28 May 2011

What Goes Around

My mother is a hoarder. Not in a pathologic, star in a reality show on TLC or A&E, you can't find the floor of your house because of the thirty years of Reader's Digest you are "collecting" kind of way. But she does seem to keep things I often wonder about for years and years after I audibly wonder about them to her.

We all accumulate things - both junk and treasures. My mother does this, I think, for several reasons, a combination of emotional attachment to the memories associated with a given object and the frugal New Englander she keeps deep inside. But the most important is momentum, which I believe we all can relate to. It is simply easier to keep than to cull, to set the time aside to carefully go through the piles or boxes or attics full of a lifetime of collectibles and old sweaters and letters and to separate the good from the bad.

When she and my dad packed up to move back to Massachusetts after over twenty years in Western New York she did some of this. Unfortunately those moments of major life changes don't always allow for moments of clarity and reflection. In the stress of the move she probably threw out many things she will regret and kept many things she does not at all need or want. Many, many, many things. The Easter Egg made of sugar that had been broken in half is one I recently got to enjoy and mock her for. And the hand written sign I just discovered pinned to the side of the refrigerator that says "chicken in microwave" from an evening when she had left Daryl some chicken on a plate in the (you guessed it) microwave...what is that for? Does she anticipate a frequent "chicken in microwave" events in future?

Don't think that I'm complaining. Emmaline has enjoyed the collection of plastic drum and maracas that were carted from house to house over the years. She has enjoyed my own carefully preserved stuffed animals. She puts her babies to bed in the cradle I was once rocked in.

And sometime she puts herself to bed in there too.

She has worn the apron I used to paint in, the vest I wore for a while and then used to clothe a very large stuffed panda for almost thirty years. She reads the copy of It's a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day that I signed my name on the first page of. She rides the rocking horse I did, though her choice of accompaniment is somewhat more advanced than mine ever was, since she refuses to rock without the William Tell Overture playing to egg her on.

So I do appreciate the wonderfulness of things. In fact, I have accumulated many things I never thought I would need or want since moving into an actual house as an actual adult. And in living with my mother again, I have learned it is hard to get rid of things. So today, when faced again with the fabulous enormous stuffed bear at Costco, I did not buy it.

Sure it kept Emma entertained and happy for a very long time while Daryl perused the selection of five gallon jars of mayonnaise.

But it's also not necessary. Em has a warm cuddly creature at home to spend time with and we wouldn't want her getting jealous. Then she might chew even more things than she already does.

26 May 2011

Comedy Central

My daughter has a wonderful laugh. She has several in fact. The one she uses most is her mad scientist cackle. It comes unexpectedly, inspired when passing dogs or flying birds are brought to her attention. It was her first laugh and she continues to refine it as the months go by. But it is a laugh that is as much performance as it is natural. She uses it when she knows it is expected of her.

Em now has a new laugh. She has learned how to giggle when she thinks something is funny without having to be told that it is.

Yesterday, I was still in bed when she came into my room. Daryl had gotten her up, changed her diaper, run a toothbrush more or less over the general vicinity of some of her teeth. I was wearing a nightgown. Emmaline, by way of introduction, skipped the Good Morning and led with, "Outside!"

"But Emma," I protested, "I'm not wearing pants!"

She looked at me. I didn't smile. I didn't laugh. But she did. It took a moment. But then she giggled. It was a new sound. One that was filled with knowledge and discovery. She was delighted to have realized something was funny all on her own.

Then the laughter stopped abruptly and she moved purposefully across the room. She picked up my jeans and walked back to the bed, holding them in her outstretched hand.

"Pants!" Emmaline proclaimed.

"Yes," I said. "We can go outside soon. How about some breakfast first?"

I'm enormously happy to find she has a sense of humor. And one that doesn't just include sneaking up on people and laughing as she tickles them. Or sitting on the dog's head while she's trying to nap. Or putting   stuffed animals on/in her training toilet. She's developing nuance. Not great subtlety, but at least it's a start.

