Monday, December 15, 2014

Conversations with Zuzu Part III

Scene: Our small guest bathroom. It normally has a rug on the floor in front of the sink that basically takes up most of the floor in the bathroom. I'd tossed it in the washing machine, so the tile floor was bare. Zuzu went in to wash her hands.

Zuzu: Mama! There's a sidewalk in here!

# # #

Zuzu: I want a tweat.

Grammy: You only get a treat if you peepee in the potty.

Zuzu: No, Grammy! Don't talk like that.

# # #

Scene: Zuzu is playing in her little kitchen with David.

David: Do you like milk, ice cream, or orange juice?

Zuzu: I like orange juice.

David: What about coffee?

Zuzu: No, Grammy drink coffee.

David: Does Bop ever drink coffee?

Zuzu: Yes, Bop drink coffee and Grammy drink coffee herself!

David: What about Daddy? Do I drink coffee?

Zuzu: No, you drink beer. You need some beer?

# # #

Scene: Running through dining room, Zuzu hurts her foot.

Zuzu: Oh, no! I stubbed my mommy-toe!

Me: Which one is your mommy-toe?

(Zuzu points to big toe on left foot.)

Me: Do you have a daddy-toe?

Zuzu: (In a tone that implies her mother is an idiot.) Right der. (points to big toe on right foot)

# # #

Scene: Dining at restaurant. Getting reading to leave. I'm fastening Colette into her carseat. Booth behind us has two couples sitting in it. Zuzu turns around and sticks her head in their booth (because people love that).

Zuzu: Hi!

Me: Zuzu, come on, let's get your coat on.

Zuzu: I saw Santa Ho-Ho.

Man in booth: (appears friendly and slightly inebriated) Did you ask him if he was bringing me any presents?

Zuzu: No! He brings toys! Pink toys!

Me: Come on, Zuzu, let's go!

People in booth: Bye! Have a good night!

Zuzu: Bye! Have a good night.

# # #

Scene: Coco finished eating, is burping.

Zuzu: Mama, Colette burting?

Me: Yes, she's burping.

Zuzu: She burt a lot. Big burts... yittle burts... Oh NO! She's slitting*! She's slitting!

(*spitting--in case that wasn't obvious)

# # #

Scene: I've just sat down to nurse the baby.

Zuzu: (dancing around like an elf) I'm peeing! I have to pee! My pee-pee comin' out!

Me: Seriously? Do you want to go peepee on the potty?

Zuzu: (Stops spinning, points at me, says in a voice that can only be described as a demonic growl) NEVER!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Weekend As It Was

Well, we made it through Eliza's birthday. The day didn't exactly go as planned, but it wasn't the worst December 6th we've ever had (or even the second or third worst, really).

We ran a few errands in the morning and I said to David as we were walking out the door with the girls and all their paraphernalia, that if you'd told me four years ago that I'd on my way to run errands with two little girls, I don't think I would have believed it. How is it possible that I had three children in the amount of time it takes to get a bachelor's degree?

Anyway, I needed to pick up Christmas cards and we needed to get my ring from the jeweler so we took care of those little things and came home to eat lunch--much to Zuzu's disappointment. She had overheard our conversation about dinner plans and thought we were going to a restaurant for lunch.

David's car has been having some issues, so he decided to take a look at new car, leaving me to put the girls down for their afternoon nap. This did not go especially well. My friend K stopped by to drop off a thoughtful gift (this amazing, sweet, and sad book) and some hand-me-downs (we loooove her girls and their hand-me-downs) and there was no way that Zuzu was letting me answer the door alone. She gave K some hugs and waved to the girls and then we headed back upstairs where I finally got her to go to sleep.

I took advantage of naptime by reading a mindless mystery novel. I also had the book Ghostbelly, which a friend recommended, but I found that I just needed an escape for my brain.

I was annoyed that David got back later we had planned (not his fault, just another example of life not going according to plan). We'd wanted to go out to the garden where the vigil is held and place a flower at the Angel of Hope statue before we went to dinner. After the ceremony, everyone is invited to leave a flower at the angel, but because the weather was fairly decent and it was on a Saturday, we expected there to be a big crowd (and there was) so we figured that the girls wouldn't last long enough to go through the long line afterward.

But by the time David got home and we got everybody's diapers changed and ready to load up in the car, we didn't have time for that. We grabbed a quick dinner at one of our favorite delis (that word is weird looking), which is also the deli we went to before going to the grief support group at the hospital. Zuzu was on good behavior and Coco was sleeping, so dinner went really well.

In retrospect, I don't know why I had assumed the girls would be well-behaved at the vigil. It hadn't even occurred to me that Zuzu might run around the dark garden like a maniac and Coco might get fussy in the stroller.

But of course both of those things happened.

We listened to the main speech and one song and then Coco started crying. If we'd been anywhere else, I probably would have taken a couple minutes to comfort her and I think she would have settled down. But I knew there were people in that crowd who could NOT hear a baby crying--people who just a few short months or weeks (or years) ago had been those people in the hospital whose baby was silent while other newborns squawked and wailed.

I turned to David and said, "We've got to get out of here."

I know that hearing a baby cry could be such a grief trigger, and as much as I wanted to stay at the vigil and have a few minutes to focus on Eliza, we had to go. (Plus Zuzu was picking up luminaries at this point, and when David picked her up, she started yelling, "No! Don't take me up! Let me go!")

And so we loaded back up in the car, having been at the vigil for a total of about fifteen minutes.

We decided to drive through the Christmas light display in a nearby park, only to discover that the park was closed to cars that night and you had to rent a carriage to take you through to see the lights. Which required reservations and started at $75.

By this time, Coco was hungry and furious, so we pulled over in a mall parking lot and I nursed her in the car.

We decided that we'd just drive through Candy Cane Lane--a block in our neighborhood that decorates cooperatively for Christmas with red and white lights. But when we turned toward Candy Cane Lane, the line of cars was backed up three blocks.

It was kind of like the time we went to see Wicked but then discovered our tickets were for the wrong night, and then tried to go see Harry Potter but it was sold out. You just have to figure that the universe is stacked against you and you need to call it a night.

We went home and watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I felt teary and sad and also teary and grateful for all the notes and texts and e-mails I'd gotten from people thinking of us and remembering Eliza.

I ended up falling asleep before Zuzu did.

The next day we'd planned to go to church before I had to attend my university's December graduation, but then I realized that I'd brought home the gown for my academic regalia and left the hood and tam in my office. The graduation was in a big convention center no where near campus, so I had to make a roundtrip commute to campus, get my hood and tam, and come back home to get ready to drive 30 minutes in the opposite direction.

I arrived at graduation only to discover that I wasn't even on the freaking list, so they didn't have a seat for me. (No one is sure why, since I was receiving all the e-mails about being at graduation and it's required for all faculty.)

