Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring Breaking

We are on Week Day 2 of Spring Break and it's been a pretty good one so far.

Today, for example, David and I had a "date day." I hear people talk about "stay-cations" and I kind of roll my eyes at the idea, but today we did it and it. was. awesome.

We slept in (as late as you can sleep in with a baby and a toddler) then took the kids to daycare and went to the art museum. We wandered around and I made David play my hypothetical games: "Which of these paintings would you put in our house?" "Which of these artists would you want to paint our family portrait?"

We went out to lunch at a little vegetarian eatery that is my new FAVORITE restaurant and I plan to return there as soon as possible. Maybe this weekend.

We wandered down the street from the lunch place and ordered gelato and sat outside soaking up the sunshine and eating gelato.

And then we went to the grocery store and bought Easter egg filler (yogurt covered raisins and fruit snacks for our child who is missing a sweet tooth) and beer and pancake mix. We forgot milk.

We came home and hung up frames in the big girl room and our bedroom and the nursery (since some of the nursery art work moved with Zuzu to the big girl room) and then I picked up the girls from daycare and dropped them at home and David hung out with them on the patio while I ran back to the grocery store to get milk.

I've also managed to attack my reading list. I graded essays the first day of break, and I still have a bunch of exams to grade, but I'm also (finally) doing some reading. I read Citizen by Claudia Rankine and texted my BFF from high school and told her she absolutely MUST order it and read it right this second because it was taking my breath away as I read it. (She did order it. And a copy for her sister. I love that about her.)

I also raced through the thriller The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It was intense. I figured it out before the end, but I still liked it enough to finish reading it under the covers with the flashlight on my iphone because David was whining about the lamp being on. [Edited to add: This book involves a dead baby. It isn't central to the story, but it's definitely disturbing. I mean, the whole book is somewhat disturbing, but if that's a trigger for you, skip it.]

As far as thrillers go, I think I liked The Farm by Tom Rob Smith even more. Creepy and intriguing and a cool narrative set up. I basically neglected my family to finish it, which is the sign of a great book.

Speaking of the family: Coco has started crawling, which is exciting and also exhausting (for me, not her!). She's a week shy of eight months old and is on the move about six weeks younger than Zuzu was when she crawled (Zuzu started crawling Easter weekend two years ago!).

She spoiled us last weekend by sleeping through the night two nights in a row. She's continued to do pretty well since then, but still wakes up once or twice. I almost think it would have been better if she'd never teased me by sleeping all the way through at all. She really is the sweetest thing, though.

We've had some issues with Zuzu pushing Coco over onto her back from a sitting position. She's never hurt Coco, though obviously it could bang her head, but it does infuriate Coco (and me, because Zuzu KNOWS she's not supposed to do it). When Coco cries, Zuzu then tries to dramatically cradle her in her arms and whisper words of comfort. It's become clear that she's still acting out the early scene in Frozen when Elsa hurts Anna and then cradles her sister and says something like, "It was an accident!"

This imaginary play is really adorable, but I also feel compelled to keep poor Coco from being the victim every time.

I've finally decided that I'm going to keep hurting my back until (1) I quit lifting small children or (2) I get my core back in shape. So now I'm doing daily core workouts. It makes me remember my grad school days when I paid the student rate to attend Pilates classes once or twice a week and I thought holding a plank pose for one minute was NO BIG DEAL. Ha. I'm hoping that muscle memory is a real thing and my ab muscles start to remember that they once existed.

Okay. Should we talk about potty training? We had two full days of ZERO success (I mean nada, nothing, not even once, unless you count the time I caught her in the act and she peed down my leg on the way to the toilet but then was still going when I sat her on the toilet so... she halfway made it? But I had to change my pants and hers, so not really a win.). I was ready to just give up. Instead, we decided to chill out as best we could. Instead of making it an all or nothing thing, we're just trying to make it work and using diapers when necessary for our sanity.

Tonight, we were in the back room and she came walking in carrying her Thomas the Train potty chair (it lives in the bathroom, where potty chairs belong). She was already in her pajamas and night-time diaper. We asked what she was doing. She said nothing to us, set the potty down on the floor next to me, pulled down her pants, removed her night-time diaper, sat down and peed in the potty.


She got three Skittles and a prize from the Peepee Prize Box--she selected sunglasses.

The problem is that now that she's demonstrated how capable she is, I will feel even MORE frustrated when she refuses to go to the potty tomorrow. But I'm trying to remember this is a process. A process that requires lots of laundry and plenty of wine.

Aside from failing at potty training, reading novels, cursing doing core workouts, and going on day dates while my children are being cared for by others, I also got a massage yesterday. So what I'm saying is spring break has had its ups and downs, but the ups have been pretty great.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rainy Stay at Home Day

Thanks for all the thoughts about a land line. I'll keep you posted on what we decide after we do more investigating over spring break. It sounds like so many issues (911 locating capabilities, soft dial capabilities, connection during storms) are specific to particular locations, so we need to figure out how things work here in St. Louis.

This has felt like a long week--maybe because I am more than ready to have a week off. David called me on Tuesday afternoon. I was at home. It had been a frustrating morning--Cooper disappeared on me while the baby was napping, and wouldn't come when I called for him. A quick check of the backyard showed no sign of him, but revealed that the back gate that appeared to be closed actually wasn't latched, so I got kind of panicky. Coco was sleeping, so I quickly ran down to the restaurant on the corner to make sure he hadn't somehow launched himself into their garbage, and forced myself to peek out on the busy street to make sure he wasn't there.

Not wanting to leave the baby alone any longer, I went back home and spent the next twenty minutes trying not to cry, imagining every worst-case scenario, thinking about how I'd yelled at him over the weekend, pacing the living room, e-mailing our neighbors to alert them that our dog was missing, and wondering if I should go ahead and go wake up Coco so we could go out to find Cooper.

When Coco woke up from her (very short) nap, I bundled her up to go out in the stroller, in the rain, to look for the dog.

And after getting her into her hoodie and rain jacket and finding a blanket to wrap around her, when I opened the backdoor, there was Cooper. Filthy--coated in mud--and looking very ashamed of himself.

I'm not sure if he'd been in the chicken coop or the garden or if he'd gotten out of our yard and ventured somewhere else through the alley, but he had to have a bath, and Coco didn't want to be put down, and when David called me back to see how things were going, I vented about the naughty dog and the clingy baby and complained that I hadn't gotten any work done. I needed to read a play for class and write an exam for Friday and I hadn't factored in the dog bath and the baby only wanted to be held, so nothing was getting done.

David told me that I should just take Coco to daycare and get things done so that I could enjoy my time with her once I was finished.

He has a point--I do believe that I have much more fun with my kids if I'm not stressed out about what's not getting done.

But then Coco fell asleep on my chest like she used to do when she was a teensy newborn. And I remembered why I'm doing this stay at home thing two days a week.

Yes, it can be frustrating. But having a sleeping baby curled up on your chest on a rainy Tuesday afternoon while listening to the dog snore and thinking of questions to ask your students about Romantic poetry is pretty much the greatest way to work ever.

Even if not much work gets done once she's awake.

P.S. What I was writing about 5 years ago -- adventures as a "dog mom" (makes me miss Little Mac!)

What I was writing about 3 years ago -- sick and pregnant with Zuzu

What I was writing about 1 year ago -- my thoughts on Truth vs. Happiness

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Land Line

Like many people living in the twenty-first century, we dropped our land line. We had one for a while when we were in our old house, but as we started relying more and more on our cell phones, eventually it got to the point where the only people who called the land line were solicitors and David's grandma. For some reason, it was kind of hard for me to let it go, but David convinced me that it was silly to spend money every month on something we didn't use. And so we dropped it.

I haven't missed the landline at all. We've never had one in this house, and we've never needed one.

But I have a tendency to go over worst-case scenarios in my head, and with two little ones, many of these worst-case scenario visions/fears/anxieties involve having to dial 911.

Except, what if I can't find my phone?

