Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Doctor Doctor give me the news

What we learned from yesterday’s visit to our pediatrician’s office:

Nora has R.S.V. and an ear infection in her left ear.

Gabie has an ear infection in his right ear (they make a nice pair).

Score one for parental intuition. After 11+ years of this gig, we’re getting pretty good at diagnosing ear infections. What was our first clue, you ask? Well, it could have been when Gabie was crying and delirious in the middle of the night and saying his right ear hurt. Or perhaps it was when Nora, the world’s happiest baby became Nora, the baby who wails in pain on and off all day and night and then starts tugging at her left ear as if there were a painful buildup of fluid and infection in it. That may have been it. It’s all pretty subtle stuff, you know, but we’re getting to be quite perceptive.

What we learned from today’s visit to the “Gabie Hospital.”

There’s always a long line of patients in the waiting room of Gabie Hospital “because most of them have to be treated after they broke themselves. Again” (Apparently they do a fair amount of self-breakage, these high-maintenance patients.)

Note the nearly homogeneous racial profiles of the patients in line. Gabie Hospital has a long way to go towards desegregation. Only the dude with the red fur seems to have broken the black/white barrier.

Elmo’s ears checked out, but he will need to have braces on his teeth. The Doc told him to come back when his baby teeth are out and his permanent teeth are in. "Then he will have to have his jaw broken and stapled back together." Run Elmo run.

Penguins get lots of ear infections. According to Doctor Gabriel, this is because “the wax in their ears gets iced and then the ice cuts them and that creates infections.” Why they left this vital information out of the March of the Penguins documentary I can’t imagine.

Dr. Gabriel informed me that while “McKay is the other doctor at the hospital, you can only be a nurse because women can’t be doctors.” Ouch! Where on earth did he get that idea? I hold those pernicious Curious George books entirely responsible for this!

Just in case you were going to pay Gabie Hospital a visit (and planning to paint yourself black and white first for better service), I’m sorry to say that because of mean Nurse Mom, the hospital had to temporarily shut down. When I told the hospital administrator that it was NOT OKAY for him to use all 500 Q-tips in the box and then litter the bedroom operating room floor with them (hello, biohazard?), he was not pleased. “Thanks a lot mom,” Dr. Gabie pouted, “without supplies Gabie Hospital will have to go out of business.”

Tomorrow, look for the grand opening of Gabie’s Orthodontist Office.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Items on today's agenda:

Upgrade to the new Blogger (yes, it was painless thanks for asking). Check.
Cry a tear of farewell to my old mosaic header. Sniff, check.
Concede technical ineptitude and get cozy with a generic Blogger template. Check.
Get carried away with clever puns on the word piece. Check.
Lament the ample piece expressions left unused, including:
piece of the action
falling to pieces
piece of cake
piece goods
and, of course, war and piece.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

excuses, excuses

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry

There’s a great moment in the Song of Roland (quick, run away while you still can -- she’s starting to quote French medieval epic poetry!) where in the midst of a prolonged, losing battle with the Saracens, Roland notices that his comrade Oliver is fighting with the stump of a broken lance. “Why haven’t you drawn your sword?” Roland asks him incredulously. Out of breath and still swinging away, Oliver replies in sentence fragments: “Haven’t had time to pull it out. Been too busy fighting.”

I bring this up not because I have been battling Saracens in my hauberk lately, but because I can sympathize a bit with Oliver’s frenzied reply. Here’s my version:

