Wednesday, June 29, 2005

$.75 Saved

Apparently, in Southern Wisconsin, it is felt that you would pay to have your car smell like:

1) A dropped snow cone
2) A dropped ice cream cone
3) Sex

Yes, that would be the odors of wild cherry, vanilla, and musk. What the hell kind of place did I move to?

I swear I am not making this up. I actually assumed that 2 of the smells would be "New Car" and "Pine Fresh" and the only reason I got out and trotted over was to see what the third option was. Had there only been two, I wouldn't have bothered. The only redeeming thing is that all 3 of the canisters were full, each canister being made of clear plastic, holding what looked like a quart of musty-looking liquid, vaguely colored like the intended flavor.

So, full bragging rights go to Gail, who did guess cherry AND musk on one of her trios. Gail actually entered more than once, which is always encouraged. As they say in Chicago, "Vote early and often." Runner up credits to Stacy, who did guess vanilla. Honorable mention to Teri (as strawberry in such a dispenser is certain to be interchangeable with cherry).

So, Dad and Cathy pulled out in the rental car at noon and the house is suddenly smaller and quieter. Well, maybe not exactly quieter as Sara is currently loudly protesting nap time, but in spirit, a smaller house. We ate enormous amounts, took small excursions to a State Park, a zoo (although not the big Milwaukee zoo as the weather just would not brook that trip), a cave (well, we went to the cave area and info center but not in the cave as we were getting tired, peckish and cranky, at least those of us under 3') and Little Norway (actually didn't go past the gifte shoppe as it was $10 bucks a pop to take the tour, $4 for those under 10. $48. No thanks.). We napped. We ate more. We sat on the deck. Did I mention we ate?

So, "That is that," said the Cat in the Hat.

Time to go run and start fasting.



Saturday, June 25, 2005


I feel like I've been away for months!

Dad and Cathy are here and we are having a marvelous time. Not a glamorous time, no. Just fun and food. And some wine. Lots of sitting on the deck after the kids are in bed, watching the cool thunderstorms roll through. We got Colin's bike put together (by "we" I mean Dad and Cathy, of course) and he had his first lesson today, without the training wheels because they do not fit on the new, cool, bright yellow, decal spattered, hand braking, more than one gear, bike. Dad ran along next to him as he had done with my sister, Gail, and me, encouraging and teaching. ("NO, don't look down! Let your feet do the pedalling, look ahead so you can see where you are going!") Good thing Dad does yoga.

Until they got here, it had been lovely. 70s-80s, no humidity. As soon as they got here, it has been in the 90s and horribly humid. We figured that would happen months ago. I think it is the grand Midwest conspiracy to keep everyone else from moving here. As soon as anyone sets foot off a plane, the weather turns horrid. Eh, what can you do?

What else? Oh! Charles and I ushered in another Sara milestone, yesterday, out of desperation.

You see, she has been in a crib all this time. Yes, yes, she is 2+1/2. Colin was in his red race car bed at 18 months. And your point is? Friday night was yet another night of her waking, sobbing, at 1am and being lugged to bed with us, resulting, of course, in her kicking Charles repeatedly in the head (Yes, she is placed with her head between our heads to start with. I have no idea how she spins like that. Have you seen The Exorcist? That may explain some of it.) which leads him to abandoning the bed around 2am for the couch. She then turned her attention to me. That culminated in my going to use the loo at 5am and coming back to bed to find her spread horizontally with her toes pointed to the site formally occupied by Charles's head and her arms stretched out to usurp what were my sleeping inches. Damn but she is long!

So I grabbed my book and retreated to the couch in the loft (the living room couch being occupied by her bruised dad). After coffee and breakfast, when were were once again coherent, Charles and I looked at each other and decided that a trip to Madison was not to be put off another day.

We left our offspring with their grandparents and we headed north, stopping only to vacuum the car out. (Don't ever vacuum your car before picking up a load of sandbox sand. You are just inviting the inevitable.) As an aside, while marvelous Charles was vengefully vacuuming the back of the trusty minivan, I noticed a dispenser of fragrance for your car. After staring at it through the window, I did what any normal person with a blog would do: I got out and took a closer look. There were 3 fragrances offered, $.75 each. "Just put the hose down on the carpet under the rear seat and press the button" read the instructions. Any guesses as to what the fragrances were? Go ahead. Make a guess. Let me know in the comments. No prizes. I thought about offering a free pap smear or prostate exam to anyone who guessed it, but figured that wouldn't be much of an inducement and I am much too lazy (no, really!) to go and get you chocolate or something that anyone would actually want and box it and send it. So this is just a goodness-of-your-own-heart thing. Or we could say it is for the bragging rights.

Anyway, we fled to the furniture store that we have already spent unutterable sums in for furniture for our house last year (and, no, it is not an expensive place, we just needed a lot of crap.) and bought a mattress, box spring, and bookcase headboard. The headboard will be there in a few days, so another trip, but she now has her OWN bed, so when she wakes we (I) can slug in there and flop down next to her, get her to drift off to sleep again, and then high-tail it back to my own comfortable, toddler-free bed. And, you know what? It worked just like that last night. Well, even better, actually, as Charles was already up at 1am, having a bit of insomnia, due to the crashing of thunder and all, and he flopped next to her and then dragged himself back to the couch afterward, leaving me in peaceful slumber. Best money ever spent.

