Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Plagues

So I got Mastitis. Again.

Woe. Misery. And woe.

Actually, this time was not nearly as bad as last time. I caught it early and did not get the scary high fever and shakiness that came with it when Zuzu was a baby. I also did not suffer all the "why is my body failing me?" angst. (I'd actually forgotten how worked up I got about it before.) But I did feel weak, achy, and generally crap-tastic for the greater part of two days.

I woke up on Monday feeling like I had a plugged duct. So I set about following all the advice you can find on the internet, plus stuff that had worked for me previously (shower massager, Sonicare toothbrush, massage, lavender oil, rest, fluids, frequent nursing and pumping). I knew something was off, but I did not want to admit I had mastitis.

I also think I had underestimated how fuzzy my brain was--it took me ALL DAY to admit that this could be more than a plugged duct, even though I had every symptom except a fever. I think because Coco is five months old, I thought we were past that window. And (once again) I've been following all "rules"--Coco hasn't even slept through the night without nursing!

Anyway, my brain was not willing to accept that I really had mastitis, and I think I was distracted because Zuzu was sick, too. She chugged half a glass of milk at breakfast and then puked it all up in her high chair. I was on my way out the door, but David was home from work on holiday, so I wished him luck as he carried Zuzu up to put her in the bath.

She appeared to rally, and he actually took the girls to the park that morning while I was at work. I left early and lay around all afternoon, but even with all my home-remedies, that evening I was feeling worse instead of better (still no fever, though). I took my mom's advice and called my doctor's after hours exchange. My doctor takes his own call because he is THE BEST so he called me right back and said I definitely needed an antibiotic and 24 hours of rest.

At this point, it was 8:30pm and I was in bed for the night. Zuzu (who was also not acting quite normal) snuggled up next to me and fell asleep and David kissed us good-bye and headed to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. I told him to hurry because I knew I needed the antibiotics to kick in fast.

He had been gone maybe two minutes when Zuzu sat up and starting coughing. And coughing. And coughing. And then she puked. All over our sheets and duvet. And also on her own face and hair.

(It was noodles. Still very much in their undigested noodle form. It basically looked like the same alfredo she'd eaten for dinner. It just smelled like vomit.)

So I had to go from lying in bed feeling TERRIBLE to trying to get up around without waking Coco, asleep in her cradle, and get Zuzu out of bed and into the bath. I was trying to be all calm and comforting, and I managed to only dry heave a couple of times (I am really not good with vomit).

By the time David got home, I had Zuzu in clean pajamas and was rocking her in the chair in our room. Coco was still asleep (thank goodness). But there was also still vomit all over our bed. So David got to change the sheets (in fact, he had to get last week's dirty sheets from the floor of the laundry room and put them back on the bed because we had just changed the sheets the day before and hadn't washed the old ones yet and I refused to sleep in the fleece sheets). We used the too-small duvet from the guest room and we managed to make it through the night.

The next day I slept practically all day long. David took Zuzu to the doctor, where she was diagnosed with JustaVirus. David took very good care of all three of us, but by that evening he was pretty worn out. Zuzu had lots of meltdowns and I was completely useless and then I took some medicine on an empty stomach and by 9:00 that night, I was thoroughly nauseated and ended up vomiting.

Unfortunately, David was pretty much exhausted with being the sole caretaker and out of sympathy by that point. If I'd had enough energy I would have been mad at him for not being nicer to me (because I really am not good with vomit and I require lots of special attention on the rare occasions I do barf) but instead I just went to sleep.

By Illness Day 3, I was feeling MUCH better. I slept all morning but was then able to do some laundry and hang out downstairs on the sofa. Zuzu napped from 12:30-5 pm (which is absolutely unheard of) so we binge-watched some Netflix and then we all ate a very bland dinner before going to bed early last night.

Of course I had trouble falling asleep, and then Zuzu had a crazy night. She was in our bed again and she may have been sleepwalking... I'm not sure, but about 3 am she climbed out of bed. David got up and picked her up to bring her back to bed and she started fighting him and shouting, "NO! I going to watch my show!" (way too much TV on these sick days). Somehow he convinced her it was actually the middle of the night and as soon as she lay back down in bed, she was asleep.

But at 6am I was lying in bed nursing Coco and Zuzu got up and walked across the bed and onto the bedside table and just stood there, on top of it. I was like, "What are you doing? Get down! You are going to fall and hurt yourself!" She was held onto the windowsill, like she was looking outside, except it's stained glass and you can't really see out of it.

I was freaked out and about to really piss off Coco by interrupting our nursing session to get up and get Zuzu off the table, but David came in the room at that point and picked up Zuzu. He told her it was still nighttime and she needed to snuggle with Mama, and she got right back into bed and fell asleep.

(Or maybe she was asleep the whole time?)

Creepy, right???

Zuzu was a bear to get out of bed this morning, and I could relate. I'm feeling okay today except still really, really tired.

