Category Archives: FrannyTalk

That time when Frances broke her arm and had to be ambulanced to Yale for emergency surgery.

Liam and I were remarking earlier this summer how we both had made it through most of our childhood without serious injury. I was in high school when I got my first and only stitches and one and only broken bone. Liam had stitches as a kid and broke his hand after college playing basketball.

And yet, both of our girls have had injuries that have required stitching, or in Frances’s case—gluing. And both have broken their arms! All before they turned five!

A couple of months ago Liam had the kids at the park playing on the playground and riding scooters. As they were getting ready to leave—due to Frances needing to poop—she had a fall when her scooter stopped abruptly as she rolled from the basketball court onto the grass. According to Liam, she ‘gently’ fell forward over the scooter—hardly a fall that would induce traumatic injury. According to Frances, the handlebars of the scooter ‘bumped her hard in the elbow.’

At the time, I had been picking up some take-out down the road. Liam called me to tell me he thought Frances might have broken her arm. We met at the restaurant and I confirmed I thought something about her right elbow looked off. So I took Frances to the ER while he went home with the other kids.

The triage nurse took one look at Frances’s elbow and advised me not to give her anything to eat or drink until after the doctor saw her. Hmmm…from my limited experience I knew this meant they were thinking ahead that she could possibly require surgery. Not a good sign. This was bad news to Frances who was a hot, sweaty mess from the park and very thirsty.

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Waiting on X-rays

The ER doctor came in quickly to examine Frances and applied pressure around her elbow. Frances didn’t wince too badly at her touch, so the doctor didn’t think she was going to require surgery. She gave her the go-ahead to have some water and ibuprofen.

Next, we went to have the X-rays done. Although she was clearly in pain, Frances handled the movement and placement of her arm for the photos like a champ. At one point, one of the techs called over to the other techs to have a look—another bad sign. They both agreed that they thought the ER doctor was going to be surprised at how badly the bone was broken. They said that Frances was not behaving like a child with a significant break in her arm. Most children they said, would be screaming and inconsolable. My kid was just a pale, sweaty, sad and pathetic little thing, cradling her tiny arm close to her body.

Then, we headed back to the room to wait for the ER doc. When she came in, she told us the food and water restriction was back in place and that the break was (surprisingly) severe enough that Frances would require immediate surgery. AND, that we would have to travel by ambulance that evening to Yale to meet with the pediatric surgeons there.

At this point, my adrenaline started to kick in. What I thought was going to be a simple splint until we could get a cast from an orthopedic doc—like what happened with Nora when she broke her arm—was turning out to be much more serious. And scary. Surgery?!

I called Liam and had him arrange to have my sister-in-law come get the kids while he grabbed some things from home and met us at the hospital. I remember the doctor told us they were going to give Frances some fentanyl while they splinted her arm for the ride to Yale. “You mean like the stuff that addicts are overdosing from?!” I asked, feeling helpless.

“Yes, but at the appropriate dosing for a four-year-old,” she replied, like I was some kind of idiot thinking they were going to harm my child. What can I say? I hate giving my kids over-the-counter pain meds as it is and avoid it at all costs. So, a drug that heroin users use was bound to freak me out a bit.

It was pretty scary seeing two nurses hold up two syringes to her little nose, but she continued to take it all in stride. The ride to the hospital was without issue, except that I keep thinking it was such a surreal experience. I talked to Frances every few minutes at first, and reached over a time or two to rub her head. I was buckled in behind her, so she couldn’t see me. At first I was concerned this would be unsettling for her, but I think she was totally out of it from the meds. I had a lovely conversation with the medic almost the whole way there. The rest of the time I focused on deep breathing to try and calm my overanxious state. Frances refused to nap for all but ten minutes of the nearly hour ride, though she rested easily. At this point, it was after 8:00 p.m., and she hadn’t had her normal nap. I sensed it was going to be a long night and had no idea what to expect.

The team at Yale was phenomenal. They showered Frances with stuffed animals when we got there and continued to come in and check on us while we waited to see if they were going to do surgery yet that night, or first thing in the morning. We got admitted around midnight after watching some movies in a patient room in the pediatric ER. The surgery was scheduled for the morning.

The worst and most traumatic event of the day was the insertion of the IV. Our kid, who had handled everything up to that point like a rockstar, flipped out when she saw the needle. Like screaming on repeat and nearly hyperventilating. It didn’t help that the nurse tried twice and failed to get a vein.  They had to call a super-super IV getter-inner from downstairs who took her time and eventually nailed it. We celebrated with a rainbow ice pop for Frances at 1:00 a.m. Her first food since lunch earlier that day.

