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April 2015

Oh. Thanks. You... Shouldn't Have

Caroline came in from the backyard and handed me a small bouquet.


I understood that it was intended as a loving gesture so I managed not to react as if she had just presented me with the severed hand of a dear friend but that is pretty much how I felt. I knew that daffodil, Horatio. It's as if there was a sole survivor of the Spartan 300 who escaped the Persians only to succumb to a butterfly allergy.

Very sad but I have placed the... remains in my favorite cut-flower solution and I have hopes that it might prolong the inevitable.

PS Question: Edward has been on antibiotics since Tuesday. He definitely still has a cough but is otherwise in spirits. Do I send him to school tomorrow or keep him home until Monday?


Cut Flower Preservative:

1 tsp bleach

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

1 quart of warm water

Dissolve sugar in bleach, lemon juice, water mixture. Chill if using with bulb flowers.

A Ministering Angel Thou

Christine kindly wished for me that Caroline would have the decency to be either properly sick or helpful:


"Good Lord!" I said when I glanced into the living room. "What have you done with Edward?"

Caroline looked up from the yogurt she was placidly consuming in the kitchen and said, "Oh. I put him into a katerine."

I had to think about this.


"Yes. Quarantine."

"He'll suffocate! Bear, get out from under those blankets so you can breathe."

"I'm ok! Caroline gave me a breathing straw. But," he continued, all muffled, "I can't see the TV."

Caroline leaned toward me and whispered, "I didn't want to watch that show again. He's played the same episode three times."

"So you covered him with a blanket like a parrot?"

"It's a tent and he likes it and it is for safety. Ammonia can be dangerous, remember?"

"NAH-monia," and I pulled the pink blanket off the couch only to discover that the lumps I had mistaken for Edward were actually an assortment of Caroline's stuffed animals. The real Edward was folded like a camp stool and wedged between the exercise ball and the corner of the couch.

I looked reproachfully at Caroline, handed Edward a water bottle and the remote control and told him I would help him spell Neil deGrasse Tyson if he wanted to search for something else to watch.

She will definitely be going back to school tomorrow.

Apparently One Defies Biology AT ONE'S PERIL

So. Let's see.

I let questionably sick Edward skip OT this morning and left the twins at home while I drove Patrick to school early for cooking club. Today's theme was hors d'oeuvres and he did quite a nice seared sliced tuna on a rice cracker with a little ginger-soy-pineapple salsa - an old Fine Cooking recipe and a good one; although it astonishes me how much food photography has improved in the past decade. The picture in the magazine did not look remotely appetizing to me but Patrick saw the words 'soy' and 'tuna' and that was it for him. He told me that next week is heritage week and instantly followed with, "And I am NOT making haggis."

I said, "Of course you're not. Who would want you to?" and I pondered Patrick's background: Scots, Latvian, Irish and English. Not exactly the top four culinary destinations of the world. He's leaning toward Latvia (partially to snub me - mo chreach! - and partially because his grandfather [Steve's birth father] emigrated after the war, which makes him at least 150 years closer to his homeland than the rest of us) so if you have any good Latvian recipes to share let me know.

I dropped him off with his tuna (I am losing more plastic containers to this club, I swear - I told Patrick that he will have to start carrying his contributions in his pockets if he doesn't get my rubbermaid back to me) and then called the pediatrician in hopes of getting Edward in today. The receptionist told me our guy was booked and offered me times later in the week or a different doctor. I hemmed and hawed and finally decided to take our doctor's first available a couple days hence. Then I asked if I could leave a message for his assistant.

I know I have told you this before but it bears repeating: ALWAYS DO THIS. If you really think something needs to be seen sooner than the scheduler can manage it does no harm whatsoever to convey this to a nurse or medical assistant. I left a message on the triage line explaining that Edward had finished antibiotics for pneumonia a week ago and was starting a cough again and we would really like to get in today and were willing to wait if there was any way he could possibly squeeze him in.