David is relieved that I'm functioning again (he told me so this morning), and we're both really glad that Coco stayed happy and healthy. Here's hoping that's our only illness this winter--8 weeks until spring!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

In the Club (the one nobody wants to join)

Before Christmas, we managed to squeeze in a dinner party with friends--my best friends from college and their husbands.

One of these friends is Beth, who is now finished with her chemo treatments and recovering like a boss from a double mastectomy, to be followed next month by a hysterectomy (without hormone follow-up treatment, because hormones could feed her cancer).

Beth didn't wear her wig to dinner and her bald head highlighted how gorgeous she is (seriously, who looks that good bald? Not even The Rock.) and also how fragile she seems now.

Triple-negative breast cancer with the BRCA1 gene mutation is not messing around, and Beth talked candidly about her fears about what will be determined by the tissue pathology after her mastectomy (20% of women with this cancer find that there are no cancer cells remaining in their breast tissue after chemo... the other 80% may find a range of different amounts/tumors, which vary widely in terms of seriousness). After falling in the small side of statistics with so many aspects of breast cancer, Beth was hoping she ends up there again, but this time with good news. We know now that she did get that good news after her biopsy, but we are still not totally sure what that means in terms of potential recurrence.

She also talked at dinner about the possibility that the cancer could return elsewhere in her body, and what that might mean--it would be considered advanced stage cancer and she understood that would mean palliative care. As in make her comfortable for the time she has left.

My eyes filled up with tears when she said that because holy shit. It's one thing to think about your death in the abstract. It's another thing to sit across the table from one of your best friends, who happens to be a week older than you are, and see her grappling with the idea of her death in real, concrete terms.

She told the story of meeting another woman who came into the chemo treatment room for the first time, clutching her big binder of breast cancer information and looking terrified. She was introduced to Beth and they discovered they are close to the same age, both have two kids, and both have the same kind of cancer (also, crazy enough, they have the same first name).

At this point in her story, Beth turned to me and her eyes filled up with tears. She said that she understands now the friendships that I made with other mothers who had lost babies because meeting this girl with the same diagnosis was the first time since she learned she had cancer that she didn't feel completely alone.

That's not to diminish the support of her husband and her family and her friends--I know Beth has been overwhelmed with the love and kindness that she has received. Cards and texts and phone calls and meals and gifts--those matter, and are greatly appreciated.

But there is NOTHING like connecting with someone else who is in the trenches.

As much as I love my friends who have stuck by me, my connection with them just isn't quite the same. We have a shared history and private jokes and great memories and years of friendship that link us. But still, they have no idea what it's like to go through what is possibly the defining experience of my life. They don't know what it's like to lose a baby, to have a rainbow baby, to negotiate gratitude and grief in virtually every waking moment.

To their credit, they understand that it's important to call or text on Eliza's birthday, they know that I love her and miss her. But unless you've walked this path, I think it's impossible to fully understand what it's like to love a baby who isn't here, to give birth to a child you don't get to take home, to be bowled over with the guilt and shock and horror, and then to get up and try to carry on.

There's a kind of shorthand when it comes to that stuff that I share only with other baby-loss mamas (or BLMs). We know that complaints about our living kids are more than overwhelmed by sheer giddy gratitude that they are here and alive. We know how much it means when someone is saying our child's name or seeing something that reminds them of our baby, even years later. We know that all the typical parenting guilt and joy is further complicated by our experience of loss. And we don't have to try to explain or justify or articulate any of that. We just know. We just get it. In a way that no one could who hasn't lived it.

I have a pretty vivid imagination, but I don't know what it's like to be scared of dying the way Beth has been scared. Unless you've gotten a cancer diagnosis, you don't really know what it's like to endure treatments that make your bones hurt and your hair fall out. I can try to put myself in her shoes, and I can cry tears of genuine sympathy, but my empathy will always fall a little bit short because, for now anyway, what's hypothetical for me is reality for her.

One of the hardest things about grief (and, probably, cancer) is the way it feels isolating. Even when we're surrounded by people who want to help or people who want to make us feel better, those people get to go home and kiss their (living) kids and go to sleep feeling reasonably confident they are going to live to see those kids grow up.

I knew other people who had lost babies, but I hadn't come to close to understanding what that experience as actually like. And when Eliza died, I felt so alone. I felt freakishly singled out as a horror story among my friends and acquaintances. I felt like an object of pity, made twisted and ugly by my grief.

And then I wrote my story on the internet and I heard back the two words I had been longing to hear, without even realizing it.

Not, "I'm sorry," but, "Me too."

They say misery loves company, but the truth is that grief needs companionship. Women who walked the path of baby loss in 2010 and 2011 became my tribe, my support group, my friends. Eliza's loss was unbearable until I found other mamas who were surviving the same loss. Members of the club nobody wants to join--descriptions of both cancer and babyloss.

