Friday, September 13, 2019

On Luck

In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf writes, "She always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day."

Clarissa Dalloway and I are in agreement on this one.

* * *

This was the first year that I talked to my kids about September 11. They must have discussed it at Zuzu's school--from what I could gather, they read a book about helpers and about the sun coming up on September 12. At any rate, she had questions about the towers and the dust when they fell and why the airplanes ran into them.

It was a pretty heavy conversation for before school on a Thursday.

I don't shy away from heavy conversations really--I think we probably talk about death more than most families with young kids. We've been talking about cancer and cancer research with Pedal the Cause coming up. We talk about systemic racism and segregation and white privilege and the way poverty gets criminalized. And we've It's Not the Stork! and had conversations about gender and how babies are made and born. I'm not claiming my kids totally GET these concepts (in fact, there have been some REALLY problematic misunderstandings!), but we value honesty and giving them the whole picture. I generally let them lead the conversation and answer their questions as honestly as possible.

But I found a catch in my throat when Zuzu said, "Wait, the people on the airplanes died?"

And then, after a pause, "Wait, were there kids on the plane?"

And then, after a shorter pause, her small voice coming from the backseat, "But where were their parents?"

* * *

I still can't read WWII books. I just don't have the stomach for it. It makes my heart race to imagine being in a situation where there is nothing I can do to protect my children. I feel desperate and powerless at the same time, which is agonizing.

I feel the same way when I think about climate change and our government's refusal to address it. Is it still genocide when we're killing ourselves?

* * *

September 11 happened my senior year of college and I can't center myself in that disaster, but it did seem suddenly and painfully clear that the world was far more dangerous than my limited universe had ever let on. In fact, it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.

I saw on FB a collection of statements about what happened after September 11, and I know it's far too simple to say "The country came together!" Yes, there was a lot of that. But also our government failed to adequately compensate and care for the first responders whose health problems developed over time after breathing in the dust on 9/11. Also innocent Muslims were attacked simply because they shared a religion with the terrorists--as though we are all culpable for crimes committed by another person who claims to share our faith.

Perhaps it's more accurate to say that 9/11 stripped us bare and in doing so revealed the best and the worst in us.


On September 11, I went to a bar called the Heidelberg and huddled in a booth with friends from my hometown, drinking a pitcher of beer and watching the televised progression of skyscrapers becoming rubble.

There was a new tea shop and cafe a few doors down. It had opened over the summer and then business had boomed when the college students had moved back to town. I'd been there once, just a few days earlier. It was buzzing with conversations and tables were full of students with headphones and laptops. I'd sat down and talked with my favorite professor and his wife about graduate school applications.

That cafe went out of business weeks later. It was called Osama's.


I heard on NPR that 9/11 was the day our country lost its innocence. The commentator explained that when the first plane hit the tower, we all collectively assumed it had to be a terrible accident--a pilot had a heart attack. Someone in an air traffic control tower made a fatal error. People continued on to work, even those in New York, because it was a terribly unfortunate thing, but that's all it was.

Now, the commentator continued, a motorcycle backfires in Times Square and people panic, running for their lives. This is the difference, eighteen years later. We're no longer innocent. We're more afraid.

I wanted to object. It's not the same, is it? That motorcycling backfiring, that fear of a mass shooting, that's homegrown, domestic terror, isn't it? We're afraid of angry white men with guns, not Muslim terrorists. At least, if I had to bet who was more likely to kill a bunch of people in this country tomorrow, I'd put my money on an angry white man.

But I guess it's still terrorism. It's just that going to Wal-Mart now feels more dangerous than flying in an airplane. And maybe that's because a terrible thing happened and 3,000 innocent people died, and we changed EVERYTHING about how we fly on airplanes.

But now terrible things keep happening. Kids in schools are forced to hide from imaginary intruders who are all too real. Seventeen children in St. Louis died from gun violence last month. And we're not changing anything about how we regulate guns. We're just relying on luck to keep us safe. And that does not feel like enough.

* * *

I've been following an artist on Instagram whose seven-year-old daughter has suffered a traumatic brain injury from which she may never recover.

She fell off a golf cart.

She was a bright, giggly, imaginative second grader with strawberry blonde hair and big brown eyes and now she is a shell of a little girl who may never wake up again and even if she does regain consciousness, she is unlikely to be who she was before.

Her father is convinced that God is working a miracle in his daughter and that she will wake, fully recovered, to astonish the medical community.

I want him to be right. I want him to get his miracle. I want that little girl to wake up and be herself again.