I made sure the president of the university saw me because I wanted credit for being there, and then I took the spot of someone who was a no-show.

I proceeded in with the faculty, while carrying my breast pump. I also got up an hour into the two-and-a-half-hour ceremony to walk out carrying my pump and go use it. I could have left it in a dressing room, but I wasn't sure if they'd be locked while we were in the ceremony and I didn't want to get locked out.

It was a long day, and even though I wasn't especially emotional, I was tired from the emotional hangover.

And now we are full-fledged into the Christmas season. I need to get cards mailed. I need to get gifts wrapped. You know, so I can hide them in the closet downstairs until Christmas Eve since the gifts I put under the tree were UNWRAPPED by a naughty little elf--for some reason I never imagined she would do this, even though we're talking about the child who scales the kitchen cabinets (using the drawer handles as toe-holds) to climb up on the counters and eat a baguette--she truly needs to be leashed even while at home.

But today Zuzu is at school, Coco is napping in front of the fire and I'm typing this as I sit next to her. Our tree is decorated with Baby's First Christmas 2014 and Elsa and several gorgeous Eliza ornaments and although the grief is still heavy, I can breathe. I'm looking forward to experiencing Christmas morning with Zuzu and Coco, and I'm trying to get psyched for the road trips that we will be taking on our Midwest Christmas Tour. Life is sparkly again, in a way I never thought would have been possible four years ago.

Like the anniversary day itself, it's not the life I had planned. But we are finding our way.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

{Four Years}

It will be four years tomorrow.

I've experimented with a lot of grief analogies, seeking a way to describe or at least try to understand myself what I'm feeling.

I keep coming back to the Mary Oliver poem that says

"It's not the weight you carry

but how you carry it--
books, bricks, grief--
it's all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down."

Four years out, I've gotten good at balancing my grief. It's heavy as hell, but I've learned to carry it, to balance it, to make space for it without letting grief crowd out the joy in my life.

But in early December, I stumble.

I lose my balance.

I fight to get it back, and most days this week I was pretty good at carrying a two-year-old, an almost-four-month-old, and the ghost of their would-be-four-year-old sister.

But other days I forget how to balance this heavy, heavy grief, while I'm also supposed to be carrying the holiday countdown and grocery shopping and tree decorating and Christmas crafts and normal routines. It feels like too much, like I'm off-center, and suddenly the weight of grief is crushing me.

This means I go back to moments I don't want to relive, but that I can't stop thinking about because they are the only moments I got with her. The regret and the guilt and the sadness bubble up and among all the sparkle and the blessings and the happiness of the holiday season with two little girls here at home. And when that happens, I'm overwhelmed with sadness and grief. I miss my four-year-old girl. I still miss her so much.

I miss her the way you miss a chance not taken, a missed opportunity, a regret not of what you did, but of what you didn't do, what you should have done, what might have happened. What you'll never know. What you'll always wish you could do over.

I miss her with guilt for what I should have done and could have done and might have done and didn't do and didn't know. I fear that I failed her and even though I would argue with a friend who said she felt the same ("Of course it's not your fault..."), my heart just can't quite let it go.

I miss her with anger that has no where to go, no specific direction. Impotent fury at God, at the universe, at my luck, at our fate, at the unfair brutality of statistics that fall randomly instead of predictably (as though predictable tragedy is preferable to arbitrary tragedy). I'm angry at everything and nothing. I'm angrier now than I was at first, as though I'm circling back to that particular state of grief (of course, because we know grief is not linear, no matter how much we wish it were).

I miss her with self-pity, because seriously: "Why me? Why us? Why our baby?"

I miss her with judgment and fury at the people who have and keep healthy children, only to mistreat or neglect them.

I miss her with a gnawing jealousy of the people who have and keep healthy children and live lives untouched by this kind of loss.

I miss her with embarrassment and shame for not being smart enough or intuitive enough to know she was dying inside me.

I also miss the person I would have been if she were here--stupider, simpler, more naive, yes, but mostly a mama who got to bring her first baby home from the hospital. A person who fully embraced the cheesy splendor of the Christmas season instead of crying every time we decorate. A person who knew little of dead babies and broken hearts. A person who believed that things work out in the end because that's just the way things work. A person who could host baby showers and squeal over pregnancies. A person who didn't feel set apart from her peers, marked as different among even her closest friends. I miss being that person, and yet I almost can't remember who she was anymore.

I miss Eliza with the poignant awareness that if we hadn't lost her, we wouldn't have these two girls we have now, and the simultaneous understanding that even abundant recompense does not really make up for a unique and perfect little girl who is not here.

I couldn't trade these girls to get her back, and yet it's equally unfathomable and sickening to me that I had to give up Eliza in order to get her sisters.

Oh, how I miss the baby I dreamed of snuggling, the little girl that I should have been able to watch grow up. I miss her smile and her laughter and her first steps and her first words and her first teeth and her first day of school, and all the other firsts that never happened and never will.

But mostly I miss her. My first baby. My grown up four year old girl. Eliza.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Life This Week

So this week has been full of lots of ups and downs. Mostly in regard to my mood, not actual things that are happening.

Today is, weirdly enough, an up day. I woke up feeling pretty good this morning. Zuzu was in bed with me because she now joins us in bed in the middle of the night every night (crib! I miss you.) and Coco was in bed with us because I nurse her in bed in the middle of the night and then fall asleep so she just stays in bed and cuddles with me. Zuzu woke up and gave me kisses and was so sweet and gentle with Coco that my heart exploded.

We hit a bit of a snag when it came time to get dressed and ready for school. Zuzu has rather suddenly developed very strong opinions about clothing. I have tried all the tricks--letting her choose between two outfits, laying out her clothes the night before--and yet this morning while I was changing Coco's diaper and getting her dressed, Zuzu was in her room pulling on candy cane pajama pants and her Cardinals t-shirt. She then declared herself dressed and ready for school. Nevermind the adorable Mini-Boden corduroy jumper and red cable-knit tights that I had laid out.

I managed to coax her into the outfit of my choice, but she then insisted on wearing moccasins that are too big for her, so I let her wear them out to the car and then put the mary janes on before we went into school, promising the moccasins would wait for her in the car.

In other news... we're sort of doing Elf on the Shelf this year. We read her the story the other night and she didn't really get it and when I asked her what the elf's name was, she muttered something unintelligible that sounded like "Tennyson" and then said it was "Ho-ho." And then I got sad and frustrated because if Eliza were here she'd be totally into the Elf and it would have a name, so I said we'd just put it away.

But then my friend Molly pointed out that the two-year-old set gets excited about finding the elf each morning, even if they aren't old enough to get the rest of it (you know, the part where the elf is a spy sent by Santa to tattle... yeah, it's kinda creepy).

So anyway, our Elf is back and she just shows up in a different place each morning because finding her is actually an awesome distraction from the meltdown over having to wear something besides pajama pants and a Cardinals t-shirt. And she shall just remain nameless until next year.