So, that's what we've been up to. We have hopes to get to the zoo tomorrow but will have to see what the storms have to say about that. We are from Portland, so scoff at a bit of rain, but getting hit by lightning or washed away in a flash flood would be quite the inconvenience. I will let you know, as I am sure you are all so very interested in all the doings here. (Actually, if you are reading this at work or when you are supposed to be studying the plumbing of hamsters or what ever horrid things your instructors have assigned, dahling, you might just find this gripping reading material.) And remember: Fragrances Three. For the car. Dispensed for your olfactory pleasure from the machine at the car wash. Any guesses?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I Am From

I am from bicycles
without banana seats or high-rise handle bars,
from unfrosted Poptarts
on Saturday mornings
and rootbeer at the beach.
From "who's jumpin' on who"
(with a 1/2 inch of beer, nursed over 2 hours)
and the Bub Club.

I am from all the military duplexes,
shared with our new best friends,
backyards all strung together without thought of fencing,
dotted with swingsets and sandboxes.
Base-housing suburbia.
From summer street floods,
playing "swing the statue",
and seeking refuge from geese on a picnic table,
my dad bravely holding them at bay.

I am from the circular rose garden
and linear zinnia beds
of one grandmother,
the haphazard, glorious jumble of Japanese lantern plants and bamboo
of my other grandmother,
and the rhododendron and hosta shade oasis
that is my mother's garden.

I am from fresh blueberry pie for dinner,
made from the blueberries you harvested that afternoon,
topped with fresh whipped cream,
a quarter of a pie for each,
meticulously divided.
From "Bring in the second turkey"
and after-dinner bluegrass concerts with Paul, Jim, and Chris,
spare instruments on the ground,
my grandmother not in the kitchen,
but smiling and rocking back and forth in the circle.

I am from frugality
and generosity
and sewing your own doll clothes.
From Christmases
where the pile of presents seemed larger than the tree,
itself seeming to scrape the ceiling.
From hundreds of books,
each read hundreds of times.

From put toilet paper down on that public seat first,
don't wear your shoes in the house
and play nicely.
I am from Christian Science Sunday school,
singing the beautiful hymns
as my sister twirls her twin white-blond pigtails with her fingers,
and the pursuit of medicine as my calling.

I'm from West Coast,
East Coast and
everything in between,
from Japan and Arizona and "Mostly Portland".
From crab at the beach each summer
and oyster stew on Christmas eve.
From canned fruit cocktail with a candle-clad marshmallow
before opening stockings
and jule kaga
before presents proper, Christmas Day.

From the tale of Grandma Cos and The Hat,
the retaliatory open-faced peanut butter sandwich in the face,
and the mistake of using poison oak branches
to roast weenies.
From Ma Jessie and Matt Ole Boy
and the House on Hood street.
From Mount Talbert,
named for my grandmother's grandfather.

I am from slide shows on a special night
(all my early memories a carbon copy of each of those shots),
"Grandma, You Were A Daisy",
and the oral tradition of Great Aunt Doris,
laughing so hard that it was hard to hear the tale at times.
(Thank you, Rozanne. This was lovely.)
(Anyone else?)

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Cranky Goes A-Ranting

Alternately titled: Here, She With the Perfect Damn Life, whines.

Sometimes you just wake up out of sorts and, instead of life recognizing that what you need to gently kiss yourself out of your funk is for life to be even more wonderful and all, life (perverse thing that it is) hands you a day of minor annoyances instead.

So was my Monday. The very fact that I have no right to feel whiny makes me feel crabbier.

Some of the highlights:

1) The compulsory meetings we have had to attend each week for the foreseeable future (say about a year, although they are to be less and less frequent, supposedly) are held at 7am on Mondays. This puts the clinic out of sorts, as well. As misery loves company, this should have made me a bit less crabby, but didn't. I really hate meetings, especially meetings with no meaningful purpose to me. Which would really be essentially all meetings. Can you see why I didn't pursue a career in business?

2) For some reason, I was freaky-jittery on caffeine after ONLY ONE CUP OF COFFEE. That's just crazy. I have no idea. I felt that I couldn't put a cohesive thought together for the entire morning. Not a good thing for what turned out to be a ...

3) Freaky busy day. Schedule crammed with nothing that was straight forward. I am an internist. A plodder if you will. I love to mull. I delight in dragging out the 5" thick textbooks (that's 13cm for the entire civilized world) and ponder the differential diagnosis of the multitude of symptoms. A frail elderly person with a complaint of dizziness, 20 problems on her problem list and 20 meds to boot, (all of which have multiple interactions) IF I HAVE AN HOUR OF TIME is mother's milk to the likes of me. Sadly, this person never comes on a slow Tuesday afternoon but a psycho Monday when I am already an hour behind and my assistant sticks her head in the door to say that someone just walked in with shortness of breath and he "doesn't look very good". I really hate being late. I really hate feeling not in control (no, don't laugh, don't look shocked). I really, REALLY hate feeling that I am missing something and am dropping balls.

