Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Family Weekend With Pictures

My dad's side of the family had a reunion over Memorial Day weekend.  My Nana has been diagnosed with lung cancer, and is currently undergoing treatments, so it was especially important for us all to be able to spend some time together.  Zuzu got to meet a lot of family we don't see often--including Nana's sisters, my great-aunt Jo who lives in Georgia and my great-aunt Sue who lives in Arizona.  Zuzu took a little while to warm up to so many new faces, but I think she still won everyone over.

checking out the playground with Daddy
swinging with Mommy
We were able to rent out an entire camp for the weekend, which was really nice.  There were probably close to forty of us and we had access to a pontoon boat and a paddle boat and a swimming pool and there was a carousel and playground and a little chapel where we had a Sunday service.

the carousel was fun although the horses had really pointy backs

swinging with cousin Paige
She looks uncertain here, but she loved the slide!
The main lodge had a big kitchen and dining room, as well as a sitting room and several bedrooms.  We ate our meals there, and lots of the family stayed there.  My parents and brother and David and Zuzu and I were in another lodge (we thought that would help Zuzu sleep better to be away from the action--haha, not so much.  She did a lot of stroller napping.).  We weren't exactly roughing it (especially considering my dad's sisters did the meal preparation for everyone), but we had to pack our own sheets and towels, so that makes it camping as far as I'm concerned.

campfire = camping
My Crafty Cousin Amanda had planned to come visit me a couple of weekends ago, but then her work got really crazy and she couldn't make it.  No worries--I just insisted that she pack her sewing machine and get ready to get crafty during Family Weekend!

Zuzu and Crafty "Auntie" Amanda
So that's how we spent the weekend--crafting and sewing, walking to the lake (and getting ticks!), playing board games, swinging and sliding on the playground, eating, roasting s'mores, and taking it easy.  After a stressful end of the semester, it was really nice to get away for the weekend and slow down.

David and the "perfect" s'more
Swimming with Grammy!  Zuzu loved the pool even though the water was FREEZING (too cold for me!)
The funny thing about family is that no matter how many issues (political, religious, social) on which our opinions may differ, it's comforting to be surrounded by people who love you just because you're a branch on their family tree.  Being in St. Louis puts us four and half hours away from the majority of my family, and I do wish Zuzu got to see them more often.

It was bittersweet for me to spend time with my cousin's little girl, Lexi, who is just a couple months younger than Eliza would have been.  And look how big she is:
Zuzu and Lexi
It takes my breath away to think that I should have a little girl like her running around.  There was one point when Lexi and her big sister were arguing.  I playfully scooped up Lexi and said, "Oh, is everybody picking on you?"  She nodded and I cuddled her on my lap.  I was laughing and being silly, but suddenly I was holding her and she leaned her head back against me while her little legs dangled down off my lap and I felt a huge lump in my throat.  All I could think was, This is what it would feel like to hold Eliza now.  This is how big she would be.


Like a sneak-peek at a different life
Lexi didn't stay on my lap long (too busy!), and the moment passed, but that wasn't the only time that weekend that my heart ached for the little girl who wasn't there.  A family reunion can't help but highlight for me the baby who isn't with us, the baby who would have been so loved by her family.

As I said on IG, the pointy end of the marshmallow stick is not as close to Zuzu's eye as it appears in this photo.  And the fire is not burning her butt.
Of course, every moment missing Eliza is matched by a moment of being so grateful for and delighted by Zuzu.  I just said to David today, "How did we get so lucky?" and those are words I still can't believe come out of my mouth.

Zuzu was a crazy woman at the campfire, entertaining Uncle Bubs, herself, and everyone else.
Applauding for herself
Clapping for oneself is hilarious!
We ate a lot of sweets over the weekend (my aunts made fresh-baked cookies every single day, seriously) and we made some sweet memories.  I declare Family Weekend a success.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hula Girl

Oh, I'm tired.  It's late and we had a long weekend camping (well, my version of camping--it requires air conditioning and indoor plumbing) and I'm still working this week because there are so many faculty meetings and plans to make for the fall semester.  Zuzu's not sleeping well and it's already almost Wednesday and we are heading to my parents' for this weekend so I really have no idea where the time is going.

I want to post about last weekend--Family Weekend at the campground--and I want to post about some of the crafty stuff I crafted (or helped to craft), but there's just no time for that right now because I can't stop yawning.

So I leave you with pictures of our little Hula girl (who will be ELEVEN MONTHS OLD tomorrow CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?  I cannot.).

Peeking through the doors. Her "sandals" are from Belles & Beaus--a little store in my home town.  They are super simple and totally adorable--stretchy ribbon around the ankle and a flower on top of the foot.

It was so humid today that her little wisps of hair curled.  

Oh yeah.  She thinks she's hot stuff when she holds on with just one hand.

And she can do NO HANDS, but that requires a look of intense concentration.
I love how she sort of looks like she's learning to hula while wearing a sweet hand-me-down Hawaiian dress from her cousin Taylyn.  Shake it, sister!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Things That Seem Like A Good Idea But Actually Are Not

(1) Spray tanning yourself.

Trust me on this one.  #fail

(2) ...

Nope.  That one is all I've got.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Some Happy Little Things

I've been doing a lot of fretting and stewing and stressing and grading and other un-fun things, so I thought a nice change of pace would be to write about some things that are making me happy.

* Zuzu is a rock star walking behind her new Radio-flyer push wagon.  She walks with an open-mouth grin and is very proud of herself.  (I wanted to post a picture, but they are on David's phone.)

* Zuzu's hair is growing in a little bit, and she has a nice bit of golden-brown fuzz, with little wings above her ears.  No sign of bangs! 