This morning after the clothing negotiations, we ready to walk out the door but when I picked up Coco to put her in the carseat, I discovered she'd had a huge blowout so I had to run up and change clothes. I took off her sleeper and put her in a cute little ensemble that includes a onesie that reads "On the Nice List" (note to my Mom: I found it in my car). Then I picked her up to head downstairs and she barfed all over both of us. Big enough that we BOTH had to change clothes.

As I was changing my shirt, I realized Zuzu had been alone downstairs and quiet for some time, which could only mean trouble.

Sure enough, when I got downstairs I found that she had pulled the container of brown sugar out of the pantry and was eating it BY THE HANDFUL.

Sorry to her teachers for the sugar rush and crash, and also, who would like some home-baked treats this season? We are very sanitary here.

We finally got Zuzu to school and then I ran to Target where Coco was the awesomest shopper ever (meaning she was asleep) and I treated myself to a chai tea latte. I picked up a few necessities and then headed home to decorate the tree.

Decorating for Christmas is kind of a heavy thing... I always feel a little sad, and getting Eliza's stocking out makes me cry. And of course this year Zuzu was into everything. Her excitement is adorable, though.

(Shortly before the tree went up, she had a pants-off dance off to "Jingle Bells.")

We dragged all the boxes out and put up a few things on Sunday, put the tree up on Monday (without any ornaments on it), and the rest of the stuff is just sitting in boxes in the dining room and the house is a mess. I was waiting for the weekend for us to do it together, but last night David was like, "Why don't you just do it?"

Weirdly, that feels less sad than trying to make it a big family thing or spending Eliza's birthday weekend decorating for Christmas. I'm just going to put up my favorite ornaments today and it will be done and the dining room won't be full of boxes anymore and that's just how it's going to be this year. It feels less like a "Thing" and more like just seasonal decorating (which I really like doing).

(Of course I'm not listening to Christmas music while I do it because that "All I Want for Christmas Is You" song still guts me.)

I just finished reading Meghan O'Rourke's The Long Goodbye which was so good and a really good space for me to sit with my grief and at the same time remember that I'm not alone in feeling it, and now I'm completely switching gears and reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress which is really amusing and enjoyable.

So... that's where things stand this week. Our plan for Eliza's birthday is to attend the annual candlelight vigil held every year on December 6th. The weather is supposed to be mild enough that we'll take the girls with us. We are planning to go to dinner (with our favorite restaurant companion, the iPad) and maybe do a little window shopping before the vigil, but we're not going to go see Santa because I just decided it's too much. So we'll save Santa for next weekend.

I'm not sure why today feels like a respite from the heaviness of grief--yesterday I was kind of a mess. But obviously it's not something I get to choose, so I'll take what I get today.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Microblog Monday: Memories Make a Life

Have you heard of Sevenly? They feature a different charity each week and every item sold donates $7 to a charity, and they also sell series of t-shirts that benefit other charities.

If you're still looking for a gift idea (or stuffing your own stocking), put this shirt on your list (or feel free to buy it for me, hint, hint):

The sale of this shirt benefits Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep--an organization that provides professional photography for parents who have lost a newborn. (Sidenote: my friend Brandy nominated NILMDTS for a Jolly Time Popcorn Kernels of Kindness prize and they won!)

We had Eliza's pictures taken by NILMDTS even though I thought maybe I didn't want them. Our nurse Stephanie was basically like, "You think you don't, but really you do" and I'm so grateful to her for encouraging us to have them taken. Those photos hurt my heart and fill it up at the same time. I can hardly bear to look at them, and yet they would be one of the first material items I would save if my house were on fire. They honored her and I will always be grateful for that, no matter how traumatic and painful things were, she was still our baby girl and they made her feel real and meaningful.

Before Eliza, I would have said that taking pictures of dead babies is morbid or something, but before Eliza, I was an idiot who had no idea what it was like to lose a baby.

NILMDTS is an act of generosity and love in the most unimaginable circumstances. It's an all-volunteer organization and photographers are on call to go to hospitals and give parents who will leave with empty arms something to hold onto.

I like this shirt, too (also benefits NILMDTS):

Each year we make a donation in memory of Eliza to a different charity. I never plan or know ahead of time what it will be, but there is always a particular issue that speaks to my heart right around her birthday. The first year we donated to the project a friend of mine was organizing through the Peace Corps. The next year it was Living Water International. Last year we made a microloan through Kiva. This year, on what should be her fourth birthday, we'll donate to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

Do you have a favorite organization that gets a donation in memory or honor of someone each year? Name your charity and link in the comments. I'd love to check it out.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giving the Thanks and Drinking the Wine and Buying the Rug

So Thanksgiving was actually nice in an uneventful way. We had a lot of food. David and my mom cooked almost all of it. I was making the green beans with roasted almonds (in lieu of that narsty greenbean casserole with crunchy onions on it that I think is disgusting but everyone else in the midwest apparently loves) but then Coco needed mama-milk, so David made that too. Win!

My parents are here and David's mom also drove in so Zuzu has been overwhelmed with grandparent attention and by dinner time she has morphed from charming toddler to OUT OF CONTROL, but we're having fun. When we're not turning off the hot water heater (yes, seriously, and I have no idea how), breaking Christmas bulbs (announced with a cheerful, "Oh, no, I bloke it!"), or whining for more screen time, (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, you will be the end of me!).

Anybody get any awesome Black Friday deals?

I actually went to the mall, but only because I was having photos of the girls taken at JC Penney. As cheesy as those studio portraits are, I can't help but love them. I started taking Zuzu for portraits in her Christmas dress and Easter dress each year. The photos aren't my favorites of all time, but I just want a picture of the dresses against a white backdrop. Zuzu was a bit of a pill, but not as bad as she was at Easter. Coco was fabulously cooperative, and we did end up with some cute shots this time.

They were a steal of a deal because I always use a coupon AND this time I had a free $10 gift card. See, I ordered a gift for Zuzu (thanks to a blog reader's recommendation!), went ahead and paid for it when I ordered it, and had David pick it up for me at our local store when it came in.

Well, he knew what he was picking up but inexplicably arrived home with two packages. I was like, "What is this second large package that we did not order?"

David shrugged, like it was none of his concern that he was picking up things we did not order from the store and not paying for them.

Anyway, I opened the large mystery package and it turned out to be an unattractive bedspread. So I schlepped it back up to JCP the next day.

I guess I could have said it was a gift and asked for store credit, but instead I was honest and the manager was so grateful that I'd brought back the bedspread that she gave me a gift card. $10 is probably way less than the bedspread cost, but still. Honesty pays!

