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.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Perhaps This Calls for Psychological Evaluation

Some of you may have seen a video I posted to Instagram last night. I'll post the full (23-second) version here (sorry I didn't flip my phone properly).

Basically, we were eating dinner in the kitchen. Zuzu insisted she was finished, so we let her get out of her high chair, allowing us to have a conversation without her shrieking, "I DONE! Mama! I DONE!" the entire time. She disappeared into the back room and was quiet enough that I got up and checked on her. She was playing with the package of diapers I'd bought for Colette that day. I wasn't thrilled about the idea of her unpacking and unfolding 80 diapers, but she was quiet and occupied in a non-dangerous activity, so I let it roll. Several minutes later, she comes in the kitchen with the package of diapers. The baby's face has a hole in it. She informs us that she bit the baby's nose, and we have the following conversation:

This is a little bit worrisome because just a couple nights previously, she bit Coco's toe.

Like really bit it hard.

Zuzu and I were sitting together and Coco was on my lap facing us and we were making her smile and PRETENDING to nibble on her delicious little toes. Zuzu thought it was hilarious to put Coco's toes in her mouth and say that we were eating them, and Coco thought it was pretty funny, too.

So we're having this super precious family moment of baby-toe-nibbling when suddenly Coco starts SCREAMING--like face red, tensed up, serious screaming. I've only seen her cry like this when she's had a shot (or a terrible blood draw).

I gasped, Zuzu also looked totally shocked, and I said, "Oh, Coco! What happened?"

Then Zuzu said, totally matter-of-factly, "I bit her."

You can imagine the Very Serious Conversation that ensued as David talked with Zuzu about not hurting her sister, not biting babies EVER, and generally not being a sociopath.

In retrospect, perhaps I didn't emphasize enough that we were just PRETENDING to eat Coco's feet? I really thought I made that clear, but evidently not?

On the other hand, Zuzu often says, unprompted, that she loves her sister, but it seems she might have some aggression to work out.

Anyway, since the toe-chomping was soon followed by the biting off the nose of the baby on the diaper package, the mild concern that we could be raising the next Dexter ended up being incredibly timely because I just got a phone call from a local university's graduate psychology department.

I don't remember if I mentioned this on the blog, but last summer at the Farmers' Market, I signed up Zuzu as a volunteer participate in a local university's psychology department. A couple graduate students were working a booth there and they were looking for children between the ages of six months and five years to be on call for various studies that came up. Of course I love the idea of my children being psychological guinea pigs (they could be like the Marshmallow Test Kids at Stanford!), so of course I signed up.

And then the call came in! Zuzu has been asked to participate in a study examining...

wait for it...


in toddlers.


Are there spy cameras hidden in my home? I can't help but wonder.

Anyway, the study consists of her watching a puppet show and then answering some questions. This should be interesting.

Hashtag please don't be a sociopath.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday Weekend Recap

I missed Microblog Monday. It was a busy day around here in terms of cleaning up and getting organized because David spent all of Sunday outside working in the yard and running electric lines to the other side and front of the house to more easily plug in the chicken's heat lamp and Christmas lights. That left me on solo parent duty, and I decided to finish sewing Zuzu's Halloween costume, so cleaning up the house waited for Monday and blogging got away from me. Even Microblogging. Well, there's always next week.

Monday, Coco had her two month check up (although she's actually two and a half months) and not only did she appear healthy and adorable (I like that our pediatrician pronounces her "healthy and cute" as his official diagnosis at the end of each visit), she also flirted shamelessly with the doctor, giving him huge grins and all but batting her eyelashes at him.

She cried dramatically for her shot, but not for long.

I think Monday was also a bit challenging because I was still recovering from my weekend.

Oh, that sentence does not mean what it used to.

Friday morning was fabulous--our friend E came over to play with Zuzu since E's middle school was having parent/teacher conferences that day. E kept Zuzu totally entertained--it was a morning without whining, which is miraculous! We went to the park (the weather was beautiful), came home and painted pumpkins, and then had lunch before E had to leave.

I actually could have brought a book with me to the park this time--E was very careful and conscientious about helping Zuzu climb and slide and it was totally adorable.

Zuzu rocked this headband sweat-band style the whole time. 
The only hiccup came at lunch time, when E's sack lunch that she'd brought with her caused a lot of food envy for Zuzu--particularly the package of yogurt. E was nice enough to share her grapes and surreptitiously eat some of her other food so that Zuzu didn't really notice it. Zuzu cried when we dropped her off, but she took a good nap.

Zuzu loves E.
Friday evening was Family Fun Night at David's school. They set up a carnival and have food trucks and a hay maze and it's a fundraiser for the PTA. My friend Jamie and her family now live about five minutes from David's school (although they are in another district) so I invited them to come to Family Fun Night with their boys, Owen and Nathan. Zuzu calls Nathan "My Nay-fun" which is pretty cute.

