Sunday, May 1, 2016

Illness Updates

Quick Update on the Spots Situation at our house:

Coco had fever on Saturday, fussy Sunday, spots on Monday. By Tuesday, she was feeling better and past the point of contagion, so she was back at school with a terrible looking spotty face.

On Monday morning, Zuzu had already left for school with David when Coco woke up and I saw her spots. We called Zuzu's school to let them know Coco had HFM and Zuzu might be contagious, but we weren't sure. I kind of expected them to have us come get Zuzu right away. But Zuzu appeared totally fine, and they just said that they'd keep an eye on her. She was great on Monday and seemed totally fine Tuesday morning as well.

Tuesday evening, David picked up Zuzu from school and she was looking kind of droopy. She came home, picked at her dinner, and when we took her temperature, she was running a fever.

David kept her home on Wednesday. Her fever didn't come back, but she was low-energy. I kept anxiously texting him from work, "Does she have sores in her mouth? Any spots yet?" Nothing popped up.

Wednesday evening, I was convinced that a red spot in the corner of her mouth was a sore. I was bracing myself for The Outbreak. I kept her home from school on Thursday.

Thursday, she had no fever, no spots, and spent a good deal of the day playing in the backyard, happily announcing to our neighbors, "I'm SICK!"

Friday she was back at school, and all seems well. So... I'm cautiously calling it and saying that HFM has made its rounds and is on its way out of our house.

(Of course, Coco woke up with a cough today, and I always think every cough is a "barking cough" so I'm fretting about that now, but I think it's entirely different.)

I'd feel much better about us being over and done with the disgusting HFM, except that my cousin's sweet little girl, Mesa, whom Zuzu played with at my parents' party last weekend, has come down with a nasty version of it. The sores are concentrated on her hands and especially her feet, which are covered with them (and painful). She barely had any contact with Coco at the party, since Coco was literally attached to me the entire time, but I guess there was enough touching/hugging among everybody that the nasty germs got transferred.

Tangentially related: I'm reading this book called In the Year of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks, and I'm reading it cautiously because you know from the start that the narrator's entire famiy dies of the plague and after being overwhelmed with Sue Klebold's real-life grief, a fictional grieving mother may be too much for me to handle as Mother's Day approaches with its own triggers.

But anyway, whenever I read historical fiction that touches on disease I always marvel at the idea of living before germ theory. Can you imagine? Assuming that illness was simply the wrath of God? Or came from miasmic fumes from the cemetery? Meanwhile you do all your daily business without disposing properly of raw sewage? As a kid, I would have said that I'd love to time travel and live in the past, but now I realize that I was probably meant to exist in the time of orthodontic work, eyebrow maintenance, safety razors, and modern medicine.

Though it does NOT escape me that the great strides of modern medicine could not prevent the greatest tragedy of my life, and in some ways pregnancy still seems to be as mysterious as it was in the days of midwives and confinements. There's a lot of guesswork still going on.

Today I'm washing all the sheets and towels. I should get some sage to smudge and cleanse the house... Maybe tomorrow. For now, we're burning candles and wiping door knobs and hoping that this is the last we see of HFM. Good riddance.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

60th Birthdays!

I had all kinds of plans to document the birthday party last weekend with lots of photos. As it turns out, it is very difficult to hold a bulky camera and a sick toddler. As a result, my photos are fewer than I'd intended, but I thought I'd share these anyway...

I helped fund a kickstarter project that's a book with detailed instructions on taking photos of your kids 12 months a year. I'm working on shooting in manual mode, and this book helped with that. This attempt to capture a photo of Zuzu makes me laugh.


Coco loves when Zuzu pedals the trike and she can stand on the back. It makes everyone else nervous.


This is just before the party. You can tell Coco isn't feeling well because we've already given her the binky. (Normally, binky is reserved for bed time and carseat. When she's this miserable, it's all binky all the time.)


Trying to get a photo of the four of them was an exercise in futility. The worst offender was Bops, who was either looking away from the camera or appearing totally dazed and confused.


Once we cut the side kicks, my parents managed to both smile at the same time. Their shirts both read, "At my age, I need glasses!" Hardy-har-har.


Welcome sign. Time constraints forced me to give up on adjusting the lettering long before I was ready. I need more practice!


Cute table at the front with baby pictures of my dad and mom and scrapbooks created by their moms.


The back side of the welcome board. Do you know anyone born in 1956? Are they named Mary, Debra, Linda, Michael, James, or Robert?


You can't tell (again, I'm kicking myself for the lack of photos) but this is the front/side window. The signs read "60 is only 15 in Scrabble" and "At 60 years old, your birthday suit requires ironing."


This shot was taken at the start of the party and sort of captures the set up. There were tables along each side with those lantern lights hanging above. I didn't get a picture of the buffet spread, which was great, or the "Sweet Spot" with all the dessert treats. #photofail


My parents' friend Alfred and I were obviously taking photos of each other taking photos. Note how miserable Coco looks--this is why there's no picture of the buffet spread or Sweet Spot!


I spent most of the night like this. (That's my aunt Tammi next to us.)


This is probably a photo of Zuzu's cousin Mesa contracting HFM disease. (Sorry, Mesa!) My mom bought this castle for the girls at a garage sale that morning. As you can guess, it was a huge hit at the party.


Coco and I were heading home for the night, but I insisted on a quit group photo before we left. Of course Grammy has her eyes closed.


I ended up leaving David at home with sleeping Coco and coming back up to the party to hang out for another hour or so. It was a really fun night, and most people enjoyed themselves more than poor Coco did! We missed my brother and Jo, who were unable to come in for the weekend, but we were glad to be there to celebrate 60 years of Grammy and Bops!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spotty Baby

It started with a fever just before my parents' birthday party. Coco had been perfectly happy all day--playing at the park with Zuzu and David in the morning while my mom and I did party prep stuff and ran to the store. She didn't want much lunch, which was weird, and she was definitely ready for a nap, but I figured she was just worn out from a relatively late night on Friday and all the outside play time. She took a good nap and woke up pleasant.