Anyway, we got the girls' pictures taken in their matching dresses and then we came home for lunch and while Zuzu napped, David and his mom and Coco and I went to a craft fair where I wanted to buy ALL THE HAIR BOWS but instead just bought Minnie Mouse but asked a friend of mine who was going the next morning to get Santa Claus and Elsa. (I wanted Anna, but she was all gone. The regret is real.)

Coco was super charming and well behaved in the Ergo, peeking at friendly old people with her big eyes and smiling at them with her huge smile and then falling asleep. She did get fussy on the way home, but it was my fault because I lost her binky somewhere in the craft fair or possibly in the parking lot. It had a ribbon clip on it. I don't know what happened. Parenting fail.

We had pizza for dinner Friday night and Zuzu was beyond crazed and actually said it was "Mommy's turn" to put her to bed which tells you how overstimulated and tired she was (normally she would choose Grammy or Bop when they're visiting).

I rocked her to sleep and then came downstairs, poured a glass of wine, fired up on the laptop, and bought a new rug from Rugs USA! They were having a 75% off Black Friday Sale (which appears to still be going on, so if you need a rug...). I've been wanting a wool area rug for the front room to replace the one that I haven't really loved since I purchased it for our old house--its selling point was that it looked okay with our old PLAID sofas (I do not miss them!) so it's time for something new.

Of course, I've been browsing rugs for months and months and I could never decide what I wanted, and did I want something colorful or something patterned or what and finally last night I was like, "Just pull the trigger. Whatever you get will be better than what's there now and what's the worst that could happen? You change your mind later? You want to buy new curtains? I think you'll survive."

But I ended up letting David's opinion influence me, so instead of a colorful pattern, we got a gray and ivory rug which means that I totally will want to get a new COUCH (because our couch is gray and I want it to be colbalt blue, naturally), but I'll probably settle for bright throw pillows. (And maybe new curtains? We shall see.)

So that was my big excitement for the day. I actually have all my Christmas shopping already done except for David's niece and nephew. I was hoping his mom would give me some ideas, but she just said that his nephew likes blocks but isn't big enough for Legos and his niece "likes everything." So, kinda vague. I'll probably just let Zuzu pick out something for them at Target.

Coco did me a solid by sleeping well last night and the grandparents took Zuzu to a train exhibit and the park this morning. It's crazy warm today (60 degrees and sunny) so David is putting up Christmas lights outside and I am still in my pajamas typing this. I should be putting away laundry and doing some more laundry and maybe thinking about taking a shower, but you know... It's Thanksgiving weekend and I'll probably just warm up some leftovers, grab a few candy cane Joe-Joes, and see what's on Netflix.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We Are All Angry and Afraid

I live in St. Louis. And while my blog has been sort of Jane-Austen-like in what appears to be a blatant disregard for political events (for the record: I don't think that's true of Jane Austen) and instead indulges in the narcissistic glory of whatever it is I decide to write about myself (also not true of Austen; in fact, my blog actually has virtually nothing in common with Austen except maybe an insufferable heroine--haha), the Ferguson tragedy is so close to home that I can't not write about it.

The violence is scary. The loss of Michael Brown's life is tragic. The antagonism between the police and the people of Ferguson is appalling. The systemic problems are undeniable.

David and I never watch TV news because I can't stand the combination of sensationalism and banality, but we watched last night as the grand jury verdict was read. And we watched the aftermath.

I wasn't on the grand jury. I don't know all the facts of this case. But I do know that these issues go beyond St. Louis and beyond today's headlines.

Last year, I saw Dawn Porter speak. She's a lawyer-turned-filmmaker who made a documentary called Gideon's Army (you can rent and stream it on Amazon--I highly recommend it). The statistics she mentioned shocked me. The justice system is no where near just, and minorities--especially young, black men--and poor people are the ones who pay the price.

I understand why people are angry. They're not just angry about this one incident. They are angry about everything they feel it represents--a longstanding history of disenfranchisement and prejudice and fear.

I look at my students (like the young black man with dreadlocks who told me after class one day that reading Shakespeare is sort of like "songs without music." I smiled and said, "Yeah. We call that poetry." And we both laughed.) I look at my friends' kids, their adorable faces in my Instagram feed, I look at Zuzu's daycare buddies who touch Coco's feet with gentle hands, and I know why people are angry. It's infuriating to think that these boys face a world that will fear and misjudge them. I'm angry, too.

And I watch the footage of burning buildings and people looting stores, and I know why people are scared. It's scary to see the way mob mentality moves from righteous indignation to violence and destruction. I'm scared, too.

It's a huge problem that goes way beyond this verdict and I wish I had something powerful or wise to say about it. I want to fix it. But I still struggle to make some of my students understand the generations of mistreatment and misunderstanding that led us to where we are today.

I'm choosing to be optimistic here (easy for me to say, I know). But I would like to believe this could be a turning point. 

I hope our city recovers from this in a productive way that affects real changes, in policy and in perspective. I hope we find a way to move toward peace. I hope we can realize that we should all be fighting for the same thing: neighborhoods in which everyone feels safe, and cities we can be proud to call home. It's certainly better than the alternative--in which we are all angry and afraid.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

(Christmas) Photos in Forest Park

I mentioned before that I was saving the two best photos from the park because I thought I'd use them on Christmas cards.

Well, I ended up doing something different for this year's Christmas card. I'm doing a collage of several snapshots (one from each month) instead of a posed family photo.

Let's pretend this idea was a deliberate exercise in creativity instead of a testament to the fact that the four of us have not taken a decent family photo since Colette was born (and David wanted all of us to be in the photo instead of just the girls).

All this to say, here are the two photos I thought I was saving for Christmas cards but I now will be printing and framing somewhere in my house. They pretty much capture exactly who Zuzu and Coco were in mid-October of this year.


Oh, my Zuzu. So big!
Coco has already changed so much--she's rolling over now and she really laughed out loud for the first time over the weekend.

(Not at me or David or Zuzu--no she started chuckling on Saturday night when a friend of ours tickled her tummy while speaking to her in Polish. I don't speak Polish, so I have no idea what she was saying, but Coco evidently found it very amusing. And I am totally jealous that her first giggles were for someone else, yes. But it was also adorable.)

OMG she just giggled for me when I did "ugga-mugga" from Daniel Tiger (rubbing my nose on her nose while saying "ugga-mugga"). It was the cutest. I should make everyone those musical cards except instead of Christmas carols, they would play baby Coco giggles when you opened it up. Best card ever.

With snow still on the ground and sleet in the forecast, it feels like Christmas is coming up fast. I'm trying to get my shopping and cards done before Thanksgiving if possible since I'm typically not very productive in December (grief makes me lethargic and also not very jolly, go figure).

These girls, though, they are a good reason to smile.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Can We Talk About Hostess Gifts?

Do you guys give them? Hostess gifts, I mean. Have you received them?

I always see all these gift guides and suggestions for hostess gifts. And I think, Yes, I should be giving hostess gifts of bath salts and fancy peppercorn mills and whatnot.

