Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Audacious Hope

We hear the cynics. We travel a treacherous road. We foresee tough days, but emerge heads high, countering fears with strength, resolve and optimism.

We're talking, of course, about Hope's weight. She has finally, officially, surpassed the 10 lbs. barrier, weighing in at the doctor the other day at 10 lbs. 4 oz. For those keeping track at home, that's 15 oz in about five weeks, a nice spurt for someone who took four months to gain 1 lb over the summer.

After much experimentation, heated coconut oil and carefully calibrated concoctions, we've switched from formula to Pediasure, which has about 6 calories more an ounce. Plus it tastes awesome, like a warm malted milkshake, rather than the diluted puke water that was her staple.

And like Mom's old saying about watched kettles, we've given up religiously weighing Hope every week, holding our breath as the numbers moved, and then exhaling in frustration in disappointment. We still fret about her weight, and are meeting soon with a pediatric endocrinologist to determine whether hormone therapy would help.

But today, we're happy and hopeful. That other thing that happened yesterday was pretty cool, too.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fate and frostbite

("Hope, I am your cousin!")

Oh, winter. How I hate you.

It's been an intriguing week: Numerous single-digit days, another 8 inches of snow, a stir-crazy dog who hasn't had a walk in days, two blown tires on two cars, a mistaken confidence in my ability to change the second tire of my life on the coldest night of the year, and a "What were you thinking?" from a doctor who gave me penicillin for the frostbite on my knee and fingertips.

The tale of comeuppance and coincidence begins with one dumb declaration.

"Actually, I don't think it's that cold," I told colleagues Friday morning, hours after the mercury dipped to -15 and set a record.

Never mind that my winter-survival skills consist of walking 20 feet from my car to the garage. I grew up in Maine. I know cold.

Hours later, in keeping with my habit of delaying routine maintenance until the eve of big trips, I changed the oil that was 7,000 miles overdue and bought a spare tire to replace the flat one that hung on the back of the Jeep for four months. Mo was leaving the next day for the birthday party of her nephew three hours away in Grand Rapids.

A snowstorm was forecast, and I had a vision: Mo and Hope, stranded by the side of the road, eating upholstery to survive. I'd blown a tire in our other car on the freeway four days before and been rescued by a drunk hobo and another passerby who actually knew what he was doing. That stuff temporarily jolts you into becoming a responsible car owner.

Feeling smug, I was driving home when I heard a rumble, rumble, rumble. Two lanes over, I spied a ramshackle van and sneered "You, sir, have no business on the road." Twenty seconds later, the distant rumble became immediate thunder, and I knew I was in trouble. Again.

I called AAA. Thirty minutes just to talk to an operator. I eased into a gas station, called Mo and shrugged off her entries to pick me up. How hard can it be? I did this once 20 years ago: Raise the jack, remove the wheel, put a new one on. I'd be on the road in 10 minutes.

She called back three times, offering to drive the 2 miles to get me. Each time, I assured her I had it covered. Within 30 minutes, I adopted a new strategy: Look as pathetic as possible and hope someone takes pity on me.

Someone did. A postal carrier named Michael with a sweet tooth. We were out there another 30 minutes, in sub-zero temperatures, jerry-rigging a too-small jack with bricks and remnants of the blown tire.

I asked how I could pay him back.

"Just do something nice for someone else," he said.

Faith in humanity renewed and proud of halfway changing a tire, I drove home in triumph. Twenty minutes later, my knee swelled to a stiff magenta mass. The next day, waiting to buy more tires, a silver-dollar sized blister formed on my knee, while smaller ones popped out of four fingertips.

I went to the doctor. Mo and Hope didn't make the birthday party. It snowed all day, while I thought of what could have been: Both of them stranded with no spare tire, eating the dashboard and cursing me. I was grateful fortune smiled on them by frowning on me.

I hugged them extra tight. Mo had other ideas. She inspected the pants I carefully hid in the hamper, producing Exhibit A in People v. Dunderhead.

"I can't believe you wore jeans to work with a hole in the knee," she said.

"But it was casual Friday!"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Early birdy

Success! I have beat my self-imposed deadline of posting Christmas photos before MLK Day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Hopesy has a new obsession: A plastic xylophone toy my parents gave her for Christmas. It's a standard-issue, nine-key, "Do, a Deer" affair that Hope has embraced after initially viewing as a big, red pacifier.

It's been nifty watching her progression the past 10 days. When she first got it at my sister's house in Connecticut, Hope didn't know what to make of the thing. She tipped it over, certain there was frosting or another yummy treat lurking on the other side. We played the keys, hoping she'd get the hint. She'd eat the mallet.

Soon, she realized that -- now, wait a minute here -- noises come from the thing when the keys are struck. That was a revelation. She'd smile, wave her arms, and then eat the mallet.

Eventually, she learned that she needs to hold the mallet and strike it with the keys. This was such terrific insight that she'd wave her arms as fast as she can, drop the mallet, pick it up and eat it.

But slowly, a bit more every day, her body is acting in concert with her mind. She'll grasp the mallet, strike the xylophone in quick, thunderous succession, giggle and laugh at the wonder of it all, before eating the mallet.

We think it's an early sign of prodigy. Or perhaps, finally, after lo these many months, she's teething. Either way, it's a great show.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

We're back

Thousands of genuflections for the prolonged blog break. We have good excuses -- a holiday season that gets longer, more exhausting but richer every year, too many Christmas cookies to eat, a mini-vacation from the computer -- but there's nothing more boring about pontification about the lack of pontification.

We have much to report: A wunderbar trip to see my family in Connecticut; Hope's new found prowess as a xylophonist extraordinaire; secrets to surviving her second airplane ride (there aren't really any. She's a swell traveler); and Mo's uncanny knack for stuffing two downcast suitcases with the contents of the Smithsonian and still hitting 50 pounds on the nose every time.

We'll get to all that stuff soon. Promise.

But first, a film that likens Hope to Godzilla. We have priorities, after all. And I have too much time on my hands.