Friday, October 17, 2014

More Conversations with Zuzu

This has been a heavy week, so here are a few recent conversations that made me laugh.


Scene: In bed, early one morning. Zuzu woke up and came in my room and crawled in bed with me. I'm wearing a nursing tank top. She is being very sweet and affectionate, sort of petting my arm and shoulder. She rubs her hand over my shoulder and then starts petting my boob on the outside of the tank.

Zuzu: Mama, your tummy feels good.

Me: Uh, well, actually that's my chest.

Zuzu: Oh! I yike your chest.

# # #

Scene: Sitting in the recliner in the TV room. Reading a book.

My stomach growls.

Zuzu: (gasps) Oh, Mama! You peepee in your pants?

Me: (laughing) No, my tummy growled.

Zuzu: Oh.

# # #

Scene: In the kitchen.

Zuzu's stomach growls. She lifts up her shirt.

Zuzu: Oh, Mama! My tummy coming out!

Me: What?

Zuzu: My tummy coming out!

Me: No, your tummy growled.

# # #

Scene: Bedtime. Zuzu has suckered David into letting her watch the Cardinal game with him in our bed.

Zuzu: I yike to watch your show, Dad. Tank you.

# # #

Scene: Bathtime.

Zuzu toots in the bathtub.

Zuzu: Oh! Bubbles come out!

# # #

I have this impulse to start videoing everything she says lately. She's talking so much and already some of her baby-talk is becoming more grown up. For example, I'm sort of sad that Zuzu has started calling Cooper Cooper instead of Peeper. She's such an imitator and will repeat nearly any word we say, with almost the same inflection. It's adorable.

I love some of the other funny things she still says, and the way she says "my" for "I" and skips over prepositions:

My yike tunnels. 

My coming! 

Come in my kitchen, play me. 

Coco wants to come downstairs me.

Don't cwy, Coco. Mama coming. Mama, Coco cwying. She wants mama-milk. (In case you're wondering, Coco ALWAYS wants mama-milk.)

# # # 

Happy Friday, everybody. Thanks to all of you who lit a candle for Eliza on Wednesday, and all of you who remember her regularly. xoxo

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15

print created by Francesca at Small Bird Studios

Today is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day.

Before I ever got pregnant, I was aware that people lost babies.

But I never thought that it would be me.

My friend Veronica said something in an e-mail the other day that I thought summed up the situation so perfectly. She said that many people seem to think about stillbirth or pregnancy loss as tragedy, but one that is an isolated event, an event that we move on from after it occurs.

In reality, though, it's a loss that we wake up and experience again each and every day. It isn't just a baby I've lost--it's a toddler and a preschooler and--in just a couple of years--a kindergartener and the list goes on and on and on.

I'm going on four years out from losing Eliza, and I'm better at balancing my grief. The buoyant joys of having two little girls here helps to keep the dark sorrow at bay most of the time.

But of course they are also living reminders of another little girl who's not here, of our firstborn daughter, of the sister who isn't here, of the baby we loved so much and never got to see grow up.

Time has made my grief easier to carry, but a day doesn't go by that I don't think about Eliza and who she would be if she were here now.

Tonight at 7pm, I'll light a candle for Eliza and for all the other babies who have been lost and the families who are missing them. This is part of the Wave of Light that will go all around the world. I would be honored if you would join me, and I thank you for thinking of our baby girl.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Microblog Monday: Chatbooks & Instagram

They say that today's kids are the most photographed ever, and that is certainly true for my kids.


I take most of their photos with my phone because it's easy and convenient, and I frequently post pictures of them on Instagram. In fact, I'm totally the Instagrammer who only posts pictures of my kids and occasionally my dog. It's such an easy way to share photos with family and friends. I even bookmarked my Instagram page on David's grandma's desktop computer so she can click on it to see pictures of the girls.


The problem with taking countless photos is that it's hard to keep on top of getting any of them printed! I've still been (sporadically) printing traditional 4x6 photos for albums, although I'm seriously thinking about switching to creating a photo book every six months or so and only printing a few snapshots. Thinking is the operative word though--finding time to actually sit down and order prints or create photo books has not happened recently!


But I found out about Chat Books, so at least some photos are getting printed. It's an app that links up to Instagram. Chat Books offers a subscription that automatically creates and prints a mini-photo book for you every time you post 60 pictures on Instagram. (For me, this is every 3 months or so). With a subscription, it's $6 a book. Free shipping.


And the best part is, I don't have to think about it! They send me a notification, I have three days to delete any photos I don't want and select my cover photo, and then it's printed and mailed to me. Couldn't be easier, and they sure are cute. 


(This may be needless to say, but this isn't sponsored and they don't know me.)


Do you print photos regularly? How do you keep them organized? I really need to get a system going...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

This Must Be The Land That They Call Life

Two weeks ago, we had Coco baptized. It was different from Zuzu's baptism, which was in my parents' church and very traditional. This was more of a blessing or a dedication or a "welcome to the world, we love you baby" kind of ceremony.

My BFF from high school is now a Disciples of Christ minister (something no one who knew her in high school would have predicted and yet is the perfect definition of a true calling as now I can't imagine her doing anything else--until we get our own HGTV show spraypainting things we buy at thrift stores, or our cooking show where we pair recipes with classic novels) and I asked her to perform the ceremony. It was a gorgeous day and we did the baptism on a little island at a park (the same park where David and I had our engagement photos taken). 

the Rev. Monica with Colette
Monica and I joked about her being at this park baptizing my daughter when it seems like our high school selves were just there skipping school and smoking clove cigarettes (only on special occasions, I assure you) but such are the stages of life (and one man in his time plays many parts).

Playing the part of adequately responsible adults with baby
The ceremony was short and simple. Our families were there. It was a perfect blend of traditional and nontraditional and it felt right for us right now.

David's grandma (wiping a tear), his dad and his dad's wife, Ellie Kate, and Monica's mom
Bop, Grammy with Zuzu (who is licking snot from her nose), my cousin Rosemary, and great-aunt Dottie
my aunt and uncle with their granddaughter, Mesa
Somehow my Papa managed to not get into these photos (he's tricky like that), but he was there. Zuzu and Coco are lucky to have great-grandparents who are still around, and the baptism was a time when we especially missed my Nana and David's Grandpa, as well as my Grandma and Grandpa Vance and David's Grandma and Grandpa Duckworth. When I was pregnant with Eliza, one of the things I wrote in her baby book after her family baby shower was that she was so lucky to have a family who loved her so much already. It's so true for all of my girls.

I haven't written a lot about my faith here because I find it hard to articulate. My concept of God and His role in our lives was shattered when we lost Eliza, even though I realize now that it should have already happened--I don't know why I expected to be spared suffering when so many other people are not. And some serious shifts in my thinking had already happened as I got older and a little more reflective. I guess the most accurate thing to say is that I'm still searching.

Not pictured, Coco's sister, who insisted on picking her nose throughout the ceremony
I certainly have more questions than answers, but the Rilke poem I asked Monica to read at Coco's baptism expresses a particular view of God that I think is both beautiful and compatible with my (very limited) understanding of how God might be working in my life.

The promise here is one that God makes before we are born. It is not a promise that we will get through life unscathed, but it suggests that the holiness of life is in its intensity.

The way I read the poem, it says that the nearest we can come to God after we are born is in the moments of great happiness or crushing sadness. The delightful and the brutal. Or, as the poem says, beauty and dread. That, after all, is real life.

