Friday, September 28, 2012

When 3 + 1 = 2

So as I mentioned in my post about Gran'ts Farm, we had friends in town for a visit last weekend.  It was David's best buddy from college, Dennis, and his wife, Lindsey, and their little girl, Mia, who is almost two years old.

It was a fun weekend--we went out to dinner, went to the farmers' market, pushed strollers around the park while the boys golfed, watched far too many old episodes of Dawson's Creek while the boys golfed and the little girls napped, went out to breakfast at Uncle Bill's, and visited Grant's Farm.  We laughed a lot and I was really glad they were able to come to town and meet Caroline.  Except for Little Mac terrorizing Mia, we all had a good time.

But there's a little more to this story.

Back in 2010, Lindsey and I were pregnant at the same time.  That summer, Dennis and Lindsey came in for the 4th of July and we all talked babies.  Lindsey and I even did a little maternity and baby clothes shopping (while the boys were golfing... kind of a pattern).  Lindsey was due just two weeks before me--right around the first of the year--and we loved the idea that our kids were going to be so close in age.

The thing is, Lindsey and Dennis were expecting twins.  A boy and a girl.

And then it was October.  We were still months away from our due dates.

David got a phone call from Dennis.

It was about the twins.  Specifically, their little boy.  He didn't have a heartbeat.  Max was dead.

I'll never forget the moment David told me.

I was standing in our kitchen, my back to the refrigerator, facing David, who was sitting on one of our bar stools.

I stared at him in disbelief.  I felt Eliza kicking, and I instantly sent up a silent prayer, for Dennis and Lindsey, and for their little girl, Mia, who was still hanging on.  And for my Baby Duck.  The thought of losing her, at seven months pregnant...  It was unfathomable.  It seemed like a terrible nightmare, but one I couldn't really imagine.

I started to cry, standing in the kitchen, rubbing my belly.  I just couldn't believe it, you know?  I didn't understand how this could happen, in this day and age, with so much medical technology available, in a first world country.  I didn't think babies just died.  I mean, I knew logically that stillbirth was possible, but not for someone like Lindsey, who was so athletic and healthy.  And I couldn't believe it in a larger sense, too--how on earth could this happen to two great people who would make such great parents?  Why would they lose the baby boy they had wanted and loved so much?

I remember saying to David--and I seriously said this, almost verbatim--"I don't know what I'd do if we lost Baby Duck.  I'd never make it.  I'd just collapse into a puddle of nothing."

(Part of the reason I haven't written about Max before was because it's not my story to tell, and I wasn't sure if Dennis and Lindsey would want me to, but the other reason is because it is so painful for me to look back on that time and remember how naive I was.)

Knowing that Max had died, Lindsey was admitted to the hospital so they could monitor Mia and try to keep her in there as long as possible.  Which turned out to be two more days.

Mia was born at just 27 weeks.  Her tiny little eye lids were still fused shut.  And she weighed around 2 pounds.

She was in the NICU for months.

But she was alive!

And three months later (a month before Mia got to go home), David was calling Dennis to tell him the unthinkable, impossible news.

We'd lost our baby, too.

Our baby was dead.

Their baby was dead.  And now our baby was dead.

This was impossible.  What kind of alternative universe, what other dimension had we stepped into?  How does this happen--this thing that should NEVER happen--how does this happen to our dear friends and THEN to us?

And, to be honest, I went from feeling desperately sorry for Dennis and Lindsey to envying them their one living child--a teensy little girl, still in the NICU trying to breathe on her own.

At the same time, Mia was also the baby we were rooting for.  I knew their loss, so I could easily imagine the hope and fear they felt for Mia.  And, from blogs and websites and other bereaved parents I'd met online, I'd recently learned the uncomfortable truth that not every baby in the NICU makes it home.

But Mia did.  After more than 80 days in the hospital, her parent took her home in January of 2011, just a few weeks past Lindsey's original due date.  She was still a high-maintenance baby, with monitors constantly attached to her to make sure she was breathing okay and that her heart rate stayed in the normal range.

But she was alive, dammit.  And we were so, so glad.

Even though David and I were still mired in our own pain and still coping with the shock of losing Eliza, Mia going home was a bright spot in those dark days.  We were happy and relieved for Dennis and Lindsey.

When we brought Caroline home from the hospital, it was a year and a half after we'd lost Eliza.  We're still heartbroken, but the grief doesn't feel like it's eating me up from the inside out anymore.  My grief for Eliza didn't diminish my joy over Caroline, and the day she came home was one of those heart-filling, perma-grin, cup-runneth-over kind of days.  But those first few days were also stressful and exhausting!  Was she eating enough?  Was her poop the right color?  Was she still breathing?  I was still sore (omg seriously) from delivery.  My boobs were uncomfortable and breastfeeding freaking hurt.  If we hadn't been high on the joy of her just being alive, it would have been even more challenging.

I think about what Dennis and Lindsey went through, experiencing their grief and joy back to back without a year and a half of recovery.  What it must have felt like for Lindsey to go back to work part-time just two weeks after having twins via c-section so that she could save some maternity leave for after Mia was released from the hospital.  To have to explain thing to co-workers who asked about the twins.  To have to pump breastmilk since she couldn't nurse such a tiny baby.  To desperately grieve their son while wildly hoping their daughter would make it, knowing that nothing was a sure thing anymore.  To bring their baby home with a mixture of joy and sorrow and fear for her health.

I'd say I don't know how they did it, but I also know that it's just what you do.  You hold on to each other and you survive the best you can and if you're really, really lucky, you might get to take a breath some day and realize that it doesn't hurt as much as it did, and you just continue to hold one baby in your heart and the other baby in your arms without ever understanding why things had to happen the way they did.

