Category Archives: Family Adventures

Our Staycation Winds Down

I have lots to write about this past week, but we're heading into
busy breakfast time so it'll have to wait. In the meantime, a few more
photos. Lots more at Flickr.

(If you have a Flickr account, let me know so I can Friend you.)

Day Four: Old Town San Diego. Fun and free—can't beat that!

One of the beautiful rooms in the hacienda that belonged to the commandant of the Spanish fort circa 1825.

Candledipping takes fierce concentration.

Stencil on the wall of the visitor's center.

Stay-cation Day Two

Only a quickie post for now. What a day we had yesterday! Took the
big girls to Julian, our favorite little California mountain town. This
time we tried something new: visited the beautiful Smith Ranch
and took a narrow-gauge train ride into an old gold mine. SO MUCH FUN.
The engineer/tour guide/ranch owner was the nicest guy and had so much
fascinating history to share with us. The tour usually lasts an hour
but we were having so much fun he stretched it almost to two hours for
us! More detailed post to follow. Have put some pix up at Flickr if you want a preview. (Added a few more photos to the Sea World set, too.)

Vacation Day One

Scott is taking his first real vacation since we moved to San Diego.
Yes, I’m excited. My awesome parents have flown in from Denver and are
entertaining my "twins" while Scott and I take the big girls on some
outings of the sort that can be a wee bit difficult to mesh with the
needs of little ones.

So yesterday, after two years of oohing wistfully over the proximity (i.e. 20 minutes from home), we went to Sea World.

Of course, if you follow me on Twitter, you already know this.

I’ve put a few photos up at Flickr.
Mostly, though, I was too busy waving to my girls as their cars paused at
the top of horrifically scary rides and revisiting my adolescent Vicky Austin-wannabe fantasies at the dolphin tanks.

Not to mention sobbing with awe through the Shamu show.

Not sure what’s in store for today. It’s possible I overdid the
walking a teeny tiny bit yesterday. Today might have to be even more of
a sit-and-wave-at-daughters kind of day for me.

Doing Much Better

Thank you all so much for your comments and well-wishes. I am making
a good recovery. The food poisoning or stomach bug or whatever it was
has finally left me alone, and yesterday I was even allowed out of bed
for a while by my very protective husband. 🙂 Today I am feeling more
like my old self, though I find I run out of steam very quickly. I
guess we’ll be laying low here at Casa Bonny Glen for a while.

To address a few questions from the comments (and comments, by the way, are split between the Typepad and WordPress blogs because some readers still seem to be landing on the old site instead of the new one):

1) Yes, I am looking for a new doctor. Possibly a new hospital as
well (though we like how close this one is to home, especially since I
tend to have very fast labors). I’m sure I would fare better in the
Labor & Delivery ward during a real delivery than I did under last
week’s circumstances. The nurses there just weren’t geared to take care
of sick people. (And as my night nurse said to me at discharge: "You
were one sick lady!")

I would probably have been better off in the ER for the hydration
and potassium treatments, but they were just too scared to keep a woman
who was having contractions.

2) No, I am not eating lots of bananas! I’m afraid bananas are the
food I loathe above all others. Can’t abide even the merest hint of
banana flavor in a smoothie or anything. But no fear. Knowing this, and
having suffered from bad leg cramps during my very first
pregnancy—which all the books said meant my potassium was low—I have
ever since made an effort to get LOTS of potassium from other sources.
Peaches, melon, spinach, oranges, orange juice, and lima beans, to name
a few. Dried apricots are especially high in potassium, but I’m
thinking it’s best to go easy on the dried fruit for a bit longer.

Also, I’m taking pre-natal vitamins, of course. I don’t think I
headed into this illness with low potassium; I think its sudden onset
and severity just depleted my reserves. Of everything. I also think,
now that it’s over and I’ve had time to do some reading, that I am
fortunate the whole thing didn’t turn out much, much worse.

Back in her chemo days, Jane used to sometimes get high doses of
potassium. This was always a serious business: she had to be hooked up
to a heart monitor during the hours-long i/v drip, and a doctor was
required to be present in the room the entire time, watching the
monitor. That last part was actually a very good thing for us: usually
it was one of the young interns assigned to babysit the monitor, a
twenty-something first-year doctor fresh out of med school. Scott and I
were twenty-somethings ourselves, so we generally hit it off with these
docs and wound up making friends with many of the people caring for our
little girl. This helped so much as the months of treatment wore on:
when your doctors feel that kind of personal attachment to you and your
child, they really listen to you. They respect your judgment. You get
better medical care that way.

This OB barely knew me—I had only had one appointment with him. My
first choice of OB retired over the summer and sold his practice to
this fellow.

Anyway, back to the heart monitor: I was a bit surprised nothing
like that was mentioned during the four hours I was getting those
potassium boluses. No one so much as brought a stethoscope into the
room. They did use the Doppler thingie to listen to the baby’s
heartbeat once or twice, but not during the potassium treatment. I can
tell, now, how sick I was because I never asked about it. It is NOT
like me to keep a question to myself. Looking back, I’m shocked at that
part. But that’s the trouble with hospital stays, isn’t it? When you
most need to advocate for yourself, you’re least likely to be able to do it.

