around eleven and started chittering. I ignored her. She quieted down. Then a little later she started again, this time escalating to a squawk. I continued to read my book. She settled. Around midnight she started to really cry. At the time I was helping Patrick who had fallen out of bed after binding his own legs together in an attempt to get out of his pajamas (have I mentioned Patrick's four days of high fevers plus hallucinations yet? I'll get there.) So I finished with Patrick as quickly as possible and ran into Caroline's room. Where

this is kinda gross so if you are squeamish feel free to go do something else

I found Caroline in her crib wearing nothing but her pajama top. Her diaper (dirty) was on the floor and there was a little puddle in the corner of her crib. She had obviously realized (too late) why little girls do not change their own soiled garments without assistance. She was mortified and good GRIEF, she should be. Steve came up (after I pounded on the floor about a million times with my foot to wake him) and assisted with the hazmat cleaning and we eventually managed to get her back into bed whereupon she had the effrontery to suggest we might want to read a book.

"Buh?" she said, hopefully.

"SLEEP," we said, firmly.

I went off to bed (buh, indeed) where I stayed for about a minute before poor Patrick woke up again, all hot and babbling about lights that curve and blanket seas that suffocate.      

One theory is that we failed to get rid of Patrick's strep completely a few weeks ago and it is now back, although he tested negative for strep so I am not sure how that works. The urgent care doctor put him on antibiotics (amoxicillin this time) for ten days anyway. A second theory is that he has swine flu. Or H1whatever they are calling it now. A third theory is that he has neither of these things but his platelet count is mysteriously so low (hovering just above the point at which they worry about him not clotting when needed) that we have to keep checking on it regardless of what is causing the headache and the fever. 

So when two-thirds of my children aren't actively hallucinating or splitting open their faces they are either incompetently attempting to undress themselves or being shuttled back and forth to various clinics. My hands are full, as every person I have ever narrowly avoided smacking into with the double-stroller has noted (I love our cheapy-cheap double umbrella stroller because it collapses easily and weighs nothing but... it doesn't STEER.)

Any experience with moderately high fevers (103 to 104) and nonsensical babbling? As Patrick observed the next day as he described in lurid detail what he thought he had seen in his bedroom the night before, "It was creepy." He keeps seeing colored lights, which sounds migraine related to me but why the fevers? We return, of course, to his pediatrician tomorrow but nothing like a nice internet-a-nosis in the meantime.

PS Edward has never been better. Something about sick and wounded siblings scattered around like so many fallen acorns just makes him... happy.


PPS A few people wanted to know why Caroline was numbed and held down for her stitches rather than doped into a pleasant/insensible haze. The short answer is: I have no idea. I am sort of a sheep like that. I show up with problem X and I follow whatever expert opinion is given. The closest children's hospital to us numbs and stitches, employing a papoose that keeps the child immobile enough to get the job done quickly (generally, just not Menace Girl the toughest of the WonderBabies.) Whether they do this because of associated sedation risks or because The Man at the insurance company tells them to... I dunno.

I had no idea that there even were alternatives to numb n' stitch until I saw the comments here and (although it doesn't do Caroline much good this time around) I thought I should mention that they exist (per my commenters) in case your little Hagar gashes his face any time soon. I think I still would not have opted for sedation (in fact I am sure of it due to Caroline's barelythere veins) but I wanted to mention it. Might help you.


I spent five and a half years with Patrick and never once learned where the children's hospital is located. Seventeen months of Caroline and Edward and I now have a favorite parking lot there (red) and a favorite parking level (E.) I also have a favorite grievance, which goes like this:

Dear Fellow Parents With Sick/Hurt Children,

I know! The hospital! I am so sorry that you are dealing with a child in distress. I understand completely how you feel as I, too, currently have a kid covering her car seat and the window with blood. Stressful, isn't it?

I also know you are having a hard time so I hate to mention this, but did you happen to see those enormous signs that are hung every six inches along the interior parking walls and that read COMPACT CARS ONLY? I understand that the sign at your particular space is obscured by the hood of your Suburban but perhaps the one next to it or the one just past that one or... ? Yeah, well, the reason they try to limit vehicle size, particularly right at the ends with hairpin turns (what we on the Formula One circuit might refer to as the chicanes) is that when you park your GIANT ASSED SUV there you make it almost impossible for someone to get around you. So that it is necessary to execute a fifteen point turn in order to proceed in a linear direction from level B to level C while a little girl screams and spits blood at the back of your head.