4) If you tell me something, as a patient, I will likely believe you. If you tell me you pulled over to the side of the road and passed out in your car and, after I grill you that this was not falling asleep and not something else and you stick to your assertion that it was truly passing out, and then I notify the Motor Vehicles Division of a loss of consciousness, AS I AM REQUIRED TO DO BY LAW, regardless if most physicians do not do this (What, are they nuts? The liability! The guilt if someone died!), please do not get mad at me. If you then change your story and assert that you really just fell asleep because you were so sick, and then do not follow up with your primary doctor, as I strongly urged you (and documented in the chart) to do, when this happened, many months ago, please do not call me, furious that now your license is being pulled due to lack of documentation of further evaluation. You had many months to attend to this. I realize you are angry and frightened and your livelihood depends on your driving. Please ignore the forehead sized dents in the desk, next to the phone.

5) Please tell me if you took something not prescribed to you. I am not the police. I am not your mother. I need to know. This also goes for starting on antibiotics that you had lying around the house that you did not finish from the last time you had an infection. I NEED TO KNOW!

6) The pain scale helps us judge how you are feeling. The numbers go from 1-10. There is no pain higher than 10. You can't have an 11 or a 25 or a 100. By telling me this I will automatically downgrade everything accordingly to fit the 1-10 scale. I can't help it, I am human. Did I mention that I will believe you? A pain rating of 8-10 really gets my attention, much more so than trying to impress me with a 72. Just the facts, ma'am (or sir).

7) To the guy with the bad arm, THANK YOU for the nice, spur of the moment compliment at the end of our visit. You really made my day better. That was even better than chocolate.

All right. That's enough of the bug-eyed rant. I feel ever-so-much better for getting that off my chest. You are the best. I will de-bulge my eyes and the pulsing vein at my temple.

I just need a break. I had a few days at Christmas and some time off last summer and as I work part time, I really don't need the vacations like I used to, but I really need one now. I need some fun and laughing and stuff like on the resort commercials.

And what luck, I am getting a break and some fun and laughing and stuff like that. Even though there will be no going to resorts, I will bring some resorting to us. Dad and Cathy are coming to visit for a week, arriving tomorrow night. I have made essentially no plans, aside from some menu sketching-out. I plan to buy a bottle of bourbon for juleps ( I planted a chocolate mint plant and it must be used!) and a bottle of good scotch for sipping and chatting while watching the fireflys. I have wine in the pantry / bomb shelter / storm cellar. I have plans for a day at the Milwaukee zoo and that's it. I figure we can decide what fun things we want to do when they get here. We have squirt guns, small inflatable pool, hoses, swing set, 2 sand boxes, 8 acres of yard and the state of Wisconsin. Colin has a new bike to learn to ride (his old one had pedals that were so hard to push, he couldn't really get them to go). Well, currently it is in a box needing assembly, but that is a minor point. I have off from Thursday until the 5th of July!

Suddenly I am no longer cranky.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

I Should Have Thought Of This Sooner

Being that it is summer and Colin is on vacation, I hatched a plan.

"Self," I said, "What are we going to do with Colin on Thursdays? Thursdays is The Day We Clean. I really don't want him moaning about the house for the several hours it takes to get the basics done, asking what he should do, over and over and over, as you are going to be limiting the amount of electronic games he is going to get to play. "

"Ah, Self," I replied, "I have a plan. A brilliant plan. A plan taken from my mother's book of Pre-emptive Parenting Strikes."

"Good. Glad to hear it, Self. Proceed."

Jump ahead a couple of weeks to today. Thursday.

Me: "Colin, we are going to clean the house today. I want you to help me. After we are done, you will earn... (drumroll)... A Dollar."

Colin: (Eyes instantly lit up with Capitalistic glee) "Great! A whole dollar! Really?"

Me: "Yes, a whole dollar that you can spend on anything you want."

Colin shovels in the rest of breakfast, dashes off to get dressed, then dances around asking me, "Are you ready for me to start helping, yet?"

We start with the laundry and he shoves both his and Sara's dirty clothes basket to the laundry room while I strip our bed and get Charles' and my clothes gathered. He helps put in the detergent and clothes. He then energetically helps pick up the house so we can vacuum. He valiantly vacuums the dining room and moves the kitchen chairs to the now crud-free dining room for easier attacking of the kitchen floor. He reaches his 6-year-old limit and flops on the couch. That's fine. It is much easier for me to do the vacuuming and mopping as I am taller than the vacuum and the mop. He decides that dusting is his calling, until it is time to dust. He waves the rag around. Really. Waves it. At the table, at the stand, at the dog, at the dog some more. 2 hours later, he has managed to dust 6 things but has not whined once about being bored. Instead, he has whined about wishing that houses didn't need cleaning. As that is a whine I can get behind with all gusto, I commiserate and send him to dust the dining room table as his last chore.

