Thankful It’s Not Yesterday

Posted: November 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Doctors, Friends and Strangers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Preschool, Sisters, Travel | No Comments »

If only days were like Scrabble tiles. I’d like to trade a few in for new ones.

If Scrabble rules applied to life I’d definitely toss yesterday back in the bag. And probably the day before that too.

Because on Monday I found out an old friend came back to see me. My ulcer. For realz.

I know it seems like ulcers are something aging down-on-their-luck alcoholic cigar-smoking men get. And though I aspire to such a profile, I currently don’t quite fit it.

Yet, I’ve had an ulcer before. In college, oddly. I was living in Paris at the time, and I remember having episodes of stomach pain that were so intense I’d be walking down the street and have to lean against a building to stay upright.

I was a not-really-starving student. The program I was studying with was fairly rigorous academically. So there was some stress there. And when I wasn’t studying I was acting like an American college co-ed in Par-ee. Which meant going out with my trash-talkin’ American compadres to decidedly un-French bars (our fave was called The Front Page) and drinking decidedly un-French booze (namely, tequila).

Let’s just say, conversing with a gastroenterologist in French will really take your language skills to the next level. Of course, I’ve forgotten them all now, but I added a nice group of vocab words like ‘stomach lining,’ ‘gastric acid,’ and ‘cyclooxygenase’ to my repertoire.

Okay, so I really can’t even say that last one in English. But it’d rock if I could.

When I got back to the States, my parents sent me to what they considered “a real doctor” (i.e. an American). The guy asked me some questions, ordered some tests, and handed my mother a business card for a psychiatrist. The thinking being that my stomach was out of whack because I had my head screwed on wrong.

But really, I was my same sassy happy-go-lucky self back then. I’d come clean if there was reason to, but I think it was the un-holy trinity of school stress, tequila (which was a cheap way to tie one on), and an occasional cigarette (which was a cheap way to look cool) that were the real culprits.

In fact, the second doc my mother ushered me to—insulted by the first’s implications about my mental health—described my malady in simple terms. “What you’ve got,” he said to me, laying it on the line “is a weak gut.”

My mother relayed this line to my sisters, who found it uproarious. Judy still sometimes points her finger my way and asks, “You know what you’ve got? A weak gut!” then howls with laughter.

The thing is, these days, I can’t for the life of me figure out what brought this hell-belly back. I ain’t stressed out, I swear. And I only really smoke cigars on Tuesday nights, when I pour myself a tall glass of rye and settle down in front of The Housewives of Atlanta.

Jes’ kidding.

Yesterday started with a sunrise trip to a lab for blood work. I’d spent the day before home with a soupy-coughed Paigey, so yesterday I REALLY needed to make progress at my freelance gig. So I arrived at the lab just after it opened at 7:30. And waited. And then found out that one of the tests I needed to do they didn’t have at that lab. So I needed to go somewhere else.

But first I consented to having my blood taken. Because it seemed that it would legitimize my wait. And because the phlebotomist didn’t have a large tattoo across his forehead reading INCOMPETENT.

Which he really really should have.

He stabbed me with a needle, then muttered, “Well there WAS blood comin’ at first, but why’d it just stop?” To which I replied weakly, “Uh, I’m a fainter. I really can’t deal with the play-by-play.”

I’m truly too queasy to even recount the ensuing trauma, other than to say that he jabbed that needle around in my vein like he was trying to pick up a carnival toy with a metal claw. When I peeled off the gauze-and-tape bandage hours later, my elbow pit was streaked with purple and red bruises the likes of which’d make a heroine junkie gag.

Ah-ha! That’s why I’d been feeling like my forearm was going to detach and fall to the ground all day!

Post blood-taking hell, I zipped back home. Picked up Kate to bring her to kindergarten. Brought Paige to her school in a torrential downpour. Asked P’s teacher kindly, “Could she please not play outdoors today? She’s just getting over being sick.”

To which I was informed “ALL the children play outside no matter WHAT the weather is.”

So I looked down at Paigey, rain dripping from the visor of her yellow raincoat. She looked so small. I thought about us boarding a cross-country plane the next day, and just then she let out a loogy-ish cough.

I sighed. “Well, I guess I’ll take her with me then.”

Okay, so Paige in tow, I’m off to Lab #2. I get there, park, schlep bedraggled Paige through the rain-swept parking lot where she strides through every puddle. Elevetor to 3rd floor, find the suite number, wait for snide receptionist to look at me, and discover they don’t have the test I need either.


Repeat parking lot adventure at Lab #3. But they HAVE the test! In the waiting room Paige is actually adorable. She “reads” from a Beatrix Potter book for all the other test-needing waiters, and moves the book in an arc around her after every page so they can see the pictures.

I have a haircut in SF in 35 minutes. The nurse calls my name. I may actually not be late! But then I blow air into a bag, drink some Crystal-light-like stuff, and am told I have to wait 15 minutes to blow in another bag again.

Did I mention that I was also fasting for this test? By the time I careened out of Lab #3’s parking lot hell-bent for San Fran, it was nearly 11:00AM and Mama was HUN-gree.

