Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Galentine's Day - Valentine's Day - Love Poems

I know Valentine's Day is a commercial holiday just intent on selling chocolate and flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries and pieces of folded cardstock that cost more than a Starbucks latte and say someone else's words on them, but I still kind of love a day about love.

Today my English department hosted a "Love and Anti-Love Poetry Reading" and invited students to share a poem (their own writing or someone else's). We had a good turnout (you just never know with these things!) and several great poems shared. I heard "When a Boy Tells You He Loves You," by Edwin Bodney, which was new to me, and my old favorite "Tonight I Can Write..." by Pablo Neruda. One of my colleagues read "Having a Coke With You" by Frank O'Hara, which is so charming. I love a breathless, run-on poem.

In the spirit of anti-love, or maybe the kind of love in which the same person you've been married to for, say, fourteen years, is both incredibly wonderful and blindingly irritating (speaking hypothetically, of course), I recited the following poem by Margaret Atwood:

You fit into me
Like a hook into an eye.

A fish hook.
An open eye.

Brilliant, right?

Sending love into the universe... and now I'm wanting both a latte AND a chocolate covered strawberry.

If you're in the mood for some more love poems, here's a few writers with their favorites.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Winter Drearies

I'm home with Coco today, who most likely has Influenza A, given that all her symptoms match up and her best friend from school was diagnosed with it on Saturday morning. Coco woke up with a fever on Sunday morning and spent most of yesterday napping and coughing in my bed. (We changed the sheets before bedtime.)

She is much perkier today, and is determined to make the most of her day at home by binging cartoons and drinking juice--both major treats.

I'm trying to do All The Things for work and domestic life, which has me answering e-mail and setting up online quizzes, adjusting due dates, grading exams, and making lesson plans in between doing load after load of laundry, throwing together stuffed shells in the crock pot, making macaroni & cheese for the sickie, and I've just about convinced myself to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for The Closer.

My big excursion today was a walk to the mailbox with Clementine, which just reinforced how miserable this weather and how much I need some exercise. Maybe I can convince myself to spend 10 minutes on the elliptical this afternoon? We'll see if she actually takes a nap today... She seems pretty well rested at the moment.

Unrelated to the flu, I have been going to a weekly anti-racism workshop (getting further involved in social justice movements in St. Louis was a new year's resolution, and this is one step in that direction). One of the things we did was write a personal narrative getting at why we care about issues of racism and social justice. It was an illuminating exercise. I realized that Eliza's death was a profound turning point in my life, not just because of the devastating grief, but also because it burst the illusion I had been comfortably living with: the idea that life is mostly a meritocracy. I mean, I knew that bad things happened to good people, but I really was invested in the notion that we can control most of what happens to us, as long as we work hard and try to be kind and, you know, have grit and determination and all that stuff.

When Eliza died, the rug was ripped out from under me, and I had a new understanding (belated, clearly, since I had spent all my life living a pretty privileged and sheltered existence) of all the circumstances outside my control. I've now come to believe that, because the universe can throw a curve ball at any moment, because there are no promises about life being fair or just, it is crucial that we make sure the systems and institutions that we can control are as fair and equitable as possible. So that has become something I'm really passionate about--particularly since in a city like mine, it's painfully obvious how unfair and inequitable things like education and housing can be.

One of the first things we did at the workshop was go around and introduce ourselves and say "who your people are." Relieved that I didn't have to go first, I listened and thought as we went around the circle. You know who my people are? I said, "Readers, writers, academics, parents of young kids, and especially bereaved parents." It felt really good to say that out loud. It made me think of the days I longed for an arm band to indicate that I was grieving--some kind of outward sign that said, "My baby died and I'm barely coping. Please be gentle with me." I don't feel that raw and vulnerable so much these days, but I still sometimes feel set apart from the non-bereaved parents--especially the idea of them as a group (like PTO moms). It really is a sorority nobody wants to pledge, but it's filled with some of the best people I know. And I just feel like life is easier if people know from the moment they meet me that bereaved parents are my people.

This month of February is so bleak. While last week was overly busy, this week is much less chaotic, especially since Coco will likely be sitting out of her Spanish and dance extracurriculars. I'm trying to appreciate the coziness of being home--lighting candles, doing yoga, listening to Brandi Carlisle nonstop.

And speaking of hygge, I'm off to make those cookies. Wash your hands and eat some cookies and let's have spring hurry up and get here.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Closer - 25 Weeks

Tomorrow marks 25 weeks in this pregnancy, which feels really hard to believe. So close, and yet so far away!

A week ago, I had a teary meltdown worrying about the baby. 24 weeks is technically viability (although the odds are not great) and immediately my anxiety goes up. Viability means I need to pay attention, I need to know what's going on, I need to be intuitive and psychic and medically trained to figure out what could be happening and how to make sure the baby is going to be okay. No pressure.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned that we found a doula to work with again this time. I had hoped to work with the amazing woman who somehow transformed Coco's birth into a wonderful experience for me, but she's retired from the doula work, so she recommended another doula in the area who also seems great.

One awesome thing about doulas is that they are more interested in pregnancies than in children--that's the medical history and physical/emotional experiences they want to know about, right? So every conversation with her includes Eliza, she says Eliza's name all the time, she constantly talks about my "fourth baby" (which OMG four babies). So that's all really validating.

As some of you may remember, part of the reason I work with a doula is because I want to avoid needles. I don't want an epidural because the idea of a needle in my spine is scarier to me than the idea of experiencing pain for a few hours. And I am not judging anyone who gets an epidural (seriously in my circle of friends, I don't even know if one other person has delivered a baby without an epidural). It's just a control issue for me, plus now I've done it three times so it's what I know.

But I also feel like I don't quite fit in to circles of crunchy moms who are all about non-medicated births and breastfeeding (even though I do those things) because I want all the monitoring--all the non-stress tests leading up to a scheduled induction. For Zuzu and Coco, I was induced with a Cervidil insert that softens the cervix. Both times, that was enough to get my body going into labor on its own so I was able to avoid pitocin and an IV--I'm hoping we can follow that pattern again this time. This is assuming I don't go into labor on my own earlier, because my anxiety will not allow me to go past my due date and I expect to be induced in week 39 as I was with Zuzu and Coco.

So I'm planning to be induced, but also not to have an epidural. Natural birth advocates recommend intermittent monitoring during labor to avoid interventions that may actually be unnecessary. But I want constant monitoring. One thing that keeps me calm during labor is being able to look at the monitor and see the baby's heartbeat. I need to know that the baby is alive.

So basically, I veer away from the totally crunchy approach AND I want to avoid needles, which puts me in a weird category. Fortunately, a doula is pretty much paid to support you and your birth plan, and to help be your advocate. My doctor is the same doctor I've had for all the girls. He knows my quirks and is supportive of my plans (hopes) for this birth, so I'm not too worried about pushback or anything like that. But I do need the support and reassurance of the doula to get me through labor! David does a good job, but he also appreciates the guidance of someone else who reassures us that everything is going well.