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The team of doctors had explained to us, that during surgery, they would use an X-ray machine to place two long pins in Frances’s elbow bones to hold her bone/joint in place. The break she had was called a supracondylar fracture of the humerus. The pins would get pushed in to her skin—there would be no need to cut her open. The pins would stick out of her skin and be covered with a cast. When the cast came off, the pins would be pulled out and all would be well. At least, that was the plan. We slept as best we could, Liam in a folding chair, and me on a couch.

The hardest part of the whole experience for me, apart from the initial shock of it all, was getting Frances ready to leave for surgery in the morning. We walked with her as she rolled along in her big bed to the pre-op room. As soon as the anesthesiologist and surgeon came to talk to us, Frances started to cry. She looked so brave, as though she were trying to fight back the tears, but she understood for the first time we wouldn’t be going along with her on this part of the journey. My heart ached for her as I tried to reassure her, without adding my own tears to the situation. Gratefully, the anesthesiologist offered us the choice to give her something in her IV to calm her down. Within thirty seconds, she went from tears at the thought of being torn from us, to giggling. He told us she was a poster child for why they like to do that kind of thing. “You’re going to remember her leaving like this and not screaming. And she won’t remember it at all,” he said.

We waited patiently while the doctors had her, and felt overjoyed when the surgeon came after only an hour to tell us that things went perfectly. They encountered no problems and all had gone well.

We waited with our girl until she woke up. We expected she might be groggy and irritable. Both my sister and the doctors had prepared us for the worst. Instead, she was sleepy, but pleasant, asking only for another rainbow ice pop. She had chosen a sparkly pink cast which she admired against the contrast of her pale yellow hospital gown. She also asked if we could go play in the toy room she’d eyed on the walk down to the OR earlier that morning.

The rest of our stay was peaceful. I finally watched Moana for the first time, after having memorized the soundtrack earlier in the summer. We made it back home in our own car in time for dinner with the other two kids. Although the week ahead would prove to be one of the most difficult for me coming off the emotional and stressful experience of the broken arm, and with little sleep (I slept with Frances for a few nights afterwards to make sure she was elevating her arm and taking pain meds), we had weathered the broken arm surgery just fine.

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Leaving the hospital with one of the many furry friends we acquired.

I tried not to hear her when she asked the next day if she could ride her scooter. And I tried not to lose it all when she banged her elbow against the wall accidentally two days later, and then fell on it running a time or two shortly thereafter. And then, when Nora accidentally pulled Rowan down from the heavy dining room chair and both his feet got pinned underneath and he limped around for a few weeks, I almost did lose it all. But we made it through.

We made it through four weeks of end-of-summer no swimming for Frances. We made it through hair washing sessions in the kitchen sink and garbage-bags-on-the-arm baths. We made it through many re-X-ray checks and many more bumps and falls in the cast. We made it through the appointment when the cast came off and the pins came out and things still looked good. We made it through the first two weeks of school in a sling to help Frances—as well as little friends—remember that the unprotected bone still needed a little more time to heal. And we made it through the final check-up where the surgeon told us all restrictions were off!

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This morning, as we were hiking, Frances asked if we could do “Whee”—that thing when a child holds both her parents’ hands and then counts “one-two-three whee,” and then gets swung high in the air by her parents. Um, yeah. We said no. We’re going to give that arm just a little more time to heal before we go there.

Here’s hoping Rowan isn’t on track to break his arm at age four just like both our girls did. Fingers crossed!

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The origin of the dingle pepper. 

The other night, as I was prepping for dinner, Frances offered to help, as she often does these days. I asked her to get me some onions and garlic, which she did. We then had a lengthy and very deep conversation about why garlic skin was white and onion skin brown. I was essentially making things up for which I had no answer, or like my friend Bridget claims about her own mother, faking my way through parenting.

Following that, I took a red bell pepper from the fridge. I asked Frances if she knew what kind of vegetable it was.

“A pepper!” she exclaimed proudly. (This from a kid, who when I asked her last week what her favorite vegetable was, replied—chocolate cake.)

I then asked her if she knew what kind of pepper it was. Her triumphant smile faded into a look of true puzzlement. 

“Dingle?” she replied, not nearly as certain as before.

“Huh?” I said, trying to conceal the laughter that was threatening to erupt (our girls are very sensitive to any kind of perceived mockery).

“A dingle pepper?” she repeated again, sounding slightly more confident.

It should be noted here that dingle is a word I have used, and Liam has adopted simply because of my overuse of it, to describe one of the kids doing or saying something foolish. Kind of like the way in which one would use the word doofus

As in: “That shoe is on the wrong foot, ya dingle.” 