We'll work on political satire next. Certainly she heard enough of Stewart's and Colbert's voices while in utero to come to it naturally. We'll just have to see.

20 May 2011

Too Many

I recently cared for a child who had celebrated nearly each month of her life with a visit to the Emergency Department. Not on any particular day, just as things came up. She had been seen for fevers, for scratches, the time a mosquito bite got red but not infected. She had been given tylenol and motrin and, on one occasion, benadryl. She had never needed antibiotics. She had never, except for the one time her family made three ER visits in 2 days, been admitted to the hospital. She stayed on the inpatient floor for twelve hours, which is how long it took her parents to calm down enough to realize she was okay.

Now this is a healthy child. She was born full term, has a good set of lungs, is no more prone to the viral milieu than the next kid. Was this all terrible bad luck? Does the nurse who fields after hours calls at her pediatrician's office suffer from a predilection for overreaction, telling everyone with questions that they should be evaluated in the ER? How many visits, in a normal child, is too many? When do you raise the proverbial red flag?

As it turns out, the family has a wonderful pediatrician, who has seen the child (still less than two) even more frequently than she has been seen in the ER. She speaks in calming tones. She tries to tell mom what to look for, what symptoms normally pop up with such and such a virus, when she should worry and we she shouldn't. It is this sort of pep talk that is meant to get frightened families through the night, with some medicine for the fever but no calls to 911.

I happened to see this girl in the ER after one such call. She had been knocked over by a dog but had not a scratch on her. She cried throughout the ambulance ride, but calmed down when Toy Story was popped into the DVD player. If her mother, a somewhat young but a reasonably smart human being, had waited only two or three more minutes before placing the call to 911, she would have realized her daughter was just fine. But she didn't wait. She called. She always called.

"I feel so stupid," she told me.
"Please don't worry about it," I reassured her. "It sounds like this was very frightening."
"Better safe than sorry, right? It's better to just make sure?"
And at the time I had agreed.

But maybe I shouldn't have. Maybe I shouldn't have been nice. Because she came back the next week and seemed almost excited to be seeing me again, dragging her daughter in at eleven pm to have me look in one beautiful and uninfected ear. Unfortunately it seems like somewhere between ER visit 1 and 17, mom took this better safe than sorry ethos and had it veritably tattooed across the child's face. If I was just a little bit mean, do you think I could break this cycle? We'll never know, since I'll probably never try.

19 May 2011


Recently I was asked to take over some of the work of the 3rd year pediatrics clerkship at one of the hospitals where I work. The woman who had been doing this job for many years is taking over from my boss and my boss is moving into a role that I don't really understand but I'm told has to do with development, of what I just can't say. Since my old boss is still in charge of the schedule she remains someone to stay on good terms with, so the balance of power remains generally unchanged. As it should. I fully accept my role as the new kid on the block. 

Which is why, when presented with the challenge of taking over the third years (whatever this entails), there was really no way to say no. Just to be sure, I asked a friend who does the same thing at another site and was assured that I was correct in this assumption. There are times when you just get pulled further in.

This is not to say that I don't like teaching. I do. And of course I want the medical students at our site to have wonderful experiences. That is how we recruit good people to a field that I think often gets overlooked by some very driven students as being all about holding babies and giving shots. 

Now these are both very important parts of pediatrics. In fact, many of the adults cared for by hot shot orthopedic or plastic surgeons wouldn't be alive today to take advantage of their hip replacements and tummy tucks were it not for those vaccines. They would be dead. From meningitis. From swarms of bacteria multiplying in their blood. From measles, which recently enjoyed a little outbreak here on the East coast. And holding babies, well, is just plain delicious fun.