At least twice a day, I find myself hunting for my cell phone. It's just too easy to set it down when I get distracted by something (read: someone) and then I forget where I put it. I'll find it a little while later in a closet, on top of the towel rack in the bathroom, next to the olive oil on the kitchen counter.

The point is, I can't always put my hands on it immediately. And I often put it somewhere that Zuzu can't reach it. Plus I'd have to teach her how to use it. Not to mention that she doesn't know the passcode to unlock it.

Anyway, lately, I've been thinking what would happen if... And I was worried enough about it that I talked to David about maybe getting a land line again.

I asked a few friends about this when we got together for a BBQ over the weekend. Of the five couples there, only one had a land line. And all of those who relied on cell phones only had worried about the 911-emergency issue as well. I mentioned that we were seriously considering getting a land line, if only to give me some peace of mind about it.

Jamie pointed out that you don't have to unlock a cell phone to dial 911, so a kid could do it without knowing your passcode (though she admitted that she's never shown her 4 1/2 year old how to do that). The emergency feature on the phone does solve the problem of not wanting your kids to know your pass code, but doesn't do a lot of good if you can't FIND your phone in an emergency.

Beth's husband, Curt, came in during our conversation and made a pretty brilliant suggestion. Instead of paying a monthly fee for a land line, he suggested we could each buy a pre-paid cell phone and keep it in one place in the house, designated for emergency use only.

I really like this idea! I would definitely feel better knowing there is always a phone available (and not buried in the bottom of my purse or sitting on the ironing board in my closet), should I need to use it. My cell phone could still be off-limits to Zuzu, but eventually we can teach her how to dial 911 on the emergency phone.

What do you think? Would you buy a pre-paid phone just to have in case of emergencies? Do you have a land line? If you have older kids, have you taught them to dial 911 on a cell phone? Do you freak out about not being able to find your cell phone in an emergency? Do you have another solution? (Please don't say hip holster!)

Updated to add: We'll be contacting our telephone provider this week to see what our options are. (And by "we" I mean David because in the division of household duties, "Talk to strangers on the telephone" falls in his column. Also, he owes me for the Code Brown Bathtub Situation I had to deal with last night while he was out to dinner.) 

I also found this post really helpful, and, unfortunately, Missouri is not on this list of "soft-dial" states.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Nothing to Report Here

I feel like I have gotten lost in the minutiae of day to day life.

David was out of town over the weekend and my parents came up to help but left Saturday after lunch. A friend of mine came over Saturday afternoon and (perhaps sensing my desperation?) ended up sticking around to help me with the bathtime routine before bed.

I kept thinking that having multiple kids would not be so challenging if they were always (maybe even sometimes) in sync with each other in terms of eating/sleeping/playing, you know?

Sunday morning, I had some lofty goals. I wanted to get the house picked up and vacuumed, I wanted to jog/walk to the park with the girls and the dog, and I wanted to get myself showered and dressed in time to pick up David from the airport at noon.

Coco also had some goals: She wanted to lose her bloody mind and scream anytime I left the room without her and refuse to nap except (briefly) in the stroller.

Zuzu also had some goals: She wanted to build a pillow fort on the rug while I was vacuuming, go down the slide two more times after I said "Last time," and also shower with me.

Coco achieved her goals. Zuzu achieved two of hers and then was thwarted because I did NOT have time to negotiate around her while trying to take a super quick shower.

Instead, I showered while listening to my children finally doing something in sync: screaming and crying.

Coco was pissed that I was behind the curtain and out of her sight. Zuzu was pissed that she was not with me. Zuzu won't leave the baby alone when she's eating or going down for a nap, but she wants nothing to do with her when I could use THREE minutes to shampoo, condition, and rinse my hair. Coco will arch her back and contort herself in order to see what her sister's doing when I'm trying to nurse her, completely ignoring me in the process, but when I set her down outside the bathroom door for JUST A MOMENT, you'd think I'd destroyed her hopes and dreams for the future.

We were SO READY for David to get home.

Anyway, between picking up David and having lunch at a restaurant (the girls were magically well-behaved), we managed to get all the Sunday Duties taken care of--laundry, bottles prepped, diapers gathered--and we went to my friend Beth's house for a BBQ that was really nice except for the part that it's kind of hard to sit down and have a conversation with a bunch of kids under the age of five running around, needing various levels of assistance with different activities, and wanting to report on their dramas and squabbles. Zuzu was actually less interested in socializing and more interesting in exploring the vast toy collection that Beth's girls have accumulated, so she kept herself pretty well entertained and didn't bite anyone (win!), although I thought she might have a meltdown when it was time to leave. (Beth managed to coax her out to the car for me.)

She fell asleep on the way home, and I was celebrating what I was pretty confident would be a successful sleeping transfer from carseat to bed at 7:30pm as I carried her in the house, when I realized that she smelled terrible and I was  feeling the cold smear of a leaking poop diaper on my hands. She did not sleep through the diaper change, and what I thought was bedtime turned out to be a 30 minute power nap between 7:00pm and 7:30pm. Not ideal!

So now it's Monday morning and I don't feel very well-rested and I need to write an exam for Friday and I need people to respond to e-mails who haven't responded and I'd really like to get pictures hung in Zuzu's big girl room and that laundry that I finished didn't get entirely put away and I haven't done any reading for fun lately and I feel like I am just putting out fires instead of getting things accomplished.

Next week is spring break for both David and me, and we are MORE than ready for the break and psyching ourselves up for Potty Training, Let's Try This Again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patty's Day News

Happy St. Patty's Day! I had planned to do some fun things for the holiday--a fruit rainbow for breakfast, some chocolate gold coins left by a leprechaun for a treat after school--but as things turned out, I was barely functioning this morning.

I have been knocked OUT by strep, you guys.

It started with noticing that my throat was sore when I was getting ready for bed Thursday night. I thought maybe I was getting a cold, or allergies even, what with the warmer weather, so I shrugged it off.

It still hurt Friday morning, but I had to teach and then we were doing phone interviews in the afternoon for a new hire in our department, so I couldn't miss work. I didn't feel bad except for my throat--no headache or anything, and I wasn't especially tired (I mean, no more than usual, considering Coco is teething and has been up pretty frequently at night this week--but Thursday night she actually slept better than she had all week!).

My days at work are pretty nonstop--e-mail, pumping, meeting with students, class, lunch, class, pumping, and then phone interviews all afternoon. Those went until 5:30, so it was six o'clock by the time I was driving home. It was gray and raining and as I got in my car and exhaled for what felt like the first time all day, I realized how bad I actually felt.

I got home and immediately collapsed on the couch. Still, it's kind of normal for me to feel pretty drained by the end of the week. It was only when David said dinner was ready and I didn't want any of it that I knew something was really off.

I'd invited some co-workers over for a little mid-term potluck on Pi Day (#nerdalert) but when I woke up Saturday, achy and chilled, I knew that I was going to have to cancel. So instead of prepping for a potluck, I dragged myself to Urgent Care, got a throat swab, and it came back "really positive" according to the paramedic who looked at my tonsils. They sent me home with a prescription and then I went to bed.

For three days.

Last night I finally felt up to going downstairs and I sat out on the patio for a little bit to enjoy the weather. I was in bed by 9 and on my own this morning since David had an early meeting. I took both the girls to school today so I could have a little more time to rest and recover.

While I was busy doing my invalid thing yesterday, David came upstairs with a package that had come in the mail from my Crafty Cousin Amanda. You guys may remember her from the waxed paper capiz shell chandelier project or from her invaluable assistance with turkey art or maybe from one of these adorable dresses:

February 2014
February 2014
January 2015

Crafty Cousin Amanda also helped me reupholster a bench and sew pillow covers, and she's given me advice on virtually every crafty project I've tackled on my own. 

She really helped me do so much with Zuzu's nursery (she sewed the crib bumper as well as the chandelier) and so it's partly thanks to her that the nursery got featured yesterday on the Good Housekeeping website in a round-up of themed kids rooms!