Yes, I know. It sounds dangerously short for dingleberry. And I admit, that might have been my intention in using the moniker in the first place. However, at no time has that word ever been used to refer to a species of pepper we use to cook with weekly.

“Hmmm. I’ve never heard of that kind of pepper before,” I said, still dying inside, waiting for any adult to come through the door so I could relay the then-present conversation taking place.

“You know,” she continued, trying to substantiate her claim. “The kind we grew in the garden this summer. The dingle peppers?” she said.

What was this girl talking about?! 

“Ummm, no. We grew jalapeño peppers in the garden, but no dingle peppers that I can recall. This one is called a bell pepper,” I said.

“Oh, yeah. Now I remember,” Frances said, with a bashful little chuckle.

For the life of me, I cannot make the connection to explain her misunderstanding. And I’m usually pretty good at following those little kiddo lines of thought. Maybe bell pepper—which she couldn’t quite recall—made her think of Jingle Bells, and jingle rhymes with dingle?  That’s all I got.

In any case, it’s definitely sticking. Dingle pepper it is, from now on, folks. We just might even try to grow some in the garden this coming season.

Heard Around the House

Nora: (runs upstairs) “Mommy? Can we have a cookie?”

Me: “No.”

Nora: “How about some apples?”

Me: “Sure.”

Nora: (runs back downstairs, shouting as she does) “We were right, Daddy. She said no we can’t have any cookies. But yes, we can have apples.”

I love that I’m so predictable.

———————

While out hiking on a trail in the woods.

Frances: “Mommy? Look at my walking stick. It has a tail. I’m petting it. See?”

Me: (chuckles; notices the bunch of green pine needles to which she’s referring) “Yep. I see.”

Frances: (leans in close to whisper) “For real life Mommy, it’s just a branch, not a tail.”

No one will ever say my kids lack imagination.

———————

Getting ready for bed.

Nora: (in tearful hysterics) “I want footie pajamas, Mommy!”

Me: “Well I’m sorry, but they’re in the washing machine.”

Nora: “I’m as mad as mad can be at you! As mad as can be! And it’s not fair!”

Me: “Well, life is not fair.”

Nora: “I want footie pajamas!”

Me: “I understand you’re disappointed. And tired. What else would you like to wear instead?”

Nora: (throws herself on bed) “I’m not disappointed! And I’m not tired! And I don’t want to wear anything else!”

Me: (runs downstairs to retrieve clean, but wet pajamas from the laundry machine to add insult to injury) “Fine. Here. Wear them then.” (hands over pajamas)

Nora: (suddenly stops fitful rage, inspects garment, proceeds to put on) “Hmmmm. They’re not as bad as I thought they’d be.”

Me: (shocked she’s actually going through with it) “That’s because they’re made of fleece.”

Nora: (pauses, realizes she’s a tad bit uncomfortable) “Well, maybe they’ll be dry tomorrow and tonight I’ll just wear something else.”

Me: Finally. The voice of reason.

She ended up insisting on wearing socks, and tucking them into her pants, as well as tucking her shirt into her pants so that she could mimic as best she could the appearance and feeling of being in a one-piece.

Drama, drama, footie pajama. Bedtime now for this mama!

Heard around the house.

This evening Liam came home late, so I was by myself with the kids for a bit. I fed Rowan early and then brought him upstairs to have his bath while the girls were just beginning to sit down to eat. After awhile, I heard them abandon their meal and begin playing something fun, as their conspiratory squeals of delight could be heard from below.

After I got the baby to bed, the girls came up for their turn in the bath.

Me: “Frances? Did you finish your dinner, honey? Or is there still food in your bowl?”

Frances: “Me and Nora spilled some water all over the place, but then we cleaned it up with some towels. So don’t worry.”

Okaaaay. Love the confession and brutal honesty at this age. When I asked her again if she finished her dinner, she replied that she hadn’t. Which is why now—at 8:47 tonight—she is downstairs with her father eating a banana with peanut butter instead of lying in bed with me.

                      ———-

Nora: “Mama. When I grow up I don’t want to be the driver of a garbage truck. I want to be the guy on the back. But not a garbage truck. I want to be a recycler. You know, so I don’t…stink.”

Makes perfect sense to me.

                      ———-

Nora: “Mommy? When is Grandma’s birthday?”

Me: “December 23rd. Two days before Christmas. She’s a Christmas baby.”

Nora: “Just like Jesus! But Jesus’ birthday is on Christmas. Not two days before. Mom? When is Mary’s birthday? Not our old babysitter Maire. But, you know, Jesus’ mom?”

