Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Our Busy Weekend

Saturday morning. Nora has a fever. She lay in my arms, limp, radiating heat. Sat up, crying, then vomited her purple juice all over the blanket and the couch. Cried out in surprise, then fell helpless to another tummy spasm. We folded the blanket over, threw it on the floor, lay back again. “I feel better,” she whispers.

Sunday we drove to the Garfield Park Conservatory to see the Niki in the Garden exhibit. French artist Niki de Saint Phalle created massive cement figures covered with intricate and beautiful mosaics of colorful stones, glass beads, ceramic tiles, mirrors. The scale is gargantuan but approachable – tiny doorways at the bottom invite little ones to crawl in, windows ask you to peek inside.

Some pieces are beyond four-dimensional – you enter the skull to find a luminous room, light pouring between the teeth and through the ears, as beautifully appointed as the outside. Each tooth glows with studded rows of pearly stones.

Beautiful. The girls touched and climbed and sat on the sculptures to their hearts’ content. What a great introduction to the joy of art.

Monday. The girls’ Uncle Ron came for the Memorial Day parade and a bike ride. He said he had stayed up all night working on the computer last night. “Man, I haven’t done that since college,” he said. He is looking for work, but since he is staying with family, not needing to come up with rent or food money may be taking the edge off his drive. “Okay,” he mutters to himself. “Live and learn.” He is able to rouse himself out of a sleep-deprived stupor, out of the strange spirals in his head to talk gently to the girls and draw pictures with them. I do love spending time with my brother.

Today, mulling over possible new preschools for Mia next year. The far one with the philosophy and teachers I like the best? The beautiful, closer one?

Last week I ran into an old college buddy, Sean Callahan, who has written a children’s book since I saw him last. It was so great to be able to tell him how much Mia likes his book.

(I had to do the telling of course; Mia turned shy when I introduced her. I imagine she pictures the people who write books resembling the characters they create. Can’t you just picture Dr. Suess sitting at his purple lopsided desk, suspended ten feet off the ground on wobbly striped legs?

And anyway, I’m somehow proud of her not turning into a courteous little grownup on cue. Cause she’s just a little kid. And cause I have no fear of her suffering from chronic shyness – this afternoon, she flew into the park, screaming, “Hi Friends!!” to perfect strangers.)

Sean’s book, The Bear Hug is a gentle story of Cubby Bear and his loving grandpa hanging out, learning stuff together, sharing, making memories, being bears. Chicago sports fans will appreciate the little in-jokes; children will want to act out the special hug of the title.

The adorable illustrations of the special affections between grandfather and grandson are by Laura J. Bryant.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How We Met

At work. Perhaps a mundane setting, but it was turning point for me. Life-determining to our daughters.

April, 1991. My first day on the job at a commercial editing house. I had been introduced to maybe thirty people that day. Then Randy walked in and gave me this direct and honest smile. He was the most handsome and kind and considerate person I had met that day. Uh-oh, I know what that means.

I asked my new friend Katie: “Is Randy gay?”

“Oh, no.”


“He’s had a girlfriend for the past seven years.”


So I waited. Dated other people. Applied to graduate school. Thrilled at any chance encounter with him. Then came the morning in the office when Terry Comer asked, “Where’s Randy?” He was normally the most dependable of the assistant editors. There was a rush of phone calls; the whole story emerged later that he had broken up with his girlfriend, got loaded at a Prince concert the night before and slept through the alarm.

Yeah!! A bad boy! Edgy, tortured and tragic – just my type!! Who commits for years!

I confided my crush to Terry. The next time Randy wandered into our office, Terry asked, “Randy, are you driving to Kansas for Easter to see your folks? Cindy is going to Kansas City - why don’t you share a ride?”

Randy still gives me shit about this. He claims I got him hooked under false pretences. Claims I would rarely drive home for Easter. True. All’s fair.

It was our eight-hour road trips there and back that clinched it. I didn’t ever want to get home. He ate the strawberries I brought. I told him about the amazing Cormac McCarthy book I had just read, with its hard nail scene of one cowboy shoving another's dislocated shoulder back in place. Randy told me about his own shoulder, popped out at a Sonic Youth Public Enemy concert. We stopped to look at hillbilly souvenirs, walnut bowls and corncob pipes. We took Polaroids. We traded family stories and, I think, felt some amazement and gratitude when our harrowing tales didn't scare the other one off. I fell in love.