*  Zuzu in general was SO much fun this weekend, after a really difficult week.  I realize now that a lot of what made last week so stressful were actually symptoms of her ear infection--she didn't feel good, and that made life (and sleep) hard on everyone.  Now that she is back to her cheerful little self, everything (including bedtime) is SO MUCH easier.  (Giving her meds is not any easier--she still thrashes, spits, and screams.  I got a mouthful of sticky medicine sprayed/spat in my face this morning.  Awesome.)

*  End of semester grading was made more bearable by having a little "grading party" in the Academic Success Center with a couple of my favorite colleagues AND I discovered a new style of pen I love.  (It's the little things.)

* We are (temporarily) getting HBO and that means... Game of Thrones!

* Some of my students said sweet things on their (anonymous) end-of-semester surveys.  One non-traditional student told me in person that I have great "pizazz."  That just shows you how much being a professor is actually about being an actor.  I have no pizazz in real life.  

* I not-so-secretly love wearing the faculty regalia for graduation.  I sort of wish American universities were like Oxford and we wore regalia for teaching.  Okay, not really.  But I like it because I feel like I'm teaching at Hogwarts when I wear it and students call me "Professor."

* Zuzu's Uncle Bubs (my brother) is coming to see us this weekend!  He gets in on Thursday and then we're road-tripping to a family reunion at a campground/lodge in the middle of nowhere.  Crafty Cousin Amanda and I are bringing our sewing machines.  I have big plans!  I am planning a post about my project, assuming it works out okay...

* I'm still plugging away at my Read 100 Books Project.  I got through two this weekend (staying up late to read).  I'm all about the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.  Maisie Dobbs is a psychologist and private investigator living in post-WWI London.  What's amazing about the books is that they give you a good mystery, but they also deal very poignantly with the realities of trauma, grief, and the particular struggles of that historical moment.  Really good stuff.

* I've also been listening to Z - A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald on my commute.  It's a great performance by the reader of the audio book, which is important (I have returned audio books because the voice of the reader grates on me) and it makes me want to re-read some Fitzgerald, and read some of Zelda's short stories.  (And yes, I'm counting the handful of audio books I'm listening to this year as part of my Read 100 Books goal.  You can call it cheating if you want, but I make the rules and I feel fine about it.  I think it balances out the fact that I'm NOT counting all of the essays and epic poetry that I read for teaching purposes.)

* It finally feels like summer here.  Of course it got hot really quickly and we didn't have much of a spring to speak of, but after way too many April and May days with highs in the 50s, it's lovely to finally get some use out of a summer wardrobe that went unworn last year due to pregnancy and postpartum sizes not fitting.  It almost feels like I have a bunch of new clothes!

* I'm thinking about exercising.  I'm not ACTUALLY doing much exercising (besides walking on nice days) but after failing dismally at my 30 Day Shred challenge (I got a cold and gave up on others after eight days--Jillian is very disappointed in me), I'm finally feeling motivated to think about exercising again.  Could have something to do with my arms in sleeveless shirts...

* David is making fajitas for dinner tonight.

* The new washing machine has a "sanitize" setting that is so awesome for cloth diapers.  (Edited to add: OMG! I called Cotton Babies to inquire about the sanitize setting, and it is totally NOT recommended.  So back to my cold rinse + hot wash + occasional extra rinse.  Glad I only ran one sanitize cycle (we'd been disposable diapering for over a week due to the move and then a nasty diaper rash that required prescription ointment that was not cloth-diaper friendly.  Oh well, it still feels cleaner to wash them in a new washing machine.) 

* Last night was the first night in a full month that David and I sat together on the sofa at 8pm and watched some TV before we went to bed.  Every other night has been non-stop projects or work from dinner time to bedtime.  It was really, really nice, and we definitely needed it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Zuzu's Zzzzz's

So this is Zuzu's bedtime routine.

We have dinner. 6-6:30ish

We clean up dinner and have play time. 6:30-7ish

We put the baby in the bath around 7pm.  By 7:15, she's usually dried and lotioned and in her pajamas.

Then it's time to nurse in the rocking chair, then read books (one random choice, followed by Good Night, Moon).  Then we sing songs, snuggle, and typically by 7:30pm she's looking good and sleepy and it's time to put her in her crib.

If she's really wiped out, she'll lie on her side, sigh sweetly, close her eyes, clutch her hane (blanky), and drift off to dreamland.

But most nights she really fights sleep.

I'll gently lay her in the crib on her side and pat her back to say good night.  But she starts squirming and then she's crying and rolling over on her tummy to push herself up.  She then stands in the crib, screaming and crying.

I haven't even moved from my position next to the crib, so I lay her back down, where she closes her eyes for just one moment before she realizes she's about to fall asleep, at which point she starts screeching, rolls over, and quickly climbs up to a standing position.

And we repeat this several times with me saying things like, "No, honey, we're not doing this right now.  It's night-night time.  Just relax.  You're obviously tired.  Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  SHHHHHHHHH."

Until finally I lay her down and she stays down and falls asleep.

She doesn't usually resist being laid down, but just when I think she's settled in the crib, she's resolute about standing up and crying.

Until she finally admits defeat and accepts sleep.

It's not like this every single night--there are a few nights when she lies quietly and falls asleep quickly.  But we've really been seeing this routine frequently.

And I don't like it!

Our peaceful bedtime routine starts to feel like a battle.  I dread the end of it and I miss the brief window of time when we had a seamless transition from rocking to sleeping in bed.

Here's the other thing--she loves rocking and snuggle time, but she rarely lets us rock her to the point of actually falling asleep.  Unless she's sick or absolutely exhausted (she had one day when she only took ONE 30 minute nap at daycare), she doesn't fall asleep when she's in my arms (or David's).  She'll relax, but when she's actually going to nod off, she gets really squirmy.  She really wants to be lying on her side, and kind of spread out, instead of snuggled up on our laps.  She started doing this when she was about six months old, and for the longest time she seemed very happy to be laid down in her crib to drift into dreamland.

But now... she gets fussy in our arms and seems to want to be put down so she can spread out and sleep on her side.  And then she cries when we set her in the crib.