At any rate, I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad we all had a four-day weekend to recuperate in.

A few sweet moments from that awful day:

On Thursday morning, while I was waiting for my OB to return my
phone calls, Wonderboy climbed up next to me on the bed and said, "You
sad, Mommy?" "Oh, no, sweetie," I told him, "Mommy’s just sick. My
tummy hurts." He laid a gentle hand on my belly, his brow furrowed with

"I go get you a band-aid?"

Melt, melt, melt.

Also, there is something indescribably sweet about using your
husband’s cell phone to call home and seeing, when you dial the number,
that the name that pops up onscreen is: Love.

Have I mentioned I’m glad to be home?

Not How We Planned to Spend the Day

We had a bit of an adventure yesterday. Not the good kind. But
before I go on, I’ll hasten to say that the baby is fine, and I’m okay,
and all will be well.


I seem to have contracted some kind of stomach bug or food
poisoning. No one else in the family is sick (a good thing). I woke up
early yesterday and the vomiting started right away, along with other
kinds of g/i nastiness. When Scott got up and saw what kind of shape I
was in, he called his office to say he’d be taking the day off. Which
turned out to be a very good thing.

Jane had an early-morning orthodontist appointment scheduled. This
was going to be a big day for her: she was supposed to get braces.
Scott decided to take her himself since I clearly wasn’t up to it. He
dropped the other three girls off at a friend’s house, as planned, and
took Wonderboy with him. But: no braces after all: not this day. The
orthodontist had decided, upon reviewing Jane’s X-rays, that a consult
with an oral surgeon is necessary. Why this information couldn’t have
been transmitted over the phone instead of requiring a long car ride
and an hour and a half of my husband’s time is a mystery: but that’s a
subject for another post.

At any rate, home came Scott, Jane, and Wonderboy about an hour
ahead of schedule. This, too, turned out to be a good thing. I had
spent their absence alternately lying on the bathroom floor and
hovering over the toilet. I had put in a call to my OB to make sure
this illness wasn’t putting the baby in any risk and was awaiting the
promised callback.

It took two more phone calls before we finally got the doctor on the
phone. By this point it was about noon. In addition to the g/i misery,
I had begun having contractions. I was also having stomach cramps, but
the contractions (which included the kind of burning lower-back pain I
have only ever experienced during labor) were real and unmistakable,
and they were coming every seven or eight minutes. I am only 22 weeks
pregnant, so needless to say this was a bit alarming.

Also, by the time the doctor finally called, my hands and feet were tingling. Pins and needles. Very strange sensation.

The doctor did not believe they were contractions: stomach cramps,
he insisted. Since I was having both, I knew the difference. He wasn’t
buying it. Said colon cramping might feel similar to uterine
contractions. Advised me to drink lots of fluids (I told him I couldn’t
keep anything down, not even Gatorade) and get some rest, and said it
would take at least twelve hours of throwing up before I got so
dehydrated that it would be problematic. But, he added appeasingly, if
you get scared enough, just head over to the hospital and check in at
Labor and Delivery. Even if all I needed was hydration, I’d have to
check in at L&D instead of the ER because I am past twenty weeks.

We didn’t wait anything like six more hours (I had at that point
been throwing up for six already): between the contractions and the
tingling extremities, Scott wanted me to get some i/v fluids right
away. So we arranged for Rose, Bean, and Rilla to stay at the friend’s
house for a while longer, dropped Jane and Wonderboy off at another friend’s house, and drove to the hospital.

By then things were getting kind of scary. The contractions were fierce and regular,
the stomach cramps were brutal, the tingling had extended to my arms
and legs, and—scariest of all—my fingers were contracted into
claw-hands, and I couldn’t get them to stay open.

Scott told me later that I was somewhat incoherent during the car
ride. All I remember is the pain, and not being able to open my hands.

He pulled up to the entrance of L&D and left me in the car while
he ran in to ask for a wheelchair. My leg muscles were cramping too, by
that point. I threw up into a bowl balanced precariously between my
claw-hands. He came back with no wheelchair (none available) and helped
me hobble into the lobby. Wicked contractions. Don’t much care to
remember them.

The nurses took me into triage and first made sure that I wasn’t in
labor. All good there: no dilation or anything. Baby’s heartbeat
sounded great. They hooked me up to a monitor, and sure enough, I was
having uterine contractions. The nurse even felt one with her hand on
my belly. So: not in labor, but suffering from extreme dehydration or
something else severe enough to cause muscular contractions all over my
body including the place we don’t want contractions to occur for
another 18 weeks. The nurse prepared to hang a bag of i/v fluid.

Just then, another nurse came into the room, or maybe she was a
resident. She had just gotten off the phone with my OB. He said that
since I was definitely not in labor, they needed to send me to the ER
for hydration. He had said, and this new person relayed, that the
claw-hands and everything else were probably caused by erratic
breathing, and that I should remain calm.

I pointed out that any erratic breathing was because of the
pain and the fact that I couldn’t straighten my fingers: not the other
way around. In severe pain, you pant, you breathe funny. I hadn’t
started hyperventilating and then developed muscle
contractions. The contractions came first. I was trying to breathe
slowly, but then another contraction would grip me.

