Cousins

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Only a week left until A.’s school starts again and I’m already over summer. Bring on the next season and all of the things that come with it—the schedules, structure and especially, the chance for some time to myself.

I love fall for all kinds of reasons. It always feels full of possibilities.

You know what really doesn’t feel full of possibilities: medical appointments. E. and I have been to four this past week. I think two per week is my max. After two, I start to feel, basically, like our life sucks. Even though I know, rationally, that it very much doesn’t. But it gets too heavy, with those doctors and trained professionals. It’s a lot of emphasis on  problems. I’d rather focus on her strengths. Or anything else.

Like the way she looks at Cedar every time he starts the coffee grinder. E. stops whatever she is doing, turns her whole body towards him and starts to clap. She gives him a smile like he’s saved her life. And maybe he has, over the course of this year. At least in part.

We saw the gastroenterologist again. She recommended that E. stay on the continuous intestinal feeding tube for 4-6 more months, nearly 24/7, so that she can catch up on her weight and get stronger. And then we will start to introduce formula into the tube in her stomach. That part will also be, likely, a long process. Then we work on oral feeding. Which will likely be a long process. Almost every provider is telling me that this will be a marathon.

The gastroenterologist’s estimate of when E. will be eating food like other kids, is age four or five. But of course she can’t be certain.

I know that it could all be so much worse. I know that for a fact because I spend a lot of time in the pediatric rehabilitation waiting room. There are things I see there that start a thunderstorm in my stomach.

But in the car, on the way to almost every appointment, something beautiful happens. I get to hear E. harmonizing to whatever music I am playing. Her voice is high and soft and so quintessential baby. It’s all goo and ga and la’s. I heard her falsetto on Friday, right on pitch. I was enjoying it so much, it became one of those moments when everything seems worth it. Awe and oneness. A cosmic sense of love beyond time and space. And then I went the wrong way on 35W and got stuck in a traffic jam in morning rush hour trying to get to St. Paul.

That’s about right. It’s a good metaphor for our lives right now.

I celebrated my birthday earlier this week. I’m kind of over my own birthday, but it was a nice excuse to get a sitter and have a long, sort of fancy dinner with Cedar on Saturday night. We always have a good time when it’s just the two of us out of the house, and if we’ve gotten to take the time to put on nice, clean clothing, all the better. I love sitting at the table and having a congruent conversation, without six interruptions for milk and more potatoes and yelling and someone needs to poop (I’m not referring to us adults) and what are we talking about again?

On my actual birthday, which was in the middle of the week, I took the kids apple picking in the sunshine. We met Megg there, along with her two children, who are about the same ages as ours. If peace was a person, her nickname would probably be Megg, and her kiddos have followed suit. We decided that day that we would like to adopt them as cousins, since we love being with them so much. Because we may not have any biological ones in this lifetime, it’s time for us to get creative on growing our family.

The orchard had snappy Zestar apples hanging low enough for the kids to grab, while the babies sat in their strollers and watched the action. It was lovely, easy fun.

The answer right now, to any question, as far as A. is concerned, is playdates. He’s in love with playing with other children, and forgets about any potential power struggles once he is with another child (or three). He’s like a tiny teenager. He just wants to hang out, and not really with us. With his peers. And then he’s happy. Every day A. is asking me when he can see those sweet cousins of his again.

Later, on Sunday, we tried to go to a birthday party, but we went to the wrong place. Don’t ask; there were two parks with the same name and really, it happened because I didn’t read the invitation closely enough. I was mostly thinking about how happy I was to get out of the house, the four of us together, and celebrate something good.

Fast forward 45 minutes and we’ve been to two parks, neither of which is the birthday party site. A. was melting down because he didn’t get the cupcake that he was expecting; he was alternating between moaning and screaming in the back seat. Acting like we were doing experimental torture treatments on his soul. Twenty solid minutes of this in the car on the way home.

I tried everything to help him calm down: heaps of empathy, soothing, even a few mediocre jokes. I offered to drive him to the next park– the real one, the site of the party, to give some kind birthday wishes to his friend and yes, get the coveted cupcake. “No, mama”, he groaned. No way. He only wanted a cupcake at home.

Right. Where there were no cupcakes.

I was ready to be done with the whole day. Just full on counting the hours until bedtime.

We got home and got the kids down for their naps. A. basically fell asleep on the way up the stairs to his room. Right after I finished snuggling him, I got on my comfiest pair of sneakers and stepped out into the light of the afternoon. My plan was to walk it off. That’s my basic stress management routine, and it sure beats having a drinking problem.

Kate texted me. She was on her way over with a quick delivery: three vanilla/red velvet cupcakes, two goody bags and a hug. She had schlepped her whole family back to our house after her daughter’s party just to bring us those treats.

I agree with A.’s take on things. Being among friends softens even the most interminable of days.

Together, with a few cupcakes, we can probably do anything. Or, at the very least, we can survive it.

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