Saturday, March 29, 2008

Easter Fun: Brigham's Perspective

We keep a family journal for the boys. I write down every boring detail, while Brigham keeps it short and fun. His will be the excerpts read 50 years from now. Anyway, the following is a description of last Saturday in Brig's own words. Photos to follow later.

On Saturday, Alexandra went to a friend's sealing, so I got to spend the morning with the kids. (Although Friday night was a whole other adventure, complete with sleeping out on the Ellipse for tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll, which of course I Cannon-lucked into.) I returned triumphantly with the tickets to the Smith's at about 9:30, hopped in the shower and was ready to head over to the McLean II ward easter egg hunt. I quickly changed Andrew into a new outfit, and my cute boys were ready to make me look good. At the hunt, Andrew successfully picked out each of the six egg colors and immediately began to ask for the candy that he knew was inside. Of course I gave it to him.

Just before lunch was served, Andrew discovered a basketball and started playing with John King and another boy even younger than Andrew. I had let Will suck on my finger long enough for him to go to sleep, so I could watch Andrew go crazy with the basketball. At some point, the ball ended up a little ways away and in the hands of Nate Kendig who, without noticing Andrew running toward him, walked even further away with the ball. Andrew eventually caught Nate right as the prayer was starting, so Nate told him that there was a prayer and Andrew immediately folded his arms. He doesn't even do that for me. Then, when the prayer was over, Nate again walked away with the ball. Andrew chased him down, and this time wrapped his arms around Nate's leg until Nate got the idea and returned the ball.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Oracle of Cleveland Park

Recently, I received an email from my sister that concluded with the following:

Will you please ask Andrew when Luke might get
better, he may know. I really don't want him to miss
any more school and maybe Andrew has an idea.

Let me explain: My son Sees.

Now I heard about this sort of thing when I lived in Chile, but I confess I did not believe. Until now. (Well, I still don't believe about that 4 year old Chilean boy.) But I must now acknowledge that some kids--ie my kid--do have psychic powers.

It began a few months ago, these declarations from my two year old that were somewhat . . . prophetic? Here is an example of the sorts of things he would say:

1. Driving on GW Parkway
"Mommy, what happened to Taylor?"

A chill goes down my spine.

"Nothing; Taylor is fine. Everything is fine." But I know now it really isn't.

"No, he isn't. What happened?"

Andrew, you tell me. What did happen? Heart racing, I prepare to call Taylor's mother, a close friend from high school. Will it be a call of consolation or of warning? Only Andrew knows, but he has assumed a posture of silence, staring out the window, calm as the Potomac River he watches . . . and as turbulent beneath the surface.

I decided to record his predictions and visions to discover how they match up with the report from the person Seen.

March 21, noon EST

"Momo is lying on a couch."

I told Brigham of the vision. "We should ask Momo what she was doing at around 10 am today," I suggested. So Brigham poses the question to his mother: Momo, what were you doing at 10:00 on the 30th anniversary of your second son's birth? You don't even need to answer.

A few weeks ago, I was explaining to Andrew that we had to take baby Will to the doctor to find out if he was sick. Andrew declared that baby Will was fine. My heart leapt. I had to ask again, to be sure.

"Is he sick, Andrew?"

"No, just a little bit sick."

A bright ray of hope. And as it turned out, Will's CF test was negative. Andrew was right: He was only a little bit sick.

What was it that you were saying about your toddler? That he knows the ABC song or whatever? Oh, and your little baby can reach and roll? Wow, that is really impressive. You must be so proud.

Anyway, I am so excited to find out what Baby Will's superpower is. I suppose Andrew could tell me, but I would like at least some things to be a surprise.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Easter Prayer

They will not save you, those from whom you sought
some help, no, nor the writings they left behind.
Niether the last breath of Christ or Socrates
saves you from death.
Dust, like all that, whatever words you write
and dust as well the pitiful words you say.
Fate will have no pity anyway
And the night is an everlasting night.

Here is another uplifting poem courtesy of Bishop Bill Smith, my dad. I am surprised I never received a copy of this heart-warmer while on my mission. Too bad.

On this Easter night, I am thinking about the Resurrection. I no longer take for granted the idea that Christ destroyed death for us all. I hate even thinking about death. I do not accept it as a natural part of life. To me it is awful and degrading and lonely, a depressing ending to a long and full life, a tragic and unfair cutting short of the young and new lives. It is inevitable, but I still fear it. I fear it for all those I love, for those I just know casually, for myself. I found an old address book of my grandparents, full of names and streets so matter-of-factly recorded, and felt sort of horrified at the realization that all of those people were dead, the addresses populated by a new generation of people, who would also pass away. When my cousin was killed at age 25 and we gathered at her home to mourn together, my dad and I went out on the back deck that she used to blow bubbles on on summer days. He commented that Emily was still back at the cemetary, all alone. And her body was. Death is loneliness.