At any rate, the verdict was that I needed to be taken to the ER.
Also, I should be given some Tums. This will come into the story later,
in an unimportant but mildly amusing way.

My nurse wanted to just get the i/v started first but she was told
no, they would do that in the ER. They got me into a wheelchair and an
aide took me on a fifteen-minute journey to another check-in desk.
Scott was right behind her with my bag. Sitting in the chair, my
contractions were even more intense. I had four of them on the way to
the ER, and two more at check-in.

Before we got to the ER, while we were waiting for an elevator which
Scott told me later turned out to be the wrong elevator, and we had to
come back and find another one, I felt myself growing dizzy and
lightheaded, as if I were going to pass out. I knew I need to get my
head down and I would be all right. I leaned forward in the wheelchair,
but the kindly aide thought I was slumping over from the pain, and she
took my shoulders and pulled me back upright. The room swirled. I made
myself as sideways as I could in the chair, and the dizziness subsided
a little. Then another contraction hit, and that was all that existed
in the universe.

"Your doctor says they aren’t contractions; they’re stomach cramps," said the ER supervisor who was checking me in.

"He’s wrong," I gritted out. "I’m having stomach cramps too. I have had—five children—and I know—what a contraction feels like!"

He typed "patients says she is in labor" into his computer. I saw it
on the screen and said, "No, I’m not in labor. I am having
contractions. I want you to make them stop."

He made the change, which was the last thing I paid attention to
before another contraction took over. After a while they got me into a
curtained room, and a bed, and all the ER docs and nurses began to
freak out because they thought I was in labor. "Why did they send her
down here?? Do we have a delivery kit?"

"You don’t need one," I said, or at least I think I did. "I’m not
having the baby now. It’s too early. You have to make the contractions

Scott asked if we could get i/v fluids going immediately. There was
some hesitation: they needed a doctor’s orders for that. I don’t
remember things clearly from this period because by then the
contractions were two or three minutes apart, and they were REAL, and
all of a sudden my hand was on fire like it had been dipped in acid,
and I was yelling "My hand is burning!" and no one seemed at all
concerned about that, they were so busy tracking down the gosh-darn
delivery kit. Finally Scott figured out what was wrong and murmured
that it was okay, they were just taking my blood pressure (for the
third time that day), and I understood through the fog of pain that the
burning was just what happens when your tingling hand gets tinglier
from the squeezing of the blood pressure cuff.

And then there was some blood-drawing for labs and a brief
catheterization for urine, and by brief I mean an eternity of pain, and
the ER doctor checked me again to confirm that I was not in active
labor, cervix high and closed as it should be at 22 weeks, and they got
the i/v running, beginning the hydration at last. I still couldn’t
unclaw my hands.

"I bet you’re a natural childbirth person, aren’t you," said the
very nice tech who was doing a lot of the bustling in the room. I
nodded: contraction: couldn’t speak. "I thought so. Your breathing is
so good."

Which made me realize I was doing my Bradley breathing techniques
and that was probably the opposite of what I should be doing at that
moment, because the Bradley method is all about relaxing into the
contraction and letting the muscles pull your cervix open. So then I
almost wanted to laugh, because panicky pain-breathing was wrong and
calm breathe-through-it breathing was wrong, and holding my breath was
wrong. I couldn’t do the math.

About halfway through the bag of fluids, word came that I was to be
transferred back to Labor & Delivery. The ER was uncomfortable
dealing with a pregnant woman who was having contractions. But they
kept the i/v running, and that was the important thing.

The nice tech wheeled me back to L&D and they got me back into
the same triage bed as before. "You again!" exclaimed the nurse.

Lots of chatter back and forth above my head. Scott was called away
to deal with more paperwork. We learned later that three separate
accounts had been opened for me: first L&D admission; ER admission;
2nd L&D admission. This would cause all sorts of confusion and
delays before long.

I was on my second bag of i/v fluid. My hands were beginning to
uncurl a little. It seemed to me the contractions were coming farther
apart now: a very good thing. The baby’s heartbeat still sounded good.
I was still dry-heaving occasionally but even that was less violent.
Still a lot of pain, but getting better, I hoped.

Scott and I were left alone in the triage room for long stretches of
time. Eventually my OB paid us a visit. Really dreadful stomach cramps,
he commiserated, again pooh-poohing my insistence that there were also
real contractions. The nurses believed me; the entire ER staff was in
terror over them; but the doctor never did buy it. But, he said,
clearly I was dehydrated and in pain too severe to let it go, and he
ordered a medication to ease the effects of the stomach virus or food
poisoning or whatever it was.

So that’s how they discovered that there were three separate
accounts for my name, and since my bloodwork had been initiated by the
ER, the lab results were stuck under a now-closed account. The L&D
nurses had kept pulling up my file on the computer to see if my labs
were back, and being surprised that it was taking so long, when in fact
the labs had been sitting there for hours by this point: in another

When they finally figured it out, they were all somewhat dismayed to
discover that my potassium level was low. Dangerously low, in fact.

Hey, guess what? This morning I looked up symptoms of low potassium.
Muscle contractions, tingling extremeties, weakness. You don’t say!

Anyway. My OB was hastily consulted and equally hastily ordered a
very large dose of high-concentration potassium. This was to run via
i/v over the course of four hours. He also ordered: Gatorade, to be
given immediately. I was throwing up less often, so everyone hoped I’d
be able to keep it down.