It's hard to feel close to God in the devastating moments, but it's an idea that I am thinking about a lot. It's easier to think that I could be feeling God's presence on a gorgeous day at a beautiful park surrounded by loved ones. But those experiences are equally real.


"God Speaks to Each of Us" by Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us before we are,
Before he's formed us -- then, in cloudy speech,
But only then, he speaks these words to each
And silently walks with us from the dark:

Driven by your senses, dare
To the edge of longing. Grow
Like a fire's shadowcasting glare
Behind assembled things, so you can spread
Their shapes on me as clothes.
Don't leave me bare.

Let it all happen to you: beauty and dread.
Simply go -- no feeling is too much --
And only this way can we stay in touch.

Near here is the land
That they call Life.
You'll know when you arrive
By how real it is.

Give me your hand.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Microblog Monday: Closet

I organized Zuzu's closet yesterday. Like really organized it--emptied out the entire thing, put away clothes and shoes that are too small, refolded the sheets for her bed, removed the basket of baby bibs, added new shelf paper, and organized all her hanging clothes by category.

It was a really satisfying exercise. I don't know why it took me so long to work up the energy to tackle it (it was on my list of things I wanted to do before the baby was born).

I ended up leaving one shelf half-empty (amazing!) and Zuzu actually commented on it: "Oh, Mama! It's all gone!"

Don't worry, Zu. I'm sure it won't take anytime at all to fill it up again.

Of course, I "put away" a lot of stuff into the closet in the guest room, which is kind of a disaster... But you know. Another project for another day. In the meantime, I'm keeping the door open to Zuzu's closet and feeling ridiculously proud of myself everytime I catch a glimpse of its nicely organized contents.


Are your closets tidy? Does it give you a bizarre rush of joy and accomplishment that suggests that you are incredibly old and boring? Or is that just me?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I GO LIBARRY!

This morning I decided to take the girls to story time at the library.

What a great idea. Good moms take their kids to libraries.

I managed to take a shower this morning before Coco woke up and kept Zuzu busy by letting her take a shower with me (not my favorite way to shower, but easier than wondering what's she's doing while I'm in a compromised position).

We had breakfast, I even put away some laundry, and then I loaded up the girls and we drove the five minutes to the library (we could have walked, but it was raining).

Zuzu and I had a conversation on the way to the library about how the library is a place where we keep our voices down and listen and hold hands with Mommy.

Our library has a big staircase and she always wants to go downstairs even though there's nothing in the basement except meeting rooms. The children's books are on the third floor so we go upstairs, but evidently that is not as cool.

So we went to story time. I was wearing Coco in the Ergo carrier so I sat in a chair. Zuzu sat in a chair next to me.

Storytime went just fine. The librarian read pirate stories. I'm not sure Zuzu knew what a pirate was, so I tried to fill her in before the story started ("Pirates sail in boats in the ocean.")

She enjoyed the pirate stories and the little songs we sang in between the stories ("If you're a pirate and you know it, say 'Ahoy!'"). And then it was craft time: make your own pirate hat.

She played a little fast and loose with the glue, and I had to try not to roll my eyes at one mom who was directing her daughter's pirate hat a little too closely, but in the end we ended up with a lovely pirate hat.



We'd just picked up a batch of library books earlier in the week, so I told Zuzu to select one book to take home. She chose a book on airplanes.

She had done really well, so it was reward time: walk down the stairs to the basement.

And so we did.


She wanted to drink out of the drinking fountain, but... cold, flu, EBOLA... I said no.

It was time to head out and I was congratulating myself on a successful outing. Coco was comfortably snoozing away in the Ergo, Zuzu was well behaved and had had a lovely cultural experience designing her pirate hat and now we were going to go home, have lunch, and take a loooong nap, right?

In a word, no. I let her choose elevator or stairs to go back up and check out her airplane book (she chose elevator) and as we headed for the check out line, I reminded her that she would need to sit in the chairs by the window while I checked out the book.

This is our normal routine at the library, but today it fell apart. She wanted to continue to ride the elevator or run up the stairs and she did not want to wait in line to check out the book. She bolted, I grabbed her arm, and she did the drop-to-the-floor-limp-and-boneless thing while also shrieking, "NO! I go upstairs! I go downstairs!"

And so I ended up picking her up super awkwardly under my right arm (because Coco was occupying my front in the Ergo) and dragging her out to the car while she screamed, "I NO GO HOME! I GO LIBARRY!"

A man walking out to his car said something to her--I can't remember what, something about her face freezing that way except it wasn't that exactly, but along those lines. She ignored him. I wished that he would just ignore her.

Of course his car was parked next to ours, so he had to wait while I put her in her carseat. And I felt all flustered and self-conscious.

Zuzu fought me and wouldn't let me buckle her in, and I couldn't really force her because I had an innocent baby in between us who was going to get smacked by an irate two-year-old and also a witness in the form of the dude who wanted to get in his car. So I just left her in the floorboard of the car, shut the door, and went around to the other side to put Coco in her car seat.

Then I remembered Zuzu can open the car door and I was suddenly afraid that she would open her door and smack the dude's car as he backed out, or worse, jump out of the car and get run over, so I was trying to hold onto her across Coco's car seat and saying things like, "We have to leave because you're not following library rules" in a calm and rational voice even though what I WANTED to be doing was screaming louder than she was screaming.

Once the dude had vacated his parking spot, I took a deep breath and counted to ten, and then went back around and got Zuzu buckled in her car seat (by this time, her screaming had softened to a super annoying whine). Then I went back around and buckled in Coco, then got in the front seat.

At this point, Coco started crying and Zuzu continued whining in the most irritating pitch possible and fake crying for good measure, "I go libarreeeeeeeeeeeee, Mama, waaaaaaahhhh, I go libarreeeeeeee."

I ignored her.

Coco stopped crying once the car started moving, which saved my sanity. I did my best to think zen and tune out the incessant whining coming from Zuzu.

She did it all the way home, stopping at one point to ask, "Is that a train, Mama?" in her TOTALLY NORMAL, not whining voice.

I said, "No, that's a truck."

She said, "Oh."

And then remembered that she was supposed to be whining and started up again.

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad Zuzu has so much fun when we visit the library. I just hope that some day she'll enjoy the books as much as she enjoys the elevator and stairs.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Best Breastfeeding Advice I've Gotten

I'm exclusively breastfeeding Coco, just as I did Zuzu, and I'm relieved and happy to say that it seems to be going well. At least, if Coco's cheeks are any indication.

I was thinking about how much I stressed about it the first time around. I was absolutely determined to breastfeed because I was convinced that it was the best thing for my baby and I was so furious at my body for failing Eliza, that I was going to force it to work for Zuzu. Turns out you can't really control that sort of thing, but I was fortunate that I was able to breast feed Zuzu for fifteen months and then she weaned herself with zero drama. (It's probably the last time she did anything without some drama.)

This time around, I know that breast feeding is not actually the best choice for everyone, and I was just hopeful that it would work out again. I haven't been stressed about it and I haven't really tried to schedule Coco. She cries, I give her the boob. Works like a charm. I'm still having some over supply issues, which include a super fast let down that nearly drowns her. She's also spittier than Zuzu ever was, so that threw me for a bit of a loop, but we are getting things figured out (translation: I do a lot of laundry but the baby is getting enough to eat!).