I called Mark and told him, “Surprise! You get Paige!” After my haircut (priorities straight) I REALLY did need to go to the office and get some work done. So, like a hot potato, I foisted Paigey Waigey at Mark in his office parking lot and zipped off like roadrunner (my legs a circular blur) to the hair salon.

Settling in for my cut and color I thought, NOW. Now is when my day gets good.

Despite my lateness, I’d stopped at a café for a croissant because the alien that now lives in my stomach gets VERY cranky without food. (I can now imagine the sweet relief Sigourney felt when that thing finally busted out of her.) Finally, with the fasting behind me, I could take the first of my Weak Gut pills and let the healin’ begin.

Sad, isn’t it, when my idea of a good time is shoving ulcer meds in my mouth while waiting for someone to cover up my gray roots. I leaned back in the seat and closed my eyes. Just for a sec.

Then I felt hands on my shoulders. I looked up to see Susan, my ever-faithful long-time hair guru, looking at me through the reflection in the mirror. I smiled.

“So,” she said with a big exhale. “This will be the last time I do your hair. I’m moving to LA!”

I closed my eyes again. Maybe I should just wait until tomorrow for my day to get better.

No Comments »

Depends on How You Look at It

Posted: April 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Discoveries, Doctors, Miss Kate, My Body, My Temple, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Preg-o | 3 Comments »

When I was pregnant with Paige—and with Kate too—my right eye went on temporary hiatus. I have a strange neurological wiring problem that flares up now and then. My own rare medical malady. Like the fact that I’ve never seen Star Wars, it’s one of the few things that set me apart from most of humanity.

And desperate as I was to land impossible-to-get appointments with specialists, once I got in to see them they all just patted my hand and told me to wait it out. There ain’t much you can do about this thing. ‘Specially when you’re pregnant.

But sitting around waiting for something to happen is my personal brand of hell. So I took up with a well-respected mad genius-type Chinese acupuncturist. Or rather, put myself in his care.

The Bay Area’s alternate-health gurus all claimed this guy was The Best. Despite his ramshackle office, located deep in San Francisco’s foggy Avenues. almost out out by the beach, I was supposedly in the care of a world-class healer. Plus, tacked to the wall in the waiting room was a picture of Robin Williams mugging with the good doctor. To a long-time People subscriber, there’s no better testament to a doctor’s competence than his having a celebrity patient.

During my visits, Dr. Q would look at my tongue, take my pulse, and inform me that my gall bladder was grumpy. Other times he’d say my liver was woody, or my blood sluggish. At least those were the kinds of things I remember him saying.

In fact, I understood nearly nothing about his assessments, and that had little to do with his limited English. His form of healing was just damn different from anything I’d known before. Despite that, I gave myself over to his needle wielding wholeheartedly and in good faith. I was desperate, helpless, and more than anything, bored. There’s not much one can do with one eye. Reading is tiring. TV is depressing. And computer work is out of the question.

One can eat. And one can worry. So my visits to his office were in large part a hopefully-helpful distraction. One that my insurance didn’t cover.

Aside from my bizarre eye issue—which, granted, most people would trade for several months of gut-churning nausea—my pregnancies were marked by almost no other symptoms. I never barfed, had swollen feet, or ran from rooms at the smell of broccoli. Much of the time I forgot I was even knocked up.

But a little thing started interrupting my sleep at night. (And sleep, as you may know, is my super power.) It was minor, but just pesky enough to torment me. The inside of my right elbow was—well it seems silly now to even mention—but it felt kinda tickly. Like someone was ever so lightly touching it, brushing a feather across it. And of course, there was nothing there.

To make things worse, it was only on the right side. The first rule of hypochondria is if it’s asymmetrical, it’s probably cancer.

Okay, so I didn’t really think it was that. But still, it was maddening.

I’d wake Mark up over it. “Honey? I can’t sleep. My elbow pit. It’s Driving. Me. Crazy.”

It was, I decided, the perfect symptom to relay to my acupuncturist. If the leg bone’s connected to the kidney, and the gall bladder’s connected to the pinky toe—or if not quite that, at least I’d come to trust that there was some interconnectedness between what I’d previously thought of as unrelated parts—if that was the case, then this tickly inner elbow thang may be the key to unlocking my eye problem.

And wasn’t I so clever, so in tune with my body, to make note of it? (I had a lot of time on my hands to be self-congratulatory too.)

At my next appointment, as the doctor was readying my needles, I laid the news of my latest symptom on him. I awaited his chin-rubbing contemplation. The “aha!” moment in which he connected my ocular issue with my tickly elbow pit.

Instead, he looked up and said, “Oh… Okaaaay.” The way you might talk to someone who you think is a touch crazy. Someone you may even feel a little bit afraid of. But then, so as not to appear rude, he quickly added, “Sorry if that bother you.”

Then he started sticking needles in me. And I never brought it up again.

The other day I drew a hopscotch in front of our house for Kate. Years back, this was the kind of thing I enjoyed harassing our realtor about. I was waddling around to tour houses 8 months pregnant and once-again one-eyed, but whenever I’d see some cute crap chalked onto the sidewalk I knew not to fall for it. Not to buy into the, “Oh honey, look! What a nice family neighborhood this must be!”