It took about two hours for the Gatorade to arrive. It was a small
bottle, the same kind you buy at 7-11. I laughed and wondered why we
hadn’t just had Scott run down to the vending machine hours ago. At
least then I could have picked out a tolerable flavor instead of the
horrible red punch they brought me. Not that anyone expected the
Gatorade to help with the low-potassium problem. It was just to test
whether I could keep anything down yet.

Two hours, but still the Gatorade beat the potassium. These were
very long hours with all the contracting and cramping continuing,
though growing steadily less severe than they had been. I could tell
the hydration was helping a great deal. But my nurse was worried about
the potassium taking so long to show up. She’d been given the
impression that it was urgent they bring my potassium level up

Finally she tracked it down: I think it had been sent to the ER.

The first bolus was hung and began to drip into my i/v. Suddenly a
line of fire shot up my arm from elbow to shoulder. It felt like army
ants were marching up the tunnel of my vein, chewing as they went. I
was gasping and writhing, and the nurse said, "Oh, does it hurt?" and
told me she’d never administered potassium at this concentration
before, had never even heard of it being done, and maybe it was
painful in that concentration. She connected a line of saline to the
tubing, and after a while the army ants ceased their munching, and
merely crept up the tunnel on pointy little feet.

But my contractions had completely stopped by now, and I didn’t care
about much else. Baby was going to stay put. That’s why I’d come.

I said I didn’t care about much else; there was one other thing I
cared about intensely and had been caring about for quite some time. I
was freezing cold, shivering, even sometimes shaking from the cold. In
the ER they had discovered that I had a fever. Back in L&D, my temp
was 101. Not a high fever, but high enough. The nurse would not let me
have a blanket. I begged for one, but she laughed indulgently as if I
were a naughty child and said, "Not until that fever comes down!" I
asked for some Tylenol, but the doctor hadn’t ordered any, so I
couldn’t have any until they tracked him back down. I never did get
anything for the fever, although I asked a couple of nurses. "Is there
any chance the fever could harm the baby?" I asked, and my nurse said,
"Oh, let’s check your temp again and see how you’re doing," and stuck a
thermometer in my mouth, and said merrily, "Look at that! You’re down
to 99.7! If you hit 98.6 I’ll let you have a blanket!" and whisked out
of the room before I could tell her I had just taken a drink of ice
water (this was before the Gatorade arrived) and that’s probably why my
oral temp was so much lower, so quickly. But she was gone, and then I
had to lie there debating whether to make her understand about the
fever so I could have some medicine for it, or whether to suck on some
ice so that she would give me a rassafrassin’ blanket.

The first bag of potassium was hung around 6:30. Shift change was at
seven. When my i/v beeped at 7:30, ready for the next bag of potassium,
the nurse who came in was not assigned to me and therefore didn’t know
I was on blanket restrictions, and when she saw me shivering she said,
"Oh honey! Are you cold? Why didn’t you ask for a blanket?" and bustled
out and came right back in with two blankets—warm ones, fresh from the
blanket-warmer, the kind they give you in Labor and Delivery when you
have actually had a baby instead of just being a pesky, dehydrated,
potassium-depleted, ER-staff-terrifying stomach ailment patient. I
snuggled down under my deliciously warm blankets and finally, finally
began to feel human for the first time all day.

Scott had left around six to collect the children from our friends’
houses, but after he got them ready for bed, he arranged for yet
another friend to come over and stay with them while he came back to
see me. (And yes, we are exceedingly blessed in the friends department.
I don’t know what we’d have done without them yesterday. I’ve also been
given to understand that yet another friend is bringing dinner
for the rest of my family tonight. I am still subsisting on a diet of
Gatorade and chicken-and-stars soup.)

It was still up in the air as to whether I would get to go home last
night or stay until morning. They had me on a 23-hour watch but said if
my potassium levels came up high enough, I might get to go home. After
3 1/2 bags of potassium, a lab tech drew more blood. I think it was
around 10:30, just after the last bag of potassium was finishing up,
that we got the news that I was just barely over the line into the low
end of acceptable, and if I wanted to go home, I could.

I did. I have spent more nights than I care to remember in
hospitals, and one thing I know is that they are not a place for rest.
The i/v beeping, the blood-pressure checks, the banging open of doors,
the loud voices and bright lights in the halls. And after everything
that happened yesterday, I needed rest. I needed my own bed, with
blankets or not, at my discretion.

The nurse went to print up my discharge papers. She returned laughing, waving a tiny plastic-wrapped package of Tums.

"The doctor ordered these for you!"

Um, yes, eleven hours ago.

It was funny at the time, because Tums (or lack thereof) were the least of
my concerns yesterday. Became somewhat less funny today, when I checked
in with the doctor by phone, as ordered. Turned out he’d ordered those
Tums right away because he thought a calcium deficiency was what was
causing my hands to turn into claws.

His diagnosis had been wrong, which, as it turns out, is kind of a
good thing. Because if I’d really needed that calcium to correct what
was going wrong with me, eleven hours would have been an awful long
time to go without treatment in such critical circumstances.