Anyway, in the course of breastfeeding, I asked for lots of advice. I have consulted kellymom.com many, many times. I've attended La Leche Meetings and other breast feeding mom groups. I've talked with lactation consultants and other breastfeeding moms. This is a compilation of the best advice I've gotten.

1. Remember that it gets easier.
As I mentioned, last time around I was so determined to breastfeed that there's nothing that could have deterred me. This time around, I had kind of forgotten how much IT FREAKING HURTS at first. Even if your baby is latching correctly. Even if you're holding the baby in a "proper" nursing position (ear, shoulder, and hips all lined up straight). It just freaking hurts at first. It hurts so much that it's hard to believe people actually keeping doing it!

And then all of a sudden, it doesn't hurt anymore. It gets super easy.

I went to one breastfeeding support group at the hospital and the lactation consultant passed out a graph comparing the ease of breastfeeding to formula feeding. At first, formula feeding totally beats out breastfeeding in terms of difficulty. But somewhere between the 4 and 6 week mark, when baby starts getting some neck control and your nipples have stopped feeling like they are being shredded, breast feeding just gets easier. Simpler, less messy, and super convenient. All you need is the baby and yourself (and, if you're me, a burp cloth to catch the overflow of breastmilk shooting everywhere).

2. Attend a breastfeeding mothers group.
I was totally the pregnant girl attending the breastfeeding mothers group when I was expecting Eliza. That made it kind of hard for me to want to go back, even when I had a baby to take with me. I cried when introducing myself the first few times because it was hard for me to talk about having lost Eliza, but I didn't want to leave her out. As difficult as that was at first (it's easier this time around), it was worth it for me to get advice and feedback from other people. It also helped me to see other people who were struggling with the same issues I was--and seeing some moms battling low supply or serious latch issues reminded me how fortunate I was that I was able to do this.

The first time around, I was really anxious about Zuzu's weight gain, so I'd go to breast feeding groups so I could weigh her before and after I fed her. This time, I haven't felt the need to do that, but it's nice to know the option is there.

3. Slather on the lanolin and use gel pads.
Zuzu had a great latch from the very start. Coco was born with a little tongue tie that I noticed right away in the hospital. After consulting with three lactation consultants and two pediatricians, we decided to have it clipped at the hospital. I was worried about it hurting her, but they assured me that there are very few nerve endings there. I made David go watch and he said she fussed when they did it but stopped crying as soon as it was over. I noticed a difference in the way she latched on immediately.

BUT I was still really sore for the first 10 days with both girls. So I smeared on the lanolin all the time. Actually, my favorite stuff was this MotherLove cream. It's awesome. I used it every time Coco nursed until I forgot to use it because it didn't hurt anymore!

I also used these soothing gel pads--keep them in the fridge and feel the relief. AHHH-mazing.

4. Air out your boobs.
Some good advice I got was that you want to avoid smooshing your sore boobs/nipples in clothes all the time. But lying around with your boobs hanging out may or may not be an option for you, depending on who is visiting and how you feel about them checking out your boobs. In that case, you need these breast shells (ask for them at the hospital).

I would smear on the MotherLove cream and then stick these in my nursing bra and give a little sigh of relief.

Also when my boobs were engorged and it was August and I was hot and cranky and sweaty, I would put a sock between them so they wouldn't touch each other. (UGH I hate engorgement.)

5. Save that milk. 
Speaking of over supply, when I nurse Coco on one side, the other side leaks milk. And by "leaks," I mean "shoots out about two ounces."

I ordered one of these milky cups from Amazon (they've gone up in price since I bought mine, but it was worth the investment for me) and when I nurse on one side, I stick it in my bra on the other side. I pour the milk from the milky cup into a bag or bottle and keep it in the fridge and add to it after each nursing session during the day. At the end of the day, I stick the bag in the freezer.

This allows me to start building up a little stash of frozen breast milk without having to pump. I don't want to pump because (1) I hate pumping! and (2) I don't need to increase my supply at this point.

One thing I was concerned about was the issue of foremilk and hindmilk. But I asked a lactation consultant about it, who checked with someone who has a PhD in lactation (did you know they have those?) and she said that it would not be an issue because there is not an absolute distinction between foremilk and hindmilk (it all comes out of the same tap) and the milk in the first few weeks is especially full of good stuff.

6. Use Sonicare and shower massage for plugged milk ducts.
I have had a couple of plugged milk ducts this time around and I was really concerned because of my experience with mastitis when Zuzu was the age that Coco is now. (Mastitis is the worst!).

A friend advised me that the best thing you can do for a plugged milk duct is take a hot shower and use the shower massage setting to spray right on the duct. You should also massage the duct (if you can) while the baby is nursing.

And the other weird but effective thing I learned from a LLL leader is to hold a Sonicare toothbrush handle against the duct and let it vibrate through a brush cycle. It totally helps!

7. Get fitted for a bra and then fitted again.
Getting fitted for a bra can seem really awkward, but I sort of gave up on modesty after I started breastfeeding and seriously it's not like the ladies fitting you for a bra care at all about what your boobs look like. The last thing I feel like doing is trying on several bras to see which one fits best. So I followed the recommendation of a local friend and I just let the lady at the bra shop eyeball me, bring me a bra, I put it on, it fit. Bingo!

Right now, I mostly wear nursing tank tops (I also let the bra lady tell me what size to get), but once my milk supply settles down (it takes about four months, so I'm almost halfway there!), then I'll get refitted for a couple of nursing bras that I can wear under regular clothes.

8. Don't worry about pumping. 
I stressed about pumping the first time around and had this idea that I had to have a huge stash of milk already pumped before I went to work. I know that works well for some women, but for me, that wasn't the case. I was so relieved when a lactation consultant told me not to worry about pumping for the first several weeks. I ended up not pumping much at all until I went back to work, and that's my plan this time around, too. When I'm at work, I pump what baby needs for the next day and that was that--and if necessary, I can supplement with the milk I've frozen from the milky cup.

But also don't worry about pumping because it's not as big or weird a deal as it seems. I got one of those hands free bras (super sexy!) and I'd just check my e-mail or read blogs at work for 15 minutes while I pumped.

9. Drink a lot of water.
I'm thirsty all the time. I use my trusty Starbucks cup or a Tervis cup or the mug from the hospital and I chug water. I definitely underestimated how thirsty I would be. I carry a cup with me everywhere I go and I drink more water now than I did when I was pregnant!

10. Enjoy it.
Last time I was so worried--did I go too long before pumping? Is she getting enough to eat? Is there too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk? Last time it took me a long time to figure out that I had an over supply (I ended up diagnosing myself via kellymom after Zuzu started having neon green poops), while this time I started nursing on one side per feeding in the first week and that helped enormously.

But BOTH TIMES the baby is doing fine. We're doing fine. While I was still nursing Zuzu, I had a friend tell me that if she could go back and do it again, she'd do everything the same except not stress out about it. And that's what I'm trying to do.

The truth is that sometimes there are other things I want to or need to take care of and I wish that I didn't have to take the time to sit down and feed the baby. It's those evenings when Coco wants to cluster feed and she's squawking, and in a second she'll start screaming, and it's only been an hour and a half since she last ate, and I'm tired of small people touching and grabbing me all day long, and if I could just do x, y, or z...