When I get e-mails from women (and sometimes men) who have found my blog, I always say, "I'm so glad you found my blog, and I'm so sorry you were looking for it."

Not because this blog has any answers, but because at least it is proof that you are not alone in this.

I think we can survive the worst of circumstances, as long as we don't have to do all by ourselves.

Grief is too big a burden to bear alone. We need old friends from before to grieve with us and, eventually, to remind us of who we were. And we need comrades in arms to remind us that we are not alone in this new (shitty) reality.

So I guess the lesson here is that whatever you're going through, find Your People. Form your tribe. It doesn't happen overnight--my group of BLM friends came together over two years of blogging and e-mailing. But keep searching. We may be on a very lonely planet, but we are not alone.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Depth of Her Sadness

My friend Laura shared this article via e-mail, and I connected with much of it (the lack of closure, the need to be around other bereaved parents to feel like I'm not "acting," the fear that lingering grief means doing something wrong, and the Isak Dinesen quote).

I wanted to post it here because it's an article that felt affirming for me, and it's perfect for posting on social media or forwarding to people who just don't seem to understand that we grieve so much because we loved them so damn much: "She was not depressed or stuck or wrong. She was just very sad, consumed by sorrow, but not because she was grieving incorrectly. The depth of her sadness was simply a measure of the love she had for her daughter."


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

No, No, Coco! And Sister Fun in Pictures

It's beyond fun to see these girls start interacting. Watching Zuzu make Coco giggle makes me so happy. Zuzu's favorite new game is to lean her head down next to Coco's hand and wait for Coco to grab her hair.


Then it's my job to intervene by gasping and saying, "Oh, no-no, Coco! We don't pull Sister's hair!"


Zuzu thinks it's hysterical for Baby Coco to "get in twubble" and considering Zuzu hears the word "No!" a lot, I'm sure it's refreshing to have the reprimand spread around.


For the record, I'm actually doing pretty well with this parenting technique I read about where you try to avoid saying "No" too often. When Zuzu makes requests for things she can't have, I try to find a positive response.


She says (often) "I want to watch a show, Mama!" and I tell her, "Yes, you can watch a show when Daddy gets home." (We're still putting on Mickey Mouse Club so we can have thirty minutes of yoga.) And then we talk about what show she wants to watch when Daddy gets home and meanwhile I try to distract her by starting another activity.


The idea isn't that she never hears the word "No," but that when she hears it, she knows we are super serious. As in, "NO! You do not jump over your sister when she's lying on the floor."


This would work well if she actually cared about me being "super serious." So, yeah... Coco might have the hair-grip down, but rest assured Zuzu is still hearing "NO" far more often.




Monday, January 12, 2015

This Just In: Healthy Trumps Wealthy and Wise

Today I have two friends in the hospital. My best friend from high school is having complications from having her gallbladder removed last week (the update is she farted last night and that is VERY good news) and one of my best friends from college is having her double mastectomy today.

This reality certainly put things in perspective this morning when I woke up with hives all over my neck, collar bone, and upper back.

I'm itchy (enough that I finally took some Benadryl even though it tends to make me comatose). Thankfully, I'm not swollen and haven't had any throat-itching or swelling at all.

Its' strange because I haven't had hives since I figured out my food allergies in college--more than ten years ago. I'm easily able to avoid beef and pork no problem, since I'm a vegetarian by preference anyway.

Last night I went to a swanky dinner party for my friend and former boss and although I told them I was vegetarian and did NOT eat the main course--a pig head--I ate seafood (caviar and Missouri trout) and even some mushrooms (I usually scorn fungus, but it was a swanky dinner party and I wanted to be adventurous).

Anyway, no idea what caused the breakout, but how hilarious would it be if I'm allergic to caviar? And if I told people all the time in a loud voice that I'm allergic to caviar? That would be great.

While unsettling and uncomfortable, I know my minor case  of hives is irrelevant in the big picture, and as I sit here, trying not to claw at the red welts on my neck (strategically covered with a scarf for teaching), I'm thinking about the pain that two of my dearest friends have been going through or will go through in the coming days.

It seems like such a cliche, to be grateful for one's health, but David and I have been reminded too often this year that we take our health for granted. The fact is that if we or one of the girls were sick, NOTHING else would matter. Talk about stripping your priorities down to the bare bones.

Forget about wealth (or wisdom). Daily concerns about money would be wiped out by the looming reality of medical bills. The minutiae of daily chores and minor stresses and to-do lists would become impossibly irrelevant. When it comes to matters of life and death, nothing matters beyond getting the best possible care and showing the most possible love.

It shouldn't take a health scare to remind us to show the most possible love toward the people we care about, but often it does. Today I invite you to send a card or make a call or send a text to someone who's ill or someone who's hurting or someone you want to connect with just because.

And while you're at it, if you wouldn't mind sending out some prayers and good wishes for Monica and Beth, that would be much appreciated.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Stuff We're Loving

Here's a little list of stuff we like/use/read/listen to.