Shortly after Coco got up from her nap, I actually dozed off myself. I'd been sick Thursday with a low grade fever, still not feeling normal on Friday, and probably wasn't in top form on Saturday, either. David entertained and refereed the girls while I napped, and then I gave Zuzu a shower, got her dressed, and got in the shower myself.

David brought Coco up to get rinsed off in the shower with me, and commented that she was feeling warm. When he handed her to me, I gasped. She was burning up.

Her fever was 101.5 under her arm, so David made a run to the store for baby tylenol and my mom and I took turns cuddling her while also getting ready for the party--the little sweetie just wanted to be held and rocked.

I knew she wasn't going to be up for much at the party, but once the tylenol kicked in, she seemed to be feeling better, so we got her dressed and ready to go.

She did the cling-to-mama and hide her face thing when anyone greeted her, which I expected, but more troubling was the fact that the tylenol didn't seem to actually help her fever. We left early to take her home (putting her pajamas on before we left) and picked up children's motrin on the way. She was asleep when we got home, so I just put her to bed. David offered to stay with her, so I headed back up to the party.

Shortly after I returned home, she woke up crying. When I went upstairs to get her, she felt so hot. I stripped off her pjs and took her temperature--102.5 under her arm. We gave her Motrin and I rocked her back to sleep, but then kept her in bed with me.

The next day, she seemed to be feeling better. I'd woken up several times in the night to check on her, and around 4:00am, it was obvious that she no longer had a fever. She was a bit cranky in the morning, but nothing out of the ordinary. As I was putting her shoes on her, I noticed a little spot on her big toe and pointed it out to my mom: "Look at this! Is this a bug bite?" It sort of looked like a bite--a tiny little blister, but it didn't seem to itch or bother her.

I also noticed one--just one--on the side of her finger and wondered what kind of bugs were eating her up outside.

We drove home on Sunday--Coco was a bit fussy, but not feverish. She did seem out of sorts, though, once we were home. She was a barnacle, wanting me to hold her constantly, and I felt myself getting frustrated because I had so much unpacking and laundry to do, on top of getting organized for the week ahead.

She told me that her mouth was "owie," and I could see that she has teeth coming in, so while I didn't think that teething would cause such a high fever, I couldn't figure out what else was going on since she didn't have any other symptoms. I gave her some motrin  put her to bed early Sunday night--she went to sleep quickly--and I told David that if she had a fever in the morning, we'd need to keep her home.

The next morning she didn't have a fever. She had spots.

Sores. Blisters. Grossness. All over her little mouth. I gasped when I saw her in the crib. Then I looked at her hands. And her feet. And then--FINALLY--all the pieces came together in my head. Her hands. Her feet. Her mouth. Hand Foot Mouth Disease. (Worst name for a disease ever.)

The spots actually look better here than they do in real life. Also, she's not crying about her spots here. She's throwing a fit because I won't let her hold my phone.
Sure enough, another kid in her room at daycare picked up Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease at a birthday party and ended up spreading it at school. Evidently it's high contagious! But you can have the virus 3-6 days BEFORE you break out in spots.

Now that her fever is gone, she's no longer contagious, unless the spots are oozing (gag gag gag). But I'm still freaking out about Zuzu getting it and spreading it around HER school. I'm trying to be vigilant with the girls at home--NO KISSING! No sharing drinks! Don't hold hands!--and we notified Zuzu's school so they can keep an eye on her.

It's relatively harmless, so says everything I read, but it's obviously been causing Coco some real discomfort. She mostly ate yogurt for dinner last night and I gave her a popsicle afterward, which she seemed to enjoy but didn't finish.

Of course I googled "Can adults get hand-foot-mouth disease" and OF COURSE it's possible (but rare!).

So now we just wait it out. It can take a week for the spots to go away, and there are tiny spots spread over her legs and arms and back as well as the big yucky ones around her mouth and the not-quite-as-big but definitely noticeable ones on her hands. She's basically the most pitiful baby ever. Last night she was EXTREMELY fussy, but she was cheerful this morning, although the first thing she said to me was "owie," gesturing toward her mouth. Poor little nugget.

I had heard of Hand-Foot-Mouth before, but honestly I thought it was something that grubby people got--like ringworm. (So judgy, I know.) And really I guess that all toddlers ARE grubby people, so there you go.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Few Things

I always enjoy the weekend round-up posters that other bloggers do, but I've never really done one, I guess because I'm not that kind of blogger (the kind with a giant readership, I mean). I am, however, the kind of blogger who likes to tell people about cool stuff, so here are a few things...

* It was Shakespeare's (celebrated) birthday on April 23. No surprise I'm a fan (do people even say that? I'm a fan of Shakespeare? Seems weird.). Anyway. One of the most meaningful lines in a Shakespeare play for me comes from Antony and Cleopatra. When Antony dies, Caeser says, "The breaking of so great a thing / Should make a greater crack." When Eliza died, my world shattered, but of course the rest of the world kept moving. I spent the month of December in shock, stunned that other people were going to celebrate Christmas as though my baby weren't dead. The breaking of so great a thing should have made a greater crack. As one of my students said, "Shakespeare is pretty good, like, with words."

* I've linked this before, but if you're into Shakespeare, you should read this article about Hamlet and then listen to this episode of This American Life.

* My friend Sally just ran the London Marathon for the Stillbirth Australia Foundation in memory of her daughter, Hope. Sally's blog was one of the first I began to read after Eliza died. She was a bit ahead of me in the grief process, and she'd already had her first "rainbow baby." Her process of moving forward with her life while honoring Hope's memory gave me hope. Also if you read her blog with an Australian accent in your head, it's even more adorable.

* I can't stop with the snake oils and I've been making roller ball blends that the girls like to put on their feet at bedtime. I call it "medicine" because I want them to associate the bottles with things that aren't to play with (or drink!) and it should make them feel good. It made me laugh when Zuzu smelled some yummy potpourri and said, "Mmmm! This smells like medicine!"