Anyway, we met with the doula and talked through everything. She encouraged me to write up a birth plan. I always put "Goal: LIVING BABY" at the top because really everything else is just details, but if I can have the best experience possible for me and the babe (which would basically be a reenactment of Coco's birth, where I felt so amazing immediately afterward), that would obviously be ideal.

If all goes more or less according to plan/history, I have fourteen weeks before the baby gets here. I'll start official kick counts a week from tomorrow. I see my doctor again in three weeks, and then I'll start seeing him every two weeks, and in late March (after spring break) I'll start biweekly non-stress tests.

In some ways, fourteen weeks sounds like no time at all. In other ways, fourteen weeks is an eternity. It's an entire semester! It's more than three months. It's so many days, so many kicks, so many opportunities for infection, cord accident, placental abruption, all the unpredictable things I fear based on the heartbreaking stories I've heard. And all things over which I have very little control.

Another baby is a logistical and financial complication, a big shift for our family, a huge change I can hardly predict, and one that makes me a nervous in some ways. But this baby also feels like an incredible gift--like maybe it's too good to be true. I worry that we are asking too much, getting too greedy. We've been given two perfect little girls--how can I expect to get another one? Is this too good too be true? Is there enough luck in the universe for this to work out for me?


Monday, February 4, 2019

Bise* Week

*Zuzu wrote a story at school about her "bise weekend" and it took me a day to figure out that bise = busy. Why was she so busy? Two birthday parties to attend on Sunday! She's living the good life, folks.

Here's what I've been doing: David went to a conference last week. He was gone Tuesday through Saturday, which is an absurdly long time for a conference. He said that it was productive and informative, so I'm glad it wasn't a waste of time, but managing our daily routine is definitely a two-person job, and we all really missed him.

I was prepared to deal with the all of the things I expected--Coco getting teary at bedtime (she slept with his photo every night), dinners needing to be quick and easy to clean up, and getting up extra early to make sure I had time to deal with the dogs and packing lunches.

I was not prepared for the polar vortex! A huge part of the reason we moved was to get David and Zuzu in the same school district so that they'd always be on the same schedule. Normally, anytime there is a cancellation for snow, my university makes the same choice as their school district. But when schools were canceling for low temperatures (due to bus riders), my university was still open. So I had to bring Zuzu to work with me two days in a row! Thankfully, Coco's preschool was still open, but Zuzu spent a lot of time watching a screen while I was teaching on Tuesday and Wednesday. It all worked out, but it was a little stressful and draining to not have any quiet time to think/read/prep for class except for after they were in bed!

The week did have several bright spots though--I didn't get to watch any TV (I didn't sit on the couch and snuggle the dogs at all) but I did manage to cross all the things off my to-do list, which felt really good. We skipped Spanish Tuesday night because it was dark and snowing and freezing cold and I just wasn't up to getting out in it. We did go to dance, and had a very successful lesson.

A few weeks ago, Zuzu had a wretched time at dance. She'd been sick over the weekend, but I really don't think that was the reason. I can't begin to fathom the workings of her mind, honestly. She has loved dance and asked this year to do jazz in addition to tap and ballet, but suddenly she was complaining every week about having to go. And then there was the day that she went, but refused to participate. After class, the teacher let me know that Zuzu had spent the entire hour lying on the floor.

I was so mad, and I admit that it was because I found her behavior embarrassing. I also couldn't relate to it--I would have never done such a thing as a kid. I might have acted out at home, complained about class, or whined about going, sure. But I definitely would not have defied my dance teacher or flopped on the floor while my classmates all followed directions. I felt like she was being disrespectful and I was so mad.

Out in the parking lot, Coco asked me what was wrong. I answered matter-of-factly, "Zuzu lay on the floor instead of dancing and I'm upset about it."

Well, Zuzu was furious with me for sharing that information: "IT'S NOT BETWEEN YOU AND COCO!" I think she was just looking for a fight, because her rage culminated in her screaming, "I HATE YOU!" at me as she got in the car. In a parking lot full of moms loading well-behaved ballet dancers into mini-vans. Which is great, because if your first grader is going to lose her mind and scream that she hates you, you definitely want an audience of other parents. I'm not going to lie--it was humiliating. I was taking deep breaths and not responding to her at all. After her outburst, another mom called to me, "You're doing a great job, Mama!" which was really nice and actually made me get teary-eyed.

The next day, we had a long conversation about being respectful. I'm not going to force her to take dance lessons if she doesn't want to, but I also don't want her to think she can quit by being an a$$hole. So we talked about why she takes dance lessons--to be active and healthy, to make friends, and to have fun. I told her that there are other ways to do that, and if she'd like to stop taking dance lessons when her swim lessons start in March, that's fine. But if she wants to take swim lessons, she needs to participate fully and respectfully in dance for the next few weeks.

(What would we do if she refused? Cancel swim lessons? I don't know. Parenting Zuzu allows me to only see one step ahead instead of mapping out the whole path, which is what makes it so terrifying.)

(Another parenting question I have... off-limits language. I love words and I don't mind salty language and I personally would not choose to punish my kids for using curse words, depending on context--obviously if they called their teacher (or me) an effing bitch, that would warrant punishment. But so would calling their teacher (or me) a dumb-dumb face. For me, it's less about which words they choose and more about the fact they're trying to be hurtful and disrespectful. My kids haven't been exposed that that many curse words (except when they overhear me... whoops!) and they are young enough that it hasn't been an issue. But there are certain words that we say our family doesn't use--particularly hate, stupid, and shut up, which are words they may hear at school or on TV. And while I think it's important to not use those words, I also wonder if forbidding them gives them more power, so really they just save them up for maximum effect, as Zuzu did in the ballet parking lot. Coco kept talking about the "shhh" word the other day and I was trying to figure out where she learned the word "shit" until I realized she meant "shut up." Anyway, still figuring that out and trying to be a good role model...)

I've been bracing myself for dance lessons since then, but it's been fine. In fact, now she's decided she wants to stay in dance through the recital in June. (This child is baffling.) And while David was gone, she had a great dance lesson and the teacher actually pulled me aside (as I was pulling Zuzu out early to go home because driving in the snow makes me so anxious, particularly when I'm pregnant).

Thursday night we had no where to go, and my parents came up on Friday which was so amazing because they picked up the girls from school AND my mom made dinner. It was like I was on vacation! David got home on Saturday and life is back to normal. This week is particularly busy, though. How does it happen that everything happens at once?

I have a workshop tonight that runs from 6-8:30, and when you factor in the 20-minute drive there and back, it eats up my entire evening. It's a good workshop and my choice, but still a challenging time commitment.