Does crying have to be part of the bedtime routine?  Is this normal?  Just a phase?  I don't want bedtime to be fraught, but I've also found that David and I NEED a couple hours in the evening for just us after she's gone to bed, and since he's been working late so many nights we haven't been having dinner until 8pm (so much for our "family dinner hour" that worked so well for a while--damn the month of May and all of its after-school activities).  We often find ourselves tired, hungry, and frustrated on the nights when the lay-the-baby-down-over-and-over routine goes on longer than usual.  (Wednesday night I had to lay her down three times, and she fell asleep on the third try. last night she went down on the second try--other nights have been much more of a battle.)



Any ideas?  Anyone perfect the bedtime routine and never have any issues with their children falling peacefully asleep in their beds with no tears?  I don't believe you.  But share your secrets.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Double Ear Infection and the Impact on One Morning's Routine

Do you like the title?  It was supposed to sound like an article in a medical journal.  Somehow it just sounds like a really boring blog post.

Not that I will let that stop me from writing it!

So, yeah.  Zuzu has been sick.  Double ear infection.

It started out with a fever Saturday night that we attributed to teething/virus/who the hell knows but  she was so sweet and snuggly, it made me realize just what a mover and a shaker she is these days, and how rare it is that I get to cuddle her unless she's nursing.  Squishy little sleepy snuggly newborn she is most certainly not.

Sunday morning there wasn't an improvement.  She wasn't fussy, but she spent a lot of the day sleeping and anytime the Tylenol wore off, her fever was back.

By Monday morning, her snot had turned from clear to greenish yellow and we were scheduling a doctor's appointment.

I got extremely annoyed at the pediatrician's office because they scheduled me right away for a sick child visit, but once I got there, I sat in the waiting room for half an hour.  At that point, Zuzu was getting fussy (and so was I, honestly), so I started pacing in front of the receptionist desk.  I didn't want to be obnoxious, but I wanted to make it clear that we were STILL WAITING. 

Fifteen minutes later, a family who'd arrived thirty minutes after we had got called back for their well-child visit and I was outraged.  So I very politely inquired as to whether I'd had the correct appointment time.  The receptionist was clueless, and my pacing obviously had done nothing (except settle Zuzu, which was important) since the receptionist had to ask our names and why we were there again.  I know she sees a lot of patients, but seriously.

She called back and the nurse came out right away.  She took us back to the room and apologized.  Evidently she hadn't updated her schedule, so when they added us for a sick-visit, she didn't know we were here.

I'm pretty sure that keeping your schedule updated is kind of an important part of the job when you're a nurse at a pediatrician's office, so I wasn't about to tell her it was okay when I'd been sitting in the waiting room for forty-five minutes with a sick baby.

I kind of said, "Mm-hmm" and then she apologized and explained AGAIN that she hadn't updated her schedule and didn't know we were out there, like maybe I hadn't heard her the first time?  Or I'd feel better knowing that her negligence was not a deliberate slight against me?  So then I said, "Uh-huh.  Okay.  I just want to get her checked out."  I'm pretty sure she could still tell that I was pissed off.

The doctor came in right away, and announced that the poor pitiful baby had an ear infection.  He also said that she was still cute even when she's sick.  Which, obviously:

Double ear infection, still adorable.
We sat in traffic on the way home from the doctor's office and Zuzu fell asleep, so I went through the drive-through pharmacy window to drop off her prescription and then just waited in the parking lot with the windows down, reading my book for twenty minutes until I could pull back through the drive through and pick up the prescription.

The rest of Monday was spent cuddling and napping (and definitely not grading final exams or organizing the basement).  So yesterday (Tuesday) ended up being the most difficult day because the medicine had kicked in enough that Zuzu's energy level was back up, but she was still cranky and clingy.  So she had lots of ideas about what she wanted to be doing, but the smallest set back could send her into immediate hysterics of the tearful variety. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to sort through the disaster that is our basement.  So Zuzu did a lot of "helping" me by finding random things on the floor to put in her mouth that then had to be taken away from her (Confession:  I may have let her suck on a tampon for far longer than appropriate.  It was fresh from the box and it was keeping her happy, you guys.)

We also went on a long walk to the park because we all needed some fresh air and Cooper needs to lose some weight.  (The above photo was taken after returning from our walk.  Punkin was still not feeling great, obviously.)

By the time David got home from work, I was far more exhausted than I am on the days spent teaching.  And Zuzu was still crabby.  She only wanted her mama and she didn't want to go to bed.  She stayed up until almost 9pm, and then David put her in her crib and I fell asleep on the sofa only to wake up to her crying fifteen minutes later.  I nursed her and she went back to sleep, but woke up fussy not much later.  I'd also just gotten some devastating news about a friend of a friend who lost her baby suddenly to what may be SIDS, so when Zuzu woke up crying again, I immediately brought her into bed with us.  She settled down quickly and we snuggled and I listened to her breathe for a lot of the night, which was probably even more comforting for me than it was for her.

This morning she was 24 hours fever free without Tylenol, so she could go back to daycare.  Which was good, because I had to give a final exam, so I had to be on campus a little earlier than usual (to say such a thing just invites disaster).

But this morning is where I ran into trouble.  The thing is, I can't leave her sleeping in our bed while I shower because I don't trust her not to crawl off the edge of it if she wakes up while I'm in the bathroom.  So I tried to transfer her back to her crib, but of course she woke up and immediately started shrieking when she saw me walking away.

I decided to bring her into the bathroom with me (what choice did I have?  David was already gone for the day and I just can't leave a sick baby crying in her crib for twenty minutes).  She actually loves to play in the shower, and since I didn't need to wash my hair this morning (ponytail day), I took off her diaper, plopped her down on the bathmat outside the tub, and started running the water for the shower.

