And Some Words of Appreciation

“Guys, look, look at that beautiful sunset!” 

I admit I was only trying to distract them. Babyboy sulked in his booster seat, rubbing his eyes and wiping his nose with his dirty little fists, head hanging low. 

I’d rushed from my late afternoon clinic to the train to Nana’s house to retrieve my kids. There’d been torrential downpours, and my car had been surrounded by a three-inch-deep puddle in the train station parking lot, so I squelched unhappily into Nana’s house with cold, sopping flats and pants hem. 

Then I heard about Babyboy’s atrocious behavior. Which was ongoing. When he wouldn’t hand me the sugary juice he was slurping and responded with what sounded like “Sniff my butt!”, he got a good whap in the butt. 

Sniff my butt, indeed. That’s a spanking, nothing else for it. 

So as we drive home, Babyboy and I were miserable. When we saw this sunset, I actually felt cheered up.  (This is actually a photo off the internet that looks like tonight’s sunset. I was driving, couldn’t snap the real photo.)

Babygirl and Babyboy both admired the purple-pink-orange-yellow-fuzzy-cloud sunset with “Wow!” and “Oooh!”

“Pretty cool, huh?” I was just glad Babyboy wasn’t sniveling anymore. 

Suddenly Babygirl jumped forward in her car seat and cried “Wait mom, wait! We have to tell God thanks for making a sunset with such beautiful colors for us!” 

I was kind of floored. Yes, we go to church, but we don’t do a lot of God-talk. But, she had the right idea, and I wanted to be encouraging. “Oh, that’s a wonderful idea honey-”

She was already on it: “Dear God thanks so so much for the sunset with the pinks and purples and orangey-yellow colors, it’s really beautiful. Amen. Okay.”

I tried to catch her sparkling little eyes in the rearview mirror. “That was very nice of you, sweetie, I’m sure God is pleased that someone is appreciating His work!”

If anyone has seen or read The Color Purple by Alice Walker, you’re probably thinking of the same line as I did right then:

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”

And we rode the rest of the short car ride home in appreciative peace. 

“Honey, The Basement Is Flooding!”

Monday’s clinic was kind of crappy. I got home late, after seven p.m., and hungry! But Hubby was already reading stories to our freshly bathed and pajama’d kids, so I delayed dinner and jumped into the bedtime routine. An hour later, at least Babygirl was asleep and I was REALLY hungry. I was plotting how to extricate myself from Babyboy’s nighttime neediness and get myself a snack  when I heard words that no one wants to hear late on a workday evening:

“Honey, the basement is flooding!”

Yup, the water heater burst. Thank goodness one of us knew how to turn off the water (and despite the cartoon here, it wasn’t me).  The old tank must have rusted and then just ruptured; there was only an inch or so of water over half the basement.

Babyboy was quite alarmed by all of this, and refused to settle until he’d seen the damage firsthand. He stood on the cellar stairs hugging his lovey kitty Gus, surveying the rippling puddles. Then he asked:

“Why aren’t you guys calling a plumber?”

And so we did. A quick survey of friends and family yielded our guy, who installed a brand-new water heater before noon today.

We got lucky. If that thing had burst in the morning after we’d all left the house, or overnight while we were sleeping, or this past weekend while Hubby was away, we’d have a much bigger mess on our hands. A quick internet search tells me that leaking/ gushing water heaters are responsible for scads of basement floods, and it can get pretty ugly. As it is, we’ve only had to toss an old rug. (Well, the artificial Christmas tree may have to go as well, but it doesn’t light up anymore anyways.)

An unexpected, unpleasant, and expensive household disaster, but, could have been much worse. For this, and a husband who knows a bit about plumbing, I’m feeling extremely grateful!

Remembering 9/11, and Hiding It From My Kids

It’s Sunday, and the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. For whatever reason, my kids decided to wake up at four a.m. today, and Hubby’s in Arizona.