Tomorrow I'm volunteering to put up decorations for the school musical performance immediately after school; later that night the girls have Spanish and I have a We Stories meeting, so D and I are going to juggle drop off and pick up and still try to make and eat dinner together.

Wednesday night is dance (fingers crossed it continues to go smoothly) and I'm on my own because David will be at his school all evening for an event.

Thursday afternoon I have a doctor appointment to check in on The Closer (24 weeks today). Thursday night I'm double booked, but I'm choosing to attend Zuzu's musical performance (I mean, I can't miss her first one! Plus it's "The Day the Crayons Quit" and I think it's going to be soooo cute. And I get a reserved seat since I'm volunteering on Tuesday. #incentive).

Friday I have to take Zuzu to a dentist appointment, and that night, she and David are attending a dance at school. (Confession: I'm so relieved not to have to go! I'm sure they will have fun and Coco and I will find something else fun to do that doesn't involve large numbers of elementary school girls shrieking in a gymnasium).

Saturday, David and I have plans to go to dinner and the Fox. It will be great to have a date night, but I'm not fully looking forward to it because sitting through a show at the Fox the last two times we've gone has made my sciatic nerve flare up the next day. Any suggestions for avoiding that while sitting for two and a half hours in small, old, not super comfortable theater seats? I'll get up and walk at intermission, but that doesn't quite seem to be enough. I am considering trying a water exercise class on Saturday. Pro--I'm sure it would be really good for me. Con--I will feel social pressure to shave my legs before I go.

Whew. So that's my week. Plus working--we're wrapping up Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew and Pride and Prejudice in my three different classes this week, so my head is swimming with questions about Shakespeare, love, vengeance, Austen, gender roles, marriage, and how these questions transfer to our twenty-first century context. The big questions are so much fun. But it's so easy to get weighed down by the minutiae--and I fully admit that I am someone who gets a rush of accomplishment from crossing minutiae off a to-do list. Hoping to ride that rush through the packed calendar this week.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Future is Female







In case there was any question about it... the future is most definitely female. We are expecting Baby Girl #4!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tired, Stinky

Do you know what is not interesting? Hearing about how tired someone is.

Do you know why this blog has been silent when I feel like I have so much to say?

I'm really tired.

I'm trying to remember if I'm always this tired at the start of the semester (to some extent, I think, yes) or if being pregnant makes me more tired (to some extent, I think, yes). Or maybe it's because I am teaching three different classes that have combined to give me a reading load of Shakespeare, Euripides, and Jane Austen all at once? (Hmmm... could be part of it.)

At any rate, here we are, only halfway through week 1 of the semester and it feels to be like it should absolutely be Friday. Also: When the highlight of your week is a visit to the chiropractor (this afternoon at 3!) you know that you are old and lame.

So I've mostly been doing work stuff, except last week I stayed home Thursday and Friday with a sick kiddo. I felt fine all day and then Thursday night I got sick. I felt okay Friday, but Zuzu's fever lingered on and off all day long, and then we got the big snows. She was fever-free on Saturday so she got to go play out in the snow Saturday and Sunday, but she wasn't quite her energetic self. Now she has a cold, so I think those germs got her while her immune system was down. Poor little punkin.

Our big excitement this week was dog poop drama because that's just the life we live right now. I walked in the door yesterday with an hour to feed the girls and get them to Spanish class and the moment I opened the door I was hit with a wall of stink. Poor Clementine had diarrhea yesterday in her crate yesterday, which also got out of her crate onto the floor and all over her blankets and all over her. Meanwhile, and only slightly less disgusting, Cooper had been urged out of his usual Old Dog Stupor by the smell of peanutbutter in the kitchen trash can and all of the trash was all over the floor, including a peanutbutter container licked clean. I didn't have time to do the full clean up required (all the trash, plus bathing Clementine, washing the blanket, hosing out and scrubbing the dog crate, and cleaning the carpets) AND make dinner AND get the girls to Spanish. And there was no making dinner and going to Spanish without doing the clean up first (seriously--the smell hit me the moment I opened the door--we couldn't stay in the house without tackling clean up) and it was all SO DISGUSTING.

Not to mention, my sense of smell is pretty sharp at all times and is currently at supersonic levels. I felt bad for Clementine (who knows what the heck she ate that's making her sick), but I couldn't stay in the house so I went outside in the snow and called David and told him we were in crisis mode at home and I was thinking about just taking the girls and fleeing. He (bless his heart) told me to do just that, so we loaded back up and went to eat dinner at Dairy Queen (healthy choices) and then went to Spanish. I spent their hour of Spanish class at the library, mostly talking to my mom on the phone in my car, and by the time we all got home, David had the house and the dog cleaned up and smelling fresh.

Other than that sort of domestic excitement, we've just been doing the new semester routine stuff. Coco's new thing has been putting on a show for us each night. Mostly this means dancing to "Shake It Off" or "It's a Small World" (pick your ear worm!) and her dances include a lot of cartwheels and she's always wearing a princess nightgown for the show. Zuzu sometimes joins her and sings into the microphone and shows off some dance moves as well. It is highly entertaining.

My next post will be a pregnancy update. This babe is already winning the Least Documented Pregnancy Ever, so I would like to do a post or two for posterity's sake. Meanwhile, I need to get back to Pride and Prejudice. May your day/week be healthy and stink-free.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

2019 Resolutions

I have a list of things I want to blog about, and each subject seems long enough for its own post, but I feel like I should start with resolutions before we get any deeper into 2019.

I should say quickly, thank you SO MUCH for the sweet messages I got about The Closer. I'll have more to say about that soon, but your support and enthusiasm and messages of hope and acknowledgement of fears... it means so much to me and it makes me feel like I can get through the next four months without losing my mind.

Now, about resolutions. This year I'm doing something a little bit different, thanks to a new friendly acquaintance I know in real life and am following on Instagram. She introduced me to Kimberly Joy's Wheel of Intention, which she used last year for resolutions.

credit to Kimberly Joy

I love this idea because it covers broad areas of life while also encouraging you to set specific goals. So rather than saying, "Practice self care," I can specifically tend to my mind by tackling Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2019 Ready Challenge.

I also love it because it makes "Money and Career" one piece of a much, much bigger life pie, and it was really revitalizing for me to look at the division of my life and priorities like this wheel. I think that I tend to visualize my day with 2/3 of it taken up by work, and sometimes it starts to feel like work is 2/3 of my life--especially when I'm bringing home essays or exams to grade, or I am in bed reading for class rather than for fun. The fact is that some of that is unavoidable with my job--I'll always be cramming in grading time and there will always be evenings when I need to read for class. The trade off (and major perk) of my job is that it gives me a month off to do none of those things at Christmas, and a couple months off in the summer. And when I'm in bed reading for class, I'm still reading Jane Austen.