The nurse called back moments after I walked in the door and asked if I could bring him to the office by nine. Get there in twenty minutes? No, not really, seeing as how Caroline appeared to still be in her pajamas, reading a novel over an uneaten breakfast.

"Yes!" I said. "Thank you. Absolutely."

Twenty-two minutes later I hustled Edward and a very disgruntled Caroline ("I lost my place and my skirt is on backwards!") into the practice where I had to explain that we were expected, honestly, and six minutes after that I was telling our pediatrician that I REALLY appreciated his seeing us and it was probably just a cold.

On cue Edward said, "But it smells when I cough."

And the doctor said, "Oh. What does it smell or taste like?"

"It smells like pneumonia."

He looked at me. I shrugged.

Exam, exam, listen, thump, listen... .

Our pediatrician said, "I think it is more likely sinus drainage but he cannot breathe too deeply without coughing so I'd like to do a chest x-ray just to be certain we aren't missing anything."

I said, great. He said, "And how are you Miss Caroline? It's not like you to be so quiet."

Caroline said, "My throat hurts."

I said, "It does?" and the doctor said, "Oh, really? Since when?"

"Since yesterday," Caroline said and I thought... well, I am not going to tell you what I thought because it was ungenerous.

So Caroline and Edward switched places and he checked her ears and her throat - this, just to reiterate, on a day when he was fully booked and we were there without one appointment let alone two; I love him.

He said, "Well, she's bought herself a strep test."

"What?" I said.

"WHAT?" Caroline yelped.

"Throat doesn't look too bad but her lymph nodes are quite swollen."

Edward went off for his x-ray, Caroline wept through her throat culture and I read a book about sharks having forgotten both my Kindle and my phone... oh and socks for Edward but that was less of an issue for me.

Eventually the doctor returned to inform me that, yes, Edward has pneumonia and, surprise, Caroline has strep. I whimpered.

Thirty minutes later the pharmacist at CVS joked, "Too bad they have different prescriptions - I could have put it all into one big jug for you" but I was only able to muster a polite Ha Ha laugh. Ha Ha, yes, both children are now on antibiotics for two solid weeks, Ha Ha. 

Edward started a fever tonight and is looking and sounding worse by the second so I feel comfortable assuming that he has suddenly succumbed and was in truth ok yesterday but I swear Caroline is the wellest sick child I have ever seen in my life: no fever, boundless energy, healthy appetite; if this is what strep looks like... I don't even know what to think.

Fortuna Audaces Luvat

Aw... rattlesnakes.

Edward's cough had almost disappeared and then boom! Or rather rattle! Honk? Bark, maybe. It's a hard sound to describe and if we hadn't just treated him for pneumonia I would assume he's picked up a little virus and ignore it accordingly. Actually I was all set to assume it was a virus - pneumonia be damned - but Steve (Steve of all people) said that we obviously need to take him to the doctor.

I replied that it was probably just a cold and Edward interjected, "But when I cough, I smell a smell."

"What kind of smell?" I asked.

"A cough smell," he said. "Like before."

I twisted my lips and glowered at him because I do actually know what he is talking about - that kind of, I don't know, infected flavor that I remember from true sinus infections or the one time I had bronchitis.

"Edward," I said, "I forbid you to get sick again. Got it? You were just sick and Caroline was sick before that and Patrick had something or other in between - I am done with sick. It's finally nice outside and you will be healthy."

Edward looked at me from the cocoon of blankets in which he and Steve were huddled on the couch and asked, "Do you remember that notebook?"

"The one in which you wrote down my faults? Sure. Do you want it?"

"Yes please," he said. "And a pencil."

I went to get it for him and watched in amusement as he carefully printed "4/27  - Mom does not know biology." 

This is more or less true. I got a D in AP Bio (a D. final. and a 2 on the exam. it was all just. so. booooorrring and it didn't help that my older brother had been one of Dr. D's' once or twice in a teaching career students. what high hopes she must've had when she spied our last name yet again upon her course roll and how very very very disappointed she was in me. 

where was I?)