But everytime I sit down and feed the baby, I relax. I breathe slower. I enjoy the endorphins. People don't talk about breastfeeding feeling good because that sounds so weird, but it does. I look at Coco's sweet face. I check my instagram feed, or I watch TV, or I do a little reading. I never regret the moments I spend nursing her. It never feels like a waste of time. In fact, I can't really think of anything more important or rewarding that I could be doing. It's that good.

I remember a friend telling me that breast feeding is hard at first and then it's "pretty much the best thing ever." I was so skeptical, and I know that's not the case for everyone (for various reasons that may or may not be in your control) but in my experience it's been true.

Would you add to this list?

Monday, September 29, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: Homecoming

(I'm trying this #MicroblogMondays thing--keeping it short and sweet is my challenge!)

We were at my parents' for the weekend and went to the Homecoming football game. We met up with my BFF and her daughter.

front row: Zuzu and Ellie Kate
photobombing by Monica (center) and her sister Emmaly
Monica is one day short of exactly six months older than me (January 29 and July 28), and Ellie Kate is six months to the day older than Zuzu (December 29 and June 29).

It was kind of surreal to be at the football game with my kid(s!). It doesn't seem like that long ago I was painting my fingernails crimson with silver tiger paw prints and meeting up with Monica to sit in the students' section. This time, I was nursing a baby during the second quarter and some of the people who were just a couple years ahead of us in high school were watching their kids on the football team(!). We've got a few years to go, but our girls totally look like they have dance team potential, no?



The girls enjoyed themselves hugely, and although we left right after the halftime show, Nevada ended up winning the game. Go Tigers!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Universe is Not a Wish-Granting Factory*

One of my best friends from college was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her name is Beth and she's 34 years old.

She's married to her best friend (as in, they were best friends for years while they dated other people and then they finally figured out they were actually in love with each other--a case of opposites attracting). They have two little girls, ages almost-5 and 2. Beth works full time in a demanding job as a department manager at an upscale department store--the kind of job where she runs around in high heels and remembers to reapply lipstick and hosts trunk shows and has dinner with vendors who are selling clothes made by big-name designers.

She's a great story teller, she's hilariously funny and self-deprecating, and she's very devoted to her family. She's also sensitive, a good listener, and more than once has lent me her shoulder to cry on. In the months after Eliza died, she dragged me out for monthly dinners with our friends Jamie and Carol, and anytime I cried, her eyes filled up with tears too. When she gave Coco a baby gift, she wrote in the card that she was remembering and missing Eliza.

And she has breast cancer, you guys.

Specifically, she has triple negative breast cancer.

I can still hardly believe it. Even after seeing the place where the port has been put into her chest. Even after seeing the suture where they glued her up after removing some lymph nodes. Even after I gave her a chemo cap and she tried it on (over her still thick and beautiful auburn hair). Even after she texted me a picture of herself after she shaved her head (adding that she should have put on earrings and lipstick before taking the photo).

She bald, but she was smiling.

(She says her hair is her best feature, and she really has fabulous hair, but I think her smile is even better.)

Since her diagnosis, our group of friends has been texting and e-mailing a lot. What can we do? 

I don't know what it's like to get a cancer diagnosis. I don't know what it's like to face months of chemotherapy, to know that in order to get better you'll have to feel miserable.

Once chemo is over, she's looking at a double mastectomy and, depending on the results of genetic testing, possibly a hysterectomy as well.

All before she turns 35.

I don't know what it's like to endure major surgery. I don't know what it's like to lose your hair and to have your very bones ache from the shot that increases your white blood cells and to be so sore you can't pick up your toddler.

And Beth has told me that she doesn't care about any of the brutal side effects. She could not care less about the things that make me cry when I think about her going through them. For her, these things are minor inconveniences because she's just focused on getting past this and being around to watch her girls grow up.

I don't know what it's like to have cancer, but I can't help but compare our experiences of tragedy and grief.

I do know what it's like to get news that turns your whole world upside down and makes you realize that your life will always be different than you hoped and maybe even less than you had hoped.

I am familiar with the way fear and nausea combine until you can't tell what's a physical symptom and what's a mental one.

I know what it's like for that news to come out of the great blue nowhere. To knock the wind out of you with such unexpected force.

I know what it's like to have felt one moment like your life is in order, like things are falling into place, like you have finally earned what you've worked so hard for, only to be confronted by the desperate fear that it could all slip away.

I know what it is to consciously appreciate what you have, to feel so grateful, to know that you're lucky, and then to suddenly feel paralyzed by your vulnerability, realizing how much you have to lose.

I know it's not particularly helpful or comforting to have people say, "I can't even imagine" as though suddenly your life has become an incomprehensible nightmare they can't bear actually to think about. (I would prefer people say, "I don't know what you're going through, but I CAN imagine. And it sucks. And I'm sorry.")

I know it's not easy to hear people say, "You're so strong/brave, you can get through this," as though strength or bravery qualifies someone for tragedy or illness while the weaker, more fearful people are spared (if only!).

And yet, I've found myself on the verge of saying BOTH of those things to Beth--these ready-made, go-to phrases that come to me when I'm grasping for something to say in the face of speechless shock and dismay.

Instead, I make myself imagine. After all, I know what it's like to lose a year of my life to grief, and I imagine that in some ways you lose a year of your life to cancer treatments.

I haven't faced a cancer diagnosis personally, but I know how much it fucking sucks to have your life spin out of control and to realize how helpless you are and how scary life is and how quickly and easily it could all slip away from you.

Needless to say, Beth has been on mind all the time lately.

As her friends, we're doing our best to rally around her. The truth is that I feel helpless--I think we all do--and we just want to do whatever we can to let her know that she's not alone. Often when I pick up my phone to send her a text, I wonder if I'm bothering her, or when I talk to her, I wonder if she is tired of talking about cancer or if I don't mention cancer, I wonder if she thinks I'm not thinking about cancer.

(But I have decided to just text her anyway because I'd rather hear from people even when I was too exhausted to respond.)

Even though I've never been in Beth's situation, when I try to imagine what might help her, I find myself thinking about what people did that helped me when I was debilitated by grief. We're prepping freezer meals and buying friendship bracelets and sending up thoughts and prayers and good vibes and shaking our fists at the unfairness of the universe. We've talked about how we can't just show up now and then get busy in a couple of months--that she needs to know we'll be there for her as long as it takes.

(Sidenote: If our society treated grief like an illness instead of an inconvenience, it would probably make it easier for bereaved parents to cope--not with the loss itself, but with the reality of living life after loss. When bereaved parents are treated as though they are ill--people bring food, send cards, arrange for housekeeping, make donations to foundations in honor and memory of their child--I think we appreciate not only the actions themselves, but the recognition of the enormity of our losses.)

Here's side-by-side pics of our group of girlfriends who have stayed tight since college--the top one was taken at the start of our senior year of college and the bottom one was snapped last weekend:


Beth's the one to the left of me in the jean jacket in the top photo, and the one to the left of me with the cute pixie cut in the bottom photo.

As a group, we were not totally untouched by grief even in our college picture--my friend Stephanie (the tall one with the curly hair) lost her mom our junior year of college, and although I didn't fully understand how to be there for Steph, I think we had all begun to recognize that life had its share of sorrow as well as joy, and that our friendships would help us get through the hard times.