He earns a slightly crumpled dollar bill (his first paper money). He gets out his rabbit bank, containing some $27 dollars in change (give or take, we have not counted it but it is heavy enough to use as a weapon should anyone feel the need to break-in and manage to get past Emma). He then spends another hour examining each of his coins, getting excited about his state quarters and fifty-cent pieces and couple of Canadian coins. He then decides that he needs to give me a present: Several coins, adding up to $1.37. I protest that he doesn't need to give me his money. He will not be denied the joy of giving me this. I accept it with ceremony and gratitude.

Not bad. No bored whining, some real help with housework, and I make $.37 in the deal. I think I am raising him right.

Wonder when Sara is old enough to pay for chores?

(Note: No. I did not keep the money. I slipped it back in the bunny. What kind of mom do you think I am?)


Regret # 48205:

I wish I had not embedded the sharp edge of the new cheese slicer so deeply into the end of my left thumb. Not only does it hurt a lot, but I keep banging it and then saying those bad words.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It Is Strange That I Don't Find It Strange

I am a very private person.

No, really.

And yet, I blog.

Being a private person, I do not advertise the fact. I do not talk about the blog with others. I do not hide the fact, I am certainly not ashamed, it is just personal, analogous to a doctor's appointment, a bout of stomach gas, the need for buying personal hygiene products. My immediate family knows about it and reads it. I just found out my favorite aunt, uncle, cousin, and cousin-in-law (Hi, P,P,C, and J! Colin loved the card.) read it, which makes me all happy, as I have not seen them for several years and miss them so. A dear friend from way back just started to read and has started her own blog, so we can be part of each other's lives again, which is truly wonderful. My sister, Gail, who I adore but have not been close to for many years, reads and even comments, making me feel as though I have a bit of her back in my life. She also now reads Stacy's blog. She and Stacy were best friends for many, many years, but drifted apart, like the rest of us. Distance and divergent lives will do that.

Then there are the friends. New friends.

I feel like a bundle of contradictions. I crave friendship but am very, very shy. I have a very hard time joining in and inviting myself along to things. I make acquaintances easily but not real friends. I am not the sort to call and arrange get-togethers. I always figure people have something better to do. I hate to speak up in meetings or classes. I don't like big groups. I hate personal attention. I forbade baby showers for both kids (although each time, my office threw one despite my objections, but made them extremely low key). I do not have birthday parties for such a reason. I do have a few very close friends and, given my work, many acquaintances that I can chat with. Having to host even a smallish party throws me into a tailspin. Fortunately, we do not need to entertain much for Charles's work. (I adore having a few people over, though, and will happily mull over the food for days.)

Because of the blog, I now have a whole new set of friends of a completely different category. I am not even sure how to refer to them. I have settled on "blog-friends" as it seems most to the point. These are people whom I have never met and in the future will likely only meet a few. They have become an integral part of my life, though. Some don't even know I exist as, while I read them avidly, I do not comment. I won't link to them as it feels presumptuous but you can click on their links on the blog roll. (Getupgrrl's: Chez Miscarriage, Julie's: A Little Pregnant, Jo's: Leery Polyp, Akeeyu's: Herveryown, Skot's: Izzle Pfaff, Julia's: Uncommon Misconception.) Being at their site feels like a large party where I am lurking in the corner holding a glass of wine, listening, smiling, but not noticed. The writing is very sharp, funny. They do not worry about pissing people off. They write about the controversial and gleefully harpoon the trolls. I often laugh aloud despite myself. I learn from them.

Then there are the sites (Christine's, Julia's, Tertia's), where I do occasionally comment, if I feel as though I have something to say. I feel safe to do so, either because of the writer honestly soliciting responses or because of a sort of kinship. Julia actually in a way got me into the whole thing. It was her pregnancy diary that I followed most avidly 3 years ago when newly pregnant with Sara, wanting some community of women to go through things with. She seemed to have a jaw-dropping amount of things in common with me and I started leaving comments. We conversed via her site a bit and even met once when we had an overnight stay in the Twin Cities on our last trip back to Portland. I followed her from the sinking ship that was iparenting, to her blog, adding Linda as well.

When I jumped into the waters myself, I added the 3rd and nicest tier of blog-friends. While I have only known them a few months, it seems much, much longer as I have read their archives and have daily contact with one or the other of them through our writing and, most fun and satisfying, our comments. Jamie has enriched my life with gardening and cooking tutelage, generously sharing among other things, good pizza and pie crust recipes; Rozanne, likewise with the food and plants, as well as providing a link with my beloved Portland. Kismet provides beauty and another Portland connection; Cagey is hilarious and, now that she is knocked up, I get to relive the "a baby is coming" without the actual pregnancy and no sleep part. Mojavi, also with the funny, without the pregnancy. Linda and I share frighteningly similar book, movie, and humor tastes. Plus, she claims to be as much an introvert as I am. It is odd that we are friends of a sort here, yet in real life, would probably not be, given that whole shy thing. Gerah also seems way too similar to me as far as things that make us laugh and rage. I would love to just sit and have drinks with her for hours and watch her Kyra and my Sara get out every toy and play. Then, there is Johnny, adored Johnny, my beloved Portuguese multi-lingual vet student pal. We may never, ever meet, yet here she is, part of my life in a not insignificant way. We exchange e-mails, she feels like a cousin, we get each other's jokes. I don't understand the feeling of closeness but that is part of her magic. I am obviously not the only one who feels that way. She led me to Dana, fabulous, extrovert, Dana, with her love of karaoke. Opposites attract.