Anyway, I knew I wanted to blog about this, but then as I was brainstorming my goals, I found myself getting kind of hung up on making them public... So anyway, I told myself I wouldn't make all of them public, but I would like to share a few things that I want to do in 2019. I gave myself two or three bullet points in each category. So here are some examples:

Self-Care
- Yoga 5x a week. I was SO GOOD with daily yoga last year. And then the first trimester of pregnancy hit me and although I wasn't barfing in the morning, exhaustion and nausea were the main experiences post-alarm clock. So yoga went out the window for about six weeks. I did pick it up again, but I started worrying about doing something wrong/harmful (this is mostly just paranoia--I've never heard of yoga causing miscarriage). And exhaustion was still real. So I tried to do prenatal routines, but those were often too boring/easy. So I was a little stumped. I have a few videos now that I like and I've been having sciatic nerve pain, so I know I need to keep moving and keep my back strong. I should be able to get back into this.

Money & Career
- Use a budget app. Pretty self-explanatory, this one. We need to watch our budget carefully since my maternity leave will be unpaid. (Insert rant about feminism, politics, America, etc.)

Lifestyle
- Plan a 2020 vacation. I'm not sure what this will look like... we'll (hopefully) have a second-grader, a kindergartener, and a baby, but I'd like to find a location that will suit all of us.

Creativity
- Encourage girls to craft.
- Revisit (and revise) novel.

Family & Friends
- Host a game night.

Love
- Plan a surprise date for David.

Community & Activism
- Sign up for a new group/experience outside my comfort zone. I did buy tickets to see Rachel Cargle when she's in Kansas City, but I'm going with a friend and it doesn't feel scary. I recently applied to be part of a 12-week study of anti-racism work that's specifically geared to help white people take action. I want to be sure that I am prepared to do anti-racism work without burdening people of color or centering myself, so I think this study will be helpful. But 12 weeks? With a new group of people, none of whom I know? I hate new things. This is definitely outside my comfort zone.

Spirituality
- Read three books in the genre of religion/spirituality. I'm still open to possibilities here, but I want to read An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor and Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle.

So that's it... I have a few more bullet points under some of them, but you get the idea. I'm trying to be specific but still push myself to do things I might not normally do. If you want to download your own wheel and bullet your own goals, you can find it here.

I have to say, I was feeling sooooo good about the new year a week ago. Last Saturday was 60 degrees and sunny. Zuzu and Coco and I walked the neighborhood so Zuzu could sell Girl Scout cookies and she made her (very modest) goal. The house was clean and I felt energetic and excited about preparing for the semester. I think maybe my absolute favorite part of the job is preparing reading lists and syllabi. I know that sounds lame, but it's just the time when the semester is full of joy and possibility, before the reality of unenthusiastic students and piles of gradings start weighing on me. Anyway, Saturday I was in a really good mood. Living on top of the world!

Then Sunday morning was a drag to get everyone to church and by the time we got home from church, my back was killing me. I had sciatica like never before. I've experienced sciatic nerve pain in all of pregnancies (and there are so many of them because I apparently have the reproductive capacity of a hearty pioneer woman) but nothing has ever been this painful. I was reduced to tears a couple of times--going from bending to straightening, including sitting to standing, was excruciating. And there was a moment when I seriously thought I might pee my pants because I couldn't see how I would get up off the floor in time to make it to the bathroom (David ended up lifting me up). It was brutal. So Sunday was a sharp decline from Saturday's blissful, optimistic mood, and it's been a week of trying to get back to where I was.

I used ice packs and heating pad and gentle stretches and saw my chiropractor Monday morning, but this has been a week of recovery. I've come to appreciate the struggles of those living with chronic pain. It makes me so short tempered! Plus my jaw hurt from gritting my teeth.

After a week, things have definitely improved, but my back is still not what I would call normal, even for pregnancy. So that's a work in progress.

But then today was a lovely snow day--we got around a foot of it! I've never seen this much snow in St. Louis! I enjoyed the morning especially--snow falling, clean house, fire blazing, children playing outside, then playing together quietly with legos. I did yoga, got semester prep work completed, read Michelle Obama's book...

But the day stretched on and on and morning was long gone and bedtime was a long time away and the house was a mess, the kids were having meltdowns, my back was killing me... Let's just say the charm had worn off by 5pm. I'm ready for a restart tomorrow.

I think that's what I like so much about resolutions. They are a chance to restart. They create a picture of the person I want to be, and I may not hit every mark in 2019 (although I really try to make them achievable!) but I can always strive to learn more, to do more, to be better. And I guess that's also the point of every morning--not just January 1.

Here's to tomorrow--may it be filled with more patience, less pain, more laughter, less whining, more music, less bickering, more hugs, and fewer meltdowns. Happy 2019 everybody!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Change from Our Previously Scheduled Programming

This post needs a trigger warning: if you are sensitive to reading about pregnancy (including pregnancy after loss), you'll want to skip it.

And the trigger warning kind of made the announcement for me, but here it is:

If all goes well (important caveat), we are expecting another baby in May.

You may be shocked reading this, which is understandable as we didn't exactly think this was on our agenda. Full confession is that last spring I did start to think that I would be open to having another baby. I told a couple of friends that if I could be guaranteed healthy baby at the end of it, I could maybe do another pregnancy. But, Real Talk, the anxiety and uncertainty of another pregnancy (plus a pregnancy at 37-going-on-38) felt like too much to handle. So David and I decided that we were finished having babies and we were putting that stage completely behind us. And honestly, I'd already given ALL of my baby stuff away to my brother and sister-in-law.

And then I noticed that I couldn't get through a cup of coffee in the morning because it tasted disgusting and eventually I peed on a stick. And this time I ponied up for the digital kit because I was NOT going to be squinting in my bathroom at a hazy pink line. Just give me the digital word(s) already. And then there was just one word: Pregnant.

Now? I'm still pretty scared. I'm almost 20 weeks along and I think if I were a reader maybe I will feel annoyed or kept out of the loop, but I'm not trying to be tricky here. I haven't mentioned it because I truly kept waiting for things to go sideways. I am still quite worried about the 20-week scan next week, even though our genetic testing came back clear and we don't have any specific reason to worry (except, you know, for all those 1% risks that something will go wrong and our baby will die).

I kept thinking I'd announce it after the first trimester, but then we were right at Eliza's birthday, and I just needed to get through that anniversary and then it was the holidays. But I don't want to feel like I'm keeping it a secret. It feels both like an embarrassment of riches and also like the bottom will drop out from under me at any moment.