But I also look at those pictures and I think about how losing Eliza makes me feel set apart, even from my dearest friends. For a long time, I pulled away from them because they couldn't really understand what I was going through, and I couldn't expect them to understand. I resented the fact that my baby died while other babies were healthy and alive. (Not that I wanted anyone's babies to NOT be healthy; I just didn't understand why MY BABY wasn't here too.)

I needed their love and sympathy but at the same time, I didn't want to be pitied or talked about in e-mail chains that didn't include me, even though they meant well. I didn't want to be given books with titles that sounded too sad to read or food that I was too sad to eat. I was tired and sad and miserable and didn't have the energy to be a friend or really to care about anything besides the loss of Eliza. Honestly, it's still hard for me to see how big their three-going-on-four-year-olds are and to wonder if I'm the only one thinking about the little girl who isn't there.

But my friends stuck by me, even when it wasn't easy. And if we disappointed each other in the process, we've found a way to get past that.

In some ways, I imagine cancer patients might feel the same way. It has to be difficult, frustrating, maddening to be The One With Cancer, especially when the days Before Cancer are still close enough to taste.

And although we celebrate cancer survivors and cancer remission, I would guess that being a cancer patient continues to be a part of one's identity, even when treatments are successful and life goes on. Of course it gets easier, but I expect that fear of recurrence and the thudding recognition of your mortality never disappears.

I know that random and terrible things happen all the time, so we might as well ask "Why not me?" But the fact is that when statistically improbable things happen to us, we ask, "Why me?" because it's so damn unfair, no matter what.

I know some people believe there is a greater plan at work, even in tragedy. My faith is different now. I don't believe in a God who uses tragedy and pain to teach lessons. I believe that random and terrible things happen in this world and we find God in the way we choose to get through them.

In my mind, God shows up not to cause (or cure) cancer or kill (or save) babies, but in the love we find amidst tragedy. We find God's presence in nurses who know that patients need hugs as much as they need medicine, in the friends who call or text even when those communications go unreturned, in the fundraising efforts to prevent future losses**, in the friends and acquaintances and strangers who add our names to prayer lists and wish better days for us, in the people we meet through the internet who end up being our tribe of support and understanding because they are walking the same path.

I'm writing about Beth today because terrible and shitty things happen to really good people in this world, and we don't know what will happen, but I'm really trying to believe that love wins no matter what.

And yet. One of my best friends has breast cancer. And at this very moment, there are so many people out there in the world who could say the same thing. There is nothing that makes anything about this situation ok.


* This comes from John Green's beautiful book about cancer, The Fault in Our Stars. I read it last year, saw the movie this summer, and just bought the book so I can read it again. I know some people don't want to read a "sad" book about cancer. While I completely understand the emotional fortitude it takes to delve into certain kinds of books, I also think that avoiding reading material that is sad or emotional is irresponsible. The plot that you find "too sad" to read about in the comfort of your sofa is someone else's real life--a life they can't simply dog-ear a page of and escape. And the truth is that there is a lot of beauty that is worth finding in the middle of tragedy, fictional or real.

** If you have an extra $10 (or more or less) you want to contribute to a worthy cause, please consider making a donation to Pedal for the Cause. Beth's husband, Curt, is biking in the event and all proceeds go to cancer research locally at Siteman Cancer Center and St. Louis Children's Hospital.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Back Hurts and Other Thoughts

I freaking love you guys and your confessions.

In regard to the creative and intriguing title of this post, I am currently experiencing a new and incredibly uncomfortable level of back pain. It happened ALL OF A SUDDEN when I was doing laundry. I bent forward and WHAM! I gasped and would have collapsed to the ground dramatically except that would have hurt more than standing up straight. Now bending forward, bending to sit, and pretty much any movement involving bending and/or my lower back is excruciating. Twisting is fine. Lying flat is fine. How does this happen? It makes me feel very old.

I can remember my mom having ALL OF A SUDDEN back pain and lying on our family room floor doing that sort of hysterical laugh you do when it hurts really bad but it's also funny that you can't get up and my brother and I were also laughing except now I get that it's NOT THAT FUNNY.

Also David's grandma is still here so I feel compelled to act as though I am a much better housekeeper than I actually am and now it hurts to do the laundry.

Have I mentioned that Coco is a spitty baby? So I am doing laundry like nobody's business.

Sometimes I find myself jokingly keeping score with the girls:

Zuzu never spit up: one point

Coco did not run away and climb the steps on the employees-only ladder things at Home Depot: one point

Zuzu can be reasoned with most of the time when she's fussy: one point

Coco doesn't rifle through my purse when I'm not paying attention and then run to me with things she's not supposed to have (pens, mostly) and hand them to me saying, "Thank you, Mama," as though I asked her to retrieve them for me when she knows good and well that she's not supposed to get in my purse (she's pretty good with please, but the thank you / you're welcome thing continues to confuse): one point

Anyway, they are pretty much dead even. Equally challenging but in totally different ways! Although they both get cranky when they are hungry.

This morning I went to the dentist after dropping Zuzu at school and left Coco with David's grandma. Eek! It was only an hour and a half total but it felt like a long time.

She was fine.

And I was cavity free again! #34yearsandcounting #shamelessbragging #sonicareshouldsponsormylife

(I think maybe we as a global society are getting to the backlash where hastags are becoming uncool, but I'm obviously not there yet.)

This back pain may be making me a little punchy.

I took three ibuprofen, but maybe I need to see a chiropractor? I've never been to a chiropractor. But I've kind of always wanted to go. It seems like a very adult thing to do. No? Anyone have any local recommendations?

I ordered the girls matching personalized pumpkin shirts from Etsy but I think I ordered Coco's a size too big. Dangit. Oh well. I'll just roll up the sleeves and stuff the onesie into a pair of jeggings and it will be fine, right?

Remember when I hit the resale lottery and found a little pair of capris that matched a hat we'd been handed down (scroll to the bottom and see them pictured here)?

(And if you don't remember, perhaps you should be reading this blog a little more closely and committing more of the minutiae of my life to your long-term memory. Because I really think I blogged about it, but maybe I only intended to?)

Well, I hit the lottery AGAIN when I found a little dress in size 3-6 months that matches a dress I'd already resale-purchased for Zuzu a couple months ago in size 2-3 years! I was so excited, and I know that Zuzu will be psyched to dress the same as her sister, which is adorable.

Yesterday Zuzu did the Daniel Tiger "ugga-mugga" nose rub thing on Coco and my heart exploded. (For those of you not familiar with Daniel Tiger on PBS, the Tiger family says "I love you" by rubbing noses and saying "ugga-mugga." Daniel also rubs his nose on the camera to tell his "neighbors" (the PBS viewers who are hypnotized by him) that he loves them.

I was getting worried about Zuzu not loving books because it seemed like every time I'd suggest we read books before bed, she would say no. (Except toddler-style, so it was way louder than that.) But then I realized that she was saying no to bedtime, not book-time. So I'm trying to do lots of book reading that is not associated with bedtime, and it's totally working. She loves books again.

HOWEVER, I'm kind of worried about her basic understanding of plot because we have this cute little book called Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin. In the book (PLOT SPOILER) Duck and Goose want to find a pumpkin but they don't know where to look. So they keep asking each other things like, "Is it in the log, Duck?" "No!" "Is it on the tree stump, Goose?" "No!" until their friend Thistle suggests they check out the pumpkin patch.

Anyway, we've read this book a zillion times, but Zuzu answers every question with an emphatic, "YES!"

"Is it under the water, Goose?"

"YES!" Zuzu cries.