No, instead I’d turn to Charlie, the Bay Area’s most patient realtor, and ask, “So what time did you have to get here this morning to draw this?”

So here I was last week, playing outside with Kate and realizing that my hopscotch skillz have lost some of their bououncy since my youth. Though it might have had to do with the clogs I was wearing.

Anyway, when Paige got up from her nap, she was all fired up about joining the game. I adore that kid-sister fearlessness. That her default setting is to get in on whatever big-kid action is underway. I mean, Kate could have some pals over for a few friendly rounds of mumblety peg, and Paige would be all, “Cool. I’m in. Where’s the knife?”

But as it turns out, with hopscotch Paige lacks some fundamental know-how. She still hasn’t mastered the simple act of jumping. But she doesn’t let on about it. It’s like the best-kept out-in-the-open secret ever.

Here’s Paige: She sizes up the hopscotch squares, bends her knees, thrusts both arms into the air, and calls out, “DUMP!” (This being her closest approximation to the word “jump.”) Then she takes a step forward.

This delights her, and she appears to have no reservations about her ability to play being any different than anyone else’s. If it weren’t so obvious that she wasn’t really jumping, you’d swear that she was.

Recently when we pulled up to the house after getting Kate from school, Paige ran out of the car to the corner where the hopscotch squares had been. Days of rain had washed the chalk away, but that was no deterrent.

Bend knees. Arms up. “DUMP!” And a step forward.

There was no hopscotch court there. But hey, Paige also wasn’t really jumping.

But from her perspective? Miss Paigey Wigs was radiating the fierce confidence of an Olympic long jumper. She sold those not-really jumps. And it was so damn endearing I bought up every last one of them. I mean, sure, I AM her Mama. But it got me thinking that sometimes what ain’t really there, can sometimes kinda of spring to life, if you pretend hard enough.

And sometimes, what IS there–what’s taking up every last drop of your mental energy—turns out to be of little consequence at all. You don’t need two workin’ eyeballs to see that some things are just what they are, and nothing more.

And on that note, I think I’ll turn on the TV.


You’re On the Air

Posted: March 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Doctors, Extended Family, Firsts, Friends and Strangers, Moods, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting | 1 Comment »

I cried on the radio the other day.

No, I didn’t drape myself over a boom box to weep. I actually called into a radio show and cried. Live on the air.

And to be clear, I’m not someone who calls into radio shows. In my teen years I never once tried to win concert tickets. Like watching American Idol, eating mushrooms, or waking up early to work out, calling into radio shows is something other people do. Not me.

But I’ve recently come to know a talk show host—or should I say hostess? Her radio show, Childhood Matters, is about parenting. Or more precisely, things of interest to people who have an interest in kids.

The topic was milestone delays. And though I started listening with no intention of calling in, I got to thinking about my own dear Paigey. Her learning to walk at 21 months certainly qualified as a milestone delay.

There were folks talking about autism and other kindsa things that trigger most parents to stick their fingers in their ears and say, “LA LA LA LA” really loudly so they can’t hear any more. As if you (or your kid) could catch something just by turning your mind to it.

And frankly as I puttered around listening to the show, I was mentally separating myself from those folks too. Kate and Paige were busying themselves at their toy kitchen, preparing an array of wooden foods to faux-feed their dolls and each other. They were playing so nicely. Such a normal healthy little scene. I got a sudden strong surge to share a milestone-delay success story.

So I called in, and talked to the producer, who said to hold on a minute, and before you know it I was on the air, and next thing after that without having seen it coming, my voice started cracking as I told the story about that one day a year ago when our pediatrician quietly kindly urged me to have Paige “assessed.” I’d told this story dozens of times to friends and family, but it wasn’t until that moment that I somehow felt just how damn scared I’d been back then.

Of course, producers love criers. (I know, I used to be one. A producer, that is. Before I was a crier. I guess I have experience in both realms now.) Anyway, I eventually managed to get my un-sad voice back. And at that point, of course, I felt like I was just getting warmed up. On Paige’s second birthday, I told the listeners, she was zooming around the house squealing and playing alongside all the other two-year-olds. And despite the long haul it’d taken for her to get there, it was clear that she had finally, blessedly caught up. Nothing different between those kids and my girl.

I know I haven’t written about my adventures at the Olympics. Sometimes big, super-fun, once-in-a-lifetime things happen, and instead of writing about those, I find myself focused on the minutiae of every day life.

Besides, that adventure came to a sad end with the unexpected death of Mark’s amazing grandfather. The man was a brilliant businessman in his day, a larger-than-life family man, a reciter of poetry, and apparently a hell of a golfer. Kate’s middle name—Miller—hails from none other than Grandpa John and his wife, Lois. It’s a tribute I’m so very happy we made.

It’s weird how grief works. After my mother died I went to a Day of the Dead parade, expecting a torrent of tears. But nothing. And just a month after her death, I went through Mother’s Day strangely—nearly embarrassingly—devoid of deep sorrow.

But then one day, out to lunch at a cafe, a friend ordered an iced tea, and I excused myself to the bathroom where I sobbed and sobbed. In Target a woman told her child they were going home to meet Grandma, and I sat in the parking lot bawling, unable to drive. When I least expect it the tears still come.