Cooper also insists on joining us in the bathroom in the mornings, and while it's a perfectly adequate bathroom, it's not exactly spacious.  It was cozy with the three of us all hanging out between the sink and the tub.

And just as I was turning on the showerhead, Zuzu pooped and peed on the bath mat.

With a naked baby, a curious dog, and half the bath mat turned haz-mat, there was not a lot of room to move around.  I managed to hit my hip bone on the corner of the vanity trying to get the baby up and out of her poop, and get the mat folded over so Cooper wouldn't step in it.  I plunked her (gently) down in the tub, where she finished her business (ew), which I later had to rub with my toe in order to get it off the tub and down the train (double ew).

Once I finished showering, I had to dry, lotion, and dress myself and the baby, treat her diaper rash which returned once she started antibiotics, put a little bit of make up on me, give the baby her medicine, eat something for breakfast, pack her food and bottles for daycare, and get the both of us and all our stuff out the door.

Keep in mind that baby is super cranky and goes into full-out meltdown mode if I'm out of her sight.  Also we STILL don't have a baby gate at the top of the stairs because David has been so tired this week that I haven't wanted to nag him about it (don't worry; I nagged him about plenty of other things).

So wherever I went, baby (and dog) went too.  I managed to get myself clothed and to the kitchen.  She screamed in the high chair while I shoveled in a few spoonfuls of yogurt (for myself--she wouldn't eat anything at all) even though I was RIGHT NEXT to her.

Then I had to give her the medicine.  It did not go well.  Previous attempts had also not gone well, but this was the worst.  Her energy levels are obviously back up and she gave me everything she had.

She thrashed and kicked and clamped her gums together and I felt like I was wrestling a toothless alligator.  I would push the syringe in her mouth and she would spit and drool and twist away from me, while crying and sometimes gagging, which made me feel terrible.  So I was nearly in tears myself and I really have no idea how much of the medicine she actually swallowed.

Then I realized it was time to go, but I needed to put the poopy bathmat in the wash, and Zuzu's diapers were still upstairs, and I didn't have a bib ready to go to daycare.  Simple tasks are made much more difficult with a squirmy baby in one arm, particularly one who reaches out and grabs things within reach as we pass by, which had already resulted in nearly spilling a container of yogurt, knocking over the vacuum cleaner onto the dog, and pulling several shirts off hangers in my closet.

Therefore, to expedite my trip upstairs, I put Zuzu in her Jumperoo.

The once delightful toy has become an object of rage and fury as it limits her mobility AND allows me to step out of the room without worrying about her tumbling downstairs or bathing in the dog's water bowl.  HOW DARE WE CONFINE HER SO?  Zuzu had a complete and total meltdown of screaming, snot, and tears, while I jogged upstairs and downstairs and downstairs and upstairs, wondering if the charming house in the perfect neighborhood in the ideal location was really worth the trade off of main floor laundry.  (Jury's still out on that one.)

When I picked her up out of the Jumperoo, she was a hot mess, and she immediately snuggled her head into me, which melted my heart and made me feel sad about taking her to daycare, and also made me sigh loudly because there was now boogery snot and tears smeared all over the shoulder of my shirt and I didn't want to change because I was wearing a really cute outfit--a navy blue Tory Burch pencil skirt with gold buttons down the front (gifted from a friend) and a bright grellow shirt (bought last year at Target).  I grabbed a Boogie wipe and attempted to wipe down the face of the child who once again began thrashing in my arms in a valiant and somewhat successful attempt to avoid having her nose wiped.  Then I then took a wet wash cloth to the shoulder of my shirt.

By this point, I should have been out the door ten minutes ago.

I slipped on flip flops (I've learned the hard way that life is much easier if I wait to put my heels on until I'm in the parking lot of my university), grabbed my heels (nude patent pumps, inspired by Princess Kate), my purse, the bag of bathroom trash I was taking out, Zuzu's daycare bag, the bag with my pump parts and bottles in it, my planner, my car keys, and the baby (I really have no idea how I carried all those things at once; I can only tell you that I did).  And we went to the car.

I felt like I'd been through the ringer and it wasn't even 8am.

Double ear infections are wicked business.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Well, That's Over.

Yeah, Mother's Day.

It's a weird thing, to have a day set aside for celebrating motherhood when my own motherhood is a 50/50 split between grief and joy.  Celebration just feels uncomfortable and inappropriate.  I have so much to be grateful for, but the girl who made me a mom isn't here, and that will always be a cause for grief.


David wished me happy Mother's Day, and then we immediately focused on the baby, who was clearly jealous of all the attention designated toward mothers and therefore declared it to be Sick Baby Day and set about making herself feverish and flushed and the most pitiful little lump of baby I've ever seen.  All she wanted in the world was to be held by her mama.  Which worked out fine since it was a rough day and all I wanted to do was sit around and hold her.

David made breakfast (blueberry waffles) and then worked all day, transferring the chick'n sisters from the old house to the new house, where they actually have even more spacious diggs.  I loaded up the sick baby and ran a few errands with her strapped in the Ergo.  I felt bad taking her out and about, but we really needed groceries and she was perfectly content to sleep strapped to my chest.  I liked having her forehead within kissing distance for much of the afternoon.

I got some nice messages from friends, some of which were so nice they made me cry.  I listened to this, which also made me cry.

And then Zuzu went to bed and David gave me the card he'd retrieved from the old house and we had dinner together in the dining room (smoked salmon, asparagus, and wild rice with a big glass of wine).


It wasn't the worst Mother's Day I've ever had--not by a long shot.  But it was still heavy and emotionally loaded and full of sadness.  My days are full and my arms are full but my heart misses Eliza as fiercely as ever.

In fact, I long for her in a different way, now, because I have a sweet baby girl and my day to day life is busy with all the trappings of parenthood that were part of the loss I grieved when Eliza died.  I don't take these things for granted now, even though I do sigh and roll my eyes sometimes at the day to day minutia of it (washing bottles and pump parts in particular).  I'm busy chasing a baby and kissing a baby and making a baby giggle and mothering a baby and all of the sweetness that comes along with it helps to fill in some of the broken places of my heart.