The worst part is that some people never really get a shot at happiness in this life. Whether it is because they were taken so very early or because the circumstances of their lives utterly prevented the happiness that the rest of us take for granted, it is the same. And it is so unfair.

But all of that is completely remediated, fully healed by the sacrifice we celebrate at Easter.

President Hinckley provided a beautiful reminder of the hope that defeats the absolute unfairness of life.

"We live in a world of uncertainty. For some, there will be great accomplishment. For others, disappointment. For some, much rejoicing and gladness, good health and gracious living. For others, perhaps sickness and a measure of sorrow. We do not know.

But one thing we do know. Like the Polar Star in the heavens, regardless of what the future holds, there stands the Redeemer of the world, the Son of God, certain and sure as the anchor of our immortal lives. He is the rock of our salvation, our strength, our comfort, the very focus of our faith."

It is in Christ that all hope resides, and through Him that death has no sting. I will try to remember. I am thankful that I know that it is not an everlasting night.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


While Andrew touched hands with a giant ape through the glass cage at the national zoo today, Will and I headed over to Children's Hospital for his much-awaited CF test. I mapquested my way to and from the hospital, so that was one stress eliminated.

I was also feeling a lot less stressed about Will's health, as well. We hadn't heard him coughing in over a week, and he just seemed to be doing better. My prediction of the outcome changed from 50-50 to less than 25% that he had CF. The purpose of this post is to inform, not create suspense, so I will state here that the outcome was a negative read (meaning that the test indicated he did not have CF). I was somewhat anxious as I carried him into the hospital, but my feelings now stemmed from a desire to confirm that he was not sick, not a fear that he was and an anxiety to begin proper treatment. In short, I was feeling pretty good.

The tears that came into my eyes ss I walked my almost certainly healthy little baby around that waiting area were not for him. In that sea of kids waiting with worried parents, I was painfully reminded of that small but sizable percentage of kids, maybe even kids in that very room with me, who were not going to be getting good news today.

Will was smiling at a really sweet little girl whose mom was trying to distract her from the giant plastic bags taped over both of her tiny arms. She really liked my baby, and he seemed to do a better job of keeping her happy than the giant fishtank placed in the waiting area for that purpose. Her mother told me that she did not know whether she or her husband were CF carriers and that they had no family history. I thought to myself that her odds were good that she was ok. And then I heard her terrible coughing. That was when I felt so deeply sad for all those kids whose little bodies have to fight such adult struggles.

There were lots of kids in that waiting room today, two of them were younger even than little Will. All the tests were completed by 2pm and sent to all the various pediatric offices to relay the news to all of us anxious parents. Today was, for our family, the conclusion of a fear, but for some other family, it was the beginning of a new, and scarier, life. I am thinking about them tonight.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fashion Plate

Business in the Front

Party in the Back

Cute from any Angle

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Camera Woes

Well, just one woe. I cannot find it and am afraid it might have been stolen out of my stroller while at the zoo on Monday. I tend to prematurely assume theft is behind any missing item, but even Brig can't find it. I have many photos of Will for you, Momo, and I will be heartsick if the camera and my photos are gone forever. I need to get the software to download photos onto my computer at home so that I am not constantly having to lugg it to my parents' house.

Andrew went to class today and got the chance to play a tiny violin. It was a legit instrument, just child-size. He was so proud of himself. But I don't have a photo.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Animal House and the Husband of Memory, Husband of Forgetfulness

I was supposed to be posting about Andrew's first swimming lessons. He is a member of the Ducks and Guppies class where, every Saturday morning, he and I risk hypothermia with all the other Ducks and Guppies and their fathers under the instruction of a woman who has been working at Tuckahoe since I was a very little girl. As will make more sense later, I will let you know now that she is a jaguar.

For reasons I will later explain, I have decided to instead reveal the obvious: like most people on earth, my children resemble certain animals. So, though Andrew is technically a Guppie for purposes of the class, he is in reality a duck and has been since his little round head was covered in soft yellow fluff and his baby shoulders and back in a downy fuzz.

Brigham, for example, is a very nice and friendly Gorilla.

(notice that brig is placing Andrew on the back of a gorilla statue. very revealing.)
Will used to be a duck, but now I see that he is really a tiny monkey.

I have known all sorts of animal people in my life. I even knew a 6 foot 5 inch rubber duck. He was an AP in my mission.