It took until May Day and then he became my comrade. Now he’s the father of my girls. Loving, patient and fun. Just my type.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Nothing like a little classic clowning to cure what ails ya. You know, the good old bits – like the straight guy who knocks his head every time he tries to open a door. Or the delicious chestnut of the clown carrying a plank on his shoulder through a crowd, pivoting to predictable results. Or the joy of jugglers tossing stuffed animals.

Nothing like the sound of your daughters’ tumbling and uncontrolled laughter as they watch, riveted.

I couldn’t stop giggling myself, at the clown dogs in little cardboard cars, and the roller skating ballet.

Randy caught my eye and we looked at each other for a long moment, each of us holding one of our girls. This was our making up. The fight was over.

Today’s Go Dog Go production was a full-blown spectacle, under a yellow and purple-striped big top tent with ten dog-clowns and a live band and elaborate costumes, plenty of clever stage business and crazy props.

The climax, where Pink Dog in her frilly and teetering hat approaches her formerly negative friend, almost teared me up. After rejection upon rejection, she still carries the hope that he will, he will, like her hat. And he does! Hooray, and confetti!

Inspired by Pink Dog’s persistent faith, I am subjecting you to the ridiculous conversation that birthed today’s stupid fight:

Him: Do you have the tickets?

(What he meant: I am gently inquiring. Honey, did you buy tickets?)

(What I heard: Beep-beep. Must be in control. Are the tickets physically in your possession?)

Me: No, they’re at the box office.

(What I meant: I bought the tickets on-line and they are being held for us at will-call. Boo-ya! Aren’t I the capably prepared momma?)

(What he heard: La, la, la. I didn’t buy the tickets. We'll just buy them at the box office. Why are you even worrying about the possibility of us driving all the way downtown to a sold-out show? Why are you worrying about our children wailing “I want to see the doggies!!”? How silly of you.)

On the way to the circus tent:
Him: Is there a plan B for the tickets?

(What he meant: Since you didn’t buy the tickets ahead of time, what will we do if the show is sold out?)

(What I heard: I don’t really think you are capable of handling an on-line transaction.)

After hearing this final spice dumped in the stew of miscommunication, I simmered for a while, then blew up.

Since I’m embarrassed by my tantrum, I’ll fashion it in evasive Nixonese:

Words were yelled. A wood chip was kicked, sullenly. Someone actually said, “Stop sh**ting all over my beautiful life!” (Okay, that was me. Yeah, it was all me. Wearing a pout as wide as Emmett Kelly’s greasepainted mouth.)

Thank God we were both able to laugh over this later. Thank God my husband puts up with my drama. Thank God he’s the kind of guy who can appreciate the absurdity of the situation.

But what about the little witnesses? What do you do once you climb down from your own pile of hurt and start to see your children again? And you must get off that mountain. Because you have never lost the understanding of what it means when a child sees her parents fighting. The sight of us, the sound of our voices, has a power to work on her life that is more geological than emotional. Her life’s foundation threatens to shift and shake with earthquake force. You have always understood how your fighting can hurt them. How do you come back?

You take a deep breath through your nose. You exhale through your mouth, trying to relax the tight band across your shoulders. You rally. You make a plan. You list. You feel hope as you list.

1. Hug them, hold them close, sit one on your lap and smell her humid hair, her soft curl of an ear, whisper “seepa, seepa, seepa” and “I love you.” Apologize. “I’m sorry I yelled.”

2. Make up with Dad, quick. Apologize, whatever it takes, then kiss and hug him in front of them. Say, “look, Mommy and Daddy are hugging!” Invite the children over. Yell “group hug!”

3. Go to the zoo together, the street fair, the park. Watch the children make their play in the sunshine, eat some ice cream, take pictures. Stand next to your husband, your wife, and give each other a quick one armed hug as you watch the kids play because you both remember that here before you is the entire reason you must, it is imperative, make each other as happy as humanly possible.

4. Hope. Try another hat. Keep trying and keep hoping.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Drama Mama Confessions

To the patrons of Blind Faith CafĂ© last Wednesday night: Thank you for mobilizing when our little train wreck walked in the door, wailing for food. Thank you, nice stranger lady, who helped Mia to get some self-serve water while I was holding Nora and waiting in line. Thank you, kind woman who wasn’t a musician, for offering your pretty purple pen and some lined musical notation paper while we waited for our rice and broccoli. Thank you, beautiful grandmother who didn’t look like you had four grandkids, for the conversation and crayons when our toast didn’t come. It took a village that night.

