Monday, November 28, 2016

10 Things On a Monday

1. I had to wake Coco this morning.
   1a. She spent the first ten minutes of her day crying and trying to climb back in her crib.
   1b. I could relate to the feeling.

2. Elsa the Elk/Elf is back in action. Zuzu was excited to see her and is still a little afraid of her, though she won't admit it. What she's not afraid of, however, are consequences of her behavior. Elsa creeps her out because Elsa is a creepy elf who sneaks around our house in the night. As far as Elsa the Santa Snitch goes, though, Zuzu is in Camp Couldn't Care Less.
   2a. In other words, Behavior Modification via the threat of an elf who tattles to Santa so we get a Christmas without presents is not working here.
   2b. But we're still moving the damn thing around every night.
   2c. Next year she's not showing up until December 1.

3. My children view our fireplace as an invitation to get naked in the living room.

4. I started feeding Cooper a grain-free dog food a few months ago. He loves it, but he is looking super fat now. I need to discuss this with our vet.

5. I get a sort of perverse pleasure out of cleaning gross things. Like today I cleaned the inside of our dishwasher. It was looking kinda grungy around the edges. And I scrubbed the gross screen that collects food particles in the bottom. And now I'm running a vinegar cycle. It makes me feel so virtuous.
   5a. I may need more hobbies.
   5b. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to have a sub-point a without a sub-point b, but I've got nothin'.

6. I'm making my students memorize and recite poems. Today I had a big athletic guy up in front of the class, ready to recite "A Red, Red Rose" by Robert Burns. Before he started, he took a deep breath and then said, "Man, this is hard! I feel like my heart is beating out of my chest!" But he recited the poem perfectly (although not with a Scottish accent). His classmates gave him a big round of applause and it was a nice reminder that admitting vulnerability can build community.

7. We put up Christmas decorations over Thanksgiving weekend. We have a rather large amount of decorations, especially as we inherited several things from David's grandma. The house does feel cozy with the tree lights glowing.

8. I'm halfway through the new episodes of The Gilmore Girls and my heart is set on Rory ending up with Logan. Don't plot spoil it for me! He's so adorable.

9. We put up Eliza's stocking this year. Zuzu wanted to. I was kind of on the fence. My friend Sonja has Santa put a rose in her daughter Elizabeth's stocking while he's filling Elizabeth's little sister's stocking, and I really like that idea, so maybe we'll make a similar request of Santa this year.

10. Coco really wants to look at gross things.
   10a. Every time I wipe her nose, she says, "I see it??!!" and demands to look at the boogery tissue.
   10b. Today after she got off the potty, I closed the lid before she flushed and she lifted the lid back up. "No," I said, "We don't want to look at that!" She turned to me in disbelief. "I yook at it!" she said.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Conversations with Zuzu

Let's Get That In Writing

Scene: Arguing about who knows what.

Me: That's not a decision that kids get to make. That's a decision that grown ups make.

Zuzu: When I grow up, my kids can make ALL the decisions.




I've Played that Big Sister Game Myself

Scene: In the car.

Zuzu: Poopoo peepee. (laughs)

Me: That's enough potty talk.

(repeat that exchange twice more)

Zuzu: Poopoo butt!

Me: Okay, consequences the next time I hear potty talk.

Coco: Poopoo butt!

Me: Coco, do you want consequences when we get home?

Coco: Yas.

(a few minutes later)

Zuzu: (in a very quiet whisper) Coco, say poopoo butt.


Like a Boss

Scene: Before school, in the kitchen.

Zuzu: What's a boss?

Me: Someone who tells other people what to do.

Zuzu: So you're a boss.

Me: Yes. Who am I the boss of?

Zuzu: Daddy.


Hey, It's a Valid Concern

Scene: On our way to get photos taken at JCP.

Zuzu: Who will take our pictures?

Me: I don't know if the photographer will be a man or a woman, but they will be very nice and you will need to follow their directions.

Zuzu: But what if it's that mean man?

Me: It won't be a mean man.

Zuzu: But what if it's Donald Trump?!



Still Working on the Punchline; Or, Existential Humor

Scene: Teaching Zuzu a joke.

Me: Why was 6 afraid of 7?

Zuzu: Why?

Me: Because 7 EIGHT 9!

(later that day)

Zuzu: Why does 8 like to play with 7?

Me: Why?

Zuzu: Because he EIGHT a hotdog for breakfast!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Weekend Update (not the SNL skit)

My weekend got off to a rough start with a trip to urgent care Friday night. My throat was sore and it came on fiercely and suddenly and if I was dealing with strep, I wanted to know right away. So I dragged myself to urgent care and paid the steep copay and got swabbed. Negative for strep, I went home and slept 10 hours and felt much better the next morning!

Saturday morning I took the girls to JCP for their annual Christmas dress photos. Zuzu was reasonably cooperative this year (a big improvement from Easter two years ago, which ended with an enormous temper tantrum when we had to leave the photographer's eggs behind and then Zuzu bit David on the arm hard enough to leave a mark). She was a little too eager, so we had a lot of super fake smiles with squinty eyes and her head tilted over to her shoulder. Next to Coco standing stone-faced or (my favorite) looking completely vacant.

I took them by myself, which made me nervous, but sometimes I think they are actually better behaved for just one parent instead of two. Anyone else have that experience? Why do you think that is?

Once that ordeal was over, I allowed them to play on the germ factory of an indoor playground at the mall. Then we walked down to the pretzel place, visiting not one but TWO public restrooms on the way there. (Because Zuzu didn't have to pee, so she just washed her hands, but then she DID have to pee. Because of course.)

We wandered back out through the car via the toy department of JCP, where I took various photos upon request of Zuzu with toys that she really, really wants for Christmas, including some Nickolodeon flying carpet princess dolls related to a show she has never seen (eye roll). It took a long time to get them out of there, but the thrill of the escalator helped. Coco had hit her limit at the end, and went boneless on me near our exit, but we finally made it out to the car. Unfortunately, at some point during the mall visit, we lost one of Coco's dress shoes (they changed clothes and shoes after the photo). Insert gritted teeth emoji. It may have fallen out of the bag in the parking lot. So she wore those shoes exactly one time. Sigh.

David spent the day working on a lit review for class and then he fixed a Blue Apron meal for us while Zuzu (who was exhausted but refused to nap earlier in the day) snuggled on my lap in front of the fireplace while I read a book and pretended to face paint on her face with a dry paint brush. Of course it feels AMAZING and relaxing to have someone softly trace your face with a dry paint brush, so she ended up falling asleep at 6:00pm and she slept until 10:30pm when she woke up and wandered downstairs, then went back to sleep until the next morning. I guess maybe we all were a little overtired this week.

I finished The Girls which was well done and creepy but gave me nightmares that made me kind of wish I hadn't read it. Also when the doctor at urgent care asked what I was reading (and marveled at the fact that it was a library book) he glanced at the title and, chuckling, said, "The Girls. Probably wouldn't be my first choice!" I replied flatly, "It's about a cult in the 1960s." I don't know what he assumed I was reading about, but he seemed a bit taken aback by that announcement. Eyeroll at the patriarchy.

We went to church on Sunday and Zuzu was super well behaved and Coco was... not. Then I went with my friend Erin to see Hamlet--the filmed stage production with Benedict Cumberbatch put on by the National Theatre Company that was shown at the Tivoli. It was fantastic. It was also like four hours long, including a 20 minute intermission, but still great. We felt very cultured and self-righteous afterward. Also full of popcorn and M&Ms.

Sunday evening we had dinner fairly early (the Blue Apron selections this week have been dynamite!) and then settled down with the girls to watch Fantastic Mr. Fox. We listened to the amazing audio book in the car a while back (the narrator is so great), but Zuzu still had LOTS OF QUESTIONS about everything happening in the movie, particularly what all of the animals were and what the names of the farmers were and what they were doing now and was going to happen to everyone. Over and over again. It started out cute and then verged on annoying so I finally had to say, "WATCH THE MOVIE TO FIND OUT!"