Haven’t had time to write. Been too busy……

making tuna noodle casserole
visiting 2 different orthodontists
sending McKay off to cub scouts
getting a phone call 5 minutes later that he has fallen en route and gashed his knee
comforting injured McKay
bringing him home and patching up his knee
re-delivering him to cub scouts
scooping crumbs, pieces of lint, and unidentifiable choking-hazard-sized objects from Nora’s mouth
musing on the cruel overlap between the oral fixation phase and the “spend the day crawling around within 4 inches of the floor” phase
debating with a 5 year old (oh, the futility!) on the fact that writing “Sim Panda” on a disc and putting it into the computer’s disc drive will not actually create a new game called Sim Panda for him to play (you have no idea how long this debate has lasted)
reading Charlotte’s Web to Gabie in hopes of distracting him
feeling all soft and mushy about my terrific, radiant, and humble little Gabie
preparing for yesterday’s class lecture
reading Hamlet for the 24th time (still good!)
washing laundry
cutting 3 weeks' worth of coupons
helping McKay with his math, history and cursive practice
smiling when my sweet McKay tells me (as he does every day) "thanks Mom for all the things you do for us"
helping Ethan with a report on Spain
taking pride in the fact that Ethan loves King Juan Carlos as much as I do
reading only my favorite blogs
neglecting to make comments on said blogs
discovering that I did not win Michelle’s writing contest
feeling bad for about 5 minutes (I’ll be honest)
re-reading my entry and noting that I tend to get all carried away and overly-dramatic in my writing
deciding that I like getting carried away and will keep doing it as long as necessary
sorting through our many, many toys -- a toy collection so huge that we could carpet the entire house with them. Oh wait, that’s exactly what happens.
giving 30% of the toys to the thrift store
putting 60% of the toys in a storage room with a lock on the door
organizing 10% of the toys in containers on the shelves in our family room
delivering lecture #26 to my kids (“when you finish playing with something, put it away")
having little faith that somehow this time lecture #26 will sink in
nursing Nora
changing her, holding her, putting her down for naps and waking her up again (grrrr) to run various mandatory errands
making Nora giggle and smile, sometimes just by looking at her – she is such a happy baby!
feeling absolutely overwhelmed with love for this beautiful creature
shopping for a new quilt for our bed (which sadly represents the concession that I will not be finishing -- any time soon -- the quilt I started a year ago)
agonizing over the various quilts available on-line and in every retail store in the valley
choosing a quilt at Bed Bath and Beyond
walking to the checkout stand
pivoting around and walking back to the quilt aisle
choosing a different quilt
buying the quilt and driving away
returning to Bed Bath and Beyond 10 minutes later to un-buy the quilt and exchange it for a different one
berating myself for my notoriously poor decision-making skills but enjoying the new quilt anyway
sitting next to McKay while he practices the piano
sitting next to Ethan while he practices the piano
marveling at how two children – both from the same womb – could have such different personalities
delivering roses to a sick friend who I’m convinced is addicted to pain medication
wondering what to do about it (still wondering…)
thinking that my book group will be meeting on the last Wednesday of the month and I’d better get around to buying/reading the book
finding out that my book group meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month, which is not the same thing
remembering that I only have a few hours today in which to read The Book Thief (550 pages!) so I’d better get busy or I’ll be making all kinds of excuses tonight -- excuses like “Haven’t had time to read. Been too busy typing.”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Old friends

Two Friends by Daniel Ridgeway Knight

This was a weekend for catching up with old friends. On Friday, I had lunch at my friend Sandra’s house. I’ve known her since our oldest kids were in the same 1st grade class together, and 2nd grade...and 3rd. Ironically, we rarely see each anymore even though she seriously lives 2 blocks away from me. But since I discovered she had a blog several weeks ago, we’ve had a chance to chat more and catch up on each other’s lives online. Isn’t life funny?

Sandra has kept a blog for almost 3 years now and hers is more like a journal where she processes the day’s events and shares insightful thoughts about her children (she’s a great, sensitive mother). I had originally intended to do more daily, record-keeping kinds of posts on my blog, but strangely it has taken on a life of its own. Do you ever feel that way? Like your blog is the one driving the bus and you are merely a passenger – standing towards the back, yanking on the cord yelling “Dude, I think that was my stop back there!....Hey you’re not taking us in there are you?...Wait, this wasn’t where I planned to go at all!”

Perhaps I’ll do more “Dear Diary” type writing in the future. But often my life is too dull to inflict on an audience - or too emotionally raw to possibly distill into an honest entry. And then there are those days when I’m so stinking busy that I don’t have time to write at all. Today was one of those days. We cleaned the house and sorted through boxes and ran errands and got home literally 5 minutes before our dinner guests were due to arrive. Luckily our guests were another couple of old friends who would never complain about the Cheerios on the floor or the fact that we hadn’t even ordered the pizza yet when they got here.