I apologize if we disturbed the peace of your dinner. I appreciate your stepping up. I hope you felt good about helping some people who needed it.

Randy and those of you who were not there may have little sympathy. “That was your first mistake,” he says when I describe driving to the restaurant after the park and a visit to Ehran’s house at 6:15 because I was too hungry to drive home. “And then you got an energy bar out of your backpack?” he asks, knowing the answer.

Carol Coven Grannick in this month’s Chicago Parent describes optimism as recognizing life’s slings and arrows as 1) temporary, 2) not universal and 3) external. In other words, "This will pass, it’s only about this one thing and it has nothing to with me."

Even as I was eating my soul on the drive toward the food, even as the girls screamed and tried to slap each other from their carseats, I knew this was temporary. I knew this would pass as soon as we got our blood sugar up. And the other part of me looked up from its unholy meal, chin dripping with soul blood, and said, “You also know that you have had this feeling before. Why don’t you prevent it from happening?”

Our new mantra, (thanks to Matt Baron and his blog Role Model Reality) is “I am in control of my emotions.” Boy do we need this. Matt writes:

“Bridgett and I agree that it’s important to validate others, including our children, when they experience a wide range of emotions. But we vehemently oppose any suggestion, or outright assertion, that we are at the mercy of our “moods.” To us, it would be irresponsible to give our children the idea that they are in control of neither how they respond to the world around them, nor of the emotions welling up within them.”

Matt was responding to the implied message he finds in some children’s books : “Hey kids, it’s okay for you to blame your behavior on your “mood,” because, well, your mood at any given moment can simply take over your life and who knows where that can lead, right?”

This sounds chillingly familiar. When I recite the new slogan to Mia, “You are in control of your feelings,” she wails, “NOOOOOOOOOO!!”

Where did she learn drama? Hmm. . . . I wonder. How can I correct what I am guilty of? I really wonder.

Mother’s Day was wonderful. Randy kept the girls quiet and busy so I slept all the way til eight, then woke to my sweet family carrying a tray with a nice full-strength cappie and fruit and homemade cards. We had a contented while chaotic brunch in a crowded bistro and selected a fastigiated beech for the back yard. I had time to write and a piece (okay, pieces) of chocolate cake. A great day.

But the day before, I was a shameful mess. Waves of fury, a busy signal when I tried to call Aunt Ruth, a deadly shriek that made the girls cry, arguing with Randy, falling to the ground in frustration, a helpless shuffle of a walk by myself up the block with nowhere to go, an abandoned plan to visit my mother’s grave, crying under the covers. Exhaustion and guilt.

Without displacing any of my responsibility, I think, “This is a stug.” In the language of grief literature, a “STUG,” or “subsequent, temporary upsurge of grief,” is an upwelling of overwhelming feelings of loss, spurred by a significant life event, like a wedding, or in this case, an emotionally laden holiday. Hope Edelman, in her book Motherless Mothers, describes these intense and painful periods as capable of ushering in “a new realization of what was lost, lifting the mourner to a level of awareness she wasn’t able to reach before.” Thank you, Hope. I hope so.

On my desktop is a sticky note: “Whenever possible, follow your child’s need. Whenever necessary, take charge. Always be bigger, stronger, wiser, and kind.”

The wiser me is a little ways away. I can see her up the street, on her way. But right now, I’m still reeling at the memory of my two year old patting my arm, kissing my lips and saying, “Oh Mommy, don’t cry.” And the memory of my four year old’s silence.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Big News!

First Place, Baby!! Thank you, John Wood Community College!

(Okay, I really think of myself as a glass half full person, but like my beloved Catherine Newman, I can’t help seeing the speck in the milk. And this speck was the little voice in my head as I grinned at the win. It chided me for the pretentious reversal of the second adjective in the title.

“Why not call it a History Brief?” sneered the voice. And my other little voice, the one with a sense of humor, cracks up at the rhyme. “A History Brief of Overdue Grief.”)

Wait, there’s More!

Mom Writer’s Lit Magazine is publishing one of my pieces! (Please don’t say anything about the apostrophe. I KNOW. Oh, there's that speck voice again.)

Their June 21 issue will carry my review of Brooke Shield’s Down Came the Rain.
Check it out!