Isn't that awesome? I admit--I was really excited when Good Housekeeping contacted me, and it made me realize that I need to get moving on finishing and revealing Zuzu's big girl room, and adjusting some wall art and details in the nursery to make it officially Coco's room.
Anyway, Crafty Cousin Amanda sent an awesome item to us this week. I know it's obnoxious of me, but I can't reveal exactly what she sent (yet) because it's a surprise for something later in the month (I'll post about it later, I promise).

But I CAN tell you that she has officially gotten her Etsy shop up and running! She's doing a lot of paper goods, but has some other things available, too (and her prices are ridiculously good--like I'm telling her she needs to raise them). 

She's already been doing well with orders and while she's not quite ready to quit her day job (yet, I like to say), she is always thinking about expanding what she adds to her shop. It totally makes me wish yet again that we lived closer so that I could bug her give her unsolicited advice request more things help her out.

Anyway, the best part about her Etsy shop? It's actually called... (wait for it...) ...  My Crafty Cousin Amanda. Isn't that awesome and hilarious? She said she had a hard time coming up with a name and then it just came to her in a flash of inspiration. 

I think I should convince her to do a little give away on my blog. That my friend Brandy will probably win because she wins all the free things. (Some people are just lucky like that, right?)

Anyway, considering I basically dropped off the face of the earth for three days with strep throat, that's literally all that is going on in my life right now. (Well, that and the Netflix binging I've been doing--more on that later.)

P.S. What I was writing about around this time...
four years ago (my pet peeve remains the same!)

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Because this sort of thing fascinates me, here's a side-by-side look at me, Zuzu, and Coco, all at six months of age (try not to let the psychedelic wallpaper of my nursery make you dizzy):

Zuzu is the baldest! And the drooliest, bless her heart. She didn't get a tooth until she was 10 1/2 months old, but she drooled like crazy until that tooth finally pooped through. I also remember she was so funny in her six month photo session with blowing raspberries and making funny noises--it was hard to capture her regular big smile.

This side-by-side kinda weirds me out because when I look at the girls now, I think Zuzu looks more like David and Coco looks more like me. But when I look at their baby pictures, I think see lots of similarities and differences with both of them--and I don't think they look very much alike at all!

Zuzu's head is shaped more like mine, but Coco has my smile and eyebrows. The little round nose (and big ears!) look the same across the board. The shape of my eyes look more like Zuzu's here, but I'm not sure that's actually true--I just think we both squint the same eye when we smile, but the size and color of our eyes is actually different. You can't tell from the 1980s photo, but my eyes are blue (and stayed that way). Zuzu's had turned hazel by six months and are really pretty much brown now. Coco's are blue (though one eye has a small brown stripe through it!) and I think they are going to stay.

Here's a side by side of the girls at seven months:

Both adorable, but definitely not identical!

Okay, here's head-shots of all of us at seven months:

My cheeks are different from both of theirs--and Coco has the roundest face. Again, I think Coco and I smile just, but Zuzu and I both have that one squinty eye!

And just for fun/reference, here's my mom:

I just realized that when I had Coco, I was 10 YEARS OLDER than my mom was when she had me. Considering I still feel like an incompetent child myself a rather large proportion of the time, I'm not sure what she was thinking having a baby at age 24, but you know. It was a different world in the 1980s. People had babies in their early 20's. People collected spoons and put them on their walls.

Here's present day me and Zuzu. She's not smiling in many of the photos we take of her these days because she NEVER STOPS TALKING!

It's my understanding that this may be a family trait as well...

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Conversations with Zuzu, Part VI

Scene: Zuzu walks into the living room holding a box of Mickey Mouse bandaids.

Me: How did you... (It dawns on me that she climbed from her stool up onto the sink and opened the medicine cabinet to retrieve these bandaids.) Oh, Zuzu. You are something else.

Zuzu: Yes. I a stinker!

* * *

Scene: We are in the living room. Furnace kicks on.

Zuzu: I scared!

Me: what are you scared of?

Zuzu: Danger.

* * *

Scene: Living room. David has decided to give Zuzu a lecture about her behavior in the library (when she ran away from me while I was checking out our books).

David: Let's talk about the library. Where did Mama ask you to sit?

Zuzu: In the chair.

David: And then what did you do?

Zuzu: ...

David: Where did you go while Mama was checking out books?

Zuzu: I go to Bayda* and see Grammy and Bop!

*her pronunciation of my home town, Nevada (pronounced Ne-vay-duh)

* * *

Scene: David ordering sandwiches at Jimmy Johns in the drive-thru.

David: I'll have a number 10, no tomatoes, and a number 6.

Drive-thru Guy: ok. Anything else?

Zuzu: (shouting from backseat) Strawberries and 'tatoes!

* * *

Scene: Living room. The girls are playing on the floor. I'm putting up Easter decorations. I have my back to them when Coco starts crying her for-real cry. I turn around and see that she's on her back and Zuzu is hugging/squeezing her.

Me: Hey! Stop that! Coco is telling you that hurts! You have to be gentle!

Coco: Waaaaaah! Waaah!

Me: Oh, poor Coco!

Zuzu: Oh, Mama. I just hurt her with my magic! We take her to the trolls. She be okay.**

** For those of you not up to speed to Disney animated films, this is the plot of Frozen.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Frozen Weekend

We decided at the last minute to buy two tickets to go see Disney On Ice Presents Frozen. We'd actually been talking about it for months--we thought about getting Zuzu tickets for Christmas. But we never pulled the trigger (the prices seemed really high to me) and there was the question of whether we would get a sitter for Coco so we could both go or whether one of us would stay home and instead of figuring it out, we just didn't do anything.

But then one of David's co-workers mentioned she might have extra tickets, and then my friend K saw the show and said Zuzu would love it, and then Zuzu started performing "Let It Go" with such emotional authenticity that it really seemed like we had to buy tickets.

Sunday morning David snagged two tickets and we decided that I would go and take Zuzu while he stayed home with the baby. Zuzu has been such a daddy's girl lately, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Coco is a mommy's girl milk fiend so I haven't gotten much one-on-one time with Zuzu at all lately.

And after Coco got me up EVERY TWO HOURS last night, I was ready to kiss her sweet chubby cheeks good-bye and go see Frozen with the Zuzy-Q.

Those cheeks require hourly maintenance, or so she would have you believe.

So David bought tickets and went outside to shovel snow and I nursed the baby and then realized that I hadn't heard anything out of Zuzu in several minutes. I went downstairs to find that she was rifling through my purse--this is a favorite past-time of hers and annoys me to no end. I usually try to put my purse up high where she can't reach it, but had obviously neglected to do so.

I paid for this oversight big time, because Zuzu found a green dry-erase marker in my bag and scribbled all over the little fabric cube ottoman that holds blankets in the TV room.

Let me tell you--if we hadn't already bought the tickets, we wouldn't have gotten them after that. I was so pissed. The thing is, she had colored over this ottoman before and gotten in big trouble, but that was with a washable marker. This green is not coming out, even after blotting with rubbing alcohol. Little menace.

Fortunately, we both enjoyed the show--she was totally into it from the very beginning and her attention didn't waver. I had underestimated how much fun it would be for me to see her having such a good time. I guess that's kind of silly, since Disney has made billions on the idea that parents freaking love to see their kids having fun. But honestly, I got teary-eyed when Zuzu was just belting out "Let It Go" and waving to Minnie Mouse.

It was just so sweet and special for us to have a Mommy-Zuzu date, and to see her enjoy herself so much. She had her "listening ears on" (I think this is something they say at school because she mentioned it a few times and I started using the phrase and she responds very well to it and even acts like she is putting on special ears, which is really cute) so she was well-behaved and held my hand and didn't touch the stall or the toilet when we went to the bathroom (she also said, "Good job, Mommy!" when I went, which was nice positive reinforcement for me). David dropped us off so I didn't have to mess with parking, and then we walked to meet him afterward and she was a good sport about all the walking, too. We really had a nice day (colored ottoman aside).