This is really fucking annoying.

Sincerely yours,

A Friend

So last night I left the room for five seconds (I had to pee. Steve was in charge.) Then I heard a wail followed by silence. As any parent will tell you, the moment you hear your child cry you tense and wait for the follow-up. Initial cries are all the same - they tell you nothing about the situation. It could be a toy skirmish or a cat dispute or a bump or a sudden realization that the kid doesn't. like. canteloupe! So you tense and wait and the longer you wait the worse you know it is going to be. Children inflate like balloons when they are hurt, instinctively filling their lungs to a capacity that will render that next cry sufficiently telling. Caroline went off like a bomb/air raid siren all in one. I knew it was bad but when it was followed by Steve's urgent "Julia! JULIA! JULIA!" I almost tripped in my haste to get out of the bathroom (it was six hours later that I realized that I had never managed to zip up my pants. nice.)

"She's bleeding," Patrick reported, looking sweetly concerned as he alternated between patting her foot and wringing his hands.

I lunged for her and made those soothing nonsensical noises that one makes as one tries to figure out whether the child has knocked out all her teeth or ripped her lip off or what, exactly, it is causing so very much blood to gush from her mouth. I discovered that her upper teeth had cut just below her lip on the outside and her bottom teeth had punctured the inside of her lip on the reverse. I could not quite tell if she had bitten through but I did not think so. I put a cold cloth on it and rocked her and called my friend Noelle for a consult. When do you get stitches, being the question of the day.

She said if it was still bleeding after ten minutes with pressure it should probably get checked but she called her family doctor husband to confirm. He did. I looked at Caroline's gash and decided to take her to urgent care immediately, ten minutes be damned.

Things to know for future reference: they do not use face glue (fine, DermaBond) around the mouth as it is not effective there. The urgent care doctor (who is part of our pediatric practice) did not want to do the stitches herself as she was worried about scarring so she sent us to Childrens. In retrospect I should have just taken Caroline straight to the emergency room rather than waste time with the detour through urgent care but that's ok. I didn't know. Now I do. As we left the doctor said that it was going to be traumatic for Caroline and, oh, she knew that the ER was busy what with all the flu cases so try to stick to a corner and good luck.

Greeeeeeeaaaaaat (choking, skin cancer, drowning AND THE FLU.)

For four hours I never put Caroline down.

The triage nurse who admitted her put some kind of numbing gel on a pad and then tried to secure the pad under Caroline's lip with a complicated series of bandages that wrapped all the way around her head. She looked a bit like Christopher Robin with the mumps, only the banadages were hot pink and purple. We waited forty-five minutes before we were sent to a room at which point the doctor figured out that Caroline had pulled her lip up from the numbing gel so that her chin was probably feeling nothing but there was no way they could stitch her lip together. So we repeated the gel pad and I walked her around for another forty-five minutes.

Finally they decided she was as numb as she would ever be. They strapped her to a board. She pulled her hand free. They secured the hand again. She pulled it free again. They told me to just hold the hand. Then they started on the stitches while Caroline fought like a wild thing. She freed her other hand. Then she kicked her feet out. I had my entire body pressed against her to hold her still while she screamed and screamed and kicked and screamed.

She got five stitches. I aged five hundred years.

When I got home we gave her lashings of Motrin and milk and clean pajamas and she crashed immediately. Then I went to check on Patrick who was reading in his bed. I told him about Caroline's stitches and about how she fought so hard she broke the restraints.

Patrick beamed.

"She is one tough little wonderbaby," he said.


PS The stitches run just under her bottom lip.
PPS Remind me to tell you about the Amazing Adventures of SuperPatrick and the Wonder Babies.
PPPS The whole time I was at Childrens last night I was grateful that we were there for something so relatively minor. It felt like a luxury to know that it would suck briefly and then be done. There is absolutely nothing like sick and hurt kids en masse to make you feel humble.
PPPPS She has been looking this tragic all day long. It's killing me. Like, I trusted you, mommy, until the whole painful bloody hold me down thing.

Mortality Banana

This is the reason why I am not a journalist. Uh, one of the many, I should say, other reasons include my inability to talk to strangers, my lack of tenacity, the fact that I will happily take no for an answer and that I hate things that are sad. Sad like the news. Also, I just typed 'hournalist'. Finally, my understanding is that the point of journalism is to convey important facts as clearly as possible whereas I favor recounting trivia as obscurely as ditto. In addition to all that I loathe feeling like I have to write about something specific. I would have been the cub reporter going, "Crime beat? Again? I don't feel like writing about crime today. I want to cover a butterfly story. And not killer butterflies this time either. Pretty ones."