Groggy, grumpy, I let them watch cartoons, and I opened up my laptop. There were so many 9/11- themed news articles, all written from different angles, and I found myself reading one about Lyle Owerko, the photographer who took this photo for Time.

I was drawn to the story, and I found myself remembering that day.

I was an intern rotating on the general pediatrics ward at a small hospital in Connecticut. We were standing in the room of a young man with his leg in traction. His injury was purely orthopedic and his prognosis was excellent, so the conversation with him and his mother was lighthearted, sports-talk type of stuff. The television was on, and there was a news report about a plane that had hit the World Trade Center. Someone made a comment about it, how weird it was, and we actually stayed for a minute watching the coverage in this kid’s room.

Anyone who was rounding with us that day, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure we were still in there when the second plane hit. I remember hearing the fear and shock in the female anchor’s voice: Oh, my God, Oh, my God, another plan has hit the World Trade Center… and then a little later, when it was apparent that people were jumping: Oh, my God, they’re holding hands, they’re holding hands.

My brother was a financial analyst in Manhattan at that time, and I didn’t know exactly where his office was. As the magnitude of the disaster became clearer, I became more panicked.

Our hospital had been put on alert, as we had a burn unit. The message we were getting was to discharge anyone we could and be prepared to take any injured overflow from the city. Everyone was running around getting their shit done, and all I could do was dash into the conference room to grab my cell phone from my bag and call my brother.

No answer. I tried again and again. I called my mother. She was trying as well. We figured he was at work, so we were calling his cell. Finally, she called his land line, and there he was, in his apartment. He’d pulled an all-nighter preparing some report, and as soon as he had hit “send”, he’d gone to bed, planning on getting to the office after lunch. As it turned out, his office was midtown, and he was never in any danger.

But I learned something important about myself: I was not someone who could put aside personal worries and stressors in order to focus on patient care. I had to really think about that.

Anyways, here I am getting all caught up in memories, as I was earlier this morning, when Babyboy snuck up behind me and saw that Time cover shot.

“What’s that burning building, mommy?” he asked.

Caught totally off-guard, I slammed my laptop shut and did some internal cursing. He’s only six, and autistic, and for both of these reasons, his thinking is very concrete. It’s hard enough to explain difficult subjects in a way he can grasp, never mind worrying about avoiding traumatizing him as well.

And, he is really intrigued by just about any accident, disaster, or weather event that we don’t manage to shield him from. I’m sure alot of kids are this way, but he perseverates until he has some kind of explanation for whatever it is.

And I had no good words for this one.

“Oh, it was a fire in a building, but don’t worry, it’s out now and everything is all right.”

“Can I see it again? I want to see it.”

Oh, goodness. It took advanced distracting skills to redirect his attention, but candy for breakfast did the trick.

No, these kids are far too young to be able to process pretty much any part of 9/11. We will talk about this someday, I hope in a way that allows them to ask questions and process.

Until then, I need to save my news perusal for my commute.

What My Vote Really Means


Today, Thursday, is my weekday off from clinic, and it’s also Massachusetts primary day. Thursday is an atypical voting day; usually Tuesdays are voting days, and as I’m on the train for work at six a.m., it’s difficult for me to get to the polls. So to have all day to vote? Awesome.

After dropping the kids at school and completing my morning shift at the animal shelter, I made my way to the elementary school gym and lined up with my fellow citizens. Today, for the first time, I recognized many of the names on the ballot. I even know some of these candidates. I’m not used to being up on local politics. 

But I thought about it: we moved here in 2009, so we’ve lived in the same place for seven years. That’s longer than either Hubby or I have lived in any one place, heck, any one state, since childhood. We’ve been able to put down some roots, which feels good. 

The guy who got my vote today is a neighbor who had gone out of their way to support one of our pet causes: the local animal shelter. (Pun intended.)

Our whole family has been working with the stray and abandoned animals at our small, ramshackle shelter for about four years. Last spring, Hubby and I organized a sports- themed fundraiser for the shelter’s desperately needed new building. Even though we had no idea what we were doing, and we’d given ourselves only about a months’ planning time, we raised two thousand dollars in two hours. 