* I'm really picky about shoes for the girls (by which I just mean they have be lightweight and have a super flexible sole). I love Saltwater sandals and I've bought a pair for Zuzu every year, but this year I've ordered her this pair from Stride Rite because it has a velcro closure, and Ms. Independent would prefer to be able to pull her own shoes on and off. I also got her a pair of Keen sandals for summer (ordered from 6pm.com because I was able to save $15), and she has these lightweight tennis shoes (hers are a bright blue, though). I told myself that she was set for summer, but then I ordered her a pair of Elsa & Anna flip flops when they were half price on Zulily. It's not summer without flip flops, right? I usually avoid character shoes (and clothes, although Grammy doesn't help me with this one), but I figure that the characters will actually be covered by her feet while she's wearing them, and she'll be super excited.

* Coco is fitting perfectly in the Keens and Saltwater sandals that Zuzu wore two years ago, but sharing shoes won't last much longer, unless they don't get much foot time--Zuzu is really hard on them! Keens are pretty tough, so they may hold up, but she literally wore holes in the last pair of Toms she had, and her tennis shoes are already really grubby.

* I'll be posting more about this, but we celebrated my mom and dad's sixtieth birthdays over the weekend! They threw themselves a double birthday party--rented out a storefront restaurant on the square, set up a huge spread of food, had plenty of booze, and invited friends to stop by. It was a great turnout and a fun evening (except that Coco wasn't feeling well). Zuzu had lemonade for the first time in her life and rode that sugar high until almost midnight (!). We are all still dealing with her hangover today.

* I've been listening to the audiobook of A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold. Her son Dylan was one of the shooters at Columbine. In some ways, it's a difficult book to listen to, particularly as Sue reads it herself. It's incredibly well-written, and she's an excellent speaker/reader, but the grief she feels is painfully vivid, and she articulates the agony of grieving her youngest son's suicide while also grappling with the shame, guilt, and horror she feels about the murders he committed. Since Dylan's death, she has devoted her life to the prevention of suicide and violence. It's an incredibly moving story of fierce love and intense sorrow, and it's brought me to tears.

* We are summer vacation planning in many ways... I'm thinking about how I want to spend the days at home with the girls (plenty of lazy days, yes, but also some scheduled plans to get us out of the house doing something besides errands), and we're making vacation plans (including Coco's first airplane flight!), and birthday party plans (I've officially lost my mind and invited two very special guests from Arendelle, who will be making an appearance!).

* Before summer gets here, I still have to make it through two more weeks of class, plus finals week, plus grading-grading-grading. It's the end of semester slump, and after being sick enough that I was out of commission on Thursday and Friday of last week, I need to kick it into gear this week.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Flashbacks

I taught Natasha Trethewey's poem, "Myth," this semester.

I was especially struck by the way that it seemed to resonate with so many of my students, whose stories I don't really know, but who have perhaps seen more grief than I personally had when I was nineteen years old.

I wanted to write about it, and then I remembered that I wrote about this poem a couple of years ago, after reading it for the first time.

Looking back at that entry had me doing something I rarely do--trolling my own archives to see what I've been doing in month of April over the past seven (!!!!) years.

I'm quite certain now that Coco will be my last baby, so it makes this post from April of 2014 all the more poignant.

And when I look back at my pregnancy with Zuzu in April of 2012, I remember why I'm relieved to not be seriously considering another one. (Also I was recently having a conversation with a friend who's just over halfway through her first rainbow pregnancy and she was asking me how I got through and I realize that I have totally blocked the most vivid memories of anxiety and fear, and also I was seeing a therapist weekly.)

It was also in the month of April (2011), when I wrote the first version of "Violets in the Mountains," which eventually became the essay that was included in Three Minus One.

Ah, and how about April of 2010. Wasn't pregnant yet and defined "catastrophe" as nail polish on the carpet. (I mean, that is kind of a catastrophe, but obviously my perspective had shifted dramatically a year later.)

And what did I spend much of 2009 writing about? My fur babies. I love this photo series of Little Mac. We still miss her special brand of crazy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Swimming Lessons [Ongoing]

I enrolled the girls in swimming lessons. Instead of going to the amazing, swanky place where Zuzu has taken lessons the last few years, I'd decided to take them both to the YMCA. They could both get 8 weeks of lessons for same price as ONE of them having 4 weeks of lessons at our other place, so really it was a financial decision, but I'm still not positive it was the right one...

We get all checked in a the front desk (which was busy and understaffed) and then we headed down to the pool. Water-loving Zuzu was super jazzed, Coco less so. The plan was for David to do the parent/child lessons with Coco. We got her changed in the locker room and found the locations of their classes.

And we hit our first snag of the day. Zuzu wasn't on the list for her class. And her age group was full (of course). It turns out that somehow she had been enrolled in the 9:00 am class on TUESDAY instead of Saturday. I didn't know what to do because obviously Tuesday mornings were not going to work for our schedule, but the lady with the binder told me she'd figure out something, and eventually Zuzu was able to join her class, just a bit after the start time. Zuzu was totally chill about it, thank goodness.

Meanwhile, David was in the pool with Coco for the parent/child class and she spent the entire half hour sobbing and crying, "Mommy! Mommy!" Well, not quite the entire half hour. He left a few minutes early because it was obviously a waste of time and annoying for everyone else.

Zuzu, meanwhile, had a blast wading around the shallow end until she was able to join her class, and seemed to enjoy her lesson, although I stood there feeling completely exasperated as I watched the instructor CARRY her in the pool as though acclimating her to the water. The instructor was a substitute, and not the permanent instructor, so hopefully the regular instructor will actually teach her something, or at least let her practice her skills.

Obviously, I now remember why we paid so much more for swim lessons in the past--the chaos, the stink of chlorine, the noise, AND the fact that these lessons at the Y don't seem to be nearly as effective.

When class was over, we let Zuzu swim and play for a few minutes in the shallow end. Coco was perfectly content to sit on my lap (dressed in dry clothes) and watch Zuzu splash. I told myself (and David) that this was worth the cost of swim lessons alone, as Zu had SO MUCH FUN (and we don't have a Y membership, so normally she doesn't have access to an indoor pool).

But then it was time to go. We were meeting up with my friend Erin to go look to a couple of animal shelters because Erin wants to adopt a cat, and I thought Zuzu would have fun helping her choose one. Zuzu had been looking forward to it all week, so I reminded her that we'd be doing that after we went home. I gave her a 5 minute warning, a 2 minute warning, and a 1 minute warning. Then it was time to go.