I'm not convinced that God works the way he believes God works, but I'm still praying for his miracle. Because that could be my little girl. Because they're all miracles. Because it's so dangerous to be alive in this world. Even for a day.

* * *

I read an article about luck on 9/11--about how a minor decision to change a necktie or pick up a cup of coffee changed everything. It literally determined who lived and who died in the World Trade Center. A typo on a travel itinerary made someone miss their plane. And then that plane hit the pentagon.

How do we account for luck? And when is one person's good fortune another person's terrible fate?

Luck is such a precarious thing on which to build a life.

I remember being so angry after Eliza died when a friend of a friend narrowly avoided being hit by a car while crossing the road and someone attributed that to the hand of God. I was furious that God might reach out a hand to save this person and turn away from my baby dying.

It's easier for me to wrap my head around the idea of luck than of some kind of God who carelessly knots umbilical cords and nudges little girls off golf carts and lets bullets torpedo their way onto quiet front porches on warm summer nights.

But what's terrifying about luck is the implicit acknowledgment of how little in this life we can control.

* * *

In Hamlet, Hamlet and his buddies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have a jokey little exchange in which Hamlet asks how it's going and they say that it's fine because they're not at the top of Fortune's cap, but they're not under her feet either. They're somewhere in middle--nestled around her nether regions, which the three of them find funny. One of them calls Fortune a strumpet. Last semester, I asked my students what a strumpet is (it's footnoted in our text: a whore) and then I asked them if they had any ideas about why Fortune is personified as a woman instead of a man.

One student raised his hand and said, "Because she's always changing her mind?"

* * *

Almost every night when all three girls are asleep, we check on them a final time before getting into bed and David will invariably look at sleeping baby G and say to me, "We are so lucky."

And I know what he means. Of course we are lucky in the first world, white privilege, middle-class, access to quality education and healthcare kind of way. These are blessings that we don't deserve any more than any other person on this earth, though they are denied to many. We acknowledge that luck, too.

But what he means when we gaze on the round cheeks and soft eyelashes of three sleeping girls is that we're lucky because in a world full of golf carts and stray bullets and grapes that close off airways and planes that fall from the sky and all of the other dramatic and mundane ways that life can end, we made it through another day relatively unscathed.

It is very, very dangerous to live even one day, although we don't really have the energy to reckon with that danger every moment. We put it out of our minds and we go about our business trusting that we'll ride out the day somewhere around Fortune's midsection.

And at the end of the day, here we are--thanking our lucky stars that we can wake up and do it all again tomorrow.

Friday, September 6, 2019


Coco has been counting down the days to G turning four months old like we were going to have a huge party and a ticker tape parade or something. Every morning at school she'd give her teachers the update, "Genevieve turns FOUR MONTHS OLD in THREE MORE DAYS." Her friend Evelyn's mom told me that Evelyn solemnly announced to her that Genevieve was going to be four months old soon. The other day when I picked up Coco, one of the teachers was trying to comfort a child who had fallen and hurt himself. He was sobbing and the teacher was kneeling next to him. Coco was next to the teacher, her hand on the teacher's shoulder, patiently waiting her turn to talk. The teacher turned to Coco between sobs from the other kid, assuming she needed something urgent. Coco said, "Genevieve is going to be four months old tomorrow!"

Apparently this milestone is a Very Big Deal.

Definitely worthy of some photos, anyway.

It hit me today, as I cleared off my desk and stacked the stickers numbered for each month in her first year, that we've already gone through one sheet of stickers. We are 1/3 of the way through G's first year. In just a few weeks she'll be sitting up on her own, then scooting or crawling... I mean, I know it goes fast, but living it still leaves me kind of breathless.

The other day at an art fair, an older lady asked me how old G was and then commented on how tiny she was and asked if she was a premie. I said yes, but I was kind of taken aback since she's been at the higher end of growth percentiles without adjusting for the three weeks early arrival. But then today a grandma at Coco's preschool, who had a charming foreign accent I couldn't quite place, asked to see the baby and asked how hold she was and then exclaimed, "Oh my God! So big! Four months?!"

So I think it's pretty subjective.

She feels huge to me, filling out her carseat and her bassinet where she was once just the teensiest ball of baby, wearing size six-months clothes, and still not really rolling over much. She's still only done it a couple of times since her dramatic debut of rolling skills in the middle of the table at a faculty meeting. I'm trying to make sure she gets lots of floor time and tummy time in between the times she spends in a carseat getting carted around to sisters' schools and activities!