As I said before, except for Little Mac's shenanigans, we had a really nice weekend.  Walking through Grant's Farm on Sunday, the air was cool, the sun was shining.  Caroline was sleeping peacefully in the Bjorn and Mia was laughing and (literally) running circles around us all.  It was a picture-perfect day in so many ways.

Except the picture will always feel a little bit incomplete.  Because two people were missing.

I couldn't help but think that we should have had Mia and Max and Eliza all running circles around us.  It should have been two couples chasing three toddlers.  But somehow we were two couples who had four children but only two of them are here, and the math will never add up the way I want it to.

On that beautiful day with the sun shining and my girl sleeping and Mia laughing and little old ladies taking paparazzi photos of me breastfeeding, I missed Eliza and Max with all my heart.

A butterfly -- in memory of our first little girl
Mia ran circles around Dennis and through his legs--which she thought was hilarious!
As I watched Dennis and David with Mia and Caroline, I took a moment to let my heart feel heavy, to let my throat feel tight, and to imagine what it would be like if they were all there.  I wondered whether Mia's brother would have had her eyes, whether Caroline's sister would have had her smile, and how they all would have gotten along.  Would Eliza have been good at sharing her toys?  Would they all fight for the iPhone?  Would any of them have stayed in their strollers?  I thought about how crazy and fun things would have been (knowing that I probably wouldn't have appreciated it as much as I should have) if Max and Eliza had been there too and we were trying to keep track of all three of them at Grant's Farm and get them all to take naps at the same time.  I wished for that crazy chaos.

And then I told myself that in spite of our losses, we all got lucky.  Because there we were, on a beautiful day, two couples with two perfect little girls.


I hate that it didn't work out the way it should have, but it didn't have to work out this way either.  There are no guarantees that a 2 pound baby grows up into a bright and boisterous two year old.  There are no guarantees that a baby is born both healthy and adorable.  My faith in statistics and probabilities was shot when David and his best friend both lost their babies, back to back.  Don't take us to Vegas, baby, because we must be the unluckiest people in the world.

But I look at these girls with their dads, and my throat catches again because I know that when you look at the flip side of things, we're so freaking lucky.

Mia and Dennis
Caroline and David
The truth is that when we and our kids are all together, our numbers will never add up right.  But I wouldn't want to give up a single part of the equation.

Oh, Max and Eliza.  We will always wish for you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Song of Good Hope

David and I went out last night.  Like, on a date.  To a concert.  Except not to dinner first because ZOMG leaving the baby with a babysitter who was not my mom was not easy for me!  So we had take out Chinese at home and then we went to the concert.

It was a great night.  (And Caroline did great for her babysitters and but seemed glad to see me--or my boobs--when we got home.)

Anyway, the concert was Glen Hansard and David is a big fan so I got him these tickets for this birthday.  The concert was at a nice small venue, and I loved it.

He sings a song that David calls "Caro's Song," but, as he explained to me last night, it's really about him and me making our way to Caro, finding our way to where we are now.  It's called "Song of Good Hope" and it goes like this:

Well, if we're gonna make it
Cross this river alive,
You'd better think like a boat
And go with the tide,

And I know where you've been
Has really left you in doubt
Of ever finding a harbor,
Of figuring this out,

And you're gonna need
All the help you can get,
So lift up your arms now,
And reach for it, reach for it

And take your time, babe,
It's not as bad as it seems,
You'll be fine, babe, 
It's just some rivers and streams
In between you and where you want to be

Watch the signs now,
You'll know what they mean
You'll be fine now
Just stay close to me
And may good hope walk with you through everything
May the song of good hope walk with you through everything

It's better when you hear him sing it, and even better when you hear him sing it live, and you're sitting next to someone you love and he squeezes your hand.

Glen played one other song that made me cry a little.  I think if I had to describe my pregnancy with Caro in a song, it just might be this one.  It made me think of how much I wanted to have another baby, how frustrated I was at how long it took, how scared I was to get pregnant again, how dangerous it seemed to take that risk, given all the pain we were in.  And how much I wanted to have the chance to love Eliza's brother or sister.  That song is called "Bird of Sorrow."

Even if a day feels too long
You feel like you can't wait another one
And you've slowly given up on everything
Love is gonna find you again
Love is gonna find you, you better be ready then

Well, you've been kneeling in the dark for far too long
You've been waiting for that spark but it hasn't come
I'm calling to you, please get off the floor
A good heart will find you again
A good heart will find you, just be ready then

Tethered to a bird of sorrow
A voice that's buried in the hollow
You've given over to self-deceiving
You prostrate bow but not believing
You've squandered more than you could borrow
You bet your joy on all tomorrows
For the hope of some returning
While everything around you is burning

Come on we gotta get out, get out of this mess we've made
And still, for all our talk,
We're both so afraid
Will we leave this up to chance
Like we do everything?
Love is is gonna find us again

Love is gonna find us, you gotta be ready then

You can take a listen here:

I'm not crazy about the idea of grief as a journey.  I just don't think you ever get to the end of losing a child.  I guess it's an ongoing journey, though, and maybe that's the point of the metaphor.  You keep going, one way or another.

So today, wherever you are on whatever journey you're taking, I say, May good hope walk with you through everything.

And remember--Love's gonna find you again.  You better be ready then.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Adventures at Grant's Farm: You Can Call Me Madonna

We had friends in town for a weekend of Italian dining and Farmers' Marketing and Park Strolling and Napping and Golfing and Grilling and Grant's Farm Visiting.  It was great to see them, and it was like we'd special-ordered the Perfect Fall Weekend Weather.

