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January 2015
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March 2015

February 2015

March Eve

The winters are long and I love my counter top gardens:

Snapdragons (and lavender and dianthus although you cannot see them here)


And my third harvest of cherry tomatoes, six months after I started these plants



All hail aerogarden.

But my absolute darling is this diminutive beauty, a bonsai jasmine that my brother sent me for my birthday. It lost over half its leaves in the first month (you'd be stressed too if you were shipped across the country in a cardboard box - wasn't that a disturbing Velvet Underground song?) and then around Christmas I discovered it was infested with mealybugs but good lighting, careful watering, insecticidal soap, leaf baths and constant vigilance has brought it around again and... I think it might actually bloom this Spring.



PS The day we brought Patrick home from the hospital I took a photograph of him to put with the baby announcement. I remember looking at the picture before we sent them and thinking, sincerely, oh my goodness we have the most attractive baby that has ever been born; how did that happen? Then Steve spoke with his grandmother after she received the baby picture and she assured him that Patrick (legally known as Steven like his father and grandfather) was the most gorgeous baby she had ever seen since the first Steven (Steve's Dad, her son, Patrick's grandfather) was born. And I thought, well, yes, it's probably true.

All of which is to say that I showed my bonsai to a friend and she asked, "Is it OK? It doesn't have a lot of leaves" and I looked at her like she was crazy. Clearly that is the most hearty, the most lush, the most perfect little tree in the world. She must not be a plant person. 

It's Fine, Really

Caroline has a lump on her arm about halfway between her elbow and her shoulder. I couldn't tell you - as I couldn't tell her pediatrician - exactly how long it has been there. At least a year. Maybe two? Possibly from birth - there was so much going on with them in the beginning and she was so very small that I might have easily missed the odd bump or two.

But I know I have been aware of it for a while and I know I pointed it out to her doctor in the past because I remember him prodding it and saying that it was some kind of cyst; we can keep an eye on it but should leave it alone if it wasn't bothering her. So we did, except for every now and then when it would catch my eye and I'd say, "Caroline hold still. Let me look at your arm in the light." And then I would press around the area with my finger and say hmmmmm until she snapped, "Leave it alone or take me to a real doctor!"

Which, you know, fair enough.

Lately, like in the past month or so, I noticed that the area has started to look faintly bruised. Nothing major, just a little reddish-blue discoloration under the skin. I called my mother who said, "Good heavens what's wrong with you, take her to the doctor." I consulted Steve who agreed that whatever it is; it seems to be growing and concurred with my assessment that it feels more hard than squishy.

And if you are asking yourself at this point why I hadn't taken her back to the doctor weeks ago - I don't know. In retrospect it is obviously what I should have done but change is gradual and I felt like I had already asked the pediatrician and he had already answered: it's fine.

Anyway, I took her in yesterday with the firm conviction that It Must Go and asked Steve coach me on the appropriate way to respond if her doctor was inclined to wait.

Steve looked at me incredulously.

"She has a... thing that is growing under her skin. Of course it has to be removed."

"And if he says it is a harmless cyst and we should leave it alone?"

"Say that we would be more comfortable having it removed."

"OK," I said.

And that is pretty much how it played out. Caroline showed her arm. He said it was in all likelihood a dermoid cyst. I said but do you see how it looks like it is bruising under there? He said hmmmmmm. Then we blinked at each other until he asked Caroline if it hurts at all.

"No," she said.

He asked me if I felt like we were seeing extremely fast growth.

"Yes," I said firmly.

Blink. Blink.

Finally he said ok, I'll send you to Dr. Specialist.

I said, "Oh you don't... " and looked around the exam room because honestly I was expecting him to get a little numbing gel and some gauze and... you know.

He said, "No, we send these to the pediatric surgeon so they heal nicely. But we have a guy who comes to our clinic a couple times a month; I'll give you the number for his scheduler."

I came home. Called the scheduler. He had an opening today at 11:30 and I took it.

When the surgeon walked in

[I have tremendous respect for everyone in the medical profession and I know that we all need vacations but it was all I could do not to ask, acidly, if he had enjoyed his recent trip to the Caribbean. He was tanned to such a lustrous shade of mahogany that he looked like a billboard for Hawaiian Tropic. An early one from back in the 80s when people still thought baby oil was a good idea. Not that I am envious it is just that there is a reason why the Pillsbury Doughboy was created in Minnesota - by February we all look exactly like him.

Maybe a little envious.]

When Dr. George Hamilton walked in he shook hands with Caroline and looked at her arm for a millisecond before announcing, "Oh yes I know exactly what that is. I knew from the description you gave on the intake sheet."

Apparently the hardness, the growth rate and the blueish tinge are hallmarks of something called pilomatrixoma aka calcifying epithelioma of Malherbe which is a rare, benign tumor.


"Absolutely nothing to be worried about."

"Oh good," I started to rise.

"But we do have to remove it. They can cause complications since they don't stop growing."

