Friday, July 28, 2006

Can't Help Lovin' Those Men of Mine

With apologies to the great Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, I do love all my men today. Yesterday was filled with more bickering, but it magically dissolved after a phone conversation with my mother. She informed me that my father has to have vascular surgery today.

As I was discussing the details of my driving over to be with her, all the boys cleared the dinner table. I stacked the dishes in the sink before the phone rang, and while I was on the phone Wizard washed all the dishes and silverware and loaded the dishwasher. After I was off the phone, he helped me put the food away. He also vacuumed the kitchen floor, without being asked!

Wild Thing had a good night last night -- the second in a row. He didn't come downstairs until about 7:15 this morning. I followed Wine Guy's "dosage instructions" and got the pain medicine down WT without a fuss. When his TV time was over, he willingly brought in the newspapers.

Moose came down around 8:15 with a big smile on his face. He hadn't brushed his teeth and happily ran upstairs to do so. He asked Wizard nicely to pour him some cereal, which Wizard gladly did. Wizard then made himself and me some raisin toast and a glass of milk. He even cleaned up most of his mess. At the moment, WT and Moose are playing happily together.

Yea and verily the best man of the day is WineGuy. In between hospital procedures this morning, he called to say that he arranged to finish seeing patients at 3:00 and that I could bring the boys down to his office at any time. I can then leave for my parents' place, which is about 2 hours from here. Since Dad's surgery is scheduled for late afternoon, I'll be able to sit with my mom for the evening. WineGuy is often thoughtful like this, and I do love him for that.

A little alpha-male praise for a change!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

All Pain, Little Gain

We are one week post-surgery with Wild Thing, and his recovery is much slower than his dad or I expected. WT is waking nearly every night howling in pain. He comes thumping downstairs, shuffles over to our door and knocks until one of us wakes up. I must say that WineGuy has heroically gotten up almost every night with WT. But, last night it was my turn, for the first time in nearly a week.

3:15 a.m. I am just waking up to go to the bathroom -- note to self, tell Cheap Chinese to hold the MSG -- when WT comes whimpering to the door. I run to the bathroom and go right into the kitchen to prepare the pain medicine. I put on one small light to keep things quiet. I sat with WT at the kitchen table, and he would not, Would Not, WOULD NOT take the medicine. I offered him ginger ale, popsicle, ice cream, juice. Nothing worked until I promised to turn on the TV. We must have been up for nearly an hour watching the end of "The Muppet Movie". I crawled back into bed at 0-Dark-Hundred and fell asleep. I was a grouchy wreck all day. WT was too, although he must have been feeling better. He spent the day pushing Moose around and pestering Wizard endlessly.

I only realized the "error of my ways" when Wine Guy finally told me his midnight routine: put one small light on, pour the meds, serve juice with straw, turn on DVD, seat the child, and then give the meds. Ohhhhhhhhhhh, now he tells me. Really made my day, after listening to the wild boys bicker and pick at each other all day, and getting this kiss-off from Wild Thing at bedtime: "I am not waking you up tonight. You were grumpy and mean all day to me." Nyah ... bite me, buddy.

Oh, and all those women who claim to love staying home full-time with their children? They're full of crap. It is most certainly not wonderful being around these kids 24/7. I am counting the days until my babysitters return.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Ta-Ta Tonsils

Wild Thing had his tonsils and adenoids out this week. He was and is such a good patient. I am so proud of him. We went in to the day surgery center at 8:00 on Wednesday morning. We filled out a bunch of paperwork, and WT answered all the doctors' and nurses' questions. They tried to con him into accepting the IV without being sedated first, but he would have none of that. The staff let me gown up and follow WT into the operating room. I stayed with him, as he held the mask over his nose, until he fell asleep. There is something primordially frightening about watching your child's eyes roll back into his head.

I went back out into the waiting room and had a cup of coffee. Dr. B returned about 30 minutes later to tell me he was done. He had planned to remove both the tonsils and the adenoids, and he did. WT had one tonsil that was visibly swollen for several months; it did not respond to antibiotics or allergy medicines. Dr. B reported that the other tonsil was equally swollen but had grown inside, between the throat and the neck. Apparently, WT's adenoids were swollen and infected, too. We had no way of knowing what was going on with those, but WT had been complaining of congestion and a phlegmy throat for months. We sure hope the surgery helps clear those problems.