In some ways, my early grief for Eliza was a whole lot of grief for myself--my life wouldn't be the way I'd hoped it would be, my plans had all fallen to pieces, my baby was gone.  Of course I missed her, intensely, obsessively, desperately, but sometimes that loss got mixed up in my devastation that this life-changing experience had changed me in all the wrong ways, and I'd lost my chance to be a mom--or at least to be a mom the way I had once envisioned it.

Of course we all know that one child cannot replace another, but it turns out the busy-ness of parenting CAN help to replace the absence of that busy-ness following a loss.  The grief of long, empty days and empty, aching arms subsided for me when this "rainbow baby" came into our lives.

But I'll never look at Zuzu's face without wondering what Eliza would have looked like.  I'll never pick out clothes for her without having a fleeting thought about the months I spent buying baby girl clothes for a baby girl who never wore them.  Zuzu has so many books in her nursery, but a handful of them have "This book belongs to... Eliza" printed carefully inside the cover.  I will always wonder what it would have been like for those two to grow up as sisters together.

I put Zuzu in the bathtub last night and handed her two little rubber duckies and as she babbled and splashed, I burst into tears because I wanted so much for there to be two of MY Baby Ducks in that tub together.

While I'm grateful to no longer mourn the loss of motherhood in the sense of day-to-day parenting a child, I'm now and forever mourning the loss of my firstborn baby girl.  Mother's Day is hard for me.  I ache not because I didn't get to be a "mom," but because there will always be a baby girl I never got to know.

Friday, May 10, 2013

One Room

I was kind of in a funk all week long.

I felt like I should have been thrilled to be in the new house, but the new house was a chaotic dump of cardboard boxes.

Don't believe me?  Check out this photo of the basement:


And that's really only one corner.

So the clutter was getting to me.  David was working late hours with various end-of-school and start-of-new-job activities going on.  Zuzu got a diaper rash that morphed into Horrible Bacteria-Yeast Action That Required Prescription Meds and made me question my parenting choices (Have we not been changing her frequently enough?  Is it from using disposable diapers during the moving craziness?  Is it from using cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers?  Is it my laundry detergent?).  Zuzu hasn't been sleeping very well, probably due to transition to the new house, plus this rash, plus teething (bottom two teeth have popped through!  I think she's working on the top chompers, but they are still not in sight).  School is winding down, so my students are in that super annoying, "What do I have to get on the final to get an A?" kind of inquiry mode, which wears me out.  Also I need to write my final exams.  Weather has been gray and rainy.  And most stressful at all, there were some "issues" with the buyers of our old house, which pushed back the closing date by two weeks.  We were NOT PLEASED because that cost us another mortgage payment at the old house AND required extending our lease on the new house two more weeks.  But really our hands were tied, because the only other option was pulling out of the contract and putting the house back up the market, which would have put us back at square one.  Still, we lost some sleep over that.

All of this adds up the fact that, instead of enjoying the new house, I've been feeling tired and stressed out and cranky.

Yesterday was my day off work, and my best friend from high school was coming through town with her husband and daughter that evening on their way home to Kansas City.  I had insisted that they stay the night with us, but that meant I had some serious work to do.

I took Zuzu to daycare, then headed home and faced the wreckage that was The New House.  Why did I take Zuzu to daycare?  Because the moment I set her down, this is what I'm dealing with:


Once I was home alone, I looked at the disaster that surrounded me.  I took a deep breath, and then I sat down, checked my e-mail, pumped, read some blogs, and then finally worked up the energy to get started with the front room.  The problem is, I'm not exactly sure what's going to stay/go.  We won't be keeping a chair the previous owners left behind, unless I get adventurous enough to recover it... so, what do I do with it for now? Do I want the barrister bookcase in there?  I think so, but on which wall?  What will go above the fireplace?  I want to create built-in bookshelves on either side of the fireplace, so what should I do with the chair that's currently tucked in one corner?  Are we keeping the rug or buying a new one?  Am I getting rid of the coffee table to avoid toddler head injury or keeping it?  Where should the storage ottoman go?

I can't answer all of the questions, so I decided to quit trying to "finish" the room on day one, and just make it look somewhat presentable with what we have RIGHT NOW.

The first thing I did was take down the heavy brown curtains that the previous owner had left and hang up my linen ikat curtains from West Elm.  The curtains were high-quality, the kind that are insulated, but they were such a dark brown that they made the whole room dark.  Plus they were too short for the window, so they had that high-water look going on.  I'd been feeling like the house was so dark and dreary compared to our first house--I had no idea how much these curtains were contributing to that effect!  One small change gave the room much more light, and my mood lifted right along with it.

Before

After. With the couch in place.

From there, I was on a mission.  I unrolled the rug, wriggled it under the couch, put the coffee table in place, dusted the window sills, slid the bookcase against the leftover chair, put a couple of lamps in place, watered a plant and put it on another window sill, swept, vacuumed, dug through a stack of frames and grabbed a framed poster from when Shakespeare in the Park put on the Tempest, and stuck it on the mantle just so there was something up there.  Then I looked around and felt very pleased with myself.  It was starting to feel like home.

Nowhere near finished, but at least we've gotten started.
And it actually didn't take that long!

Once the front room was done, there was no stopping me.  I tackled one room at a time and made my way through the entire house.  I started with the front room, then the back family room, then upstairs bedrooms, and saved the dining room and kitchen (the messiest rooms) for last.  I was so glad my BFF was coming over, because that was totally the incentive I needed to make cleaning more purposeful and fun.  I did not try to unpack every box (oh mercy, no).  But I did clear the front room and the kitchen of all boxes (they were lining the walls in the dining room, but at least they  were out of the way).  I straightened up all the bedrooms upstairs, did several loads of laundry, AND cut the grass (It's a small yard so it took about twenty minutes total.  Love that!).  I swabbed my cheeks for the Be The Match registry.