And then I think, But, to WHOM am I supposed to give these things? 

I mean, I have taken a bottle of wine to a dinner party. But should I be doing more???

I hosted a party last weekend (WHOA. I know. To tell you the truth, it's only the second party I've hosted at my house since Eliza died. The first being Zuzu's first birthday party. But actually it wasn't really a party party. It was a potluck. And I only invited people from work. So, minimal party prep (I vacuumed and made a casserole) and a lot of shop talk (work gossip totally counts as shop talk)).

Anyway, I hosted a party. And NO ONE brought me a hostess gift.

Hmm. Maybe because I made them bring their own food?

In all seriousness... I would NEVER expect a hostess gift at a potluck (in fact, I think it would be kinda weird). But I wonder if I've been lax in not giving hostess gifts before. Like, are you supposed to give them to family members? I would feel totally awkward if people I'd invited to my home for the weekend thought that I expected a gift.

(But I am making Crafty Cousin Amanda bring her new Silhouette machine because we be making some crafty t-shirts up in here on Thanksgiving weekend!)

(And, come to think of it, I thoroughly enjoyed the little gift basket that my brother's adorable girlfriend gave me after they stayed here this summer. It NEVER would have occurred to my brother to give a gift outside of birthday and Christmas, but his girlfriend put together a cute little basket with some DoTerra lotions and toothpaste and cough drops. And I loved it. So maybe I should be giving hostess gifts! And also visiting people.)

I visited my friend Monica a few weekends ago when we took the girls to a pumpkin patch. I realize now I was probably totally remiss in not taking her a hostess gift. But I can't imagine she was expecting one. Of course, the point of a gift is that it's really nice if it's unexpected, right?

Now I feel like a bad friend and an ungrateful houseguest. Should I post-date a gift and send it to my friend Monica? (But I wouldn't want her to think she had to get me a gift when she came to my house, you know? I mean, surely twenty years of friendship puts us beyond that?)

I mean, I were going somewhere on vacation and staying at someone else's house who wasn't my family, then I would get them a gift. I'm just not sure what... (Feel free to invite me, though. I'll come up with something.) Is there a number of days before a gift is required? Or the level of giftiness needs to increase if you're there more than, say, 48 hours?

These are serious questions.

I mean, I don't have to give my mom a hostess gift, right?  I'm already buying her Christmas gifts. And also I'm giving her the gift of my presence. Or at least my kids, whom she appears to enjoy hugely.

One time David and I went to a Christmas party at the superintendent of school's house. Should I have taken them a mortar and pestle set? Or some seasonal tea towels? I'd never met them before and it was a big party, and I don't think anyone else brought gifts.

And is that another danger--if you're the only person who brings a hostess gift to the party, then you make everybody else look bad?

Because I don't know the answer to these questions, I think I will take a bottle of wine everywhere I go. It can totally function as a gift OR we can just open it and have a couple of drinks. Win-win. Wine-win.

What do you guys think? Should I be expanding my repertoire of hostess gifts? Should I be expecting guests to come over and bring me small succulents in charming pots?

Maybe I'm just not running with classy enough crowds?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Girls

Coco turned three months old (!) and has (mostly) left the fussy newborn phase behind. She was never colicky or anything, but she got kind of screamy in the evenings--David started to take it personally because he'd get home from work and all of a sudden she was the opposite of fun to hang out with.

Three months seems to be the magic number (though yesterday afternoon she had a fussy spell) because she's mellowed out. She's wide-eyed and alert and smiley and really wants to have better hand-eye coordination than she actually has. She has rolled over from front to back and almost made it from back to front but she's not a fan of tummy time. Today instead of rolling she just squawked and then cried. Well, we tried.

She's still a spittier baby than her sister ever was, but even that is easing up a bit (which basically means that it happens just infrequently enough to catch me off guard every single time).

Her smiles squish up her whole face and light up my whole life. Her cheeks are so kissable. She's just delicious, and believe it or not, she's even cuter in person.

She's given us a couple full-nights of sleep, but it's more typical for her to want to nurse somewhere between 2 and 4am and then to snuggle down again until morning. She's still sleeping in our room and I like that arrangement just fine so I have no firm plans to switch bedrooms, although we are going to get twin beds from my parents to put in "the big girl room." Maybe one of these days we'll rearrange things...

My anxiety has spiked a little bit just in the last few days. The grief season, combined with cold and flu season, combined with knowing a couple of babies who died of SIDS between 3 and 4 months old... I worry of course but then I had one sleepless night where I just had to watch her breathe from 2-6:30am. For the most part, I'm more relaxed than I was with Zuzu, but the anxiety flares up on me sometimes.

I was just telling a friend that Eliza was our perfect plan and Zuzu was our desperate hope and Coco was our lovely surprise. She still feels like that--such an amazing and unexpected gift. I can't believe we got that effortlessly lucky, and maybe that's part of the reason why I catch myself worrying that something that came to us so easily could also slip away.

Even as I type that out, I know it sounds crazy. The logic side of my brain eventually wins (she's here and she's healthy), and I am sleeping well almost all of the time. But, you know. Crazy will rear its head every now and again.

And oh, my Zuzu. Every bit of two years old. I described her today as a challenge and a delight. I've tracked the source of "Not today!" (said in a cheerful, sing-song voice) to her teachers at school. Zuzu asks to go to the park every day (even today, when it is 30 degrees outside) and that's their response. It's funny because she's started saying it at home in place of "No." I ask if she'd like some yogurt with breakfast and she replies, "Not today!"

After a few weeks of tears and clinginess at school (right after Coco was born and Zuzu's primary teacher left, the transition was kind of rough), Zuzu now runs ahead of me into the building to find out whether her "fwiends" are in the classroom or the playroom.

Today she wore mittens for the first time since last year. They are hand-me-downs from a friend--pink striped with reindeer heads on them. She was super excited about them but forgot what they were called. So when she got to school and her teacher started to help her take off her coat, she said, "No, please no take off my pockets!" (Her teacher totally let her keep her mittens on and once again I left feeling so grateful that we are able to put her in an environment where she has so many kind and caring adults looking out for her.)

Zuzu is still really into Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck. When she requests to watch a show, it's always Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Sometimes I'll put on Daniel Tiger, but she's totally over Curious George. I think she would be into Clifford the Big Red Dog but I haven't DVRed any of those episodes. 

After a difficult weekend, we decided that her level of brattiness is in direct correlation to the amount of television she watches. While thirty minutes of peace and quiet can be an absolute necessity on occasion (the witching hour is real and David is almost never home for it) most of the time it's just not worth the meltdown that inevitably ensues when it's time to turn it off.

She is easily appeased by this Mickey Mouse fairy tales book I got from the library, which has the most horribly bastardized retelling of fairy tales ("Little Red Riding Minnie" is the worst) but she freaking loves it. There's a picture of Minnie crying and when we ask her what's going on in picture she says, "Oh, Minnie misses her Mickey Mouse! Her is so sad!"