The rest of our weekend wasn't half bad, either. My friend Erin came over for dinner Friday night. The girls adore her and I feel lucky to have a friend I work with all week and still want to hang out with on the weekends. She also saved us from calamity by showing up with beer and organic apples.

The above picture was Zuzu's reaction when I told her we didn't have any more apples. She has been on such an apple kick. She requests them multiple times a day. There was seriously one day when I heard myself encouraging her to eat a Valentine cookie instead of a third apple. This is a fairly new obsession, but it cracks me up because when I was pregnant with her, I craved apple everything. I ate chunky apple sauce, I drank apple juice, I slurped apple cider, I salivated over apple pie, and, yes, I ate lots of apples. I never had such strong or specific cravings with Eliza or Coco, but my first two trimesters with Zuzu were an apple-fest.

Anyway, we were out of apples, and Zuzu was melting into a pool of toddler disappointment but a quick text to Erin saved the day (since she was stopping at the grocery store anyway).

Saturday was my Grandpa V's birthday, and it's a family tradition that we all eat ice cream in memory of Grandpa each year on his birthday. Snow was coming down pretty good by the time Zuzu got up from her (late) nap, but we bundled up the girls and headed out to Dairy Queen.

I got a butterfinger blizzard in a waffle cone, David got a M&M milkshake, and we ordered a strawberry sundae for Zuzu since she seems to prefer fruit over anything else at this point.

Well, she heard "strawberry" and didn't know what a sundae was, and ended up being confused and disappointed that she wasn't actually getting an actual strawberry (she ate an enormous quantity of strawberries the other night--I had washed a container of them and had them sitting in a bowl on the counter to slice and Zuzu ATE ALL BUT TWO OF THEM). I tried to explain that the sauce had strawberries in it, but she had one bite of ice cream and then asked me for an apple.

Gpa V would not even know what to do with this girl.

I also managed to get some work done this weekend--I'm not quite caught up on grading, but close enough that I didn't feel bad about watching Downton Abbey this afternoon. I'm not caught up on the season yet, but I'm sort of savoring it by spacing it out instead of binging.

I read this thing a few days ago about how you should clean out your closet and only keep items that "spark joy." I'm holding off on a big closet clean out until I'm finished nursing and holding steady at one size again, but I decided to tackle my sock drawer and underwear drawer. Socks may not seem like much of a "joy-sparking" item, but the truth is that I definitely have my favorite pairs that get worn again and again, and I figured I might as well clean out and organize the drawer. I ended up getting rid of several pairs of socks and rediscovering some I'd forgotten about that I actually really like. It's the little things, right?

My underwear drawer was a sorry mess--I had told myself after I quit nursing Zuzu that I was going to splurge on new bras and underwear. But then I got pregnant again and just kept wearing the old, stretched out pairs I'd had forever. I sorted through a ridiculous number of undies and ended up throwing away FIFTEEN pairs of underwear--some of which were more than ten years old. Seriously. Who needs that many pairs of underwear? And why was I still wearing the pairs I don't like when I have plenty of pairs I DO like?

So those two small things made me feel ready to start the week. We've got a lot going on, and David and I both have some late nights scheduled for work, so it's going to be one of those weeks that feels long and goes by fast.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Our Routines

Can we talk about routines for a minute? I know it's the everyday details that I won't be able to recall even a few months from now, so I want to make a little record of what we're doing these days.

Our work day week days are actually running pretty smoothly (as long as I get up on time!), but it's because we're doing the super boring and responsible thing of getting things organized and laid out the night before.

(I don't like doing this. I would rather be watching television and checking Instagram and reading blogs and texting people and eating popcorn and RELAXING the night before work. Instead, I'm packing diapers and prepping bottles and I really can't even bitch about it because I'm saying "I" but David does a lot of it.)

I'm also doing the pick out clothes for the whole week thing. I'm in charge of everyone's clothes--I pick out and iron David's outfits as well as the girls and myself. For some reason it's easier for me to do this for everyone in my family than it is for me to do this for myself--especially right now since I'm six months postpartum and still things don't quite fit me right. My favorite leggings are so stretched out that they sag by the end of the day, but my regular pants are still snug and often give me the dreaded muffin top, my boobs are still total milk maids so I don't want to wear anything fitted, nursing puts dresses mostly out of the equation and I usually love wearing dresses, I am intolerant of any fabric that's not totally soft and comfortable since there will be babies rutting around on me, I am hating anything that holds static cling, and if it can't hide a little bit of spit-up, that's a problem...

And then there's shoes. I usually like to teach in heels because they make me feel put together, but you try carrying a pumpkin seat, a purse, a school bag of papers and books, Coco's bag of bottles and diapers, the bag that holds my pumping stuff, and then walk in heels out the back door, down five steps, and to the car. It's exhausting. Plus there's the fact that shoes aren't allowed in the infant room at our daycare (a policy I fully support), so I need something I can slip on and off fairly easily (they do provide hospital booties you can put on over your shoes, but that's another trick when your arms are full of baby and baby accessories). I've taken to wearing my moccasin slippers and then changing into boots once I get to the parking lot at work, but I dread the day I forget to bring my change of shoes with me and have to teach in moccasins all day! (Oh, who am I kidding--my students probably wouldn't even notice)

Mostly I am trying to wear simple outfits and throw on a scarf. I love scarves right now for three main reasons:

(1) They make me feel French.
(2) They dress up any outfit.
(3) They hide my boobs and any potential outfit malfunction related to nursing/pumping.

All this to say, I spent some time ironing on Sunday afternoon. It is not my least favorite chore by any means--I love little kid clothes and I sort of enjoy the ironing process (the effects of my labor are so visible and pleasing to the eye!) but it is one more thing that has to happen when I'd really rather be lounging.

And I guess the real issue is that I'd rather be lounging than doing a lot of things. Like pretty much everything, really.

Anyway, here's my current routine: My alarm goes off at 6:15am. I am almost always already half-awake when it goes off, which I find frustrating. Coco has started this thing where she wakes and wants to nurse at 5:44 am, which is obviously the WORST time possible, given that I'm supposed to be up for the day in just half an hour. So occasionally I will hit snooze, which I ALWAYS regret, because then I don't have enough time up and awake by myself before Zuzu is up.

Zuzu wakes up and says to me EVERY SINGLE MORNING: "Where my daddy?"

I say, "Daddy's at work."

And then two out of three mornings, she bursts into a dramatic fake cry and throws herself in a heap on the ground. (She's kind of a daddy's girl lately.)

You can imagine how this gets my day off to a fantastic start.

I generally ignore her for a few minutes while I finish slapping on some make up.

My make up routine these days: primer (because it really does make an enormous difference), BB creme, cheek stain, eyeliner, mascara, done. I wash my hair at night because ain't nobody got time for that. I hate washing my hair at night because that means it never really looks good. I also wash my hair every other day because it's winter and dry and my hairdresser says it's better not to wash it everyday and I love that because I'm lazy and I can always put it in a ponytail.

So once I've finished putting on make up and frowning at my hair, I pick up the pitiful toddler who only wants her daddy and sweet talk her into getting her diaper changed and I let her choose from two outfits I've laid out the night before.

Then I go get Coco, who is usually awake and looking around by this point, and I change her and dress her while Zuzu whines incessantly for breakfast. I end up saying, "We are GOING to have breakfast in JUST A MINUTE. I just need to get your sister dressed," at least seventeen times.

We all go downstairs for breakfast and I make Zuzu either silver dollar pancakes (microwave) with dollops of Greek yogurt on top and a side of fruit or a bagel with cream cheese and a side of fruit. She whines for whatever I'm fixing the entire THIRTY SECONDS it takes to fix it and sometimes screams at me that she wants her bagel COLD, not toasted. She also reminds me that she wants, "CHEESE, PLEASE" as though I might forget and serve her a cold, plain bagel.

Once she has food in front of her, she is generally MUCH more pleasant. Coco sits in the high chair next to Zuzu at the table and they chatter and entertain each other while I fix something for myself to eat (usually a bagel or peanutbutter on an English muffin), sometimes make a cup of decaf coffee or hot tea, and sip on a smoothie that David leaves in the fridge for me each morning.