Me: “Yes, I know which Mary you meant. But I’m not sure. You should ask your dad.”

Nora: “But how does dad know our old babysitter’s birthday?”

Me: “I thought we were talking about Jesus’ mom.”

Nora: “Oh yeah.” Giggle giggle.

Me: “Because your father went to church school. If anyone knows Mary’s birthday, it should be him.”

Nora: “Oh. Okay.”

Love putting the hubs on the spot!


Heard around the house.

Keeping it brief tonight because this mama is TIRED! And in denial about having to go back to work tomorrow. 😔

While Liam was making dinner earlier tonight, the girls had been playing in the living room. All of a sudden, Frances started screaming at Nora to stop whatever it was she was doing—I couldn’t see—and then Nora burst into tears and came running into the kitchen, where I was putting away some groceries.

Nora: (crying loudly and being overly dramatic) “Mommy! Frances pinched me! And she did it really hard and on purpose.”

Frances: (pouting pathetically) “But Nora took my car and she wouldn’t give it back!”

Me: “Nora. You need to LISTEN when your sister asks you to stop. And Frances. We. Don’t. Pinch.”

Frances: (without missing a beat, and with the slightest sly smile developing) “But Mom. I was just pretending to be a crab.”

Me: Did she really just say that? Yes. Yes she did. Now, turn your head so no one can see you busting a gut.

My child is hilarious. 

Frances and her books.

The main intention of this blog was and is to create a space for me to have a consistent writing practice. Although the past year has seen its ups and downs in terms of writing for me, I’ll admit I’m pleased with the overall effort given my prior attempts at journaling.

A secondary purpose of the blog is a means to record moments as memories, to be read over and over again as the months and years speed on by.

I remember reading the following quote in graduate school years ago by the Cuban American author Anaïs Nin, and I always, always come back to it when someone asks me why I write.

It goes like this:

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospect.”

“Yes!” I thought when I read it. This is why I write. 

Tonight’s memory will be one I share with Frances as she gets older and can appreciate my mockery.
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When she was a baby, I couldn’t get Frances to sit still and listen to a book. Not for anything. Unlike her older sister, Nora, who was practically reading right out of the womb, Frances crawled immediately away once settled in my lap in front of a book, or else delighted in swatting away the pages and covers with all her infant might.

Although I was concerned she’d grow up to be a simpleton, I continued the practice of diligently reading aloud to Nora in the hopes that Frances might soak up some of it through her periphery. 

After she turned a year old, I had a little success engaging Frances with books that had texture and other sensory materials. Lift-the-flap books like Where’s Spot? were a big hit. Still, I found myself just accepting Frances was going to be a jock or a comedian instead of a Harvard grad when she hightailed it outta my lap anytime an ordinary board book or picture book came her way. (I jest you know—there’s nothing wrong with being a jock. Both Liam and I were three-sport athletes and humor is one of my more redeeming qualities. I only label and judge my children to get a laugh. Besides, just today my Harvard grad, Nora, told me she wanted to be a recycling man—yes, man—when she grows up, so she can ride on the side of the truck. I will love them however and whatever my children turn out to be.)

Anyway, back to Frances. Around eighteen months, or maybe a little thereafter, she finally, FINALLY, started to show an interest in listening to stories read aloud. She began to sit still and delight in looking at pictures and hearing the written word.

Several months later, a little before she turned two, Frances’s vocabulary just exploded. Again, prior to this happening, I was concerned that my girl of few words might have to rely on looks alone, not brains, in order to get ahead in this world. (KIDDING!)

I needn’t have worried. These days, the girl has more words than she knows what to do with. And watch out, because when she gets talking about something she’s excited about, there’s no stopping her.

Back then, though, I suddenly found myself pleasantly surprised when  Frances—not Nora—was finishing sentences aloud when I intentionally left a word or two hanging off the end. Unbeknownst to me, she HAD been soaking things up through osmosis! She had memorized parts of the books we’d been reading. It was all very exciting for me. Maybe, just maybe, she’d be Harvard-bound after all! (BTW, I’m not even a big fan of Harvard, although it’s campus is very beautiful.)

These days Frances is never far from a book. She likes to ask me or her dad to read her a book, and then—once we finish—she’ll ask for another story, but will insist on taking back the first book so she can hold it and flip through the pages as she listens to the second story. She alternates between flipping and looking at one book and listening to the other. It’s very funny. Almost OCD in the way she does it EVERY time we sit down to read.

Frances is also fond of taking books to bed with her so she can look at their pages before she falls asleep. I’ve found many-a-book under the covers where she sleeps when making the bed in the morning.

