Labwork at Last; Invitation Disaster Averted

I am relieved to report that we FINALLY got Edward’s blood drawn at the lab. One thing that helped considerably is that I inadvertently activated a nurse to be our champion: she was the one who had faxed the lab orders the lab said they hadn’t received, and it raised her indignation (“I HAVE the fax RECEIPT! It SHOWS it WENT THROUGH!”). She must have turned this indignation into energy, because a few hours later I got a message from the lab, and the tone of the technician’s voice indicated a recent dressing-down and a new resolve to straighten up and fly right. They just wanted me to know that they had the lab orders, she said, and I was welcome to come in ANY TIME. I took Edward in first thing the next morning; he ended up an hour and a half late for school, but we GOT IT DONE.

I am hoping we will hear from the doctor and it will be, “Nope! Everything’s fine! Guess that last lab result was just a wonky one!” But it’s only a hope and not an expectation, because Edward has been complaining of stomachaches again. I’ve been noticing he looks a little pale. He seems more tired, and has been lying down more often. None of these things are good signs, Crohn’s-wise.

This makes me appreciate afresh Edward’s pediatric gastroenterologist, who all along has made it very clear that a sentence such as “The medication is working” needs to have “…for the time being” added to the end of it. “His labs look great!,” he’ll say, and then continue: “Looks like this medicine is really working for him right now!” At each appointment he reminds us that it’s not uncommon to have things change, and to let him know if symptoms (such as stomachaches, paleness, tiredness) return.

I was still hoping it wouldn’t be like that, though. Like, wow, year after year and Edward’s Crohn’s disease just KEEPS doing GREAT! Yay! The doctor can hardly believe it! The dose doesn’t even need to be increased due to growth, it just keeps working! It’s as if he doesn’t even HAVE Crohn’s!

Well. Anyway.

We had a near social disaster: Elizabeth said she put all the girls in her class on the invitation list for her birthday party, but I was slightly concerned—probably paranoid, but I wondered, what if she remembered ALL BUT ONE or something? I questioned her after she’d addressed all the invitations, and she was just SURE she’d remembered everyone. But I’d saved the class list we’d received for Fair Valentine’s Day Distribution, and said I’d check, Just In Case. And she HAD IN FACT FORGOTTEN JUST ONE GIRL. CAN YOU IMAGINE. BECAUSE I CAN IMAGINE, ALL TOO VIVIDLY. ALL BUT ONE! ALL BUT ONE! COMPLETELY BY ACCIDENT!!!! BUT WHAT GIRL OF ALL THE GIRLS IN THE UNIVERSE COULD BELIEVE THAT TO BE TRUE? *pant pant* Paul made her put three more invitations in her folder, JUST IN CASE there was some other issue, such as “Oh, I forgot so-and-so joined our class mid-year-after-Valentine’s-Day!” or whatever.

Children’s Outdoor Home Birthday Parties

I just gave up on the book Hausfrau, and I wish I’d given up a lot sooner. I kept THINKING I should stop reading it because it was making me feel kind of depressed and sick and I was tired of the story interrupting itself, but then I kept going just because I’d gotten so far already and was still interested in finding out what would happen. And then two very upsetting things happened in the book. If I’d stopped reading it when I’d FELT like stopping, I wouldn’t have those things in my head.

Let’s talk about something else! Elizabeth wants to have her 10th birthday party at home, in our yard. This is the party I mentioned earlier, where I was braced for a big loud noisy expensive party, but I thought it would be somewhere ELSE, and that someone ELSE would be managing the children and cleaning up afterward. Instead it will be HERE, and the one managing/cleaning will be ME.

It’s the first time I’ve done such a thing, and I have a feeling there are a LOT of things people have learned from experience on this topic. I have some tips already from that earlier post. Elisabeth suggested: (1) have another adult around to help and commiserate, and (2) have an activity set up for the kids to do as they arrive, since some will arrive early and some late. Joanne suggested having the kids write their names on their cups and decorate them if they want to; that would be a good arrival activity. Katie suggested seeing if I can hire one or two of Rob’s friends to help out. These are all such good ideas.

The basic structure of the party is two hours in the back yard. I chose two hours because that seems to be the minimum party length, and I don’t want to do MORE than two hours.

