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October 2011

Excelsior Is Another Good Word

A few weeks ago I asked Caroline and Edward what they wanted to be for Halloween.

"A dragon," said Edward and five minutes later I was at Target standing in front of a premade polyester blue thing with a big tail that looked fairly dragon. I bought it and smuggled it into the house (my theory is that costume overexposure - which is any exposure - will lead to preHalloween disenchantment) and said "Oh Edward, I hope you are going to be a blue dragon. I think blue dragons are the best kind, don't you?"

"Yes," said Edward. "Yes I do. I'm going be a boo dragon!"

Done and done and every person who has inquired since has been told that he will, indeed, be a blue dragon. Now Caroline...

"For Halloween I want to be a butterfly princess ballerina," she said.


"With wings."


"And a crown! And a wand!"


"And a skirt that spiiiins and is pink but not only pink."

"Sounds lovely," I said. I bought the wings, ordered a crown and a wand for about six cents off the internet and consulted with Patrick on the best way to construct a floaty swirly butterfly-inspired tutu.

"Tulle," said Patrick.

Actually he didn't. He doesn't know from tulle but he pointed to it when I dragged him into the fabric store and then he suggested I cut it into strips and then he said he'd come back to help me once the strips were done but he never did; so I still don't know what his artistic vision was for the butterfly tutu. Personally I heaped all of the fabric into a pile until the cat that likes to eat rubberbands started licking it and then I just tied all the tulle onto a waistband as if I were doing latchhook. I'm sure an actually crafty person would have taken about five minutes to complete this project but it took me a week and I am inordinately proud of it - skirt, underskirt, Target leggings. Divine. A little uneven and a lot loving-hands-at-home but still... divine.

"She's going to be so excited," I said to Steve.

"Uh-huh," said Steve.

"I can't wait until Caroline sees her costume," I told my mother. "She's going to love it."

"Uh-huh," said my mother.

Three days ago Caroline walked into the kitchen.

"I'm going to be Batgirl for Halloween," she announced.

Steve, the fink, laughed. Patrick snorted. Edward looked interested.

I clutched my pearls.

"What!? I mean, what? I mean, that sounds like a great costume for next year. This year you're going to be a butterfly princess ballerina, remember? With a wonderful colorful tutu and wings and a crown and a wand."

"Nah," said Caroline. "I'm going to be Batgirl. HOT-cha!" And she did a couple of roundhouse kicks.

Edward said, "I'm going to be a boo dragon."

"No, you're not," said Caroline. "You get to be... ROBIN!"

Edward looked thoughtful and then nodded slowly.

"Yesssssss. Yes, I'm going to be Robin."

I am sending Caroline to Mongolia. Let me know if any of you can pick her up.


I don't know what is going on in this picture but I like it.



But back to Halloween.

Patrick is going to be a Rubik's cube. It is amazing what one can do with an empty Amazon box, scissors, Crayola paint and electrical tape. He wants to dye the turtleneck he is going to wear underneath thusly: one blue arm, one green arm, orange neck and red torso.

"The nice thing with this will be that I can just wear it as a regular shirt after Halloween."

He was serious.


I'm sick of talking about sick but... Patrick's sinus infection did not improve with omnicef. We had an appointment scheduled with the ENT anyway so we saw her last week and she put him on azithromycin. Four days of that showed only slight improvement with his congestion and his eyes got so infected we had to bring him into urgent care to get antibiotics to treat them separately. Apparently bacteria can sneak up from the sinuses and get into the eyes. Or something. Anyway he has an appointment with his primary early next week and we'll talk about both an immunologist and an allergist consult and anything else that comes up. He's not as much of a mess as he sounds, really. He's mostly fine he just is a little subpar. With a chronic infection.

Edward has a cold (and I have spent so much time in his racecar bed over the past several nights that I feel like a Schumacher) but apart from that he is great. The ENT said his ears and adenoids (or lack thereof) look terrific. The audiologist conducted another hearing screening and said he is back in the normal range. We took him in for a speech evaluation and he's in the normal range there too. Apparently l's and s's are optional for the three-turning-four set and he really is speaking more clearly since his surgery. So, go Edward.

Oh, I have to stick this in somewhere.

Edward built a wedgit tower and wanted us to admire it but Caroline was trying to twist off Patrick's head and I was trying to separate them with my foot and Steve was telling all of us to take the carnival more than three inches away from his office door so no one was listening to Edward.

He finally bellowed, "BEHOLD!"

And when we all stopped and turned to stare at him he repeated, more quietly, "Behold!" and gestured to his wedgit tower.


Patrick and I are on the fourth book of Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series and love it. It was a slow start and all the way through the first book I kept comparing it disfavorably to Lirael but I finally got into it and can recommend it with enthusiasm.