We’ve known Dave and Sheri for 17 years. In fact my kids owe Dave their very lives since he’s the one who introduced me to their father (who by the way insisted at the time that his name was Ken Massengill, but that’s another story). Dave and Ken (whose name was thankfully not Massengill or I would have given more thought to keeping my maiden name) were quite a couple of ruffians when we all hung out together in college. (Well about as ruffian-esque as a couple of Mormon boys at a Mormon university could get.) They were certainly a bad influence on me since for the first week of Political Science 170, I sat in the front row, dutifully taking notes, but once I was sucked into their vortex of delinquency I spent the rest of the semester on the back row passing silly notes and caricatures of the professor back and forth. A few months ago I came across the folder from that class. I tossed all the Political Science papers. But the notes -- those I’ll save forever.

Friday, January 19, 2007

How to enter a writing contest

Discover that Michelle at Scribbit is hosting a writing contest about goals. Feel intimidated by the word “contest” and quickly hit the Back Arrow before your brain gets any crazy ideas. Go clean a toilet to distract yourself.

Find yourself back at Scribbit the next day. Covet the prize. Recall why you started a blog to begin with – to hone your writing skills, remember? Now a prime opportunity is staring you in the face. Do not hide from it. Do not Back Arrow away from it. Embrace your inner Steinbeck. You will write. You will hone!

After 30 minutes of staring at a blank screen (which you discover is not actually blank but filled with ghostly patterns…and pixelated cirrus clouds…and dwarfs) you have earned yourself a break. Pat yourself on the back for a good day’s work and vow to return tomorrow fresh and full of more brilliant ideas.

Three days later you still haven’t written a word, but don’t despair. Remind yourself that for some reason, Michelle announced the contest so far in advance that you have many days in which to plan, ponder, pontificate and procrastinate. Make a note to use plenty of alliteration in your entry.

A few days later, realize that before you can write about goals, maybe you should make some. Wonder why this never occurred to you before. Type the following list and feel a sense of accomplishment as your words banish the clouds and send dwarfs cowering into the corners of your screen.

Eat less sugar
Exercise every day
Spend more time reading to the kids
Spend less time criticizing the kids
Chase more cats out of the sandbox
Keep the internet addiction under control
Don’t forget to pray

Muse on the fact that these goals smell vaguely familiar. Could this be because you’ve made the same ones every year since you had kids, a sandbox and an internet connection? If there were a rent-to-own plan for goals, surely you’d have met the purchase price by now.

The next day, amid a morning of blog-surfing and in between batches of oatmeal cookies, take the time to look up “goal” in a dictionary. Words like end, terminal point, and finish line jump out at you. Interesting. Look up “goal” in your etymological dictionary just to be clever. Find this:

goal: ME gol, limit, boundary, occurring once only. AS goelan, to hinder, impede.

Jasper Johns Target
Even more interesting. Who would have thought that “goal” began as a word for impede. But really it all makes sense – a goal is an end point. Doesn’t a target actually stop the arrow from going further? Doesn’t the net on a soccer field end all forward progress? (Speaking of soccer, the line “occurring once only” in the definition makes you chuckle since you’ve witnessed professional soccer fans and commentators go absolutely manic when a goal is scored – this is because it happens so rarely).

Amuse yourself with sports metaphors. Is your life a soccer game? A race to the finish? An archery contest? Not likely. Your life is a boxing match with limitless rounds and hot-pads for gloves. Or maybe one of those motorized tennis servers that spew balls at you – one after another – at high speed. Thuwack…..thuwack…..thuwack, fix dinner….thuwack, change the baby…..thuwack, mop up that orange juice…don’t forget the orthodontist appointment….and here comes a rude remark from a relative (do you volley this one back or lower your racket and let it sail past?)

Resolve to eliminate all sports metaphors from your writing.

Look carefully at your “goals” again and conclude that none of them are goals at all. They are not end points. You will never be able to finish “eat less sugar” or “don’t criticize the kids.” There is no Perfect Body Bullseye or Motherhood Finish Line. It’s all a process. It’s all a frustrating, incomplete, loose ends hanging out all over the place process. So you’re deluding yourself if you think that you can tidy it up with a few smelly resolutions masquerading as goals. You might as well add “achieve perfection” to that list ‘cause it aint gonna happen in this lifetime, sister.