I’ll have an arrival activity (decorating cups and/or a paper tablecloth, and/or running around in the yard), and also will be ready with a departure activity (probably more running around in the yard).

I’ll have a clipboard and paper for parents to write down their names and phone numbers. I will try to get all the parents to leave by putting on the invitation something like “drop-off at [time], pick up at [time],” and by helping them leave if they want to leave or don’t care either way (“Okay, we’ll see you back here at 3:00, then!”). I will not say “Go, have fun!” or “Enjoy your time off!” or anything similar, because I don’t know how to respond when other parents say it to me as I drop off one child and go home to deal with the other children.

If parents stay anyway, I will… I don’t know. I don’t know what I’ll do with them. It gives me some comfort to have been on the other end of that relationship: when Elizabeth was younger, she didn’t want me to leave her at parties so I stayed. Here is what I and the other parents expected: to have a place we could stand and chat with each other, in sight of the children at the party. That’s it. Usually the host DID offer us cake or something, but I always felt as if I and the other parents were Not Officially There: we weren’t invited guests, we were more like our children’s security blankets. Existing and taking up space, but not in need of any official hosting.

We’re going to decorate by hanging regular balloons upside down from tree branches, and tying helium balloons to the mailbox (I’ve LOVED this when I’m trying to find a birthday child’s house) and to the stair railings and to anywhere else that seems good.

If it rains, we will have the party inside, heaven help us all. I will try to make it seem like a madcap adventure as I hiss at the other children to “clear the dining room table, QUICK. No, just shove everything into a laundry basket or something and GET IT OUT OF HERE!”

I’m letting her invite a dozen children, not because I specifically chose twelve, but because that was her full list of people she wanted to invite and that seemed okay. She’s inviting all girls. I said casually, “Are there any boys you want to invite?,” and she said, shocked, “NO!” As if I’d suggested she might want to serve broccoli instead of cake.

I have heard that some people actually drop off uninvited siblings as well as the invited child. I am just going to hope no one does that.

We’re having the party on a Sunday afternoon instead of a Saturday, because we’ve heard Saturday can be a busy day for kids who are doing sports, or who have siblings doing sports. That explains why SO MANY birthday parties are on Sundays around here. I’d wondered.

I’m pushing for cupcakes so I don’t have to cut and serve cake. We’ll have paper plates and plastic utensils. Elizabeth wants to have pizza too, but one of the girls she wants to invite has a severe dairy allergy, so I’m thinking NO on pizza; it’s a good time to teach the difference between “having things your way because it’s your birthday” and “being a considerate host.” If the guest with the allergy RSVPs a no, then…well, but by then the invitations will already have gone out. Perhaps I could email parents saying “Oh by the way, we’ve decided to have pizza too.”

I don’t know yet what to have to drink. Water? I don’t really want to deal with soda, and milk is out because of the child with a dairy allergy. But water doesn’t seem very festive. Maybe I should decide to deal with soda. I could get those cute little cans. Or juice boxes. Or a selection: little water bottles, little sodas, juice boxes.

For activities, she wants to play simple games like duck-duck-goose and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and ring-toss, but mostly just run around in the yard and play. We’ll get out the hula hoops and bouncy balls and other outdoorsy toys and have them lying around. She wants the game prizes to be very small so that people who don’t win anything won’t be as upset. Like, if there are lollipops in the goody bags, she wants the extra lollipops to be the prizes: then some people might get two lollipops, but everyone gets at least ONE.

I’ve noticed that for awhile there was a trend in our area toward NOT opening the presents at the party. That seems to have shifted back, and in any case I think we’ll have her open the presents at the party because it takes up TIME.

We’re not sure about the goody bags yet. We will have them, we know that. That’s all we know.

I am interested in ALL birthday-party talk. I am PARTICULARLY interested in tips, not only to make things easier and more manageable (though of course that is on my mind), but also tips to make things more FUN. I am a little worried, with so many of Elizabeth’s friends having/attending bounce-house parties and roller-skating parties and gymnastics parties, that duck-duck-goose in someone’s back yard will be a bit…dull. I don’t want to Pinterest every inch, but “This small thing was a surprising hit” can be INVALUABLE. And we have some money to play with: a location party would have started at around $250, and I don’t see any reason we can’t take some of that and redirect it to the Increase the Fun of a Backyard Party fund.