"Oh," I started to lower and again - AGAIN - I looked around the exam room for... rubbing alcohol? One of those little scalpel kits we used in ninth grade biology?

I feel dumb admitting this but I honestly thought we were going to see him today and he was going to go ahead lance or excise or whatever and Caroline would come home to a DVD with a stitch and bandaid. If I had really thought about it I would have realized how absurd this was. Caroline has a 20mm mass deeply embedded in her arm - did I honestly believe he was going to pop it out on the same paper draped table where they do strep cultures?

Yes. Yes I did.

Instead she has to go back for a pre-op exam on Wednesday and then over to the children's hospital for an anesthetized surgical procedure next Friday.

Five minutes after he entered the room - he was actually very kind and made sure he answered any questions I had (the only one I had I was too embarrassed to ask: you mean you aren't going to just take care of it right now?) and that Caroline understood what was going on and that it wasn't a big deal - he was gone.

Caroline looked at me. I looked at her. I looked at my watch. She said, "You said I wasn't going back to school! You said I was done for the day!"

And I thought, well, yeah, that's because I thought you were going to be in pain but I decided against it.

I took her to the library instead and since it was just the two of us and we had hours before we had to be anywhere I sat down on the floor with a book I grabbed off the end cap (The Great Typo Hunt - meh) and let her browse nonfiction to her heart's repletion*.

*Do you want to know how many books we brought home on Greek mythology? All of them. Which reminds me. The twins are in a mythology phase right now and during the course of some incomprehensible imaginary game that they were conducting all over the house Caroline went all Mrs Siddons and intoned, "I am the goddess of romance... and TORNADOOOOOOES!"

From the other room Patrick said, "Romance and tornadoes? You mean, marriage?"

Ba. Da. Boom.

Helicopter Twin

Caroline the non-herbivore took a grudging and exceptionally small bite of salad tonight at dinner.

Edward watched her fondly and then boomed, "That's my girl! Wasn't it delicious? I'm so proud of you!"

Which is to say:

when Caroline starts her first job and then grows petulant when no one praises her for showing up almost on time?

Steve and I cannot be held accountable.


In general Steve has a need for more information before he is willing to commit to any given course of action, which is why it took us four years (years. four of them) to buy a dining room table. What if a better smarter prettier... table were to have shown up five minutes after he got that other one home? What then?

Since I am vastly more impetuous (anxious yet impulsive - I was a delightful teenager) Steve's innate caution has alternately exasperated and inspired me over the years. On the one hand I was, like, it's a goddamned table. It's wood. It has four legs. Whatever, just pick one! On the other I have to admit that some of my pre-Steve decisions might have been improved upon: you don't even want to know how much I paid an unscrupulous used car dealer for a pink Geo Prism and I did leave law school rather... abruptly. Mistakes were made.

Now I think we balance each other. Steve keeps me from moving to Bozeman just because it was really pretty that one weekend we were there; and I built a decision matrix from his stated needs before we went car shopping last summer and then presented him with a list of the seven cars which he could test drive. Seven. That's it. There were no other possible cars within the matrix. There was no more information. So he picked one.

Good heavens, where was I?

Oh. I was going to say that, unlike some people, I heartily dislike waiting before I decide what to do but... here I am.

My mom's gentleman friend is taking her to the doctor tomorrow (and oh my goodness could you be any kinder or sweeter or nicer or more generous? I particularly wish that I could have Meg's snuggle puggle go check on my mother. Mom loves dogs) and after that we'll figure out if/when she needs me to come.

My doctor is on vacation this week and I couldn't get into the neurologist until March so I am also waiting-and-seeing about the headaches. I added magnesium per your recommendation (why not?) and I am trying to get lots of sleep and avoid, ah, everything I like. Tea, wine and most recently the triptans. Rebound headaches seemed likely or - another possibility - it's hormonal so out of my control entirely but resolved (at least temporarily) by time. And I restarted my headache journal (they have apps now!) And I have been headache free for... oh. Two days. Big bloody deal. It felt like longer.

On the impulsive plus side and entirely as a result of your encouragement we booked our trip to Montreal. Exclamation point. Steve started to suffer from information deficit as we looked into race tickets but I knocked him unconscious and went all manic pixie dream fan... we're practically going to be on top of pit lane. Zoom.

And The Accompanying Emotions

My day in interjections:

1. Hooray:

You're right. I can do this. It'll work out. We'll go to Montreal exclamation point.

2. Whoa:

A friend and I met to watch round 16 this afternoon and Barcelona is spectacular; Man City seemed unable to present any sort of offense at all for the first seventy minutes. The match was a pleasure to watch but a tiny corner of my mind pondered the fact that if this is the level of UEFA play, Chelsea is shortly to be eaten for desayuno.

3. Awww:

I had ordered Edward a couple more Basher books that arrived today after being interminably delayed by weather. When he saw them he got so excited that he started jumping up and down [The Periodic Table! Algebra & Geometry!] and shouted, "Quick Caroline! New books! To the snuggle zone!" Then he pointed one finger straight into the air and ran off.