Who knows if it’ll be that way for the people mourning Grandpa John. Surely I’m not the only one to wail in the Target lot. If the folks in Mark’s family are suddenly overcome by the random ordering of a beverage, I hope they feel a bit better on the other side of the tears. I’m no Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, but I do appreciate the cleansing effects of a good cry.

As for my emotional outburst on the radio? Well, when I call in some day to win Jonas Brothers tickets—something I assume I’m bound to do now that I’ve broken the seal on calling radio shows—the next time I’m on the air I’ll strive to exercise a bit more composure.

1 Comment »

Too Young?

Posted: March 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Doctors, Milestones, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Preschool | 3 Comments »

I was driving to a doctor’s appointment peering out the window at the street numbers.

2844… 2846… 2848… 2850!

Wait a second. Duggan’s Funeral Home?

I looked back at my paper. 2850 Telegraph, and up again at the mortuary. 2-8-5-0.

This was unsettling.

A call to the doctor’s office revealed that the news of my condition was not as grave as my end-point had led me to believe. I needed to go 2850 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, not Oakland.

“You really should make that clear to people,” I muttered into the phone, making a U-turn.

The reality of my doctor’s appointment was only somewhat less disquieting. I was seeing a rheumatologist, because after months of what I thought was lingering postpartum back pain, an x-ray revealed something far more damaging to my mental state on aging. I have arthritis.

I’m over 40 and all, but come ON. Arthritis?

Earlier that week I’d taken Paigey for her two-year-old check up. Random banter with the doctor got us to the topic of school applications—his son’s applying to college, and we’re neck-deep in finding a kindergarten for Kate.

“I took something you said a while ago to heart,” I proclaimed, as if I were giving him a grateful thump on the back. “It was a offhanded remark, but you said, ‘When they’re ready for Kindergarten, they’re ready!’ Even though Kate’ll be young in her class, we think she’s ready.”

“Uh, how old is she again?” he asked sheepishly, looking up from thumping Paigey’s belly.

What ensued was back-pedaling. Lots and lots of backpedaling, wherein the good doctor told me that whatever he’d said that one time that really stuck with me, that was actually maybe not what he’d suggest now. “So many kids are doing an extra year of preschool,” he said gently, knowing he was rocking my world. “Kate could be as much as a year-and-a-half younger than some kids in her class.”

Weeks of school tours and open houses, epic why-my-kid’s-so-great essays, costly application fees, and the gallons and gallons of sweat that poured from my palms through the whole process. Mark and I have invested so much in finding a school for Kate. To pull the plug on it now—if only for a year—would be more disappointing to us than to Kate.

I carried Paige through the parking lot and loaded her into the car, doing some kinda Lamaze breathing to stave off a primal scream. Within seconds of pulling onto the road I had the lovely impossible-to-get-into preschool on the line. Paige is going there next year, and they accepted Kate to their pre-K program. But back in January we passed up giving them a deposit. We decided to roll the dice on her kindergarten options.

I summoned my powers of persuasion as I purred into the phone, “Might it not be too late to still admit Kate?” Then I called Mark, quickly recounting my convo with the doctor. Like a army colonel plotting my next move, I visualized the lay of the land before me—private schools still to hear from, staying at her current preschool, seeing what comes of the public school lottery. Whatever we decided, we’d certainly cast the net wide. We were brimming with options—and indecision.

I  made some more calls, unwrapped a snack bar and handed it back to Paige, and even used my turn signal when changing lanes. I work well under pressure.

That week I grew convinced that “holding Kate back” (a term a neighbor suggested I change to “giving her the gift of another year”) was our critical course of action. But today I’m waffling.

For one, we got into the good public school. Totally honestly too! No bluffing on our home address, or having to get someone else to adopt the girls. This unexpected news got us thinking. Is it foolish to turn aside a perfectly good free eduction for Kate, and eventually Paige?

The thing is, if we want that, she starts kindergarten in September. Do not pass go. Do not waddle through another year of preschool. Do not accept the gift of another year.

And for some reason in the past few days everyone’s all in my face with, “Kate’s SO ready for kindergarten.” Seriously, I’ll be talking about something totally different and suddenly the person I’m chatting with belches out something passionate about Kate and kindergarten, like they’re the most natural pairing since peanut butter and jelly. Or Captain and Tennille.

Friday we find out about private schools. Mark and I are so deeply fired up about these places, I can’t imagine noting wanting them if they say they want Kate. We should also hear whether she’ll get off the lovely preschool’s pre-K wait list. And let’s not forget the tempting lure of FREE public school.

We get a week to decide what to do. Hopefully we’ll find out we have more good options to add to the mix. But before we decide where to send her, we need to figure out when. We need to come to Jesus about whether-or-not she’s too young to move forward.

If I squint I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. In a couple weeks we’ll be able to spank our hands together and put this behind us. Which is great because I can’t imagine that all this stress is good for my arthritis.


The Presents of Greatness

Posted: September 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, Doctors, Eating Out, Miss Kate, Mom, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Shopping | 2 Comments »

When I got home from school the afternoon of my 16th birthday, my mother was lying in bed and couldn’t move.