I think my mental health is pretty good this time around. I'm mostly operating in a mode of cautious optimism. But also I was shocked when I saw Instagram pictures of a pregnant friend of mine taking her seven-year-old daughter to an ultrasound visit. I couldn't believe she'd done that. You see, it would NEVER occur to me to do this with Zuzu and Coco because I fear that every ultrasound will show a dead baby. And when I say that, I don't mean "Oh, every pregnant woman worries." I mean, "I could never bring my daughters to a doctor appointment with me because I am absolutely convinced before each appointment that my baby will not have a heartbeat." So probably that's not exactly normal.

I do have the same wonderful OBGYN and I'm hopeful (see that cautious optimism?) that this pregnancy will be just like Zuzu and Coco and end in a gorgeous little human. But it does feel like we have a long way to go.

For example, here are a few things I've done that made me certain I was going to lose this pregnancy:
- talked about baby names
- talked to HR at work about maternity leave
- told the girls they're going to have a baby sister
- borrowed maternity clothes from my sister-in-law

As my friend Sarah kindly reminded me, planning for and talking about a baby is not a cause of pregnancy loss.

But when your baby dies before she is born, causation and correlation get really murky.

I have braced myself to see blood every single time I have peed since I peed on a stick and saw two pink lines back in October. That is a lot of trips to the bathroom. I actually had a moment when I saw a tiny spot of red blood after I wiped and I immediately went into cold panic before realizing that I had a paper cut on my finger and it was bleeding on the toilet paper.

The girls are excited, and I'm trying to let that buoy me rather than terrify me (it's far too easy to imagine their grief and disappointment should we lose this baby). Based on all the evidence we have, this baby should be fine! Based on personal experience, I'm looking at a 33% chance of disaster. Feels more like 50/50. Also, statistics are meaningless when it's your life, your pregnancy, your baby.

I spent the first trimester trying to convince myself that the status quo was awesome and if I miscarried, we'd be fine. But really you guys I'm all in. I'm ridiculously, breathlessly excited about one more squishy baby duck. I look at baby pictures of Coco and Zuzu and I can't believe I could be lucky enough to get one more of those gorgeous babes. AND I'm also really scared that there's just not enough luck in the universe to get me there.

So that's where we sit as 2019 unfolds.

I have a lot more thoughts on this pregnancy (of course), but I just wanted to fill you all in (I think there are still a few people reading this!) and maybe I'll post an announcement on IG and FB soon. It's just hard to get the tone of those right... cautiously optimistic and super freaking excited and also totally effing terrified. How exactly do you communicate that in a bump photo and a caption? I'll let you know if I figure it out. In the meantime, thanks for reading and following along with us. Every comment (except the few dickish ones and all those anonymous spam bots, obviously) has meant so much me. Some of you have been reading since we had Baby Duck, The Deuce, and Rerun. And now, here we go again on our final round with The Closer.

(For crime drama fans, that's a reference to the final pitcher they bring in in a baseball game to finish the last innings, not the Kyra Sedgwick show, although that was a really good show.)

Thanks in advance for your thoughts, prayers, good wishes, good vibes, good juju, voodoo magic, and any other bits of stardust you can send my way. XOXOXO

Friday, January 4, 2019

Disney Recap

Where to even begin with the Disney post? It was a delightful trip in many ways, there were definitely a few things we'd do different next time, and lots of highlights. We went to Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, and Animal Kingdom. We visited Epcot, Universal Studios, and the Magic Kingdom twice. Here are my thoughts and reflections, in no particular order except what pops into my head as I'm writing this.


- Epcot was one of my favorite parks, and we only got to see it after dark (our first day) and in the rain. This was a bummer, as far as I'm concerned. Next time, I would skip going to a park the evening that we arrive. We were up at 6am to leave for the airport by 7, which is not ungodly early by any means, but a day of travel with two little ones is exhausting and stressful, even though we ended up gate checking our carry on suitcases so we only had backpacks to worry about. We were all just a little too tired to really enjoy our experience at Epcot, which was overwhelming and disorientating in the dark with all the crowds after a long day of travel.


- Six is a pretty perfect age for visiting Disney. Four is good, but doesn't quite have the stamina or height or six (and is still prone to the occasional meltdown). Zuzu was charming and delightful the entire trip, and Coco definitely had moments of expressing that she was tired and out of sorts. She still naps at school (and occasionally at home) and we were pushing through naptime everyday. She's not a kid who sleeps in the stroller (except one night on the way home). So maybe waiting another year would have been good for her, but I have no regrets about taking Zuzu at age 6 1/2. Also, we used our double stroller, which was definitely the right call (we have this one and have been very happy with it for the past four years).

Coco gives Dole Whip a thumbs up.

- Rain is the worst. There's just no way around it. It kept the crowds down for sure, but it made for a chilly day with soggy feet, which was pretty miserable. We kept our game faces on, but I do not like being wet and chilled. We tried to time our visit around showers, but there was rain on and off all day long, so we got to the park later than we would have and left earlier. We showered and ate at the hotel and then the rain had let up, so we went back to Epcot for the fireworks show and a couple of fast pass rides, which was nice.


- Fireworks with our kids is overrated. David wanted to push several park visits to 9:30 or 10:00pm when the fireworks shows starts. I know Disney fireworks are awesome. But Coco still doesn't like the noise (I spent the show covering her ears with my hands) and it's just not worth it for us. I'm glad we saw the fireworks at Epcot one night, but that is all we needed.


- The magic of princesses is real. The cute conversations that each one of the princesses had with our girls, their star-struck smiles and shyness, the big hugs they gave after having their photos taken--it was all so adorable.




- The Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique is a racket and is TOTALLY worth it if your kids are into that kind of thing. Coco in particular was so delighted with the long blond hair piece that she selected--that alone was worth the cost. We were running late for our appointment because we didn't realize the shuttle bus from our hotel didn't start running to Disney Springs until close to 9am and our appointment was for 9am, but they were totally sweet and accommodating (as I suppose you would expect from a fairy godmother). It was a real highlight of our trip.



- We stayed at the Dolphin hotel of the Swan and Dolphin hotel complex. This is apparently a Disney-owned resort, but is not considered to be "on property" as their other hotels are, although it is walking distance from Epcot (if you don't mind a bit of a walk) or you can take a quick boat taxi ride (for free) that drops you right at Epcot. They also have frequent bus shuttles to all the parks and to Disney Springs (though Disney Springs does not run as early as the parks do, as we learned). I have no complaints about our hotel--our room was spacious (two double beds) and very clean, the pool at the hotel was lovely, and there were several restaurants and a little cafe/grocery/candy store on property where we picked up cereal and yogurts for breakfast. I don't know anything about booking Disney trips, but David said the cost per night was considerably less an "on-property" hotels and we had zero complaints. They also provided complimentary heavy-duty umbrellas for guests on the rainy day we had, which was a real lifesaver.