Our Grant's Farm Adventure was especially... interesting?  For those of you not in STL, Grant's Farm is a section of land that was once owned by Ulysses S. Grant and is now owned by the Busch family (of Anheuser-Busch).  It's also a nature conservatory, and home to deer, cows, buffalo, and wild horses, as well as pygmy goats, guinea bigs, two elephants, some camels, a few llamas, a zebra or two, wallaby (wallabies?), and ducks and geese.  So it's like part fields where the animals roam and part petting zoo with a beer garden (Where the booze is complimentary--seriously, you get two free drinks on the house.  Every petting zoo should institute this policy).

riding the tram!
Anyway, we loaded up the little girls (Mia is almost two) and headed to Grant's Farm. Caroline fell asleep in the Bjorn and Mia may have had more fun pushing her own stroller than observing any of the animals, but it was still a good time for everybody.  Except also slightly bizarre...

Faceplant into the boobs.  Please ignore my disgusting scar.  I really need to photoshop that.
There was a traumatic incident with a goat mistaking Mia's finger for a bottle (which I'm sure did not feel especially pleasant).

Goat sucking on Mia's finger.  Not pictured:  Subsequent meltdown
But Mia and and her dad still braved the pygmy goat pen to do some bottle feeding.  Turns out baby pygmy goats are pretty aggressive when it comes to bottle feeding.  Every other kid who entered the pen came out crying because the goats were so intense in their efforts to get at the milk bottles.  As this picture illustrates, Mia and Dennis both found the goat pen extremely enjoyable:

Mia is the one crying.  Dennis is the one getting, uh, trampled by the goat.
After they recovered from the goat encounter, we made it to the beer garden where everyone else drank a free beer while I drank a $2.50 water.  (I know, right?).  Zuzu was snacking on milk.  I use one of those nursing covers when I feed her out in public, and although it takes a little finagling to keep from flashing anyone, I've become pretty proficient at nursing almost anywhere.

Anyway, once she was finished eating, she was perfectly content to hang out until the beers were finished and Mia had chowed down her graham cracker treats.  We stood up and started gathering up our things when a little old lady came up and tapped me on the shoulder.

She wondered if I would come over and show my baby to her sister, another little old lady sitting at a nearby table.

They seemed perfectly harmless, so I walked Caroline over there to say hi.  And then they proceeded to tell me how cute she is and how cute her outfit was.  This was all totally normal because she IS really cute, right?

Then it got kind of weird.

"I hope you don't mind that I took a picture of you nursing her," the little old lady says.  "It was just so beautiful.  I'm so glad to see you doing that here.  You were like a madonna."

I swear my jaw just sort of dropped here, because WHAT the WHAT?  I mean, WHAT?  Did I just get compared to Madonna?

Actually, no.  I'm pretty sure she meant the blessed virgin.

Which...  even weirder!

And what do you say that?

It's not like I could say, No!  Delete that picture!  Because they were little old ladies taking pictures with a disposable camera.  Like one that takes FILM.  (Can you even get film developed anymore?  Seriously.)

So I just sort of stood there, awkwardly blinking at her, and wondering exactly what was captured on her film since the baby (and, hopefully, my boob) was entirely hidden under a nursing cover.  And the little old lady started talking about how lovely that cloth was (my nursing cover) and how she was so glad to see me nursing because it was going to make my baby grow up so healthy.  So I guess she was just like a breastfeeding cheerleader.  Who wants me to be in her photo album.  While breastfeeding.

I said, "Uh, well, I hope so."

THEN they asked if they could take my picture again.  Like posing with the baby.

So I agree because I DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO.  And we'd already gone over the edge of weirdness, so why not swim in it?

Caroline and I smiled for some stranger and her disposable camera.

I told the ladies to have a nice day (and I kept saying thank you to them, like they'd done me a favor by taking my picture?  Also can I just say I was having like the worst hair day ever and my allergies were bothering me so... not cute.  Oh well, I'm sure they'll just look at the baby anyway.) and I walked back over to David and our friends who were like, "Uh, what was that about?" and I was trying to quietly tell David that they said I looked like a madonna but no, not Madonna-Madonna.

I helped David get Caro back in the Bjorn, which he was wearing, and the ladies then called HIM over to their table to take HIS picture with the baby.  Because it was just so lovely that we were out with the baby like this and it was so nice to see a nice couple like us out with our baby.

He does look good wearing a baby. Feel free to print this for your photo album at home.
It was possibly the most bizarre encounter ever.

Now don't you want to visit Grant's Farm?  I thought so.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Family Photo

When my parents and brother were in town a few weeks ago, my mom wanted us to take a family picture.  I suggested that we take the photo at Forest Park, in front of Eliza's tree.

My dad has a tripod for his DSLR camera and a remote control to operate it, so we headed to the park.

It took a few several about a million tries before we got a decent snapshot, and I thought I'd share some of the outtakes...  These are the photos that will NOT be making the Christmas card!  They seriously crack my shit up, but maybe you had to be there?

My mom does yoga while my dad tries to figure out the angle of the camera.  I guess I was talking.
Just checking on my boobs.  Yup, they're still there.  What my mom is doing is anyone's guess.  Whistling, perhaps?  David evidently can't open his eyes and my brother appears to be grimacing.
David strikes a pose, albeit a rather defeated one.  The rest of us are looking at the baby.  She must have done something shocking?

The remote control is finally working--hence Dad's appearance in the photo--but WAIT, I need to make sure my hair looks ok!  And David still can't open his eyes.
Dad and Brandon smile--Brandon with extra cheese--while my mom and I seem to have forgotten we are getting our picture taken.  David is pouting.
QUICK!  Everyone pretend to be normal.
We put the Carolines in the middle for this one.  And Eliza's tree shows up much better.  Watch out, Christmas cards!  This could be it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Scruffy Finds a Home

This is one of those posts that really need pictures to illustrate it, but you'll just have to use your imaginations because I have no pictures of Scruffy.