I looked at Caroline. "Where's the snuggle zone?" I asked.

"I haven't the faintest idea," she responded.

4. Oh no:

Apparently my mom fell and has injured her ankle badly enough that she is unable to walk. She managed today by scooting around her apartment on her... elegance but this is at best a short term solution. She told me tonight that I did not need to come immediately but... maybe the day after immediately. We're going to assess tomorrow. And to think that I - literally - bit my nails off as I worried about coming up with childcare four months from now. Fortunately Steve is around and not traveling for the next week but still... stressful.

Maybe I Never Was Madcap

Steve spent this afternoon trying to convince me that we should throw... well, everything to the wind and go to Montreal in June for the Canadian Grand Prix. Like, actually buy tickets and book a hotel.

While it is true that Steve and I share a completely unexpected passion for Formula One and equally true that we have not been away together since Patrick was born and Montreal is one of my favorite cities and it would be so much fun...


I want to emphasize this fact because it seems to me that this lack constitutes a significant deterrent to our leaving the country but Steve seems to view it as a bagatelle; less of an impediment and more of an incentive.

"Once we buy the tickets we'll be that much more motivated to find a sitter!" he promised.

"A sitter. To take care of the children. For five days. You think this is possible and yet I have been unable to get anyone for three hours next Saturday so we can go to your work thing?"

"Sure! We'll just... and then we could have... and no doubt if we called... it'll all work out! They have food there," he coaxed. "Food you like."

I have gotten as far as looking at pictures of smoked meat sandwiches and sighing but... I don't know. I never have a good sense of when I am being abnormally anxious and when I am being sensible. Not taking a trip alone in thirteen years probably falls under column A but booking airline tickets without childcare lined up or any clear idea where we might find it... ? Seriously. I don't know. Help me out here.


We have a party tonight that we look forward to attending all year and I have been in bed with another migraine since nine o'clock this morning. We're going regardless but I feel like I am moving through treacle. Got to get back to the doctor - this sucks.

Turn Turn Turn

I was just falling asleep over my book last night when I realized that I was not imagining the gentle sound of sorrow that emanated from upstairs. Like Miss Clavel (which, what? seriously, she is dressed like a nun. she is in charge of what can only be a convent school. she must be a nun. why is she Mademoiselle Clavel and not Sister Euphemia of the Seven Wounds? also, after a terrific start the book loses its meter entirely and no one cares. why?)

Anyway, like Miss Clavel I ran faster and faster until I discovered Edward on the bottom bunk wrapped in blankets. I crawled into bed next to him and pulled at the fabric until I found a face. Then I wiped the tears away and asked what was troubling him.

He didn't say anything at first; he only continued to cry softly.

Then he choked out, "I was just thinking."


"I was just thinking about Patrick."


"I was just thinking that Patrick is so much older than us and he is going to go to college and when he does he will move awa...aaaa...yy" GULP "and I will miss him so much."

Oh. Oh dear. I hadn't really thought about it but... . I felt a little teary myself.

So I lied. Well, no, not lied. I told him a fable. I told him that the thing I have noticed about Minnesotans - Minnesotans like Patrick and Caroline and himself - is that they might leave the state for a while but they always seem to come back. And then they stay forever.

"Really?" Edward asked.


"Like elephants?"


"But elephants come back to die."

[Oh Christ! Why do we always have to have these conversations in the middle of the freaking night?]

"Ueehrrrh... no. Like... "

[pause during which I was about to fall asleep again]

Edward said, "Like salmon?"

"What? Oh. Yes. Like a salmon. Shhhh. Salmon come back. Shhhhh."

Edward snuggled against me and I was about to fall asleep again when he drew his conclusion:

"So Patrick will go away to college but then he will come back to our house to spawn."

Bedtime Soup Is Exactly What It Sounds Like

I am going to take shameless advantage of the fact that Steve is home and retire for the evening with my book and a mug of bedtime soup. To be honest I still feel a little weird. Does my head hurt? No. Does my head not hurt? No, not that either. And yes, I will go to the doctor, thank you for the nudge.

Speaking of books, Patrick was not allowed to bring his kindle so when he asked how he was going to read on his field trip I told him to grab an actual paper book to take with him (which, as Caroline would say even though we have told her a thousand times not to do so: duh!) Not that I believed for a moment that a bunch of seventh grade boys sharing a dorm room were going to settle down for their evening read but whatever. 

I just dumped the contents of his bag onto his floor and I could have cried with pleasure when I saw that he had chosen to bring Eats Shoots and Leaves with him. Have you read it yet? Have you? I told you like a month ago to stop what you were doing and start it immediately. I have said it before and I will say it again: best. punctuation. book. ever.

Also, Edward has recently discovered the Basher science books and they are charming. Highly recommended for any small to medium sized fact seeker in your life. 

PS Personally, I am either going to start Five Days at Memorial (an account of the "achingly tough decisions made by medical responders during Hurricane Katrina") or continue a frothy Barbara Metzger regency. Dilemma.