I finally got Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis but I am waiting to start them. I was so sorry that I could only read To Say Nothing of The Dog for the first time once, so I am delaying the gratification with these two.

What are you reading, either you or you and child or child?


My expectation is that once Caroline actually sees the wings and the crown and the swirly tutu - like, five minutes before we leave the house - she will swoon and insist on wearing the outfit I have lovingly created.


I bought a longsleeved Batman tshirt off the Target clearance racks for $3.99. Partly because I was so amused that there is apparently no problem Target cannot immediately solve for me and partly because... just in case.

If I Tweetered

My mother flew in today bearing frankincense, myrhh and a new book for the twins called Alphabet Adventure.

"Oooh, it has letters! And they are sailing on a ship," observed Caroline as she judged the book by its cover. "Read it! Read it!"

"Sure but what do you say to Nana?" I prompted.

"Shiver my timbers,"  replied Caroline.


A Very Short Story About Eighteen Stickers

This morning Edward looked at his sticker chart.

"I have two stickers,"' he announced.


"But I need ten stickers and I get a special present," he continued.

"That's right," I said. "No tantrums and you'll get more stickers. Like today! At preschool! When I leave you'll say goodbye and I'll say goodbye and I'll give you a kiss and you'll find a toy to play with and then you'll get another sticker!

Edward studied the chart and said, "I need eight more stickers. Eight more stickers and I'll get a special present."

"Yes," I said, "two plus eight is ten. You have two so after you get eight more you will have ten stickers."

"I want eight stickers," said Edward.

"Well, sure, if you... "

"I want eight stickers!" repeated Edward

"Yes, right, if you don't start..."

"I WANT EIGHT STICKERS! I WAAAAAAANT EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!" and he proceeded to become completely unglued, emitting sounds that could only be heard by dolphins in distant seas.

By the time Patrick entered the kitchen a few minutes later I had gone back to making lunches and Edward was a writhing, incoherent, shrieky heap on the floor.

Patrick looked at Edward and then looked at me. I shrugged.

"Edward!" Patrick said. Edward looked up.

"Take a deep breath!" Edward gulped.

"No one will ever be able to understand you or help you if you scream like that. Now use your words. What do you want?"

"I. Waaaaan-tuh. Eigh-tuh. TICKERS!"

"You mean the stickers for your smile chart?" Patrick asked.

"Yes," said Edward and then, having been reminded of his grievance, he started screaming again.

Patrick looked around the kitchen as if he expected to find hidden cameras somewhere and then he looked at me again.

"Edward is throwing a tantrum because he wants to put stickers on the chart that you created to try to get him not to throw so many tantrums?"

I nodded.

"Well that's..." Patrick started and then he smiled. "Wait," he said, "this is irony, isn't it?"

Meanwhile Caroline accepted the chart that I had made for her and admired my color choices. She asked about the boxes and I explained that she could earn stickers for exemplary behavior and that when she had accumulated ten stickers she would be able to get a little present of some kind. She smiled at me and said she understood perfectly.

We have no witnesses for the next part but it seems fairly obvious that after I left the room she got a dining room chair and pulled it over to the kitchen counter. Then she climbed up onto the counter and opened the cupboard where I keep the craft supplies. After rummaging around in a couple of shoeboxes she found what she wanted and made some changes to her chart.

Five minutes later she handed me back the chart which now had ten stickers affixed to it, one for each box.

"There," Caroline said, "I have ten stickers. Now let's go get me a present."

Apparently I can't parent my way out of a wet paper bag.

The end


In no particular order:

1. Caroline and Patrick and I all caught the virus that made Edward's recovery from surgery much more annoying than it might otherwise have been. Caroline spent some time dabbing at a stuffy nose and hiding a delicate, ladylike cough behind her hand. My throat hurt for a weekend and then I sounded like Phyllis Diller. Patrick had a little congestion and a bit of a cough but it wasn't too bad and I thought he would rally like a Kappa. Three weeks later, however, it became obvious to even the worst observer (me) that far from rallying he has developed a sinus infection. Or perhaps I should say he has developed another sinus infection in the hope that italics will better convey my concern and frustration and DIDN'T HE JUST HAVE HIS FACE EXCAVATED TO AVOID THIS?

I called the ENT and she said she'd see him for his second follow-up (as scheduled) in two weeks and in the meantime we should take him into his pediatrician as soon as possible. So I did and the on-call doctor clucked and pressed on his face and read his chart and clucked some more and said, "Wow he really has been on everything hasn't he?" and I said yep.

She asked him if he had really taken the clindamycin - twice! - and he said he had. She told him that he was the first kid she had ever met who had managed to get that stuff down and Patrick looked gratified.