I also make at least four additional trips upstairs for something that we've forgotten in spite of our organizational efforts--a hair bow, a blanky, my coat, Coco's hat, etc. Zuzu and I talk about school and about who will pick her up that day and about how we don't hit or push our friends and about how she should pee on the potty. She is usually quite agreeable to all of this, but I feel good about reinforcing basic expectations of human interaction.

I usually make a trip out to the car to start it and load it with at least half our stuff before I buckle Coco into her carseat and get Zuzu into her coat and shoes. She can put her shoes on the right feet now all by herself, so even though she always chooses the same pair, I'm celebrating that milestone!

Then we head out to the car together. I often have to coax Cooper back inside with treats, and sometimes Coco is fussy about getting in the carseat, and sometimes Zuzu chooses to wander the backyard instead of follow me to the car, but generally we get loaded up with little fanfare.

Then we head to school, unload everything, and stagger inside. Zuzu is usually more than happy to kiss me good-bye out in the hallway and stroll into her classroom with her bag on her arm, but it always seems that any morning I'm running late or in a rush (and especially if her teacher is occupied and can't drop everything to lavish attention on Zuzu when she walks in the door), she needs me to come in her classroom with her and hang up her coat and get her seated for Second Breakfast that she eats as soon as she gets to school. Weirdly, she does not enjoy being greeted enthusiastically by her friends when she first arrives. If they run up to her at the door, she gets really clingy. She kind of needs to ease her way into the day. (I can relate to this, so maybe she has some introverted tendencies.)

Coco is occasionally asleep in her carseat by the time we get to school, but more often she's awake and smiley. She goes happily to her teachers in the infant room (they call her "Sunshine"), and I chat with them about when she last ate while I load up her diaper bin and put her bottles and a puree in the fridge. Then I smooch her cheeks one last time and say good-bye. I like to peek in the window to Zuzu's classroom before I leave, and she's always sitting up with perfect posture at the table, happily snacking on her second breakfast.

It never fails that I feel a weird twinge of regret and relief as I head out for the day--my job has its stressors, but I enjoy it. Staying home all day is hard and not always fun, and yet it's equally hard to leave the girls, even when they are perfectly content at school.

I listen to NPR or a podcast as I drive the twenty-five minutes to work from daycare (I keep thinking I need to get another audiobook, but podcasts are so entertaining), and I arrive by 9am and then head up to my office for an hour of class prep and responding to e-mail and making photocopies and pumping before I teach back to back classes of World Literature II (Hamlet to the present day). I have an hour for lunch and then I teach British Literature II (eighteenth century to present day). Then I have a couple of office hours for meeting, grading, reading, e-mailing, and more pumping before I head home. I try to get out of there by 4pm each day, but I'm always having to leave stuff undone, which drives me kind of crazy. Being there five days a week makes it much easier to get out of there earlier, but of course I feel really fortunate to have stay-at-home days this semester.

On stay-at-home days, we sleep in a little later (usually until about 7:30) and typically both of the girls end up in my bed. I have one stay-at-home day with just Coco and the other with both girls. On the days it's just Coco, I usually try to run errands in the morning and I can get work done while she's napping in the afternoon. On the days I have both girls, it's a little trickier.

Breakfast is a little more elaborate (by which I mean I fixed oatmeal and eggs this morning). Some days we head to the library in the morning (we'll hit the park when the weather warms up) and sometimes (like today) we don't change out of our pajamas all day long. Between nap times and the girls keeping each other entertained, I managed to prep for class and get a few exams graded today, as well as staying on top of e-mail, so today felt like a pretty productive day. (I've had much worse.) I also do a load of diapers on every stay at home day, and I try to throw in an extra load or two of laundry when those are finished.

So that's our deal these days. It feels like it's been like this forever, even though it's only been a few months. And it feels like there's no end in sight, but obviously summer break will be here eventually. And then we'll get in a new routine. What's that saying, "The days are long but the years are short"? Totally feeling that right about now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reading Around

Just wanted to share some links...

I want to hang out with the writer of this article (and I maybe should go ahead and re-name my blog by plagiarizing the title of her essay): "My Baby Died and I Can't Shut Up About It."

My friend Jamie sent me this article yesterday. I'd already read it, but it was worth a second read. It's great, and a great one to pass along to people who just don't get it: "Getting Grief Right."

A while back, I read Meghan O'Rourke's book The Long Good-bye. It's about losing her mom, and the first half of the book recounts her mother's struggle with cancer. The second half is a more general reflection on grief that really resonated with me. So much that I e-mailed the author a fan letter and I was so excited she wrote me back! #nerdalert

I've been reading I Am Malala while I nurse Coco. The straightforward prose is a quick read, but the story is haunting. It's so easy to push aside the news of ISIS and not think about it because it feels too big, too scary, and also removed from my reality. But reading about Malala's experience with the Taliban is a painful reminder that there are real people in crisis.

Speaking of ISIS, my friend Natalie sent me this article. It's not exactly fun reading, but it certainly is eye-opening: "What ISIS Really Wants."

Related to the idea of wishing that bad news would go away is this gem of an article that my friend Carol sent me, knowing it was right up my alley: "If You Think Life is Fair, You Might be a Terrible Person." If I were on, I'd be posting that all over the place.

I'm also reading The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern. It's a great little escape, especially if you like magical things and the nineteenth century (for me: ding! ding! winner!). And I just lent my mom my library copy of Big Little Lies, which was just as engaging as promised by several book lists. I recommend both of them.

Read anything good lately? I'm on the hunt for an article titled something along the lines of "How to Get Your Six and a Half Month Old Baby to Sleep Through the Night Without Crying After You've Spent Six and a Half Months Nursing Her On Demand in the Comfort of Your Bed Because then She Stops Crying and You Can Lie Down and Close Your Eyes." If you've read something like that (or written it!) send it my way, mm-kay?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Project [Bitchin'] Kitchen

Over Valentine's weekend, in addition to having family photos taken, treating Coco's ear infection, and dealing with Zuzu's stomach virus, we decided to update the kitchen by raising our cabinets and adding a backsplash and a shelf. Because we like to take on just a little bit more than we can handle. It's what we do.

Just to give you a quick reminder... Here's a flashback to the kitchen over a year ago, when we first moved in.

(The wood actually photographs better than it looked in person.) Then we had the cabinets painted:

That was just about a year ago exactly. So it was time for the next phase of our project.

We started by raising the cabinets. One other thing the "before" pictures don't really show is that the cabinet piece was off-center. You can see in the photo below that we split a piece of wood that had been up to the left side of the cabinets and centered the cabinets on the wall. The wood didn't fit perfectly because our walls aren't perfectly straight--they get wider toward the top (#oldhouseproblems) but we were able to caulk it to make it work (#makeitwork).

If you think the cabinets look really high, you're right. They are really high. All part of the plan!

I thought raising the cabinets would be simple--unscrew, lift them up, rescrew, right? But it actually took way more time/effort than I'd anticipated (of course!). It was a little tricky because we have plaster walls up against a brick exterior, and because the walls aren't perfectly square. We really couldn't have done it without the expertise of my dad who is an engineer/former contractor/has lots of construction experience/and is a multi-talented jack-of-all-trades, and we are VERY grateful that he was there to help us out (with only a little bit of grumbling).

We also added crown moulding to the top of the cabinet to create a more finished line. And here you can see the sides all caulked and painted. The paint is still wet here, so the moulding looks a bit brighter than the doors, but it dried just fine.

Having your dad (or at least my dad) help with projects is great because he works for free beer, but you also get some pushback that you wouldn't get from someone you just hired to do the job.

For example, we selected white subway tiles. I like the simple, classic look. I thought it would look appropriate in our older home and wouldn't be too flashy, especially considering we are still working with laminate countertops (perhaps those will be replaced in Phase 3 of the kitchen project). It helps that they are all over Pinterest and have been trending for a while in DIY blog land, but the clincher was that they are very affordable.