My only unsuccessful mission was my attempt to locate a birthday gift for David's niece and Mother's Day cards that I bought long before the move.  I thought I was so proactive and organized.  Now I have no idea where those items are, and it's already too late to get them sent in time.  #fail.  My mom will understand, and I'll let David deal with his family (as usual).

Don't get me wrong--we don't have any "accessories" unpacked, we still have boxes and boxes of things stacked in the basement, and our dinner plates are still at the old house!  (The stack was too heavy to add to the box I'd taken over there.)  But at least I feel like we have made some progress.

I literally worked all day long (minus two pump breaks and lunch), and I totally got my cardio in running up and down two flights of stairs moving things around and the equivalent of weight training carrying laundry baskets full of clothes and other items from one room/floor to another.  And it made such a difference (in the house I mean--my physique looks no different).  After spending several days feeling like we were camping out in the (dark) new house, it finally started to feel like we were living there.

But I think the thing that really made it feel like home was having our friends visit.

Zuzu is so excited to be sharing the tub with her friend Ellie Kate!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Neighborly

Our new neighborhood is close knit.  City houses are built close together, backyards are small, and the neighbors we've met are chatty.  They are more than happy to share Schwan's catalogs, tips on local dairy delivery, recommendations on the best butcher shop nearby, how to navigate on-street parking (we have a garage and carport in back, but right now the garage is full of boxes so one of us is parking on the street out front), and save-the-date for the annual block party (yes, it's that kind of neighborhood.)

On days when I'm feeling tired and snarky, that means that everyone is up in our business.

On days when I'm feeling social and friendly, that means that everyone is friendly and welcoming.

Our neighbor lady two doors down is the "Block Captain" (I am not kidding) and she frequently pops over or just shouts across the backyard to say hi.  The first day we visited the new house and carried a few things over, we'd barely gotten out of the car when we heard her call out, "Are you the new neighbors?"  I guess it's good to know she's keeping an eye on things in case anyone considered breaking and entering...  She's also the one who brought us cookies on moving day, and who knocked on the door this morning to tell me to move my car so I wouldn't get a ticket during the monthly street cleaning.  I am glad to have her looking out for us, although her aggressive friendliness takes some getting used to after years of living next to neighbors with whom our basic interaction was simply to wave from a distance.

I thought I would hate the intrusive neighbor thing, but I'm actually warming to it.  Maybe it's because it gives me a small-town vibe?  Anyway, while I expect that I won't always feel like chatting every time The Block Captain tries to strike up conversation, I think the benefit of having a friendly and close-knit neighborhood outweighs my occasional misanthropy.

This particular neighbor, The Block Captain, came over to visit a few nights ago.  The weather was nice so we were sitting outside.  The youngest of her sons (and only one still living at home) came with her--a nice kid who's going to be in high school next year.  We had a million things to do, but she settled on our patio furniture and obviously felt like chatting, so I did my best to be sociable.  David went inside to take a phone call from our realtor, so then it was the three of us (plus Zuzu) sitting on the patio.  We chatted about her son's plans for high school and my plans for the summer and watched Zuzu play with my car keys (I have started washing them because she loves them so much and they are such a gross toy).  Then The Block Captain asked me if we were going to have any more children.

It's one of those questions that is super nosy and not at all appropriate, but The Block Captain, bless her heart, doesn't have the boundaries that some people have.  The honest answer is that we don't know, so that's what I told her.

And then I took a deep breath and I told her about Eliza.

My social circles being what they are (relatively small and entrenched), it's been a while since I've had to tell someone new about Eliza.  I was able to do it without crying, and, to her credit, she responded exactly the way people should respond to that information.

She said she was sorry, she said that it must have been really difficult for us, she said that she was sorry again, she asked if we knew what happened.  She didn't say that it must have happened for a reason, and she acknowledged that it's something you never get over.

Then she told me that in addition to having four boys, she had seven miscarriages.  Most of them around 8 weeks, but one at 12 weeks.  She said that she especially grieved for that baby, but then she looked at me and said, "But your loss was different.  To have to bury your baby..."  She shook her head.  We all looked at Zuzu, crawling across the outdoor rug and we were silent for a few moments, thinking about the sister who isn't here.

And then my new neighbor looked up and said, "Did she look like Caroline?"

I can't tell you how touched I was by that inquiry, how much it meant to me that the conversation didn't just stop, but that she continued to ask questions that weren't specifically related to her death but were actually about Eliza as a person.  My eyes filled up with tears as I nodded my head, "Yes.  Yes she did."

The Block Captain might be a nosy neighbor, but I think she'll be a good one, too.

Monday, May 6, 2013

And Now the Great Unpacking Begins

Well, we did it.

We're moved.

Well, we're almost moved.  It happens that the dishwasher at the old place is full of (clean) dishes that didn't get packed up.

There's still some cleaning up to be done at the old house and So. Much. Unpacking. to be done at the new house that I can hardly even handle it.  To contemplate the unpacking makes me want to curl up on the floor of my closet and go to sleep.

(Which I did on Sunday afternoon.)

(It was a very short catnap.)

Today is the day I find myself feeling very emotional and nostalgic about the old house.

I liked the set up of our old bathroom better.  The old bathroom had a better shower head.  I miss the drawers in the old bathroom vanity.

Also...

I have to walk a lot of steps to go from the sink to the fridge.  The old house had a small kitchen, but everything was right there!  The new house has such narrows drawers, our drawer dividers don't fit.  Where am I supposed to hang a hand towel for the sink?  The pantry is so deep, how will I find the items that get shoved to the back?

And...

This house doesn't have as much natural light as the old house.  I miss the big windows in our sunny back room.  