Now, the thing with my mother was she was a procrastinatory goddess. You never wanted to visit her and leave your prescription medicine. She’d tell you she’d mail it to you, and she’d have every good intention to, but ultimately weeks’d go by before you saw those pills again. And by then, your blood pressure, your acne, hell, a pregnancy even—whatever it was you were trying to ward off—would’ve gotten an excellent shot at entrenching itself in you.

So, on the morning of May 10, 1983, the 16th anniversary of my nativity, my mother woke up, ushered me off to school, and set out for her tennis game, utterly unprepared for my birthday. During doubles that day with “the girls” (a term she used even when they were long into granny-hood), she fell down. Landed on her elbow. And apparently gave it a substantial whack.

I assume it had to hurt. But this was a woman who left everything to the last minute. After tennis she’d have time to go to Ma Goetzinger’s, a cute boutique one town over, where she figured she’d find some little number or other that’d appeal to my fashion-frenzied teen self. She might also be able to swing by another shop or two, and round out her gifts for my sweet sixteen.

But there was, she decided, no time to see a doctor.

Well, by 3:30, or whatever time it was I got home from school that day, Mom’s elbow had had enough of being made a low priority. She’d hopped on her bed for a small rest when she got home, and in the calm of her quiet room, with the birthday whirlwind behind her, her body’s urgent pleas for attention finally got through.

The pain at that point was so great, she couldn’t even move.

I don’t really remember what happened next. How we got her up and to the medical center, or maybe to one of our small-town doctors’ home offices. But it turned out the arm was broken. She’d cracked or chipped or fractured some part of the elbow. An injury that was grave enough to warrant the doc, who we likely knew (whose wife was likely at the tennis game), to give her a good “What-the-hell-were-you-thinking-to-not-get-here-sooner?” lecture.

I assure you, I never expressed greater appreciation for birthday presents than I did that day.

Even in my ego-maniacal teen haze, I was struck with a jolt of insight into the greatness of a mother’s love. And her desire to make her child’s birthday just perfect.

Oh and you can bet I delivered my own “Geez-Mom-you-didn’t-hafta-do-that” lecture, managing upward as it were. After all, a daughter’s got love to give too.

But somehow, like those things do, that episode, that painful act of maternal sacrifice, faded into the backdrop of life. Never alluded to or held over my head, and only springing to my mind this morning as I lay in bed tickling the girls, awash in my own feelings of giddy love and gratitude for my daughters.

On Wednesday night, I went downstairs to the guest room closet to take stock of Kate’s birthday loot. And it turned out, that with all the shopping, or wrapping, or storing of gifts that I’d done on behalf of grandparents and other far-flung folk, I realized there wasn’t much for Kate that was from Mark and me. This discovery, of course, taking place late on the eve of her birthday.

So when she was in school that day, after Paige’s play group, I scrambled to a toy store. A mother ravaged with guilt that it’d taken until THE ACTUAL BIRTHDAY to get something. A woman incredulous that the Procrastination Gene she’d spent a lifetime denying, had somehow manifested itself in her, on the sly.

We found some little thing or other. A toy I’d say was from Paige to Kate. And by pure kismet I saw a billboard proclaiming the imminent arrival of Disney on Ice. The kind of branded, overpriced spectacle that makes the inner Waldorf mom in me shudder. But a perfect last-minute addition to Kate’s paltry set of parent-given gifts.

So there! I was done. With ten minutes to spare before fetching the birthday girl from school. I loaded Paige into the car, content that it’d all come together after all.

It wasn’t ’til later that evening, when Mark was back from his work trip and we were preparing to head to Kate’s favorite dinner haunt, that I noticed the stroller wasn’t in the back of the car.

I mentally retraced my steps.

Was it on the front porch? Had I left it outside Jen’s after play group? Or, in my haste to declare myself the ever-ready mother, did I smugly deposit both Paige and the birthday gifts in the car, then drive off leaving the stroller on the sidewalk?

Why yes, that’s exactly what I’d done.

As we headed to Filippo’s, pushing our unwieldy (but gratefully existent) double stroller, I asked myself, “How long does it take for an abandoned MacLaren stroller to biodegrade?”

Ah well, it’s good to have these humbling moments that prove I don’t really have my shit together after all. Right?

That said, I’ll have you know I’ve already purchased two (yes, 2) Christmas presents. So there.


Remember the Lake

Posted: September 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: College, Doctors, Drink, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Kate's Friends, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Summer, Travel | 4 Comments »

On our way through Marin County—heading towards beaches, hiking, and the Redwoods—we pass by a dumpy roadside motel. The Fountain Motel.

It’s where my mother, my sister Marie, and I once stayed when I was a kid. A dreary gray box of a place, up on the main road, with a requisite off-kilter cement fountain plopped out in front.

So when Mark’s ‘rents were here last week, we were stuck in a good-weather weekend traffic snarl, right in front of said motel. Admitting this was the site of a bygone Bruno vacation—something I’m often compelled to do, despite the shame of it—no doubt makes one wonder whether it was a voluntary vacation. Or if maybe we were on the lam. Hiding out from Interpol. Waiting out time until we got our Witness Protection Program permanent digs.