No, dude. The pumpkin is NOT under the water. How do you not know this by now?

Or maybe she thinks she's tricking them and it's funny?

Who can know the mind of a two-year-old?

Speaking of her beautiful mind, she may or may not have an imaginary friend named Sofa or Sofie. All we know about her is that she is a "big kid," she has a "nose," her car is "brown," and she's coming over to Zuzu's house to see her. She told us this VERY SERIOUSLY at dinner last night.

Okay. I have an episode of Parenthood calling my name. More thoughts on sugar, baptism, and Halloween costumes to come later

Monday, September 22, 2014

Confessions

If it were up to me, I would sleep about 10 hours a night most nights.

I need a lot of sleep.

My brother is the same way, so I think it's genetic.

Except evidently my kids did not inherit this quality.

However, I got six hours of sleep last night IN A ROW and I feel amazing. It probably won't happen again anytime soon, but damn. It was awesome. Thank you, Coco. You rock.

# # # 

I hate the way Zuzu abuses sticker books.

My friend Jamie gave her a darling sticker book as a big-sister present. It features a fair and has all these lovely fair backgrounds--a roller coaster, a ferris wheel, games and circus tents--and the stickers are super cute.

And she puts them in all the wrong places and upside down and it's all I can do to not redirect her sticker play. I keep reminding myself that she's two and I don't need to stifle her creativity. Instead, I think perhaps I need my own sticker book.

# # #

My patience with Cooper has hit an all-time low.

I feel really bad about it, because it's not his fault. I remember having a similar issue when Zuzu was born--like I focus all my energy on the baby and I have nothing left for the dog.

He wants outside, I'm annoyed. He wants inside, I'm annoyed. He barks at the mailman, I'm furious.

I know this will pass, and Cooper will forgive me for occasionally yelling at him and he probably won't even hold all my sighs and eye-rolls against me.

# # #

I feel a little smidge guilty on the days when I take Zuzu to daycare and then all I do is nurse the baby and watch a Parenthood marathon on netflix.

It's sweet, because I watched the first couple of seasons on maternity leave with Zuzu and now I'm catching up with Coco. 

I'm almost through season 5 and omg I just want Joel and Julia to work things out! 

But still, it's weird to not do anything else all day. It's just that the baby is so cozy and also she really only likes to sleep if she's cuddled up on my chest. So, you know. What's a girl to do?

I did get a load of laundry folded, so there's that.

# # #

I keep thinking that I really need to start exercising and probably also watching what I eat.

But then I remember that my boobs still don't really fit in a sports bra.

And then David buys Fritos to go with the chili.

And then I think that I can just start exercising next week.

# # #

I do not know how to make friends.

All of my friendships have started with. " Hey, we live on the same floor of this dorm. Let's hang out." (Except we didn't actually SAY that.)

Or, "We're in the same PhD program and therefore we likely share similar neuroses and nerdiness. Let's get drunk."

Or, "Hey, we work together. Let's have lunch."

Or, "Hi, I read your blog and..."

Or,  "Hi, I read your blog and I'm sorry your baby died. So did mine."

How do you make friends outside of college, grad school, work, or the internet?

I've gone to a couple La Leche meetings and met one or two people I think would be cool to hang out with outside of a LLL meeting but I am like nervous about it. What would I say? What if they don't like me? How does one start a friendship as an adult? Especially if one is sort of weird and introverted and carrying dead baby baggage?

# # #

I made a Lazy Cookie Cake. The directions say to take a yellow cake mix, add 5 tbsp melted butter and two eggs. Mix. Then throw in a bag of chocolate chips. Spread in a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

The directions did NOT say, "Eat a quarter of the pan by yourself while still warm."

But I did it anyway.

I really need to get serious about exercising.

# # #

I took Zuzu to the park after school one day last week as a special treat.

Why?

Because she got through the school day without hitting or biting anyone (specifically her teachers--she has a bit of an issue with authority figures, including her mother).

This means I am now rewarding my child for meeting the most basic expectations of social interaction.

Next thing you know, I'll be bribing her with screen time if she pees on the potty.

Oh, wait. #triedthat




# # #

Anyone else have anything shameful to confess? Come on now. We're all friends here. Weird internet friends, most of whom who have baggage, but friends all the same.



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Copying Janet at Love is Blonde, here's what I've been up to:

Yesterday...

David's grandma was visiting (she arrived Thursday afternoon). After six weeks of basically being a sloth with a baby on my boob (and feeling JUST FINE about it, because as we discussed at the last La Leche meeting I went to, nursing a baby is work), having another adult in the house kind of kicked me into gear. Not only did I have things to get done, but I had an extra pair of hands that was more than happy to hold the baby.

So I took Zuzu to the shoe store--just the two of us--and got her a cute pair of silver StrideRite mary janes (or, as she calls them, sparkle shoes!) for fall. I had planned to get tennis shoes, but she demonstrated a preference for the mary janes and I figure she can wear them with anything she could wear tennis shoes with, plus tights and dresses so maybe they're actually more useful. But she still needs some kind of bootie or sensible closed shoe for winter. I saw a couple styles I loved at the shoe store but I had a little bit of sticker shock (kids shoes cost as much as adult shoes, you guys!) so we're waiting on those and watching Zulily.

But just so you know, I have my eye on these.

Zuzu was well-behaved at the shoe store, although she needed a minute to warm up to the sales lady. When the lady started to measure her foot, Zuzu said, "No, Mama's turn!" But I explained it was actually the sales lady's turn and I'd stand right next to her and then it went just fine.

After the shoe store, we stopped by home so Coco could have some mama-milk and then I took Zuzu to the park before lunch.

While the girls were napping and Gma Peggy was watching Days of Our Lives, I decided to use up the peaches in our fridge and make a peach cobbler. The recipe called for four cups of sliced peaches. I ended up having a bit more than that (maybe five cups?) but I figured more fruit couldn't hurt, so I threw it all in.

(Side note: I suck at peeling peaches and tried to do that thing where you boil then and then put them in ice water but it didn't really work so David's grandma peeled and sliced them for me. She also mocked my lack of culinary skills, but I'm used to that by now.)

AND it bubbled over onto the bottom of the oven.

Because of course it did.

And then the oven started smoking.

Because of course it did.

And then David's grandma freaked out because messes of any kind make her lose her mind. I seriously shouldn't have even attempted to bake something with her here. Too stressful for both of us. 

I would have let it go (I mean, eventually it will just burn up and quit smoking, right?) but Gma Peggy insisted I call David and have him buy oven cleaner on the way home.

So then she cleaned my oven. With super chemically spray that I would have never ever used.

And I had a beer with dinner.

Today...

David's parents are also here and this morning we are heading downtown to walk around the ballpark village by Busch stadium. David's mom is a huge Cardinal fan, so she's looking forward to this.

This afternoon we're going to brave the crowds and head up to Forest Park to watch the hot air balloon race. We're not going to attempt to get close to the launch site, but plan to take sandwiches and spread blankets out for a picnic on the other side of the park. 

Tomorrow...