I could go on.  I know it's just a matter of getting used to a new set up and new placement of our old things, but you know how it is.  Change is hard--even really good change is hard.

As for the actual move...  On Friday, it rained here.  Not stormy, but ceaseless, steady downpour.  The puddles on the sidewalk in front of the new house were so deep my feet got soaked walking from the car to the front door.  The weekend forecast called for more of the same and I envisioned a Moving Day of Misery--the rain-soaked and chilly variety.

Thankfully, the rain held off and Saturday was chilly but no more than a little misty here and there.  Our movers were fantastic and friendly (and incredibly, ridiculously strong).  The old house got packed up and moved, with the help of a couple of really good friends and my parents, and there's really no way we could have done it without all of them helping out.  We also had the bright spots of a friend dropping by with some delicious gooey butter cake (there's exactly one piece left and I'm claiming it tonight) and a new neighbor popping in with warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, so we survived.

I think I've mentioned that we moved just down the street from a Mexican restaurant.  It's a delicious restaurant and I'm super excited about walking down there on a regular basis (in fact, we got take out from there on Saturday night).  But we didn't think about the fact that we'd be moving down the street from a Mexican restaurant on Cinco de Mayo weekend.

Fortunately we had orange traffic cones to claim ourselves parking spots on the street.  It also helped that our new neighbors were super nice about helping us out so the moving truck could park directly in front of the house.  But still?  A rainy Cinco de Mayo weekend?  It's like the universe loves to mock us.

Now I would like you to imagine this:  You got up at 6:30am and you spent your entire day packing up your old house and moving into your new house.  You've made at least four trips in the car between houses.  You've made a huge run to Target.  You've been cleaning and sorting, but you still have no idea where many of your belongings are actually located--in what box, in what room, on which floor--at the new house.  You are exhausted and hungry and it's now 5:45pm.  What do you feel like doing?

If you're anything like me, you'd like to sit down on your butt, eat pizza, have a glass of wine, make a plan for organizing things the next morning, and go to bed early.

What do you NOT feel like doing?

How about getting dressed up and going to the theater to see a musical?

We had tickets to Million Dollar Quartet that David had bought months ago because he's a big Johnny Cash fan.  I had no desire to see the show, but I don't mind indulging him because yay!  The Fox theater!  Let's dress up and go out to dinner!

Except, no.  NOT ON MOVING DAY.  I was gross, unshowered, beyond tired, and I'd hurt my back when I lifted a box of books the wrong way.

I was getting ready to take a shower when David tried to tell me that I had 30 minutes to get ready and I LOST IT.

I seriously was throwing a childish fit.  But ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  There wasn't hot water because the water heater had gotten turned all the way down and no one had adjusted it.  I couldn't find the box that had my deodorant.  My clothes were in total disarray and I had no idea what I was going to wear.  I hadn't eaten dinner.  The LAST THING I wanted to do was go see this musical.  I told David I would pay the price of our tickets to NOT have to go see it.

And it wasn't that it was a show I wasn't all that interested in--I don't think I would have wanted to go see anything.  I was just too worn out.  There might have been some stomping and door slamming and maybe even a little bit of crying because I have the mindset of a toddler when I am tired and hungry.

Seriously, my mom had to pick out my outfit because I was in meltdown mode.  Not my best moment.

But we made it to the theater.  The show was okay.  I probably would have liked it more if I hadn't been so tired I was almost nodding off during the performance (the pain in my low back kept me awake, so I guess there's a positive side to injuring myself?).  The show wasn't bad and the guy who played Johnny Cash really did have an amazing voice.  It was just the right show on the wrong night, you know?  I was just grateful that there was no intermission and it ran less than two hours long.

We spent all day yesterday on the tedious tasks of trying to organize a kitchen and a bathroom, and I'm trying to remind myself that it took 9 years of living in our old house before we had arranged to suit us just right.  We did a lot of rearranging and moving things around in the kitchen and bathroom over the time that we lived there, so I shouldn't expect everything to be perfectly in place in one weekend.  But the task of unpacking all those boxes in the basement does feel pretty daunting.

Plus I need to get some bookshelves.

It's funny because I told David before we moved that it takes time to grow into a house and we're not going to have everything finished and put together in two weeks, but I'm the one who's really feeling anxious and overwhelmed by everything right now.

Deep breath, one thing at a time.

Oh, and let me just say that when my parents came up for the weekend, they brought Little Mac with them for a visit.  She's been doing well at their house, getting used to the cats, and she's only had one pee and one poo inside the house in the two weeks she's been there.  Both "accidents" were at the very start, presumably before she got used to their routines.

She spent ONE DAY in St. Louis and she pooped in the nursery at the old house and peed in the family room at the new house.  She also would climb the stairs to the second floor, then stand at the top of them and wail when we went downstairs and left her alone.  But when my mom tried to pick her up, she growled at her.  She was constantly underfoot as well.  I tripped over her at least seven times, and one of the movers also tripped over her in the hallway.  She was a menace.

Needless to say, we felt reaffirmed in our decision to send her to live with her grandparents.  As David says, we miss Little Mac.  But not that much.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

9 Months (and a half) Photos

A few weeks ago, we had Zuzu's pictures taken.  The weather was lovely, so we wanted to find a pretty outdoor location, and after talking over a few options with our photographer, we decided to go to the campus of the university where I went to grad school.  It makes for a lovely background, and obviously I spent many, many hours there, so it was kind of nice to have it commemorated in photos.

Zuzu was not in a super good mood that morning and she had a couple of meltdowns during the photo session, which is unlike her since she's usually able to roll with whatever we're doing as long as Mama and Daddy are there.  Anyway, our photographer was patient and she still got some really sweet pictures.  Here are a "few" of my favorites:

check out the tulips!

I look kind of awkward here, but I love how she's standing up so tall.

hilarious!

Patty-cake under the magnolia tree.

This one is so sweet.  It's maybe my very favorite.  Mostly because of the tree

How'd my baby get so big?