I really don't know what was going on with that last post. I guess I was stalling because I felt obligated to clarify the ex-husband but then I realized that I was so ashamed of the whole thing that I didn't want to get into it. So I punted. Then I was shocked by my uncharacteristically soppy reaction to your comments but the sincerity of my response is one I don't feel up to expressing right now either. I am feeling breezy, not sincere.

So here I am stalling again.

But I suppose I might as well tell you about my gushy minor epiphany: As I read through your stories of stupidity and salaciousness and I found myself thinking, over and over again, aw, that poor little pumpkin. I never once thought you were a terrible person for doing x or y, or x and y on the same night. I thought you sounded young. Self-centered, maybe, but mostly insecure and just... fumbling. So many of the things you (aggregate) wrote resonated with me that I felt like a bell tower all weekend. The person who lamented not nurturing her female friendships as she poured tons of energy into chasing men; the one who has a hard time imagining how she is the same person who did so many pointlessly cruel things... for me it is not the recollection of years of self-destructive behavior that rankles so much as the laundry list of unkind acts. I struggle with the fact that I was so goddamned mean. Anyone can drink enough tequila before lunch that they throw up in a diner (right? *ahem* RIGHT?) but why was I such a bitch? It's not just that Andy and I should never have gotten married for about a million reasons starting with the fact that I did not particularly like him (even though he was very likable) it is the fact that I was a monster about it. It is one thing to initiate and foster a doomed relationship, it is another to taunt the person while you are doing so. Jeez.


My point is that I read your stories and all I felt was understanding and compassion for the younger you; no matter what you had done. And then I realized, hey, what's the difference between immature rotten you and immature rotten me? And I don't think there is one. So for the first time in, like, a decade I was able to throw a little understanding and compassion my way. I am still embarrassed but I am willing to cut myself some slack. I was insecure. I was needy. I did really crappy things but I am sorry for it.


When I was sixteen I met Gregg on a street corner. I was in high school and he went to Georgetown but after I dispatched the age gap (by lying) we started dating. I quite liked him (still do, actually. he and his lovely friend spent a night here last summer when they were in town) and although we broke up five seconds after I began college we kept in touch - he would send me odd notes written on Congressional stationery and great mix tapes; I would call him drunk at two in the morning. Then... we'll just have to skip most of my college career or we'll be here forever so let's leap ahead to the end of my junior year. After dating more or less everyone on the eastern seaboard, I fell trulymadlydeeply head over hangnails in love with Julian. B-I-G trembly siiiiiiiiiiigh. So that was nice because I was going to be happy forever; however, Julian had applied for the Peace Corps and when he was not scattering fistfuls of stardust in his wake he was waiting to hear from them. I knew that the Peace Corps was a once in a lifetime opportunity and something he really wanted to do. Naturally, I wished with all my heart and soul that they would reject him. Instead they sent him to Honduras in February of my senior year and I went into as Victorian a decline as ever any heroine has palely slumped. I wrote him long, tear-stained letters, gazed longingly at Central America in my atlas, drank Scotch in the absence of laudanum and cheated on him with casual yet persistent indifference. Yeah, I know. That last bit doesn't follow any romantic narrative convention I am familiar with either.

Meanwhile, Gregg had moved from DC to Chicago. I like this story. He and a friend wanted to leave Washington but were mostly impartial as to where they went. So they decided to leave it up to the NBA finals. If the Bulls won they would move to Chicago; if the Lakers won they would move to LA. The way I tell it they packed a small car with their worldly etc before going to a bar to watch game 7. When the Bulls won they left that night for Chicago. Gregg's version of the same story involves them going home and cancelling their phone service and filling out change of address cards for magazine subscriptions... I like mine better. So Gregg was living in Chicago and had acquired a roommate named Chris. One night (probably around 1 am - if there is anything I miss about being that young it is the fact that chronic insomnia becomes imperceptible) I called to talk to Gregg and got Chris instead. He seemed personable so we chatted. Then I few nights later I called again. Then he called me. Then I went to (of all things) an Easter brunch hosted by a friend of mine that started with Bloody Marys and a nice ham and ended with my getting on an airplane at 6 o'clock the following morning en route to Chicago. So Chris and I started dating. He came to visit me. I am pretty sure I went back to Chicago although I might not have. I know that right after I graduated college I spent a week with him at his parents' vacation house in West Palm, which was a lot of fun. I think he assumed we were involved. And we were. But I was also planning my long-awaited trip to go see Julian in Honduras.