- We had pizza delivered to our room one night, which was such a good choice. Our kids did pretty well in restaurants each evening, but a pizza picnic mid-week was exactly what we needed.


- We (and by "we" you all know I mean David) really tried to do a bit too much. We were there for six days and the plan was to go go go. I told David that I wished we had splurged for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party, but he wasn't willing to shell out the extra cash. I think it would be worth it in December, though, to experience the park with fewer people. My understanding is that the week between Christmas and New Years is the busiest of the year, but the week before Christmas was definitely hopping. So I would have chosen to do that, but David disagrees, so there you have it. (You all know I'm right.) We definitely played it right taking an afternoon midweek to leave the park early and let the girls swim at the hotel.


- We could have done some optional early hours apparently, but we didn't. Forcing yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn when you and your children are not naturally early risers just didn't feel worth it, although I suppose that's another (less expensive) way to be at at the park with fewer people.


- Fastpasses are great. We only went on a few rides without fast passes, and those waits got to be pretty brutal (mostly because we had to keep Coco somewhat entertained while she whined about how it was taking forEVER).


- The Haunted Mansion is scary and traumatizing if your kids are sensitive about that kind of stuff, so just skip it rather than wait in line and then feel terrible that your four-year-old is crying the whole time.



- Honestly, Coco got to where she didn't want to go on any ride that got dark (which is a LOT of them) and anytime we were in a tunnel (scary or not) she would say loudly, "When do we get out of here? When is this over?". She loved the princesses and Mickey and Minnie and the kiddie roller coasters, but honestly, she probably would have been a lot more fun a year or two from now--in part because she would be tall enough for some of the rides that she couldn't do this year (and in part because of her more cautious personality). It's hard being 38 inches tall at Disney!


- Next time I would do a grocery delivery or bring more snacks with me. You can bring food into the parks and Coco is such a grazer. She wants small snacks frequently through the day and she is crabby AF when she is hungry (I wonder where she gets that...???). We bought a refillable popcorn bucket for $10 the first day and refilled it at least once every day for $2. It was definitely a good investment for our popcorn-loving family.



- David's mom gifted us with a photo package so anytime we saw a Disney photographer at the park, we could have them scan our card and take a family photo. This was fun, even though I did not feel cute at all the entire time we were there, and we have over 300 photos to sort through and download. I wasn't sure we wanted to shell out for the photo package, but it's the best way to get all four of us in the photo, and it was a perfect Christmas gift.


- Similarly, we got Disney cash cards from my aunt and from some of David's coworkers, which was so thoughtful and appreciated. We put those toward food at the parks and a souvenir Christmas ornament.



- I bought Minnie ears on clearance from Gap.com months before our trip, which was great because the girls were excited about them, but when the novelty wore off, I wasn't mad that I'd spent $8 instead of $30 on the ones at the park.


- We spent two days at Universal Studios which was one day too many for our family. I know some kids are totally into Dr. Seuss and Marvel superheroes, but we were really just there for Harry Potter. We started our days in those areas and then ventured out to the rest of the park when the crowds became impossible. We should have done a one-day ticket for both parks and would do that next time. The coolest rides are too scary or intense for our kids, and Zuzu wasn't interested in trying Spiderman, even though David tried to convince her. They had a lot of fun on the playground areas where they could climb and slide, but next time we'd spend less time there just because of our kids' particular quirks.


I'm sure there's more, but honestly we had the best time. Don't believe Coco's face in the photo above! I hope that the girls will remember the trip being magical and exciting. Their joy made the trip joyful for us, and that was the real magic.

It was a lovely way to wrap up 2018, and such a perfect trip for this moment in our lives. David gets huge credit for doing all the planning and the coordinating. I seriously had no idea what was going on until he told me, and I'm kind of proud of myself for being chill enough to just go with it! (I did have to talk him in to taking a half day one day at Universal so we could go back to the hotel and let the girls swim--he's a go-getter, that one!). Just looking back at these pictures and the expressions on the girls' faces when talking to the princesses or going on the rides (or getting the same pink pygmy puff as Ginny Weasley) makes me so happy.

Other fun things... I went back and forth about this, but finally ordered matching family shirts (I got them from a seller through Jane.com). I also got the girls everyday dress up dresses--they are dresses that mimic the Disney princesses, but are made of soft, knit material so are more comfortable for wearing than the sometimes stiff and kind of itchy, shiny dress up dresses (which my kids also have and love). I bought their Ariel and Jasmine costumes from the Disney Store online before the trip, rather than buying them at the Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique, which was definitely a cost saver.

I found a great falafel and hummus place between Africa and Asia in the Animal Kingdom, which we had for lunch one day, and we also loved our pasta meal at the Lady & the Tramp restaurant (names are escaping me) on Main Street at Disney World.

Oh--and I ignored David and wore my winter coat most days with no regrets. 60 degrees is not cold, but mornings don't start out that warm, and when it got dark, I was glad I had it. It was nice to be able to stuff it under the bottom of the stroller when I didn't need it.

One other thing I'll add--and really, the only piece of advice I have--is that David paid for some kind of app that helps you set up an itinerary and tells you how many people are at the park and how long lines are for specific rides. It was definitely worth it--he consulted it a lot and since we weren't familiar with any of the parks, it made planning much easier. If I'd been in charge, we would have just had someone else plan the trip for us (haha but seriously), but if you want to micromanage the details, find an app that helps you!

Whew. As much fun as the trip was, it was also an exhausting vacation as everyone says. I definitely wouldn't make it an annual vacation, but I'm also not entirely opposed to revisiting someday...

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Year in Review

Last year this was back by popular demand, so this year I just went ahead and started working on it in the car on our drive home from Pittsburgh. I'll post soon a little bit about our holiday travels (so fun! so exhausting! so glad to be home!) but for now, here's the NYE reflection on all the things of 2018...

1. What did you do in 2018 that you'd never done before?
* went to Disney World in Florida
* met a Supreme Court Justice
* saw Hamilton 

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Flashback to my Goals for 2018:
- Meal Plan
- Meal Prep
- regular yoga + exercise
- more fun stuff with friends
- more fun stuff with family

We did pretty well with meal planning, although we definitely fell off of it toward the end of the year. It's something I'll try to continue in 2019 for sure. David did the heavy lifting on meal prep, but we definitely appreciated the weeks that there was a casserole or chili in the freezer. I did a pretty good job with yoga, keeping to it almost daily except when I was sick (I love Yoga with Adriene, and I'd often follow her monthly calendar, making adjustments if I needed a shorter routine due to a time crunch in the mornings). As far as "fun stuff" goes... I think that was too vague. Yes, we had fun. I do think we could have been more intentional about seeing friends, and we definitely concentrate our fun stuff during the summer, which makes me think about spreading it out a little more and making the school year more fun instead of a daily grind.