Here's the story:

On Saturday afternoon, my parents and Caroline and I went to watch David play baseball.  He plays on a competitive men's baseball league and he's a pitcher and his team was in the play offs so it was kind of a big deal.  Also, he's thinking about retiring after this year...  something about not having enough time to keep his arm in shape, what with working and wanting to spend his free time with two awesome ladies.

(That's me and Zuzu.)

(Hopefully that was obvious, but reading back over that sentence made it sound like he has some dicey extracurriculars going on or something, which, no.  He just wants to hang out with his wife and daughter, thankyouverymuch.)

So anyway, we were at his game, which was actually very enjoyable for me (even though they lost, sad face) because my mom and dad entertained the baby so I just sat and chatted with my friend Angela like I was a teen mom whose parents were actually parenting my child while I hung out with my friend.

But back to the point of my story.  When we got to the ball field, I noticed a little gray dog playing with some kids.  I didn't think much of it because sometimes people bring their dogs to the ballgames (We don't bring our dogs because Little Mac doesn't do well with people and Cooper is hit or miss with other dogs and I don't enjoy being publicly shamed by my dogs' bad behavior.  Instead I'm privately shamed in my own home when people visit and my dogs are obnoxious.)

But then I noticed that parents were telling their kids not to play with the little dog.  And finally someone walked the little dog outside the fence.  And left it there.

A closer look at the little dog on my way to the concession stand revealed that it was a MESS.  It was very small, and looked like a little Yorkie, but it was completely uncared for.  Its fur was totally matted and disgusting.  It was filthy dirty.  The fur on its face hung in his eyes and the longer fur under his belly and tail was tangled and disgusting.  It reeked of flea collar smell, from a collar someone must have stuck on it because they felt sorry for it scratching.

And yet, it was the cheeriest, happiest, most hopeful little dog, sitting on the outside of the fence, still trying to play with the kids.

I asked the ladies in the concession stand about the dog.  They said that it had been hanging around the ball fields for the last couple of days.  They think someone dumped it there.  One of them said she would have taken it home except she has ten cats.  (Uh...  I know, right?)

I walked back to my seat and told my mom I was taking that dog home.

She protested a little bit...  first she said it probably belonged to someone.  Which... no.

Then she said someone else would take it home.  But I didn't believe that.

I know she felt sorry for the dog, too, but was thinking that I didn't need to be messing with a dirty, wormy, flea-bitten, probably not housebroken dog.

And I kind of felt the same way.

But I just couldn't leave it there.

After the game, David came over to greet us and I said to him, "I'm going to do something and I really need you to be supportive."

He said ok (gotta love a husband who agrees before hearing the plan), so I told him I was taking that little dog home and I was going to get him cleaned up and find him a good home (Because keeping him was NOT an option.  Cute as he was, the LAST thing I need/want is one more needy creature in this house.  I mean, do we need to go over how high-maintenance the two dogs we already have are?).  David has a soft spot for little dogs no one in their right mind would want, so he just said, "All right.  I'm going to hang out here with the guys for a little bit."

So after the game, I walked over to the dog and gingerly petted the top of its head (because it was DISGUSTINGLY DIRTY, you guys).  One of the ladies cheering for the other team had been sitting near the dog and when she saw me petting it, she told me that she'd called animal shelters but no one would take this dog.  Turns out that the town in which the ball field is located does not help fund any animal shelters, so no one will pick up stray animals in that town.  The police only pick up dogs that are dangerous and need to be euthanized.  So this little guy truly had no where to go, and had obviously been surviving on the streets for a while.  (Tears!)

So, while my mom and dad loaded up the baby and our bag chairs and cooler and stroller, I grabbed a blanket and used it to pick up the little dog.  I put him in the back of the Honda with the stroller and the bag chairs and we hit the road.

He was quiet the whole way home, just curled up on the blanket in the back of the car (probably terrified, poor little thing).  I named him Scruffy (but seriously had NO plans to keep him).

We got home and my dad took the baby in the house while my mom and I put Little Mac's leash on Scruffy and she tried to lead him down the sidewalk so I could go inside and get Cooper and we could introduce them on neutral territory, away from our house/yard, and then lead them into the backyard together.  (Little Mac was actually not a concern because even though she will bite people, she prefers to avoid other dog whereas Cooper has been known to be aggressive and embarrassing at the dog park).

This was a good plan, but Scruffy did not want to walk on the leash, and wasn't interested in the treats we offered (I think he was too freaked out to eat).

And Cooper, true to form, was kind of an asshole to Scruffy.  Although there was some sniffing and wagging, he got a bit growly.  Nothing major, but enough to worry me a little since he's so much bigger than Scruffy.

Eventually, we got Scruffy in the backyard, let Cooper back in the house, and I decided Cooper just had to be supervised when let out in the yard for the rest of the weekend.  On Monday, I'd take Scruffy to the vet and then to the groomer, and then I'd see about getting him adopted by someone else.

An hour or so later, David and I decided to let Cooper outside and see how he and Scruffy got along.  But when we went out in the backyard...  there was no sign of Scruffy!

A chill went through me as David checked the chicken coop but (thank goodness) the chicken sisters (Rose, Blanche, and Dorothy) were just fine and Scruffy was not in the coop.

He wasn't under the deck, behind the shed, in the compost pile, to the side of the garage, or hiding in the garden.

There's a small gap between our gate and the garage, and we kept staring at it, wondering if it were small enough that he could have squeezed through it (it's too small for Cooper, and Little Mac would never try to get out of the yard, but Scruffy was really small--less than 10 pounds for sure--and could have done it.)

So I went out in our alley and started looking for him.  Honestly, I figured he had a better chance of surviving in our neighborhood than in the one he was in when I found him, but I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.  Here I'd taken him from his familiar surroundings and then LOST him, and now he was going to wander and get hit by a car...