I'd followed Decor and the Dog's kitchen backsplash install, and I liked the look of their contrasting grout. I thought it would be a nice way for us to tie in our darker cabinets and countertops, and obviously dark grout doesn't stain if chili or red sauce splatters. I wanted 1/8" grout lines, so I bought 1/8" spacers.

Here's where my dad and I disagreed. He didn't think we should use spacers at all. (He also thought the tiles would look good lined up straight instead of staggered like bricks.) I told him that I knew what I wanted--I've only been looking at kitchens on Pinterest and in magazines and reading blogs for years. We actually ended up having this exchange, pretty much verbatim:

     Dad: This is why I don't work for other people anymore!

     Me: Because you can't handle it when they don't want to do what you want?

     Dad: No! Because they look at some pictures and think they know what they want, but they don't!

     Me: ...

(LOL. I mean, how do you respond to that? There are many things I don't know, but my opinion of what I happen to like in terms of backsplash grout is actually pretty solid.)

In spite of my dad's claims to know better than I do what I actually wanted, I was determined to have my 1/8" grout lines.

But I am actually glad that his point about the shape of the tiles made me reconsider the spacers. He observed that the tiles were designed to be slightly wider (about 1/8") in the back than they are in the front (so yes, one could, if she wanted, grout them without using spacers). This means that I would create a larger grout line than I'd originally intended if I used 1/8" spacers because it would have increased the space at the front of the tile. I decided I didn't want that, but I still overruled my dad's idea that we go with no spacers. So we'll call it a compromise... we went with 1/16" spacers.

And because he is my dad and he loves me and he knows that I'm as stubborn as he is, he obliged me and the tiling began!

After raising the cabinets, we had 30" between the counters and the cabinet bottoms that needed tiling. David also cut and painted a thin piece of plywood to cover the unfinished bottom of the cabinets. (Not pictured, but very noticeable in person).

We (ok, my dad) wrapped around the corner and did the sink side the same height--30" up the wall, but with 2" high border tiles at the top.

Meanwhile, David got to work tiling the stove side. We couldn't move the cabinets up on this side due to an air vent over the top, so this was the more standard 16" high.

Once all the tile was up, they grouted with the contrasting gray grout. I know it's a love or hate it kinda thing for many people, but I'm very happy with the contrast and really like the look for my kitchen.

We hit another tricky moment in the process when it came time to add the shelf under the cabinets. We had to drill through the tile, so once again we were really glad to have my dad here since he actually knew what he doing and I'd just watched a few You Tube videos...

David is touch-up painting the shelf here. I wanted the clean "floating" look, so we installed it by using screwing crown moulding into the tile all along the back on on each side underneath the shelf for it to rest on. We used plywood shelving [correction: MDF board] for this, so to strengthen it, we followed my dad's suggestion to add a piece of hardwood (oak [correction: poplar, because it has a less pronounced grain and takes paint well]) trim across the front. This gave the shelf its thicker appearance and helped make it sturdy. And when it was dry (finally) we filled it up!

Doesn't it look dreamy? I mean, I don't know why more magazines don't feature a Boon drying rack with breast pump valves in their photo shoots of kitchens. #keepingitreal

Here's the stove side. You can see we added moulding to these cabinets as well, even though they don't reach the ceiling. I still think it gives them a finished look.

And the other side of the kitchen. The glare from the light makes some of the grout lines look funky--the closer up picture of the shelf (above) is more accurate.

So back to the before...

And after!

And one more shot of the whole thing from floor to ceiling. The red step stool definitely comes in handy for those upper shelves in the cabinets, but we keep the stuff we use every day out on the shelf or on the lowest level of the cabinet. Some of the stuff isn't necessarily pretty (the drying rack, the mixing bowls) but we won't have those out forever, either--it's crazy to think I'll be finished with bottles and washing pump parts in just a few more months.

So there you have it! Our weekend kitchen project. It took every bit of a three day weekend, plus another day to get it all put away and reorganized, and I was twitchy by the end of it since the cabinets were emptied onto the dining room table. But I am so, so happy with the result, and very grateful to my dad and David for being patient with my demands requests. They did such great work. It really transformed the space.

And since the labor was free and my dad had most of the tools we needed on hand already, the whole project cost us less than $200. No kidding. The tiles are really affordable, grout and mortar is not very costly, and we worked with the cabinets we had, so the only additional costs were the crown moulding and wood for the shelf. Not too shabby, right? I am very lucky to have a dad who is handy and a husband who is a quick learner.

Our kitchen may still be a work in progress... we'd eventually like to replace the floor (the tile photographs ok, but it's not my favorite) and the countertops, but I'm also really happy with where things are right now.

As I said when I posted a sneak peak on IG, it's almost enough to make me want to cook!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Conversations with Zuzu Part IV

January-February 2015 edition.

Scene: In the kitchen. I made snack for Zuzu, and then one for myself.

Zuzu: Oh, that's my orange!

Me: You already ate your orange. This is Mommy's orange.

Zuzu: Let's share! I like to share.

Me: Sure you do, kid. When it benefits you, you love to share!

* * *

Scene: In the living room. Zuzu climbs up on a counter-height stool that I usually use as a plant stand.

Zuzu: I'm up here!

Me: That looks dangerous.

Zuzu: Yes. I fall down and I get hurt!

Me: Well, as long as you're aware of the risks.

* * *

Scene: Loading up in the car after daycare. I'm parked next to the drainage grate by the curb and Zuzu stands on the manhole cover. A lady slows down in her car driving by to tell me my kid is standing on the manhole cover (okay, jumping on it) because the lady is worried she might fall through. (Uh... I don't manholes are supposed to do that, but better safe than sorry, I guess.)

Me: Zuzu, come stand over here. You don't want to fall down the drain. (in a silly voice) That would be scary!

Zuzu: There's alligators down there! They eat me up!

Me: Alligators?

Zuzu: Yes.

Me: Well, I'd jump down there and save you.

Zuzu: And I say, "Settle down, alligators! Don't eat my mommy!"

Me: Oh, thanks, honey.

* * *

Scene: Overheard while playing with Disney figurines.

Zuzu: Ok, boys. You gotta be nice. Or no Christmas for you. Ever.

(She is also frequently overheard having her figurines rescue each other: "It's ok, Daisy! I got you!" and telling them, "Settle down, boys!")

* * *
Scene: In the kitchen. I'm fixing lunch.

Zuzu: I need help, Mama.

Me: What do you need help with?

Zuzu: I need help with Zuzu.

* * *

Scene: Basement. Freaking dog has pooped on the carpet.

Me: Oh no, Cooper!

Zuzu: Holy Moses! Cooper, you need to poopoo on potty!

* * *

Scene: On our bed, playing with Coco.

Zuzu: Oh, Coco, what big cheeks you have! (pinches cheeks)

Me: Be gentle!

Zuzu: Oh, Coco, what big tongue you have!

David: All the better to eat you with, my dear!

Zuzu: That not My Dear! That Coco!

* * *

Scene: At the doctor's office for Coco's six month well visit.

Doctor: Well, hello there!

Zuzu: That my sister, Coco.

Doctor: You call her Coco? What's her real name?

Zuzu: Coco.

Me: No, what's Coco's whole name?

Zuzu: Coco Puff.

* * *
Scene: On our couch, telling Grammy about how mad she was when I flushed the toilet after dumping her diaper in it, instead of letting her flush the toilet. (Because, YES, she's still in diapers.)

Zuzu: (scolding very seriously) That not your turd, Mommy. That my turd!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

But a Little More About Me

Last week I shared French fries with Judy Shepard. As in Matthew Shepard's mom (she calls him Matt). She was such a kind, genuine person. One of my favorite things she said was that she wished she could just be the supportive mom baking cookies for PFLAG meetings, and not doing all the speaking and traveling she does (although she enjoys it). She said that it should be Matt up there speaking, and she just wishes she could know what he would have done with his life.