Her latest thing is to walk around the house with a chapter book, and then sit somewhere and pretend to read. Today I noticed her carrying both Trumpet of the Swan and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Only, she was pretend reading something about a mama and a baby bear and how they had to clean up the house before dinnertime.

I’ve so enjoyed watching Frances’s love affair with books blossom the way it has. I have high hopes now for Rowan, child number three, who just turned one, and who might’ve just been introduced to a book by his mother a couple of weeks ago. 

Come on! Cut me some slack. Child number three, I said. Not to worry. If he’s anything like Frances, he’ll be toting around James Joyce novels before too long and babbling on about ocean characters who meet monsters at a picnic he “reads” in their pages.

Weaning Frances

After nearly three years—1,074 days, to be exact—my middle gal is no longer nursing. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. There were times I wondered if she’d be going into kindergarten in two years still nursing and wearing diapers. At least now I only have to concern myself with potty training—a feat I’m not looking forward to on account of the fact that girlfriend in TERRIFIED of sitting on the toilet. Always has been.

Anyway, two weeks ago I had to drive back to Pennsylvania for my sister’s last-minute wedding. Since we had just been back for Easter weekend, I didn’t really want to make a second quick trip with ALL of the kids in tow. I thought I’d just take Rowan with me and have Liam stay behind with the girls. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to wean.

Up until that point, Frances had only been nursing one time before bed each evening. It was something she VERY much looked forward to. Often, she tried to tell me she was ready for bed at 7:30, even though she’d napped and likely wouldn’t be ready to fall asleep before 9. Most times I indulged her, because the look about her was pure joy—bright smile, wide eyes, excited limbs.

We’d go upstairs to nurse in bed, she’d do her thing, and then she’d proclaim in the most awake voice, “I’m not ready for bed, mama. I wanna go back downstairs.”  Uh-huh. Just as I suspected. A fake-out just to get her nursing on.

When I contemplated weaning, I wavered back and forth about whether or not it was time. She’s only doing it once a day. That’s not so bad. I mean, I could keep going. She loves it so much. And it’s still such an important connecting time for us given she’s such an attached and emotionally needy child, not to mention the continued health benefits.

But then, there’d be an evening when she wouldn’t fall asleep nursing. And I’d have to unlatch and disconnect her because I was done nursing. Then she would whine and yell and have her little tantrum, and I’d be all: OK. We need to be done. Like, yesterday.

The decision was made. I needed to be resolute. I talked to Frances the entire week before I left for PA. I explained what was going to happen when I went away and then after. She definitely understood. Some days she seemed to share in my excitement about her becoming a ‘big girl’; other days she went into Cranky Franky mode and exclaimed she was still a baby, and was NOT going to give up nursing, ever again.

I was a little emotional the night before my trip—the last night Frances nursed. She and I had been connected in this relationship for so long. However, any sadness I felt was NOTHING compared to the grief I felt when I nursed Nora for the last time at 20 months of age—a sure sign I wasn’t truly ready. However, I’d been four-and-a-half months pregnant with Frances and nursing was painful. I also hadn’t had the benefit of watching a fellow mama nurse throughout her pregnancy and then tandem breastfeed both her infant and toddler like I did when I was expecting Frances and had Candace (our old babysitter) in our lives. Had I an opportunity to do it all over again, I would have suffered through the pain to get to the other side.

Frances did great the weekend I was away. She didn’t ask to nurse once. (I’m assuming it’s because she knew there was no supply available from her father, despite the fact that he’s jokingly offered to nurse her many times in my place over the years. She never once took him up on his offer. Wise girl, that Frances). Liam did mention, however, that she was very clingy and wanted to be held the whole weekend. Likewise, I did fine in Pennsylvania. I had no residual sadness. Only fond memories. And relief, I might add, to just be nursing one child instead of two.

Since I’ve been back—almost two weeks now—Frances still has not asked to nurse or mentioned one time anything about our past experiences breastfeeding. She is very clingy and whiny though. More so than usual. And a little extra cranky, especially around bedtime. Now that we don’t have that special nighttime routine, she has small fits with me when I’m the one to put her to bed. She insists on lying on top of me in order to fall asleep. When Liam does bedtime, things go better for him. I imagine it will take some time for Frances to settle emotionally, even though she’s not vocalizing what she’s working through. I’m trying to be patient and extra sensitive—giving lots of hugs and cuddle time. I know this is what she needs, and not a neck-wringing like I’d sometimes like to do when the whining and tantrumming push me to a breaking point.

Our middle gal will be three in eight days. The last birthday of our birthday season. She may not be ready for little girl undies any time soon, but she reached her weaning milestone no problem. Go, you big brave girl, go!