I will definitely be making resolutions for 2019. I love a fresh start and setting new goals. I'm still working on them, so I'll probably post about those later. I know I want to write more, read more, and play more. We're also going to do some serious budget tracking and saving, which sounds much less fun.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister-in-law JoAnna had my nephew, Kelvin, otherwise known as Baby Bucky. My friend Nora had her baby Lena and my friend Natalie had her baby Bash.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.

5. What countries did you visit?
Stayed in the U.S., visited West Virginia, Indiana, California, Florida, and Pennsylvania

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?
A coffee table in my front room, a puppy that doesn’t eat all the things,

7. What events from 2018 will remained etched upon your memory?
Bucky’s birthday, Zuzu’s first day of first grade, meeting Sonja Sotomayor, and Brave Magic weekend 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finished my memoir, wrote a novel

9. What was your biggest failure?
Stalled out on publication efforts, impatient with my kids, letting clean laundry sit in baskets for days

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Illness at beginning of year—bronchitis led to coughing so hard I strained a rib. My husband thought I was “overreacting” even though my pain tolerance is actually pretty freaking high so I’m still mad about the fact that I drove myself to urgent care where I got a chest x-ray, a steroid shot, and antibiotics. Fortunately, that was my only illness except for a cold during finals week.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Brave Magic weekend, Disney trip, this acupressure pad, and a new couch (David says the air fryer)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Women running for political office and Zuzu’s first grade teacher

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The President of the United States (same as last year!)

14. Where did most of your money go?
If you know, please tell me! (#budgetgoals2019)

15. What did you get really excited about?
Brave Magic, novel writing, memoir, Disney

16. What song will always remind you of 2018?
Soundtrack to The Greatest Showman

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? happier
- thinner or fatter?  fatter
- richer or poorer?  cash poorer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Time with friends

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Reading the news

20. How did you spend Christmas?
break started with a trip to Disney World in Florida, then we returned home to St. Louis for Christmas Eve and Christmas day with my parents, then drove to Pittsburgh to spend time with my brother, his wife, and kids

21. Did you fall in love in 2018?
with my nephew and (most of the time) with Clementine the naughty puppy

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Father Brown (I need soothing television so it’s like the only thing I’ve watched this year)

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No one specific!

24. What was the best book you read?
Another year of reading so many good ones...  I set a goal of reading 52 books this year but ended up reading 64. I do count books that I re-read, though. My top six in no particular order:
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I’ll Think It You Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld (I became a huge fan of Sittenfeld this year)
When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Educated by Tara Westover
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan

25. What was your favorite musical discovery?
I'll count the one I made tonight--watching the Taylor Swift concert on Netflix with my kids. The girls were mesmerized and inspired for their own karaoke. So fun!

26. What did you want and get?
a new couch (this is what I wanted and didn't get in 2017!)

27. What did you want and not get?
a new coffee table (if you give a mouse a cookie...)

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Black Panther and A Star Is Born

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 38. We were in Indiana with my dad’s side of the family. No complaints!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Getting on top of organizing and printing photos and photo books beyond Chatbooks (or maybe just settling for the fact that Chatbooks will be the only printed record of Zuzu's and Coco's childhoods?)

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?
Casual, comfortable, with some effort to look polished for work days

32. What kept you sane?
Smart, capable, funny female friends, my mom, and my awesome life partner of a husband

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Michelle Obama

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
The children separated from their parents at the border. I look at my own kids and I still can't even wrap my mind around that trauma.

35. Who did you miss?
Eliza

36. Who was the best new person you met?
We Stories community members

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.
Plan for surprises.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
from "Slow Down" by Nichole Nordeman - I went to see Jen Hatmaker speak with my friend Michelle and I wasn't familiar with Nichole Nordeman before that evening. She has a lovely voice, and this song about her daughter had me getting teary-eyed. 

Here’s to you 
You were pink or blue 
And everything I wanted 
Here’s to you 
Never sleeping through 
From midnight till the morning 
Had to crawl before you walked 
Before you ran 
Before I knew it 
You were trying to free your fingers from my hand 
'Cause you could do it on your own now Somehow
Slow down 
Won’t you stay here a minute more 
I know you want to walk through the door 
But it’s all too fast 
Let’s make it last a little while 
I pointed to the sky and now you wanna fly 
I am your biggest fan 
I hope you know I am 
But do you think you can somehow 
Slow down

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Recap

I remember being eight. I remember a lot about it. I was in third grade. I had one of my favorite teachers that year. I lost my front two teeth right before I turned eight, so I had the big gappy smile. I wanted to be a detective and an actress and a teacher when I grew up. Also an author. I started reading books I really loved--The Secret Garden and A Little Princess and Anne of Green Gables and all the Ramona books. When I was eight, I couldn't wait to be twelve. I had three best friends, Mandy and Kelly and Erin. I played four square at recess, but still played dress up and pretend, too (Erin and I loved to pretend that we were twelve). I got a diary with a lock that I only wrote in sporadically. I was already me at eight years old.

If life had gone a different way, I'd have an eight year old. A little big kid. 

Eight years is long enough that grief sits familiarly. The week leading up to her birthday wasn't too bad this year--sometimes the days proceeding are harder than the actual day. This year that wasn't so much the case. I was busy enough to be distracted at work, but I'd deliberately cleared my evenings to make space for early bedtimes and good books (I finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing and really loved it; I also finished Claire Tomalin's nonfiction memoir A Life of My Own, which addresses the loss of her daughter Susanna in a heartbreaking and honest way). 

I took the day off work, which I knew I would need, based on previous experience. I was able to respond to e-mail from home, but I spent the day mostly on my couch, addressing Christmas cards and half-watching Netflix Christmas movies involving princes and identity switcheroos. 

I picked Coco up early for a quick run to the cupcake shop and Trader Joe's for flowers. 

What I really want is for us to go out to dinner on Eliza's birthday, but David would have to take off work early for us to be able to do that and get out to the park for the vigil by 7pm, so we weren't able to do that this year. Next year we'll plan accordingly.

The girls were weirdly jazzed about Eliza's birthday. I say weirdly because I obviously have mostly sad feelings about it, but they were very intent on a "celebration" with cupcakes and candles and they sang happy birthday and I just went with it. I think it was also exciting just to do something besides get ready for bed at 7pm on a school night. We had them put on their pajamas and at the park we bundled them under blankets in the stroller. I only had one battery-lit candle that worked and there was bickering over blankets and Coco was SO FREAKING LOUD that I threatened to take her back to the car and we got there about two minutes after the ceremony had already started. But we made it. The song and the talk (a mom who lost her baby girl to meningitis at five days old) made me cry and Coco looked at me wonderingly and said, "Are you sad?" and I said, "Yes. I miss Eliza a lot today." And she said, "All these people are sad because all their babies died."

