Monday, February 28, 2005

March, Ho!

Ways to tell winter won't last forever:

1) All the fuzzy little calves frolicking beside all the cows in the pastures. (You see, being in rural Wisconsin, naturally we drive past a lot of dairies.)

2) Being able to see all the fuzzy little calves frolicking because it is semi-light, even when leaving at 6am.

3) A fly was in the house yesterday! It has been months since the insects have been mobile.

4) The newly fallen snow is gone in a day or 2. OK, the piles of old snow are still hanging out and will do so for weeks to come and there is way more snow covered ground than visible brown grass, but still, haven't had to shovel in weeks!

5) The birds are back and singing in the mornings (as long is it is sunny and above 20 degrees).

6) There is mud tracked in by the dog every time she goes out. Oh, joyous mud!

Can you tell I am celebrating the coming of March, the last month of winter?

Time to order the cottage stone to build us some big ole' raised vegetable beds, yah, don't-cha-know? (Use your best Minnesota bachelor farmer accent!) Poor Charles, he has agreed to help build them over spring break.

So one more big, sloppy raspberry to February. Good riddance (yah betcha)!


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Conversations With Colin

Colin, Sara and I at the dinner table tonight. Charles is working late.

Colin: "Mom, is your name Diana?"

Me: "Yes, it is."

Colin: "Is Dad's name Bimbocktony?"

Me (completely deadpan): "Yes, it is."

Colin (looking concerned): "It is?"

Me: "Yes."

Colin: "Not Charles?"

Me: "Nope. It's really Bimbocktony. We just tell people it's 'Charles' so they won't laugh at him."

Colin: "Really?"

Colin: "I think we should use his real name, then, because his friends wouldn't laugh at him. I wouldn't."

Me: "I think even his friends would laugh at something like that. We should just keep it between us."

Colin: "It's really Bimbocktony?"

Me: "Yup."

We all have our parenting role models. Mine just happens to be the dad from Calvin and Hobbes.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Wife, Mother, (Very Poor) Magician

5:55 am, a couple of hours ago:

I have just showered and grimaced at my face in the mirror and am now glaring at the contents in my closet, mulling over what basic pair of pants (does anything not need a bit of a press?) to pull on with which basic sweater. Garanimals for adults.

Charles (dashing in, wearing parka, with car keys in hand): "Oh, Colin needs to dress like a farmer today for school. He was upset about what to wear last night. See you tonight. Love you!"

Me (having gotten home at 10pm last night from late meeting): "....????!!!!!"

OK, time for mommy magic. Pull a farmer outfit from your hat. Farmers. Hmmmm. No bib overalls. No flannel. No suspenders. No work boots. Looking grim. Glare at Colin's closet, glare at his shirt drawer, glare at my closet, glare at Charles' closet. Wash, rinse, repeat.

20 min later, I am dressed in Diana-wear, have found a pair of his jeans with a rip in the knee (Colin's idea of farmer leg wear), a henley shirt slightly bigger than him (bought on sale for him to grow into), a red broadcloth shirt of mine (massively big but not as big as the denim shirt of Charles') and, best of best, my dad's old red felt hat that he used to wear when working one summer or so watching for forrest fires as a college kid.

No, he doesn't look much like a farmer but he looks like something. Put him with a bunch of other kindergarteners and he will blend. Plus, I got to share the hat's history with him. Not a bad job, all in all.

Except for the spilling of the coffee down the front of the sweater as heading out the door. Good thing for the Garanimals.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005


{Disclaimer: This is not remotely funny}

Bleep. Bleepity-bleep, Bleep.

Yesterday, a very nice person came in to see me in the office with a mundane, innocent seeming concern. Over a couple of hours and several tests later, it became clear why he was having the symptoms and also why he was having some other symptoms that later came to light. And the answer is bad, my friends, very, very bad. It may turn out to have a good ending but at this point we just don't know much more than the bad.

In my work, bad news is not a stranger. You never get used to it and it never gets easy but you learn how to deal with it for yourself so you can help your patient try to deal with it. The focus has to be entirely on them, not on your issues. Sometimes, though, there are extenuating circumstances and we all have our Achilles heels. Mine happens to be kids. I can take the truly horrible when it comes to adults. I don't like it, I shed tears and get very angry at the unfairness but when it comes to hurting kids, it is as though a line that should be inviolate is crossed and it pierces to the well-armored center of me.