At any rate, I eventually got the fluids and potassium that my body
was evidently in desperate need of. And I came home, and I’m doing much
better, no more contractions, no more claw-hands. Still battling the
original g/i unpleasantness, but have managed to keep some toast and
Gatorade down. I have a killer headache and I feel achy all over as if
I’d been hit by a truck. But I’m happy to be home with my family. I’m
glad the baby is fine. I’m glad I can have whatever I need right away
instead of hours later. I’m glad yesterday is over.

Scott wanted me to write it all down before I forgot it, so I did. And now I’m going to take another nap.


Sometimes I Can Be Hard-of-Learning

Today was the Solemnity of the Assumption, a holy day for us. We
went to the 9 a.m. Mass at the chapel of a local nursing home run by
Carmelite sisters. The kids and I sat in the last row, but the boy grew
too noisy, and I had to take the two little ones out to the lobby. By
"too noisy" I mean he’s in this phase where his favorite favorite thing
is to ruff-ruff like a puppy. There we were in this tiny little chapel
full of nuns and elderly people, and my son was barking. During the
homily. Embarrassing much? You could say that.

So I spent the rest of Mass in the lobby, my cheeks burning, trying
to keep the barking to a whisper. Trouble is, Wonderboy can’t HEAR a
whisper. This has a somewhat limiting effect upon his desire to
vocalize sotto voce. I was kicking myself for not getting the
crew up and out early enough to make the 8 a.m. Mass at our own parish,
which has a soundproofed cry room.

When Mass was over, the priest, an elderly fellow himself, walked
straight through the chapel doors to the lobby where I was standing. He
smiled at us, shook my hand, admired the beautiful children. I
apologized for Wonderboy’s noise.

The priest held a hand to his ear.

"Eh? What’s that?" he shouted, in the unmistakable tones of the hard-of-hearing.

It is impossible for me to convey the deliciousness of that moment.
In an instant, my mortification was gone. Of course I still wished that
Wonderboy had kept quiet (he’s been so good during Sunday Mass the last
couple of months—and we sit right near the front of the church, not in
the cry room, which is a rowdy, unpleasant place on a Sunday), but I
realized once again what experience has taught me so many times. We’re
never as great a nuisance as I think we are in situations like this.
Hardly ever is anyone judging us as sternly as I am, behind my flaming

"What’s that you said?" the priest repeated.

I raised my voice, as if I were talking to my semi-deaf son. "I’M SORRY MY LITTLE BOY WAS SO NOISY DURING MASS!"

The priest gave a hearty laugh. "It’s not like I would notice!"

He laid a hand on Wonderboy’s head, gnarled fingers patting the white-blond hair above the blue hearing aids.

"My brother had fourteen children," he said. "Fourteen nieces and nephews, I had. Now those children could make some noise!"

The congregation began to file out: white-haired ladies with
walkers, old men leaning on canes, beaming Carmelite sisters in their
brown habits—every one of them stopping to smile at the children,
ruffle a head of hair, shake a hand. There was no hint of reproof or
censure in anyone’s manner: only warm smiles, friendly greetings, huge
peals of laughter when Wonderboy, God bless him, ruff-ruffed at them.
These good souls seemed universally delighted to see—and yes, even
hear—youngsters in the aisles of their nursing home which, perhaps,
come to think of it, is sometimes all too quiet.

A Little Less Conversation

At the grocery store, I dial his cell phone. It goes to voice mail.

"Hey. I have two vitally important questions, so call me ay-sap."

We’re unloading the cart onto the conveyor belt when he calls back. "What’s up?"

"OK, first: what was I supposed to buy at the store?"

"Sugar. Tea. Um, bananas?"

"Got them. Good. OK, the other question was way more important. What’s the Elvis song that goes ‘A little more satisfaction, a little more nananana…’?"

I know I’m getting the words wrong, so I have to sing it. The man in line behind me grins, and the checkout lady cuts a glance at the bagger. An Elvis impersonator I am not. But sometimes you have to humble yourself in the quest for knowledge.

Scott is laughing. "A little less conversation, a little more action."

"RIGHT! Yes. That’s it. Thank you."


"It came on while I was shopping and I needed to remember the words." We’d been in the dairy aisle, the boy, the baby, and I, and I couldn’t help it, started dancing, which the boy can’t stand. Mom, tease top! Please stop! He hates when I sing, too, which is a huge joke on me. I used to think I would sing to my babies and they would gaze lovingly into my eyes, smitten, enchanted. But none of the first three seemed particularly interested in my tender melodies, or else they cried. I’m not that bad, I swear, except for my Elvis. Then along came my little boy, the fragile infant I sang to for hours in the NICU because what else could we do? In his early months at home, I thrilled at the way he stared raptly into my eyes as I sang, his bitty face full of all the wonder I’d imagined my babies would feel at the sound of mother’s crooning.

Then we found out he was hard of hearing. My softly crooned melodies? He couldn’t hear them.

The wonder I saw in his eyes was probably "I wonder why she keeps moving her mouth like that?"

Ever since he got the hearing aids, he begs me to stop singing before I’ve hit the third note.

I still sing, I can’t help it, I sing over dishes and vacuuming and in the shower and in the car. And sometimes I have to dance a little in the dairy aisle because that song, it gets inside the marrow of you and makes your heart pump faster.