As I am typing this I am wondering where on the earth I got the money to go zipping all over the country like a migratory bird. I don't remember much about this time but I am very clear on the fact that I was crushingly poor. I guess I, uh, relied on the kindness of boyfriends and also Visa's generous minimum payment due/maximum interest extracted terms. This is why when Steve paid off my loans and debts for my birthday one year it qualified as such a kingly gift. Because I spent years vacationing/living on credit and remember what I just said about that? Remember? Don't do it, that's what I said.

I'll pick up the rest of the Julian/dengue/Chris/law school/Andy/first marriage saga later. Now that you mention it there was a story about a lamp hidden on the roof (MY lamp that HE stole; for the record) and the cat who got its name changed in the divorce. I went back through my secret archives to see if I could find it but it must have been deleted during one of my Augean post-REDBOOK contract blog cleaning efforts. As an aside: Heather Armstrong notes that the one person you never under any circumstances want to read your blog will one day read your blog. I would like to add the corollary that even when you spend weeks combing through old blog posts in an effort to delete any evidence of passing bitchiness that only seven people read at the time and you are pretty sure you have succeeded someone will still read something they find to be offensive and be offended they will. So consider yourself warned (although I think what I am recommending is total blog abstinence - see how well this works for me?)

Anway, that post is gone otherwise I would cut and paste but I'll add it to the list of stories I owe you.

I have a new ad up for baby slings. One of my favorite baby gifts was a sling, which surprised me because I have no compunction about putting Baby down in a battery operated whatsits until his brain jiggles into jelly and I love strollers so much we own three of them. No, four. However, even with twins (maybe I should say especially with twins) I found it very nice to pop a baby against my chest and still use my hands like a normal, nonbabied person. Slings have become my new go-to baby gift (like vases for weddings - I love vases.) So I am pro-sling in general and pro-these-slings in particular because they are gorgeous. Seriously. I am a fabric junkie and I lust after nice textiles. And the ring things look cool. So go look.

I rooted out one of our largest puzzles (map of the world) over the weekend and set up a board that would enable us to move the puzzle-in-progress back and forth off the dining room table. I figured it would last Patrick as a nice summer vacation side project for a week at least. Maybe two. You follow my logic, right? Summer vacation, long days, six year old, need for lots of mini projects... so why on earth was my husband sitting there finishing Africa after Patrick had gone to bed? And why did he think I was crazy for taking the box of pieces away and hiding them until the kid woke up?


Just to give you an idea of how summer vacation is going so far:

Patrick was working on the puzzle after lunch. I had about a billion other things to do but I felt obligated to be, you know, all engaged so I said, "Hmmm, do you think this piece could be part of that white fish with the black stripes?"

Patrick says, "Actually, Mommy, that is a black fish with white stripes."

I wanted to smack him.       

I also enrolled him in emergency swimming camp yesterday after I took him to the Y over the weekend. In order to be able to go down the slide he has to be 48 inches tall (and he is. when his hair is dry. and sticking up. a lot) and he has to pass a test which involves being able to float on his back for ten seconds and then tread water for thirty. Before dragging the life guard away from all of her important life guarding I tested him myself. Floating was fine. He might float a little more convex than a purist likes to see but he floated. Then I asked him to tread water and he sank like a chest full of gold dubloons. Five YEARS of swimming lessons (granted, and to his credit, he's been in nothing deeper than a bathtub in the past nine months) but still the child went down faster than the Edmund Fitzgerald. Oh the humanity. I called the swimming-only swim place first thing Monday and got him started on two weeks worth of lessons - stat. We've talked about choking. We've talked about skin cancer. Have we discussed drowning? Well, that's on my list too. I was encouraged to see that he actually could swim about three seconds into his lessons but one can always swim better so I figure it is time and money well spent regardless.

When in doubt, end with a music video (Edward? slays me. bookish sure but he still knows how to say yes yes this rocks)


Skeletulle in the Closet

Patrick says, "What is that word I am looking for? Translucent? Imaginative? Carbon? No! I know!"

I wait.

"Well?" I finally ask.

"Well, what?"

"Well, what was the word you were looking for?"

"I'd rather not tell you. Do I have to? Do you insist that I tell you?"