Frustrating Morning

I am having a frustrating morning. Edward needs more bloodwork done, because his last batch of bloodwork was not great and may indicate that his Crohn’s Disease medications need adjusting. I’ve been trying to get this done since May 7th, and it is now May 16th. I think it is just one of those situations where a CLUSTER of things goes wrong one after another in a coincidental clump, but so far NONE of the mistakes are MINE, and so it is a little frustrating that I am the one who drove half an hour to a laboratory to which no lab paperwork had been faxed (or perhaps had been faxed but was then misplaced), and so the blood draw could not take place and we had to drive half an hour back home.

I HAD called the lab ahead of time to make sure the paperwork had arrived, but could only leave messages on their machine (each time after listening to an unskippable TWO-MINUTE outgoing message listing their hours, location, URL, appointment-making instructions, results-obtaining instructions, etc.), and they didn’t return my calls, so we didn’t have any choice but to just GO and HOPE. The lab orders have always been there before, despite the technician ALWAYS acting as if there is NO CHANCE of it. “Lab orders?,” she says, holding out her hand. “The doctor faxed them,” I say. “Ohhhhhh…kayyyyyyyy……” she says, the tone communicating, “If you’re stupid enough to believe THAT, then I don’t know WHAT to tell you.” Then she says, “I’ll take a look….” with a nearly-audible attitude of “…but there is no way they’ll be here, and don’t be mad at ME when they aren’t.” I’m sure she’d be sorry to find out she missed being right this morning. Perhaps the other technician can tell her all about it. “Some idiot thought the doctor would fax the lab orders,” he’ll say. She’ll shrug. What can be done about idiots? Nothing.

And this happened to be a very challenging morning to do this mission, necessitating a written, multi-columned chart to figure out which parent would go where, when, and with what car/child(ren). We barely managed it, with a minimum of panicked flapping, and then it turned out to be a completely wasted trip.

And it’s not just the wasted hour-long round-trip. It’s also all the phone calls and arrangements and calling-back-when-didn’t-hear-back and overnight-shipping-of-specialized-test-kits and leaving-unreturned-messages-on-machines and no-I-really-don’t-think-it-would-be-easier-to-just-drive-two-hours-into-the-big-horrifying-city-for-this it took to GET to that wasted hour-long trip.

I will have to wait until Monday to even do the next STEP of what needs to happen next, and by Monday we will be 11 days past the day it was supposed to be done. Meanwhile I’m picturing Edward needing new medicine and not getting it. I am further frustrated because everything has to be figured out on the PHONE, and people keep not calling me BACK, so then I have to call AGAIN. I deeply resent still having to use the phone in 2015, and yet I WILL do it if that is the ONLY way a company will allow itself to be communicated with—but if I MUST use the phone, by THEIR requirement, then it seems fair that they should ANSWER and/or CALL BACK. Better yet, but I know this is nothing but dreaming, they should call me if they are for some reason prevented from doing THE THING THEY SAID THEY’D DO.

“Sale”; Skechers Bobs Utopia Sneakers; Shelf-Stable Creamers; Coinstruction Toy

I got an email from Russell Stover about a 50% off sale. I thought it would be on stuff I didn’t want, but I clicked through just to see—and it was a lot of stuff I liked! I filled my cart, la la la, so much fun! Free shipping over $25, I will somehow manage that! Teacher gifts etc.! And then I started the checkout process, and the shipping was $45 on that $25 order, because it’s warm outside so the order doesn’t qualify for free shipping or even normal shipping. Okay! But maybe not bother having a sale then, if “warm weather” means insane shipping charges and it is MAY! If I save $25 off $50 of chocolate, but it costs me FORTY-FIVE DOLLARS to ship it, then what I have IN FACT done is spent $20 EXTRA on the chocolates, when I could buy them for regular price and no shipping and no minimum AT A LOCAL STORE! It’s kind of like an OPPOSITE DAY sale!