(Can you predict where this story is going?)

She wouldn't get out of the water.

David had changed out of his swim trunks and I was dressed in regular clothes, so we couldn't exactly jump in after her.

Her swim coach noticed that we were telling her it was time to leave and that she was not listening, and he ended up going into the pool and literally picking her up and dragging her out.

(Here's where I was grateful for the relative chaos of the YMCA pool, because no one seemed to notice that our kid was being completely defiant and uncooperative.)

She, of course, HAS NO SHAME and thought being chased by him was great fun, and ran/swam giggling and shrieking through the water until he caught up with her and lifted her up on to the edge and I grabbed her arm and dragged her to the bathroom, after thanking him profusely while also telling her in my stern-but-still-quiet voice that her behavior was NOT okay and she does NOT get to have fun swim time after lessons next week.

Of course, she continues to give zero f*cks about disappointing adults, and her reality is only what's happening in the immediate RIGHT NOW, so this punishment won't go into effect until next swimming lessons, after which we will ALL suffer as she throws an enormous fit about losing the privilege because of the poor choice she made a week earlier.

(I've requested two new parenting books from the library because I feel like I am doing this really badly right now.)

As for Coco, I'm giving in and shaving my legs for swimming lessons next Saturday, so we'll see if she really wanted Mommy, or if she just wanted to get the eff out of the pool.

Weekends are suddenly feeling less relaxing than the work week.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Jewelry for the Dining Room

I've been wanting to replace the dining room light fixture from the moment we looked at this house. Now that we have been living here almost three years (!), I finally bought a new chandelier. I can't believe it took me this long, although it's not like we haven't worked on other house projects in the meantime...

Anyway, I was actually paralyzed by a combination of indecision and sticker shock. I know there are lights available at every price point, but I was having a hard time narrowing down a particular type or style--I like traditional! And modern! And farmhouse industrial! And midcentury modern! And art deco!

Pinterest boards helped me collect all the things I liked, but didn't really help me narrow down my choices, and when Pinterest introduced me to The Perfect Chandelier For My Life, I gleefully clicked over only to discover that it has a price tag of $36,000.00. So, no. Not so Perfect For My Life.

I e-mailed a few friends, basically asking them to choose a chandelier for me. I got encouraging, but vague responses. What? You don't want to JUST PICK the chandelier for my dining room?

Meanwhile, I kept living with my dining room light looking super ugly because it wasn't a nagging priority and you know how you get used to things in your own house and even if you don't like them, you kind of stop seeing them. Then someone new comes over and you see your house through their eyes and you think, "OMG what if she thinks I LIKE the dining chandelier and I picked it out and I think it's supposed to be hanging that high?" Or you go to someone else's house and you think, "This house looks so amazing and getting a new light fixture would TRANSFORM my dining room."

Also, it's not like we ever got to the end of the month and said to each other, "Oh, look, we have all this extra money! What could we possibly spend it on?"

And so the dining room light fixture remained.

Then my friend Monica sent me a link to some blog that had ten chandeliers for under $200.

I decided This. Was. It. I was buying a new chandelier. Even if it wasn't PERFECT, it was going to be an improvement on this situation:

Some bloggers would have done a properly styled "before" photo without the box of the new light spilling out all over the table, but I am not one of them.
Oh, that poor stunted light. Perched up there like a spider whose web spinners got stuck or something. The Nester website offers a piece advice for changing things in your house that is something like, "You can't mess up what you already hate." I hated this light, but mostly I hated the awkward height at which it had been hung.

I narrowed my favorite under-$200 chandeliers down to my two favorites, which were completely different styles (this was the other one, if you're curious). Honestly, I really like both of them, and I think either one would have looked good in my house (better than its predecessor, at least). I kept going back and forth, and then I just decided to stop weighing things like "bigger impact" against "neutral decor" and just pick the one I liked best. So, I went with my inner magpie and ordered the sparkly one. It had great reviews and it's just so... sparkly!

So many glamorous jewels!
I laughed at Zuzu's enthusiastic approval: "Oh, Mommy, it's SO BEAUTIFUL."

But it does look pretty nice, hanging out and sparkling in there.

So pretty! There's probably a setting on my camera that would photograph this better. But instead I'll just snap this with my iphone and post it on the internet.
At first I was afraid it was a little small for the room. I think a bigger one in the same style could have been overwhelming, though. And even if it is on the petite size, it still looks so much prettier than the one that was there--partly because I just prefer this style as a matter of my personal taste, but mostly because the height on the other one was so completely wrong.

Why can't I take a straight photo? Tilt head slightly to right.
(For reference, according to Google and interior design blogs, chandeliers should typically hang 30"-34" inches above the table if you have 8' ceilings.)

I love the way the crystals make their tiny rainbows, and I love the pattern that it makes on the ceiling, but mostly I love the way it looks like my dining room just got a blingy new piece of jewelry. I still haven't gotten used to it, so every time I catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye, it makes me really happy.

How about some ambient lighting and wine with dinner?
I did have to assemble the entire thing, including hanging each strand of crystals, and the enclosed directions were laughably vague. It was basically a picture of each part with incomprehensible arrows showing where they were supposed to go, but no written instructions. I managed to get it figured out, though, and I kind of like the light more because I forged it with my own two hands assembled it myself.

One more BEFORE:

And AFTER:

Heart Eyes.
Now the dining room is totally showing off and you know what they say about giving a mouse a cookie... the sort-of-beige entry way light is seeing its final days. 

Your days are numbered!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

More Adulting

I don't feel like an adult all that often. I used to feel like an adult every time I paid for something with a credit card, but that novelty wore off pretty quickly.

I definitely did NOT feel like an adult the first time I wrote a check for a significant amount of money (when buying my car). I actually felt like throwing up because I'd never, ever spent that much money at once (and no, I didn't pay for cash for the whole thing!). But now I spent nearly the equivalent of that down payment on daycare every month, so writing checks doesn't make me feel like an adult either. Sometimes it still kind of makes me want to throw up, though. :)

I think I feel most like an adult when my children hand me their snot-filled, dirty kleenex. That's the mark of a mom, right? Taking other people's snot and cheerfully putting it in your pocket.