Our neighbor had stepped up to help: he not only cheerfully participated in the weeknight cocktail hour/ meet-and-greet/ memorabilia auction, he had multiple family members in tow.

Standing there in the voting booth, I considered, and decided anyone who puts in that much effort for a teensy event for a small local charity on a random Weekday evening deserves my vote. Plus, he’s a nice guy. And, my mother reports that his candidate’s speech on local access TV was the best of the lot.

I definitely feel good about voting, not only as a means of celebrating our amazing right to vote, but also because I felt like in supporting our neighbor, it strengthened our newfound community bonds. 

Hubby and I know that if we had an opportunity to move to a different place, no matter what the material incentive (bigger house, quieter road, et cetera) we’ve already decided that we would never move. 

That’s what my vote today really meant. 

*addendum: the results are in, and our guy won!

What’s more dangerous for a six-year-old to handle: a toy truck, or a steak knife? 

Yesterday morning, Labor Day, the kids awoke early. As they do. Then they started fighting. As they do. 
So what to do? Distract. I was about to make a fruit salad from the assortment of odd produce in the fridge: kiwi, pineapple, strawberries. 

Babyboy loves to cook. If he’s not helping me, he’s inventing some disgusting concoction or another. Like, Orange juice and tomato soup. Which he wants us to taste. Does he taste? No way!

So I asked him if he wanted to help me chop fruit. He wavered. I needed to separate these two. So I made it more appealing to him: 

“Want to use a real, big person knife?”

Usually, they get plastic knives for chopping. Usually, Babyboy begs for a knife like I use. “I’m old enough now, mom, really!”

Today, I offered, not only because I thought he could handle it, but because I knew the kiwis were kind of hard and the pineapple kind of fibrous. I didn’t want him to get frustrated. 

Oh, he was so excited! He jumped up and ran into the kitchen. And check out the photos, he was a champion chopper! (He’s using a Henckels serrated steak knife, a good knife, but much smaller and safer than a sharp chef’s knife. With this one, he’d have to apply the force necessary to cause damage, whereas  a smooth chef’s knife can slice skin very easily.)

But on Sunday, we almost had to take him to the local ER for a fingers mishap involving a toy truck. 

He had somehow pried a plastic wheel off, and pushed it down onto his finger, hard. He must have been trying to pry it off for awhile before he started calling for help. 

When I got to him, his left second finger was swollen and blanched. The tire was a harder plastic, not rubber, with no give, and it was just jammed tight on there. 

I grabbed his arm and pulled him to the sink, poured dish soap over and tried to wiggle the thing off. It didn’t move at all, and it seemed like his finger was getting more swollen every second. 

“Ow ow OW! Mommy it hurts, it hurts, get it off, get it off!” He screamed. 

Oh my God. We need a ring cutter. We’re going to have to go to the ER, I thought. 

Luckily, our next door neighbor was visiting, and even better, remaining calm. “Try cutting it off with kitchen scissors maybe?” She suggested. 

Geez, I didn’t think of that. I plucked the scissors from the knife rack and grabbed Babyboy’s hand. 

“Aaaah no mommy no cutting!!” Babyboy recoiled in horror, probably thinking I was aiming to cut off his finger. Poor kid. 

I got his arm in a lock and started snipping away at the hard plastic tourniquet. It took multiple clips, while Babyboy howled, but it popped off just as Hubby burst into the house. 

We stuck Babyboy’s hand in a bowl of ice and let him watch cartoons. 

The very next day: my six-year-old sous chef. 

I’m Forty-Four, and I am So Psyched For This Barbie.

IMG_7853

My mom bought this for my niece for her third birthday. It was a hit! She and Babygirl immediately and breathlessly tore open the box and got down to playing. But they weren’t the only ones thrilled to see this set. I am absolutely tickled.