Speaking of warm weather, I have switched to my warm weather shoes. This year I have a new pair:

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Skechers Bobs Utopia sneakers. I dithered for a long time. Were they…Too Much? Would I feel silly wearing them? Finally I bought them, and I love them. They’re sort of like Converse: comfy but not a lot of support or padding, maybe a little more than Converse but not a lot more. The laces just have a little knot in the ends: if you want to tie them in bows, you’ll have to take them out and buy new, longer laces. I thought I might want to do that, but I haven’t wanted to. The backs of the shoes are elasticized so you can easily slip them on.


Dramatic subject change. I have been cranky ever since Paul stopped drinking iced coffee, because he liked half-and-half in it, so there was always half-and-half available. I can’t go through a thing of it myself before it goes bad, but I DO like some in my coffee sometimes. The other day, Paul came home from work with a handful of shelf-stable creamers from the cafeteria. Then I discovered I could purchase them, rather than making Paul steal several from work every day until he retires. LIFE CHANGED.

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Now I have cream for my coffee WHENEVER I WANT IT, without fretting that the carton in the fridge is going bad, or that it’s not worth it to buy a carton and just use a third of it! I put the box downstairs in the basement, and I use a canister next to the coffee pot to hold a more reasonable number of creamers. Bonus: this is a canister I bought because I liked the squirrel pattern (I think it was intended for dog biscuits), and then couldn’t find any use for it. So it was sitting uselessly on my counter ANYWAY, and now it is sitting there usefully!

(It looks like a HUGE canister, but actually it is next to a SMALL coffee pot—the 4-cup kind. Also, usually I have the canister shoved to the side of the coffee pot, but I pulled it forward for this demonstration of how I have TINY CREAMERS! IN MY HOUSE!)

We have a new flash-hit toy:

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Coinstruction. Paul got this from a post-yard-sale FREE pile on someone’s lawn, figuring meh, what the heck. OBSESSIVE COINSTRUCTION ensued. It’s a set of little things that attach pennies together temporarily to make structures.

Note that I am not necessarily recommending this toy. It has hundreds of tiny little coin-joiners. They are EVERYWHERE. But if you are people who get out a toy, play with it carefully, and then put it away neatly; or if you are people who aren’t particularly bothered by little pieces everywhere and you pretty much gave up on that sort of organization years ago, then this may be a success at your house, too. (You will need to obtain the pennies separately.)

Getting Stuff Done, Except Not That, In Fact the Opposite of That

I am joined at home these last two days by a child with a fever. It’s gone over 103, and yet she is perky and cheerful, in large part because she feels fine but isn’t allowed at school, so is forced to watch TV, play video games, and loaf around. “I wonder what I’ll do after they leave on the bus?,” she says, aiming her chin at her younger brothers. “Maybe take a bath, maybe read, maybe play outside.” “We still have four more hours until they come back home!,” she says happily, awhile later. It’s kind of fun having these Girls’ Days with her, but I’m not getting much done. She’s so…chatty.

Even if she weren’t home, I wouldn’t be very productive: I have been bad lately at Getting Stuff Done. I put things on a To Do list, and instead of doing them and crossing them off, I DON’T do them. There they sit. Sometimes I don’t even look at the To Do list.

In the morning and before bed I have that unpleasant cyclical feeling. Here I am, washing my face yet again, putting more clothes into the laundry, putting on my pajamas again, getting into the bed again. There’s the alarm and I’m showering yet again, drying off again, getting the tangles out of my hair again, making the bed again, washing my face again, clothes back into the laundry, back into bed, ACK.

It would probably make me feel better to get some of the things on the list done. The problem is, I hate everything on the list. It’s like having a terrible job where I hate all my tasks, and it’s not paid either, and also no one is making me do it, but also I can’t quit. Should I call about having the house painted, or should I say “Screw it, who cares, it’ll just need painting again anyway” and read a book? Tough call, tough call.

Bettyville; Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

I continue to be interested in:

• books about caring for aging parents
• movies about romance after 40

Well, and I suppose movies about caring for aging parents, and books about romance after 40. Okay:

• books and movies about caring for aging parents
• books and movies about romance after 40


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Bettyville: A Memoir, by George Hodgman. This is written by a man who comes to stay with his 90-year-old mother when she needs more care. He’s not sure how long he’s staying: maybe she, er, won’t need care for long, if you follow me. Or maybe she’ll suddenly need more care than he can give. It’s clear that living on her own isn’t one of the options anymore, but what is the next best thing? It’s hard to make plans when everything is so uncertain.