But the truth is, no matter how much I love teaching in theory, I'm not entirely excited about any piece of work that increases my time away from Emmaline. We took a walk today after I got home from the hospital and she put up her soft baby hand for me to hold and I realized there is no piece of the job I do that can even compare to the sweetness of moments like that. Still, you have to make money somehow. You have to buy little pink socks to put on her chubby feet every time the dog chews through another pair. So I do know work is a necessary part of life and I do appreciate that given work's absolute necessity, the job I have is a good fit.

It does make me wonder, though, how we ever get anything done in this world. I'm a fairly driven person. I liked school. I did well at school. I did things like join clubs and take extra homework assignments and sign up for independent study courses, you know, the things that make you generally unpopular at an early age. But now, having gotten to this point, I want nothing more than to cuddle with Emmaline. I'm told this is a hormonal thing, evolutionarily designed to make me not kill her on her particularly obnoxious days. I'm told I'm not alone in this feeling of complete tunnel vision. So how on earth does anyone get anything important done?

I don't have an answer to that. But I am relieved to find that some people actually do get things done. People like Judy Palfrey, who is soon to be appointed a member of the President's Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. I'm guessing she'll say yes. If my boss is hard to say no to, I can't imagine it's any easier to turn down the leader of the free world. And she'll do a wonderful job. She ran with the Olympic torch and I'm told she didn't drop it at all. She even let me hold it, after I elbowed the throngs of excited inner city children out of the way.

So congratulations to all those overachievers out there. And thanks for taking some of the pressure off. It makes it easier to enjoy the afternoons when I do nothing but stack blocks and knock them over again ad infinitum knowing there are good people out there holding down the fort.

18 May 2011

Reaction Time

I spent most of yesterday afternoon not taking Emmaline to the ER for a head CT. These things happen. I know. I tell parents that all of the time. Smart people. Good people. They double check the straps on the car seat. They child proof the electric sockets. They build tall fences around their yards. But children still fall. Accidents happen.

So yesterday my mom tripped on the front porch stairs. Her shoe went in one direction, her body in another. Emmaline, in her arms, fell with her toward the cement stoop. Her head must have made an audible crack with impact. You would have heard it before the scream. Then, shoe half on and half off they fell again in the front hall. I found them there in a heap.

Once my mom calmed down enough to answer questions it became clear that Em had hit her head, but her own knees took most of the force of it. The second time they fell Em was scared but not hurt. In my arms, she sniffled but had cried herself out. The real trauma was long done.

On the back of her head there was a bump. Not a big one, but you could feel it, furtively before she batted your hand away.

In the ER, I would not have hesitated. I would have looked at the smiling child and the frightened parents and told everyone without hesitation that a head CT was not warranted. I would have shown them a little graph that mapped the risk of skull fracture and serious intracranial injury based on their child's symptoms. I would have told them it was safe to sleep through the night. I would have been concerned but reassuring. I would have watched the child in the ER until they felt reassured.

There are people who don't go into pediatrics - gifted students who love taking care of children - because they don't want to take care of the parents. Yesterday, I wouldn't have blamed the person who did not want to take care of me. I was not crazy, not exactly, but I also was not sane.

Em was long overdue for a nap by the time this happened. Keeping her awake would not help anyone, especially not Em. So she needed to go to sleep. Still I could not leave her alone in her crib, baby monitor or not. Sleeping in my bed is difficult for her, but she eventually went down. And I lay next to her, eyes closed, pretending to be snoozing so she would not talk to me and keep herself from napping. Eventually she was still.

I listened to her breathing. I placed a hand lightly on her chest. When she sat bolt upright I moved a hand to rub her back until she settled down again right next to me. I nibbled on one chubby hand.

Today, she's completely over it. I am less so. Still, she seems to be doing okay. The jury is still out on her Nana, but I think it we can keep her from touching the bump on Emma's head she may be able to avoid any further tears.