David said it was like watching a movie with his Grandma Peggy. (Our favorite movie memory with Gma Peggy: Watching Lost in Translation and getting about 2/3 of the way through it when his grandma had this epiphany and exclaimed, "Why, they're in Japan!" Oh, man. We miss her--especially this time of year.) The movie held Coco's attention, too, which kind of surprised me, and it made me get a little misty realizing that this was our first Family Movie Night and the girls are getting big enough for us to do this. The future is now.

I am trying to get on top of Thanksgiving prep and Christmas shopping. We are expecting 11 or 12 people at our house for Thanksgiving, so I need to figure out seating, since our dining room table comfortably seats 6 and can do 8 if we squeeze... I know we'll have plenty of food, but I want a cute table because for me table setting is more fun than food prep. (Also, I lost the party potatoes argument so we're having mashed potatoes instead which is okay but maybe we need both???).

I've decided to do a book a day advent thing for the girls. I realized we had 21 different kids' Christmas books (crazy! but awesome!), so I ordered two more from Abebooks.com and picked up this one new to get to 24. I wrapped them all up in shiny paper and numbered each one (this exact version of this one from when I was a kid is (obviously) number 24) so Zuzu can work on number recognition and we can read a new story each night.

And that's the update. Now I have a stack of papers to grade and I have to run a mile this afternoon and try to beat my previous time of 10 minutes and 10 seconds. Wish me luck!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Unsettled. (Also, Some Thoughts on Hair Cuts and Underwear.)

We are moving forward in the World Without Bangs. I still look at Before photos and sigh...

But she's got no regrets, folks. This girl is confident that her hair looks good. And I just can't help but love that about her.

When she got home from school on Tuesday, I asked her if her teachers said anything about her hair.

"They asked me if I got a hair cut."

"And what did you say?"

"I said I cut it myself."

"And what did your teachers say about that?"

"Nothing. They didn't cry."

David assumed we would cancel Christmas photos, but no such luck. However, they are just my portrait studio pictures of the girls in their dresses. I'll be using photos from our summer photo session on our Christmas cards. The girls haven't changed that much. (Except for Zuzu's hair... sigh.)

* * *

I still feel worried about the aftermath of the election. I'm in disbelief that the Alt Right or people who support the Alt Right by providing a platform or by NOT denouncing what they do/say have an actual seat at the table. I'm terrified about what it means that someone who denies that humans are causing climate change will be in charge of protecting our environment. I may save money on my taxes, but it will be at someone else's expense, and I'm sad about that. I'm worried for friends who have pre-existing health conditions and fear losing insurance coverage.

And here's the thing about hate speech and hate crimes--these things would have happened no matter who won the election. But they are happening now with what feels like an endorsement from the president-elect. It's not retaliation--it's celebratory. And it's so ugly. And it's happening here.

I hope so hard that people who supported Trump for non-racist, non-sexist, non-asshole reasons will demand that he act like a non-racist, non-sexist, non-asshole. I really, really hope so.

I heard yesterday that Hillary got over 1,000,000 more votes. I know a lot of people don't like her, for various valid and invalid reasons, but damn. I hope that the popular vote at least indicates that love trumps hate even if it doesn't mean that Hillary trumps Trump.

I remember when the whole voting kurfluffle happened when Bush ran against Gore and I was pissed off about how the whole thing shook out (although I voted for Ralph Nadar in that election, so whatevs...). This feels different.

* * *

In the wake of all this fear/anxiety, I'm making my therapist proud by remembering all the times she talked to me about self-care. I'm still exercising with my student personal trainer. I'm trying to make time to do yoga before bed.

(Last night, I replaced "yoga before bed" with "evening walk to Ted Drewes for custard" and that also seemed to relieve some stress.)

I made a donation to Planned Parenthood and to Stray Rescue.

I'm also doing a letter writing project. It started with a thank you note to Hillary Clinton, but now I'm making a list of people whom I see fighting the good fight and trying to make a difference so I can send them a note. Most of them aren't public figures, but are people who make a difference in my life. I want to acknowledge their efforts. And, because I'm a huge nerd, I'm trying to enclose a poem that seems to fit with the situation. So I'm reading more poetry, which also seems to help relieve stress.

My impulse when I'm sad/stressed is to turn inward. I want to stay home. I want to avoid phone calls. I want to shut out the world. I'm working hard to resist that impulse. To send messages, to attend events, to be part of the conversation.

We had signed up to be involved in We Stories long before the election, but I'm finding new urgency and a helpful sense of common goals in that group. Plus, we got some fantastic books after attending their launch on Sunday. Coco is really into Please, Baby, Please, which is so much fun to read out loud. While she's obviously too little to have an in-depth discussion about racial injustice, I just make it a point to emphasize how much the characters in these books who don't necessarily look like her are actually just like her--the act the same way, like the same things, are loved by their mamas. It's a small thing, but it feels like something.

We got a copy of Shades of People, which we already owned, so we donated our extra to Zuzu's school. She was very proud to share her book, and it's evidently prompting some discussion there. She came home and announced, "I have one friend at school who has dark skin."

(Ummm.... okay... this is why talking about race with kids feels awkward...)

So I said something about how all of us have skin in different shades (basically quoting the book) and then asked her if she has some friends at school whose skin has freckles.

"I have a freckle!" she said proudly, "It's next to my ba-gina."

(Ummm... okay... she does have a freckle kind of on her underwear line, so... great?)

* * *

Speaking of underwear, the potty-training situation with Coco has been... hit and miss (ha ha see what I did there?). She'll have a day of no accidents, then she'll pee her pants four times in one day. She does much better at home than she does at school. She hits the potty for about every other poop, but I think we can all agree that batting .500 when it comes to poop in your pants is NOT ideal.

Still, she's just the sweetest little peanut. Her goodbye routine at school has finally, finally shifted from sad face and teary eyes to hugs and hugs and kisses and kisses and she walks in the door confidently and is greeted enthusiastically by her friends... it just melts my heart every morning. She is still a mama's girl, and takes a while to adjust to new situations, but once she is in, she is ALL in. And I love that about her. Every day when I ask her what her favorite part of the day was, she just recites the names of her teachers and her friends. It's ridiculously cute.

* * *

My grief season is creeping up. Weirdly, I think the post-election-sadness has kind of distracted me, but I never forget that Eliza's birthday is coming up. And what do I do with six years of missing?

As Zuzu and Coco get older and demonstrate more and more of their personalities, I can't help but wonder how much like or unlike Eliza they are, and how her presence might have shaped them in different ways. Zuzu asks a lot more questions about Eliza ("Did she come out of your belly and float right up to heaven?"), which never fail to leave me fumbling for answers. ("Ummm... yes? No. Sort of? I don't know, honey.") We'll plan to attend the vigil on December 6, but I'm not sure if we'll bring the girls or get a babysitter. (Probably a babysitter...)

We've also been thinking back to a year ago at this time, when David was spending so much time with his grandma and we were coping with the news of her cancer coming back. A season of grief that overlaps with a holiday all about gratitude and the start of a nation that now feels angry and divided... It's an unsettling place to be.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Scissors

Zuzu got out of bed this morning a little reluctantly. She'd taken a (short) nap at school yesterday, which pushes back bedtime from 7:30-8pm to 8:30-9pm. But she was up! I heard her in her bedroom, choosing her clothes for the day (not my favorite ensemble, but it wasn't aggressively attacking the color wheel, so that's refreshing). 

At one point as I walked from the bathroom back to my bedroom, I noticed that Zuzu was no longer in her bedroom. It's a bit unusual for her to go downstairs without me, but she loves to exercise her independence by getting out the breakfast supplies, so I assumed that was what she was doing. By the time I finished getting dressed, she was back upstairs and I saw her in my peripheral vision as I was putting on mascara. 

"Hi, sweetie," I said, leaning toward the mirror the way you do when you put on mascara. "Can you check and see if your sister's awake?"