As an aside, how do I know these people, the majority, the ones I have never met, are who they say they are and not hairy men sitting in their mother's basement in dirty underwear claiming to be these wonderful women? I don't. And that's ok. I am not sending out my address or giving them money. (Well, except for Jamie, but any small risk was worth it for the relish and brownie pie. Oh, that brownie pie. I'd do it again in a flash.)

And now I see other connections being made. As a comment she left on Christine's blog led me to Cagey, who led me to Rozanne, who led me to Jamie and Mojavi or as a comment I left on Julia S's led Johnny to me (although I had lurked at her site some, before) and me to Dana, I see Johnny and Rozanne commenting to each other.

Community. Buddies of a sort.

It doesn't feel strange at all. It feels just fine.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Gauntlet Is Thrown

And so it goes, another lovely weekend in early summer.

Except that I have declared war.

Our yard, or grounds, or land or Lil' Patch O' Heaven (sorry, had to throw that one in, just evil), is about 8 acres of Wisconsin pasture. The area around the house, presumably where everything was bulldozed bare 8 years ago for the building of the house, was planted with lawn-grass. The rest of the grassland that is the back and side former pastureland is a mixture of various prairie grasses. At least I call it prairie grass, as it is a mix of vigorous grasses that, if left to its own devices, grows to about 3 feet high. One actually has tiny yellow flowers coming out of the grass seeds. Clover abounds, as do dandelions, turning the whole damn area first a lovely solid yellow, then a frightening white, as you realize that over a billion dandelion seeds are being released to fly free to your carefully tilled and de-weeded patch of garden. But this is mere annoyance. A brief irritation, not to be mentioned, save to the internet. It's the Others that have invaded, obtaining more than a toehold in my beloved future arboretum.

The damn thistles.

Last year, in some sort of hallucinatory haze, I remember thinking, "Gosh, there are a lot of thistles. And look how tall and prickly they are. And so vigorous. And scary. Good thing there are not so horribly many of them. Only a few thousand. A mere piddling number. I will let them be and admire the ugly purple flowers and let them breed. Yes. Breeding. Good."

There is no other explanation. I was brainwashed.

But like the person who has had the glamour revealed, I will be putty in their hands no more. I will eradicate every sandal-spearing one of them.

Sadly, we live in a place where our water comes from our own well. Dug on our own land. A water source that will be defiled, adding extra heads and taking quality-of-life years from our offspring, should we use chemical or nuclear (ahem) solutions. That leaves the old fashioned way of human-(me)-with-a-shovel. Actually I have 2 shovels stashed within easy grabbing, under the deck, just in case one mysteriously disappears and ends up under a car tire or in the fire pit. I hear the thistles have connections with organized crime, as brokered by the innocent looking wild roses. Sure, they look pretty but have you ever tried to cross one?

My plan of attack is simple: First, prevent every single one from going to seed. Fortunately, as they can't seed until they are 3-5 feet tall, depending on the branch of the thistle family, I have some warning and they can't do it overnight, unlike the blighted dandelions. Second, me and my trusty spades will dig up each and every one of the one billion of them. I figure at a rate of 50 a day, I will toss the last one with a hearty cry of "Bye-bye thistle! Ahar!" (Sara joins me in this yell, and I feel that the pirate ending to the cheer is heartening in the face of such odds) at the age of 97.

So there you have it. The peaceful country.

An old and dear friend back in the Portland days once described a dream where the morning glory they were trying to eradicate were growing in through the attic and throttling them in their sleep. I look on this as simple home defense. This year, our yard. Heaven forbid, next year the house?

No. I am armed with shovel and know how to use it. I am also looking into the benefits of obtaining a blowtorch. If pressed, it should keep them at bay long enough to reach the garage where the weed wacker and mower are. Provided they haven't been disabled first. The wild roses may have been forming an alliance with the spiders. You never know.

Time to go.

I need to draft a treaty with the barn swallows. If I promise 2 lawn mowings a week, with full access to all banquet of creepy-crawlies such mowings reveal, I figure we have a natural ally. (Seriously, as soon as Charles fires up the mower, they swoop from the barn and follow him like he was the Messiah.)

Wish me well, and if you don't hear from me for over a week, send funeral flowers. Just know I went down fighting. Bury the spades at my sides and leather gardening gloves on my hands.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hell On Wheels

As the lament goes: If my second born were my first, she'd be an only child.