Or, maybe back then it was nice? Or at least nice-ish? Or maybe at least clean, and a good value?

All I remember about it was that the bedspreads were kinda flashy…

At any rate, it’s odd having a reminder from a childhood trip so close by. Maybe if my mother would’ve known that someday I’d settle in the Bay Area, and that for some unGodly reason that motel would still be standing and in business, she’d have opted for someplace clean AND cute.

Aside from that trip (and an admittedly fabulous tour of Europe), I can’t remember many vacations I took as a kid. I mean, I do have an especially horrible memory. But I can’t help by think that parents put a lot of planning, energy, and moolah into family outings that end up passing through the kids like so much Mexican drinking water.

For my girls, I think I’ve cracked the code to making vacations memorable. The way to hold onto something is to do it over and over and over again, right? Right! Which is why I’ve decided we’re inviting ourselves to spend Labor Days from here on out with some of Mark college friends, at their lake house in Minnesota.

The cabin’s a two-hour drive from Minneapolis, and the perfect blend of charming simplicity meets dazzling natural beauty. It’s feet from the lake. And one whole side of it is windows. So even when you’re inside, say, lying on the couch with a book and a beer, you still feel like you’re soaking up the great outdoors.

I have another annual trip in my past. A now-bygone camping trip—okay, okay, it was at a hippie music festival—up in Humboldt County. I went maybe six times—or eight?—with a big group of old Bay Area friends.

Now, the downfall of vacationing in the same place every year with the same group of people is the exhaustive rehashing and glorified storytelling that takes place about years past. “Remember in ’99 when Al brought that blender with a rip-cord starter engine, and decided to make margaritas at the crowded campsite at 3AM? I thought those guys from Oregon were going to kill him!”

Ah, Al.

Well, we’re finally settling in back home after our new-fangled family-style annual lake house vacation. It was Kate’s second Labor Day weekend on Lone Lake. (She couldn’t remember the first one. My genes.) Last time Paigey was with us too, but in utero.

Lest any of this year’s highlights be forgotten, I’m capturing some here. I figure we can just print this out and read from it around the campfire next year. Then we won’t even have to endure the labors of a spontaneous ad-libbed conversation.

Remember when 4-year-old Spencer used the bacon-grease-drenched paper towel to wipe off his face?

Remember when Gary spent an evening organizing a big box of Crayons according to the pretentiousness of the color names?

Remember when Paige squealed and clapped like an organ-grinder monkey every time Dulce the dog walked by?

Remember when a bird flew into the yard squawking wildly, causing us to look up and see a bald eagle soaring overhead?

Remember when Kate said, “The shadows on the lake look like squid, Dada.” And a beat later added, “I don’t know what squid are.”

Remember the day we ate pig five ways (bacon at brekkie, ham in a salad at lunch, sausage-’n'-cheese glop dip with cocktails, and home-smoked pulled pork sandwiches and pork and beans for dinner)?

Remember when Kate was so goofy crushy on 7-year-old Max, and she tried to impress him by saying things like, “I wrote a 4, Max. Want to see it?”

Remember how Uncle Gary was the sweetest manny EVER to all six kids? (Mental note: Bring him along on all family vacations. Better yet, have him move into basement room as au pair.)

Remember when the college co-ed during the Surly Brewing tour asked Omar beguilingly “How do you drink so much beer and maintain that girlish figure?” and he replied, “Chasing after my four kids.”

Remember how in an unusual bout of “sure-I’ll-try-that” Kate agreed to be towed in inflatable dinghy behind the speedboat, and grinned and gave thumbs-ups the entire time?

Remember when it was taking a while for Gary and proud Eagle Scout Mark to light the campfire, and young Max asked if they’d “ever done this before?”

Remember when Becca regaled us with excellent ER tales of an overweight woman unaware she was pregnant—or in in labor, a snowmobiling tweaker, and a girl skewered by a long golf cart prong? (Don’t worry, the skewered girl got better, the tweaker’d only imagined there was a bomb following him, and the ignorant preg-o decided to keep the baby because she figured it’d give her “something to do.”)

Remember how babies Leo and Paige communicated through the clear dog door like separated lovers at a prison visitation?

Remember how Omar still didn’t beat Mark at Trivial Pursuit?

Ah yes. Good times, all.

On our last night, when Kate should have been saying charming polite goodbyes she opted for an epic tantrum. Once she calmed down enough to speak, she admitted her fit was about having to leave. We’d been with our friends for five days.

“Next year,” she said between big weepy intakes of breath, “Can we stay for six days?”


Nurse? A Manhattan Straight Up, STAT!

Posted: July 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Daddio, Doctors, Little Rhody, Sisters | 1 Comment »

The last thing I expected was that Dad’s hip replacement surgery would be so hilarious. But all’s (thankfully) gone terribly well, and his attitude is so absurdly good, it’s frankly been slaying my sisters, Mark, and me.

It should be known that Dad is the Master of Hyperbole. And his commentary on life since adopting a titanium hip has underscored that. So I couldn’t help but make note of some of his more dramatic remarks.

On our first post-op call with him, I’d have bet the kids’ college funds that he’d say, “I feel like a million bucks!” Sure enough, my sis Marie covered the phone receiver with her hand, leaned towards me, and mouthed those very words.