A moment later I heard the two of them giggling in Coco's crib, and I went into the Coco's room and lifted her out of bed, ready to carry her to the bathroom. Zuzu climbed out of the crib and we were chattering about breakfast and pancakes.

And then I gasped, staggered, set Coco down, and nearly collapsed. 

I covered my mouth with my hands and started crying.


When questioned as to her motive, she replied:  "I didn't want my bangs on my face."

I think we've pretty well established that this child is shameless, but when she realized that I was crying, she said, "I'm sorry, Mommy. I won't do this EVER again."


We have Christmas photos scheduled for Saturday. The girls in their Christmas dresses. And now, with big-ass bows on their heads.


This enormous pile of hair, along with our kitchen scissors (taken from the drawer where they belong, which she knows are only for grown-ups to use), was in the corner of the TV room, half hidden behind a curio cabinet.

(The scissors are now relocated to a top shelf in the pantry.)

She obviously knew she wasn't supposed to be doing this, because she snuck downstairs and cut her hair while hiding in the corner and facing the wall.


I know it will be funny in a few years. But mercy. It's so terrible. I think I'm still in shock.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

In the Upside Down

Zuzu asked David last night if the boy won or the girl. We didn't know before she went to bed.

On the way to school this morning, I told her that I was feeling sad because the boy won. I was sad because he said mean things but he was now going to be the leader of our country. Zuzu asked if he was going to be mean to us (I said no, not sure if I was lying), then, as though she'd just remembered, she added "Oh, mom," she said, "The girl won at my school!"

Her preschool class (which does have a female majority), elected Hillary Clinton. The popular vote itself elected Hillary Clinton. The electoral college did not.

So, in her mind, Hillary is still President of Preschool, which is good news as far as I'm concerned.

I am a white, educated, privileged citizen of the United States. I woke up this morning afraid of what the future will hold. It is a testament to my position of privilege (and my relative youth) that this is the first time in my life I have felt this way. I'm scared of what the future holds in terms of rights for minorities, LGTBQ, immigrants, Muslims, and women.

At my core is a tiny, desperate little optimist, who is trying not to hyperventilate. I'm hoping that something good will come from this. I'm hoping that the narrative continues and this is just an unexpected twist. I'm hoping that he is full of BS in the sense that he doesn't mean half the shit he said.

But I looked at my sleeping daughters last night and I felt like our country had failed them. Voting for someone who objectifies women is tacit approval of that objectification.

I don't expect that we will all ever come together completely to agree on policy or, hell, even scientific fact (global warming, anyone?). I know there are good people who voted for Trump, people who do not support everything he said. But to vote for him--for whatever reason--is to give silent approval of his messages. And his messages are hateful, fearful, and disrespectful of women (among others). I wanted to believe that we were better than voting that into office--all of us.

As my brother posted on FB (I'm still not on there--my mom just mentioned it so I texted him to see what he'd said): "I was wrong about the election, so hopefully I will be wrong about the consequences."

So while I feel like I've entered an alternative universe (OMG THIS IS THE UPSIDE DOWN), I have a job to do. Kids to raise. A life to live. I'm trying to remain hopeful and functioning, so I'm keeping newsfeed stuff to a minimum and listening to podcasts instead of NPR. Also I'm ordering pizza tonight because I can't even.

Here are some things to read that are sort of helpful:

What Do We Tell the Children?

What We Do Now

Still We Rise - This one is particularly helpful if you want to try to do something good today.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Nature Walk and Screen Time

The director of the girls' preschool sent us a link to this article on children and screen time. We all know that too much screen time isn't good for kids, but one thing that resonated with me is the claim that even having the TV on in the background can have an effect on kids.

I hadn't exactly made the connection, but now that I think about it, I realize that on the recent evenings when David has been watching baseball (which doesn't interest the girls (yet?)), they are harder to transition and settle down into bed. On Monday nights, when David has class, I never have time to sit down and watch TV while I'm by myself with the girls, and I'm just not in the habit of turning the TV on in background (mostly because the shows I'm interested in watching are usually not kid-appropriate and it's a treat so I want to sit down and actually watch). And Monday night bedtime is almost always easier than any other night of the week.

David and I still watch Survivor and occasionally we've watched it with the girls in the evening before bed. They usually don't pay attention to the show for long, but they do get pretty wound up while they play and mess around (enough that we will close-caption the dialogue because someone here is almost always shrieking). And those are the evenings when they argue and resist going upstairs, instead of being excited to cuddle and read books (which they are most of the time).

I'm not suggesting that we can't turn on the TV after work or watch TV as a family ever, but we are really doing to start paying attention to the differences in behavior, and definitely keep it at a minimum on weeknights. I'm not preaching here--I'm just strategizing how to make my life easier!

I also think some of this also depends on the temperaments of kids. I have a friend whose kids are in the habit of watching a show each night just before they go to bed. They expect it and look forward it to as part of their routine, and it seems to help settle them down. Evidently, they don't have trouble falling asleep afterward. So this works well for them, but in my experience, Zuzu settles in for bed SO much easier if the screen stays off.

When the preschool director sent out the link to the article, she also suggested that we make it a point to read to our kids this weekend or take them out to enjoy nature. Because I am forever a student who wants the teacher's approval, obviously I made it a point to take the girls on a little walk Saturday morning! We went to Forest Park and paid a drive-by visit to Eliza's tree, then went on our favorite little walk across the pedestrian bridges near the ice skating rink. It's so beautiful back in there, and we even spotted some wildlife (mostly ducks and minnows).

This was the first time we've done this walk without a stroller, and it's hard to believe that they're both so big! I walked this same path a lot when I was pregnant with Zuzu. So amazing to see her here now, looking tall with such long hair. And wearing a self-selected ensemble, of course.

Fearless little mountain goat. Still loving her cowboy boots today.

It was kind of hard being Coco today. Especially when Cooper was not interested in going where she wanted him to go. Imagine her screaming at the top of her lungs in this photo.

Zuzu walked up on the wall just like Madeline ("No one knew quite so well / how to frighten Miss Clavel") and then Coco had to do the same. You can see by her double-grip on David's hand that she's a little more cautious than her sister, though.

We spotted this bird and Zuzu said that it was a swan that used to be an ugly duckling. I had them point at it for the picture, but Coco may be pointing at an actual duck somewhere else.

Gathering dead leaves and stuffing them into her pockets.

"Mommy, is this the jungle?"

"Oh, I heard a sound from nature!"
We meandered through the paths and let the girls pick up leaves and rocks and run on and off the path and greet people walking their dogs. We stayed over an hour, and the girls were tired and getting hangry by the time we loaded up in the car. It was a good morning.

I've been having a lot of mixed feelings about leaving the baby stage behind... I'm actually really happy to pass along our baby things to friends and family, but I think there is a part of me that will always, always ache for one more baby. I am absolutely certain that if Eliza were here, I would feel differently, and that's part of what makes everything complicated. Still, days like today make me excited about entering a new stage of parenting and having the opportunity to do things like this with the girls, without strollers and diapers.

Of course, I'm also excited to watch big-kid movies with them, so we're going to have to schedule in some screen time, too...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

About the FB...

So... some of you may have already noticed that I created a FB profile last week. I put in my e-mail address as required, but I skipped the step where you look for friends. I created it only because it's a component of the We Stories group that we've joined and it was recommended in the welcome letter they sent out. They mentioned particularly that they know some people don't do FB, but we might want to consider creating a profile just for this parents' discussion group. I'm excited about this group, so I decided to overcome my aversion to FB and sign up.

(Related: I assumed that I would reactivate my old account, but evidently it's really deleted, so I'm starting fresh, which is nice.)

HOWEVER, I'm not really doing Facebook, which means I've been ignoring the friend requests I've been getting. It's NOT because I don't want to be friends with you, but just because I'm not really doing the FB thing. Certainly not right before this election!