When I got home, Scott had a link waiting for me: that’s what I’m talking about. You can bet my son didn’t beg the King to tease top.

84 Degrees in February

Glorious weather today. An outside, low-tide kind of day.

In the morning Beanie and I finally returned to Half Magic; I think
it’s been almost two weeks. She claims it is her favorite thing in the
entire world except for snuggling in bed. High praise! We’re at the
part where Jane has wished she belonged to another family, and she’s
the spoiled, prissy, niminy-piminy "Little Comfort" that makes the
other children gag and has Bean and me in stitches.

Then Beanie wanted to start a crocheting project (she is just
learning), a bookmark, so she did the "chain ten" part and I showed her
how to single crochet. We worked on one row together. Then she was
ready for a snack, she said, and that led to going outside, and once
outside the gorgeousness of the day got into me and I decided upon an
impromptu outing. We grabbed water bottles and the camera and drove to
a hiking trail that leads up Cowles Mountain.

(Poor Rilla was so upset as we set off: I’d said "Do you want to go
for a walk?" and she sprinted for her shoes, and then suddenly she was
being hustled into the car and WHAT IS THIS CAR NONSENSE? YOU PROMISED
ME A WALK! Oh, the wrath and woe. Until she found a water bottle from
yesterday with a little left in it and got busy pouring it down her

We’ve often driven past this mountain but never hiked it. And I knew
we weren’t up for the full mile-and-a-quarter trek to the top today,
not me alone with the five, but we thought we see how far we could get.
At first I thought that wasn’t going to be much farther than the
parking lot. Wonderboy has a thing about wanting everything to be
always the same, always just so. Usually when I wear Rilla in the
sling, he is riding in the stroller. But this time of course we
couldn’t use the stroller; I needed him to walk. But Rilla was in the
sling. He cried. He resisted. He became increasingly agitated (aka
LOUD). I quailed from the possibility (inevitability, it seemed) of
shattering the peace of the morning air for all the other hikers: the
parking lot was full; we could see a number of people ascending and
descending on the trail. They would hate us, I feared. I couldn’t do
it, couldn’t in good conscience ruin their pleasant hike, scare off the
birds, most likely cause rockslides from the vibrations of Wonderboy’s
wails. We would have to bail. And just as I was heaving the sigh that
would precede my resigned announcement to some disappointed girls, the
boy accepted this unseemly breach of routine and consented to trot
alongside me, holding my hand.

So we hiked.

The girls ran ahead up the path, and I tried to take pictures but
I’m sure they are all blurry because I only had one hand free and never
stood still. Wildflowers everywhere: orange poppies, some kind of
purple flower on tallish stalks (I’ll post a blurry photo later and
y’all can ID it), black-eyed Susans galore. Oh, it was splendid. Clear
air, soaring blue sky, Mount Helix green in the distance and Mount San
Miguel a charcoal presence behind it, spiked with radio towers.

Far above us on the trail, but only perhaps halfway up the mountain,
were some giant boulders, a gnarled outcropping of sandy yellow stone.
I thought maybe we’d go up half as far as those rocks, but the girls
kept wanting to go a bit farther, a bit farther, and suddenly we were
there. The trail was muddy and rocky and pocked with puddles—all this
rain we’ve had of late—but with a view like that, oh, who cares?

Rose wanted to go to the top. By then I was wearing Rilla in front
and piggybacking Wonderboy, so no, no summit-reaching today. Our
descent was challenging. Near the bottom Rilla began to voice some
complaints about sharing her pack-horse with her brother, and things
might have come to disaster but for the kind intervention of a young
mom on her way down the hill. She sweet-talked Wonderboy into letting
her tote him the last few curves in the trail.

We made it.

Home, snacks, water; no one really wanted lunch. Rose and Bean
played a computer game ("we’re learning math, Mom"), Jane re-read the
Emily Starr books, Rilla nursed for like ever, Wonderboy watched The

Rose asked me to help her start a knitting project which is supposed
to be a Mother’s Day present for me. She worried a bit about having to
spoil the surprise by asking for my help, but it starts with ribbing
and she doesn’t know purl yet. I told her getting to make it with her
is a present in itself. She got chatty while I cast on.

The baby went down for a nap. Rose and I turned over the compost
pile. Beanie scootered in the backyard, Wonderboy rode his fire truck.
Jane was still inside reading, or maybe by then she was working on the
funky math project she got out of Mathematics: A Human Endeavor: she
made this set of numbered cards with special hole punches at each end,
and there’s a way of sticking unbent paper clips through the holes that
separates out the numbers in certain ways, and it represents an
algorithm and also the Fibonacci sequence and possibly the cure for
cancer. Whatever it was, it was cool. She also copied out this drawing
puzzle thing where I had to start drawing a line inside a rectangle and
whenever I came to a wall, make a right angle and keep drawing. It made
a very cool diamond pattern and I loved it, loved that she is so on
fire about this sort of thing and willing to patiently teach me about
it. I love being homeschooled.

I Had Seventeen Things to Post About

Approximately. But I forget what they were. I am tired. We have all been sick, and some of us are still being sick, and though I am sick no longer, the annoying cough lingers, the unpleasant souvenir of a particularly ruthless cold. My Body Went to Virus Land and All I Got Was This Lousy Cough.