We are heading to Grant's Farm with the girls and grandparents. I'm excited for Zuzu to see the elephant show and I might even sip a free Summer Shandy. With highs in the 80's, it kinda feels like our last summer weekend, so we are making the most of it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Conversations with Zuzu

Scene: Morning. Zuzu almost always asks for pancakes for breakfast. Pretty much every morning, she eats Greek yogurt with fruit (or fruit spread) mixed in and five silver dollar pancakes from Trader Joes. I give her three, she eats them and asks for more pancakes, and then I give her two more and tell her they are all gone now. She asks for more and I say, "You ate ALL the pancakes! Oh, wow!" It's like we're following a script. Anyway, each morning as we're getting up and around, I ask if she wants to go eat something and she always says "Pancakes!"

Me: You ready to go downstairs and eat something?

Zuzu: Yes. I want meat-meal.

Me: What?

Zuzu: I want meat-meal! Eat-meal!

Me: Oatmeal?

Zuzu: Oatmeal! I want oatmeal!

# # #

Scene: The day after we had Face-Timed with my friend Monica and her daughter Ellie Kate. That conversation had ended when Monica and Ellie Kate had to go have dinner. Zuzu did not take it well. She did not want Ellie Kate to hang up the phone, and she took out her aggression on me. The next afternoon, we were in the car on the way home from school.

Me: You ready to read some books when we get home?

Zuzu: Me call Ellie Kate? No worry, Mom. I no bite you.

# # #

Scene: Coco needs a diaper change.

Me: Okay, Zuzu, I'm going to go change Coco's diaper.

Zuzu: My turn change diaper? I change her diaper. I be careful. Baby Coco no fall down get her head broken.* No [poke] her eyes. That would be sad.

Backstory: Zuzu has a favorite book called Oh, What a Busy Day. (If you're looking for a great kids' book, this one comes highly recommended by two generations of my family. It was my cousin Angela's most favorite book ever--in fact, my aunt Peggy still has the whole thing pretty much memorized because she read it so many times.) Anyway, there's one page in the book about times when it's okay to be sad. And one of the times it's okay to be said is when your dolly gets broken. There's a picture of a little girl crying and her doll has been dropped and its head is broken.

Zuzu just noticed this particular illustration recently and asked me repeatedly how the baby got broken and kept pointing at the picture and commenting "She is sad." Since then, she's been really conscientious about baby Keya (who is not breakable), and she'll give her a hug and then say something like, "It's okay, you no broken, be careful." I'm glad to know she's equally concerned about Coco.

# # #

Scene: At the park. She crawled through a tunnel and noticed that a stick was lying on the platform. She grabbed it and tossed it down to the ground.

Zuzu: Look, Mama! Look! I got that stick outta there. That is guh-ross! I no like it.

# # #

Scene: At the park. A U-Haul truck drives by.

Zuzu: Grammy and Bop go bye-bye big truck. Go home, see Bert.

Backstory: When my parents were here last, their car konked out on them on our way to lunch on Labor Day, shortly before they were ready to head home. They needed to get back and decided to get it fixed at home instead of here, so they rented a U-Haul truck and trailer and towed the car home themselves. Zuzu was most interested in the big truck they left in. And she's always sad about Grammy and Bop leaving, so I explained that they have to go home to Bert (their cat).

Two weeks later, she's still talking about the truck and the cat!



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The End of an Era

When I met David, he was a bachelor with a crazy little white dog.


She had bulging eyes and crooked hips and she growled at me when I petted her.

Eventually, I won her allegiance and she dumped David to side with me.

But in spite of her wee size, she was never a snuggler, never a lap dog. She needed a wide circumference of personal space and only wanted attention or affection if she initiated it.


Little Mac lived with us in our first apartment in University City, where we had to take her out to pee on a leash and this became a power struggle as she only wanted to go out on her schedule, which typically did not align with our schedule. But if we would so much as approach her with a leash in hand when she didn't feel like going outside, she would growl and snap at us.

I thought that David would get rid of Little Mac if she were ever to bite me.

She bit me.

Twice.


But by that time, I was invested.

And that was the thing with Little Mac. You sort of liked her in spite of yourself. And in spite of herself. She was just the weirdest, quirkiest little thing.

We had a party once and a guy in my grad school department tried to engage with Little Mac by playfully taking her peanutbutter-filled kong toy that she was chewing on.

He bled through three bandaids, but said it was his fault since she obviously didn't want him touching her toy.


And just when you thought you couldn't stand to be around such a nasty, hateful little dog, she'd suddenly bound in the room like a puppy with a toy in her mouth, or push her head into your shin like a cat asking for attention, and your heart would melt.

Her treat of choice was popcorn. She loved it so much that she would come running when she heard it popping and then sit in front of the microwave and WAIL at the top of her lungs, so overwhelming was her excitement and anticipation.

She and Cooper had a tenuous but mostly collegial relationship. Basically, Cooper respected her crazy and she let him be. Getting him was actually really good for her--it relaxed her personal boundaries and exposed her to some normal canine social skills, which improved her attitude overall.


In her later years, when we'd moved to our little house, she was almost always up for a walk or a car ride. She didn't always want a leash, but she was usually up for adventure. She loved riding in the car.

One night, David was out for his cousin's bachelor party. In the middle of the night, he called me from a club on the East Side, begging me to come pick him up because he was sick and the guys weren't ready to leave.

At first I thought he had been drinking too much and made himself sick, but he insisted he hadn't been drinking at all, but his throat hurt and he was pretty sure he had a fever. As best man, he was trying to be a good sport and not complain, but the group showed no signs of being ready to go and he was desperate to get out of there.

Driving over to East St. Louis by myself in the wee hours of the morning was not high on my list of desirable activities, but Little Mac was more than willing to ride along with me. So the two of us loaded up in my little red Mustang and picked up a miserable and shivering David (who ended up missing a full week of work due to a wicked case of strep throat).

She loved going to David's grandparents' house on the lake, although she didn't ever want to get in the lake and she wasn't much for riding in the boat. A warm, sunny spot on the patio was her happy place, and she'd sleep in the sunshine all day long.


She and Cooper were my buddies when I was writing the dissertation. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but they enforced the advice that health experts give about taking frequent breaks when you sit at a desk all day--not only did I walk them every single day, they also were constantly interrupting me so they could go in and out the back door. Little Mac in particular would not be ignored--her wailing to get in or out of the house was so extreme that when we first moved in, our next door neighbors came running out of their house when they heard her, and later told us they thought someone was getting raped in the alley. Nope. That's just our dog.


My brother would always ask why Little Mac was constantly staring at him--with those buggy brown eyes. And I would laugh and say, "That's just her way."

As she got older and crankier, she would want up on my lap if we were in a new place (at one of David's ballgames, or visiting his dad's house where there were other dogs). She would get nasty and snarly once she was up there--and God forbid I shift my weight and irritate her with my movements--but I still sort of loved that she came to me.

She wasn't smart around cats, and would charge my mom's cats. One day during a visit to my parents, David and I were getting ready to go somewhere so he was in the car and I ran back inside to get something. I heard a cat yowl and then heard a God-awful wailing noise, so I raced upstairs. Little Mac was sitting at the top of the stairs, and her face was all bloody. At first glance, I thought the cat had clawed Mac's bulging little eye out, and I started screaming and crying and ran outside, nearly collapsing on the front porch as I screamed at David to come inside.

Upon closer inspection, her eye was intact, but she did have a scratch going down her nose. You'd think she'd learn her lesson, but she would still charge those cats every now and then.

Little Mac didn't like kids ever. And she especially didn't like them as she got older and her eyesight got spotty and her hearing failed. She was easily startled and her response to fear was always fight, not flight. She made us really nervous around David's little cousins, and she wasn't shy about snapping and growling at them.