Decide to make one goal. One single, reachable, real goal. It doesn’t have to be a total makeover kind of goal or a clean-up-your-act-you-giant-flake kind of goal but maybe just something worth doing and worth having done. And it definitely needs to be something that leaves no doubt when you’re through.

Make the following goal: finish your entry for Michelle’s writing contest.

Finish it.

Smile as you hear the voices in the stadium cheer wildly – not because you’ve written something fabulous but because you finished it (and because they may or may not ever get another chance to celebrate).


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why we keep him around

I think I’ve been doing more than my fair share of whining lately (and lamenting, critiquing, complaining, sarcasticising, moping, etc.) so it’s time for another cheerful round of Gabie-isms – brought to you by our very own 5 year old walking blog-prompt.

We’ll start with yesterday’s artwork Penguins in the Snow.

Please note the bellies full of fish.

I had a hard time saving this picture because Gabie wanted to cut the penguins out of the paper and feed them all more tuna. I’m not sure exactly how one feeds real tuna to paper penguins, but it sounds messy.

Gabie-ism from yesterday:
“Mom, what are coles?”
”You know, COLES”
“You mean coals? Like the mineral that’s black?”
“No, coles, like the ones that are sometimes made out of ice. Icy-coles.”

Said this morning while emptying out the contents of his “wallet” which holds expired bus-passes and fake credit cards.
“Hey, this one says 2003. I got that one so long ago that I don’t remember it. It has totally fallen out of my rememberness.”

Said while walking into Walgreens drugstore.
“Man, when are they ever going to get around to painting this place? The walls are still white – not green!”

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Like a prayer

I don’t begrudge celebrities like Brooke Shields or Madonna their 10 million dollar homes or their personal trainers. What I covet most about their lives is the fact that they can be mothers without having to deal with what I consider to be the single most frustrating aspect of motherhood: being forced to wake a sleeping baby. I find myself in this agonizing position every day, often more than once a day. And I curse Angelina Jolie every time. I would gladly live her paparazzi-filled, have-to-buy-an-African-country-to-give-birth-in-peace life if only I didn’t have to separate a perfectly serene child D from her crib every time I have to take child A to school or pick up child C from preschool or deliver child B to piano lessons. I have long wished for a live-in nanny, not to help raise my child, but simply to listen next to her door when I have to leave the house for a few minutes. Really I don’t need a nanny at all – just a glorified baby monitor.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Nora were a heavy sleeper. Maybe she could continue her nap in the car or just take it when we got back home. But, in fact, Nora is the world’s lightest sleeper. Our sweet little Horton will wake to the sound of a microscopic Who on a piece of clover a hundred miles away (let alone the thunderous rampages of 3 older brothers down the hall outside her door). And at present, she only falls asleep one way: nursing. Then comes the delicate 12-step process of transferring her from my arms to her crib. Often she makes it to about Step 9 – where her lower half is actually in contact with her mattress while her upper half rests on my arm with me bending over her standing on my toes to keep the crib railing from crushing my ribs – but as I slowly extricate my now-tingling arm from behind her neck, she opens her beautiful blue eyes, appraises the situation (“hmmm….bedroom ceiling, wooden bars, Mom looking desperate – this smells like abandonment”) and lets out a wail that tells me no amount of head rubbing or soothing lullabies are going to get her back to sleep. Maybe in 2 or 3 hours I can try again, starting with Step 1: nursing.

You can see why it pains me terribly to have to wake her up. But I obviously can’t leave her alone in the house and I have to get Ethan to school, and my personal assistants are all busy getting things ready for the Academy Awards, so I stand over her crib, knowing full well that she needs the sleep and that I need her to sleep, but I can only postpone the inevitable for so long. I grit my teeth, curse Angelina, silence the voice of Dr. Weissbluth in my head (motto: NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY!!) and reach in to pick her up.

Maybe I cannot identify with what it’s like for that other Madonna to raise a child, but I can tell what the Madonna in Botticelli's painting is thinking. She’s thinking:

a) “Aw. Look how peaceful and sweet he is when he’s sleeping”

b) “Please stay asleep. Please oh please oh please.”


c) “How on earth am I going to get through Step 10 – freeing the hem of my dress from under the baby’s bottom – without waking him up???”

Monday, January 15, 2007

lazy shade of winter

Brueghel Winter
So much for my follow-up post on entropy. I’ll write it eventually. Just as soon as I get my thoughts organized. (Ah, the irony).