I often get asked why I don't see children, why I went into internal medicine rather than peds or family medicine. I always say it was for 3 reasons. First, I could never see the teeny-tiny ear drums to assess the teeny-tiny ear infections. Second, I loved dealing with the kids, but the parents, sheesh. Third (and the real reason), I can't stand it when kids are sick. Kids should never have anything bad happen to them. Ever. Add to it the fact that I would be incarcerated for 1st degree murder the first time I came across a case of child abuse, well, it just was best that I stick to the adults.

So yesterday happened. The patient was an adult but has a kid the age of one of my kids. And now the child will have to deal with some really horrible stuff happening to his family. And that just should never happen.

Once again, I am reminded that life is not fair and very horrible things happen to very nice people and that includes kids.

And once again, I am reminded how things change with becoming a parent. Previously, I really didn't understand someone choosing an almost certainly futile, yet very painful and debilitating course of treatment in the face of terminal illness. I have never feared death and I still don't. I fear disability and senility. I fear severe, unrelenting pain. But not death.

With the birth of my son, however, everything shifted instantly. I now must live until my kids are grown and can fend for themselves. I would now choose the path of painful, minimally hopeful interventions even if it only prolonged things for a few months, because those few months may make a mountain of difference to my kiddos.

Death is now the unaffordable luxury.


Sunday, February 20, 2005

Rock Star

The scene opens with our heroine mobbed by fans, who just can't get enough of her fast enough. Their voices overlap so their needs are hard to understand, but one thing is clear: They will do anything to get her attention. Fade to a cacophony of, "Mommy! Mam! Mommy Can I, Arf!, Look-Mommy-look-mommy-look!, Woof!"

It does not need saying that all (3) of the fans are under 4 foot tall.

Still, an entourage is an entourage, and, while small, these 3 are mighty. Mighty persistent.

Sara: "Mommy!-I-can't-do-it-I-CAN'T-DOOOOOOOOooooo-IT!

Me: "Let me see, Baby."

Colin: "Mom! Cover me up with ALL the stuffed animals and then tickle me! Please!"

Me: "You have 571 stuffed animals. If I cover you with ALL of them, you will suffocate and I will be down to only 2 under-4-ft adoring fans."

Emma: "Woof!" (Large, wet nose in the face, followed by sloppy, gleeful kiss, followed by paws to the clavicles.) "Woof!"

Me: "Uuuuffff! Blech! Emma, down and stay!" Vigorous wiping of my pus with shirt sleeve.


Me: "Baby, how do you ask nicely? Say 'Help, please.' "


Colin: "Mom, build a house with me! Let's build 3 houses!"

Me: (flash of lightbulb over head) "What a great idea. We will all build Lego houses. Together. In harmony. Let's all sing the ABC song. Together. In harmony."

Minutes later, chaos is transformed into a lovely scene of industrious construction, the competition for blocks not-withstanding, all accompanied by off-key humming. Fortunately, Sara is as happy to make a house out of train tracks, trees, and sheep as out of the more traditional Lego house building supplies, like brick-colored blocks and pre-fab wall blocks with working doorbells. Emma oversees with handy bone to gnaw.

So what is so hard about this mother thing any way? Piece of cake. Just get everyone on the same project, each working different angles. In 3 part harmony.

Close scene with our heroine leaning back against the base of the couch, mug of cold tea in hand, contemplating the next project: Lunch. {horrified shuddering} But once "lunch" is conquered, there is the peace of "naps". Mmmmmm. Naps.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

My Funny Valentine

Last night:

Diana: "Thank you for the lovely roses." [kiss, kiss]

Charles: "Sort of a Valentine's tradition. Thanks for the hand-dipped truffles. And the romantic tick-themed card." [kiss, kiss]

Diana: "Well, it seemed appropriate for Wisconsin deer country. If you can't say it with blood sucking parasites, why say it at all."

{Segue into several minutes of each trying to out-gross the other with romantic tick impressions}

Charles: "Remind me to apply Frontline to Emma in a few weeks."

We don't do lovey-goopy well.

We do oddball extremely well, though. Keeps the magic.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Don't Tell Me The 'hog Was Right!

Friday afternoon. Clumping back from the mailbox (buried up to it's nether-regions in snowplow drift) in my snow boots. What's that? Something green and plastic on the barkdust by the front walk. Feeling vaguely happy to see a patch of barkdust with all the snow melted off. Stoop to see what bit of toy is sitting there and....????.....!!!!!!

It is neither a toy nor is it plastic.

It is green and filled with chlorophyll and GROWING!

It is the nose of a bulb. 5 noses to be exact.

Oh, hush. Yes, you, all those I love in points temperate. Things just do not peek up here before mid-March. The brave and early bulbs bloom the end of March and into early April. By mid April, though, we have leaves on the trees and everything is in flower. It looks like a damn Breck's catalogue with crocuses blooming next to tulips next to peonies. I used to mock such photos. No more. In Portland spring stretches over 5 months. Here it is around a month, start to finish.