We'll see how things unfold in the new year... It may be something I can dip a toe into. The grief triggers that were so heavily associated with it for a long time have certainly lessened, and there are definitely people I'd like to connect with whom I don't email or talk to on a regular basis... But I also spend a lot of my life in front of a screen as it is, so I don't really want one more app inviting/demanding my time and attention. So I'm just leaving it open to see what happens.

In the meantime, thanks for the friend requests, lovelies, and know that I'm not avoiding you... I'm just avoiding FB entirely!

Seriously, it's not you, it's me. But really.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Insert: Witty Title

I think I mentioned before that I've been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack pretty often. The last time I was this obsessed with a musical was Rent when I was in college. Anyway, on the way to school today, I said to the girls, "Should we listen to Hamilton or should we listen to some other music?" And Zuzu chose Hamilton!

Nevermind that it contains some explicit lyrics... I haven't heard her repeating any of it, so it's fine. Of course, if she starts singing, "How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore, and a Scotsman dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean..." then we may have to have a conversation about appropriate language. Or just film it and put it on YouTube.

Related: I have such a huge crush on Lin-Manuel Miranda I can hardly even handle it. He's overtaken Chris Pratt at this point.

Also related: If you're not aware, Hamilton's wife's name was Eliza and hearing her name spoken/sung on the soundtrack is so bittersweet for me and makes me love the name even more.

In another life lesson about not being a jackass by shamelessly bragging about your kids on the internet, Coco, my "easy" baby, has rebelled against potty-training and after two days of perfect records, peed her pants three times yesterday. She didn't poop her pants only because one of her teachers noticed a "poop face" and got her to the bathroom in time. (God bless toddler teachers who recognize poop faces.) She also requested a diaper at daycare: "I'd prefer to just do this in my pants and sit in it, thanks" (That's a loose paraphrase, not a direct quote.)

She got to wear kitty-cat-meow-meow undies today and we had a peptalk about keeping her pants dry on the way to school, so I hope that it's just a small setback. Her teachers said it's normal. I wouldn't know, because by the time Zuzu decided to quit peeing/pooping her pants, she was 3 and 1/4 years old and it was like flipping a switch.

Related: Coco's bottom looks so TINY without a diaper on! It makes me laugh.

Zuzu has a follow-up appointment today for her HSP situation. So far her urinalyses and blood pressure have been fine, so I'm not too worked up about it. She's thrilled to get picked up from school early.

I'm trying to embrace Zuzu's self expression through dressing of herself. Today she wanted to be a cowgirl, so she wore cowgirl boots (hand me downs from our friend Ellie Kate) and her new favorite leggings (navy blue with hearts) and a cowgirl shirt we bought two summers ago in West Virginia when she rode a horse for the first time that is a little bit tight but still fits. She asked me to cut OFF her bangs to make her look like a cowgirl (!?) so we compromised by clipping them back. Then she said, "I look like a man!" (I'm not sure what kind of men she knows who wear green barrettes to hold back their bangs. David's not in the habit.) I also put her hair in pig tails, which was really cute, and seemed to make her look less like a man (!?) except I know they'll be out by the end of the day.

I am trying to do NaNoWriMo because I am an insane person. Except instead of writing a novel, I'm working on my Eliza book project. I listened to this podcast that said you don't have to be good at something to be good at something. Meaning you just have to WANT to do it. So I'm doing it. I'm also still working out with my trainer three times a week AND trying to do bedtime yoga for 20 minutes each night. This is probably why I am sitting on essays I collected from students two and a half weeks ago. As for why I'm writing this in my office right now instead of grading, I have no explanation except it's Friday.

Here's a weird thing: Zuzu has decided that she is "shy of boys." This sometimes extends to boys her age, but is particularly directed at boys who are 7-12 years old. (She's not shy of grown men.) There's a little boy who helps out with her tumbling class, and he is evidently the reason she refused to participate the last couple of weeks (she did FINE and had a blast yesterday, when he happened to not be there). On Halloween, she refused to take candy from two little boys at one house, who were so sweet and tried to just drop it in her bag while she turned away and hid her face. I don't know WHAT is going on with her and I find it really frustrating as a parent and a feminist. We don't know that many boys in that age range, but her good buddy Harrison across the street has a big brother who is nine and she seems fine around him. She says she's shy because she doesn't know their names. ?????? I hope it's just a short-lived phase.

Here's a gross thing: My dog has peed on our sofa and Coco has peed on our kitchen chair and I think the whole house smells like urine. It doesn't help that the weather has been damp and warm, either. (Don't you want to come over and hang out at my house now?) I'm buying new kitchen chairs this weekend (Haven't told David yet.). I did tell David last night that when Cooper dies (hopefully not for a long time, although he is going to be 11 in February), I am going to cry my eyes out and feel absolutely devastated because I love him so much and he was my first baybee and he's still my sweet mama's boy, but then I'm going to buy a new sofa.

I'm starting to do some holiday prep, by which I mean I'm Christmas shopping and thinking about holiday cards. I front load all of this in November because I still feel pretty slumpy/shitty at the beginning of December. This year feels easier than last year, although I actually have mixed feelings about that, which I will detail at another time.

For now, I post these rambling paragraphs that I realize now are mostly about Hamilton and urine; I apologize for the latter. Also, I revealed my celebrity crush(es). Who is yours?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Garb

Let the record show that I went to work dressed as Dr. Taylor...

In scrubs and a lab coat and tennis shoes and a t-shirt that says, "Trust me, I'm a doctor."

I look totally legit. Someone asked me if I was Meredith Grey. We both wear blue scrub pants and have a lot of issues, so yes.

Zuzu went to school NOT in a costume because: "It is a rule at my school that we do not wear costumes."

(Interesting aside: Zuzu is somewhat more interested in following rules than she used to be, or at least interesting in exploring the concept of rules in conversation, particularly if she feels that she gets to help enforce them. She really loves making rules for others to follow.)

She did wear a Pumpkin-Jack-o-Lantern Shirt. And gray leggings with silver stars on them. And a black and white polka dot skirt. And turquoise socks with the Little Mermaid on them. And pink shiny tennis shoes. It's one of her more put together outfits that doesn't break all the rules of the color wheel, actually.

But now let's discuss the MOST SIGNIFICANT HALLOWEEN GARB:]

Coco went to school in big girl undies.

(!!!!!!!!!)

I am simultaneously DELIGHTED to be finished with washing disgusting cloth diapers (even with using a flushable liner, they are disgusting), and DELIGHTED to be finished with purchasing disposable diapers to use overnight and on the go, and DEVASTATED that mah baybee is less babyish.

In other words, we're so happy. It's liberating and awesome and also a creeping reminder of my own mortality.

Oh, nice. Way to take potty-training to a really dark place. YOU'RE WELCOME. Happy Halloween.

(I got up at 5am this morning to grade papers and I am jazzed up on caffeine and the somewhat successful teaching of "To His Coy Mistress" this morning, so apologies for the shout-caps and incoherence.)

I'd also like to take a moment to share the most important words of parenting wisdom that I have learned in my time:

It's not you. It's them.

What did I do to potty-train my two-year-old?

Nothing.

Certainly much less than I did to potty train two-and-a-half year old Zuzu. (I'd link to it, but I'm doing this on my phone, so just check out potty training posts in the archives circa December of 2014. So frustrating!) I gave it my all and then I gave up and Zu wasn't potty trained until after she was three.

They truly made up their own minds.

After my experience with Zuzu, I would have said we'd work on Coco next summer. But girlfriend was READY. I did nothing except put her in underwear and say, "Doesn't it feel good to keep your undies dry?" when she peed on the potty.

And (I seriously would want to smack me right now if I were reading this two years ago, so please feel free to stop reading) she went all day without an accident. Even with trick or treating and everything. The child is a marvel.

I'll recap Halloween tomorrow. We had a fun night but it ended with a plumbing disaster in the kitchen that David is still dealing with. Happy Halloween to us!