Staying with his mom in his childhood hometown brings up a lot of stuff for him. He grew up gay at a time when that was enough, for example, to get your own family to tell you preemptively not to come to their funerals. He and his mom have never discussed it; his dad died without ever talking about it. His mother blames herself for parenting him wrong and causing it; he blames himself for sparing his parents painful (to them) information about himself and his life, at the expense of being closer to them. It’s hard to read; it made me feel like, I don’t know. Baking cookies.

I felt like this book was 1/2 caring for aging parents, 1/3 growing up gay in small-town Missouri, and 1/6 “we don’t have enough pages yet: write more.” I enjoyed it and kept wanting to get back to it.


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I re-watched Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, which was on my “romance between people over 40″ list. I’d seen it once before, but barely remembered anything except how funny Amy Adams was in it.

Frances McDormand was about 50 in the movie, and the love interest Ciarán Hinds was about 5 years older. Their romance is not a large part of the movie, but it is a pleasing part. I liked the movie and will probably watch it a third time at some point.

Why Won’t the Children Spend Time in Their Rooms?

We have a slightly weird issue going on at our house, which is that people, specifically children-people, are perceiving “spending time in delicious, delicious solitude” as “cruel punishment.” For example, Paul and I will be in the living room, and so will FIVE OTHER PEOPLE. And let’s say one of them, let’s say Rob, is trying to work on something that requires concentration. So he gets more and more frustrated because there are six other people MAKING NOISE and BEING ANNOYING. So we suggest, I think reasonably, that he would be happier if he went to one of the MANY CURRENTLY-UNPOPULATED ROOMS IN THE HOUSE. And he says, “Why should I be punished?? THEY should stop being so loud!!”

Example two. Elizabeth is in the living room doing her homework. Edward and Henry and William are also in the living room. William is looking at a website on his phone, and that site is apparently chock-full of things he finds interesting and amusing (“Huh, huh, look at this CAT”), so he keeps sharing those things with his siblings. Elizabeth starts out slow and gentle, with “Would you please SHUT UP?” Within minutes, the situation has escalated to shrieks. Swistle, reasonably, calmly, sweetly, “Hey, I have an idea! You could go to your [own, private, you are LITERALLY THE ONLY ONE IN THE HOUSE WHO HAS THIS PRIVILEGE] room and do your homework there! Nice and peaceful! No brothers allowed!” And she says, even more peeved than before, “I don’t WANT to go to my room, I want THEM to SHUT UP!!!” Swistle: *goes into Elizabeth’s room, shuts door*

Explanations DO NOT HELP. I have tried saying to Rob that it is LOVELY to spend time in one’s room, far from the madding crowd. He continues to assert that this is “him being punished.” Why should HE have to be isolated from everyone else? HE’S not doing anything wrong! In vain do I clarify and explain that peace and quiet for concentration is NOT a punishment. He WANTS peace and quiet; he HAS peace and quiet available to him; why would he suffer noise and distraction ON PRINCIPLE?

It is exactly the same with Elizabeth: SHE was “punished” when we had her go do her homework in her room! Her brothers were let completely off the hook when we allowed them to continue talking in the living room!! It is SO UNFAIR.

Why will they not spend time in their rooms? WHY?? I could understand it if the ones who share a room didn’t want to retreat there when their roommate was there—but that NEVER HAPPENS. And besides, Elizabeth has her very own room but she doesn’t want to go in there much either. All three child-bedrooms sit completely unoccupied even when their services are DEARLY NEEDED.

It’s even more puzzling to me because as a child/teenager I LIKED being in my room. I spent time in the communal rooms of the house too, of course, but it was common for me to go into my room even if no one else was home.

Part of the problem seems to be a confusion with time-outs. They associate their rooms, and being by themselves, with punishment. But surely generation after generation of children have been sent to their rooms as punishment, without them then deciding never to spend a single unnecessary minute there? It isn’t as if we chained them in there in the dark for hours: we sent them there for, say, ten minutes. Not even very often! WHAT IS THEIR DEAL.