At our weekly lunch date, Tuesday before last, I even tee-heed my close friend, Diane, who admitted she had gone looking in her yard for any sign of sprouting. Jane and I smiled in sympathy at her wishful and completely wasteful tour, noting she had almost 2 months before she could expect to see anything to give her hope. She hung her head and agreed. It was just she was getting a bit tired of all the winter. And she a lifelong Midwesterner.

We then launched into a discussion of whether we should wish for the groundhog to see its shadow or not (it was groundhog day tomorrow) as 6 more weeks of winter would actually be an early spring. At the end of lunch, we had not reached consensus and went back to work.

Groundhog day dawned gray. No shadow. Early spring.

Yesterday was sunny and 40's. Today it is pouring down rain and there are patches of brown everywhere. And lots and lots of standing water.

Suddenly, I feel like bursting into song and ordering mulch. Can't keep a good gardener down.


Friday, February 11, 2005


Back in Portland, when I was still a respectable internist with an actual practice, pager, and my own patients, I had the honor to be Milton and Maxine's doctor. They were delightful and tough in the best way. Milton's hobby was woodworking and he and spent hours and hours in his workshop creating things like cabinets and dressers and bookcases for anyone he could think of. When I was pregnant with Colin, he asked me if he could make the baby a highchair. I was delighted but of course said things like, "Oh, I couldn't!" and "That's really too much." Fortunately, though, they ended up phrasing it as though it were really ME doing THEM a favor as, according to Maxine, there is only so much furniture that can fit in a house and it really was something that Milton loved doing. Who knows. Maybe she was telling the truth.

Anyway, a few months later, the 2 of them showed up at the clinic with a beautiful handmade highchair. The stain even matched our dining set. It was also a godsend as Colin spent about half his time at my in-laws while Charles was in class and a 2nd highchair was needed. As we couldn't fit the highchair we had already been given by my colleagues in our small sedan, it was the Milton highchair that lived at my in-laws. Sadly, it got accidently left when we moved to the Midwest but was always at the back of my mind. The summer before last, my Dad and Cathy motor-homed out to see us and brought some things, including my much whined for highchair. It has fed Sara exclusively, holding up to all she could dish out.

This week, Sara graduated to being full time in a real chair at the table. I love having her really part of meals rather than a bit removed in the high chair but I am actually missing the Milton chair. So yesterday, I cleaned it thoroughly and took it down to its new home, the playroom. I figure Sara's dolls and bears and lions and all will enjoy being fed in a real highchair.

And one of my kids better have a kid or two down the road. That highchair's still got a lot of use in it.

Thanks Milton. And thanks Maxine.


Thursday, February 10, 2005


Shhhhhhhhhhh! Everyone is finally well and asleep.

Yes, yes, I know.

It's been oh, so long since I've checked in.

It's just that I've been a bit, well, delayed.

Hamstringed, if you will.

By viruses.

Viruses of all sorts and sizes. Viruses in the family. Viruses at work. Viruses in the computer.


Sadly, even if I had the opportunity to post, nothing of note has happened.

To wit: It snowed a total of about 3" over the past few days. They celebrated the 100th day of school at Colin's kindergarten and made paper crowns. Sara has taken to coyly saying, "Nooooooo." whenever you ask her to come here. When you say, "Yeeeeessssss." she then minces her steps toward you with head tilted and demure smile on her face. It is very beguiling, so much so, that it actually overcomes the irritation factor of having to wait for her to do her performance before you can get her coat on or her teeth brushed. Emma has done several mildly naughty things but no major ones. I have treated somewhere in the vicinity of 24,395 cases of influenza A in clinic in the past 2 weeks. While I have the patience of the truly brain dead, even I am beginning to get a bit bored of dictating the same note over and over. I actually squealed in delight when presented with a sprained ankle. I giggled over the placing of the air splint. Had I had them, I would have showered them in free samples of anti-inflammatory pills. As it was, I made do with a blown up latex glove for their kid. Calling Dr Clown. We stopped for donuts on Tuesday.

You get the drift.

So, that is what has been happening in the Land O' Piffle.

Oh, and our regular E-mail is down along with the kitchen computer. I will send the back-up (probably to be permanent) E-mail address out in the next 1-2 days. Thank you viruses. Your lives are more exciting than mine. At least you get to wreck havoc and cause much potty mouth.

And a happy birthday to my beloved Mum and a slightly belated one to my beloved brother. Thinking of you both.

Kiss, kiss.