Friday, October 28, 2016

No Good Card for This

I'm not sure how many people read the comments on this blog, or how many of you saw Melissa's comment on my last post about the loss of her daughter, Evelyn. I read her comment and thought "There is nothing I can possibly do or say to make this easier for her."

I'm living this reality every day, but sometimes my first impulse is still to think, "I have no idea. I can't even imagine how someone copes with the loss of their baby."

It's not that I forget for a moment about Eliza, or about the reality that I've lost a baby. It's just that I don't know what I could possibly say that might be helpful in such an impossible situation.

I still get e-mails, blog comments, and sometimes texts or phone calls from friends or friends-of-friends or blog readers telling me that someone they know and love has lost a baby, and often they want advice: "What can I do to help them?"

I always feel completely blank at first. Then I try to come up with some advice... Don't say "Everything happens for a reason." Don't expect them to be okay again in six months. Or a year. Don't be afraid to say their baby's name even though you feel awkward. Don't make it about you. Put it on your google calendar so you remember and acknowledge their baby's birthday. 

My friend Beth was the one who said something like, "I know it's hard to hear about other people's kids, so I'm not going to talk about Lilly unless you bring it up first." I felt like that was such a gift--to acknowledge how painful it was for me, not to make me sit, tense, just bracing myself to "act normal" if Lilly came into the conversation, and not to make me feel like an asshole about not being able to talk about her daughter (who was just over a year old when Eliza died).

But when Beth got breast cancer, even though I'm almost six years into this so I should pretty much have a PhD in What to Do When Life Gets Shitty, the first thing I felt (besides scared and sad) was panicky that I was going to handle this wrong.

So if you've ever been in that place of "How do I help my friend?", here is a book that you can put on your wishlist (or gift list) (or both):


There Is No Good Card for This by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell (It's not released until January, so it won't work for Christmas unless you give vouchers. But you can preorder!)

Related: I want to order half a dozen of those enamel pins she's selling now and keep them and wear them and give them away. They are so great. I especially like this one, this one, this one, and this one.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Three Challenging Things to Read

1) Children Don't Always Live (from The New York Times). I had two blog readers send me this link. I've read the article at least five times now, and I cried the first three times I read it. It's so exactly true. This sentence particularly spoke to me: "I had a child die, and I chose to become a father again. There can be no greater definition of stupidity or bravery; insanity or clarity; hubris or grace."

2) Church Pastor: The Truth About My Late-Term Abortion. For me, this article isn't just about the presidential election or the maddening comments made in the last debate, but about the definition of motherhood and the importance of trusting women to make incredibly difficult choices about what happens to their bodies and their unborn babies. I think there is this vague notion of the "type of woman" who chooses to have an abortion, but the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of women in that position are not frolicking around trying to escape the responsibilities of motherhood with some kind of "convenient" surgery. They may in fact be bereaved mothers making an incredibly sad choice that is also the right choice for their health, their future, and their families. I don't usually get political here because I know that internet comments could make me angry and hurt my feelings (and because you all already know I'm a liberal feminist, right?) but this article really got to me. I think it tells such an important and often unspoken story.

3) I've recently signed up to be part of We Stories in St. Louis, and I think the organization and its purpose is great, but I also recognize the weirdness of affluent white families wanting to figure out how to talk to their kids about race. This essay, "How To Discuss Race As a White Person" articulates that discomfort better than I could.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Some of This, Some of That

Oh, man. I get busy and I don't post for a while and then I have SO MUCH TO SAY but also nothing important, really, and I need to go to the grocery store tonight partly because I'm a coffee snob now and partly because the girls are out of yogurt and if we can't eat microwaved silver dollar pancakes with a dab of yogurt on each one for breakfast, we might spontaneously combust.

I wanted to report on parent teacher conferences and talk about how things are going for Zuzu this year as opposed to last year (SPOILER: if you start out biting your friends and then the next year you stop, you've set the bar so low that everyone is SUPER IMPRESSED and relieved). But also Coco is looooooving the toddler house so much and she's so freaking independent that it kind of makes me want to cry, out of nostalgia and occasionally frustration. "No, Coco self!" is the sentence most often uttered in our home. But she's just now shifted from saying "Carry you" to saying "Carry me" when she is feeling lazy about going up the stairs and she's just getting so big.

Still no bangs, though, so until she grows bangs she will always be my BAYBEE.

Also she has finally (FINALLY) stopped crying at morning drop off. Now she slays me another way--by requesting hugs and kisses, "One more hug! Kiss! One more hug! Kiss!" It's so freaking adorable and I basically want to kiss her face off for about 30 minutes, but I usually have to break away and run to my car. She always looks disappointed when I leave, but she's not crying, and I know that she's happy immediately after. I asked her yesterday what her favorite part of the day was and she said, "Marcia! Linda!" (the names of her two teachers) so that was pretty freaking cute.

I'm still swamped with grading here.

Also, I'm committed to working out 150 minutes a week with a student personal trainer which is going exactly as well as can be expected. Read: It's terrible. My muscles hurt, I'm always sore, and I can't get my college student to really make conversation with me, so I'm just going to give up and start listening to the Hamilton soundtrack during my workouts. I'm full out fangirl obsessed with that musical now, and I completely geeked out over the PBS special on it.

David's working late all week, and I got crazy last night and skipped out to see Don't Think Twice because I'm a crazy wild person who does crazy wild things like seeing a movie on a weeknight. Coco came running out of the house with no pants on to give me one more hug and kiss, and she did actually cry when I drove away and David carried her back inside. The movie was good, though it was heavy on secondhand embarrassment, which is hard on my friend Erin, who saw it with me.

She was pantless because we are doing the potty-training learning thing. My plan is to get hardcore this weekend when my parents are here and we have all hands on deck. The only downside is that Grammy and Bops tend to be pretty fun and distracting, so we'll see how this goes. I can tell you that she's already a year ahead of her sister in this area (not that I compare my children to see how they measure up to each other in some kind of unhealthy competition--I'm just saying that so far Coco is THE EASY ONE when it comes to sleeping and potty training, knock on wood, spit in the devil's eye, and all of that).

Yesterday I had a unexpectedly fantastic and unanticipated discussion with my students about race, dialect, and white privilege that all stemmed from the lyrics to a Nelly song ("Forty acres and a mule? F*** that, forty acres and a pool!"). I felt kind of unequipped to lead it, but I still think it was a useful and important conversation to have.

I just finished listening to the Accused podcast, which was pretty fascinating. I was asking my mom what she remembers about living through the serial killer peak of the late '70s (her answer: not much... the media were different than they are today). David's grandparents were living in Wichita at the time, so they were there during the BTK killing spree and he remembers his grandma, mom, and aunt being anxious about it. It's wild to me how much our perceptions don't match reality, since most people think that we live in a more dangerous world today than we did thirty or forty years ago, and that's just not true. Also, one expert on the show hypothesized that the reason so many serial killers peaked at that point in time is that had been parented by traumatized WWII war vets. Also known as the greatest generation, right? So that's weird to think about.

In other, less violent, news, I've utterly given up on picking out Zuzu's clothes. It's gotten to the point where it doesn't matter how many choices I give her, she wants to put her own outfits together. In fact, if I lay something out (even something I know she likes) she won't consider it. Today's choice was a sleeveless dress, so I told her it was chilly and she needed sleeves. So then she elected to wear the red dress with a bright pink shirt under it. She finished off the outfit with aqua polka-dot leggings, purple socks, and gold shoes. My eyeballs hurt from the assault, but I am doing my best to embrace this form of self-expression. I'm also grateful that Coco still lets me make clothing choices for her--though she came up with this pose all on her own. Such a little ham.



Thursday, October 13, 2016

To Live In This World

I'm dedicating today's post to Share's Walk of Remembrance, which I'll be attending with my family on Saturday, and to the Wave of Light, which I'll also be participating in Saturday as part of the effort to shatter the stigma of infertility and pregnancy loss.

This post is part of a blog tour to mark October as the month of pregnancy and infant loss awareness. You can read more about it and view all the bloggers who are participating by clicking here.