The Monster at the End of This Book. Do you guys remember this book that stars the lovable, furry Grover from Sesame Street? David and I both had this book when we were kids and we found his old copy--a little golden book that has a cover price of 15 cents!--when we were at his mom's over break. We were so excited to read it again. Zuzu has requested it every night since.

Since she tends to be Captain Contrarian these days, it should come as no surprise that she giggles like mad when we turn the pages in spite of Grover's best efforts to stop us.

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It turns out that I'm so vain when it comes to skincare these days. I just feel like being over thirty and having two little ones and my share of emotional baggage and grief lines and lack of sleep and cold, dry winter air is aging my skin. (In spite of the fact we're sleeping with a humidifier on and I'm guzzling water like nobody's business.)

When I was pregnant with Coco, I was so sensitive to smell that I had to switch to unscented everything and I wanted to stick with mostly natural products. I gave my mom the night cream I had been using because the previously pleasant smell made me want to hurl, and I splurged on this night cream. Then I used it up, and didn't want to spend the money on a new pot of it. (It's not La Mer but it still feels spendy to me.) so I switched back to a cheaper brand that I'd liked previously and... Yeah. I noticed the difference almost immediately. Used up the cheaper brand and went back to Origins (their website offers lots of good deals once you're on the mailing list).

So now I'm becoming expensive and high maintenance in my old(er) age. It's hard being vain.

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Serial

I'm mildly obsessed with this podcast. D and I listened to it while driving on our Midwestern Christmas Tour and I've been talking about it ever since--cousins, friends, the new professor in the business department--everyone should listen! DO IT RIGHT NOW.

I'll go ahead and tell you, things don't get tidily wrapped up in the end. She doesn't solve the mystery, but it's still fascinating. And I don't think he did it! But a lot of people disagree with me. And I certainly don't have the Jay mystery figured out... If you've listened, tell me what you think.

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Cotton sheets. There's just no substitute. I was just telling someone the other day about a time David and I stayed the night at one of his friends' houses and the dude had black satin sheets on his guest bed. It was hilarious and also icky. And seriously slippery.

So, keep your satin and your fleece. I'm over jersey and flannel, too. Cotton + cozy duvet all the way.

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New season just started and put couple' crush on Chip and Joanna is going strong. They are the cutest. I kind of want to move to Waco and be BFFs with them. You get a lot of house for your money in Waco, Texas!

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I'm giving this a try. No pressure, no resolutions. Not sure if it will stick, but so far so good. I kind of love it. 

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Nose Frida. Poor Coco has a bit of the snots. Nose Frida to the rescue! (Go ahead and get the one that comes with extra filters, just in case your toddler has an obsession with removing the filter and losing it.)

Funny thing is that Zuzu protested Frida pretty adamantly, but Covo tolerates it just fine and just looks kind of bewildered. Which, as my friend Brandy pointed out, is sort of Coco's classic expression. She vascillates between delight and bewilderment, actually. 

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30 Days of Yoga with Adriene. David and I decided on January 2nd that we needed to do some yoga. We needed a mental break and some stretching after a lot of hours in the car and in not-our-own-bed.

I pulled up YouTube, did a quick search, and we did the first routine with Adriene. We felt so good after, and I like her and her yoga style so much that we've started doing yoga every single day! Lest that sound obnoxious, keep in mind that the videos are usually just 15-20 minutes (plus your own savasana time at the end), so we try to do it as soon David gets home from work. He changes clothes, Coco is usually dozing off about that time so one of us rocks her to sleep, the other ones plops Zuzu in front of Mickey Mouse Club, and then we have a yoga date in the living room in front of a roaring fire. We're often interrupted--Zuzu needs a drink of water or Coco starts fussing, but we just pause the video, take care of business, and then try to get our zen back.

It's one of my favorite parts of the day and it makes us (okay, me) so much less cranky and frantic as we move into the craze of dinner and bath and bedtime and prep for the next day.

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Okay, your turn. What are you loving these days?

Monday, January 5, 2015

First Day of the New Semester

So my first day back to work was preceded by the worst night's sleep. I'm sure a lot of it was anxiety, but a lot of it was that we put fleece sheets on our bed and OMG. WAY TOO HOT. I couldn't handle it. I thought I would love the soft coziness, but it turns out, I like crisp, cool sheets and the weight of the duvet to keep me warm. This fleece has got to go. Switching sheets tonight.

Zuzu twisted the knife in my heart last night when I was reading Baby Listens to her before bed. I love this little rhyming book with its sweet illustrations. On the last page, Baby is looking out the window and hears the rain going "pitter patter patter." You can't see Baby's face, just the back of his head, and he's looking out the window at the street.

Zuzu says, "Oh, Baby sad. He at school. Him mama left him. Him mama go to work."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I was like, "Um, why is Baby sad? He's going to have fun at school! He's going to play with his friends and his teachers!"