15 May 2011

Putting Down Roots

Last night Daryl, Em, and I went for a walk a few blocks from the house on a street where everyone seemed to be named Tom. Emmaline stole a ball from some girls playing Four Square, which Wikipedia informs me is a game I'm not likely to need to know the rules of for at least a few years. They stared at her. She stared at them. We had a difficult time relinquishing the ball and moving on.

Ultimately, though, we did go in search of rabbits and the moon. While doing this we chatted with one of the Toms. He told us that most of the people on the street had been living there since the homes were built in the nineties. New homes. Beautiful homes that have granite counter tops in their kitchens and insulation in their walls and bathtubs that are not rusting around their drains. Telling us how much he loved the neighborhood, you would think it had been there for ever. And to him it had been. It had been there for all of his adult life. He got married and bought a house with an attached garage and had 2.2 children. These years and this place were all that mattered.

Were we from Danvers, he wanted to know. We are not. We are not really from anywhere. I thought this was normal. I thought that going away to college and not coming home was the thing that people do. Not so, it seems. Instead, I am beginning to realize, there are people who have constancy, longevity, who know the shortcuts and the traffic patterns, people who have a place that they call home.

I like our house. I like our town. The process of choosing said house and said town was protracted and painstakingly performed. But ultimately the house chose us. It had the in law apartment we needed for my parents. It had the "history" we thought we liked, though really that just means nice woodwork and decrepit bathrooms. The town came with the house and not the other way around.

So when will we begin to feel like we actually belong. Will it not be until Emmaline is in school? Will our belonging stem from her belonging? Maybe. It has been less than a year and, yes, sometimes the house almost feels like home. Almost, but not quite. The living room is familiar, of course, filled as it is with my parents furniture, the furniture I grew up with and have known all of my life. The plates we eat off of are similarly familiar, being my parents', accumulated over years of combing Dansk outlets to replace those we had broken over the decades since their marriage. Much of the art is theirs as well. The dining room table. The painted glass lamps. Em's rocking horse.

They are familiar items. They should make it easier to settle in, shouldn't they, since the alternative would be empty rooms? But I do wonder sometimes if they make it more difficult instead. Maybe the house does not always feel like home because it feels like my parents home and I left that long ago. Emmaline doesn't seem to know the difference. She is happy to crawl on my parents'dining room table, happy to treat it as her own. She doesn't know that it's never been as stable or as strong since another little girl crawled on top of it thirty years ago to draw on it in black permanent marker, marker that you can still see, what with it being permanent and all.

So maybe we will have to let Em take the lead. She's happy. She learned to walk in the family room and learned to climb stairs on the, you know, stairs.

This house is forever as far as she's concerned and I guess that does make this a home.

We'll just have to keep trying to grow into it.

14 May 2011

Monkeying Around

I was recently asked by a colleague to write a post on the hazards of trampolines. I may get to that eventually, but first I'd like to address a more pressing evil lurking in each and every school yard in America: monkey bars. Now the writers at Moving Smart would like you to believe that playground activities such as the monkey bars provide children not only with enjoyment but also form the basis for the development of essential gross motor skills. That very well may be. But these benefits are difficult to enjoy whilst falling to the ground. Emmaline learned that this morning when she escaped from her crib for the first time.

You see, in medicine as in life things seem to come in uncanny groupings, not always in threes exactly but often so. It so happens I've seen a lot of monkey bar injuries lately. Not one, not two, not even three, but so very many. McCoy said, "It never rains but it pours." To which Kirk replied, "As a physician you of all people should appreciate the danger of reopening old wounds."

And wound are exactly what I'm referring to. Not bumps and bruises. Not the occasional skinned knee. Monkey bars strike deeper, harder. A rhyme, perhaps, to illustrate my point?

The days of carefree youth have passed,
We hoped that they would last and last.