WT came out of the anesthesia gradually. It was heartbreaking watching him slumber in pain. The contorted face, the grimaces, him clutching his stuffed puppy the whole time. I had a strong sense of deja vu: it was 7 years almost to the day that we brought this child home from the hospital. WT was born prematurely and spent 65 days in the NICU with a dizzying array of medical problems. I remember spending day after day at this tiny baby's bedside, singing to him, holding him, reading to him, praying to every ethereal being that this child would live and be well. There I sat, at his bedside once again, praying that he would be well after feeling so poorly for months. A few tears fell on his blanket, but thankfully, he never knew.

Once he was a little more conscious, WT started asking to go home ... repeatedly. I was patient and kept telling him, "A little while longer." He asked to sit up, then he started to retch. The nurse managed to move the puppy out of the way the first time, but our luck didn't hold. No sooner did I return the puppy to WT's hands than he vomited the bloody contents of his little stomach into the emesis basin, nailing me, the puppy, the bedding and the wall in the process. The nurse and I cleaned him and his things up. He vomited again but was feeling better. It was nearly time to go home. The nurse tried calling his prescriptions into the pharmacy, but, of course, it's phone was busy. WineGuy, who had taken the morning off, picked up the slips and filled the scrips at the pharmacy before we got home. We finally left the surgery center and arrived home about 3.5 hours after we started.

Wild Thing has been resting comfortably during the daytime. He and his brothers have been watching the dozens of DVDs we checked out of the library on Tuesday. Nighttime has been a nightmare, though. The first night, WT woke up at 1:00 a.m. howling hysterically in pain. He wouldn't drink or take the pain medicine. He finally calmed down enough to get the pain meds down. It was watching "The Jetsons" that settled him. Last night, he woke up at 4:00 a.m., in pain but a little less hysterical. WT was good about taking his medicine right away so he could watch an old "Jonny Quest" cartoon for a while. WT has been such a good boy through all this, thanking his brothers and us for helping him. I am so proud of my Wild Thing.

Can't say as much for Wizard and Moose, who have been bickering constantly. Wizard will help only when he stands to benefit. Moose won't help at all unless bribed. They are exhausting me, esp. Wizard who clearly remembers having his tonsils out 4 years ago. I wish he were more empathetic and less bossy. Moose will learn, probably the hard way.

Wine Guy is on-call this weekend, so it's going to be endless. We may let them zone out in front of the TV just to get some peace and quiet.

G-d bless my Wild Thing. He has changed my world immensely.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Philadelphia is Phun

If they call it the City of Brotherly Love, why didn't any of that rub off on the brothers who live in my house? We have just returned from our week in Philadelphia. As is our usual, we packed hours of adventures into each day.

We arrived last Monday, and my SIL (who lives in Cherry Hill, NJ and happened to be dropping her daughter off at the same time) picked us up. We drove into the city and checked into the Sofitel Philadelphia, which was trés français but in a great location. My brother drove in to meet us for dinner. This was the first time I’d seen him since his heart attack last year. He’s a little grayer and a lot thinner, but he’s doing well.

The next day we got up early to make it down to the Independence National Park Visitors Center by 8:30 a.m. We had 9:00 reservations to tour Independence Hall. We were in the first tour of the day. We learned all about the Continental Congresses and the state and local governments that met in those cluster of buildings. It was a living, fascinating American history lesson. From there we went on to the new Liberty Bell pavilion, a fancy new structure with dozens of displays leading up to the bell itself. Wild Thing and Moose immediately ran up to see the bell, while Wizard, WineGuy, and I read all the other stuff. The new pavilion is impressive outside and in. It situates the bell with a Kodak view of Independence Hall behind it; a huge improvement over the old, discolored plexiglas box they used to have. We went back to the Visitors Center to watch a couple of videos about the signing of the Declaration of Independence and life during the Revolutionary War. Afterwards, we had lunch at a deli in the Old City. After lunch we went back to the Visitors Center to pick up Junior Park Ranger packets for each of the boys. They had to find three of five relics listed and complete a few activities. Our Junior Ranger excursion took us down to Franklin Court, a collection of homes and a museum commemorating the life of that old kite-flyer, Benjamin Franklin. The boys really enjoyed finding their artifacts, getting their packets stamped and learning about Ben. We bought a couple of post cards and sent them from the oldest post office in the USA. We saw a live demonstration of an “armonica,” a musical glass instrument invented by Franklin. Our first day was far from over. We wandered over to the National Museum of American Jewish History at one of the oldest synagogues in the country. We listened to a short lecture on the history of the congregation, but we didn’t see much museum b/c it’s undergoing an expansion. From there we trudged over to Betsy Ross’s house. It’s a tiny dollhouse of a place, almost like a rabbit warren. We then relaxed in the garden while the boys enjoyed storytelling presented by the “Once Upon A Nation” project. We finished the day, as we would nearly every other day, in Chinatown at some dive with fabulous food. Dessert each night was fresh fruit smoothies with black tapioca pearls. Let me tell you, my boys love bubble tea! Somehow we all managed to get some sleep packed into the same room.