She kind of mumbled something and didn't seem too put out by Baby being sad, but of course I felt terrible.

This morning I had to wake Zuzu up much earlier than she would have preferred and as I was brushing her hair she asked me if it was a stay at home with Mama day. I said no, bracing myself for protest, but she didn't seem to mind. Still, this adjustment to life after two weeks of lounging at home or at grandparents' houses with both Mommy and Daddy around is not very easy!

Coco was quite cheerful this morning, had a huge poop when she woke up, and when she barfed (after we were both dressed, of course) she just barely got some on her sleeve and managed to miss me entirely, so that was a win. 

She was asleep in her car seat when I left her in the infant room, and I felt bad about that because I hate the idea of her waking up bewildered and wondering where she is and where her mama went, but I also liked the idea of her peacefully passing time snoozing her car seat.

I called at noon to check on her and the teachers assured me she was doing just fine. I didn't hear her shrieking in the background, so that was a good sign, and then they posted some pictures of her looking a little confused but not fussy as she lay around on the mats with a couple other babies, so I felt better.

When I picked her up, she was totally chill in a swing and she had happily taken two of the three bottles I sent with her (which was what I'd hoped she would take).

All in all, I would say her first day was a success! It's funny because I'm sure she was fussy, but I just feel so much better since I didn't actually witness it. If she'd been crying when I left or when I got there to pick her up, I'd probably be feeling sick over it. But I'm relieved that her teachers really felt like she had a great first day.

Thanks for all the supportive comments on my last post. I was actually getting teary-eyed about some of them! (Emotions were running pretty high yesterday!) My work situation is probably about as ideal as it could be, so no complaints here. Just rolling with the adjustment period of a new phase in a new year. Onward!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Whole New Ball Game

Okay. This sounds kind of crazy, but I am really not sure how tomorrow morning will work.

I start teaching tomorrow morning. A January-term class that meets Mon-Thur from 9-12 for three weeks. My office hours are by appointment because I know I'll be skipping lunch and rushing to pick up Coco after half a day of daycare, at least for the first week.

We're sending Coco to the same awesome daycare where we send Zuzu, and I know she'll be fine.

But of course I still am feeling all the feelings about it.

I really like the teacher who will be her primary caregiver, though. Miss A is so sweet and the babies love her.

As if in answer to my anxiety, I got a text from a friend last week telling me that one of our favorite teachers is back in the infant room starting this month. We loved Miss P when Zuzu was a baby, but she left last year to take care of her grandbaby full time. Now she's back, and I'm so thrilled. She's wonderful with the babies and I just love the idea of the girls having the same teacher. It really did give me a sense of relief.

And Coco does take a bottle, which is more than I can say for Zuzu when she started daycare, so that's a big advantage. She might miss her mama, but at least she won't be hungry!

And even though I'm excited about the class I'm teaching, and there's part of me that's ready to go back to work, I'm now feeling all nostalgic about staying home. I hate how much I will miss these girls. I'm also looking forward to being able to have an uninterrupted thought.

In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf imagines what life would have been like for Shakespeare's sister--a woman of genius and talent living during the Renaissance. Her conclusion is that it would have been terrible, in part because women had no privacy, no room of their own, and therefore were constantly interrupted by the daily struggles of running a household and given no time or space for their own thoughts, dreams, talents, imaginations.

I'm not claiming to have Shakespeare's talents (obvy), but lordy I can relate to the idea of not being able to form a coherent thought because I'm being assailed by crying baby or pooping baby or shrieking toddler or a to-do list of household minutiae. "Mommy brain" is a real thing--it's called constant multi-tasking and it is so hard to do.

So, yeah. What I'm saying is, as hard as it is to leave my baby in daycare (and really, if I could take the whole year off to stay home with her, I would), my job is actually easier for me than staying home. And, except for the whole part that I'm her mama, I'm probably better at my job and more suited for it. I like working on big projects, I like talking about complicated ideas, I like thinking strategically and making plans. I like reading without being interrupted.

In spite of my political and personal alignment with Woolf's views, these choices feel so fraught. I've felt a lot of guilt about working when I have little kids, especially since we lost Eliza. I know that babyhood is a short window and that babies need nothing like they need their mamas.

I also know that I worked really hard to get my degree and that academic jobs are hard to come by and that (on good days) I really love what I do and I feel lucky to get to do it. This is only my fourth year working at my first real post-grad-school job. In many ways, I'm just starting my career and I don't want to give it up. I know my girls have good care, with socialization and activities that I, frankly, lack the interest or ability to provide. I know it's good for kids to be exposed to many different adults who love and care about them.

But, oh, I will miss Coco's face. I'm pretty confident she'll thrive in her daycare environment just as Zuzu did/does, but I will miss her.