In the spirit of Serious Adulting, David and I have been getting estate planning documents organized. This has been a long, ongoing process. It started when I was pregnant with Eliza: We're expecting our first baby! Let's get all our finances organized and in order and make a will! I started investigating estate planning during my pregnancy, but after she died I lost all interest in that sort of planning.

When Zuzu was born, we talked about it again. And when Coco was born I was like, "Okay, but seriously we need to do this."

And then David's grandma died and he was dealing with her estate in a very real way. She was well-organized and everything was mostly accounted for, but there were still a couple of uncertainties about what she really intended or would have wished to happen, and we knew that we really needed to get a will or trust created so that in the event of our deaths, things aren't made more stressful or complicated for our children.

We originally thought we'd draw up a trust (that's what D's grandparents had), but after talking  extensively with an attorney about our options, we decided it was simpler and equally effective to create a will that would then stipulate the creation of a trust upon our deaths. This way we didn't have to change ownership of accounts or assets to the trust, but in the event of our deaths, all of our assets will automatically be held in the trust until the girls come of age.

(This is SO MUCH FUN to think about, by the way.)

Actually, even though it's not particularly pleasant to contemplate your own demise, I'm someone who likes to consider alternative scenarios and think about contingency plans, so I found it very satisfying to draw up Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.

We had to think about guardians for our girls and trustees for our estate and also what we wanted to happen to our life insurance payout should all of us die together (that one was the hardest, obviously).

I researched a lot of different attorneys and solicited recommendations from friends and got a wide variety of prices quoted for drawing up these documents. In the end, we met with an attorney who went to law school (and high school) with the husband of a friend of mine. He met with us before quoting us a price and ended up giving us what I think was a really good deal because we're a young couple with not-very-many assets and we really just wanted to ensure that our daughters' futures are secure in the event that we're not here. He was extremely nice and appeared to be very competent. We just approved the drafts of the documents that he sent us, and we'll go back for the signing soon.

This has also made me (finally) get myself in gear in terms of gathering important information to keep in the fire-proof safe--bank and credit card information, birth and marriage certificates, insurance info, all that stuff that we had filed away but not gathered together in one spot.

I also wrote a letter with some information about specific wishes after death (memorial plans, cremation, who gets my jewelry, etc.). It reminded me a bit of when we had to write our own obituaries in high school and it felt very unreal, but it wasn't especially difficult. I think seeing David and his aunt dealing with his grandma's estate made me think a lot about what my wishes would be.

Anyway, none of this was particularly fun, but it is satisfying to have it done. I feel like a real adult, and like we finally accomplished something that wasn't easy to do.

Now I hope that I never have to think about it again, and I can go back to life feeling more like an overaged adolescent who is still trying to figure out when I became responsible enough to be in charge of grocery shopping and the welfare of two small children.

Have you drawn up estate planning documents? What was your impetus for doing so? Did you feel kind of smug and responsible when it was all finished? If you haven't, what's preventing you from getting it done? Did you also write a personal letter to your survivors telling them what poem you'd like read at your memorial service? What do you do with your engagement ring if you have more than one living daughter?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Girls Weekend

I went to Colorado over the weekend and met up with five friends for a whirlwind weekend trip to the mountains.


I left Coco overnight (for two nights!) for the first time ever. She did just fine, but she sure was glad to see me! (The feeling was mutual.)

I left Friday morning and got home Sunday at 6pm and it was really the right amount of time--any longer and I would have been missing the girls too much. By Sunday afternoon, I was also missing David!

One unexpected perk is that David really did become the default parent over the weekend. Since I've been home, the girls have been asking him for snacks/activities even when we are both in the room and it. is. awesome.

But back to the girls weekend... Back in January, I got a text from Monica's husband asking about scheduling a trip for Monica and her friends. He wanted to know what weekends everyone would be available and if anyone had suggestions for a location. Amazingly, everything came together quickly and the six of us were able to find a weekend in April--the first weekend Monica didn't have to be at work, and the last weekend that Lindsey was able to fly because of her pregnancy. Amy had a connection to a condo in Keystone, and with Amy and Rachel in Denver and Vail and the rest of us flying in from St. Louis, Kansas City, Little Rock, and Sacramento, we decided that Keystone was the perfect meeting point.

I arrived in Denver on Friday and met up with Monica and Mindy, whose flights got in right around the same time as mine. 


Poor Lindsey was supposed to be there, too, but had to change her flight at the last minute due to her husband's surgery schedule (performing it, not receiving it), so she ended up flying in later and taking a shuttle to meet us in Keystone.

For the first time in my entire life, I talked to the person I sat next to on the plane. It was a guy about my age (married, with kids) who is a journalist and was flying to Denver for research and we had a great conversation for the entire flight. Seriously, that has never happened to me before. I'm usually the person who sticks their nose in a book and doesn't acknowledge the people sitting next to them. And it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't agreed to switch seats with another dude who wanted to sit next to his wife. Since the dude I sat next to is a journalist from St. Louis, I asked him if he'd come talk to a class I'm teaching this fall on creative nonfiction and he agreed. Not quite as thrilling as meeting your future spouse on a plane (that's what happened to my brother!), but still a pleasant way to start my weekend.

(When I mentioned to him that I was going to Denver for a girls weekend, he asked if we were going to smoke weed, but while we saw a couple of dispensaries, we did not partake--though some of us considered the pot gummy bears. I had to laugh when he brought it up, because no one had even discussed this in our group texts about the weekend, though I had requested yogurt and bananas for breakfast. #partyon)

Anyway, after meeting up at the airport, Monica, Mindy, and I headed out to grab lunch, but our plans for an Illegal Pete's burrito were thwarted by insane downtown traffic as there was a Rockies game, so we settled for suburban Chipotle on our way to Keystone. We also made a quick detour to get mani/pedis and let Mindy buy a zillion things with coupons and Gap cash at the Gap outlet and only spend $6.08.

(Side note: I got a gel manicure for the first time ever. I'd never spend the time/money to get one in my real life, but it looks really good!)