Apparently, they now make a Barbie for just about every profession. My mom also looked at Veterinarian Barbie. Geez, I remember when Barbie was basically an unemployed airhead fashion plate, akin to Paris Hilton.

This is a vast improvement, and says alot about our society. Yes, we have a long ways to go. There’s plenty of institutionalized sexism to stamp down, especially in medicine.

But today at least, two little girls happily played with a pediatrician doll like it was the most normal thing in the world. They had no idea what an amazing thing that is, and honestly, that’s the way it should be.

 

That’s My Girl

Sleeping at the fair
Sleeping at the fair

I’m inspired. I just read a sweet post over on the Mothers in Medicine blog  that made me smile. It’s written by a pathologist, titled Stop and Smell The Roses Baby . She describes how she looked forward to her infant’s naptime as the only time she could get a little workout in, or reading, anything, an hour of “personal” time. But one day, he wakes early and cries to be held, and she finds herself feeling annoyed… then, as he falls asleep in her arms, she just stops and realizes what a perfect moment it is.

It reminded me of an outing with Babygirl a few weeks ago. We were visiting friends on an island off of Cape Cod, and they invited us to a fair. This was a small, quaint version of a state agricultural fair, with everything from an oxen pulling competition and a live bluegrass band to local gourmet food booths and cheesy carnival rides. There was a textile tent set up with friendly alpacas and fuzzy sheep, and a yarn spinning activity for kids; a real live blacksmith crafted metal sculptures nearby. Gorgeous heirloom chickens and angora rabbits and sleek horses had won blue or red ribbons. An entire barn was filled with entries for the best: quilts, pies, flower arrangements, all manner of produce, even best sunflower.

But before we even arrived, Babygirl had fallen asleep in my arms, conked out, a victim of late bedtimes and summer sun.

There’s so much to do and see! She’ll love this place! I thought. I tried jostling her, then tickling, even bouncing her around a little, but she was in a deep, deep sleep.

It was way too sunny and hot to stay in the car in the parking area, so I decided to just carry her around.

She’s little for an almost-five-year-old, about thirty-six pounds or so. Still, as I discovered, that’s alot of weight when it’s almost ninety degrees out. I tagged along with our friends for awhile, but soon, they found me a bench where I could park myself with sleeping beauty.

I was also sort of annoyed, at first. Here we were, on this cool island at this once-a-year affair, and she’s got to go and fall asleep. Geez.

But then. Of course, I looked down and saw this little face, completely peaceful, dreaming away…. despite a live auction, a brass band, a loud balloon clown, crowds of families and kids, and merry-go-round music, all around us.

Babygirl is actually a champion napper. Not that she has ever taken regular, predictable naps. It’s that when she does nap, she is absolutely unarousable. Nothing will wake her, until some sort of invisible spell is lifted and then she’ll sit up, all touseled-hair-and-blinking-eyes cuteness, reach up and say in her best baby voice: Mama, come sit with me.

So there we were, sitting on that hard bench, my left arm starting to cramp up, my back in spasm, and she was going into her second hour of slumber…

That’s when I took the photo. There’s my girl, my preschooler, sleeping in my lap, as she very rarely does anymore. She’s growing up. She wants to see the Taylor Swift documentary and she invents silly songs about forest animals that she shouts along to disorganized piano banging and painfully out-of-tune guitar twanging. (And she orders me to take video.) She likes to wear ALL of her jewelry at the same time and ride her pink bike and she’s never, ever, not even once eaten meat. She loves to cuddle the kittens at the shelter, even the ones that are sort of feral and clingy-clawy, and when she gets scratched she says It’s OK, they didn’t mean it. She throws spectacular temper tantrums and will declare that I am The Worst Mama In The World while screaming, stomping and crying, and then she’ll turn around and tearfully announce I need a hug! and collapse against me until I pick her up.

Yup, she’s my girl. Not a baby anymore. Naps in my lap will be few and far between from here on out…  It’s an important lesson, to enjoy these moments.