(I will actually be super sad the day she figures out pronouns because using "her" for "she" is freaking adorable when Zuzu does it.)

She's really started using her imagination to play, and I love hearing her talk to her dolls. Sometimes she'll tell me that Mickey has come to our house to play with her. She'll also tell me good-bye and then say she's going to "run errands" and "go Target, get pancakes."

Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" is her favorite song and she requests "Play Play" (because "players gonna play play play play play") every day and wants us all to dance. 

She calls herself a princess when she twirls in a dress, though she'll make herself so dizzy she slips and falls in her socks on the wood floors.

She climbed the outside of the stairs yesterday, holding on to the bannister, and then called "Look, Mama! I up here!"

I completely ignored her because any reaction would only encourage repeat behavior.

They can be exhausting (I mean, I haven't even touched on bedtime for Zuzu here) but these girls make our home so much fun.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Unapologetically Broken

I read a blog post today by Linda at All and Sundry that describes the Japanese art of Kintsugi or Kinsukuroi, which means "golden joinery or golden repair." She explains that it's the process of "fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum."

It's counter-intuitive, to think of making a repair that highlights faults instead of trying to disguise them, but it also creates an incredibly beautiful piece of pottery:

picture from All & Sundry

Linda writes, "Do you see the glory in the bowl's faults? How nothing is disguised or hidden, but rather brought into the light and made beautiful, thanks to the cracks that once broke it apart?"

I stared at that photo for a moment, admiring the gold lines running through it--evidence of an unexpected accident that has been crafted into something beautiful.

And, like pretty much everything these days, it made me think about Eliza.

I still cringe at the idea of assigning  "silver lining" to Eliza's death, even though I can't deny that having her and, yes, losing her, brought good things into my life. There's still no fair recompense for having lost my baby, although I acknowledge that I am lucky to have discovered meaningful friendships and connections, defined my priorities, strengthened my marriage, and had two more babies in the wake of such a tragedy.

Do not misunderstand; I'm still broken.

I do like this idea, though, that missing her doesn't have to always be a raw and ugly shattering. In fact, maybe as I piece myself and my life back together, Eliza will be the shining gold that runs through it.

Still undeniably--unapologetically--broken, but also held together by a love that is indifferent to death.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Microblog Monday: Overheard Conversation

Zuzu was playing with her dollhouse yesterday. She had two of her dolls, Davis (named after my friend Kaley's son Davis who has curly dark red hair) and Lavender (who wears a lavender dress). Zuzu made them kiss each other. (Reenactment pictured below)

"I love you!" she said, as Davis speaking to Lavender.

"Not today!" Lavender replied. 

Um, where does she get this stuff?

Microblog Mondays explained here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Lion or the Zebra?

Today was Zuzu's visit to the psychology lab at a local university to participate in their study on two-year-olds and empathy.

grad student met us outside to give me a parking permit and (after I unloaded the kids and the student commented on how "neat" it is that I can snap Coco's car seat onto the jogging stroller--I dunno, I just found it amusing that she thought this was new technology or something) we headed up. 

The student was very sweet with Zuzu and let her hit the buttons on the elevator. I was, as usual, both proud of and bewildered by Zuzu's eagerness to make friends with strangers and forge ahead into new and strange places with just a quick glance to make sure I'm behind her. 

She did stop short inside the lab, where three smiling young women greeted her enthusiastically. While she'll run wild down an empty hallway in a strange buding, she does cross thresholds somewhat more cautiously, especially if she's walking into a crowd. Her fingers went into her mouth, which is her standard "I'm uncomfortable here" gesture. 

But I encouraged her to walk forward so I could get the stroller in the room and the grad students showed her the shelves of cool toys and asked about her doll, and in no time she was telling them about Baby Keya and playing with a clock puzzle.

I had to sign some consent forms (saying it was okay for them to videotape her) and meanwhile, Zuzu spotted a container of Duplo blocks on a shelf in their office and insisted on playing with those rather than any of the toys they had sitting out for her. Because of course.

The grad students obliged and once she felt comfortable (which, again, took no time at all because Zuzu warms up to people fast) it was time for us to go watch a puppet show.

I left the sleeping Coco in the care of a grad student and went into a little dark room where the puppet show was set up. Zuzu sat on my lap facing the black box stage.

The student running the experiment took a lot of care to explain to Zuzu that animals were going to come out of the curtain in the back, and they were going to come out slowly, and they were getting ready to come out, and was she ready? 

She repeated this a couple times. I thought she was overdoing the prep, but when the puppets emerged, Zuzu stiffened and grabbed ahold of me--it was kinda scary, considering she's never seen a puppet show before and the stuffed animals presumable looked like they were moving on their own. And being birthed by a black curtain.

But they were cute little animals--two lions and a zebra--and the girl running the experiment introduced them to Zuzu, who cheerfully responded, "Hi, guys!" and waved at them. (Because she's adorable friendly).

The skit was silent, so then we just watched as the two animals played with a Nerf ball. "They're playing catch!" Zuzu announced.

A lion tossed the ball to the zebra, who threw it back, but then (drama!) the lions just tossed the ball back and forth between themselves, even when the zebra danced and opened his hands for the ball. He covered his eyes with his hands when the lions ignored him. 

Normally, I would have been talking to Zuzh about this--"What does the zebra want? How does he feel?"--because I'm always interested to know how she reads body language and behavior, but I'd been instructed to stay silent.

When the show was over, the grad student asked me to close my eyes while they brought the zebra and one of the lion puppets back out from behind the curtain. Then they asked Zuzu to point at the one she wanted to play with. (I think I was supposed to close my eyes so I wouldn't try to sway her decision: Choose the poor little left out zebra!)

Not that she listens to me anyway.

Zuzu announced definitively, "I want to play with the lion!" And they had to ask her to point again, I guess to keep their experiment consistent? But she kept repeating, "I play with lion!"

I sort of cringe-giggled because, you know, naturally, I wanted her to choose the zebra and be the most compassionate and empathetic toddler ever observed. I also understood that she wants to play with the cool animal who had the ball, right?

Anyway, that was the end of the experiment. They thanked us and offered Zuzu a prize (she chose a snack cup and was slightly disappointed it was empty). Then Zuzu immediately asked to see the animal show again. (And continued to repeat this request for the next two hours after we'd gone to the library and then home--our library visit went smoothly, by the way, but I didn't attempt storytime).

They asked if I would fill out a volunteer form for Coco, and I asked (a little nervously) if Zuzu's response was typical for what they'd seen so far.

The student assured me that it was. In fact. Three-year-olds had tended to favor the zebra, which had been a bit of a surprise to them, but two-year-olds almost always chose the lion, which they expected (because he's the fun one with the ball, right?).