We finally made it to Keystone and met Amy at the condo where we were staying. It was a wonderful house with three bedrooms and three full bathrooms. Monica and I got the master bedroom on the top floor and I woke up each morning to the view of snowflakes softly falling on mountain pine trees--amazing!


Rachel and Lindsey arrived Friday afternoon and we celebrated each arrival by taking more group selfies, and also with cheese and sparkling wine. 


The condo was within walking distance of Keystone's little ski village, so we walked up there for a late dinner and wandered around a bit before going back to the condo to talk until we couldn't stop yawning.

Saturday morning we had breakfast in and then went for a walk back to the village and the ski lift area. 

There was some talk of riding the gondolas up to the top just for the view, and a couple people considered tubing, but ultimately we decided to get coffee and just sit around and talk to each other. The mountains were fantastic, but they were really just backdrop for the main event: catching up on everyone's lives and reminiscing.


After coffee and a bit more walking around, we headed out for lunch and then hit the outlets for a bit more shopping. I scored a little pair of running shoes for Zuzu and a pair of shorts for myself. Then we drove into Breckenridge to eat, drink, and wander the shops there.

I was actually not feeling great while we were at the outlets (I think I got carsick sitting in the third row seats, but it also could have been the altitude getting to me), so when we got to the first restaurant in Breckenridge, I skipped the happy hour specials and just had a hot tea. 

Fortunately, the tea was just the thing because I felt much better after and enjoyed browsing the shops and having Monica take covert photos of cute skirts and headbands that were being sold for lots of dollars but that I knew I could recreate at home with scraps.


We stayed in Breckenridge for a late dinner and had small plates and more sparkling wine in honor of Monica's birthday. We were That Table, laughing so hard that our stomach muscles and jaws hurt, and the things we were laughing at weren't really that funny, though they seemed hilarious at the time (Amy's gesture when describing an electric blanket comes to mind). The food was delicious (free chex mix!) and we were grateful to our pregnant designated driver for getting us safely back to Keystone, where we managed to talk some more (mostly about our kids) before heading to bed our final night.


The next day we had nothing on the agenda. We headed back to Keystone village for a stop at our coffee shop (like we were regulars). I had picked up a t-shirt for a souvenir the day before and after I tried it on, I wanted to exchange it for a different size. When I asked the guy at the cash register if that was okay, he said, "How dirty were you when you wore it?"

I assured him I had not worn the t-shirt and he said that was fine, but after I walked away he told Amy that if I'd had dreadlocks, he would have told me no. Made me laugh.

After our final cup of coffee (or Diet Coke, in Mindy's case) and one last walk back from the village to the condo, we gathered our things and said our good byes. My flight left at 3pm and Mindy wanted to get to the airport PLENTY early so she could relax after checking in, so we decided to just do lunch at the airport. It felt like we were getting there crazy early (we left Keystone before 11am!) but it ended up being just the right amount of time to return the rental car, get through security, and have a leisurely lunch before going to our separate gates.

We had less time than we expected because for some reason Monica's directions took us over the mountain instead of through the Eisenhower tunnel. It was definitely the scenic route, so we were pulling over to take pictures (even though I was wearing moccasins for the flight home and we were not dressed for hiking in the snow!). 


We asked one guy to take our picture and he gestured toward the road in the direction we were heading and said, "It's scary as hell up there! No guard rails!"

His warning freaked me out, but Monica and Lindsey scoffed at him and we really did enjoy the wandering road that took us on the Loveland Overpass, giving us the chance to take a photo at the continental divide. 

We also took turns yelling, "It's scary as hell up here!" while driving on smoothly paved, wide roads that were completely clear of snow and ice, despite being very high in altitude.

Once we got to Denver, we had a comedy of errors adventure at an incredibly busy gas station near the airport that had many pumps out of service. When Monica finally found one where she could fill up the car, we noticed a very attractive guy putting gas in his Lexus SUV behind us, and he happened to be wearing a Royals hat. As we, uh, admired him from inside the car, Monica struck up a conversation while pumping gas and asked if he was from Kansas City. Turns out he does live near Kansas City. In fact, that's his permanent address. How do I know this? Because Monica asked, "Did you go to CU?" And he said, "Yeah, I go there. It was Moms' Weekend and I just dropped my mom off at the airport."

Her jaw dropped and we collapsed in giggles inside the car because OMG he was SO CUTE and we were probably closer to his MOM's age than his. (But seriously, he looked much older!) Anyway, I don't think that's what the rental car advertisement on the shuttle had in mind when it read, "Under 25? No problem!" but we appreciated the sentiment anyway as we headed for the airport.

In the end, it was such a fun weekend, and so nice to see these girls. My connection to them is really through Monica--they are all her best friends from college and after--but I like each of them so much and I had such a great time and felt welcome and connected and as we all laughed and talked and ate our way through the weekend. Which is a pretty awesome way to spend two and a half days.

I used the word "restorative" when we were walking around outside the condo. The weather was wonderful--highs in the 50s and mostly sunny, so we needed coats outside but weren't freezing, even near the ski slopes. Part of it was being in such a beautiful place, part of it was being with fun people, and part of it was just having a chance to be without the responsibilities and expectations of parenting and real life. Sure, we talked about our kids, but we also talked about lots of other stuff--jobs, plans, funny memories, TV shows, anxiety, food, clothes, marriages...

I was definitely ready to see my Noodle and Nugget when I got home. By Sunday evening, Coco (the Nugget) seemed to be talking even more clearly than when I left, and Zuzu (my Noodle) looked taller and skinnier than she had on Friday! We had plenty of snuggles and bedtime stories and I felt so grateful and appreciative of the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and the beauty of my living room in St. Louis. It was so good to get away, and it was so sweet to be home.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

April 6

Today is my mom's birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!)


and a short essay that I wrote (about being a working [outside the home] mom and a bereaved mom) is posted over at Coffee + Crumbs. I'm kind of nervous about it!

Speaking of things to be nervous about, I'm heading out of town this weekend and leaving my baybee Coco overnight for the first time in 20 months. She will be FINE, but I'm still nervous about her potential feelings of abandonment (and, alternatively, her potential lack of concern).

(But I am kind of looking forward to David being the Default Parent for a full weekend.)