Today I’d rather whine about how cold I am. We’ve had arctic temperatures for several days in a row and it’s beginning to dawn on me that we could have imported Gabie’s penguins after all since they would have been very comfortable living here.

I must warn you (just in case you were thinking of paying a visit to see the penguins when they arrive) I get grouchy when I’m cold. I also get lethargic, depressed, and full of an icy brand of self-pity. All I really want to do is crank up the thermostat and make a blanket tent over the heat vent. But I can’t do that for many reasons, some of which involve the price of natural gas and some of which involve the fact that I still have to be a parent and it’s hard to parent from the heat vent (not that I haven’t tried). So I put on another pair of socks and I try to cope. I also eat more graham crackers because the signal telling my brain that those graham crackers are not, in fact, making me warmer has bogged down somewhere in the frozen tundra between my ears.

I’ve always assumed that I would be a happier person if I lived in a warmer climate. I would also be kinder, more productive, less forgetful and heaven knows thinner because of the graham cracker issue. However, I have never been able to adequately test this theory since the one summer I lived in Arizona I worked at a waterpark where I spent every day in an office air-conditioned to the comfort level of the White Witch. (My co-worker, good friend and perpetual warm-state dweller Tara will vouch for me on this one). So all that summer I wore sweaters to work while the temperature outside simmered in the triple digits and people delirious with heat stroke threw themselves under moving vehicles to end their suffering. I say, bring on the heat! Bring on the delirium! I would prefer it over this turpitude.

OK, so turpitude is not the word I wanted at all. I was after torpitude, which is rather a different concept all together. I am somewhat cheered however by what I found when I did a Google search for turpitude:

Sponsored Links
Bargain Prices. Smart Deals.
Find Turpitude Now!

It’s good to know everything is for sale.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Entropy -- Part One

Last night’s dinner conversation:

McKay: “Have you noticed that everyone in the family is really good at one thing? Ethan’s really good at reading, Nora’s really good at crawling…”

Gabriel: “I’m really good at messing.”

The funny thing about Gabie’s statement is that it’s so TRUE. He is indeed gifted in the messing department. He rarely plays with toys, but manages to find great delight in all things office-supply, kitchen container, or bed and bath related. He can take a room from clean to disaster in 90 seconds. I love him deeply, but some days, I can see the appeal of public school: maybe he can mess up someone else’s space for a while and give me some time to catch up. Gabie’s nickname: Our little law of entropy.

McKay’s statements were also true: Ethan is a good reader and Nora is – as of this week – a good crawler. She started crawling on the very day I was officially pronounced “healed” and got my boot off, thus making me more able to chase after her. It’s like she was waiting for the go-ahead from me before she proceeded with her new development. I think she’s going to be the considerate one of the family. For now she’s enjoying her new freedom and inspecting every door stopper in the place. The big downside is that our darling little human vacuum is finding every speck of lint and crumb along the way. Her nicknames include: Baby Oreck, Nora the Explorer and Nora-zilla.

Tomorrow, I’ll tie in a work of art about entropy – the Spiral Jetty – and share a few pictures from our family pilgrimage to see it in person.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


We went to see Night at the Museum this week with the kids. It was a fun movie -- not a “rolling in the aisles” kind of movie or a “really makes you think” kind of movie, but entertaining and worth the price of the tickets, which I admit was actually $0 since my parents-in-law paid for them. (Thanks guys) There was only one major drawback to the experience that I will get to eventually, but first I have to explain a bit of personal philosophy – something I have dubbed the “Reechard Rule” of movie watching.

It begins with the romantic film Somewhere in Time, which if you missed because you were hiding under a rock during the 80s is about a man named Richard who falls in love with a beautiful actress named Elise McKenna. The only problem is that Elise was born 70 years before Richard and he has to figure out a way to travel back in time to meet her while she’s young and looks like Jane Seymour rather than when she’s old and looks like Dick Cheney. So Richard dresses up in clothes from the early 1900s and learns to hypnotize himself and manages to make the 70 year leap and they fall in love and all is well. That is until the fateful moment (and here’s where my philosophy comes in, thanks for your patience) when the lovers are sharing a blissful picnic on the floor of their hotel room and Richard pulls a 1979 penny from his pocket. He sees the coin and with a look of utter horror realizes that he has broken the spell and thus he is sucked back into his own time, leaving Elise screeching at his vanishing figure with a wail that will forever be remembered and mocked (at least in my circle of friends because we didn’t want to admit that we were sobbing by this point) – “Richard!.... Reeeeeeeechard!!!!”