Our house backs up to an alley, and our neighbor across the alley is a couple from Laos.  Their house is a very bright green and they have four grown kids who have all gone to medical school.  They also have a furry little mop-looking dog who barks almost as obnoxiously as Cooper.  Their youngest daughter and her husband lived with them for a while when she was finishing school, and they had a doberman pinscher.  The son-in-law would go for bike rides with the doberman running alongside and he bought one of those bike-cart-attachments made for little kids so that the little dog could ride in it and go with them.  Um, cutest thing ever.  Anyway, the daughter and son-in-law have since moved into a house of their own, but the parents ended up adopting their own doberman, which makes a funny pair with their little mop-dog, and when the daughter and son-in-law visit, there are two dobermans and a mop-dog standing guard at their fence.  All this to say, they are dog lovers and their English is not perfect.  So the lady saw me wandering the alley and she came outside and asked me if I was looking for something.  I told her I was searching for a little dog, but not one of our dogs, a dog I had rescued.

She got all excited and did much gesturing and told me the dog was next door.

Her next door neighbors are a cute family from Bosnia (one thing I love about our neighborhood is the diversity of accents).  This family has an older son who is probably in fifth grade who likes to come over and pet Cooper and watch David practice pitching in our backyard.  They also have a younger boy (probably first grade?) and a little girl (she's about two and a half).  They're really friendly (even though I avoided all social interaction with neighbors for a long time after Eliza died).  They like to give us food when they barbecue.

So David and I walked over to the next house, and there was Scruffy in the fenced-in-yard next door, skipping around and having a blast playing with the three kids.  Obviously the parents are pretty laid back, because all the kids were petting the dog that I didn't really want to touch because his fur was so gross (poor little thing).  Anyway, the mom and dad asked if it was our dog (they know, of course, that we have Mac and Cooper) and I said, "No, I just found him wandering and he needs a good home!"  So the mom said she'd seen him in the alley, so she let him in their yard.  The dad said he was going to "give him a shower and put his picture on the internet" to try to find him a home.

David and I looked at each other and said, "OK, great!"

Scruffy was now someone else's project!

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't totally relieved.  I'd already been imagining the logistics of taking care of this dog, plus my dogs, especially if all backyard interactions needed to be supervised, plus the baby, the trips to the vet and the groomer...  and what if we couldn't find him a home?  It was clear that his escape from the yard and rescue by this other family was basically the most serendipitous of events.

And I'm thinking maybe they won't give him away after all because those kids were having so much fun with him (and they don't have any other pets).

So basically, I rescued a dog and found him a home without even trying.

It makes me so happy to think of that little dog off the streets and living with a loving family (fingers crossed they end up keeping him).  I smile every time I think about it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Quilt Show

Caroline has been the lucky recipient of some gorgeous quilts, including a couple of hand-me-downs from Eliza.  She wanted to do a little quilt show to show them off!

OK, I wanted to do the quilt show.  She tolerated it well, but didn't give me any big smiles.  Fortunately she looks adorable anyway.

Tummy time on the baby duck quilt Nana made for our baby ducks before I was even pregnant (this is the quilt hanging in Caroline's nursery).  I love the three-dimensional windmill flaps, but Nana says they are a pain in the neck to make!

I was trying to make her smile and instead I got the WTF face.  She's on the quilt Nana made with gender-neutral fabric I picked out  for the Deuce.  I love the trees, the wavy lines, the polka-dots, the turquoise.  I like that it's sweet without being your typical pastels.

Not that there's anything wrong with pastels!  Here's Zuzu on a pink baby duck blanket that Nana made for Eliza.  

Cousin Bonnie made this Very Hungry Caterpillar quilt.  Caro looks to be dancing a little jig.  

Go Cards!  This quilt was made as a wedding present for us by David's grandma Duckworth and his aunts.  Zuzu likes to stare at the black-on-white stitching.

The other baby wanted in on the action.  Someone craves attention!  Poor Cooper.  He's still my baby, too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sleeping Beauty and Friends

I have some posts to write!  Photos of Zuzu's quilts, a brief explanation of how Caroline has achieved the unlikely and ridiculous nickname of Zuzu (besides the fact that when you look at her face you just want to sort of purr, "Zuzzzzuuu" because she's so adorable), a story of how I rescued the saddest little dog ever and found him a new home completely by accident, a tale of Mommy & Me yoga, and some excerpts from our family photo session that make me laugh out loud.

But today I wanted to write about Fairy Tales for Hope.

Hope was a baby girl born four years ago.  Like Eliza, she was the first daughter of a couple who loved her and wanted everything for her, and like Eliza, she slipped away from them without warning and broke their hearts into a million pieces.

Sally is Hope's mama, a blogger, and the sort of person I'd like to surround myself with in real life.  I know so many of us who blog or read about grief and baby loss online are incredibly grateful for Sally's honesty and encouragement and kindness.  And if you follow her on Instagram, you know she's an amazing cook as well.  If only we lived close enough that I could regularly invite myself over for dinner...  Alas, (for me, not them) Sally and her family (her husband, Simon, and Hope's brother Angus and sister Juliet) live in Australia, so the dinner thing hasn't happened... yet.  One of the many amazing things about the interwebz is that you can be completely uplifted and charmed by people on the other side of the world.

In honor of Hope's fourth birthday, Sally's friend Tonia created a series of art prints for the month of August.  There are 31 of them, all based on fairy tales.

 Each print is gorgeous, and all proceeds from their sales benefit the Sillbirth Foundation of Australia, which is a parent-driven organization that funds and encourages research into stillbirth and works to increase public awareness of stillbirth.

The prints sell for $20 each, plus a flat rate of $16 to ship from Australia, no matter how many prints you buy.  They are 10 inches by 10 inches (or 250mm x 250mm if you are on the metric system).

