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Give Thanks for Purple Helmets

For all of you who haven’t seen any photos of Little L recently, she’s not rocking her purple star helmet during the daytime anymore. It is now a sleep helmet – like a nightcap, but, well, more durable. 

For those of you who haven’t seen Little L or her photos for the past half-year, she wore a head-shaping helmet because her head got a little flat on the sides from the way she was sleeping during those super-pliable early days. 

Every three weeks since Little L got her helmet, she and I have visited our now-friend Mallory, who checks on the progress of her head, writes calculations on a post-it for me, adjusts the helmet, and calls me “Mom.” 

When we first got the “she could really benefit from a  helmet” diagnosis, we weren’t thrilled. Besides it being a hassle, I was worried what people would think. 

But this is the way I’ve come to see it… Allow me to quote myself. I recently emailed a local author whose book about her preemie’s birth I had just read. I mentioned the helmet as one side effect of Little L’s early arrival to Planet Earth.

She (the author – not Little L!) wrote back to me that she liked what I had said. A real author, not only reading and responding my email, but quoting my email back to me! I felt like that guy in When Harry Met Sally, one of the few pop culture references I’m equipped to make, when he said, “Nobody has ever quoted me back to me before.”

So this is what I said: 

I thought that it would bother me trying to explain it to people, but I think it’s actually been good for me. I think she looks adorable in it, and it will help her “toaster head” as the NICU nurses called it. Her journey into the world wasn’t exactly standard, so why not have a cute purple helmet to prove it?

In my memory – and in my photos, of which there are many – Little L’s transformation from infant to toddler took place in the helmet. I mean, she did wear it 23 hours a day! Learning to roll, sleeping on her tummy with her face smushed into the mattress and her butt up in the air – how many times have I looked on the monitor to see an astronaut sleeping in Little L’s crib? A fashionable astronaut with a purple helmet.

The first time she rolled herself from her own room to the living room, slapping the wooden floor and grinning at me. Crawling towards her sound machine with a giggle that gave away her plans for grabbing the cords. Laughing as a dog licked her face. Trying to crawl out of the “superdrum” the kids were sitting in during music class and a mom saying with a nervous laugh, “She’s fearless.” Learning to pull herself up those first times – onto the glass table at my sister-in-law’s house in California. We all felt better knowing she was wearing her helmet.

I am happy for Little L that her head can breathe easier now during daytime hours; she seems perfectly content wearing the helmet just at night. According to Mallory, soon we will hang it up for full retirement (will we keep the helmet? Keep a piece of it? How do you keep a piece of a helmet? A friend said she still has her fourth grader’s helmet). 

At the beginning, I over-explained the helmet to strangers on the elevator and servers at restaurants. But as time went on, I only accounted for its existence when I felt like it.

I didn’t feel bad about it and I don’t think Little L did either. She rocked that purple helmet with pride.

I love her in her helmet and I love her without it. One of my favorite helmet snapshots is driving home from Joanie and Wendall’s house in early spring. They keep their heat a little warmer than we do, and Little L was overdressed, plus, you know, wearing a helmet. I stripped her down to her onesie and left her in her reduced clothing state on the ride home. I could see her in the review-baby-mirror: pantsless, grabbing her bare feet, sporting her purple helmet, snow passing by outside. 

I thought, “that’s happiness.” 

Some people need helmets to shape their heads temporarily. Some people need helmets for longer periods of time because of health conditions. Some people don’t wear helmets when they ride scooters through downtown Minneapolis. They should.

On our last visit to Mallory, Little L walked back to Mary’s office with a grin on her face. I remember our early days when I still brought in the entire carseat carrier from the car. She now has a mouthful of teeth. On this visit she spotted the little doll modeling a helmet – her same purple helmet. “Baby! Baby!” she said, and I gave her the doll. She proceeded to take its helmet off and then got frustrated when she couldn’t get it back on. 

It didn’t fit on her own head either, but not for lack of trying.

“It’s really up to you,” Mallory said. “We could be done now or we could try another three weeks. Her soft spot is still a tiny bit open, so we might get a little bit more progress. But I’d have to see if I could make room in the helmet.” 

“Can you try?” I asked after just a couple seconds of reflection. I’d been given this option at least three times before, and  I kept making the same choice: Helmet On.

Mallory was gone longer than usual – I have a feeling she had her work cut out for her trying to make more room in a helmet that is probably past its peak. 

When she came back in, Little L was standing looking at herself in the mirror.