I think of this scene often because it makes a nice metaphor of the whole movie-watching experience. When I see a movie, I allow myself to be transported – I engage in what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “a willing suspension of disbelief” where I voluntarily turn off my reality sensors so that I can enjoy the show. But sometimes the effort required is just too much and I simply can’t ignore some glaring plot inconsistency or anachronism that jumps out at me like a 1979 penny and I realize that I’m only watching a movie and it’s a stupid movie at that and I’m up to my eyeballs in disbelief. And sometimes the voices in my head yell “Reechard!” at this moment just to bug me, which is why I call this my “Reechard Rule.”

For example, I loved National Treasure and was all caught up in the action and the drama (and willing to ignore the various little technical fallacies along the way) right up until they get a parking spot right outside the museum in Washington D.C. Hello? I’ve been to Washington D.C. several times and the chances of getting a parking spot downtown, let alone snagging that sweet of a spot when you really need it are about zilch. Suddenly the whole film fell apart before my very eyes and I became a cynic who could no longer ignore the fact that Abigail was way too young to have earned a PhD and worked her way into a position of such seniority, and Riley’s goatee kept appearing and disappearing in different shots, and I never really liked Nicolas Cage, and also I shouldn’t have drunk that soda right before the movie because my bladder was uncomfortably full.

Anyway, Night at the Museum was fun and I’m willing to suspend an enormous amount of disbelief when it comes to kids’ movies. But my problem was that Robin Williams is just too big of a star. I love Robin Williams and think he is very funny (and I was a loyal fan even way back in his Mork years, Nanoo Nanoo). But he has long since crossed the threshold where he can pretend to be any character other than himself. I don’t care if he is supposed to be a genie or penguin or stressed-out father figure and he’s acting his little heart out, it will still be him up there on the screen – Robin Williams large as life. [As a side note, I think when actors get to this point, they often star in a film that requires them to completely transform themselves into something radically different, such as a loud, middle-aged woman (as in Mrs. Doubtfire or Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie), but that’s usually their last resort.]

In Night at the Museum, the wax-figure of Teddy Roosevelt (along with everything else in the museum) comes to life at night due to supernatural forces brought to New York by an ancient Egyptian Pharoah’s mummy, and I’m thinking “Sure, I can buy this.” But then Teddy turns around and Hey! it’s Robin Williams™. The first time I saw him, I half expected to hear the theater break out in spontaneous applause like the kind that erupted each time Fonzie made his first appearance in a Happy Days episode. But even without the applause, once Robin showed up, it was all over and soon the pennies were flying at me, one after another. Doink. Doink. Doink. They hit my forehead and left tiny dents of disappointment. They also cracked my resolve to lighten up once in a while and just let myself get carried away by a movie. I can’t help it. Self-hypnosis only works when both participants are willing.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A good patient

Yesterday I visited my doctor and am officially boot-free. Wahoo! My foot is healing nicely and my Olympic dreams are alive once again (What should I compete in? Any suggestions? Perhaps the 1 meter dash-for-the-baby-about-to-fall-off-the-bed. I’m good at that). So anyway, my doctor told me what a good patient I have been and she even gave me a hug. This is in stark contrast to my OB-GYN who barely remembers me from one visit to the next. This may be because his practice is located in the birth capital of the world and he probably delivers 100 babies a week, or it could just be that he doesn’t care. I think it’s a bad sign when, as I’m being wheeled down the hall for my C-section, he says (in all seriousness) “So while we’re in there, I’m going to tie your tubes, right?” I had to hold onto the gurney to keep from falling onto the floor in shock. What I wanted to say was: “Hello?? Did you listen to me at all during any of the three separate conversations we had about this when I said no, no and no way?” What I really said was: “Dude, do not tie my tubes. And while we’re clearing things up, please remember that it’s my right leg you’re amputating, not my left.” Sheesh.