Not only is she generous about sharing French fries, but she also has some of the longest eyelashes I've ever seen on a real person (Matt had them too).  Her message when she spoke on campus was simple and straight-forward: LGTB people have rights. Those who wish to deny this: Why do you care? They aren't hurting you.

It was awesome to meet her and as I drove her back to her hotel after the talk, I talked a little bit about Eliza--I guess I wanted to explain that I am familiar with grief and that I can imagine the pain of losing your child to someone else's hatred and violence is even more excruciating. She was compassionate, classy, and down-to-earth, and I'm so glad I got to meet her. 

I'd really to go to Chicago to see the film that's just been released: Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, (and invite myself over to the Wilsons' while I'm at it) but I don't think a weekend away is in my future. I'll have to wait for Netflix.

* * *

In other news, Faces of Loss is not only up and running, but is up to date. We're still working on updating some of the info and fixing broken links, but the most important part is that the stories have all been posted. A few new ones are coming in, which is both good and bad of course. We are glad to see that the site is still providing a connection and platform that people want and need, but of course, we hate that people are dealing with the heartbreak of pregnancy loss or baby loss.

That said, it's so important to tell your story, so if you have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth or infant loss, I invite you to consider putting your experience in words and submitting it to Faces of Loss.

* * *

I'm going to do a whole post on this soon, but I just have to say that David and my dad did such a great job working on our kitchen over the weekend. The changes were mostly cosmetic, but that doesn't mean they weren't complicated! And the end result is fabulous. The difference is huge and the kitchen makes me very happy. It's almost enough to make me want to cook!


* * *

I'm still a little worried about Zuzu. She hasn't barfed since yesterday afternoon, but she's so sluggish and wimpy. She got a little of her spunk back when I turned off Mickey Mouse's [Godforsaken] Clubhouse and she yelled at me about it, but I still hate seeing her so unlike her chatty, bouncy little self. She's eaten half a bagel and had a little bit of water today, but she's not interested in Pedialyte or applesauce or popsicles or crackers or ice chips.

* * *

I've had some sympathy nausea over the weekend (mostly from smelling her barf, I think) but my appetite is fine today. I had nachos for lunch. Confession: Nachos are a frequent and favorite lunch choice. Tortilla chips, some shredded cheese, refried or black beans, and salsa. I'll throw some rice on there if it's already made up. Yum.

* * *

And now, for a few minutes anyway, both girls are sleeping simultaneously. I'd really like to catch up on Downton Abbey, but I have a stack of Hamlet journals that need to be graded. DUTY vs. PLEASURE: Who will win???

Six Months Later

It wasn't that long ago when we had newborn photos taken of our little Coco-Puff. She was nine days old (and had a head full of hair!)

Six months of male-pattern baldness later, she's just as cute as she was the day she entered the world!

As I mentioned before, we had Katie come over on Saturday and take photos of our six-month-old girl (and her sister). I haven't seen all of them yet, but I had to go ahead and share the sneak peek that Katie posted on her blog.

I know I'm biased, but aren't they darling?

You'd never guess that Coco had an ear infection and Zuzu started vomiting and running a fever that afternoon! Hashtag memories....

Monday, February 16, 2015

Well, That Was Romantical

The plan for the weekend was to have Coco's six month photos taken Saturday morning, tackle the backsplash in the kitchen Saturday afternoon, and then leave the girls home with my parents while David and I went to a movie.

But Coco woke up Saturday morning with her eyes crusted shut and dried green snot around her nose.

I knew the moment I looked at her that she had an ear infection, but I made David come back upstairs and look at her. I wiped her face with a warm wash cloth and she was as smiley and happy as usual and didn't have a fever, so we decided to go ahead with pictures (our photographer was coming over at 10:00 am) and managed to get a doctor appointment for 11:30 am.

The photo session went okay...  Coco was napping when the photographer arrived and I felt bad about having to wake her, but she did pretty well. She was smiley and happy for a while, though she did get cranky toward the end.  Zuzu wanted to be in photos, and had a great time showing off and getting some individual photos taken before Coco woke up, but then she only wanted to be slightly cooperative in terms of following directions and doing what the photographer occasionally asked her to do. She was pretty hit or miss, and she really wanted her princess lunchbox to be in all the photos.

(It probably goes without saying, but I did not want her princess lunchbox to be in all the photos.)

By the time we tried to get photos with all of us, including my parents, the girls were kind of done. Coco wanted to nurse so we had to take a quick break, and then Zuzu got really cranky and pouty, which was out of character for her since she usually enjoys being the center of attention. We bribed her with an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse if she'd smile for a few more pictures and that worked pretty well.

Right after our session ended, I rushed Coco to the doctor's office, David and my dad started on the kitchen project (more on that later), and my mom fixed some lunch for Zuzu and planned to put her down for a nap.

Coco was so happy and smiley at the doctor's office that I felt a little silly when the nurse said, "So... what's your concern today?" as Coco grinned and babbled cheerfully at her--maybe I was overreacting? On the other hand, eye gunk was Zuzu's tell-tale sign of an ear infection and she rarely had a fever, so I wanted to get her checked out and not have things get worse on Sunday afternoon.

Fortunately/unfortunately, I was right. Coco did have an ear infection. (You get what I mean, right? I'm glad I'm not crazy, but I wish she weren't sick.)

We finally made it home with her prescription, although I was pretty annoyed when I pulled up to the pharmacy drive through and they were like, "We just got the electronic prescription, so if you could come back in like 15 minutes..." I wanted to be like, "Really? It's going to take you 15 MINUTES to take a bottle of a Amoxicillin of the shelf and stick it in a paper bag?" But Coco was asleep in the backseat, so I just sat in the parking lot for 15 minutes until it was ready.

By the time I got home, Zuzu was napping (sign #1 something was off since she is usually too excited to nap when Grammy and Bop are in town) and she hadn't eaten any lunch. My mom had fixed her favorites--a bagel with cream cheese and fruit, but she didn't want any of it (sign #2).

David said, "Zuzu hasn't been acting right. She's just lying around and wanting hugs." (sign #3)

My mom and I were giving Coco her first dose of medicine when I heard Zuzu coughing and then crying. I walked in her room and she said, "Mama, I burp-ed." (Translation: she barfed. So, yeah... she was definitely off.)

She'd puked all over her sheets and herself and there wasn't all that much of it, but it smelled terrible. It really took everything I had not to start gagging myself. (And there's no prize for cleaning up vomit.)

So she got a bath and we got the laundry going and I hoped it was just a fluke. Zuzu has only vomited a few times in her life, and each time was just an isolated incident.

This time, we were not so lucky. Poor little pumpkin got sick three times on Saturday. At one point, she begged for bread and I let her have a piece because I figured it wouldn't make any difference--bread wasn't going to make her barf, and sometimes it's better to have something in your stomach if you have to get sick. She seemed to perk up a little after she ate it, but she was also running a low fever. When I tried to give her another dose of Tylenol, she took a tiny sip and then barfed again (we caught most of it in a bowl because at least we were prepared this time).

She was so pitiful. Just listless and feverish and quiet--basically the opposite of our normally chatty, spirited Zuzu.

David and I did not go to a movie and leave my parents home with two sick babies (although it was a little tempting, and Coco was pretty much her normal happy self except with more snot than usual, Zuzu was just too pitiful). Instead, we both went to bed early on Valentines Day and slept in separate beds--me with the congested baby, him with the barfy toddler. Good times!

It was definitely not the most romantic weekend, but in a twist of good fortune, my school canceled classes today so we're all home for the snow day. Zuzu seems to be feeling better, although she vomited again this morning. (We made it to the bathroom, but she hit the rug and her PJ pants.)

At least this way I have time to catch up on grading and laundry, and I can keep her home tomorrow, too. And hopefully we can keep everyone else healthy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ghost Belly: Reflections and Regrets

I have been reading Ghost Belly at the recommendation of a friend. It's well-written and good and interesting and challenging and last night I had to stop because it was breaking the grief wide open and I just don't have the capacity to handle that right now. It's weird to find myself a place where breaking down feels almost... indulgent? (that's not quite the right word)...  but I guess that's where I am. I need to put the book--and my grief--away.