Poor Jane was hit the hardest: she gave us quite a scare the other day. Valentine’s Day, I think it was? Or the day before; it’s all a blur. The combo of high fever and not having eaten breakfast yet caused her to pass out on the bathroom floor. I heard something fall and called to her, and she didn’t respond, and then I found her there all limp limbs and tangled hair. When I knelt beside her, she roused and said, "What? I thought I was in my bed," which was funny a long time later. I got her to her feet and then she began to moan and her body began to sink, heavy in my arms, and I lowered her back to the floor and her eyes were wide and staring and there was nobody there.

Not my favorite moment of motherhood.

Beanie was standing behind me shrieking What’s wrong with her??? as shrill as a teakettle at full steam, and I sent her for the phone while I shook Jane and shouted at her, and after what seemed like forever but wasn’t really, Jane blinked and came back and wanted to know why she was on the bathroom floor and what was wrong with Bean. I dialed the doctor whose nurse made the whole thing even scarier by saying in a voice taut with alarm: "Get her to the ER immediately," adding that if I couldn’t get Jane to the car without her passing out again, I should call an ambulance. But then she said that it was probably just the fever and empty stomach. Which is what five hours of tests and waiting, mostly waiting, at the ER confirmed.

So that’s good.

The next day, Jane was still feeling lethargic. Her little sister decided to help perk her up with cup of mint tea. She left the mug steeping too close to the edge of the counter, and Rilla pulled it down upon herself.

That was a bad moment.

She was scalded on her neck, ear, and shoulder, but I got cold wet cloths on it immediately and the burns were not severe. Thank God. It was awful for Rilla and awful for me, but perhaps worst of all for the tenderhearted sister who had unknowingly left the mug in baby’s reach.

All in all, a rough week for my poor girls. Every one of them was laid flat by the fever at some point and suffered sleepless nights due to their own coughing or their roommates’.

Ah, but Saturday morning brought an upswing in our spirits with the happy arrival of my parents and my eleven-year-old niece. Nothing in the world beats grandparent therapy. We stuck pretty close to home on Saturday, battling the last day of Beanie’s fever, but by Sunday the older girls were well enough to go to church and then Scott and I snuck away for lunch together. In the late afternoon my folks took all the kids except the baby—who is still, today, feverish and crabby, and who gave us quite a wretched night last night, what with the crying and the fevering and the being original and adding throwing up to the mix, which none of the other kids had thought of doing—for a walk at our favorite nature center. And today? Oh my children are so lucky. As I type, they are on a boat on the Pacific, looking for whales. Whales! And dolphins! Yes, I am jealous. But of course my two littlest people are not really candidates for three-hour boat tours even in prime health, and most definitely not today.

I can’t wait for the girls to come home and tell me all about it. Perhaps the mental image of whales fluking, or whatever it is that whales do, will replace the pictures I can live happily without, thank you very much: Jane’s blank staring eyes; shrieking Rilla drenched in hot tea. My friend Sarah used to work as a pediatric nurse, and she told me that to this day she cannot walk out into the first crisp day of autumn without thinking about how that weather always meant a rush of toddler patients with burns from cups of coffee, tea, hot cocoa left carelessly in reach.

That night I served fish sticks for dinner (Friday in Lent, doncha know), and as I forked them onto plates I remarked casually that they were too hot to eat yet, they’ll burn your mouths…and I heard a gasp from Rilla’s direction and saw her sitting in her chair with both hands clasped to her mouth, her eyes huge with horror. I guess she understands burn now.

Whales! Dolphins! Salt spray, wind in hair!

Yes, that’s better.

Lazy Saturday

I’m sitting in our patio room, a pleasant many-windowed room off the kitchen. From this cozy pink chair—a hand-me-down from our friend Marianne in Virginia, but dubbed "Mr. Dave’s Chair" by Beanie because it was Mr. Dave who carted it from Marianne’s house to ours in his pickup truck three or four years ago—I have a view of the kitchen table, where Rose sits finishing her breakfast, and beyond her to the Christmas tree in the front corner of our living room. The star I put atop the tree is too heavy and has flipped down backward. The tree lights are still on even though it’s past ten in the morning. We’re all still in our pajamas.

I love Saturdays.

I overhauled this whole room yesterday, and it feels great. The kids got a bunch of board games for Christmas, and making a space for them had a sort of Flylady-shine-your-sink effect. You know how once the sink is shiny, you want the counter next to it to sparkle too, and suddenly you find you have cleaned the whole kitchen? Same thing here. We have a little round table in the patio room that hasn’t been used for much lately besides collecting clutter. There are some white shelves behind it, and I wanted to clear them of books and abandoned art projects to make room for games right next to the table. This room is cold in winter, especially at night, and we hadn’t been using it much. But it’s such a nice sunny room, and it’s where most of the little kids’ toys are. Scott’s sister gave us her kids’ old Brio train table when we moved to Virginia (we are big on the hand-me-downs), and the battery-operated train set my dad brought a few visits back is a great favorite with Rilla and Wonderboy. Rilla is sitting on the train table right now, looking at an Each Peach Pear Plum board book and singing "Bee-bee, bee-bee," over and over.