"Anything is possible if you try."
We told them they could reach the sky
But it was the other way around,
When they came tumbling to the ground.
Was it her fault she could not hold on tight?
Was he to blame for losing the fight?
For gravity will always win

Unlike ligaments, bones, and skin.
From the monkey bars we're meant to trace
Their explosion of agility and grace
They swing and hang with seeming ease
But we no longer live in trees.
Is it any wonder he fell down
And fractured his olecranon?
Or that she shattered her tibia and femur
While trying to dangle like a lemur.
No, better to stay with your feet down low
Since you will not have as far to go.
Better yet, why not simply stay in bed
And avoid the catastrophes others dread? 
The pillow's soft, the mattress wide.
What? You want to go outside?

08 May 2011

Duckling's Day

One year ago, my first Mother's Day, we celebrated in the Public Gardens by dressing Emmaline up as a duck.

This would have been a brilliant enough idea if we had thought of it and just decided that babies dressed as adorable animals undergo an exponential increase in cuteness. The fact that it was an actual thing, organized by the Friends of the Public Garden and attended by hoards of other small humans dressed as water fowl made it all the more magnificent. The triplets making their debuts as white feathered swans was an especial favorite and were it not for the general taboo on taking pictures of other people's children I would certainly have documented them as well as we did Em. Sadly, that's creepy, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

The day was filled with firsts for both of us. Emmaline's first ride on the T:

And her first independent pushing of the stroller, now a must for any outdoor adventure:

It started as all good family activities do, by trudging up a long set of stairs while awkwardly struggling with a stroller and a screaming child.

This was followed by a parade across Beacon Hill during which we enjoyed the polite clapping of its residents, at once charmed by and taken aback by the invasion of common middle class ruffians.

Em practiced her duck call:

And then practiced spotting real ducks:

Today we are a year older, perhaps a bit wiser, and oh so much cuter.

Thank you Miss Emmaline for making me a mom.

07 May 2011

The Second Law

There is no need to throw your bowl
To prove that you are in control.
While Daddy watches from the door
Don't hurl your veggies toward the floor.

There is no need to make a case
Against the peas across your face
But if you decide you simply must
There's still no need to impart thrust.

Hold out one hand, release your grip
And watch the cheerios begin to slip
They'll tumble down and out of sight
With no display of strength or might

And when you wonder why they fall
One equation describes it all
The second law tells us the way
That F is equal to m times a

Where F is force, a word for weight
and a is the rate things accelerate
m is mass, of course, it's true
These laws also apply to you.

Newton said it was all of these
Not just apples falling from trees
But pureed pears, peaches and peas
And little girls with fresh skinned knees

Coins dropped into wishing wells
Or grains of sand pouring from shells
And raindrops falling from the sky
None of these knows how to fly

They only can move toward the ground
All these examples that we've found
I'll tell you now, though you may see
Force in this case is gravity.

But Newton did not specify
Since other forces can apply.
Wagons follow when pulled behind
That's force of a different kind.

And when you give your door a shove
Or throw around that ball you love
They may move fast, they may move slow
But it's a force that makes them go.

There are many things you can lift up:
Your baby brother, your spoon, your cup
But careful not to let them fall
Or gravity will find them all.

For gravity is here to stay
When other forces go away
As long as on Earth we walk or crawl
Things, when dropped, will always fall

And finally we would be remiss
If we failed to mention this
Another way the equation arranges:
F is the rate that momentum changes.

The First Law

Sir Isaac Newton, the books all say
Was born in England on Christmas Day
In sixteen-hundred-forty-three
Was wrapped with the presents beneath the tree

He went to school to learn to add
Like every other lass and lad
He studied his letters and numbers too
Proud of the things that he could do 

Reading, writing, arithmetic
The last of these he picked up quick
And later used to formulate
The laws of motion he would create

At the Cambridge College of Trinity
He sat beneath an apple tree
And saw the fruit come tumbling down
And then it struck him on the crown. 

Oh, Newton's Laws, they numbered three
And were lauded for their simplicity
The work of others was the key:
Kepler, Galileo, and Ptolemy.