"I did it for the sweettarts," he said, giving credit where credit was due and she said whatever his motivation she was still impressed. Then she wrote him a prescription for omnicef which tastes about 4500% less like rancid ass and which has been effective for him in the past. He's on day three of that and I think he seems much better but it is really really really hard to tell with Patrick. He has had a bacterial infection more or less constantly for three or four or five years and thus doesn't have a great sense of what normal feels like - like, doesn't everyone feel as if their head is a bowling ball filled with glue and pudding?

My poor baby. I am beginning to feel like one of the those Washington Post articles in which they recount the story of some family who spends years going from doctor to doctor until someone finally diagnoses Hedgehog fever or whatever. Obviously we are seeing physicians and obviously you are just casual bystanders but if you have any ideas on what we might be missing with him - what could be causing his seemingly nonstop bacterial sinus swampitude - I'd love to hear them.

2. Despite the infection Patrick has been in high spirits. He loves the new school and I am trying to ignore the fact that I think he likes it so much because they seem to have recess five times a day, he gets to take art, his first book report was a diorama, they have already had a fossil hunting field trip and this week the entire fourth grade was pulled out of their classes all week to stage a play.

He was cast as a bird. No lines but he got to dance. Dance. Patrick. On stage. HA! I loved it.


Best of all he has two new friends he seems to really enjoy, one of whom he talks about more than I have ever heard him talk about anyone, um, ever. I asked him to describe her to me so I could pick her out during the play and he said, "She has long blonde hair and she thinks I'm really funny."

Ohhh! THAT one.

I figured out which one she was despite the rather, may I say male, description he gave and when I saw her pose for a group photo I knew exactly why she and Patrick like each other. Clearly they have similar senses of humor (click here for her picture.) We're having her over to play soon and I look forward to meeting her.

It's funny. Once upon a time Patrick was the kid at preschool who sat in the song circle with his back to the group. He would still sing and climb his itsy-bitsy spider, he just did it facing the opposite direction from everyone else. Slowly over the years he has gotten a lot more... overtly silly? Or maybe just less self concious? These are from a few weeks ago and he abandoned his usual glower. Caroline never needs any encouragement to get funky. Edward is obviously wondering how long he is supposed to hold the damned smile.




3. Edward. Edward has been driving me bananas. I knew the transition from invalid to preschooler #24601 was going to be difficult but I had no idea it was going to be so. very. difficult. For the past two weeks any mention of school (or swimming. or errands. or my taking a shower - pretty much anything that doesn't involve him sitting on my lap, preferably curled up with a piping hot bowl of TV) has resulted in atomic tantrums. He has screeeeeeeaaamed the entire way to school. He has fought me as I carried him into the classroom. And then he has wept and shouted and all but rent his garments when I left.

I tried to encourage him to use his words and he said, "I don't yike cool. I don't yike my teachers. I don't yike the toys or the payground. There is no fun for me there. I want to stay with you."

Which, ok, good. Got it. I understand. However, um, how to say? I understand that you prefer to eat popsicles and watch Disney Junior while I rub your back (who wouldn't?) but I need you to go to school so that I can balance the checkbook, pick up my library books and organize the shoe cubby for winter. It's not that I don't understand, Edward, it's just that I don't care all that much.

Since it is impossible to explain this to anyone (I love you, my darling, but I shall continue to place my needs above your own) let alone a three year old without having them sharply draw in their breath we have continued to exist at a screamy impasse. I mentioned to my mother that I was beginning to dread interacting with Edward and she tsk'd and thought for a bit and finally suggested a sticker chart.

"Sticker chart?" I thought but I am a dutiful child (unlike Edward) and this morning I used a marker and some of Patrick's card stock and put together Edward's Smile Chart. I thought "smile" was a nice, positive euphemism for "no more tantrums you little horror" and I told Edward that if he managed to make it all the way to school without screaming etc he would get a sticker on his chart and after ten stickers he'll get something special (TBD.) Imagine my surprise when it actually worked. He was a little teary when I walked out the door but all told it was pretty amazing.

Caroline, of course, played her twin card and got in on the Smile Chart action as well although the idea of rewarding Caroline for cheerfully going to preschool is ludicrous.




She started tumbling a few weeks ago and she loves it. She takes her practice very seriously and god knows we want to encourage her but I would like to point out that these pictures were taken as I was trying to park the car. In the garage. Right there. As in: she asked me to stop the car and let her out so I did and she raced in front of me and started stretching in the exact space I was about to put the car. Then she looked indignant when I tried to evict her from her studio space. It was kinda like the beginning of Rent.


Three pictures of me and Edward playing with the self-timer just like an olde photo boothe.





I have started running again and I need new music. Mumford & Sons and the Decemberists are just not cutting it. What do you listen to when you exercise?