Scott’s at the desktop computer on the other side of the train table, with Wonderboy at his knee, as usual. This is what Saturday morning usually looks like around here, except in the past, Wonderboy had more teeth. Thursday morning’s dentist appointment was quite short: long enough for the dentist to look in his mouth and say, yup, those teeth need to come out. I can do it this afternoon. We took him back later that day—Scott met us so he could go to the treatment room with the boy while I waited up front with the girls—and the dentist extracted both teeth. The boy was amazing. They didn’t have to put him out, just gave him Novacaine. He came trotting out to the waiting room afterward, actually laughing. Even when the Novacaine wore off, he didn’t seem bothered by the pain. The dentist had to put one stitch in. She said the two teeth that got shoved into the gum when he fell were waaaay up there, interlocking in a way that made them hard to remove. Scott turns pale if you ask him about the procedure. I wouldn’t ask, if I were you.

The dentist gave me the teeth in a tiny blue treasure chest, but I haven’t had the heart to look at them yet. His four-tooth-wide gap, flanked by fangs, is totally adorable, though. And we’re all glad that chapter is (dare we hope?) finished.

Now Jane is reading Rilla’s book to her, waiting for me to brush her hair because that’s been tricky to do herself since she got the cast on.

"I spy…everyone!"

"No, bee-bee."

Anyway, yesterday I cleaned out all the spiders and dusted everything and carried the clutter to the laundry room. I don’t so much declutter as move clutter. It’s a failing. But at least I’m pretty good at keeping it out of the main living spaces. This patio room looks so much better today. The round table is cleared and ready for games. There’s an amaryllis bulb in a blue pot spiking up its leaves in the middle of the table. Maps on the walls, and some art prints, and bird posters from Project Feederwatch. A Leslie Austin house garland wishing us a Happy Christmas and a Bright New Year from the top of a bookcase. On the next shelf down is a berry-studded basket containing my unaddressed Christmas cards. I decided that at least the project could look pretty while it’s being neglected.

Now all the kids are in here too, and I’ve brushed two heads of hair and listened to Beanie’s narrative of a terrifying hallway encounter with a daddy-long-legs. We are always on the edge of danger around here. Scott is playing Avril Lavigne on his computer to tease me. I was walking around earlier this morning singing "Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?"—I have no idea why. I was mixing up a suet ball to hang in our backyard, but it wasn’t complicated at all. It’s generally too warm here to leave suet out long, but all we’ve been getting at our feeders are purple finches and house sparrows, and I miss the nuthatches and downy woodpeckers who used to visit us daily in Virginia.

I’m the only one still in my pajamas. While I’ve been sitting here in my comfy chair, they all got dressed. But I haven’t been writing the whole time. I nursed Rilla and put in Wonderboy’s hearing aids and (speaking of extractions) extracted a half-inch-long sticker from the tongue of Jane’s sneaker. Rose brought Scott ‘one last Christmas present’—a framed photo of Rilla, which made us all howl, because it’s no secret that daddy is mushy over his baby daughter. "For your office," says Rose. "So you won’t miss her so much while you’re at work."

A year and a half later, we’re all still adjusting to having Scott work away from home.

The kitched clock just chirped eleven: our beloved old bird clock that Veronica Bellucci gave to Jane on her fifth birthday. They are Eastern birds and many of them are absent friends now. The 9:00 cardinal is Rose’s bird (she claimed it at age three, so don’t even think of saying it’s your favorite—not if you’re her sister, at least). I miss the chickadees most. There are probably lots in the mountains east of here, but I haven’t seen any in this part of San Diego county. We have a phoebe, though, and I adore her. She has the coloring of a slate junco, charcoal back and creamy ivory breast, with a tufted head like a cardinal or titmouse. She perches on our back fence every day and radiates silent disapproval at the purple finches squabbling like ruffians at the feeder.

We had hummingbirds last winter, nicknamed "Panty" and "Sock-sock" by the children (I guess I didn’t have to add "by the children"—you know I am never going to name a bird "Panty"). I haven’t seen them in a long time, though. I hung another basket of red flowers outside the kitchen window—I can see it from this chair—because the one I hung last year, the one I let die over the summer, tsk tsk, brought the hummingbirds a-visiting several times a day.

The house has become suddenly quiet. Scott took all five kids to the library. I think this is only the fourth or fifth time I’ve ever been completely alone in this house. Only Avril and I are left, and since she’s just playing on a YouTube clip, I think she’s about to hush too. I have to think what to do with this unexpected space of time. Answer mail? It is still piled up, horribly so, in my in-box. Finally get to the Christmas cards? Work on the baby sweater I’ve been crocheting at the stunning rate of approximately one row per month for the past year? Write thank-you notes? Finish my planner reviews? No, not a computer thing. I think I’ll continue in yesterday’s vein. It felt so good to spruce this room up. And look how everyone flocked here this morning, like birds to a freshly filled feeder. I want to tackle our bedroom next. It’s a closet, both in size and in terms of clutter storage. If I showed you what it looks like right now your eyes would burn. I’m craving a peaceful sanctuary—but of course the post-Christmas budget requires this little project be done in "use what’s in your hand" fashion.

I’m off. Time to go get dressed and not be lazy.