On the shoulders of giants Newton stood
Doing what others had wished they could
Describing why things either go or don't
Why Hula Hoops roll but boxes won't

The first of his laws, it did say 
An object in motion remains that way
When skating on a frozen pond
You'll find that you go on and on.

With little friction to decrease your speed
The laws of momentum have decreed
That your velocity will keep its rate
As long as your skates stay pointing straight

The First law also says it's true
An object at rest stays that way too
Like Daddy lounging in his chair
When Click and Clack are on the air

He'll lean back with his legs propped up
And hands wrapped round his coffee cup
'Till Mommy says to clear the table
To Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me's Peter Sagal

Daddy stacks dishes in the sink
While in your high chair you start to think
If this is certain, what you’ve heard
What comes with the Second Law, or Third?


06 May 2011

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Believe it or not, I will be seeing kids in the ER for sunburns not too long from now. It doesn't seem possible. In fact yesterday, when it was in the forties outside and each and every seedling that I had painstakingly nurtured was looking incredibly determined to die and those that were somehow surviving were getting dug out of the ground by my idiot dog, I thought I couldn't take it for another minute. 

It has been a long winter. Everyone feels that way. Add to that the overwhelming number of wheezers and bronchiolitics and kids who did not get their flu shot and so subsequently got (you guessed it) the flu who stampede the ERs during these colder months and you can understand why I am a little bit desperate for a small taste of sun. Smart people, organized people, plan vacations to warm holiday destinations in order to avoid this feeling of misery around mid-March. I understand this. So I know it was my fault, two months ago, when I began to be a little on edge. I pushed through. But now, seeing as how it is freaking May already, I am overdue for a thaw.

Thus my overwhelming happiness when today was blissfully sunny and actually as warm as it looked from the windows of my frigid house. And away we went. I remembered vaguely that there was an ocean somewhere nearby, so it seemed only reasonable that we go reacquaint ourselves with its shores.

Emmaline, ever the avid ornithologist, took great pleasure in chasing seagulls this way and that, yelling "tweet, tweet, tweet, touch!" in her very best outdoor voice. They were, understandably, not terribly interested in cultivating interspecies communication and kept a safe distance away.

We didn't stay long, but it was enough. Em, buffeted by the winds and rebuffed by her fine feathered friends, was soon ready to move on. Trudging back through the deep, dry sand with her in my arms, I wondered if there was ever anything that smelled as sweet as a bald baby head doused in sunscreen and coated in a fine layer of sand. You can see how delirious I have become.

Hopefully we will have many beach days ahead. Ones where Em is actually allowed to stick her feet in the water and splash, splash, splash since that is arguable her favorite thing on this earth. Apart from seagulls, that is.

03 May 2011

Once Upon a Poops

Emmaline has been the lucky recipient of several classic children's books of late, from Taro Gomi's Everyone Poops to Alona Frankel's Once Upon a Potty. Have you noticed a certain theme? 

She is certainly not ready. Though she has a potty and will occasionally sit upon it and read or look at herself in the mirror, she spends more time throwing toys into its basin or picking it up and moving it industriously from one place to another. Still, the warm months are upon us and we had hoped (at the risk of jinxing ourselves) to perhaps take some steps toward potty training this summer, when she can run bare bottomed round the yard.

So every picture that Daryl draws with her is of an animal pooping.

"What are you drawing, Emmaline?"