After there ceremony we stood in the long line to put a white flower on the Angel of Hope statue. A newspaper photographer snapped Zuzu's picture (she looks like a miniature college student with her zebra stripe fleece pajama pants and her messy bun) and she was featured in their write up of the event. I didn't realize he was snapping her photo (which is why my mouth is open and I'm flailing my arm in the photo), but he caught up with us as we were walking away to ask Caroline's name and where we live. Then he said, "And who are you here for?" So I said, "Her sister Eliza, who would be eight years old today." And then he asked me when Eliza was born and I said, "December 6, 2010." And he said, "December 6? So today is her birthday?" and I said yes and he started to say, "Well, happy birthday--" but then he kind of caught himself like maybe that was inappropriate and I just said, "Well, we do the best we can." And then he sort of looked up at the sky and said, "Happy Birthday, Eliza," and it made me get totally teary-eyed.

She got featured in the story here (she's the top photo) and the girls also are in another photo later if you scroll down (they appear unsupervised, but I swear David and I were right behind them!). 

And then we drove home and everybody went to bed by 8:30pm (late for the girls, early for us).

It wasn't the worst December 6 I've ever had, by a long shot. I felt the love of texts and e-mails and IG comments and facebook messages. It helps so much to know she's not forgotten, that other people miss her too, that other people besides us see the gap that's left in this world by a little girl who would have certainly lit it up just like her sisters do. 

Eight years is when I really started to figure out who I was and what I loved. And I just wish I could know Eliza at eight. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Thoughts Deep and Shallow

I had the most amazing experience on Sunday.

After someone had an accident that went right through the “water resistant” mattress pad, I knew I needed one of the plastic mattress covers that are completely waterproof. I ordered it on the Target app as we were leaving church. I selected “pick up at store” and then I chose “deliver to car.” We had brunch and a play date with friends, then I opened the Target app and told them “I’m on my way.” I allowed the GPS to track me in the app and it KNEW when I arrived at the store. By the time I parked in the clearly marked “pick up here” parking spot at the store, a Target employee was walking the mattress cover to my car. 

I signed for it and left and I didn’t have to get my kids out of their car seats. It was AMAZING!

###

This week at church was a child dedication service. I had seen this announcement weeks ago, but we missed three weeks of church in a row in November--one or the other of the girls woke up on a Saturday running a temperature two weeks in a row, and then we didn't go on Thanksgiving weekend when we had family in town. Anyway, it was not on my radar and then I got to church on Sunday and saw it in the bulletin: 9:30am Service: Child Dedication.

My heart kind of flipped. This is precisely the kind of service I have deliberately skipped for the past eight years. It has felt too difficult, too tender, too emotional. Certainly not something I would have decided on purpose to sit through the first weekend in December.

But we were there. Well, David stayed home to do some yard work, but Zuzu and I were there, and Coco was already in the preschool room. (At our church, kids in kindergarten and older sit in the service for the first fifteen minutes so they are there for the opening greeting and the "Time for All Ages" story time. After that, we sing the children out of the sanctuary to their classes with a song that goes, "From you I receive, to you I give, together we share, and from this we live," which is a little tradition that I love.)

I looked at the order of service, took a deep breath, and decided I could do this. I didn't need to run to the bathroom and hide. I could manage to sit through the dedication. It was a mix of ages--not just babies--and some of the kids and parents I knew, and I told myself it would be fine.

And it was.

I was sitting in a row with a good friend of mine and her son and daughter. Her son is in kindergarten and her daughter is a second grader--she is just a few weeks older than Eliza would have been.

There were five seats in the row, and five of us sitting there. Zuzu sat on the end of the row, then me, then my friend's daughter, then an empty chair, and my friend sat on the other end, holding her son on her lap.

And I had this moment of sitting there, noting the spacing that we hadn't planned, watching Zuzu play quietly with the stuffy she'd brought, watching my friend's daughter draw in her little notebook, imagining what it would be like if it were my second grader on my left and my first grader on my right. What if that were my normal? What if that were every day life? What if a child dedication was just one more little event at church instead of something that made my heart seize up? What if every December didn't feel start with me feeling like I have to gulp enough oxygen to get through the hours when I know I'll feel like I can't breathe? What if life were just that simple?

And then it was back to real life. The child dedication was lovely. It did not make me cry. We sang the kids out to Sunday school and we sat through the service and then we joined that same friend and her family for brunch and playtime at her house that was--as we could have expected--was noisy and hectic and left little time for actual talking, but was still a really nice moment of connection that I needed at the start of this week.

###

Eliza's eighth birthday is two days away. I sent an e-mail to Zuzu's teacher because I'm not sure whether Zuzu will talk about Eliza at school, but I wanted her to be prepared and aware of the situation if it comes up. I got a lovely response from her, which of course made me cry.

Sometimes I feel that old anger flare up, that feeling that, okay, yes, we've survived this great loss and we've been lucky enough to have two more amazing children who are here and healthy and alive and yet WHY did my baby have to die? Why does my life have to be complicated by this grief? Why do I have feel this extra level of complicated feelings about ALL OF THE THINGS ALL OF THE TIME?  Why am I e-mailing my first grader's teacher to let her know that it's possible my daughter will mention her dead sister's birthday this week? Why is this my life? Why can't it just be simple and easy?

And I know it's never simple or easy.  I know it may look that way, but everyone's story is more complicated and messier and uglier than we could possibly know. These stories emerge slowly, a comment here "When my mom died..." a remark there, "After my first marriage ended..." or "When I got my diagnosis..." and I realize that everyone gets their share of hurt and sad. (Don't they? Because if there's anyone who's still missing out on that completely, than I am definitely angry and jealous about it.)

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This year, I don't feel like I've been super emotional, but I think grief is manifesting itself as exhaustion (I see you, Grief! I know your tricks.). I feel really tired. I did all the things in November to get ready for December and I'm relieved I did because I'm definitely not productive right now. My plan for tonight is to go home, light a fire in the fireplace, watch the snow fall, and read. Or maybe just sleep.

I've already gotten some messages from people thinking of Eliza, recognizing my grief season, sharing it due to their own losses, and I'm just so grateful. For those of you still reading this ancient blog, for those of you who have shared your stories with me, for those of you who light a candle for my girl and hold Eliza in your hearts.

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I went to a concert last Friday with a new-ish friend who has also become a very dear, kindred spirit kind of friend and one of the songs they performed in concert was "For the Better" from Wicked. This song never fails to bring tears to my eyes. It makes me think of all the ways I've been shaped by being Eliza's mom--by knowing and loving her, and by all the people I've been led to because of her, including this friend, all of the babyloss moms I've e-mailed or connected with, and pretty much all of you reading this.

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn.

And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.

Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes the sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood.

Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.