“She’s my tallest patient!” Mallory said.

I handed her the “baby,” slipping its purple helmet back on. “She played with this.” 

“That’s what it’s there for,” she said. 

My pediatrician recently said that I probably know Mallory “almost as well” as I know her. I laughed – Little L and I see Mallory every three weeks; luckily we don’t need to go to the doctor’s office quite that often. 

“I got it sized a little bigger,” Mallory reported. “So let’s see what happens in another few weeks.” 

Exactly. We’ve come this far; I don’t see why we would quit now. 

I’m prepared that the end of the Helmet Era is quickly approaching, that one of these Monday morning trips to Mallory’s office will be our last.

But I know that when I hear Little L’s giggle or watch her wobbly Frankenstein walk, I’ll remember her purple helmet. And this says a lot: I can’t promise that I’ll get rid of it.

Whatever your version of the purple helmet is, be proud of it. Wear it with pants if you like, or maybe just with a onesie. If someone in your life wears a purple helmet, don’t pity them. It’s there to serve a purpose. It is part of who they are.

So today, maybe during a trip to the bathroom for some much-needed Introvert Time, check in with yourself: what color is your purple helmet? Have you been wearing it? If not, it might be time to pull it out. As Mallory would say, try it just at night. That might be enough to make some progress.

Happy Thanksgiving. Helmet On.


Be Good-at-Finally

When we moved into our condo about five years ago, a small square contraption with two metal pieces sticking out its sides was affixed to the window in the living room. 

“What is that?” new visitors often ask. 

“Maybe it’s a spy-cam,” we joke. “Or a cell signal.” 

We have no idea what it is. Yet we haven’t removed it; we each have our reasons. Axel says it might break the glass to remove it. And it just doesn’t bother me having an unknown electrical device staring at me all day.

And then the other day, Axel was installing Little L-proof locks on the kitchen cabinets. He asked me, “Where’s the hair dryer?” 

If you’ve ever seen my hair, you probably doubt that I own a hair dryer, but you are wrong. I keep one housed in the guest bathroom; sometimes overnight guests want it. This hair dryer has not seen much, if any, action from me in the past five years of residing in this condo.

I assumed that Axel needed it for the cabinet lock set-up. But no. He walked towards the living room window and seconds later presented the mystery contraption, free from its dedicated site on the window.

“What?” I was stunned. It had been an unassuming part of our lives for so long, and now, suddenly, it was the end of an era.

I assume that the instructions on the cabinet locks held the key to the mystery device removal. Sure, I could ask Axel, but I like the intrigue of his sudden decisiveness, much how I liked, or at least didn’t mind, the strange object itself. 

Now, of course, we need to figure out how to dispose of said unknown object. Is it recyclable? Is it toxic waste?

Don’t tell Axel, but i might not get rid of it. I’m thinking of affixing it to something of his – his bike helmet maybe.

Not just because it will provide me with endless amusement. but also because I’m watching out for that hair dryer who really wants to get some use.


Be Bad-at-Cleaning

This fall we were so happy to host Ned and Charlotte as guests. Being overwhelmed with even the simplest tasks, we were unable to do the half-acceptable bathroom clean that we would usually do before a visit. We were, however, able to procure them clean sheets, which felt like a small win.

I apologized to them and they took it in stride. I felt especially bad because they had scrubbed their bathtub last time we had visited.

Which reminds me – thank goodness we have two bathrooms. Except that when Meghan and Cameron visited, the shower in the guest bathroom was clogged. We were forced to open our shower to them.

They may not ever want to visit again

“I’m so sorry I couldn’t clean the bathroom,” I told Charlotte.

That’s ok, she said, I was planning to do a quick clean before I left.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

She was.

Was I insulted? No.

Was I thrilled? Definitely.

I knew I should tell her no. What kind of host offers a dirty bathroom and then lets their guest clean it before leaving?

“That would be amazing,” I said, and showed her where the broom is kept.

Don’t worry readers. I stopped short of mentioning that my bathroom could use a cleaning.

But if she had offered, who knows what would have happened.

Be Good-at-Backups

I wouldn’t want to advise you to be bad at backing things up.

But I was.

Kind of.

This is a public service announcement – back your stuff up.

Last week I left Little L’s side, where I’d been snapping some photos, and walked towards the bathroom – checking my emails at the same time.

I deleted one.

Nothing happened.

My phone was frozen.

So I pressed the power button.

The phone started to reboot…

and then froze again.