We will either have an early potty trainer or a child who is someday expelled from nursery school for foul language. The reality, though, is that as brilliant as my daughter is, she has much to learn before being able to plant her bottom on a plastic pot and pee and poop into it. My friend, Alyssa, is having somewhat more success and recently wrote me to tell me this:

"Yesterday, Revel, my 2-year old, is on the toilet and  we're reading Once Upon a Potty, waiting to poop. We read about the hole in Joshua's bottom for pooping. Revel tells me he doesn't have a hole. I tell him he does. He insists he doesn't. I insist he does. He asks to see it. I consider, then censor the ways I can arrange to show him his own butt, and all of the weirdness they would entail, including mirrors or taking a picture. I flash back to reading Our Bodies, Ourselves during a stay at the high school infirmary and being encouraged to view my own beautiful parts with some squatting, a mirror and a flashlight. Instead, I start by explaining that it is REALLY hard to bend our heads that far down to see our own butts and there are just some parts of our bodies that we can't move our heads enough to see. He looks at me, plants his hands by his ears firmly and asks to take his head off, moving his hands as if they held his head to show how he would put his it by his butt
to view it."

Well done, Revel. And well done, Alyssa.

This story, aside from being generally adorable, also reminds me of another anecdote. A friend of a friend of a friend, practicing obstetrics in a more rural part of the country, was once faced with a terrified and confused patient after suggesting to this woman that she might benefit from the routine insertion of a catheter to drain her bladder during childbirth. They fumbled for several minutes, the doctor not knowing why her patient had begun to hyperventilate and the woman now knowing how to say what was really wrong.

Eventually the patient spit out her question, "But how will the baby get out if you put a tube up there."

It was still another few minutes before the physician realized what the problem was. Then finally she explained, "The baby comes out of your vagina. Your pee comes out of your urethra. Those are two separate openings."

At this point the patient's partner interjected, "See honey, I told you there was three holes down there!"

We all, young or old, benefit I think from clear explanations about how our bodies work. So for those of you with questions, ask your doctor. Or, better yet, ask Revel. He's got it figured out.

02 May 2011

Tying the Knot

When I last wrote, I heralded a long absence filled with Josiah Bartlett and Josh Lyman and all my other favorites. Instead I got sick and lay on the couch moaning, arising occasionally only to be told by my mother that I looked terrible and would I please stay away from the baby.

I rallied just in time to see my dear friend Natalie wed her fiance Dany in a lovely ceremony that I only understood about half of - probably not because I was still delirious but instead because I don't speak Arabic. Emmaline, tired out from a morning at the Philadelphia Zoo that had been strategically planned to make her so exhausted that she would take a stellar nap but instead somehow conspired to prevent her from having any real nap at all, slept heavily on my chest while they exchanged rings.

She awoke just in time to be a miserable fuss throughout the drinks and dinner portion of the evening, ensuring that we did not (in fact) get to catch up satisfyingly with any of our friends from England or California or other sundry locations around the globe. But then she somehow rallied enough to receive kisses from half the female population of Lebanon, crash the first dance while wearing a very wet diaper, and then stagger drunkenly around the dance floor holding onto an enormous stuffed Pluto she had stolen from the church nursery upstairs.

Despite her periods of being inconsolable, she was generally adored by all. She was, after all, wearing a frilly dress and matching hat.

Not this frilly dress. An even better one. But of course we were running late after the failed nap and never got a picture.

Natalie, who is one of those people who tries to do good and make a difference, is the reason that Emmaline exists. I know she has more good deeds to her credit than this one, mainly in parts of the world that most of us cannot find on a map, but I am especially indebted to her for inviting me round for tea on Walton Street just often enough to meet my future husband, fall blissfully in love, and take long walks (the three of us) around the Worcester Lake after formal dinners, our black academic gowns fluttering quietly in the breeze.

So, thank you Natalie.

And because you are always doing new and wonderful things, we thought it was apt if we could (this weekend) do a bit of the same for Miss Em. Like swimming. Swimming seems a reasonable place to start, especially with such fetching swim togs.

There was, of course, a period of blood curdling screams during which I thought it impossible that she would ever not be afraid. 

Luckily she settled, and was soon jumping in from the edge holding onto just our hands and being dragged across the water's surface gleefully. Tuckered out and ready for the long ride home, she looked almost proud of herself. And she should be. She was a star.

But then, Miss Natalie's legacy is a lot to live up to. We'll just have to keep working at it.