Day Two brought us back downtown for a tour of the U.S. Mint. That was a great disappointment for two reasons: first, we had to go in 2 groups b/c you can’t take cameras or cell phones in (so someone had to watch my purse). Second, the manufacturing process is less than 1/3 of the tour; the rest is descriptions of national medals, special coins and such. We stopped off at the old Christ Church cemetery afterwards to throw pennies on Ben Franklin’s grave for good luck. You know, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Our primary destination for the day was the new National Constitution Center, which is getting rave reviews. It was founded and is run by a private foundation, and (to Neil and me) it was a snore. Too many computer displays, kitschy little shows, video feeds, multimedia presentations about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Nowhere was there a copy of the document for a person to view. The whole experience was insipid and overwhelming. It completely failed to convey the importance, longevity and gravitas of the American Constitution. I hated it. We salvaged the day by enjoying old-fashioned root beer floats at a new ice-cream shop, Franklin Fountain on lower Market Street. Since the afternoon was still young, we trekked down to Penn’s Landing and took a refreshing ferry boat ride over to Camden, NJ. One wouldn’t normally make Camden a tourist destination, but in this case, the Adventure Aquarium was the draw. We saw lots of beautiful fish and a few smelly penguins. The boys really liked the shark tank and the octopus, but the hippos were my favorite. We caught the last ferry back to Philly and caught a bus back to Chinatown for dinner. This night we had a delicious dinner at a Burmese restaurant.

On the third day, Mom and Dad decreed it was time for a little culture. We started the day over at City Hall. We got tickets for the first tower tour of the morning. We had to wend our way up escalators, stairs and elevators into the very heart of this beautiful, old — but poorly maintained — municipal building. Rode the teeny tiny elevator up to the 40th story, to an observation deck just below William Penn’s statue. It was electrifying looking up at Mr. Penn’s hand maybe 10 feet away. What goes up must come down, so we retraced our steps back to the ground floor. Back on terra firma, we walked over to have “breakfast” at Reading Terminal Market. The boys enjoyed lots of Amish delights like homemade chicken pot pie, apple dumplings, and handmade pretzels for breakfast. Dessert was ice cream from Bassett’s. Stuffed to the gills, we walked back over to the bus stop and found our way out to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We climbed the famous steps (cue “Rocky” music). The boys didn’t quite understand their parents’ fascination with the steps and the footprints, but they pretended just fine. Wild Thing was the star of the day as he remembered paintings and artists he learned about in Pre-K two years ago. We were so proud of how well he identified works by Matisse, Picasso, and his favorite, Van Gogh. Wizard was bored out of his brain and made everyone else suffer for it. He and Moose fought the whole day. We cut the afternoon short — although we wanted to go to the dinosaur and Please Touch Museums – and spent it sulking in the hotel room until the boys behaved better. Once they settled down we ventured back to Chinatown again for some Indonesian food. Predictably, Moose and WT loved the authentic satay!

The next day’s museum adventure was far more successful: The Franklin Institute. We entered the museum as it opened and stayed the whole day! The boys loved it. WT's favorite exhibits were the medical ones: the big heart, the operating table, the MRI of a cadaver. Moose went through the Big Heart and got scared by the lights and sounds. Wizard liked Isaac Newton’s loft (all about gravity) and the “old-fashioned” cartoons in the animation exhibit. They really were classics from my and WineGuy's youth in the 1960s: Top Cat, Snagglepuss, Yogi Bear, Jonny Quest, Wacky Racers, Penelope Pitstop, The Jetsons. I still think they’re so much better than the computer-generated Japanese imports that are so popular today. Our day’s adventure continued after the museum closed. We navigated our way down to South Philly (took 2 buses) for cheesesteaks. What would a trip to Philadelphia be without sampling Geno’s and Pat’s Steaks. Wizard preferred Geno’s drier sandwiches, while his father and I preferred Pat’s sloppier versions. WT and Moose were less than impressed with the fare and gobbled up all the French Fries (excuse me, “Freedom Fries” at Geno’s). Sunset was approaching, and South Philly isn’t the neighborhood it used to be, so we hoofed it back to the bus stop and wended our way back to the hotel. We found an ice cream parlor close by. The boys got their first taste of Italian water ices and loved them.