(this is elder a.p. i don't know why he is wearing glasses)

The attractiveness of the animal has nothing to do with the attractiveness of the person resembling the animal, so no offense should ever be taken. I know a very pretty woman rat. (Brig showed me Jim Rome's archive of athletes that look like rats. He eventually took it down but somebody else archived it at

Anyway, I have no photos of Andrew's swimming lesson because Brigham decided that he would instead sit in the car (or really, drive the car around, or really, drive the car to a drive through and buy an enormous soda) so baby Will could sleep a little longer. I guess he forgot that Will's carseat removes easily from the carseat base. And that I really wanted photos / video of the lesson. And that I would be very mad if I didn't get them. About 15 minutes after the lesson ended, Brig strolled inside the pool area with Will in his arms and no camera. Brigham of Forgetfulness.

But I can be a Wife of Forgetfulness, too. Being too cheap and dumb to buy a baby bathtub, I used to just get in the tub with Andrew to bathe him. We lived in a drafty little house in Salt Lake and one of the biggest trials in my life at this time was the Brig would wander away to find a towel while leaving the bathroom door open. No amount of nagging, usually a helpful marital communication skill, fixed this oversight.

When we moved back to Va and were staying with my parents, Brigham had taken over this duty on occassion. While they were in the tub one evening, it was my turn to wander off, and I left the bathroom door open in my parents' notoriously drafty house. When I returned, Brigham was annoyed. "Now you know how it feels; it gets pretty cold!" I scolded. "Its not about me being cold, Alexandra. It is about me being naked."
Wife of Forgetfulness.

I know I must forgive Brigham for his forgetfulness of things like the importance of memorializing Andrew's first swim lesson because oftentimes his forgetfulness touches on things that bless my life. On Friday I became suddenly ill and miserable. Brigham forgot about work and came home early (5pm) to help me out. At night, Brigham forgets that he has to work the next day and changes Will's diapers when he can see that I am really struggling. He then forgets which side of the bed is really his and sleeps on the side closest to the crib so he can get up and soothe the baby when he stirs. He also forgets that I made us so late to church that we missed the sacrament (meeting) again, that I haven't touch the dishes in days, and that dinner really wasn't very good. He also forgets most of the bratty things that come out of my mouth.

Actually, though, when I think about it, Brigham really is a Husband of Memory more than one of Forgetfulness. He remembers the things that really matter--things I am likely to forget. He is the one to ensure we pray every night and that we have church every Sunday (and even what time it starts!). He remembers that a lot of forgetting and overlooking so that mistakes and lapses of judgment don't spoil a day is essential to having a lifetime of memories worth looking back on. I am lucky to have such a husband to help me remember to forget. That is just the way of the gorilla. If I wanted someone to remember everything, I should have married one of these

What kind of animal are you?

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Reasonable and Prudent Parent

Michael Jackson: not a reasonable and prudent parent (or reasonable prudent anything).

In a negligence suit, the law evaluates whether someone has breached his/her duty of care by applying the Reasonable Prudent Person test. The court will ask whether that person's conduct conformed to the behavior of the ordinary reasonable and prudent person under the circumstances.

The Reasonable and Prudent Person can also take on various occupations. For example, when the Reasonable and Prudent Person attends med school, s/he transforms into Dr. Reasonable and Prudent. If s/he specializes, then s/he becomes the Reasonable and Prudent Plastic Surgeon. When the Reasonable and Prudent Person gives birth to a baby, she makes the most stunning transformation of all: she is now the REasonable and Prudent Mother, a being who is oft times anything but.

In the wake of being informed that I am, among other things, crazy, paranoid, over-protective or a worrier, I have been thinking a lot lately about the Reasonable and Prudent Mother. She started out as a Mother far more reasonable and prudent than I--the Mother whose emotional responses are ultimately tempered by cold reason. In the midst of a tantrum, I would ask "What would the reasonable and prudent mom do?" and it would help me to remain calm and continue to refuse to give in to the demands (No Negotiating With Terrorists!) and so forth.

But I realized that this is not technically the Reasonable and Prudent Mother. The RPP is supposed to be just an ordinary person taken at his standard tendencies. This led me to a conclusion that at first I was uncomfortable with but have now embraced. I think that the Reasonable and Prudent Mom is a little crazy. Let's analyze:

1. The Ordinary Reasonable and Prudent Mom is a hypochondriac when it comes to her kids' illnesses.


So far I have suspected Andrew of having meningitis (2x), leukemia (once), autism (once--at age 2 months, which just evidences further how crazy I was), a spinal cord injury (once). Will had CF (2x: the first was objectively reasonable, since we knew he had a 25% chance of it, the second (right now) my husband tells me is not since he passed the newborn screen. I, however, still think it is reasonable!); possibly suffered from degenerative hearing loss; had pneumonia; had whooping cough (briefly). From the comments on my Sick Days post, I think I am not alone in the Illness Paranoia.

And when they really are sick, it only justifies the paranoia.