I'm looking forward to the coming months as she gets even more active and engaged, although I'm dreading policing legos and tiny toys as potential choking hazards! Just when the dog has (mostly) stopped chewing, the baby will start!

Zuzu asked me to have lunch with her at school today. Eating lunch in a grade school cafeteria has absolutely zero appeal to me. But she asked and was really sweet about it, so I'm going to oblige. My other plans for today include cleaning the bathroom and a trip to the farmers market to buy stone fruit and eggs.

A few other things on my mind:

If you're looking for a podcast to get you feeling more motivated and organized on the home front, I've been tuning in to The Lazy Genius. Her tagline is that she helps you to be "a genius about the things that matter, and lazy about the things that don't." I like that concept of prioritizing, and her thoughts on things like routines and efficiency. A lot of it is directed toward people with kids, but not all of it.

I can't stop eating peaches and plums. Which makes me think of this William Carlos Williams poem. And the many delicious parodies. #sorrynotsorry

I am loving this book, and it's great for reading in small doses: I Miss You When I Blink

I'm still thinking about this essay. I don't know Chris, but our time at Wash U overlapped, so our paths must have crossed at some point. His writing is stunning.

Finally, Pedal the Cause is coming right up! Zuzu and Coco are riding in the kids race again this year--but this time WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS! That's a big deal, folks. We are soliciting donations that go directly to Pedal, which funds seed research projects at Siteman Cancer Center and Children's Hospital here in St. Louis. We're asking people to consider making a $10 donation ($5 to each girl or $10 to each girl, if you can swing it). Their goal is to raise $300 each. Every little bit helps, and we would really appreciate your support. We're riding in honor of my friend Beth again this year, and you can find out more about our team here: The Mud and the Muck.

You can donate to Zuzu and Coco at the following links:



Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Conversations with Zuzu and Coco

Scene: Getting Silhouettes Made, Expressing Uncertainty

Me: So we are going to go have your silhouettes done.
Coco: What's a silhouette?
Me: An artist looks at the side of your face and then he cuts the shape out of paper.
Coco: Will it hurt?

Scene: Fussing Baby, Knowledgeable Big Sister

Coco: I think I know why Genevieve is crying. I think she just wants to grow up!

Scene: Making Dinner, Preparing for the Future.

Coco: Mama.
Me: Yes?
Coco: Do you sleep at college?
Me: Yes. You sleep in the dorms with your friends.
Coco: (teary-eyed) But I want to sleep here!
Zuzu: Don't worry. When you're older, you're more tired, so you sleep all night without waking up. And when we are at Cottey, we can stay at Grammy and Bops's house.

Scene: At the Doctor's Office, Pondering the Origins of Life

Coco: How did they make this? (gestures at walls)
Me: Well, these fish on the walls are actually stickers.
Coco: No, how did they make this world?
Me: You mean the doctor's building? The hospital?
Coco: No, this world. Like, how did they make us?
Me: What?
Coco: Like in the old days? How did they make us?
Me: Are you talking about creation? Or evolution? I mean, science tells us that life begins at the cellular level--
Coco: Did they put googly eyes on us?
Me: ...

Scene: Riding in the Car, Throwing Shade at Sister

Zuzu: Novelle got to wear pajamas to school yesterday!
Me: Oh, really? Why?
Zuzu: She got TEN dojo points!
Coco: I wonder why YOU didn't.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Appearances, Expectations, and Reality

Things I thought I would do after dropping my kids at school today:

- Work on job search and job applications.
- Write.
- Meal plan and grocery shop.
- Yoga.

Things I have actually done today after dropping my kids at school:
- Watched that Michael Buble video and cried
- Read articles by moms dropping their children at college and cried
- Stepped in puddle of dog pee, took several steps before brain caught up to what just happened.
- Mopped entire dining room and kitchen and hallway.

My expectations are clearly not quite matching up to reality, but I'm feeling really grateful for the flexibility to make all that happen.

I was e-mailing recently with my friend Julie (we're so old school like that!) and she mentioned one of the photos from G's newborn photo session:

I know... aren't we precious?

Look what a perfect, happy family we are. Just sitting around on the couch, admiring the baby, laughing at each other's jokes, wearing coordinating colors and a lot of white. Like you do when you're one week postpartum.

Please see how well-behaved my children are! They are like this all the time. We spend hours simply cuddling on the couch and enjoying each other's company while gazing at our newborn. I mean, do you see Coco's chin in her hand? And Zuzu's gentle touch on G's head? It's darling! How lucky I am to have such delightful offspring! This is just a normal part of our day! We sit like this for hours!