But that was just the beginning. To hear Dad describe it, the doctor tripped into his room the day after the surgery, giddy over how well it went, and impressed by the robust state of Dad’s 80-year-old musculature. The guy also noted he’d “never seen a hip in worse shape” than Dad’s.

Well, that was the God-given hip. Despite having a nasty case of hiccups, life with the new joint seems to be ducky. To the amazement of the hospital staff, Dad’s sworn off all painkillers, claiming he “feels no pain whatsoever.”

And after some incident of bed-bound camaraderie, he proclaimed, “My roommate is like a brother to me.” Apparently—and unsurprisingly—he got all the guy’s contact info before they parted ways. Maybe what they felt was akin to the love reality show contestants seem to blather on about after even the briefest interludes of cohabitation.

To counterbalance all those hospital-haters out there, I give you Fred Bruno. He described his room as “magnificent,” marveled at the vast dinner selections (having kept a menu as proof for any disbelievers), and, for some reason that’s not altogether clear, expressed delight over the TV remote control.

But hands down the winner of his can’t-keep-me-down Perfect Patient attitude is the comment he made to Marie. “This,” he said, “has been the best two days of my life.”

I’m sure he meant to say, second only to the day Kristen was born.

Dad’s now at a local rehab facility for a fews days, until he can shimmy into his Cole Haan loafers and get up and down stairs on his own. Mark, the girls, and I went to see him yesterday, and aside from the fact that it’s packed with old people—who seem light years older than Pops—the place doesn’t seem half bad.

The facility had the good humor to put a trail of red, white, and blue stripes down the hall carpet, mimicking how the town paints the yellow street lines patriotic colors for The Fourth. The rooms are modern and clean, and there’s even a strange little barn housing llamas, donkeys, and ducks. Brilliant fodder for getting grandkids fired up for a visit to the nursing home.

When we got there, Dad was sitting up in bed, looking like his old self, save for the hospital gown. “Did you know that this place has a cocktail hour on Tuesday and Friday nights?” he said with glee. “If your doctor allows it, they’ll make you a drink!”

I don’t know if my dad did some research to find this place, or if it was just dumb luck. Whatever the case, the true test of his recovery will be his ability to balance a Manhattan against his walker, without spilling a drop.

I have every reason to believe he’ll do just fine.

1 Comment »

Separated at Birth?

Posted: June 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Daddio, Doctors, Little Rhody, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Walking | 1 Comment »

I know my dad adores his grandchildren, but this is getting kinda weird.

When Paige was a baby—unlike her peaches and cream complected sister—she was plagued with all manner of lizard-like dermal issues. She had a savage case of eczema—or at least what seemed an inhumane amount to us. Not to mention baby acne that’d make you turn your head and blush. And she had some hardcore cradle cap that defied all homespun, holistic, and fancy-brand cosmetic cures.

For her first several months of life I endured an inner battle, compelled to take copious pictures of my sweet new baby, then I’d focus on her smiley scaliness through the camera lens, and want to just sit down and cry.

At the time I was dragging Paige from doctor to skin specialist to tell-me-how-much-longer psychic, my father was navigating the same circuit for himself, on the East Coast. It seemed that right about when Paige was stricken, Dad also got himself a case of the itchies.

And so, caring phone calls to inquire about Paige’s progress inevitably involved Dad recounting the misery of his own sudden eczema onslaught. “The itching! As a grown man I can barely take it,” he’d lament. “Oh that poor baby. Give her some extra big hugs from Gramp.”

We’d talk about what Dad’s doctors prescribed, comparing it to Paige’s piles of ungents and salves. What soap and laundry detergent he’d changed over to. If the heat really did make it worse or not.

If only Paige was talking, the two of them could’ve formed a real nice support group. Though I don’t know that I’d be too keen on the satin Back Scratcher Bad Asses jackets they might’ve made. (Or maybe they’d just wear t-shirts from The Itchy and Scratchy Show?)I mean, there’s a limit to the extent you want to broadcast some of these ailments, no matter how desperately you desire sympathy.

Yesterday, on a drive somewhere or other, I decided to gear Kate up for the fact that Grandpa was going to be in the hospital for part of our summer pilgrimage to Rhode Island. I explained, in my clearest 3-year-old concepts, that Grandpa’s hip was worn out, and the the doctors would be opening him up, taking it out, and giving him a new one made of metal—what her bike is made out of.

“Do you think,” she asked with knitted brows, “he maybe has a cat in there?”

My father promised to bring up this possibility with his doctors.

This morning, as I was on the phone talking my way into an orthopedic appointment for Paige that’d hopefully precede her prom—explaining how with the not-walking-yet thing she needs her hip x-rayed ASAP—it hit me. I mean, now the two of them with the hip issues? This is getting kind of ridiculous.

When Paige starts having to take Lipitor to keep her cholesterol in check, I might just have to do some finger pointing. Then again, it could be my dad who finds himself fighting off ear infections, swollen aching gums—or worse—a nasty bout of diaper rash.