2. The Reasonable and Prudent Mom has Supersonic Danger Vision.

All seemingly everyday objects are in reality death traps in disguise. That counter is no longer a place to mix ingredients; it is a major danger zone teeming with deadly possibilities involving falling children and falling items onto children. My mother in law has 7 kids and her Danger Vision is highly honed. She saw through my ordinary window blinds and identified them for the nefarious enemy waiting to strangle my son that they were. The window screen was just hoping Andrew would lean upon it so it could plummet both of them down 3 stories to the courtyard below.

I once babysat for a woman who had placed an enormous chain with a padlock on it around her oven, mumbling something about her 4 year old son and there being no such thing as an accident. I thought she was crazy; now I realize that I was simply unacquainted with the Reasonable and Prudent Mom.

3. The Reasonable and Prudent Mom is at war with the sun.

Ok, this one might just be the RPM of a fair-skinned child. When we were in Egypt in the fall of 06, the biggest source of strain btwn my husband and me was that Brig was not sufficiently careful with Andrew's pale skin. I became extremely angry at him to the point of achieving social awkwardness. Brig felt awkward, but not me. I realized what was at stake if the sun touched my son.

I insisted on holding a large umbrella over Andrew's head at all times. Brigham claims that I acted as if Andrew were a vampire. I admit that if the sun fell on Andrew for a moment, I immediately pointed out Brigham's carelessness. It drove me crazy when Brig would carry Andrew in the sun when there was a patch of shade in which to walk just as easily. But you know what? All the other tourist mothers from all nationalities urged me to get Andrew under cover. And he didn't get even the slightest burn.

Please note Brig's obvious obsession with finding the one ray of sunlight and placing himself and our child in its cancer-causing path. Seconds before, Andrew had been in his arms, on his left, of course.

4. The Reasonable and Prudent Mother cannot stand for her new baby to cry. At all.

After Andrew was born, a neighbor lady asked me if I had figured out that my son would not break if he cried. She was smiling, but I really did not understand what she meant. It was like when I was 15, believing that any illicit drug taken in any
proportion presented a real risk of immediate death and a classmate boasted of smoking pot. I knew he was lying bc he would be dead. Crying Infant = Emotionally Scarred Infant.

5. The Reasonable and Prudent New Mom does not allow Dad to have unsupervised contact with the baby.

Who of you haven't hovered, or had to restrain yourself? The RP New Mom knows that her husband is a bungling incompetent who presents a danger to the child. And when he's not actually hurting the child physically, he is exponentially increasing the child's risk of ADHD by letting the child watch television.

These are the kinds of things that can happen when the husband is left to his own devices with the first kid.

6. The RPM of a second baby has no problem letting Dad in on the action.

7. The Reasonable and Prudent Mom is always feeling guilty.

You feel guilty for working ("I'm not caring for my own child!"), you feel guilty for not working ("What kind of example to my kids am I? The nanny would do a better job than exhausted me!"). I felt guilty for going to dinner and a movie without my kids when Will was littler bc it presented the possibility that he would have to take a bottle. Doesn't it feel good to know that we are all feeling it?

The Reasonable and Prudent Mom is not limited to being over-protective. No. She is perfectly capable of doing things non-parents wouldn't dream of doing. Like feeding her child cake or cookies for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or allowing the child to climb a 10 foot ladder so long as you follow him (or force your husband to do so). Haven't you your own examples of perhaps "dangerous" activities that you allowed bc you know that too much hovering and worry can create other problems for your kid?

The Reasonable and Prudent Mom is an ever-evolving being whose standards change with the number of children she has, their ages, and her age. But judge her not. For we should not judge ourselves or one another by some standard of objective and rational reasonableness that does not and should not apply to people caring for offspring. We our only accountable for being ordinary, reasonable and prudent moms under the circumstances. I think God meant for us to be a little off-kilter sometimes. Maybe that's what keeps the species going. Perhaps a genetically-selective trait.


Seeking Free Medical Opinion

Will has been experiencing a lack of weight gain that has me feeling a little nervous that maybe he really does have CF after all. Does anyone know if the newborn screen has any percentage of false negatives?

He nurses well, but he has fallen from the 50 percentile at birth to 25th at 2 months to 5th percentile at 4 months. He is 75 percentile for length, though. I see other babies half his age who are so much bigger and rounder. My little guy has the body of a newborn. It is really sad. We are starting him on solids, so maybe this will resolve itself. He has been fighting a terrible cough for months now and has even coughed up plegm. I've told the doctor about this, but she has never expressed any concern that it could be something serious.

I realize that he could just be a winter baby who has been fighting viruses and that has contributed to the weight loss. Most likely. But as a mom who has suspected meningitis and leukemia when the illness was nothing more than flu, I've got myself a little worried. I will voice these concerns to my poor pediatrician in a few weeks if he continues to not gain weight despite the new diet, but I admit I am feeling a little embarrassed to do so after all my anxious diagnosing in the past. Medical professionals in the readership, any ideas?