So that seems to say something interesting about when children begin to experience empathy and consider the interaction from the zebras point of view rather than their own. Amazing that just a few months makes these huge cognitive and emotional leaps--but I guess you can basically say that about at least the first five years of a kid's life!

At the library (Zuzu invited all the grad students to come with us, but they politely declined), I picked up a book called Parenting Without Power Struggles by Susan Stiffelman. I read about it somewhere. It's not about toddlers, but I really like her philosophy of preventing crappy behavior rather than reacting to it. She makes some really good points, but the one that's most applicable to where I am right now is the idea that s parent is the captain of the ship and kids feel safe when the captain is confident and in charge. Not in control of every little thing, but also not debating or negotiating. 

And the book validates something I do anyway (always good to know!), which is to talk about how Zuzu is feeling when she's mad, or agree with her when she wants something while also being firm about not letting her have it. 

For example, when she asks for pancakes for dinner (daily), I say, "You love pancakes, don't you? We will have pancakes again for breakfast tomorrow!" Basically this allows me to avoid saying, "No! No more pancakes!" (I still occasionally find myself saying, "Mercy, child! I said no pancakes! Let's talk about something else!" But you know. Nobody's perfect, and damn she's persistent.)

It is incredibly frustrating to get into an argument over pancakes (or, really, anything) with a toddler, so I liked the observation that you can't engage in a power struggle if only one person is pushing. (This actually works well with college students too: "I understand you're unhappy with this grade. How can I help you to improve on the next essay or exam?") I just have to not get defensive or short-tempered (which is easier said than done sometimes--whether I'm dealing with toddlers or college students).

Stiffelman also points out that kids have to be shown how to adapt to life not working out the way they want it to, and that doesn't happen through lectures, advice, or punishment, but through compassion, connection, gentle suggestion, and example. She also makes an argument about why the TV nanny's version of time out doesn't work, which I found interesting because I never liked that scenario but couldn't articulate why. Anyway, no one approach is perfect but I really like this parenting philosophy, and given the fact that Zuzu seems to be pretty strong-willed, I imagine this is a book I'd benefit from reading again in a few years.

All this child psychology stuff is pretty fascinating to me--I love thinking about how Zuzu's little brain works. My brother commented when he was here last weekend that conversations with her take some pretty random leaps, but I can usually follow her train of thought and understand her associations. It's so cool to watch her make sense of the world, a world in which she (like virtually every two-year-old, I'd imagine) is right at the center. It makes me want to do some more reading about toddlers' cognitive and emotional development. (Any suggestions?)

Also, I kind of want to redo this puppet show a year from now and see if Zuzu would change her mind about the lion and the zebra...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

S.A.D. or just plain sad

Earlier this week, I took Zuzu to the park after school.

Coco and I had a good day at home--we'd done our usual running errands and picking up after a busy weekend. The weather was beautiful--sunny and the perfect warm/cool of fall, so we stopped at a little park we pass everyday on the way to Zuzu's school.

Coco napped in her stroller and Zuzu climbed and slid and swung in the swings. I felt happy, the way I almost always do when I'm watching her enjoy herself at the park. I felt lucky, to have my health, to be at the park eeking the very last moments out of a sunny day, to have two healthy little girls with me, looking forward to going to home to see David and have dinner and talk about his day.

And just a few minutes later, I felt it in the pit of my stomach and the back of my throat: grief. In spite of the good day and the sweet girls, I felt really sad.

The warm day was fading. The sun had nearly disappeared behind the houses west of the park, and I shivered in the breeze. The streetlights came on and the glow wasn't comforting. It was just a reminder of how fast the daylight disappears now.

We had a long and bright and warm October, but the seasons are changing. Have changed.

I told David last night that maybe I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and I need one of those lights that make you feel like you've gotten exposed to sunlight in order to help you from feeling depressed.

Or maybe it's my grief season and--in addition to all the happy--I'm just sad. The kind of sadness that can't be cured by all the sunshine in the world, but that feels especially potent when it's dark and cold outside.

It's dark so early now. And, yeah, it's turning cold.

And tomorrow it's one month exactly from the four-year-anniversary of the day my first daughter died and was born.

Four long years, and the blink of an eye.

I've missed almost four years of her. And that makes me... sad. And angry, and tired, and mostly just sad.

Grief is a wolf, and no matter how much I like chunky sweaters and tall boots and hot tea and vegetarian chili, the cold and the dark bring the wolf knocking at my door.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Microblog Monday: Curing Back Pain!

I got some good advice in the comments on my post a few weeks ago about the debilitating back pain I was having.

I also got an e-mail from my friend Lopa with some advice that I thought sounded really strange. Basically, she said that what I was experiencing is what they call "airlocking" in India and there's a way to fix it that "will sound goofy, but it works."

She said that I needed to observe which nostril I was using to breathe. By holding my palm under my nose, I could determine which nostril was expelling more air. Then I needed to hold that nostril closed and breathe in and out through the other nostril with five deep breaths.

My back pain was severe enough that I was skeptical this would work, but also willing to try anything.

And let me tell you--it didn't entirely cure the pain, but it SERIOUSLY helped.

I wrote Lopa immediatley to thank her for the advice, and she said to keep repeating it throughout the day and my pain should be totally gone in two days (it was).

It sounds crazy, but it totally worked for me!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween Redux

Halloween this year was quite the party.

Little Bo Peep - before the Halloween party at her school
It was the first year that Zuzu got into it (although she made an adorable little duck last year) and Coco made the perfect Halloween accessory, so we had a Little Bo Peep and her (found) sheep.

We also had family in town for the weekend--my parents were here, my aunt and uncle were here from Arizona, my brother and his girlfriend were here on their way to a wedding, and a friend of mine came over. It was a full house and we had a fridge full of pumpkin beer, so that made it that much more fun.

I made chili and my mom made potato soup, my friend Erin brought cornbread and apple cobbler, and my mom also mixed up some apple cider wine on the stove top. And I busted out the Fritos because what good is chili without fritos?

Zuzu trick-or-treated early, while it was still daylight, and before it got super duper cold (it was freezing!). Considering how much she enjoyed canvassing for a ballot proposition a couple of weeks ago, she was even more thrilled to wear her Bo Peep dress and get candy when she knocked on the door.

A little sheep and Little Bo Peep
We really practiced saying "Trick-or-treat! Please and thank you!" but as soon as she saw the candy bowl, it was like her mind went blank and she could only think about candy (which she selected based on the color of the wrapper, since she'd never actually had candy before and didn't know what was in the wrappers--this is how we ended up with a bunch of Almond Joys--come on, choose Snickers, kid!).

Trick-or-treating with Mama and Coco
When I'd say, "What do you say?" she would say, "Thanks!" which was cute, even though she hadn't even gotten the candy yet.

Almost everyone who answered the door said, "You look so cute!" to which she would reply, "Yes!"