I haven’t had the best luck with OB-GYNs actually. I switched to Dr. "While we're in there" from Dr. C who had the bedside manner of a Ginsu Knife commercial. She was always in a big rush -- despite the fact that I consistently waited an hour to see her which may have led me to believe that she had been spending extra time carefully answering her patients’ concerns, but then I’d have been wrong. The last time I saw her, I had a list of questions but couldn’t get a word in before she was out the door with a swift stride and the sentence fragment “four weeks.” It took me several minutes to figure out that she meant “I’ll see you in four weeks” not “you’re four weeks along” which I knew wasn’t right at all.

Before that was Dr. B who belonged to the local consortium of OB-GYNs who run their practice like a carwash. That is if it’s the kind of carwash where they deliver babies instead of wash cars. They were a business first and a group of doctors second. It was all about getting people in and out. They probably hated the fact that babies take 9 whole months to incubate because it limited their productivity. Also at the Jiffy OB’s, I never knew who was going to be on call. It could be the one nice doctor I liked, or it could be the loud boorish one who told me giving birth is almost exactly like having a bowel-movement, or it could be the nervous teenage doctor with the shaky hands who, if pressed, was likely to break down and scream “But Miss Scah-let, I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ babies!” So when I discovered one day that the reason I always waited forever (along with a mob of other people) at the office was because they triple booked their appointments, I never went back. And sadly, they never missed me.

It all started with my first OB-GYN who delivered Ethan. Dr. A was a fine doctor who even sat and watched a football game with my husband through much of my labor (I’m sure if you asked Ken, he could tell you the teams and the final score). I would have stuck with Dr. A for all of my kids except for the fact that he had the nerve to suffer a mid-life crisis, buy a red Ferrari, have an affair with his nurse, lose his medical license and commit suicide in the desert of Southern Utah. None of this was my fault, by the way. I have always been a good patient. I know this because my foot doctor told me so.

Speaking of doctors, I mentioned yesterday that I’m reading a book about The Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent Van Gogh. One reason why the painting has always been so valuable is that Vincent painted it just a few weeks before he killed himself. Dr. Gachet was Vincent’s last desperate attempt to find sanity. But the irony was that Dr. Gachet could do nothing for Vincent and likely suffered from serious “melancholy” of his own. Vincent wrote in a letter to his brother “I think we must not count on Dr. Gachet at all. First of all he is sicker than I am, I think, or shall we say just as much, so that’s that. Now when one blind man leads another blind man, don’t they both fall into the ditch?” Haven’t we all known cases of doctors who need a dose of their own medicine or psychologists who are blind to their own neurosis? Physicians heal thyselves.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

You are what you read

Well, it’s a darn good thing I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution to write every day. All I can say in my defense is that once the gangrene set in I just didn’t have the energy to type. Just kidding. I really have no excuse, other than the fact that blogging has clearly slipped down a few rungs in my list of priorities. This week it fell somewhere below getting ready for the new semester, cleaning out my closet, building a computer out of paper and tape with Gabriel, explaining to Gabriel why we can’t actually install real internal components into said “Gabie XP” to make it function, and getting enough sleep for a change. Today, blogging falls just above packing up the last of the Christmas decorations, which is the project I am currently avoiding.

Archimboldo The Librarian
The other thing I’ve been doing more of recently is reading. I loaded up on library books right before Christmas and am currently in the middle of about 10 of them. Does everyone do that? Read several books at once? I drive myself crazy because I can’t just start one book and finish it before moving on to the next. No, I have to start one book, read for a while, then pick up another one, peruse a few chapters, take another one in the car, bring a different one with me to the doctor’s office, and so on. It’s not that I get bored with the books. I just can’t wait to start new ones so I end up reading them all at once. I’m sure there’s a psychological explanation behind it. Maybe I have adult-onset ADD. Or maybe I’m just afraid if I actually finish a book before its due-date, I’ll die. Like Mozart not wanting to finish his Requiem Mass because he sensed it was for his own funeral.