It was nearly impossible for me to decide because I love so many of them, but I ordered this one for Caroline:

Sleeping Beauty
I also love this one

The Princess and the Pea
and this one

Snow White

and this one

The Frog Prince
If you'd like to support the project, you can order your own print(s) here.

Seriously, if Caroline's nursery wasn't already full of adorable prints, I probably would have made the whole thing fairy tale themed and bought as many as I could.

And, those of you with better social skills than I, check out their facebook page here.

Happily ever after sure doesn't mean what it used to mean around here.  But we're definitely doing the best we can.

My sleeping beauty

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cloth Diapering (The Illustrated Edition)

So a few people have been asking how cloth diapering is going and I have to say...  it's super easy.  Like no problem at all.  Like I can't believe everybody who has a washer and dryer doesn't cloth diaper.  It's THAT easy.

(And remember, I am easily grossed out.  For example:  I had to pick up Cooper's runny dog poop on a walk the other day and I started gagging and then full-out dry heaving because it was so liquidy and David finally grabbed the bag of poop from me and left me retching curb-side as he pushed the stroller away, pretending he didn't know me.)

There are MANY kinds of cloth diapers, all with various pros and cons, so I'm just going to tell you what we do and how it works for us.  In detail.  With photo illustrations.  My dad's here, so I have some time.  Feel free to skip this post if you're bored already.

This is where the magic cloth diapering happens.  Observe the crazy monkey. He's always climbing the palm tree!  Caro thinks he is hilarious.
Caroline wears Bum Genius 4.0's.  They are not the newest model, but they were the newest model when we bought them for Eliza (almost two years ago).  We also have a few Fuzzi Bunz that were hand-me-downs from a friend, but those are still a little too big (they leak around the leg holes).  So right now we are exclusively using Bum Geniuses.  Ours are one-size-fits-all diapers with snaps that adjust as the baby grows.

Close up of the snaps
(We have a couple of velcro fastening diapers, which I love for ease/convenience, but I've read that the velcro wears out so we decided to invest in snaps since these diapers will grow with this baby and hopefully be used if we have any baby ducks in the future.)  We did use disposable diapers for the first few weeks until Caroline got to be around 10 pounds and the Bum Geniuses fit better around her little thighs.  We also used disposables when traveling over Labor Day weekend.

Our opinion?  Cloth diapers rock.  Disposables are lame.

Caroline's face demonstrates her opinion of disposable diapers.
Ours are also "pocket diapers" which means the outer shell is your basic diaper-outer-layer (with a cute colored outside and microfiber inside) and there is a pocket in which you put an absorbent insert (or two as baby gets bigger and pees more).

Here you can see the absorbent insert (on the left) outside of diaper with pocket peeking open.  This picture is for demonstration only, as we store the diapers ready to go with the inserts in them.  And Caro is kicking her legs in excitement because she loves cloth diapers or possibly because that damn monkey is climbing that tree and it's still hilarious.   
The diapers each come with two inserts, the basic one is extra-long and made so that 1/3 of it gets foldered over (you can see that in the above picture as well).  The folded portion goes in the front for boys and in the back for girls.  The additional insert is a flat piece the same size as the folded insert (but without a fold).  It can be added later when you need extra absorbency.  Right now those are just stacked in her dresser drawer since we don't need them yet.

Voila!  Insert in the pocket.
We have about 30 diapers total.  That's a big investment when diapers run about $20-25 a pop, but we saved on them by buying a lot of them gently used from a local cloth diaper store for closer to $10 each  (Cotton Babies for those of you in STL).  We also received a lot of them as shower gifts and I know you can buy them in bulk and save as well (Cotton Babies has a great website).  Plus, you only have to buy them once!  (Everytime I threw away a disposable diaper, I felt like I was throwing a quarter in the trash.)

Plus these are so CUTE!  And don't have stupid cartoon characters on them.
We also use cloth wipes.  At first I wasn't sure that we would want to because somehow it just seemed gross.  We thought we might stick with disposable wipes even after we started using cloth diapers.  But we got some of them for a shower gift for Eliza, so we decided to give them a try.  And they were LIFE CHANGING.  Seriously.  They are so soft and gentle on the baby's bottom and it only takes ONE (maybe two) to clean up a really messy diaper that would require several disposable wipes.  They just do a much better job.

Out of the wash and ready to go
Our favorites are the Thirsties brand which are microfiber on one side and fleece on the other.  They are a bit pricey, but worth the investment since you only have to buy them once.  We keep the wipes damp and ready to go in a wipe warmer.

wipe and warmer
People swear by the Prince Lionheart brand of wipe warmer, but my mom got us a fairly inexpensive wipe warmer (possibly from Wal-Mart?) and it works just fine (I taped the lid down where you'd pull the disposables through and we just lift the whole lid each time).  The wipes fit in there perfectly when they are folded in half.  When they come out of the wash, I don't bother to dry them.  I just fold them in half, stack them, and re-wet them thoroughly, then wring them out before sticking them in the warmer.  They stay nice and warm and don't get dried out.  And we wash them right along with the diapers.  We don't use anything but water on the wipes, but I did buy the Bum Genius Bottom Spray and I spray that on the wipe for really messy clean ups.

The washing situation is, of course, the grossest part of the whole set up, but it is seriously no big deal.  We got this diaper pail from Cotton Babies.  It's just a plastic pail with a liner.  (And we bought an extra liner to use when one is in the wash--an extra $20 but a necessity).  The "special thing" about this pail is that it has a carbon filter and an air-freshener insert to help with stink.  So far, breast milk poops don't stink much and odor hasn't been an issue at all.

the pail - nothing fancy
When we change her diaper, we throw the dirties (and the wipes) into the diaper pail, removing the insert from the pocket before dropping it in.  With 30 diapers, we have enough that we can wash them every other day.  On wash days, I pull out the entire liner bag from the diaper pail, carry it to the washing machine, and shove it in, leaving everything in the bag because it will come out in the wash cycle on its own (no touching the dirty dipes once they are already in the pail).