***

When Eliza died, I stopped moving. I left the hospital and somehow I walked in my house, but then I kept still. I sat, stunned, in a frozen stupor for a long time. I did that thing where you stare and stare and you don't have to blink because your eyes are full of tears. I did that thing where you can't get off the couch and you can't change your clothes and you can't eat because when life is unbearable everything makes you want to vomit, and you especially can't eat one more godforsaken pan of sympathy-laden lasagna, or choke down one more piece of pineapple from an arrangement of condolence fruit (mostly because pineapple tastes like happiness and happiness tastes like ashes in your mouth). I resented gentle suggestions that I should take a walk, open the blinds, allow the blood to circulate in my veins. I was in shock, perhaps, but I think I was also convinced that if I just held completely still, I could stop time from going on without my baby.

I recently reread a Mary Oliver poem that made me think a lot about those early grief days, when all I wanted was to turn back time and get everything back to the way it was before. I was still clinging to Plan A with everything I had. Plan B was a dark hellhole and I wanted no part of it. I tried not to move, tried not to live Plan B. Instead, I would sit still and read poetry and avoid thinking about seasons changing without Eliza here.

Oliver ends her poem "In Blackwater Woods" like this:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the times comes to let it go,
to let it go.

The first time I read this poem, I wanted to shred it. Or spit on it. Or slash it out with a black marker. My baby was dead and I'd held her in my arms and I'd touched her cold, tiny fingers with their tiny purple fingernails and I would have traded my life for hers and this fucking poem is telling me to let it go?

It wasn't just impossible. It was completely offensive.

This poem knew nothing of my grief, of the particular brand of grief that spins into existence when the timing of a loss is completely wrong and backwards and the only explanation is that we've entered an alternate reality and we have to stop moving forward so that we can go back and fix it. I shouldn't have let her go. I should have held her tighter and slipped through a wormhole with her into an alternate dimension--back into the real world, my world--where everything was working out the way it was supposed to.

In other words: You say let it go, I say go fuck yourself.

And now... It's been six years. And yes, I see the poem differently. Mostly because I'm looking forward again, and six years ago I couldn't imagine anything but trying to undo the timeline of my life.

Now I think, this poem isn't offering advice. It is simply presenting the rules for survival. I hated the poem for being right about what I needed to do, because I was nowhere near ready to do it.

I've got the loving-what-is-mortal part down. And I know--perhaps better than most--what it is to hold that tiny, mortal being against my bones.

I struggle with the letting go.

How can I possibly let go of my dream, my plan, my life, my baby?

The answer is that we don't have to let go of the important stuff. Not the love and not the grief. But we do have to let go that desperate, breath-holding, fist-clenching hope that we are about to get a do-over. That unspeakable belief that somewhere, someone will realize this terrible, horrifying mistake and make it right. Eventually, we have to stop digging in our heels and turning our faces away from the sun. Eventually, we start walking down a new path, and we start opening our eyes not just to an unfamiliar landscape that holds both terror and beauty, but also to the community of people who join us there.

I don't like the word "acceptance" with all its implications that we can just sort of shrug and "c'est la vie" our way forward when the world has crumbled to ruins around us.

But I am starting--slowly and begrudgingly (and, mercy, it's already been almost six years so maybe I'm slower than most)--to come around to the idea of letting go of Plan A and all the preconceived notions and confident expectations that went along with it. I can't change Eliza's death. I can't turn back time and right the wrong and become the person I was before. And although I'll never stop missing her and wanting her here, I have to let go of what I thought my life would be with her here.

To do otherwise would be to freeze myself in the most devastating moment of my life, and to do that, supposing I could stand it, would fail to acknowledge all the good that has come into my life alongside the grief--including Eliza's sisters.

None of this justifies Eliza's death or makes it acceptable. But six years has allowed gratitude to interweave itself with grief in a way that I could never have predicted or imagined. I know now--though it still makes my heart itch to think about it--that I have had to let go of my old life (the life without babyloss) to make the space for this one.

This is the price we pay for being human and existing in this world: we will have our hearts broken. Life will be impossibly unfair and disappointing. Where there is love, there will be grief. Some of us will experience it more often, more harshly, more unexpectedly than others. Some of us will feel so broken that we think with absolute certainty we'll never recover. And I'm not saying that we should stop trying to right the wrongs. But grief is its own form of love.

And to love what is mortal, to hold it against our bones knowing that we may have to give it up without warning, is to live the biggest life possible.

We must--eventually--let go of old expectations to make room for a new version of happiness. It happens slowly (painfully slowly). And it's not perfect. It's not abundant recompense. It's not even a consolation prize. It's just the truth of this world. We only get this one life. It's fragile and it's full of uncertainty. Just when we think we know the next step, we're exposed as fools (and I really hate feeling foolish). The best we can do is let go of the fear, open ourselves up to love, and do it again.

None of us will get through this life unscathed, and yet still we love what is mortal as though our lives depended on it.

Because, of course, they do.


***

Thank you for reading about babyloss and not just pretending that life is awesome and that bad things don't happen all the time.

Special thanks to those friends and kindred spirits who showed up in person or emerged from the ether of the internet to help nudge me out of that frozen stupor in the very early days of grief--Abby, Keya, Cailin, Monica, Kate, Jill, Sarah, Brandy, Laura, and Angie.

I hope you'll all take a moment to read what Christine wrote earlier this week about grief and rainbows and highs and lows of grieving one son while parenting another. Also, please check Justine's blog tomorrow--she organized this whole blog tour and I'm grateful that she let me be a part of it.

If you participate in the Share walk this weekend, look for me there (!) and post your photos using #ShareWalk2016.

If you have a candle, a lighter/match/piece of flint, and a social media account, it would mean so much to me if you would be part of the Wave of Light at 7:00pm by posting a photo with #WaveofLight #pregnancyandinfantlossawareness (hashtags for terrible things are, by definition, kind of terrible).

And, finally, if you're missing your baby, or having trouble letting go of the life that you expected, I hope you feel the love and light coming your way.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Conversations with Zuzu

Bilingual Baby

Scene: Girls talking in the dining room.

Zuzu: Coco, do you want to play Elsa and Anna?

Coco: (unintelligible)

Zuzu: Coco, do you want to play Elsa and Anna?

Coco: (unintelligible)

Zuzu: (getting irritated) Coco! Do you want to play Elsa and Anna?

Coco: (unintelligible)

Zuzu: Coco, are you speaking Spanish?



Storytelling Game in the Car Leaves Parent Speechless

Zuzu: Once upon a time there was a baby boy, and he was so shy he stayed in his mom's tummy and the next day he was born, but when the doctor saw him he was so shy he wanted to go back in his mom's privates, but the doctor wouldn't let him... And then what happened?



New Bra, Thank You Very Much


Scene: In our kitchen, getting ready for work. I'm wearing a somewhat fitted striped, knit, crewneck shirt and a button-up jean skirt.

Zuzu: Mommy, your boobies are sticking out a little.

Me: What?

Zuzu: They must be full of food!



Lyrical Genius

Zuzu: I'm going to sing you a song that will be your favorite things. It's about superheroes and mermaids and Christmas and holiday little kitty cats.



Tattling, Reporting, or Inventing?

Zuzu: I saw Coco push Olivia at school today!

Me: Oh, my. Coco, did you push Olivia?

Coco: (grinning cheerfully) Yas!

Me: (unconvinced) And what did you do when you saw this, Zuzu?

Zuzu: I didn't do anything but stand still like a statue. Because I was taking a break from running. And I saw Coco push Olivia and I stood so still like a statue and I didn't move my body. But I was freakin' out!



Call It Like You See It

Zuzu: Can I watch a show when we get home?

Me: No.

Zuzu: Why not?

Me: Why do you think?

Zuzu: Because you're mean?


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Henoch-Schonlein Purpura: It's Just As Cute As It Sounds

It started three weeks ago when Zuzu ran away from soccer practice and ended up with a bunch of chigger bites on her legs and bottom.