Olive Kitteridge; Unaccustomed Earth

I read two more books that were coincidentally similar to Single, Carefree, Mellow, in that they were SORT OF short stories and SORT OF not. In all three cases, SOME stories had the same characters, and SOME stories were separate. Olive Kitteridge holds together even more, since the stories all involve one particular woman to some degree or another: the stories are from different points of view, but they all add more to what feels like the main story.

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Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. I was pretty sure I’d read it before, and I had, but it had been long enough that I only barely remembered a few small things. Like, I might think, “Ohhhhh….doesn’t something happen between these two?,” but not in a way that spoiled the surprise. I really liked the book, and would read it again. I thought it was a really interesting idea to show a person from a lot of points of view, especially since the person is a rather…difficult person. And the whole book has an appealingly gossipy, getting-to-know-other-people’s-secrets feeling to it.

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Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I saw this on the library shelf and recognized the author as one my sister-in-law was seeking out the last time we went to a bookstore. As I was checking out, the librarian got to this book and said “Oh! I love her. I love all her books.” So that was TWO recommendations, and I’ll add my own: I liked it a lot. I want to read a non-short-story book by her next, because there were a couple of stand-alone stories that I REALLY wanted to read more about.

Friend Birthday Parties

Back when Rob was maybe five years old, he wanted to have big friend parties like his classmates were having. Rashly, but it didn’t feel rash at the time, I said he could have a big friend party when he turned ten years old. It seemed so far away: five years was how long it had been since he was BORN, and that was FOREVER ago! And it seemed like saying it to only ONE child!

But there are five children now, and the problem with letting the first one do something is that the rest of them PAY ATTENTION. Rob had his ten-year birthday party at an arcade six years ago, and then William had his at a bouncy place four years ago, and then I just relaxed: no more big exhausting expensive parties for, like, EVER! And now suddenly the twins are turning ten next month. *closes eyes wearily*

The upside of one of those big parties was that we could have them at a location that was not our house. The bouncy place was a particular success on this front: we showed up, and they took care of EVERYTHING ELSE, corralling/supervising the children, keeping track of the presents, even serving the cake—but especially cleaning up after ALL of it.

But Elizabeth wants her party at home, and I didn’t have the foresight to say no to this option: I’d ASSUMED they’d all want to do a location party. So fine. Fine. I will figure this out. And I will use this experience to be a better party guest, just as I learned from being a party guest how to be a better host:

1. Include an email address as an RSVP option (I think I’ll add “and texting option” now that I have a phone that can text)

2. Mention on the invitation what time the party ENDS as well as what time it begins

3. Mention on the invitation what food the party will include, so people know whether or not to feed their kids first

4. Mention on the invitation the name of the birthday child

5. Mention on the invitation the basic sort of party to expect, for knowing-what-to-wear purposes

6. Make it clear on the invitation if the parents are expected to leave, expected to stay, or can do exactly as they’d prefer (I’d thought this would be a non-issue by age ten, but no, not around here anyway)

7. Be stationed right at the entrance; introduce self as birthday child’s parent immediately

8. Take a list of names and phone numbers of parents who are dropping off a child

9. No need to worry excessively: it will all be over in 2 hours and no one really cares how well it goes. Even the birthday child may be too hepped up on adrenaline to notice/care

Exercise; Mole

I am trying to treat some mood issues with increased exercise and increased fruits and vegetables. So far here is the change in my mood: increased despair. I wake up feeling pleased with myself for accomplishing the goal the day before, and then it hits me afresh: “I have to do that AGAIN TODAY.”

Worst dream ever: I dreamed I was EXERCISING.


I have a mole on the back of my neck. Awhile back I was using mirrors to look at the back of my hair to make sure I’d done it right, and I saw a huge black hair. Growing out of the mole. Growing. Out. Of the mole. Like a witch in a fairy tale. Now I am on Mole Hair Alert in addition to Chin Hair Alert.

I would like to get that mole removed (it’s the kind that sticks out), but I don’t want to be referred to a dermatologist and have my entire body checked and have the mole sent away for hundreds of dollars of tests. I’ve always had it, it has always looked the same, and I just want it REMOVED AND TOSSED OUT, by my REGULAR DOCTOR. And I don’t know if that is possible, so I’ve been sitting around not calling to find out.