Oh. Right.

I don't have to know biology to defy it. That was my point and that was the sound of Edward rolling his eyes at me.

That said, I hope I can get him into our actual doctor tomorrow (we saw a walk-in person before and although I am sure she was perfectly competent I have a near fanatical passion for continuity of care after the Great Patrick Bacterial Infection Debacle of 2009 during which we saw walk-in after walk-in until he wound up hospitalized) and I hope he agrees that it's just a cold.

Or Else.

PS After years of arguing with Edward about the necessity of doing... whatever, I struck upon a new technique. Flush with heady power after banning illness from the home, I swooped down upon Edward tonight and carried him bodily to the bath; where I stripped him with one hand and tossed him in.  

No discussion. No listening to his litany of everything he would rather be doing. Just a little squirming, some kicking, a few calls of "Caroline! My Caroline! Help me! Mom is abjecting* me!" before a splash and a gasp.

"I'm not taking a bath!" he cried.

"Too late," I pointed out, "you already are."

I have no idea why I didn't do this sooner.

*Abducting I think. Possibly overlaid with subjecting. Or objecting.

Chelsea v Arsssss.... zzzzzzzzzz

1. I did not know today's derby (say it with me: DAHR-bee; love it) was going to be ninety minutes of passing so I got Edward a babysitter in order to go to the Chelsea bar where I had the following conversation:

"Can I get you a drink?"

"It's 9:45 in morning."

"Just a Bloody Mary then?"


2. I have desperately needed a nap since 10:06

    2a. only partly because that was a spectacularly uninteresting game.


Steve took Caroline and Patrick down to the ffarm this weekend to hang out with his co-ffarmer...

[I told you that Steve and his college friend bought the farm together - yes? For the record I thought this was the worst idea that anyone had ever had, ever, and I was completely wrong. It's been terrific. All of the joys of farmship with half the responsibilities. I suppose at some point the heirs might come to fisticuffs over whether or not to turn it into a morel themed space camp but, like the British and Hong Kong, I prefer to believe that the future might never happen.]

So Steve and two-thirds of our children went to meet Friend with one-third of his children. I mentioned this plan to my mother on Thursday and she instantly got a little defensive, like, what about Edward? Why not Edward? Doesn't Edward want to come?

Ackshuwee, no. Edward wanted to go to his friend's birthday party and ever since the chuck e cheese birthday party catastrophe I have been anxious (ha! see what I did there?) to accommodate him anytime he feels like being social outside of his classroom comfort zone. Besides, an entire weekend of me and Edward punctuated only by a Saturday afternoon party? The mind boggled at all of the cuddlerific possibilities.

We went out for sushi. We slept in until nine. We spent an hour and a half in my bed playing Machinarium on my laptop. We went to Target to get the birthday present and I let him pick out a little something for himself because, hell, why not. We went to the party. We went on a forced mile-long death march through the woods behind our house. We spent a couple of hours playing a Wii mystery game.

Oooh! Speaking of mysteries, can you match the photos to the activities mentioned above (technically one is in the laundry room in anticipation of the party but close enough):






And speaking of nature.

You know that stretch of Rock Creek Parkway, just below the point where Georgetown squeezes into Foggy Bottom and the hillside in March is blanketed in daffodils? Yeah, well, our backyard is a hill and I thought how nice it would look now (DC March is Minnesota May) if I were able to naturalize a bunch of daffodils there. A carpet of sunshine, you know, to refresh the eye as cruel cold Winter yields to cruel buggy Summer.

To that end, over the past two autumns I have planted upwards of a dozen dozen bulbs in the rootiest, hardest soil upon which it has ever been my misfortune to bend a trowel. It was tedious, back-aching work but... wow.


Oh, sorry. Is this better?


No? Really? Fine. I'll zoom for you.