After my J-term class is over, I'm teaching MWF so I can stay home two days a week with Coco (and keep Zuzu home with us one of those days). Then I'll have the summer off. I know this is a good arrangement for us (I did the same when Zuzu was a baby), and I know it will work out just fine.

But change is hard. And after snoozing until 9am with both girls over Christmas break, it's really going to be a challenge to get into this new routine tomorrow! (Today we all woke up at 8am. Baby steps.)

I'm laying out outfits for the week for everyone. I'm prepping bottles and will be taking my pump to work. I'm showering the night before and getting up two hours before we need to be out the door.

And I'll be giving myself a lot of pep talks.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Brrrr... Feels like a Spending Freeze!

After trying a spending freeze last year in January, we are geared up to do it again.

(And this time, I do mean we, as this year David would like to avoid a dispute like the one we got into over his purchasing of an unnecessary television--no, I don't care how much it was marked down!)

The deal is the same as last year: for twenty-one days in the month of January, we purchase absolutely nothing that isn't absolutely essential.

Of course that means we pay bills that come due (cable and cell phones are technically not essential, but we're still paying those on time), but otherwise we are purchasing only what we absolutely need--for us, that's basically gas and groceries. Medicine, if we need it. And toilet paper. Yes, we may have newsprint in the recyclables, but I declare toilet paper a necessity.

So... that's it. Starting Monday, January 5 and going until Sunday, January 25.

I wrote our January daycare tuition check yesterday (gulp) so I know we need this to help us focus and be frugal in the new year! The fact is that we have every material thing we really need, and compared to many, many people in this world, our lifestyle is ridiculously luxurious. Instead of focusing on all the things I'm giving up (for twenty-one days... or more?), I'm embracing this as a challenge to simplify and focus--streamlined living in the new year!

Budgeting and moderate spending is obviously important overall, but it kind of feels good to completely abstain. There's no wiggle room ("But this sweater is on sale...") and although there's a definite beginning and end to this challenge, I find it has ongoing influence.

I will allow myself to plan for nonessential purchases to make later (for example, I am going to order prints of photos so poor Colette can have an album or two!) but I find that delaying a purchase for a week or more means that I'll only end up buying what I really value.

Anybody up for a spending freeze? It's like exercise--hard to get motivated, but you'll never regret having done it!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: Year in Review

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
Gave birth (without meds!) to a third baby girl. It was the easiest and best labor and delivery experience I could have imagined--even with the close call of my doctor barely arriving in time to catch the baby! I loved our doula (so if you're in St. Louis and looking for the best doula ever, e-mail me and I'll hook you up.)

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year
So these were my goals for last year (all house related--because evidently as a person I need no further improvement, haha): Complete bookshelves for living room, paint kitchen cabinets, paint basement walls, organize craft/sewing/desk area in basement, make closet more functional, save money!

Those were all completed except for organizing my craft/sewing/desk area. And having another baby means we haven't saved a whole lot more money. So let's just say that's ongoing.

Goals for 2015: Figure out how to use my DSLR camera in manual mode. Be more active. Don't bring work home too often. Make time for yoga. Be energetic and ready for fun.

And one I've had before, but that I think is most important: Give proofs of love.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes. Brandy and Laura both had girl babies just a few months before Coco came along.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

David's grandma Mary passed away this spring.

5. What countries did you visit?

We stuck around the ol' US of A. In fact our travel plans for this summer were canceled due to Baby Belly.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

I'd like to have a relaxing summer. Last summer I taught a class the whole month of June, plus I was huge and uncomfortable with an awkwardly breech big baby, and I couldn't always play with Zuzu the way I wanted to. And then there was all the anxiety that hit me around 36 weeks. So I just want a fun, relatively stress-free summer.

7. What dates from 2014 will remained etched upon your memory?
August 7 - Coco's birthday.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I think I did a good job of balancing my responsibilities and focusing on my priorities. I've found I'm getting much better at shrugging off drama and just focusing on what I know to be true and what matters most to me.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Failure to cloth diaper Coco, failure to potty train Zuzu.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope. Knock on wood. I wasn't sick at all this year. Makes me think I should take prenatal vitamins all the time forever. We are also so fortunate that Zuzu has never been ill with anything more serious than an ear infection, and Coco has also been healthy. I hope so much they stay that way this winter.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets to Las Vegas to meet up with some of my best friends and their darling babes.

Non-material item: Our monthly sponsorship of a girl in Ethiopia who is taking part in Studio Samuel's Training for Tomorrow program. I love hearing how she is doing (my girl is now a group leader!), and it is humbling to think that a negligible sacrifice on our part makes a huge difference in the life of a girl.

Materially speaking: A new headboard for our bed. It's one of those things that I had no idea what I was missing until we got one. It makes our bed feel luxurious and makes our room feel complete. It also inspires me to make the bed every single day.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I'm with Time magazine here--I'm awed and impressed with the doctors and healthcare workers fighting Ebola. 