Nathan, Owen, and Zuzu
Thank goodness they came with us because I don't think I could have kept track of Zuzu without their help. She basically acted like she owned the place, butting to the front of all the lines for the carnival games (the games were staffed by school volunteers, so people who knew her were totally enabling her, despite my best efforts), opening doors to rooms that she was not supposed to access, and bolting down the sidewalk when she was supposed to be waiting in line for the hayride.

Watching the boys play the fishing game. Zuzu had already gone fishing because of course she had to go first. #diva
Having Coco in the Ergo is convenient for keeping my hands free, but I can't exactly sprint while wearing the baby. And David was doing his hand-shaking, back-slapping, high-fiving principal thing, so he wasn't able to be with us the entire time we were there. Fortunately, Max and Jamie picked up some of the parenting slack since their children were, you know, NOT running amok and actually listening to their parents. Hashtag must be nice.

Zuzu got her face painted for the first time. She took it very seriously and held very still. I requested a pumpkin to match the dress she was wearing, but then she asked the girl for purple (her favorite color right now) so she got a purple spider on her other cheek.

So serious.
Both were smeared into unrecognizable blobs within ten minutes.

By the end of the night (it ended at 8pm), I was exhausted and Zuzu was still buzzing. I thought I was so smart for remembering to pack the girls' pajamas because it's a forty-five minute drive home and I was hoping to transfer Zuzu from the car without waking her up.

Would you believe that kid STAYED AWAKE the whole way home? In spite of soothing music on the radio. She chattered about her "fwends, Nay-fun and Owen" and asked me if we could go to Jamie's house and said she didn't want to go home, she wanted to go to Jamie's house. Finally, I quit engaging in conversation with her, hoping she'd nod off. But no. She was still bright-eyed when we got home. In fact, when David got home about forty-five minutes after we did, she was STILL AWAKE.

I'm wondering if someone slipped her a Red Bull when we weren't looking.

It was 11:30pm before we were all asleep.

Saturday morning we were up at 6:30pm to drive back out to David's school to canvass for votes for a proposition that will give the district enough money to accommodate the influx of students they will have over the next few years.

Coco was a total crab apple even though she usually loves chilling in the Ergo, so we'd only gone to a few houses when I turned back and headed for the car to sit down and feed her.

Zuzu, however, LOVED canvassing. After we left each house, she kept saying, "I say hi!" She was thrilled when people were home and opened the door so she could say hi. David would ring the doorbell and then she would pound on the door.

I'm totally going to get her to campaign for Hillary in 2016.

After canvassing, we decided to lunch at Red Robin. This was a good idea in theory, but we had two Code Brown diaper situations while we were there which does not exactly boost the appetite. Zuzu discovered how amazing Ranch dressing is and was drowning her grilled chicken in it and then resorted to just dipping her fingers and licking them. Gross me out. This is why children should not really be allowed to eat in public.

(I don't really mean that.)

(Except kind of I do.)

I freaking love Coco's face here. Look at those cheeks!
At least she was finally worn out enough to nap after lunch. She was asleep in her carseat before we pulled out of the restaurant's parking lot, and she didn't wake up when David transferred her to the stroller. This meant that we were actually able to do a little shopping at Macy's before Zuzu woke up. The game was over as soon as she was awake, but we were pretty much finished by then anyway.

While David was trying on pants at Macy's I started watching this bike race on the TV by the dressing rooms and got so into it that when he was ready to go, I had to wait and see who won. It was exciting!

The last few days have been so gorgeous--October in the midwest in all its glory. Cool, crisp mornings, impossibly blue skies, all the leaves changing colors, highs around 70 degrees. Glorious.

I'm taking advantage of the weather by taking Coco and Cooper for long walks in Forest Park after we drop off Zuzu at school. It only takes two days in a row for Cooper to get his heart on the same thing happening over and over again, so we are both going to be really sad when it gets too cold to keep up this routine.

Coco's in the stroller, Cooper's sniffing in the brush
So that's what's been going on around here. I can't believe it's nearly Halloween! I gave a sneak-peek of Zuzu's costume on Instagram, but I'm pretty excited about how it's coming together. I just hope I
can get her to wear the bonnet. Two-year-olds--they're unpredictable, man.

for example, Zuzu here is saying, "No pictures, please, Mama" with a sigh in her best long-suffering voice

Friday, October 17, 2014

More Conversations with Zuzu

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

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

Zuzu: Mama, your tummy feels good.

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

Zuzu: Oh! I yike your chest.

# # #

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

My stomach growls.

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

Me: (laughing) No, my tummy growled.

Zuzu: Oh.

# # #

Scene: In the kitchen.

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

Zuzu: Oh, Mama! My tummy coming out!

Me: What?

Zuzu: My tummy coming out!

Me: No, your tummy growled.

# # #

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

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

# # #

Scene: Bathtime.

Zuzu toots in the bathtub.

Zuzu: Oh! Bubbles come out!

# # #

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

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

My yike tunnels. 

My coming! 

Come in my kitchen, play me. 

Coco wants to come downstairs me.

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

# # # 

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15

print created by Francesca at Small Bird Studios

Today is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day.

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

But I never thought that it would be me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

Microblog Monday: Chatbooks & Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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