Anyway, right now I’m in the middle of the following books:
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – a book about writing by one of my favorite contemporary writers. This is probably my fourth time through it. Maybe I should just break down and buy a copy already.
  • Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay – a strange book about the sources of pigments written by a journalist who travels all over the world to do her research. I’m re-reading this book because it’s my turn to pick the next book for our book group and I remembered really liking this one. Now I’m also remembering that it had some dry sections, and while I found most of it fascinating (especially the part where she tells how the red coloring in some foods and lipstick comes from the blood of squashed Cochineal beetles, yum), the book might not appeal to the rest of the group. Can I just say that I hate picking out the book group book?
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. – I’m reading this with Gabriel. I already read it to the older boys years ago so now it’s Gabie’s turn. I hope to finish it before we go see the new movie – especially because I’m afraid Gabie might be upset about the minor detail of a main protagonist kicking the bucket at the end. I suspect the child who was devastated by the deaths of baby penguins in “March of the Penguins” may need some advanced warning this time.
  • Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter – I confess I’m only sort-of reading this one. I checked it out thinking that this time I might actually understand what he’s talking about. Nope. It still makes my brain hurt.
  • The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes – A classic book about the rise and fall of Modern Art. It’s the kind of book I love to read but since I have to take notes as I go along (I’m always finding interesting details and ideas I want to add to my lectures) I can’t exactly take Mr. Hughes along with me to the doctor’s office. Or read him when I’m nursing the baby. Or when I just need something to make me sleepy at night. Ditto for the stack of other art books (Bellini, Brueghel, Picasso and Dali) in the corner of my room.
  • Dave Barry Turns 50 – Here’s the book I can actually read when I’m feeding the baby or have a few minutes to spare amid chauffer duties. Dave is my idol. I think he’s the funniest writer on the planet and I aspire to be half as witty and irreverent as he is. Of course I wouldn’t mind also being half as rich as Dave, but that’s pretty unlikely.
  • Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Cynthia Saltzman – my newest fascinating find. It’s basically the biography of a painting. Saltzman tells the story of how the portrait by Van Gogh passed through the hands of various collectors and in the process rose in value until it set a record when it was sold in 1990 to a Japanese businessman for 82.5 million dollars (a record that has since been eclipsed several times). I’m currently in the part where the Nazis have confiscated the portrait and labeled it “degenerate art” which means it’s not worth displaying in a German museum but it is worth selling overseas – the proceeds of course going to fund the war. Hitler’s culture board may have been stupid when it came to judging great art, but they were not stupid when it came to making a profit from great art theft.
  • I also have a perpetual cocktail of self-help, parenting, and spiritual books on the nightstand next to my bed – because like the pious monk who flagellates himself to keep his pride in check, my life would be incomplete without the regular reminders of the many things I’m doing wrong, or should be doing better or shouldn’t be doing at all. I ought to just beat myself over the head with the books and save myself the trouble of reading them.
So those are my current reads. I’ll try to resist the temptation to start another new one today, but I’m not making any promises.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The second day of January

It’s time for another thrilling installment of THIS DAY IN HISTORY…istory….istory.

On January 2, 1590, Spain's King Phillip II devised a new form of torture for insurrectionists and heretics. After two weeks of allowing all his courtiers and royal subjects to stay up late, sleep in, and hang out in their pajamas all day doing nothing but reading and playing computer games 16th century pebble-tossing games, Phillip arose early, yanked everyone out of bed before the sunrise, forced them to eat Frosted Flakes, put them in scratchy new pants, and marched them off to be chained to the racks at the local public school. All of this he did while threatening severe penalties (such as loss of pebble-tossing privileges) for any and all whiners because he was in a bad mood, having given up sugar the day before. And thus the Spanish Inquisition was born.

“A Sonnet in which I use Extra Syllables and Completely Cheat on the Rhyme Scheme Because I’m Grouchy” by Julie Barrett Browning

How do I hate thee January? Let me count the ways.
I hate thee to the depth of my frozen toes and finger tips
And the breadth of my Christmas-fudge hips
And height of the stack of bills we have to pay.
I hate thee for thy plethora of manipulative ads
That exploit our new goals to be fit and thin
To have everything organized into its proper, color-coordinated, fabric-lined, organic wicker bin
As if health and order were merely passing fads.
I’m already cold and tired and craving more light
And we still have three interminable months to go -
Eighty-eight more gloomy days and frigid nights
Before the thaw begins to crack the status quo snow. So,
Since that really is simply too long to wait,
Please just wake me up in April. I’m going to hibernate.