I would lie and tell strangers she was a rescue dog because it seemed the easiest way to explain her unpredictability and aggression. I was especially mortified when she tried to bite my friend's dog-loving and extremely elderly grandmother, and a friend of mine who dog-sat for us one weekend said she felt terrible when she had to tell a little girl with special needs that she couldn't pet the cute little white dog.

We'd been concerned about her intolerance for small children when I was pregnant with Eliza. Little Mac was already ten years old by that point, and we just told ourselves that we would see how things went once the baby was here.

But we didn't get to bring our baby home. And while it was Cooper who was my loyal companion on the sofa, day after day, providing comfort with his solid warmth and quiet companionship, it was Little Mac--who never wanted on my lap, who always slept in her own bed on the floor, who growled if we walked by her to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night--who got up on the bed with me the day after we got home from the hospital, and who curled up and lay down next to me. She just knew that I was hurting like never before. I will never forget her offering that comfort to me--even if she did eventually growl quietly at me before jumping down off the bed and resuming her usual place in her doggie bed. That was just her way.


When Zuzu came into the picture, things got tricky. Mac didn't mess with the baby, but she did start having accidents (or "on purposes"?) always in the baby's room.


Once Zuzu became mobile, and increasingly interested in the dogs, it became apparent that our household could not accommodate a curious baby and a crotchety old dog. Especially because Little Mac was getting increasingly aggressive when she felt threatened or bothered (even by David and me), and continuing to have more and more accidents.


So the pee and poop situation was getting worse, and Mac was making me more and more nervous around the baby. In desperation, when Zuzu was about 9 months old, I took Little Mac to the vet and asked them to check and see if she was in physical pain or if there was something causing her to have accidents that we could fix. She was 13 years old, deaf, and mostly blind. I tried to explain to the vet that it was going to be impossible for us to keep her because she'd been known to bite and she was peeing and pooping in the house even when I was there to let her out. As impossibly difficult as it was, I needed to get some information about having her put to sleep.

Instead, the vet guilt-tripped me into paying a couple hundred bucks for a comprehensive blood test (which came back PERFECTLY HEALTHY, because of course it did) and suggested I look into senior dog rescue. She made me feel horrible for even SUGGESTING that I might need to choose my baby over an aggressive 13-year-old dog who had, at various times over the years, bitten and drawn blood from me, my husband, his grandmother, his five-year-old cousin, and a friend of mine from graduate school. And really, do you think it would be easy to re-home a dog with that kind of track record?


I called my mom crying after I left the vet because the vet had made me feel so terrible when I was ALREADY feeling terrible, but David and I knew that Little Mac and Zuzu living together was just no longer possible.

My mom loves her granddaughter AND loves dogs, and bless her heart she called us later and offered to take Little Mac home with her.

So Little Mac moved to her retirement home in Nevada. She lived with my parents for over a year, and celebrated her 14th birthday with them (I used the word "celebrated" loosely). She learned to get along with their cats (who remained aloof and skeptical, but would at least tolerate being in the same room as Little Mac). My parents were home often enough to give her the frequent bathroom breaks she needed, but as time went on she began having more and more frequent accidents at their house as well. Frequently, she would wet her bed. Then there were a few incidents where her back legs--those crooked hips--gave out on her.

My mom gave her a daily dose of aspirin and then some medicine to help her kidneys. But the accidents were happening more and more often. Then on Sunday she had a seizure and they knew that it was time.

This was not unexpected news because my mom had let us know that Mac wasn't doing well and that they were taking things day by day. But when we got the e-mail from my mom yesterday, telling us that Mac had made her final trip to the vet and her last meal was her favorite popcorn, we both took it kind of hard. I felt bad for not being there, even though Little Mac had transferred her allegiance to my mom just the way she once dumped David for me.


And even though Mac wasn't living with us anymore, even though she was difficult and aggressive and peed and pooped everywhere and barked at old people and growled at people in wheelchairs and snarled at little kids and snapped at us... it wasn't easy to know that she was gone.

She was David's first dog--a gift from his mom when he graduated from college--and she was our first pet. She saw us through dating and engagement and marriage and pregnancy and loss and a baby. She was there from the beginning--for the good and the bad and the ugly and the beautiful.

She wasn't always easy, but she was ours, and there will never be another dog quite like her.

We love you, Little Mac, and all your crazy.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cute Feet!

I don't want to sound conceited here, but I should tell you that my feet are pretty cute. In college, I had the cutest feet in my group of friends (none of them would dispute this). Cute feet don't get you many favors in life, but they do make sandal season enjoyable.

Anyway, the real reason that this is noteworthy is because it appears that Coco has inherited her mama's cute feet. At least, according to Zuzu.

This video is a typical interaction between the two of them. Except there is usually more kissing. Zuzu loves to kiss Coco's cheeks. I wondered where she got this, and then I realized that almost every time I pick up either one of the girls, I kiss their cheeks. They're just so deliciously kissable, you know?


I love the part where she says, "I like you!" Heart explosion.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sisters, Side by Side

At the request of my Aunt Peggy (and for my own viewing pleasure) here are a few comparison shots of Zuzu and Coco.

First, the newborn shots I used for each of their birth announcements (because is there anything cuter than a baby in her birthday suit?):

Zuzu, 9 days old
Coco, 9 days old
I love how Zuzu is curled up in a baby ball and Coco has her little frog-legs stretched out--I swear that's why I was so uncomfortable when I was pregnant with her! Coco was stretching those legs out when she was still in my belly.

And here's pictures on the same chair. Zuzu slept through her entire photo session, so I have no professional newborn photos of her with her eyes open! Coco on the other hand was bright-eyed until the very end, when Katie snapped the photo of her snoozing on our ottoman.

Zuzu
Coco
And the one-month comparisons...


The youngest sister is not getting weekly photo sessions. Well, honestly she usually gets at least a snapshot a day on my phone, but I didn't get the weekly stickers. We're going to do the monthly thing and leave it at that. I took monthly photos of Zuzu, too, but had her propped up in a chair, so I thought this was the best side-by-side comparison. But here's the monthly side-by-sides:



It's funny to me that Zuzu looks kinda crabby in her photo, because right now I would say that Coco is the fussier baby. But maybe that's just because I'm living it? This weekend there was a LOT of fussing, although today has been (knock on wood) smooth sailing. Anyway, she's still a total doll when she's not pissed off at the world.

So when I look at the comparisons, the hair is obviously different, but I think you can tell they are sisters--same shaped faces, same chubby cheeks. But I think their eyes are different (they look most alike when they are sleeping). This makes me wonder if maybe Coco has my eyes... so maybe hers will stay blue instead of turning hazel like Zuzu's did. It will be interesting to see if her hair gets lighter like Zuzu's did (you know, once it grew in).

I'm always telling Coco that she's so lucky to have Zuzu for her big sister, and I'm always telling Zuzu that she and Coco are going to be best friends. I love how much Zuzu loves the baby. Even when she has acted out negatively to get attention from David and me, she has never been anything but loving to go Coco. It's Coco she wants to kiss first thing in the morning, and she always wants to help change her diaper. It's really impossibly sweet.

I know we'll have our share of bickering and sister-drama, but I sure hope they grow up to be close and take care of each other. I have a feeling that they will be quite the pair.

That's Zuzu's "tent" in the background.

Sister Love