Interested in Mama's necklace.  Not interested in the camera.
Sitting with Dada.

Not quite walking, but standing tall!

Wouldn't be Zuzu without a crazy face.  Love the fish lips.

Sweet girl.  Such good posture!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Birthday Surprise.

The big move happens on Saturday.

Gah.

So much to do.

I've definitely been feeling some nostalgia and anxiety about change.  For example, last night as David ate a late dinner of take out Mexican that I brought home for him after having dinner with friends, I stood three feet away from him folding laundry as we chatted about our day.  I won't be able to do that in the new house, where the laundry is on ANOTHER FLOOR!  So I'm having a lot of "love grows best in little houses" moments where I fear that we will be spread apart and spend the rest of our lives watching TV in different rooms and never speaking to each other.

I'm not sure how that would happen considering that the last time either of us watched TV, not counting David falling asleep to Sports Center or me turning on a rerun of Veronica Mars so that it plays in the background while I clean/pack/grade, was at least two weeks ago.  We're seriously not going to get to watch our favorite shows on our DVR before we move.  Sad face.

Anyway.  I'm definitely having some mixed feelings about moving to a bigger, multi-floored house. But what I've discovered--to my surprise, and evidently the surprise of many of my friends who have made a lot of guesses about how I would be feeling--is that my nostalgia is not as much about Eliza as I had expected.  Yes, I was pregnant with Eliza in that house, and I'm in love that that tree out front, and yes, we started to put Eliza's nursery together in that house, and yes, we came home from the hospital to that house.  But I just don't have that many tight associations between Eliza and that house specifically.  There are other places--the classroom where I was teaching the semester I was pregnant with her, the coffee shop where I'd grab dinner before our Bradley classes, the cloth diaper store where we registered--that I will forever avoid because the memories are too vivid and (now) too sad.  But leaving this house doesn't feel like leaving Eliza, (maybe because I was in the house for so long before getting pregnant with her, and have been there for a quite a while since then?).  At any rate, it's been a relief to realize that I'm not carrying a heavy load of grief on top of all my other anxieties and worries about moving.

What has been a bit of an unpleasant surprise is how hard it is for me to start planning Zuzu's first birthday.

Birthday parties are a big deal for me.  I have very fond memories of all my birthday parties as a kid and while my mom didn't get crazy, she always managed to throw us very cool and exciting and memorable parties (Double Dare!  Alf!  Private pool party!).  One of my favorite day dreams when I was pregnant with Eliza was birthday party planning.  Because she was a winter baby, I felt like it would be a bit of a challenge.  No pool party or picnic in the park.  I'd  have to get creative.  So I imagined throwing her a candlelight party, illuminated with twinkling white lights (and candles, obvy).  Going sledding or ice skating in Forest Park, followed by hot chocolate and roasting s'mores over tea lights.  An American Girls party, where I'd bust out my Kirsten doll (old school!) and give Eliza a new doll of her own.  One night David and I were at the movies, and a limo full of junior high kids showed up to see a movie--I commented to David that it would be such an awesome birthday party to do that.  I had plans you guys.  I couldn't wait to celebrate every milestone and every year of Eliza's life.

And when I lost her, I lost my life with her in it.  I lost the future that I had dreamed and planned.  I lost the birthday parties I'd imagined for my winter baby.  And believe me when I tell you I grieve for all of those things.  I miss my girl, but I also miss the life I would have had and the person I would have been if she were here.

Now I'm in this weird place, because I have this amazing, gorgeous, delightful summer baby who lights up my life, and I want to celebrate her.  If you haven't noticed, she's kind of awesome.  At least David and I think so.

But planning this party is hard.

Not hard in the sense of "What theme will I choose?" or "What food will I serve?" or "How many cookies to order?" (although those questions ARE hard!) but hard in the sense of OMG, this is actually a huge grief trigger for me.

I just didn't realize that looking online for first birthday invitations would make me cry.

I feel so beyond lucky to have the opportunity to throw this party, and I guess I am putting some pressure on myself because I want the party to demonstrate how FREAKING happy we are that this baby was born into our lives, kicking and screaming and breathing.

But I'm also really sad.  Sad that I should have two little girl birthday parties under my belt by now.  Sad that Eliza won't be there to "help" open the gifts and play with the balloons.

I went to dinner last night with friends and also discovered that I have a tendency not to talk about my grief so much these days.  Not that I don't feel it on a regular basis, but when I do, I'm far more likely to text or e-mail a friend I've met through this blog who has also experienced baby loss. It's just easier to talk about it with someone who really GETS it.  And I'm now in a place where I can talk about "normal" things with my other friends.  But last night I took a deep breath and I said, "I'm having a hard time planning Zuzu's party."  And I started to cry.

But I was glad we talked about it.  My friends acknowledged that all the major milestones Zuzu experiences will be bittersweet because Eliza's not here.  And they said that everyone who comes to Zuzu's party will also be thinking about Eliza, so it won't just be me.  And while I would never, ever want my grief to diminish the happiness that Zuzu experiences, they affirmed for me that it's also okay and normal for me to struggle with it ahead of time.

They also suggested that I might be feeling just a wee mite overwhelmed at the moment, what with the move, and final exams coming up, and a very overscheduled month of May ahead of me.

I think that's probably true, but when I started crying in the kitchen last night and David hugged me and asked what was wrong, I said, "I just miss Eliza."

Because when all those emotions and overwhelmed feelings blend together, the one that comes out on top is grief.

So I'm trying to take some deep breaths, focus on one thing at a time, and keep in mind that throwing Zuzu a great party won't be shortchanging Eliza.

Celebrating one daughter doesn't diminish the grief I feel for the other, but it doesn't have to amplify it, either.

One way or another, I'll get Zuzu's party put together.  And come June 29th, I can tell you I will be holding both my girls close in my heart.  One year with one sweet girl, two and a half years without the other.