And I say, no, I guess not, because who am I? The divulge a word or else enforcement committee? No.

But since it seems unfair that I - and I alone - will go to my grave never knowing what word could possibly exist at the intersection of translucent, imaginative and carbon I thought I would tell you that little story.

You're welcome.

I remembered to slather Patrick with sunscreen this morning, just not at a moment when he, I and the sunscreen were all within a hundred feet of each other. This is why he left for the school's all-day outdoor picnic completely free of SPF and glowing like a white beacon of epithelial Danger. I am not as crazy about sun safety as I am about choking hazards, but I am still plenty crazy enough for most purposes. So, of course, I drove to school and, of course, I was late and, of course, I did not know where the picnic was being held. Fortunately it is impossible to march anybody anywhere quickly (as Josephine said to Napoleon when she suggested he put off conquering Russia until the Spring) so it only took three or maybe four u-turns blithely executed on county highways before I spotted a mass of children disappearing over a distant hill. It should have reminded me of the Pied Piper; it actually reminded me of the battle hosts marching from Mordor.   

One of the things I love about Patrick is that he is never surprised to see me, even when I pop out at him from behind a bush as he and a couple hundred of his closest friends parade through a random suburban development en route to The Good Picnic Playground.

"Oh hello there, Mommy," he said as I materialized like a genie and his fourth grade buddy emitted a short sharp scream.

I coated him with sunscreen as he trotted along and then disappeared into the shrubbery again before someone could spot me and deputize me as a parent volunteer.

Caroline believes that you can bring a girl to the hippo seats but you cannot make her sit.

I call this The Dying Swan.


And I thought I worried about choking back when the children remained in an upright and locked position.

So am I to understand from your comments on my last post that I have never mentioned my first husband? Or, if I have done so, it was with such a lack of emphasis that it failed to register? You stun me. I would have thought at some point I would have put together one of those bloggy lists that are so popular.


Dummy Dope Things I Did When I was 23 -

1. Start law school
2. Get rid of that nice loveseat
3. Marry Andy

followed by

Marginally Smarter Things I Did When I was 24 -

1. Drop out of law school
2. Divorce Andy
3. Combine ham, cheddar and garlicky dill pickle slices on rye bread with dijon mustard

But I guess you'd know if you didn't know - and you claim you did not.

So when I say that I am afraid that one of my children will choke to death I mean that although I technically know the Heimlich manouever I am aware that I also technically know how to parallel park. Experience, however, has taught me that -  under pressure - my ability to back up at a forty-five degree angle before turning the wheel is nonexistent and I worry that my windpipe clearing skills are ditto. When I say that I am afraid of snakes I mean that I am afraid that one day a poisonous snake will leap out (possibly from a can of nuts but it could be from anywhere, really) and bite me and I will die, like Egypt's queen, unmourned by Rome. And when I say that I am afraid that one day I will be in that tiny private waiting room outside mammography wearing nothing but a hospital robe and that sitting two feet away from me reading Family Circle will be my ex-mother-in-law I mean exactly that.

I just typed a sentence, deleted it, typed another one and deleted that too. Apparently I am not particularly interested in telling you the story of my first marriage. It is all very sordid and embarrassing and there is not a single instant of it in which I appear to be remotely likable.

Tell you what. You tell me about the dumbest thing you ever did and then I'll come back and tell you the painful details (did I mention there were three roommates? and I dated them sequentially? and in the middle of the roommates I abruptly departed for Honduras to catch dengue fever while Julian corped for peace before abruptly leaving Honduras to pick up with the roommates again?) Yeah. It's a sweet romantic tale.

Speaking of actually sweet.

She runs!


She falls.


She's okay, folks!


PS Steve, who is crazy in his own right, refuses to allow me to create a sandbox in the yard because he is worried about random cats mistaking the sand for litter. I pointed out that we could make a cover and he pointed out that we would never remember to put it on. Fair enough. I then pointed out that the random cat who finds its way to our house will be so terrified by the coyotes that the last thing on its mind will be powdering its nose. Steve said no, no sandbox, but look at that great dirt pile I left for the kids! It's even better than a sandbox.

Caroline promptly slid down it on her face.

If one of you wants to mention that the dumbest thing you ever did was allow your spouse to convince you that the dregs of a topsoil delivery qualified as a sandbox substitute, feel free.

PPS I probably should mention that I dread meeting my e-m-i-l because the last I checked fifteen years ago she hated me and she was right to do so. I would be mortified. She was perfectly nice.