(Sort of related: This morning I joked to Zuzu that I was Daddy's boss and she looked at me, dead serious, and said, "That is a LIE.")

I'm also slightly nervous about flying (My anxieties in order of greatest to least: Terrorists, Turbulence, Airport delays, Having to pee on the plane).

And then there's the fact that I'm tired of my wardrobe and have nothing cute to wear.

Fingers crossed it all works out. And here's hoping my mom has a happy birthday and nobody says super mean stuff about my essay.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Weekend Recap

As weekends go, this was not an especially eventful one, but it made me think a lot about this summer, when I won't be teaching at all and the girls won't be in school at all and it will be all three of us at home all the time. It's going to be SO GREAT. And also SO EXHAUSTING. And fun! And frustrating! In short, I am really looking forward to summer, and I've no doubt that when August rolls around, I'll really be looking forward to going back to work.

I kept the girls home with me on Friday for a "fun day" and met up with my friend Angie and her kids at Purina Farms. It was a great idea--Purina Farms was having their springtime village, so there were all kinds of adorable baby animals, but there were also a zillion people and my kids are somehow missing the evolutionary gene that should make them want to avoid losing sight of their parents in a crowd of people, so there were a couple of stressful moments for me. Next time we'll meet up at a small park and let the kids fend for themselves so we can actually have a conversation.

But we did have a good time. The girls insisted on bringing their baby dolls with them. I'd encouraged Zuzu to leave her doll in the car when we arrived, as I explained there were going to be lots of animals for us to see.

Zuzu: And those animals might eat Keya?
Me: No... these animals are mostly cats and dogs--
Zuzu: (knowingly) Oh! So they eat trash. My dog eats trash.

(It's true that Cooper has become disgustingly obsessed with getting into our trash, but also funny how she makes sense of the world.)

Anyway, Baby Keya and Baby Maria both made it home with us, but I spent most of the morning pushing a stroller with two dolls and no kid in it. I should have skipped the stroller altogether, as Coco wanted to run around. She was so delighted with the animals. The girls drove me crazy with their lack of concern for staying near me, but I managed not to lose them OR the dolls, so it was a successful morning. We had lunch there and they both fell asleep on the way home AND transferred to the cribs, so I was pretty smug about it.

Saturday morning I was aggravated because I wanted to go to an exercise class but I had to cancel because David had to go in to work for kindergarten orientation stuff. I decided to take the girls to the Botanical Gardens, but it didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped, mostly because it was FREEZING. The high for the day was 59 and it was sunny, but it took a long time to warm up and the wind was blowing so hard; it was brutal. I was wearing a lightweight sweater and a light jacket and was still freezing. My EARS were cold and achy from the wind.

It started out fine and we had a good time chasing each other in the hedge maze, but then Zuzu wanted to go to the children's garden and I was irritated because she wasn't being a good listener and Coco wanted to do everything she wanted to do, but she wouldn't wait for her sister and she wanted to do things Coco is too little to do, and Coco wouldn't be distracted. Then I had to pee, so I made them come inside, but Zuzu had a total meltdown and then continued to dramatically fake cry and fake sniffle until I thought my head was going to explode.

It was definitely time to go, but Zuzu was nasty about it and I was at the end of my rope. By the time we'd left, I'd told her that she was acting like a pill and she said, "No, YOU'RE the pill, Mommy!" which was both funny and totally NOT OKAY.

(Similarly, we had this exchange tonight:

Zuzu: I don't WANT to go to bed.
Me: Honey, you are exhausted.
Zuzu: NO, Mommy, YOU'RE  'zausted!)

She didn't nap that afternoon, which I'd expected since we had to come home for lunch and I couldn't drive her around until she nodded off. David got home from work and we were both crabby with each other because we were cranky that he had to work and then he did yard work and I graded papers but I had to stop to deal with the girls every five seconds and then I stopped to make them dinner and then I was so irritated that I'm the parent who always gets interrupted and I always deal with the kids' immediate needs while David gets to finish whatever project HE has decided is important at the time, even though I think cleaning out the car is much less important than feeding our children and grading exams. So I snapped at him and picked a fight with him and then realized that I was complaining about having to feed my kids dinner when I am a mom who has to feed my kids dinner, and this fight was pointless.

Both girls were asleep by 7:30, so then I felt better.

We watched Spotlight, which was great and so disturbing to contemplate the implications of the Catholic priest scandal in Boston (and many, many other cities). Then I irresponsibly stayed awake until 1:30am reading a murder mystery set in medieval England.

This morning we cleaned house (girls had me up at 7am, not caring about my late-night novel reading), then our neighbors came over and we watched the Cards game on TV and ate burgers and the kids literally chased each other in circles and dogpiled each other for three hours.

Zuzu and Coco were both asleep by 7:30 again, so David and I watched Survivor and I folded laundry and we got clothes laid out for the week. This is a really busy week for me, so I am trying to make sure things are organized as I go back to work tomorrow. I cleaned out my bag and my wallet and menu planned for the week, so I think that we are in pretty good shape. I find that I am much happier when we are organized on Sundays, so I'm making extra effort to plan ahead.

Now I'm headed up to bed to feel nice and smug about how organized I am and do a little more reading. I don't think I'll make it to 1:30am though.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Conversations with Zuzu

Frozen, Now With a Creepy Incestuous Plot Twist...

Zuzu reading Frozen (the little golden book) out loud:

"And then Anna said, 'Can I marry Hans?' and Elsa said, 'No! You have to marry me!'"

***

Just in case I needed a reminder...

On our way home from Dairy Queen, I'm pushing the double stroller, the girls are eating ice cream bars.

Zuzu: Mommy, you wanted to have three little girls! But you only have two because Eliza die-ed.

***

Looking forward to this in twelve and a half years...

Zuzu: When I'm a grown up, I'm going to be a Mommy!

Me: You are? You are going to have babies?

Zuzu: Yeah! When I'm SIXTEEN I am!

Me: Wow! Sixteen? Are you sure?

Zuzu: Yes. That's SO MANY. And this is how many babies I will have. (Holds out her hand, thumb tucked in.)

Me: Four babies? When you're sixteen?

Zuzu: Yes! And they will be all girls and one boy.