And when she left, she'd cheerfully call, "Bye! Have fun!" over her shoulder, echoing what our neighbors were telling her.

It was just as adorable as it sounds.

She did NOT need assistance going up the steps.
I purposely bought her a very small trick-or-treat bucket at the Dollar Spot at Target and told her that we'd trick-or-treat until it was filled up. So after going to five houses, the bucket was full and it was time to head home.

Our neighborhood is famous (notorious?) for attracting trick-or-treaters and we went through almost 500 pieces of candy with a steady stream of trick-or-treaters.

We gave kids two pieces of candy if they told a joke--which is a St. Louis tradition I'd never heard of until we moved here. David thinks it's weird, but it's my favorite part!

The best joke we got all night?

What's the difference between a man and a savings bond?

A savings bond matures faster.


We also got some good Cubs jokes, which went over well at our house:

What do Cubs and vampires have in common?

They both wear gloves for no apparent reason.


Why don't the Cubs have a website?

Because they can't put three W's together.


Zuzu was thrilled to greet trick-or-treaters. She was seriously like the mayor (and her dad) saying hi to everybody: "Hi guys!" She handed out candy like a champ, and when David told her to only give one piece (he was worried we'd run out) she started trying to hand out individual M&Ms and Skittles.

distributing candy 
There was a hilarious and weird moment when we were all sitting in the front room and two little boys came in. One was dressed as Spiderman and I can't even remember the costume the other one was wearing. Anyway, they just WALKED inside and then the little Spiderman (he was about four years old) started playing with Zuzu's xylophone.

We were all just kind of staring at them and I said something like, "Hi, Spiderman! Are you trick-or-treating?"

My friend Erin asked who they were and I said, "I have no idea! I've just met them!"

So then I went and asked David who these kids were who were in our house and he said he had no idea, they just asked if they could come inside.


I asked Spiderman if he needed to go trick-or-treat at some other houses and he said, "No, I'm cool." The older kid looked a little embarrassed. Then Spiderman discovered Zuzu's little kitchen and yelled for his brother? cousin? to come check it out.

So there were eight adults, all kind of dumbfounded, just watching this kid make himself at home in a complete stranger's house.

Then whomever was supervising them apparently discovered they were missing and started yelling at them to get outside. It was just slightly bizarre.

Meanwhile, Zuzu was LOADING up on sugar. Having never had any of this candy before, she was pretty excited to try everything, and nice about sharing it (though we all declined to share the sucker that she offered).

She got completely wired--I mean so wound up it was crazy. She was belting out, "LET IT GO!" and "singing" it over and over and over. Just the chorus.

My brother noted that she has mastered the lyrics and volume but just needs to work on tone.

It was 10:30 pm before she was asleep, and we had to wake her up the next morning to go out for breakfast, so I'm just going to declare those markers of a great holiday rather than lax parenting.

This Halloween was definitely the most fun so far with Zuzu, and it was the easiest in terms of grief. We were busy and distracted and having fun with a house full of people, but we were also able--finally--to have the kind of Halloween we would have had for the last two years if Eliza were here.

There's a part of me that will probably always imagine how things would be different if, even though I know that it would be impossible to have this life plus Eliza. Logically I know that, but I can't help but imagine holiday scenarios with three little girls.

Still, this year was easier, lighter, the most fun Halloween we've had for a very long time.

Or, as Zuzu liked to say, "Happy Birthday Halloween!"

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Forest Park in the Fall

I took the girls to Forest Park last week with the big camera to try to take some cute pictures of them with all the lovely fall foliage (I actually do not like the word foliage very much at all).

Here are the steps to a photo session in the lovely fall foliage with two-year-old and two-month-old:

Step 1: Dress in adorable coordinating outfits. (check)

Step 2: Drive to outdoor location that will provide beautiful backdrop for photos. (check)

Step 3: Pack snacks like apples that also look cute in photos. (check)

Step 4: I HAVE NO IDEA. How are you supposed to get them to be awake at the same time? And looking the same way at the same time? And sitting in the same place? I seriously snapped 142 photos at the park. The vast majority of Zuzu, because Coco was sleeping at first and when I woke her up and tried to get Zuzu to sit with her, Zuzu (who is always asking if she can "hold baby seester") said that Coco was "too heavy" and let her huge noggin flop down on the blanket!

My best advice? Take a shitload of pictures, try to keep having fun, and quit while you're ahead (in other words, go home before anyone has a meltdown, including you.)

When it was all said and done, I got one picture I love love love of each of them (and I'm saving those to possibly use on Christmas cards). But here are some of my other favorites and some outtakes:

Zuzu Running With Apple. We had many, many versions of this photo. 

Zuzu pondering the beauty of the park and its relation to the meaning of life, or possibly pooping her pants.

Zuzu's dazzling rendition of the "I have a dream" speech?
Very serious about examining this small berry that I cruelly did not allow her to eat. (No idea if it's actually poisonous, but c'mon. I've read Hunger Games)

OMG! Successfully removed berry from branch. Also demonstrating why hairbows are a challenge for us.

Is it Zuzu? Or is it Elsa? Because she was belting out "Let it go!"

And twirling.

Very gracefully.

I really love how forcefully she twirls. She fell down right after this.


Believe it or not, this is the BEST of the photos with both girls. You can see how cooperative Zuzu was. And you can see all of Coco's chins.

Zuzu - please look utterly vacant. Coco - please look constipated. Hashtag nailed it.

Zuzu - please rut around like a barnyard animal with your eyes closed. Coco - please gaze thoughtfully into the distance. 

Zuzu is relating a thrilling narrative. Coco appears to be shushing her.

The narrative continues. Neither girl will look at the camera. 

Baby in some leaves. 


She was actually uncertain about this perch, but I love this photo.

Little forest fairy.

Fun Fact: I thought I'd lost all my photos when David removed my memory card from the computer without ejecting it. I was so sad I actually cried a little at Monica's house (which is where we were when I discovered what had apparently happened).

He apologized, but only sort of half-assy and I was SO SAD and I felt like he should have been really kissing my ass and sucking up to me and instead he just went downstairs with Johnny to watch TV.

So when I recovered the photos (found them in iphoto trash while clicking around hopelessly on my computer at Monica's kitchen table--I dunno... computers are a mystery to me) I celebrated with Monica (and a glass of champagne) but DIDN'T mention it to David.

The next day, on our drive home, he suggested we go to the park and try to take a few pictures of the girls (the leaves were past their prime by then).

I casually remarked we didn't need to because I'd recovered the photos last night.

He was all indignant and couldn't believe I'd held out on him. He said he'd been "beating himself up over this."

Mmm-hmm. I think we have different definitions of "beating himself up" because he definitely didn't seem very sorry to me. I would have liked a little groveling. I'm just saying. He's not the one who spent an hour and a half in the park cajoling two uncooperative little people into looking at the camera.