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The controversy and aftermath of the death of Michael Brown is Ferguson has been incredibly depressing. I think it's important to acknowledge, discuss, and attempt to remedy the systemic racism in our country, but it sucks that we haven't done more to eradicate social injustices.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage and daycare (we are so bourgeois like that).

15. What did you get really excited about?
Raising sisters.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
"Let It Go" - Zuzu's song of the year, and one that she loves belting out, regardless of whether she's singing off-key.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder?  happier - so relieved that the pregnancy I found out about in December of 2013 ended with a healthy baby in 2014.
- thinner or fatter?  fatter - I think it's going to take a little effort to lose these last few pounds of baby weight.
- richer or poorer?  poorer - I took unpaid leave from work so I could stay home with Coco. Worth it. But look for posts on budgeting in 2015!

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Yoga. And cloth diapering--that's its own saga.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Potty training! Haha. But seriously.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my parents at our house, then with my brother, his girlfriend, and my parents at my parents' house, then with my Papa and my dad's siblings and my cousins at my aunt Tammi's, and then with David's family in Kansas. It was a long Christmas week!

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?
Yes. With this little girl:

22. What was your favorite TV program?
The Good Wife (I swear it's the best show on TV, hands down.)

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hmm. Nope. I have written off a few people with a feeling of indifference, but I'm over the hate.

24. What was the best book you read?
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I really got sucked in. I also enjoyed Amy Poehler's book Yes, Please!, JoJo Moyes's Me Before You, Cristina Henriquez's The Book of Unknown Americans, and TaraShea Nesbit's The Wives of Los Alamos. A wide range of topics/styles/types of books.

25. What was your favorite musical discovery?
Since we have established that I'm too old and lame to make musical discoveries, my favorite musical moment was dancing to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" in the kitchen with Zuzu and my friend Erin. It was such a silly, sweet, funny moment. Zuzu still talks about it and asks for the "Play, play, play" song quite frequently. Say what you will, Taylor Swift knows how to right a catchy tune.

26. What did you want and get?
Another baby girl.

27. What did you want and not get?
A baby boy. (Isn't that weird? I really wanted another girl, but now I am sort of wistful about the fact that we'll--in all likelihood--never have a boy.)

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Into the Woods (Confession: I can't even remember seeing another film this year.)

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
My birthday was decidedly unmemorable this year. I was 34. I was super pregnant. I wanted to go ahead and have the baby THAT DAY. I did not have the baby, but I can't even tell you what I did otherwise. I think maybe we went to the Botanical Gardens? David and I went to dinner but I didn't have much appetite. Next year, I swear I'm going to do something more exciting.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Getting a full year of paid maternity leave. (Can I get a HELL YEAH from my fellow Americans?)

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Maternity Wear. Specifically leggings, tunics, and dresses. I've now gotten rid of virtually all my maternity clothes so my personal fashion concept for the post-August year is Postpartum Wear. My wardrobe has shrunk considerably! Still wearing a lot of leggings, tunics, and scarves.

32. What kept you sane?
David, my best e-mail buddies, my friend Erin at work, and Zuzu saying, "I love you, Mama," unprompted.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Chip and Joanna Gaines. David and I have a couple crush on them. They are SO CUTE.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Ferguson

35. Who did you miss?
Eliza, of course, and grandparents whom we wish could have had time--or more time--with Zuzu and Coco.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Technically, I'd met them before, but the best new person in our lives is Zuzu's teacher in the two-year-old room at school. I love that Zuzu runs into to school and happily kisses me good-bye.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
Sometimes surprises can be awesome.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Time was I had a dream
And you're that dream come true
And if I had the world to give,
I'd give it all to you.

I'll take you to the mountains,
I will take you to the sea,
And I'll show you how this life became
A miracle to me.

(From Dar Williams's "The One Who Knows")


May 2015 sparkle for you and yours. Here's to a new year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Little Drummer Girl

Thanks for the drum set, Santa. Zuzu's mommy and daddy think that you're kind of an a-hole.



But the dancing Santa-Baby makes me laugh, so no hard feelings.



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Potty Training Update: No More Puddles!

Yes, that's right! I'm not cleaning up any more puddles of pee!

Because I put her ass back in diapers.

I know, I know. Stay strong! Stay the course! She'll get it eventually!

Well, people. I was having STRESS DREAMS about potty training. I'd tried little bribes and BIG prizes--Frozen jelly beans, stickers, a Minnie Mouse book--and then I threatened to throw her treats in the trash.  David was giving her a Skittle just to sit on the damn potty (which she wouldn't always do).

One afternoon she pooped her pants, so we followed the protocol of rushing her to the bathroom, and dumping the turd in the toilet. "See! Poop goes in the potty!". And then she had the nerve to ask for a mother-effing treat! Are you KIDDING me?

When I woke up on Christmas Eve morning, she was dry but she wouldn't pee in the potty (screaming fit, "I dry! I DRY!").  About twenty minutes later I said, "Don't forget to tell me when you have to pee, honey!"