She had a bath right away when she got home that night, but the next night she had a baby sitter and David and I went to parents' night at the girls' school. So it was Friday before I really looked at her legs/bottom again, and I was shocked at how red and angry the bites looked. I treated them with Benadryl gel and some Neosporin over the weekend.

On Monday she had a doctor's appointment to get her four-year-old vaccinations, plus a flu shot. I pointed out the bug bites on her legs to the doctor and he didn't seem concerned. He said I could keep using Benadryl or Neosporin.

On Wednesday we got a call from her school around lunch time that she had a fever. I picked her up and she slept all day. I figured it could be related to the vaccinations or it could just be a back-to-school virus. David stayed home with her on Thursday. She didn't run a fever again, even without tylenol, and she didn't complain about her bites. She wasn't scratching or messing with them at all, which surprised me, because they didn't seem to be getting better.

On Friday, our friends Julie and Cate flew in from Minnesota for a weekend visit. The girls played together on Friday, and I showed Julie how bad Zuzu's bug bites looked. Some were getting better, but others almost looked like they had bruises around them. But I reminded myself that the doctor had just seen her on Monday and hadn't been concerned. Plus, I was taking extra care to keep them clean and medicate them, and I was sending her to school in leggings even though it was warm enough for bare legs, just because I wanted to protect them from being exposed to more dirt.

On Saturday, all the girls played hard at the Magic House in the morning. That afternoon, I put on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood so Julie and I could have some uninterrupted conversation. Zuzu fell asleep, which was unusual. She wasn't really herself for the rest of the day, either. She occasionally complained that her tummy hurt, and didn't have much of an appetite. We went to Forest Park that afternoon and all the girls ran around and played, but Zuzu complained that her legs hurt. I figured she was just tired because they'd been up  late on Friday.

On Sunday, we said good-bye to Julie and Cate and Zuzu seemed okay, just kind of droopy. But she complained about her ankle, and I realized that it looked bruised and swollen. I made David look at it, and we wondered out loud if kids could sprain their ankles? It seems like their ligaments are so stretchy that it's pretty rare for a preschooler to have a sprain, right? I put ice on it and propped her foot up on a pillow while reading to her in bed that night.

She seemed to be feeling better on Monday, but I was getting worried that the bug bites didn't seem to be healing properly. Some of them seemed to be getting worse, and instead of looking like bug bites, they were definitely morphing into some kind of rash.

By Wednesday, we were back at the doctor. He took one look at her, said that it was an allergic reaction plus a mild staph infection. He prescribed an antibiotic ointment to be put on three times a day.

We ran through the little tube in about two days because the bites/rash were all over her legs, the backs of her arms/elbows, and her bottom. On Friday, I called the pharmacy to get a refill, but my insurance didn't want to pay for a refill so soon, so I had to call the doctor's office, and then the pharmacist ended up having to call my insurance, and it was Saturday afternoon before we could pick up another tube of it. Over the weekend, I continued to smear it on her every morning and every night, plus once after school, and the rash was not improving. In fact, there were red lines where the elastic of her undies seemed to have irritated her skin (something that had never happened before). I was having her sleep in loose-fitting pajama pants and no undies, but it still hadn't improved.

On Sunday she got stung by a bee while outside eating a popsicle. She'd been stung last year, too, so I fussed over her while she cried and got her an ice pack and put some lavender oil on it and let her watch PJ Masks. I wasn't too concerned about her having an allergic reaction or anything because we'd already been through this once. But this time she got an angry red rash in almost a square shape a few inches across, all around the bee sting. Plus she took off her shoes that evening and told me her feet hurt and she had red spots on one toe and the arch of the other foot. I started wondering if she could have gotten something else, or if I had assumed they were chigger bites when maybe they were some other kind of terrible insect (watching Stranger Things around this time was probably not great for my imagination). I also started googling symptoms of all the things that really scare me: lymphoma, leukemia, MRSA, meningitis...

The only thing that kept me from losing my mind with fear/worry is that she never ran another fever, and she never complained about the rash--never said it hurt or itched or tickled. She was completely unfazed even though I wanted to cry when I looked at her legs and bottom. It was the weirdest thing.

Monday morning, I called and spoke with a nurse. She thought maybe it could be HFM if I was seeing red spots on her feet, even though I explained that they didn't look like HFM when my other daughter had it. These spots weren't like blisters or scabs--they were more like bruises. She told me to give her Zyrtec for the bee sting and keep using the Mupirocin ointment and to call back Wednesday if things didn't improve.

Monday night when she took of her pants before the bath, I gasped. In addition to the bee sting area still being red and angry, she had red lines around her legs where the elastic of her socks or bottom of her leggings had been. This was NOT normal. We were coming up on three weeks from her last soccer practice, and while some bites seemed to have healed and faded, others were looking worse, and I just knew something else was going on.

Tuesday we were back at the doctor. This time David came with us because I was kind of freaking out. The doctor assured me that she wasn't contagious, it wasn't a flesh-eating bacteria, MRSA, or leprosy. But he said it was "very unusual." He referred us to a pediatric dermatologist and he didn't let us leave his office until his receptionist had called and set up an appointment for us on Thursday afternoon.

After leaving the doctor, I sent a photo of Zuzu's legs to my friend Erin, telling her I was freaking out and that we'd been referred to a specialist at Children's.

"That looks like a rash my sister had when she was little," Erin replied. "Allergic purpura."

I started googling.

It turns out that Allergic Purpura is now called Henoch-Schonlein Purpura. It's named after the two German doctors who discovered it, but "purpura" means small blood vessels are leaking into the skin. I read WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, and the Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center website and just KNEW that's exactly what we were dealing with. All the pieces fit. She had every single symptom, though I realized that I had probably neglected to report her tummy ache or complaints about her legs hurting to our doctor. When he asked if she was complaining, I'd been so focused on the rash that I had kind of blown off her mild appetite loss and occasional whining about her legs hurting--poor little punkin!

Thursday afternoon, I took Zuzu to Children's Hospital and the dermatologist, three residents, a med student, and a nurse all gathered in the room to see her "classic presentation" of Henoch-Schonlein Purpura. The dermatologist also told me (unprompted) that our pediatrician "knows what HSP is" and "is an excellent physician" but that the bands around her ankles had thrown him off (which is also what freaked me out) so he wanted a second opinion.

It was a little funny when the first resident came in because I'd prepped Zuzu by telling her that the doctor was a woman; however, the resident who talked with us first was a tall Indian guy with a five-o'clock shadow. Zuzu did a quick double-take and then said to me loudly, "Mommy, is that a boy?" so I had to explain her confusion.

She was an awesome patient, letting them examine her and sitting quietly during my conversation with the doctors. I was really proud of her and how well behaved she was all afternoon.

So here's the thing: HSP is the inflammation of blood vessels that leak into the skin, causing what looks like a rash with yucky raised bumps, but they are actually under the skin rather than on the surface. The rash doesn't itch or hurt, but it can cause pain in joints and the gut as vessels leak there and cause swelling and lack of appetite. In some cases, it can cause kidney damage. There is no known cause for HSP. It's sometimes associated with upper-respiratory infections, but it has also been associated with vaccinations (specifically measles and chicken pox, both of which she had) AND insects bites. There's no recommended treatment, either. It usually lasts 4-6 weeks, but she could experience flare ups (including rash, achy legs, and loss of appetite) that may come and go for up to 6 months.

There are no known genetic causes (so Coco isn't more or less likely to get this) and no significant health issues to be concerned about in the future, except for this potential kidney damage. The dermatologist told me it was "quite rare" and then quoted "something like 10% of cases" which felt like a HUGE number to me, since I now face with the world with the understanding that the odds of anything bad happening to me or my family that are 1/160 or greater are basically guaranteed to occur.

My skewed logic aside, the doctors didn't seem too concerned about it since her appetite has improved and she hasn't had any sign of blood in her urine or anything like that. Still, we headed down to the lab to have blood work and a urinalysis.