Since the published book review will be an abbreviated version, I'm including the full review here:

Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression by Brooke Shields. Hyperion, 2005. ISBN 1-4013-0189-4. New in paperback: $11.21

My Friend Brooke

Brooke Shields and I are the same age. The actress and model has always felt familiar to me, as if she was a high school acquaintance done good. I might have seen ten minutes or so of Blue Lagoon, flipping through the cable channels. Oh, and her guest turn on Friends, of course. I never bought a magazine because she was on the cover; it was the person, not her career, to which I felt a connection.

Perhaps it was rumors of her notoriously heavy-handed mother, or the universal criticism of her acting skills. Perhaps it was D-lister Kathy Griffin gossiping in her stand-up routine about Brooke’s wedding. It may have been the casually dismissive comment of a friend’s boyfriend who had a class with her at Princeton: “She’s not even the prettiest girl in the class.” Whatever the reason, I suspect the closeness I felt was akin to the sympathy my mother’s generation felt for brave Debbie Reynolds, abandoned by husband Eddie Fisher for that vampy Elizabeth Taylor.

This affinity continued when we both became pregnant and had daughters in the same year. But when I heard that she had suffered from postpartum depression, I had a sympathetic connection so strong it surprised me.

I luckily dodged full-blown postpartum depression but my baby blues did linger long in a particularly deep shade of indigo. My daughter Mia cried so much as an infant, I feared that she had tapped into the sadness of this wide old world. I felt responsible, as if she had caught one of my moods. Her infancy, during the darkest months of the year, was a difficult time, fraught with insomnia, anxiety, tentativeness. At that time we lived in an old converted bank building on a busy city street. Our home that had served so perfectly for parties before the baby arrived now felt cavernous and cold, echoing with Mia’s wails and often my own.

I made it through that first year, thanks to a couple of supportive mommy groups, long walks along the woody north branch of the Chicago river and stolen naps while the baby slept. Randy and I left the cold tile floors of the bank for a smaller home with a garden. We had a second daughter, mellow and easy.

As news of the birth of Brooke’s second daughter hit the newsstands, I picked up her book, Down Came the Rain, an account of her battle with post-partum depression after the birth of her first child. It was a startling new way to see my old friend.

Writing in an informal, conversational style, Shields speaks candidly about her struggles to become pregnant through in vitro fertilization, an emotionally devastating miscarriage and the joy with which she and her husband, the writer Chris Henchy, finally received the news of a successful pregnancy. “I excitedly began making plans,” she writes. “A girl? A boy? Blue room, pink, or a safe yellow? Showers, maternity clothes! Books to buy! A healthy eating plan!”

After much anticipation and preparation for the baby, including “appearing on the cover of Vogue magazine pregnant and looking like (she) was enjoying true harmony with life,” Shields finds herself knocked off kilter by her reactions to the baby’s arrival. Inexplicable rage and overwhelming fear for the baby’s life, as well as her own, alternate with periods of listlessness, apathy and guilt.

She writes, “Rowan kept crying and I suddenly began to fear the moment when Chris would bring her back to me. I started to experience a sick sensation in my stomach; it was as if a vise was tightening around my chest. Instead of the nervous anxiety that often accompanies panic, a feeling of quiet devastation overcame me.”

Shield’s reasonable expectations for happiness and the unexpected onset of her illness delayed her realizing she had set sail for family life into a perfect storm of risk factors. After the difficult trials of conception, Shields underwent a rushed emergency c-section three weeks after the death of her father from cancer. The baby girl was born healthy, but jaundiced, and with hip dysplasia, requiring an unwieldy ultraviolet light paddle and a harness under her clothes. Every hour and a half, day and night, newborn Rowan cried to be fed in an apartment filled with packed boxes where Shields and Henchy had moved only days before the birth. Stresses such as these can only intensify the hormonal upheavals that doctors believe contribute to postpartum emotional distress.

In her darkest days, the depression detaches Shields to the point where she starts imagining the worst. “I remember looking out the window and envisioning myself jumping. I concluded that it wouldn’t be too effective, because we weren’t high enough. . . . I sat holding my newborn and could not avoid the image of her flying through the air and hitting the wall in front of me. . . I was horrified, and although I knew deep in my soul that I would not harm her, the image all but destroyed me.”

Eventually, with medication (famously criticized by Tom Cruise) and therapy and time, the depression relaxes its grip.