***

When your hands have a will of their own...

Me: What happened to Coco?

Zuzu: Well, I pushed her. But I didn't really push her! My hands just shot out like this (pushes hands forward forcefully) all by themself! (pause, while I try to think of something to say and try to keep a straight face) Is that pretty funny?

***

Melting my heart into a pile of goo as we sit in the rocking chair, holding Coco.

Zuzu: (gently pats Coco's cheek) I just love this little baby.

***

Watch out for those leprechauns!

Backstory: On St. Patrick's Day, I'd told Zuzu that if we didn't wear green, little leprechauns would come and pinch us (I decided on this version of the tradition to avoid encouraging her to pinch others).

Zuzu: (to Coco, who is climbing up on the couch, trying to get Zuzu's characters) Coco, if you don't stop it, the leprechaun is going to come and SPANK YOUR BOTTOM!





Wednesday, March 30, 2016

An Unexpected Ugly Cry

A couple of weeks ago, I was working on this book project, and I remembered that, in the very early days of grief, I'd received a letter from the mom of my best friend in elementary school. My friend and I had kind of drifted apart after college (and more so after I quit FB), but we had been really close when we were kids, spending lots of nights at each other's houses. Her dad used to make the best buttered popcorn, and once we were playing tether ball in her yard and I made her laugh so hard she peed her pants, which made me laugh so hard I almost peed mine as well.

I knew that she'd had a little brother who'd died when he was a baby. I remember they had a hallway in their house with a gallery of frames, and I can't remember what was framed--a photograph or a handprint or just his name--but I remember standing in the hallway, looking at the gallery wall, and my friend telling me that she had another little brother, besides the one whose naps we had to be careful not to disturb. She told me his name and said that if she had a son someday, she was going to name him after this brother.

We were probably eight or nine years old. When she told me, I don't remember feeling sad for her exactly, and it certainly didn't occur to me to think about how tragic this must have been for her mom. Instead, I felt sort of awed and impressed. This was a serious thing, to have a baby brother who died. Nothing that intense had ever happened to me. I was glad that she had told me about it, like it was a special sort of secret. I wondered what it would have been like for her if she had two living brothers instead of one. Then I wondered if her first brother hadn't died, if her second brother would have been born at all. The brother that I knew was six years younger than us, which made him a sweet, pudgy toddler with blonde hair and dimpled hands. I thought he was adorable, and I felt a strange little chill at the idea that he might never have existed.

I remember this moment really vividly. I can recall the carpet in the hallway, and the door that opened out onto her deck, and her parents' room at the end of the hall with the Nordic Track machine. There was also a door that led to a bathroom with antique Ivory soap advertisements framed in it. I don't think I'm projecting adult feelings back on it. We were immature in so many ways, but I think we were just old enough to think about life and death with some complexity.

Anyway, when her mom reached out to me after Eliza died, I was profoundly grateful. At that time I didn't know very many people who had lost a baby, and I was desperate for someone with experience to reassure me that I was going to be okay.

I decided that I wanted to include an excerpt from her letter in this section I was working on, so I went to the bookshelf and pulled down the wooden box that contains letters, cards, and the autopsy report that we received after Eliza died. I have another memory box I keep upstairs in our room that contains her clothes, handprints and footprints, a blanket, and some photographs, but this box was the collection of things other people sent us.

I started rummaging through, looking for the letter. I remembered that it was tucked inside a greeting card, but I didn't recall anything else, so I had to open lots and lots of cards.

I began this process without thinking, really. I was focused on locating one particular letter so that I could keep writing.

And before I knew what was happening, I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by small stacks of greeting cards and notes and those tiny envelopes from flower arrangements, and I was sobbing. Wailing, really. Fat, hot tears rolling down my face. It was a big, huge Ugly Cry.

I can't remember the last time I cried like that. Not on her fifth birthday, or in the days leading up to it. I really think it had been years.

I hadn't touched this box ever, really, except to crack the lid and slip in a few cards or letters each year around her birthday. As I looked back over those notes, seeing the familiar and unfamiliar handwriting, the people who shared their grief or simply expressed their sympathy... it took me right back to the first time I'd opened the cards, desperate for the connection in the middle of my isolating grief, but unable to find the comfort I needed anywhere. I remember sitting on that plaid couch in my living room, feeling gutted, hollow, my eyes blurring with tears as I glanced at signatures and then put the cards away, the room spinning, my stomach clenching with heaving sobs.

And here I was--more than five years later--reliving that same feeling in so many ways, minus the plaid couch. It wasn't the same, of course. It was sort of a reminder of how far I've come in this time, but also how great this loss remains.

I Ugly Cried so hard that I felt spent and exhausted for the rest of the day. I was sluggish and unable to concentrate--sensations I hadn't experienced in ages, but they still felt incredibly familiar.

I did find the letter, and it was worth the effort and the tears. My friend's mom told her story--which I'd never known in full--and then added,

... To go home from the hospital without the baby that you’ve poured all your thoughts, hopes, dreams and love into—is probably the hardest thing you will ever have to face.
            But with that devastation comes unlimited love. The bond between a husband and wife who go through the loss of a child can be even stronger than it was before. This is a time that only the two of you can truly share together. The raw pain and utter emptiness for each of you will recede with the deep love of the other. This is a tragic event in both of your lives and only the two of you will ever know the depth of the feelings involved. That piece of your personal histories will pull you closer together forever.

I remember clinging to those words, looking at them as a promise, as David and I struggled to find our way (and people kept telling me about the 80% divorce rates of couples who have lost a child, because that's SO helpful to hear!). Now, I hold her first son close in my heart, along with so many other babies who aren't here, but whose presence--or absence--continues to make a difference in ways I never would have been able to imagine as an eight year old, awed by my friend's dramatic story about her first baby brother. 

I am not sure why my emotional reaction to the cards and notes was so unexpected. I probably should have seen it coming--but if I had, I may have procrastinated looking for that letter. I think there was something cathartic in having a deep, wailing sob fest (and fortunately, I was home alone when it happened). I may have come a long way in the last five years, but I haven't forgotten how difficult this road has been. And every once in a while, it's still overwhelming enough that there's nothing to do but Ugly Cry.