I know, I know. And it's a pity you aren't sitting here because not only would I be silencing you with a gentle touch to your lips but I would also be about to dazzle you with the fact that I am doing this from memory:

I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills, when all at once I saw... unbowed, a single fucking daffodil.

With apologies to Mr Wordsworth and thanks to Mrs Miles who made me memorize the poem in the eighth grade. I can walk five feet into the laundry room and have no idea what I am doing in there but the words 'now oft when on my couch I lie' shall follow me to the grave. On the plus side, whenever anybody mentions daffodils (and I do mean whenever. seriously. just bring the flower up in front of Steve and then watch him wince as he glances in my direction, waiting for me to inflate my lungs) I am able to declaim.

Anyway, wherever you are and whatever you did today I hope that you had as pleasant a Saturday as Edward and I. We even had Fruit Loops (Froot Loops?) for breakfast.

My Work Here Is 93% Done

Caroline's surgeon came into the exam room today in his scrubs and apologized for being so late. 

"Something came up at the hospital," he explained.

There is really nothing you can say to that other than a murmured "Oh, of course, certainly, it's fine, thank you" because  - unlike the Verizon store where I waited today for half an hour only to learn that Patrick's hand-me-down emergency phone has not worked for three months because he hadn't use the minutes that we had purchased; so they expired; so they gave his number to a sheet metal company: true story - the doctor had left us waiting because he was performing emergency surgery on a child.

So, right, yes. No problem.   

He looked at her arm and then turned toward the door, saying, "Great. Thanks for bringing her in. It's healing perfectly. Any questions?"

Caroline said, "I do have a question."

He stopped and turned back around. Then nothing happened. He looked at her. I looked at her. Time passed.

"Oh," she said, "do you want to hear it?"

"Of course," he said.

"Well, it's just that I was wondering. That is. When I was in the bathtub yesterday... "

"Two days ago," I amended.

"Two days ago. When I was in the bathtub. This," she jabbed her finger at the healing scar, "spurted out yellow stuff."

[Spurted. An apt word although I never use it personally because I think it is gross.]

He smiled, "Yes, that's totally normal." 

A crease formed between Caroline's magnificent brows.

"Is it? I have never seen it before."

He said, "It is normal following surgery. I put several stitches under your skin and they dissolve over time, which is why you still have that hard bump. Bodies handle the stitches differently and yours seem to be getting rid of them... right there." He touched the scab on her scar.

Her brow cleared.

"Oh," she said. "Ok."

"Anything else?' he asked.


He started for the door again.

"Nothing else other than thank you for the magnificent job removing my pilomatrixoma!" she called. "I love my new arm! It's so much lighter!"

He laughed and left.

Remember when I talked about Patrick negotiating most of a recent doctor's appointment on his own and how odd I felt about this change in the parental dynamic? I said three words during Caroline's surgical follow-up and it did not feel odd in the slightest.

Children - I say reflectively - are all different. Reeeeaaallly makes you think.

PS Just to give you some dramatic perspective: Caroline came out of their room way past bedtime last night and I snapped at her to get back in bed and go to sleep.

She said, "Yes Mother. Of course Mother. Right away Mother."

Then she went completely rigid; arms straight, eyes front, chin out, and saluted me.

I assume she gets her smart-assery (like her formidable eyebrows) from her father.

Time + Patience

Edward spent most of last year curled up in a ball on the floor of his classroom with his hands pressed over his ears and it was... so painful and confusing. Steve and I could not reconcile the Edward we knew with the tortured kindergartner the school described. We struggled to find ways to help him and everything we did (counseling, medication) and the school did (timeouts, emails home, counseling, more counseling) seemed to make things worse.

We moved him for first grade not because we had any reason to believe that this new school would be better but because we simply could not imagine a bottom lower than the rock upon which he had settled by May.