The thing is, I’m not sure which of them is experiencing sympathetic symptoms on behalf of the other. I mean, at age 80, I’d assume that Dad was the chicken, and wee Paigey’s the egg. But it’s just not that clear who’s starting it; who of the two of them is spearheading these afflictions around which they’ve apparently sworn solidarity.

I’m hopeful that once they sort out these hip problems, the two of them’ll find other things they have in common to bond over. The first of which—if I could put in a request—I’d like to be a long spate of excellent health.

1 Comment »

A Mighty Worrier

Posted: June 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Doctors, Misc Neuroses, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Walking | 7 Comments »

Worrying is like paying interest on money you may never borrow.

I’m pretty sure that quote’s from Stuart Smalley, the daily affirmation spewing self help guru Al Franken used to play on SNL. And it’s brilliant. I mean, I don’t even know who any modern day philosophers are. Which is just as well, really. I’m content having Smalley as my Nietzsche.

Though truth be told, I still am worried.

Worried about little Miss Paigey. Sweet, precious dumpling of all dumplings, who, despite being 16 months old now, has apparently sworn off ever learning to walk. Something I wouldn’t have necessarily been too concerned about, if it weren’t for her doctor not liking it. And determining that we need to have her ASSESSED.

The thing is, I used to spend a fantastic amount of time worrying. My father is a world-class worrier, so I’ve learned from one of the greats. But strangely, as a mother, I’m really not at all neurotic.

It’s kind of like how you can develop allergies at a late age, or have your hair go straight after a pregnancy or something. I mean, I birthed these babies—beings I adore and cherish with a maniacal fervor—who you’d think’d be the perfect subjects for excessive irrational fears and fretfulness. Yet somehow, I’ve always just felt in my no-longer-as-taught-as-it-once-was gut, that they’re alright. That whatever little thing came up, would turn out okay.

But as some weird consolation prize for being so even-keeled, I get this walking thing. It’s like there’s some maternal anxiety load-balancing taking place. Like some Greater Being decided that some woman who’s out there devouring her stomach with stress that her four-year-old might not get into Princeton some day, that she got some sort of temporary respite from it all, and me, who’s been sailing along just fine, thanks, was given a Gross Motor Skills Delayed child to up my blood pressure.

And so, taking the bait, I go to that inevitable Mama place, wondering, “What did I do to make this happen? How’s this clearly my fault?” And, sure, I’ve expended a lot of energy infantalizing Paigey. Wanting her to stay my wee baby forevermore, and not grow up and go off to the mall or the reservoir or whatever teenage haven is hip 15 years from now, and abandon her adoring Mama. Yes I’ve thought those stay-a-sweet-immobile-baby thoughts. But I’ve never bound her legs to prevent her from crawling or anything. I mean, it’s not like I’ve knocked her down when she’s tried to pull herself up on the coffee table.

Because, sadly, she’s never really tried to pull herself up. And she’s not even crawling “right” either. She sort of scoots along on her bottom from a seated position. Uses her legs against the floor in a windshield wiper sweep to pull herself forward. And sure, when she gets up to full throttle, the girl can moooove.

But it’s just off. Way off.

Now, ask anyone whose child is 15 or so, and they’ll hurry to tell you how their kid didn’t walk until they were, like, five. That they never crawled or scooted or anything and then one day just sprang up and started walking. How the only word their kid could say until age 12 was “baa-baa.” And how today they’re enrolled at MIT and are champion breast-strokers. (Swimmers that is…)

And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE hearing about other kids who were worse off than Paigey. I mean, no parent’s rambling tale about their child is more interesting then when it’s being told just to make you feel like your kid’s superior to theirs.

Bring it on, people! The phone lines are open.

Alas, the pit of my stomach has been telling me Paige’ll be okay. We’ve already got her a great—get this—pediatric chiropractor. (I know, I know, I’ve been living in California too long.) And next week she’s getting some thorough long-awaited assessment by some state-sponsored place that’ll eventually hook us up with physical therapy for FREE. Plus, I got a lead on a nice local pediatric orthopedic guy. And when I say “nice” it’s to say he’s married to the friend of a friend, and is known to be, well, friendly. Unclear still whether or not he’s actually good at his job.

So we’re doing all these things. And even though she’s squawking during the chiro sessions, bawling and looking at me beseechingly as if to say, “Wouldn’t rummaging through my play kitchen be a much more fun use of this time?” Even though she’s not liking having her legs prodded and massaged and moved, at least I know that it’s for the best. And that in a matter of minutes she’ll be dry-cheeked and peering through her fingers, flirting with someone in the waiting room as I pay up and schedule another visit next week.

Today though, for some reason, all the things I was told we need to do—stretch her this way, encourage crawling that way, decrease her time in the Ergo carrier (my preferred mode of baby haulin’)—all the directives today seemed daunting. Seemed to reinforce in my mind that there is something wrong. That it won’t get better overnight. And that it’ll take more therapy sessions where Paige cries from discomfort or frustration, and Kate tests the patience of the once-friendly receptionist, and I realize that despite how many snacks I packed, it still wasn’t enough.

Apparently this is some parental rite of passage I must endure, so 15 years from now I can prattle on to someone else—some fretful parent of a late walker, or slow talker, or bad sleeper—letting them know that we went through it too (and far worse than them), and that eventually everything turned out just fine.