Sara has turned the "terrible twos" into an art form. Telling her "no" leads to a tantrum. Telling her "yes" leads to a tantrum. Handing her the crayon leads to a tantrum. Taking her plate when she tells you she is, "OooooooooDONE! My Dinner! Mommy!" leads to a tantrum. Putting the plate back on the table leads to a tantrum. Closing the door leads to a tantrum followed by her opening the door and then immediately closing the door. Apparently she takes after my sister, Gail.

Given that there is no avoiding the tantrum, I have decided to have fun with it and put it to good use. It's all in how you approach the problem. I could either take it personally, figure I was a horrible parent, keep myself up at night wondering why Colin had so few tantrums, most of which were during 2 weeks when he was 3; or I can laugh heartily, tell her matter-of-factly that if she doesn't stop right this minute, she will get a time out, and follow through with it. I plop her in the crib and give her amused Mom-face with raised eyebrows, and close the door. After 2 minutes I check on her. She is never ready to calm down, still ridiculously mad, and I let her know when she is ready, I will get her out, and leave, this time with the door open. (Yes, yes, I check on her every couple of minutes, how else would I get to see her Furious Face?) Usually 20-30 minutes later, she flips the switch and is suddenly smiley and wanting me to "tickles me". Meantime I actually get some housework done. The other thing is that if she has a such a thermonuclear meltdown, she is usually mostly tantrum-free for the rest of the day and takes a monster nap in the afternoon. So far I have resisted the urge to detonate one as a pre-emptive strike. So far.

I think I may actually miss the tantrums when they resolve.

How the hell will I get the floors mopped, then? You can get a lot done in 20-30 minutes of super-concentrated time.

She has also developed jealousy over Colin's surgery and tells us she has an "owie in my tummy," frequently. Usually when she is shovelling food into her mouth.

I realize that a lot of you have no kids. I just didn't want you to completely miss out. Share the pain. That's my motto.

(Colin update, for those who want to know: I think you could say he is continuing to heal quickly. Monday morning, I had to stop him from climbing up the stairs "on the outside", meaning holding on to the banister climbing up the outside of the steps. He was about 10 feet of the ground when I caught him. More grey hairs. At least the couch was under him. He had fallen from doing such a thing 2 weeks before and ended up with an abrasion on his cheek and quite a nice bruise on cheek and eye. I am not sure all of us are eventually getting out of this alive. Something about God protecting fools and little children.)


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Let's Just Not Do That Again

First of all, thank you for the lovely, caring comments. They were the first thing I read when surfacing, Sunday. Extra big hugs to Lioness, who keeps haunting and leaving comments (I, too, am a comments ho) and Zoomie, my beloved and favorite cousin, who has a semi-secret job and lives in England with his amazing wife, my favorite cousin-in-law, and their gorgeous and divine girls. Believe me, England is first on the list for "real travel". Just need to get the kids old enough to make the flight without becoming orphans and for Charles to get up the gumption to get on such a flight. I am working on the English beer angle. Look for us in a few years. Then, who knows, I hear Portugal is nice...

Second of all, Colin is fine, just amazingly fine. Damn but kids heal fast.

So, here is the tale:

It all starts Thursday morning. A typical Thursday. I am not at work, therefore I rise and jump into the first task, the getting of The Boy out of the door to the bus on time. He is on the couch, sipping some hot chocolate, watching something of marginal value, like Tiny Planets, while I get his usual breakfast of cinnamon toast, some hard boiled egg, and fruit ready. He is not one for gastronomic variance and has this essentially every single morning, with pear or banana for the fruit, the wild and crazy guy.

I stick my head around the corner to light a fire under him to get his clothes on and get to the table, when he says his stomach hurts. Hurts bad enough to not want to go to school. As he is fond of school and adores his teacher, the fabulous Mrs B, even though he looked well, I decided to believe him and keep him home. Well, after an hour or less, he was bouncing around, ate some breakfast, and was complaining his sister was trying to take some of the hordes of Star Wars figures he had herded from his bedroom to his basecamp of The Big Chair in the living room. Yeah. He's really sick. He sure played me for the sucker. Keeping to the If You're Home Sick rules, he was allowed quiet toys and TV or movies but no video or computer games. He started bugging me to play, further confirming my suspicions that I had been had. I held firm and considered taking him in to school after lunch.

At lunch, he said he was not terribly hungry but could he have some pears and crackers. I smelled a rat and leaned over to give him a kiss before intending to tell him that, no, he could eat a nice healthy lunch, but I would make the pear part of such a lunch, and nearly blistered my lips on the heat of his forehead.

Shit. 103.something-high.

OK, no going to school. Pears and crackers it is, with a side of ibuprofen. I feel like a real jerk, and put in a new movie, noting the slight cough, which reassures me that it is just some virus. The fever doesn't throw me as he does the high fever a few times a year, and with the standard crud, it is gone in a couple of days and responds to medication. He still looks good. He takes a nap. Of his own volition. His fever is down with the meds. He gets up and goes to his room and takes a second nap. More meds as his fever is back up. He refuses dinner but drinks juice. He goes to bed and looks fine. Still only a slight cough, the brief spell of belly pain from the morning has not recurred.