So I don't know if he matured or the old school was just a really terrible fit for him or the new teacher is a miracle worker (probably a combination of all three with a heavy emphasis on the teacher) but this year has been a complete turnaround. We had parent conferences a week or two ago (did I tell you this already? if so, I'm sorry) and I sat in the tiny chair across the little round table from Edward's teacher and tried not to cry all over her neck while she told me how much she loves Edward and how pleased she has been to have him in her class.

Edward later confided in me that he is pretty sure that he is the smartest kid in the first grade and he thinks his teacher thinks so too.

"Mrs T knows that all of us in her class are the best something," he told me, which I think might be the greatest encomium for a teacher I have ever heard.

The first graders ran the April assembly. They wrote skits and then performed them in front of the whole school. I didn't even try not to cry when Edward appeared on the stage for his portrayal of Bullying Victim #1; I just threw my coat over my head and bawled.


From potato bug to thespian in twelve months - there are probably words to describe how proud and grateful I am but I cannot find them.

PS Yes, per everything you have told me about schools, I promise I am going to write a letter to the director telling him that Edward's first grade teacher wasn't just amazing, she was literally life-changing.

With Two Minutes To Spare

1. Steve is in Cincinnati and I miss him. 

2. I cancelled Caroline's four week post-surgical follow up when she had that fever and completely forgot to reschedule it. She took a bath last night and as I was helping her to dry off her incision scar kinda... ruptured and then started to bleed. No idea what is going on with that (it's been, what? seven weeks?) so I called the surgeon's office and he is seeing her on Friday.

3. Per your recommendation I told Patrick about Spoonflower and I think we might have created a monster. He spent four hours in Photoshop this evening creating patterns.

4. After I pried him off the computer we watched the second episode of Sherlock Holmes and it was... different. I had watched the series with Steve when it first came out but I am pretty sure that neither of us laughed until tears were streaming down our faces. Patrick found Holmes - and more specifically the reactions people had to Holmes - very, very, very, very... funny.

One Must Suffer To... Oooh! Pretty!

Yesterday Patrick was looking for something to enable him to distribute powdered dye more evenly and precisely

[Thoughts? the mesh tea strainer I grudgingly allowed him is not meeting his needs. I was thinking a flour sifter but the holes in mine are too big and I think the circumference is larger than he wants. do they make small, fine mesh sifters? can you think of anything else that might do the job?]

so I took him to Joann fabrics to poke around the aisles. He didn't find anything for his tie-dye but we wound up in the section with novelty fabrics and fondly remembered our favorite from a couple of years ago. As best as we can recall it was a Christmas print on a cheerful green background with puppies and kittens frolicking around wrapped presents. All very jolly and seasonal except for the fact that the puppies and kittens were dead. Well, skeletons. So yes. Technically dead.

"Why didn't we buy that fabric?" Patrick asked.

"I have no idea. Mistakes were made."

We kept going down the row and Patrick said, suddenly, "What's the deal with owls?"


"Have you noticed how owls are all over the place now? Cute, sort of girly owls? Look, here's an owl print. And here's another. There's one. God there must be six or seven fabrics with owls on them on this shelf alone. It's like someone decided that people were going to like owls this year and everyone just said, ok, and started buying owl crap."

"Language," I said automatically. Then, "You should read Bellwether. It's about fads and... ."

"You would think that backpacks and shirts and... and fabric would be the easiest place in the world to be creative and original and interesting, like lots more morbid Christmas but no. Owls. My little pony, superheroes, Disney and owls! That's not art."

He stopped and looked at a bolt of fabric.

"Although this one is kinda nice."

He pulled it out.

"The colors are ok and... ."

He thought about it.

"Caroline really likes owls."


He looked around, saw a striped fabric and pulled that out as well. He studied them together. Then he looked at the shelf.

"Wow, they're on sale for a buck a yard. That's nothing."


And thus another perfectly good rant against the Establishment gets derailed by the siren song of pleasurable consumption.

PS Caroline and Edward looooooove their new owl pillows.