Dirty diaper, insert, and wipe in the pail.  You're welcome.
We use Charlie's liquid soap in our front-load washer.  I order it from Amazon (or from an affiliate who sells through Amazon).  The price fluctuates and different places offer free shipping, so it pays to click around a bit before you order.  I've been able to find it for around $25/gallon with free shipping and you only need a tiny bit for each load (plus you save money because you don't need to buy fabric softener).  One gallon washes 128 loads, so it comes out to around 20 cents a load.  I suppose you could save more making your own detergent... but then you'd have to make your own detergent.

So I just use Charlie's for everything--our clothes, towels, sheets, baby clothes, and diapers.  I started using Charlie's since I was pregnant with Eliza and I've been really happy with it.  It doesn't require any fabric softener (so no chemicals on baby's skin) and it doesn't really have a scent so our clothes just smell clean without a fragrance added to them (I confess, I miss the smell of Downy, but I'm getting over it.)  To help with static issues in the dryer and improve drying time, I use dryer balls like these.  (Tip:  At our Target, these dryer balls are sold in the closet/organization aisle instead of the laundry aisle.  No idea why.)

So when I put the diapers in, I follow Cotton Babies's recommendation and run them through on two full "heavy" cycles.  First, on cold, with just a little bit of detergent to loosen the gunk.  Then again on hot, with a normal measurement of detergent and the extra rinse option turned on.

In case you wondered what diapers in the washing machine look like - and you can see we do not have a large or fancy washing machine but it gets the diapers clean just fine!
When the diapers are finished washing, I pull out the diaper outsides, the wipes, and the diaper pail liner.  The wipes I'm just going to re-wet and put in the wipe warmer, so I don't bother to dry them.  The diaper outsides and the pail liner go on the drying rack to air dry.  Since it's been nice outside, I put the rack out on our deck to dry in the sun, which removes any stains that may remain on the diapers (we've had just a few of those and the sun totally gets rid of them like magic).  The absorbent inserts go in the dryer on high for an extra-long cycle to get them thoroughly dry.

glorious diapers drying in the sun!
A few hours later, everything is dry and clean!  The diaper outsides dry very quickly, which is good since drying on the deck probably won't work in the winter months.  The inserts sometimes need an extra short cycle in the dryer since they are thick.

Once everything is dry, I throw it all in a laundry basket and David and I restuff the diapers (putting the inserts in the pockets) while we're watching TV.  It takes just a few minutes.  The ready-to-go diapers go back in her dresser drawer and that's all there is to it.

ready for baby bottom coverage
After using disposable diapers over Labor Day weekend, David and I could not believe how much we prefer the cloth.  I think they are gentler on her skin, they are WAY less likely to have leaks or blow-outs, and they are truly just as convenient (as long as you have easy access to a washer and dryer, obvy).  And (eventually) we'll save money.  Yes, there's extra laundry, which could get more annoying when I go back to work, but we'll figure it out.

As for being out and about in daily life, I just carry a wet-bag in the diaper bag, which I then empty into the diaper pail when I get home (so far we haven't had stink issues... of course that could change, so we're exploring our options with Flip disposables and the diaper liners).

We have only had to use a diaper rash cream occasionally (it's my understanding that babies have fewer rashes with cloth diapers, but I don't really know if that's true), and I read that some creams can stain cloth diapers, so we just browsed the shelves at Target for one that said it was cloth diaper friendly.  We went with California babies, which is also the baby wash that we use.  It smells nice and we've had no issues with it so far.

I do realize that things will get, uh, ickier when Caro starts eating solid foods.  To deal with the solid-poo issue, we purchased a little sprayer that hooks up to the toilet.  My understanding is that once the poo gets more solid, you shake it off into the toilet, then give the diaper a little spray if it needs some help, and wash the diapers the same way. And we could always use the diaper liners on a more regular basis if we need to, which peel away from the diaper and can be flushed.

Overall, I'm VERY glad we did the cloth diaper route.  I know it's not for everybody, and I'm totally NOT judging those of you who are single-handedly destroying the environment by filling landfills with disposable diapers (kidding!  really).  But it's been a good system for us and really even easier than I anticipated.  (And I am lazy, for realz.)

Cloth diapers rock!
So that's how it works at our house.  Anybody else using Bum Genius 4.0?  Anybody using the fancy all-in-ones where you don't even have to stuff them with the absorbent insert?  Anybody doing old school cloth diapers with pins?  Anybody now totally convinced they should convert to cloth diapers?  Anybody still think I'm crazy?  It's ok.  You can say so.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Eliza has been on my mind a lot lately.

Actually, she's on my mind a lot all the time, but lately I've been feeling more emotional about it.  It started with a text telling me about another mom who lost her baby just a couple of weeks ago.  Someone with whom I have many things in common and would likely be good friends with.  I'm glad I could reach out to her, and try to offer her a bit of hope in this awful time, but it does take me back to those early, ugly, dark days of grief.  And the terrible and mind-boggling unfairness of all of this.

It's also that the weather turned lovely this weekend--crisp and fall-like.  For the first time, this made me a little bit happy, the way it used to, as I daydream of riding boots and corduroy blazers (the true academic uniform) and red wine and hot tea, and it made me a little bit happy in a new way, as I thought about pumpkin patch photo opportunities and Halloween costumes.

But it also made me sad because fall leads up to December 6th and oh my God, how has it been two years?

I was talking to a few other bereaved parents about how we are still so shocked and horrified to hear of a parent losing a child.  How it still seems unreal and impossible, even though we ourselves are living that reality.  How we still wonder How will they survive that?  And why would they want to?  Even though here we are.  Surviving.