At 10 pm, as I am dragging my sniffly self off to bed, he starts to cry the Sick Kid cry. It is very heart rending and pitiful and gets you there in a hurry. He is burning up at 104 and has thrown up all over himself. He vomits again and again. He can not keep down the medication. After 2 hours of this, his temp comes down on its own and he lies in bed with me, under the ceiling fan. The stomach pains have returned, at first for brief periods, say a minute or so a few times an hour, then escalating over an hour or so, but still resolving. His belly is tender all over but quite soft. I fret. I don't bother to call the on-call pediatrician as I know full well they will tell me to take him in to the ER. I am still hoping it is something viral or some strange strep throat without the throat pain (yes, it happens and fairly frequently in kids: high fever and stomach pain with no throat pain). Appendicitis crossed my mind with the first hint of stomach ache that morning but the fever went against it. Now between 10 pm and 3 am, I revisited the "Is This Appendicitis?" theme with every second thought. I also really didn't want to drag him the 40 minutes in the car to our ER if it could wait a few hours till morning and I could take him into the clinic first thing and get it seen to with minimal fuss and wait.

15 minutes later, we were on the road, Charles at home with Sara. 3 minutes into the drive, he says he is all better, no pain, feels just fine. Grrrrrrr. It is 3am. Gritting my teeth, I say that we are still going in to the hospital, just to make sure. Yeah, completely over reactive parent here. I start muttering my night's mantra, what I always beat patients who come to see me over the head with: The best case scenario is that the ER finds nothing wrong and it is a wasted visit. The best case scenario...

Thankfully, the ER is not very busy at almost 4am and within 10 minutes he is through triage, has a dose of ibuprofen which he is keeping down, insurance and other info given, 2 bracelets on hs arm, and the nurse has already assessed him and is making him comfortable before getting the doctor. The ER doc, who is competent and gentle but sans personality, at least at this time of morning, comes in, examines him, listens to me, listens to Colin jabber away, as he looks great, swabs his throat for strep (see, told you!) and orders the blood and x-rays.

Poor kiddo. The blood is drawn easily, he works hard at being brave, he keeps falling asleep and I have to wake him, which is comically hard to do. Several times he is so sleepy he loses understanding of basic things like how to stand and what his back is. He walks without difficulty or pain to the bathroom (appendicitis should be very painful with walking). He snores loudly as though congested.

The labs come back with a white blood cell count (the infection police) elevated at appendicitis levels (highish but not horribly high, with lots of immature cells in the bloodstream, known as a "left shift"). His belly films show air-fluid levels on the right, also consistent with appendicitis although not by any means diagnostic. He remains pain free and afebrile and sleepy. I start to feel like I did the right thing. An IV is placed (more bravery). A CT (Cat scan) is ordered and he is commanded to drink 3 glasses of contrast dye in red Kool-Aid. He manages to get less than 10% in. Can't blame him, the stuff tastes like gasoline. They take him to the scan any way. I stand there in a lead apron, my second of the day, and we crack jokes. He likes the CT as it is like a ride. I review the scan with the radiologist and we both agree that it is inconclusive. Maybe that squiggle there is his appendix. Maybe it is poop. Maybe it is not either but a confluence of things. Maybe it is an alien having tea and toast. Let's hope it is not the latter. I really don't feel like dealing with the tabloids, although doing the chat show circuit would be lucrative.

Finally, my favorite surgeon is called down. He examines Mr Giggly. He discusses the results. He rolls his eyes at the 3 nearly full cups of gasoline-mixed-with-Kool-Aid. He says that even if the CT were completely normal, he is concerned enough to take him straight to the operating room and yank that puppy out. Actually, as he is very professional and dignified, he says, "Remove his appendix." He has one case he must do first, as that person is already prepped and in the room but it is a fairly short gall bladder case. Turns out it takes longer for the damn paperwork and all to be done and my favorite surgeon is waiting on him to come up rather than the other way around. The pediatrician on call comes in and gives his blessing.

In the pre-op holding area, he is given a choice of Beanie Babies. He chooses the leopard and names him "Tiger". The anesthesiologist arrives and does his thing, admires Tiger and notes that the tag says his name is "Freckles". Colin is delighted with the name Freckles and re-christens him. Then it is time to go in for surgery and I lose it, sobbing as he is wheeled away. I don't think he notices, thank God. Really didn't want to do that. Realize that it is about noon and I have not eaten since dinner and not slept since the previous night. May have something with my inability to not hold it together. Charles gets me pulled together and we trudge down to the cafeteria where we both order the inexplicable grilled sandwich, which turns out to be roast beef with processed swiss cheese on very garlic bread. Odd but not horrible, but then I love garlic with a passion. I also award myself a piece of lemon pie and devour it in large bites. I do not share.

Back up to the tense waiting area with a soap opera blaring from the TV. Only about 45 minutes start to finish, Dr B, the surgeon, comes out to let us know all was a success, they did it easily with the laparoscope, so he has 3 small incisions rather than one larger one and will not have to heal any abdominal musculature. The appendix is in the hands of the pathologist, or at least in a jar of formalin sitting with all the other bits of humans waiting to be in the hands of the pathologist, but it looked inflamed and he is glad it is out. We are too. Unspeakably glad.