I found Axel and asked him about the situation. He quickly looked it up online and reported that my phone had a known issue called bootlegging or bootstrapping or looping boots or something.

It was booting and rebooting. It was a loop.

You can make up your own name for that.

Although this was called a “known issue,” no one from Samsung had thought to notify us that this might happen. I guess they kept the knowledge for themselves.

Axel proceeded down a myriad of options to try to fix my phone, including borrowing Joanie and Wendel’s PC and taking the phone apart and using a hairdryer.

You see, it just wasn’t that convenient to have a new baby and have your phone crash.

Not that Little L minded… too much.

Were my photos backed up? Thank goodness I had recently started backing them up to Google Photo! (Thank you to friend Lisa who works in tech for recommending online backups!).

It’s unclear if Google Photos backed up all of my photos, but most of them seem to be there. Plus, good thing Axel really likes Little L; he’s got tons of photos of her on his phone too.

Hopefully he’s backing them up.

What about my texts? I had at least five unanswered messages. But I don’t know who they were from.

Bad etiquette on my part.

If I didn’t answer your text last week, please resend it.

Axel found an old phone of mine and put my SIM card in so that I wasn’t without a phone in the days it took to get the new phone ordered and delivered.

That’s right; keeping something old actually resulted in something positive.

I know; I was shocked too.

So back your stuff up.

And I’ll begrudgingly suggest that you keep an old phone — just one — on hand in case you suddenly need it.

Be Good-at-the-Unexpected

A week and a half ago, having arrived from a trip to California eight hours earlier, I woke up, pulled some clothes out of my suitcase, put on my swimsuit, and threw a dress on over it.

I was headed to a routine check-up, and afterwards, I’d be picking up my friend to go together to the Webber Pool, a place I’d tried and approved on my first day of summer vacation a couple weeks back.

Swimming, after all, was one thing I chose as a summer focus.

I didn’t make it swimming that day. I didn’t even make it home from the doctor’s appointment. An initial elevated blood pressure led to five days in the hospital. On Sunday evening the doctors told my husband and me that it was time to have our baby.

I looked at Axel. “Let’s have a baby!” He nodded.

It was time!

By then I had procured some normal clothes and was no longer wearing my swimsuit as I had been for the first day. I hadn’t been able to locate a pool at the hospital, strangely enough.

Welcome to the world, Little L! A bit sooner than expected.

We are so glad you’re here.

I had been planning to write a post called “Be Good-at-Expectations” where I would let you all know that after the baby came, I’d probably be reducing my amount of blog posts. Just so you’re not too disappointed.

I didn’t have time to write that post quite yet, because I just dozed off midway through that last sentence.

But no worries. Little L is here, and as soon as I have the time and energy, I’ll keep you posted on our adventures!

Be Good-at-Gift-Cards

Not our usual meeting spot, my mom and I were here for one reason:

Gift cards.

There’s nothing more fun than a gift card. Sometimes they even get you to extend your horizons, as in this case. I was abandoning my go-to local coffee shop to try something new:


I arrived early and got within $1.24 of maxing out my gift card.
When my mom arrived and pulled out her own gift cards, I thrust mine at her.

“Use mine up first! Please!”

It’s strange how satisfying it can be to complete something, even something like using up a gift card balance.

My mom returned to our two-top a minute later. “Here’s your card.” She slid it across the table to me. “All done.”

Victorious, I gave it a hopeful toss in the recycling section of the bin next to me.

She was digging through her purse now. “This is so weird. Last time I used two gift cards and they threw away the one that ran out. The other one had $16 left but now the cashier says this card doesn’t have anything. I wonder if they threw out the wrong one!”

I looked woefully at the recycling bin. Perhaps gift cards don’t have that special triangle symbol on the back.

“Bummer,” I said. It subtracts from the success of spending the gift card if the balance was accidentally erased by a third party.

The next time I saw my mom, she whipped a green and purple card out of her wallet.

“Look! I had the gift card registered, so I called Starbucks and they cancelled the old card and sent me a new one. The balance was 16-something, just like I thought.”

I was impressed by the efficiency of this transaction. You think of car insurance or home insurance.

But gift card insurance?

“So now I still have $16 to spend there.” Her eyes shone with satisfaction…  and the burden of those starry bucks yet to be spent at a place she doesn’t frequent all that often.

“We’ll have to go soon,” she said.

I nodded, relieved that gift card spending is now on her to-do list, not mine.