Throughout the book the actress makes casual references to the trappings of a wealthy and celebrated life. Rather than distancing the reader, her stories of homes on both coasts, first class flights, personal assistants and baby advice from Antonio Banderas backstage only underline the fact that even someone with all the resources in the world can be overwhelmed with first time motherhood. Shields does acknowledge her unusually vast support system – attentive friends and family, the financial resources to pay for quality child-care and psychiatric help. In a poignantly funny scene, she tries to gather her wits to interview a baby nurse. After two brief questions, she falls silent, lost. The nurse gently asks, “ ‘Would you like to see my resume or talk to any of my references?’” Shields writes, “I shook my head again, silently, then looked at her and said, ‘Can you start now?’”

Through all this honest and informative reporting, a genuine sweetness in the author’s voice shines through. Perhaps as a result of an over-protected despite highly publicized childhood, she still displays a childlike innocence. I sense it when she describes asking “some friends to help with the beautifying process” to meet the paparazzi cameras as she leaves the hospital. I can hear it when she enjoys her husband’s endless teasing about her many malapropisms and awkward jokes, even about Valentine’s Day over-preparation. “By the time we got to the heart-shaped cookies, Cupid cake and red sugar cubes, I had been completely ridiculed,” she recalls with delight. “Everyone laughed at my expense and it felt good to be back.”

In her teen years this lack of guile floated Shields above the media storms about her highly sexualized film roles and advertisements. When she writes: “A documented life is one of the weirdest consequences of celebrity . . . details about my orthodontist appointments, my first period, and my virginity have all be publicized,” the actress seems somehow untouched by the media’s invasive touch. Her earnest striving to be a good mother also tempers my distaste to her first choice of job after the baby: a baby formula commercial, despite her commitment to breast-feed her own child. But such are the disagreements between old friends.

Of all the misunderstandings our culture sustains about mental illness, the origins, frequency and intensity of postpartum depression may be some of the most confusing. Leave it to a citizen of the pages of People magazine to enlighten her legions of best friends.

Twelve Recent Laughs

1. Melody our babysitter imitating her sad Shitzhu, Spike.

2. Mia wearing underwear on her head. Classic.

3. Dwight Schrute slouching into The Office, trying to act like Jim Halpert.

4. A little African school-girl giggling as Simon Cowell interrogates one of her classmates who drew a picture of him with breasts.

“What are these? Like a woman? I am not very happy with you, Caroline. I’m not so sure these school kits are a good idea.”

5. TelevisionWithoutPity.com

6. Bedtime with the girls giggling madly over Sandra Boynton’s jumpy-bumpy rhymes in But Not the Armadillo, and Mo Willems’ latest, My Friend is Sad.

7. Little Nora pushing the boogie-board toward the ocean, as determined as a baby sea turtle, driven to be a surfer.

8. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

9. “My humps, my humps, my lovely lady lumps.” This is so utterly stupid, I can’t help but love it.

10. Randy’s housewarming present to Brent and Serena: a remote controlled bust of an ape. From Target.

11. A war story from last week’s playgroup. After a rough day with the boys, Cole and Grant’s mommy ended up walking into our annual Christmas cookie exchange party with an opened bottle of red wine in a paper bag. And no cookies. I love this.

12. Nora making that horrible and rough throat-clearing sound when she is trying to neigh like a horse.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Weekend in Michigan

Randy is in San Jose, playing golf.

Our little red rental house may be haunted. Doors swing open suddenly. I was awakened at dawn by a woman’s voice calling, “hello?” downstairs. I dozed off again when only silence followed. This afternoon Mia ran out to the backyard fort, then returned to ask, “Is there someone in the house with us?”

“No,” I said, starting to feel like we were in a horror movie trailer. “Why?”

“I heard voices,” she said.

Time Machine

With this trip to Saugatuck, where the spring is slower to arrive than on our western side of the lake, we’ve managed to move back in time. The buds are still new, many trees still winter-bare. Out a window is some shagged barked tree, a hickory? “It looks like bacon,” says my cousin Sal of the strips peeling off its trunk. Tendrils of branches pour down from overhead, bearing blossom-like clusters of new leaves.

We have made spring linger. We have gone back in time. What will you do with extra time? What would you do with a second chance?

During our last-night game of Charades (simplified down for the kids to What Animal Am I?) Eleanor demands space in my lap. I look down at her entire body fitting in the space between my hip and knee. I say, “you’re just a little thing, aren’t you? Little feet. Little knees. Little hands.” I enclose each part of her body with my grown hands.

She pulls her thumb out of her mouth long enough to insist, “I’m a big gull!”

I know she is my last child. I feel pushed and pulled, melting over the traces of babyness she still holds, yet delighting in every new development.

