We went to Chicago last week for another round of testing, once again trying to gauge whether or not we need to worry about Annika's lungs.
After all the tests were over, I reminded Annika about the fantastic Thai food we had last time we were in Chicago. But she would not be swayed from her decision to dine at the hospital, rather than in one of the charming little restaurants which dot the neighborhood.
In a way, I'm not surprised at her stubborn insistence. Inside the hospital, Annika is bound to run in to at least 3 or 4 employees who have known her since she was a baby. Without fail, every one of them will gush over how much she's grown and how fantastic she looks and how adorable her outfit is (she always picks out her own clothes for hospital visits); enough gushing, in fact, to do any grandparent proud. Annika nods silently throughout it all, as if it is her due, the regal kindergartner bestowing the occasional dimple upon the peasantry.
Out in the rest of the world, among the kids she meets at the pool or at the park, she seldom gets that sort of automatic appreciation. If we're at the park, she's almost always questioned about her cleft lip, and she's always the kid holding up the line as she climbs up the stairs of the slide, unable to see her feet below her large belly.
At the pool, it's even worse. I usually put Annika in a 2-piece suit, because she's on both a diuretic, making her pee frequently, and also lactulose, which accomplishes the same thing with the back end. If you've ever struggled to pull up a wet bathing suit over a belly no swimsuit manufacturer ever imagined on a 6-year-old, and doing it every half-hour or so, you'd be looking into bikinis, as well.
But the 2-piece shows off all Annika's scars, except for the one on her breastbone, and it's clear how her belly stretches out tight, with no fat to explain the protuberance. So she gets a few stares.
No wonder she chooses the glory walk and ensuing adulation parade of dining at Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago.
Standing in the lobby together, I told the girls that, if we were eating at the hospital, they could choose either McDonald's or the cafeteria. Frankie lately seems to be possessed by the spirit of some overeager news anchor who refuses to go into the light. No matter what I say, she'll turn to Annika and report upon what I have just said in breathy and excited tones.
Frankie turned to Annika, "OK! Annika! If we eat here, we can go to McDonald's or bacteria!"
I'm not sure how we have raised a 3-year-old for whom the word "bacteria" is more familiar than "cafeteria," but I can't say I'm all that surprised.
Annika chose bacteria, then gathered enough over-the-top compliments to make up for at least the next 12 uncomfortable playground encounters, and is looking forward to the return visit in August.