My friend Sarah had a better analogy, which was to say that grief is like a sleeping tiger. We can't afford to wake him up right now because there are so many other things that need attention. Life is hard enough without a tiger on the loose. So we tiptoe around him, trying to pretend he's not there, that his teeth aren't still sharp, that he won't snatch us up should we stumble.

One thing I was struck by in the book (right before I had to put it down last night, actually) is how lovingly the author, Elizabeth Heineman, treated the body of her dead baby. It seemed like such a contrast to my own timid response.

I held Eliza, and touched her hands, and kissed her forehead, but I did so fearfully even more than tenderly. I was scared to touch her. Honestly, I didn't really want to touch her, but I guess I was a little afraid of feeling like a terrible person later if I didn't touch her.

Really, I was afraid of her. I was scared of holding a dead body, even if it was my baby. I was scared of how morbid and terrible it all seemed. I felt like I was someone else watching this scene play out and everything felt awkward and forced, like I was performing these rituals that weren't offering me any comfort whatsoever. I was not caught up in the moment. People talk about how meeting their stillborn baby was both the best and worst but for me it only felt like the worst. I was not overwhelmed with any feelings except sadness and disappointment and guilt.

Don't mistake me--I'm glad now that I did what I did then, but I still didn't really want to do it at the time. I did not marvel over her the way I wish I would have, the way I did her sisters. I did not bathe her (the nurse did that) or dress her (again, our nurse Stephanie, to whom I am so grateful) or measure her size with my hands. I was too worried about how she smelled, too horrified by how her nose kept bleeding. I wanted to know the color of her eyes, but I was too afraid to lift her eyelids.

As new parents, there's a shift when you get used to the way a newborn feels, the surprising combination of heft and lightness. You marvel at the wrinkly skin, and the way it changes in just a few minutes from grayish purplish to rosy and then to (in the case of my caucasian babies) pale. You watch your baby start to stretch and change before your eyes and all of it is so miraculous and awesome in the true sense of the word. I thought Eliza's hands looked weird. (It turns out all my babies' hands look weird! I had no idea! They cute right up--they are just weird at the very beginning.)

But I didn't really know that yet. I had been around a few newborn babies visiting friends, but I'd always held them swaddled up and wearing hats and mostly sleeping. I didn't know that they were always curled up and wrinkly. I didn't understand how much of Eliza's appearance was typical newborn baby and how much was dead baby and so all of it scared me and freaked me out.

The nurses did such a great job of telling me she was beautiful and holding her like it was no big deal she wasn't breathing, but I (her mother!) never could really see past the deadness. I was too shocked and too horrified.

I know I told her I love her, and I know I told her again and again that I was so sorry, but I am quite sure that I did not "mother" her the way I did my other babies.

I've been through enough therapy to know now that I did the best I could at that time. I know that I am allowed to forgive myself for being unprepared and completely freaked out. I believe that Eliza felt our love the whole time she was in my belly. And if I didn't do such a good job of loving her after that...

Well, as I told a friend in a comment on one of her blog posts (which she actually wrote in response to one of my posts, so it was kind of like an actual conversation) I think that everything that happens after the baby is born--the rituals, the photographs, the bathing and dressing--that's for us. It's not for them. We may feel better if we held them for hours, or introduced them to everyone in our family, or dressed them in the clothes they should have worn home from the hospital, or had them christened or blessed or planned a memorial service for them. I personally did not do any of those things except have Eliza blessed by a random chaplain (I wish we had called a minister we knew, but at that time I didn't want to--I think now I didn't want it to be real, and telling someone else like that would have made it real), but I know many people who did those things and are glad they did them.

But I suspect there are also many of us who didn't do the things we wish now we would have. I wonder if I would do things differently now. I know for sure there are some choices I would change without a doubt, but I also know that we were in an impossible situation and we were just trying to keep from completely falling apart. That doesn't change the fact that I have enormous regrets, and I'm still trying to get past some of them.

I admire bereaved parents who were able to process their reality, the horror of the situation, and then go on to make decisions they feel really good about now, who were able to "parent" their baby in a way that I was not. One friend of mine called and had her daughter's Christmas dress brought to the hospital so she could see her in it. That never would have occurred to me. I try to remember that I truly was not able--it's not like I didn't want to, I truly didn't know how I was supposed to parent a dead baby or what I was supposed to do. I had never prepared for this situation. I mostly just wanted to die myself, but I didn't want to make David feel worse so I didn't say that out loud.

When I read Ghost Belly, and read about how she was able to make decisions that other people would find controversial or bizarre, and how she made them unapologetically, for herself and her dead son, not only do I admire her, but I also envy that awareness. I cannot measure up to that. I did not do a good job of anything in regard to parenting Eliza after she was born. The best things I did were at the nurse's suggestion. The worst things I did (or didn't do) were my own ideas, a product of my squeamishness and fear and reluctance to accept the truth that our baby was dead. As though denial would make it all go away.

I had to stop reading Ghost Belly, even though it's lovely and true and good, because it brought those moments in the hospital back to me, and all I could see were my own inadequacies.

Heineman had a living son when she lost her second child, and I wonder if I would have been a different kind of parent to Eliza if I'd already had a living baby. I wonder if I could have loved her not better, but differently, in the hospital. I think maybe I was half afraid of a living newborn baby, so a dead one was simply beyond my capacity for functioning as a mother of any sort.

At any rate, I hope to return to the book someday, but for now I'm trying not to break that grief wide open. I'm trying to put that tiger back to sleep. I'm trying to extend to myself the kind of compassion that I would offer a friend struggling with similar feelings of guilt and failure. I still believe what I wrote in my comment:

Oh, Veronica. I just want to see you and hug you and cry with you. We are all so angry and we all feel so guilty and filled with regret. I do think some people were able to understand what was happening and cope with it faster than I was able to, and I envy them their foresight in doing things that I would later wish I had done.

But you, like me, no matter how guilty and sad we feel, must believe that we did everything that mattered for our babies when it counted. What happened after Alexander died, there were things you could have done that might ease your ache now, that might help YOU. But the baby you'd fallen in love with--he was already gone. There was nothing more you could have done for HIM. He was gone, but in his short, perfect life, he already had everything you could give him--all the love, all the care, all the warmth and the safety. He knew your voice and your laugh and the rhythm of your walk. You were his mama as long as he was here and there's no way you could have done that with more love or joy or care. It's obvious from the way you write about him how much he is loved, how much he is wanted, how much he is missed. I don't know how things really work in life or death or what comes after, but I know that Alexander felt that love while he was with you, and what happened after--those are memories we cling to for comfort (or torture) but they are ours alone. They don't burden our babies. I believe that with every ounce of me.

I DO believe it. But I also think I need to say it in an effort to convince myself. Even if it's true--and I do, actually, really think it's true--my disappointment in myself, for what I failed to do for Eliza after she died and was born, cannot be written away.

I just realized, too, in linking up to those posts that it was really about this time last year that I was struggling with heavy grief in much the same way I am now. I don't really know why--we're past Eliza's birth date and due date and I have never been pregnant in late January or early February. I guess it's something about this cold, dark time of year, when the momentum of resolutions has already started to lull and spring break still seems so far away that I get caught up in regret.

My therapist would prescribe self-care. (Man, I kind of miss meeting with someone a couple times a month who would always promise me that I was doing okay and encourage me to get a massage and meet up with friends and attend a yoga class. No wonder I paid her so much money.)

My version of self-care, for now: Last night, I had a good ugly cry, tried to distract myself with a rerun of Castle, and was actually relieved when Coco fussed in the middle of the night so I had an excuse to get her out of bed and cuddle her.

The thing about these regrets is that there's no fixing them. There's no do-over. We just have to try to redirect our energy and figure out how to put that tiger back to bed. You'd think by now I'd be an expert on this sort of thing. Nope. Still working on it.