I've come a long way from December of 2010.  I've done a lot of therapy, a lot of writing, a lot of talking, more crying than I ever thought I'd do in my lifetime.  David and I have gotten to a place where we look at Caroline and look at each other and say, "We are so lucky," -- a sentence I thought I'd never utter again.

But it never escapes me for long, the fact that I should have an almost-two-year-old.  That every milestone Caroline hits is one Eliza never did.  That Caroline has a sister she'll never meet.  That David and I created not just another baby, but another person, whom we never got to know.

Fall has regained some of it's appeal, it's true, and I daresay that even the holidays will get their sparkle back eventually.  But each change of season is another reminder of everything we're missing out on.

I really wish Caroline's hand-me-downs from Eliza had been worn before, you know?

Monday, September 10, 2012


The nursery is completed!

The baby's only been here two and a half months!

Fortunately she didn't seem to notice or care that her room was a hot mess in a bit of disarray.

We only have two bedrooms in our wee little bungalow, so we left the guest bed up for the month of July to accommodate visiting grandparents.  The shelves were already up when we'd begun to set up the nursery for Eliza, so they just lived (awkwardly) in the guest room for the year and a half it was not a nursery.

Then we finally put up the crib and moved the changing table from our room to the nursery.

A shopping trip (with baby in tow) to Hobby Lobby to buy fabric for another project resulted in the spur-of-the-moment purchase of a laundry hamper, storage ottoman, and the book basket.

My favorite things are the things on the wall--a combination of things I'd gotten for Eliza, things purchased specifically for Caroline, and a few hand-me-downs from my nursery when I was a baby.

So with no further ado, I give you a ridiculous number of photos that catalog every object in this room.  You are welcome.

view from the doorway corner - furniture purchased for Eliza.  We ordered it online but David and I can't remember where we got it...  Amazon?  Overstock?  No idea.  The chair was purchased locally at a high-end baby store (it was the floor model) and the little yellow rug you can barely see is from Home Goods (also purchased for Eliza).

view from the crib - I made the curtains for Caroline out of sheets from Target following this tutorial.  Sorry the lighting is terrible and I'm too lazy busy to retake it.  Also the lamp is kind of heinous.  I think I'm just going to spray paint it white.  There's no ceiling light in this room, so it's kind of essential.
view from the chair - the quilt was originally made for Eliza by my Nana and has baby ducks on it.  The diaper pail is also somewhat unsightly but essential.

Hair bow central!  We're already running out of room for all her bows, which is particularly funny since my baby is mostly bald but for her little old man fringe.  The bottom frame was a gift from my friend Stephanie.  The small brown frame is a print that was given to me by my grandma when I was little.  It says "God danced the day you were born."  I'd planned to put it up in Eliza's nursery.

On the door to her room:  "Let her sleep for when she wakes she will move mountains."  An Etsy purchase just for Caroline from Bo Peep Baby.

Above the crib - Eliza's duck painting and the free Rainbows printable

Between the crib and changing table--an ABC banner cross stitched by my great-aunt Beth.  This hung in my nursery when I was a baby.  Isn't it adorably vintage?

Above the changing table--Cooper and Mac prints from Wallfry on Etsy.

Gallery frames above the rocking chair

Caroline's birth announcement

Print from Trafalgar's Square on Etsy - a gift for Caroline from David's sister

A tiny print in the shape of a duck that says "lucky, lucky."  I  ordered this for Eliza's nursery also (the seller is no longer on etsy).

A $2 letter C from Hobby Lobby, covered with scrapbook paper.

A "Make Way for Ducklings" postcard my mom mailed us from Boston a few years ago.

An Alice in Wonderland print I ordered for Eliza from DreameryStudio on Etsy (seller no longer on Etsy).

An embossed print I happened upon at a resale shop in our neighborhood.  Cardinals remind us of David's grandpa Gene (biggest St. Louis Cardinal fan) and this print reads "Each day is a gift, praise each moment and waste it not."  Perfect sentiment, no?

The shelves above the rocking chair - filled with goodies!

My picture didn't turn out well, but this darling print was a gift from my friend Megan for Caroline.  It says "You make me happy when skies are gray."

Top shelf:  A stuffed lamb given to Caroline by her great-great aunt Dottie, an angel figurine my mom gave me, another Trafalger's Square print (originally purchased for Eliza), a framed picture of a butterfly, a Noah's ark piggy bank, an antique duck that was a gift for Eliza, and a little gift box that came full of duck socks (the very ones I cried over in this post)

Bottom shelf:  Ted and Albert, my teddy bear and dog from childhood, a cute card, Sophie the giraffe, Caroline's baby book (I thought it was gender neutral, but it's actually boyish--it has stuff about snips and snails in it), a framed picture of David and Caroline, her teensy ball glove (it was Eliza's) and a baseball piggy bank

A basket of books, most of them lovely gifts, including The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts.  Awesome.

The closet - I like to decorate it with her cute dresses.  And the banner is reused from the sip & see.  I made it with scrapbook paper and letters I printed and cut out (I have mad scissors skills).
This monkey was a hand-me-down from Caroline's cousins Kailer and Taylyn.  We stuck it on the shelf over her changing table and she loves it.  It cracks her up.

Looking at the funny monkey!
Last but not least -- a mobile from my nursery as a baby.  This was made by my grandma, and it's perfect for my rainbow baby.
There you have it.  A catalog of the nursery that my daughter has not yet slept in because both David and I want her to be no more than an arm's reach away.  So she's in her little sleeper in our room forever now.  And the dogs are still only allowed in the baby's room when supervised.

So you can see, our duck "theme" is really just the quilt.  We've brought in lots of pink and other colors besides yellow and blue.  It's kind of a cluttered and eclectic little nursery, but I love the way every single object in that room is sentimental and meaningful to us, one way or another.  Decorated with love, for sure.