When she was an infant, I would catch a glimpse of a rabbit in the yard or a petting zoo goat and say to Randy, “That reminds me of Eleanor!” Was it the soft forehead, the innocent eyes? I remember this feeling now, but the sense of actually feeling it is gone. She is a girl of language now. I won’t recognize her in that animal way again.

Eleanor is two years, four months old. Mia has four years and seven months old under her belt. It’s a pink belt, of course, that she needs to keep her skirts from falling off her non-existent hips.

I tell Randy, “Nora is the age that Mia was when Nora was born.”

“Mia’s always seemed this age,” he replies. I know what he means. They grow so slowly but change so quickly. Parents know this old truth as intimately as Northerners know the ancient relief and joy of spring’s return.

We had a lovely weekend. A walk in the Michigan woods, a kitschy visit to ye olde Windmill Island in Holland. Erik made bread and periodically ran off to fight barn fires.

But I am happy to come home, happy to be back in our time, happy my children change and grow.

Designated Guardians

After the absurdity and slowly decaying frenzy of bedtime, I climb down the creaking stairs of our haunted rental house to find an orderly kitchen and suddenly spacious living room. How big everything looks without a sprinkling of toys! Erik and Sally have cleaned up. How strangely pleasant the house suddenly feels - like when we first walked in.

Sally builds model Viking ships, blows glass in the basement. Erik manicures the yard, considers car care as an extension of his daily shower and shave. He takes a walk while we watch Sleeping Beauty with the girls, then returns, comments how quiet it was in the garden.

Meanwhile, our hybrid carries the detritus of a four day road trip: crumbled snacks, abandoned diversions, shed clothing, scattered hand wipes . . . Oh I'll admit it! Our car always looks like this.

It’s actually pretty funny. We eye each other with curiosity – who are these strange foreign animal with their odd habits of den and nest?

Sally is my cousin. She was born the month before my sister Nancy. We’ve always had so much to talk about, even as our lives diverged after childhood. The girls adore her.

So we drive by the Saugatuck high school and I’m thinking, but in no way tempted to say, “Look, Mia! Here’s where you could go to high school!”

I am not talking about our family moving here for Daddy’s work. I am thinking of where the girls would live if Randy and I suddenly were gone.

Who thinks this way? I do. Methodically anticipating the details of an earthquake.

Years ago, when I started to bluntly ask Sally about putting her name on our will, she interrupted me with the simplest, most loving confirmation of my trust. “Don’t worry about it.” So I didn’t.

But what an upheaval for her and Erik. I would be asking them to give up their lives. Walking again into their immaculate house, their full and satisfying schedules, I consider the upset and surrender of Ruth and Phil’s family. But no one asked Ruth and Phil to take the four of us in; they did the asking themselves. Who knows? Did my aunt and uncle, like other happy couples, dream separately and surreptitiously of a sudden alternative, a blameless reversal of the simple pattern the possibilities of their youth had fallen into?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Happy May Day!

Exhilaration driving home today under the flowering pink and white crabapples on Green Bay Road, hearing Mia pitch in her little voice to the Hey La, Hey La chorus of The New Pornographer's "Bleeding Heart Show." “Turn the sound up,” she called. I had a to-go cup of sweet, sweet caffeine. It’s spring. I felt young.

We were driving home from the dentist. Mia got her first filling today. She was awesome – brave and calm. I hadn't told her much about the procedure so as not to scare her – was this selfish? Perhaps, but it turned out to be fine. I couldn’t have anticipated the dentist’s speed and euphemisms. He talked to Mia in a very soft voice and described everything he was doing. When I heard that unmistakable whizzing of the drill, he called it "cleaning your tooth."

Yes, she wore a little gray elephant mask over her nose for the nitrous oxide. I couldn't really tell how she was reacting to the gas - she didn't close her eyes or giggle or squirm or anything. I sat by her feet, gave her the fuzzy white elephant to hold. I thought, this is one of those moments when you trade control and protection for trust and you just deal with the results. I felt calm and resigned. I felt old.

He finished in twenty minutes. Mia slowly sat up and looked through the little toy box to choose a tiny purple lizard. The right side of her mouth looked a little droopy. But there were no complaints. “Alright,” she said when Dr. Dentist told her to chew on the other side of her mouth.

I’m sure the new stuffed lion, a bowl of oatmeal at Cereality and some Homer's ice cream helped too.

I found this video on Web MD about St. Louis Children’s Hospital using nitrous in their emergency rooms to alleviate kid anxiety.