Approximately thirty seconds after my friendly reminder, she turned, looked at me, and peed her pants on the carpet. It was SO over.

I was SO MAD and I did not want to spend Christmas Eve pissed off at my two-year-old.

I did not want to be constantly thinking about and talking about pee and poop.

I was starting to fear for my marriage because David and I were being ragey with each other instead of being ragey with Zuzu and life was Very Unpleasant.

And I did not want to have to put down my Christmas morning mimosa in order to clean up bodily waste.

Also we were running out of laundry detergent.

So I plopped her in the bathtub, put her in diapers, and then did a Yoga for Stress Relief video.

My mom took her up for her nap that afternoon and, during the story, Zuzu sat up and started taking off her diaper. My mom asked what she was doing.

"I go pee."

That kid took off her own diaper, walked to the potty, and peed in it.

SHE IS JUST TORMENTING ME!

But we haven't had a success like that since, and we've kept her in diapers now that we're on our Holiday Tour of the Midwest.

I'm annoyed, but trying to keep perspective here. We'll try again in 30 days or so and see how things go.

And we had a very nice, puddle-free Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 Christmas Letter

Every year I sent out snail mail Christmas cards and I always include a Christmas letter (you can read last year's letter here). I don't think many people send letters anymore--probably because Facebook means that most of us (I'm still not on FB) keep up with each other more easily than back in the old days. But I used to love reading the Christmas letters my parents got, so I'm keeping up the tradition.

Another annual tradition is that every year I realize someone got inadvertently left off the list or skipped over by mistake and I don't have enough cards. (And yes, it happened again this year, with two families, so sorry about that. Check your mailbox for Christmas 2015.)

Anyway, if I don't have your snail mail address or the letter got skipped in the assembly process (when a toddler helps, things tend to go a little haywire), you're in luck! Here's this year's Christmas letter. Super cheesy, but fun to write.

’Twas a few weeks before Christmas, and all through our house
The talk was of Santa (and also Minnie Mouse).
The stockings were hung, the tree all alight,
A candle for Eliza glowing soft and bright.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of toys and mama-milk danced in their heads.
And I (with my laptop) and David (with his phone)
Had just settled down in our peaceful home,
When I decided to write a rhyming Christmas letter.
As a use of my time, there seemed nothing better.
This letter will take you through our family’s last year,
The laughter, the fun, the crazy, the beer.
January started 2014 with snow that never got old
For Zuzu, who didn’t seem to mind the cold.
February brought an announcement of joy
We were expecting a baby! Surprise girl? Or boy?
March was a month of travel for all:
David went to KC for beer fantasy baseball;
Brooke and Zuzu flew on a plane out west
To meet up with friends (some of the best).
We also visited Papa out on his farm
And Zuzu petted a baby goat out by the barn.
April was Easter with Grammy and Bop.
(Zuzu is kind of like the bunny that just won’t stop.)
In May we welcomed the end of school
For professors and principals, summer’s always cool.
June brought us something new—
Caroline was turning two!
She had her favorite kind of birthday bash
A party with water—a big splish-splash.
We went to Branson for Independence Day
Gma Peggy, Memaw, Pepaw, Grammy, & Bop came to play.
July marked ten years of marriage, standing side by side
(It’s obvious to all that I was a child bride).
But our anniversary travels are still on delay
Since a big baby belly was in the way!
July marked our countdown to Baby Duck #3
We couldn’t wait to find out if it was a she or a he.
August 7th brought us the results of that gender bet,
Our third beautiful girl: Baby Colette.
Zuzu adored her baby sister,
and school started for the Duckworth mister.
The missus stayed home with Zuzu and Coco.
And by September, they were on the go-go.
To the park! To the library! And Zuzu to school!
(Sometimes it was still warm enough to go to the pool.)
October had lots of fun to match:
visiting friends, trick-or-treating, and a pumpkin patch!
We had family in town to see our Little Bo Peep
And they all got to hold her sweet little sheep.
November days brought cold and early snow,
and warm afternoons cuddling Zuzu and Coco.
Thanksgiving was spent at home in St. Louis
With the girls’ grandparents traveling to us.
And now Christmas is fun is heading our way
And Zuzu’s counting down the days.
It’s always bittersweet, this month of December
We miss our Eliza, family, and friends we remember.
Our hearts go out to those missing loved ones
And we hope the days ahead are peaceful and fun ones.
Tonight we are sending you love and good wishes
And from our sweet girls, plenty of big hugs and kisses.
Caroline and Colette have made this our very best year
Full of laughter (and laundry) and lots of good beer.
We love it when Colette giggles and Caroline sings,
      (“LET IT GOOOOOO…”)
And we can’t wait to see what the New Year brings.
Now I’ll add this last note, before we turn out the lights,

Merry Christmas, Happy Everything, and to all a good night!