I'd been to this lab at Children's hospital once before, when Coco was a teeny baby, and I felt the same way when I was there with her--terrified and also grateful. You see these parents there with kids who are visibly ill and although I haven't walked in those shoes, I can imagine the fear and the hope and the desire to learn everything you can but also to maybe protect yourself from knowing too much and being able to control so little.

Zuzu was a champ about her blood draw and made a really good effort to pee in a "hat" to collect her urine sample, but we ended up having to do it at home. My parents dropped off the specimen at the lab the next day.

Her blood tests have come back with everything in the normal range, and we see the pediatrician once more next week, at which time I hope we'll get the results of her urinalysis. The "rash" is already looking better, although her ankle was a bit swollen again Thursday night after she had a tumbling class.

I feel mostly relieved to have a clear diagnosis and thankful that it's not anything more serious. Of course, I've already run through the worst-case in my head (dialysis and kidney transplant), but it's been pretty easy not to dwell on that stuff because she feels/acts so normal 98% of the time. I'm now hyper aware of her complaints of a "stummy-ache," and she's catching on to that because she told me the other night that she had a "stumm-ache" and the only thing that would fix it was to eat chips for dinner.

Anyway, this HSP thing is also funny because most people have never heard of it, but I've also met three people who have known someone who had it (it mostly occurs in kids, but supposedly is more common in boys than girls). So I thought I'd put it out there (if you've made it all the way through this looooong post)--anyone know someone who has had HSP? My friend Erin's sister made a full recovery and had no further issues with it her whole life, so I hope that Zuzu is heading in that same direction.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thoughts at 7:47 pm on a Monday Night

Zu has a rash that's worrying me.

Coco is eager to pee on the potty and quick to help me clean up any mess (two qualities that her sister certainly did not share at age two), but she's just as quick to have a bone melting breakdown over something that is inexplicable to the rest of us.


I am home alone Monday nights while David is in class. We miss him. I tire of a dinner hour that sometimes feels like the girls bark orders disguised by a "pease, Mommy" tacked on the end, and I run circles in the kitchen, scrambling eggs, refilling milk, shooing the dog outside, reminding them to sit down, use a napkin, don't shout, ask nicely. Then I clean up the kitchen while they wreck another room of the house. Tonight it was the basement bathroom--they turned on the shower and soaked the floor (and themselves) trying to bathe some dolls. It's hard to be the only one here, but I also love it.


"Girls night!" Zu will say, as though we are going to do something different from any other weeknight. And there is something festive, somehow, in the rush of dinner and play and bath and brush and bed.


My favorite, though, (like so many parents) is bedtime. Both girls with me in the rocking chair. Reading books. Rocking. Singing. Both asleep on my lap. I breathe in the smell of their hair, the baby lotion that I love so much, the fruity toothpaste breath.


There's still laundry to fold, appointments to schedule, a guest bed to make up, towels to pick up off the bathroom floor. I should run the vacuum downstairs. But in this quiet moment, a fan whirring, Cooper snoring gently on the rug, the girls' warm bodies leaning on me, I just want to savor it. The quietness. The trust. Despite all my doubts and worries and fears, for this short sliver of time, I'm enough. I'm their comfort and their safe place as they drift off to sleep. It's such a gift and responsibility and it awes me still that I'm The Mom. That somehow all of this is mine.


And still the fear that if I hold it too tight, it just might slip away.


I spent a lot of hours with my therapist talking about how not to live a life in fear. Discussions of mindfulness and being in the moment. Controlling the fear. Believing that my paranoia won't protect me (or them), nor will it be a catalyst for tragedy. Even when things are troubling (this rash!), I am usually able to let logic beat terror.


As I worry about this rash, I try not to spin out into excessive anxiety. But I'm always aware that we are not exceptions to the rule of chance. It's a challenge every day to take that awareness of the great fragile gift of this life and treat it with joy instead of fear.


Being home alone forces me to be totally present, and it's exhausting but also exhilarating. 


I've always borrowed the line that I love my kids SO MUCH, but I love them 10% more when they are sleeping. And it's never truer than the nights I'm home alone, when our snuggles are extra long, their hugs and kisses extra sweet, the long list of chores pushed off a few more minutes. It won't be long until the three of us don't fit on one chair, until Zu is reading books to herself, until pajamas don't feature footies and zippers and Disney characters, until the smell of baby lotion isn't part of our evening ritual.


So I'm taking the mess, the water on the bathroom floor, the potty talk, the temper tantrums, and I'm doing my best NOT to live and appreciate every moment of the madness (impossible!), but to hold on to the pockets of quiet as the crucial reminders of how fleeting this is, and how incredibly, unbelievable precious and sweet these girls are--at least when they are sleeping.



Monday, September 26, 2016

So, This Is Us...

Have you watched this show on NBC? This Is Us? Warning: I'm about to PLOT SPOIL the hell out of the pilot, so you may not want to read further...

My friend Monica told me that it was really good, but that there was baby loss in the first episode, so I approached the show with caution. It's not that the story line scares me--at least, since I knew what was coming. But I was scared of how they would handle it. Would it be smoothed over? Would it be a story about silver linings? Would there be some saccharine moment that suggested "everything happened for a reason"? Alternatively, would the mother be portrayed as a grief monster? The oversimplification of any story line is pretty necessary for TV, so I just wondered how they would present this one.

Anyway, I'll tell you that I think they did it pretty well. I fast forwarded through a lot of hospital scenes, because the truth is that I don't like watching fake pregnant women have fake birth scenes in fake hospitals. It's just something I would prefer not to see.

The first time I watched it, I also fast forwarded through the scene where the doctor tells the dad that they lost a baby (I say "a baby" because you find out early on she's expecting triplets). But then Monica said that was the "best part" and after I got over my shock that she would describe the conversation that way, I realized that I was probably reading her tone wrong over text and she actually meant that the conversation was really important in terms of how the show was dealing with the issue of losing a baby during labor. So I went back and watched it.

Here's the clip:

http://www.nbc.com/this-is-us/video/the-art-of-making-lemonade/3102506

(You can also watch the whole episode on nbc.com)

There are a lot of good things here. I love the doctor's compassion. The dad's bewilderment is heartbreaking.

Many of my baby-loss friends were like me in that their husbands were with them in the same room when they were told that their baby had died. I know a few people who found out at a routine appointment and had to call their husbands. But this scene makes me think of my friend Mark, and how he was the one who knew that his son Matthew had died before his wife (my friend Christine) woke from her emergency c-section.He, then, was the one who told her. (It probably goes without saying that I was bawling my eyes out while watching this, but I'm not calling it a grief-trigger because it didn't come out of no where. It's intended to be full of pathos, and I think it does what it sets out to do, which is not to dismiss the loss of a baby during pregnancy or labor.)

And, of course, I was especially appreciative that the doctor says that he thinks about his first child every single day (even though he's now an old man).

I will say that I'm not crazy about the lemonade analogy--it's tired and kind of trite, and I think they could have done better. But whatever. A lot of people say stuff like that, and at least he didn't act like things were "better" this way. And I can see how the analogy works, as most of us do go on to do the best we can to have lives that include plenty of sweet to accompany the bitter.

One of my friends mentioned that she thought it was all pretty well done, although the scene with the parents home from the hospital show them beaming with smiles over their living children instead of still wracked with sobs and crying their faces off. But it also shows the mom back to having a waist after presumably delivering triplets just a few days earlier, so true-to-life obviously isn't really happening here.

What does happen is a pretty good conversation about the way losing a baby changes your life, and about the way you try to make meaning out of that tragedy. My friend Caroline says that she thinks about how having her son Cale turned her life in a new direction and she has the family she has now because of him. I think that's true for many of us, and while that doesn't make their deaths any less devastating, it does speak to the impact of their brief lives and, hopefully, to the hugeness of that love.

Anyway, if you've seen the show, I'd love to know what you thought of it.