Saturday was our last full day in Philadelphia. Wild Thing had been dying to see the medical museum, so we started the day at the Mütter Museum of medical oddities. The boys and their father enjoyed a tour of “goiters in jars” (as the tourbook put it), while I waited in the lobby. They each picked out some disgusting trinket at the museum store. It was all too gross for me. Afterwards, we re-visited our earlier forays to the city, when Wizard was an infant, so we went back to our favorite dim sum restaurant. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be as good as it used to, but the boys were wide-eyed at the carts of delicacies rolling by and the crowds of Asian families having lunch. Another bus ride took us over to the banks of the Schuylkill River and the Fitler Park neighborhood. We finally had reservations on the “Secrets of the Schuylkill” boat tour. The boys ran and played in a wonderful treasure of a park on the banks of the river. Sadly, the thunder and lightning came out to play, too. We were afraid of being on the water in such bad weather, so we canceled. Dashed up and down to the bus stop and got a little wet. Spent the rest of the afternoon drying out and watching a Disney movie on TV.

On the last morning, Wine Guy took the boys for breakfast around the corner while I packed 4 suitcases, 3 backpacks, 1 duffel bag, and 1 carryon. They brought me back some bagels and then we were off on our final adventure of the trip: the trip to the airport. We looked like a bunch of hobos rolling and schlepping our bags the few blocks to the Regional Rail station. We found the right train and had a quick and smooth ride to the airport. Checked the bags, went through security, waited a while and got on the plane. Landed, got the car and the bags and drove home to a quiet house. The cats were still boarding at the vet’s. It was too hot upstairs and down to unpack, so the boys and I jumped in the pool to cool off.

Adventures are exciting, but it’s bliss to be home. Next stop: Boston in early August.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Packing Neat

Packing for this trip was the nightmare I expected. The boys' rooms were a disaster, despite their having cleaned them from top to bottom yesterday. What should have taken me 90 minutes, took me more than 4 hours b/c of all the mess and fussing.

Nevertheless, I prevailed. I packed all three boys, 2 of their backpacks, myself, and my carry-on this afternoon. I sifted through my desk this evening and paid all my bills (on time, thank-you-very-much). I have no idea what Wizard will pack. He'll moan and groan how he has nothing to read or do, even though we must have 5,000 books in this house. I think I'll go hunt down a bunch of Tom Clancy books for him to read.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it: we had a little excursion to the podiatrist on Thursday morning. Wizard had an infected ingrown toenail that he neglected to mention until Independence Day Eve. Wine Guy gave him some antibiotics we had on hand, and Wizard also soaked his foot in epsom salts to try and bring the swelling down. Nothing helped, so the podiatrist trimmed the nail and dressed the wound. Mother had pity on the child and bought him a pair of soft soccer sandals for him to pad around in. He'll wear them on the plane, but he'll have to wear his sneakers in Philadelphia.

Can you imagine wearing sandals in Center City Filthadelphia? Ewwwwwwwwwww.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Time was, when we were first marrried, that the prospect of a trip was filled with great anticipation. New sights, new sounds, new foods, new people. Now, with three children ... not so much. Trip planning now involves boarding the cats, cancelling the newspapers and mail, doing laundry for three sloppy boys, coordinating clothes and clean underwear for same, and packing.

Packing for one was a breeze. Packing for two was not so bad. By the time Wild Thing came along, I had everything down to a system. Packing for four, however, is exponential. They all want to help. Each one distracts the other. It's a wonder we get anywhere with everything in tact.

It's more than packing suitcases, too. Each boy needs a suitcase and a backpack filled with activities to keep him occupied on the plane. Each boy needs to carry his own backpack. Wizard is good at packing things for himself: six or seven books usually do the trick. Wild Thing, OTOH, has no concept of what is appropriate to bring or how much he can carry. WT will pack one or two tooo-easy books -- and will never read them. He'll also pack a ton of toys too heavy for him to carry himself. Inevitably, I have to edit his backpack. Moose sort of follows WT's lead: he'll pack a ton of books to read (read "to have read to him") and a few toys. Then he'll be jealous of WT's toys.

I used to buy them special new toys and books to take on the plane. No more. They lose and destroy stuff as soon as they open it. Now, they have to choose from their own libraries and boxes of broken crap.

In at least one respect, traveling is now easier. No more diapers and diaper bag. No more stroller. Each child can carry his own backpack and pull his own rolling duffel. Wizard is particularly helpful b/c he can carry stuff for us or his brothers, too.

We are off for a week in The City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. Mr. Franklin, the Liberty Bell, a few cheesesteaks "wid", and in-depth exploration of Chinatown. When we return, we'll be storied, well-fed, and quite sleep-deprived.