Back up to wait in his room on the kids' ward for them to bring him up. That was actually the hardest wait although it was only about 30 minutes. He looks wan and exhausted and is a bit cranky, but otherwise great. His incisions are glued shut, so no stitches to remove and he can bathe. He has received 6 stickers in his travails and asks for them immediately. Priorities. He is allowed clear liquids and is allowed up for short walks. He recovers quickly and is allowed to go home the next day, after lunch. Once home, he transforms from pitiful to vital and is suddenly pain free and not tired at all.

So that is that.

He is a little sore but bouncy. He is eating normally. He has bathed and is no longer stinky. He is making silly 6-year-old-boy jokes, revolving around burping and farting and the word "poop". He has to be reminded to take it easy. He helped me harvest the first of the strawberries and ate almost all of them. He is eating all his "healthy food" so he will heal. He is also eating Pop-Tarts, frosted, of course. Because, well, he deserves them.

And now, the burning question: What the hell does one of his stickers mean? It is a drawing of a grinning green snake with red polka dots slithering across a background of dollar bills with some dollar signs thrown in. I guessed: Your doctor is a snake and is only in it for the money, which you will be hemorrhaging as a result of your hospital visit (the red spots represent the hemorrhages). Any other ideas?


Friday, June 03, 2005


Actually, not well, no.

Colin decided to not have the stomach flu, but to just jump to the punchline and develop appendicitis.

He came through surgery fine and dandy. Charles is spending tonight with him, as I was there all night and day. I will share the gorey details further in the future and you can help me interpret the meaning of one of the stickers he was given.

Until then, I have neither slept nor bathed in 36 hours (You can smell me from there, can't you?) and am off to do both as soon as I throw in the last load of puked-on bedding.

I think I also deserve a beer, or a nice glass of red wine. I am still revving on adrenaline.

More when I am coherent and free.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Don't Come Too Close

So, Dearest Darlings, how are you today?

We at the House O'Piffle have taken to sampling various cruds this week:

Charles thought a nice mucusy case of bronchitis sounded good and, after a couple of weeks, finally achieved the perfect consistency and purulence in phlegm. He is now on some nice antibiotics as his next course.

Colin went with his old favorite: stomach ache. If true to form, we will be chasing it with lots of vomiting and some diarrhea in a few hours.

I, being the adventurous one, have opted for the Crud du jour: a nice prickly sore throat with a reduction of congestion and post nasal sauce. Tasty! Hasn't affected my appetite, though. Excuse as I brush the crumbs from the keyboard. Toasty banana bread makes everything better. As an aside note, my very favorite patient comment is, "So, how do you manage to not get sick?" I then enlighten them with the truth, that I average about 5-6 bouts of something-or-other a year. They look horrified until I reassure them that this really isn't bad, as my first year here, I got 14 different bugs between November and June.

Sara is still asleep, in our bed, as she was up every few hours, just cranky and crying. As this is atypical for our little darling, I imagine she is perusing the menu and will announce her choice in aliments in the near future.

Emma seems in fine fettle, barking loudly at all passersby. I plan to let her out in a bit, though, so she can bolt down mass quantities of long grass and then vomit it up.

On the garden front, I finally managed to finish doing something to the odd slab of concrete in the back, next to the swingset. It is about 10' x 15' and was originally the bottom of a fenced-in dog kennel area. The previous owners took everything but the slab. It had a perimeter if gravel around it that kept the weeds nicely at bay last year, but this year, seems to act more as, well fertilizer, as there were more weeds there, most of them very frighteningly large thistles, than pretty much anywhere else in such a small area. (Note: this does not include either of the two thistle gauntlets. but that is a rather large area and also off to the edge of the property. I will get to it at some point.)

As I am (all in chorus, now) So Very Lazy removing the slab really was not an option. As I am also So Very Compulsive, though, I spent several days with my trusty spade and removed, by the roots, if possible, each and every mother-hating-one of those bastards. I then planted the last 5 blueberry bushes, a viburnum, 2 buddleia (butterfly bushes) and then, a bunch of butterfly-loving annuals, like latana and heliotrope, as well as several African daisy (too damn lazy to look up the spelling for oneotropium-or-something). The slab is currently used by Sara to draw on with chalk. I figure it will also be a pretty good place for either a stand-alone hammock or a table with an umbrella, when everything has grown up a bit.

While at my drug dealers, I mean the nursery, I also just happened to have a few scabiosa (pincushion flower) follow me home, which found homes with all the others in the front. Yes, yes, I had some scabiosa, but some from last year had died and, well, you can never have enough. I think I am done planting this year, except for Colin's sunflower that he brought home, that is on the kitchen sill. Maybe later today if he is feeling better, we can plant it with the other 2 sunflowers from school (those ones planted in a plastic bag-with-paper-towel vs this one planted in a plastic cup).

So there. More piffle. If this blog isn't aptly titled, I don't know what is.

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