And look at our pup. He's just the best dog. He's certainly not the kind of dog who would refuse to go out in the rain and then pee all over the kitchen floor, ignoring the puppy piddle pad three feet away that I had actually remembered to put down for him just in case. He definitely wouldn't nose through a photographer's bag and try to eat the chocolates that she'd brought me as a gift. He doesn't shed everywhere! Oh--and look at Zuzu's little hand reaching for G's tiny foot? It's so cute that I can't even.

Please. Let me tell you The Rest of the Story. There is so much more truth behind these photos. Casey Rae Photography did capture the bleary, hazy love-fest that was G's early days at home, but there's a lot of reality going on that her beautiful, "lifestyle" photography does not reveal.

Let's start with me: I'd tried to do my hair for the first time in a week and was unhappy with the way it turned out. My face is still swollen from pregnancy. We'd been home from the NICU for three days and I was nowhere near caught up on sleep. I was exhausted. My boobs were so engorged that I could barely button that blue shirt I put on, but G was still so sleepy that she wasn't nursing well. I was stressed out about the photo session to the point that I was sweaty. I put on white jeans because I wanted us all to color coordinate with light, springy colors, but those pants did NOT fit me and I had to fasten them with a hair elastic. Wearing white pants while still bleeding from having a baby a week earlier is pretty ridiculous, but my only other option was black yoga pants and those just didn't fit the "aesthetic" I was going for. So I put in a gigantic pad and hoped for the best!

On top of this, I had wicked hemorrhoids. These were problematic throughout my whole pregnancy, no matter how much water I drank or Colace I dutifully swallowed along with my prenatal vitamin. They only got WORSE during delivery and they were truly the most uncomfortable part of my recovery. A natural birth with no tearing, no stitches, but a hemorrhoid that was so huge and painful it hurt me to move at all--walking, standing, sitting. I winced and moaned every time. All the Preparation H and Tucks pads in the world couldn't really fix it--it took two and a half weeks for it to go away. I was googling things like "hemorrhoid surgery" (word of advice: don't look it up). Anyway, my butt hurt so badly that I had to grit my teeth every time I moved for photos.

Plus these were all taken on Mother's Day. In my sleepless delirium, I'd texted Casey to let her know that G had shown up three weeks early and we'd like baby pictures as soon as possible after we got home from the NICU Thursday evening, so would Sunday work? I hadn't even realized we'd scheduled them for Mother's Day. When I discovered the date, I thought it would be fine--kind of sweet even. But really it was hard. Having G's baby pictures on Mother's Day was NOT a happy ending, silver lining, big fat bow wrapping up my motherhood story. Yes, I got my first positive pregnancy test on Mother's Day in 2011. Yes, I had a newborn photo session with my last baby on Mother's Day in 2019. But nothing about it was easy. How is it that this baby's decelerating heartrate was caught and she was safely delivered and we were all home and okay but eight years earlier I left the hospital empty handed? And was G going to be fine? The NICU stay had been hard on me but it was also hard to be home and on my own with a teensy tiny baby.

I was pretty stressed about G. The night we got home from the hospital, I called my pediatrician in a panic about her looking jaundiced. The girls wanted to hold their sister constantly, but I was so scared they would hurt her because she was so teensy and I needed them to be sooooo gentle. When G slept, she was so small and so still that I would constantly check the Owlet app on my phone to make sure her oxygen levels were good. I was scared that she'd need to go back to the hospital--or worse, that she would just stop breathing.

I was feeling the baby blues in a way that I hadn't with the other girls. And although I wanted pictures taken soon after she got home, this was still TWO WEEKS before her due date! G was so bitsy and skinny and yellow--especially compared to her sisters (who weighed in at 8 pounds and 8 pounds 7 ounces). I wanted to have G's newborn photo be a naked photo just like Zuzu's and Coco's were, but naked newborn G looked like a tree frog. She was so scrawny and had no butt cheeks and you could see all the bumps of her little spine! It made me feel like my body had failed her--that she had to come out into the world before she was ready. I was afraid there would be complications we didn't know about yet.

Then Zuzu and Coco, who appear to be devoted big sisters, were actually not very cooperative and pretty bratty about the photos, although they were very enthusiastic about the baby. Poor Coco spent the month of May having a ton of meltdowns. She had a really hard time adjusting to the sudden change of routine when Mom and Dad essentially disappeared to the hospital for a week and Grammy and Bops showed up to take care of the girls, except then Grammy got a stomach bug... then we got home but the baby was here and everything was different and Mommy was tense and exhausted. So anyway, while the girls had been super great for family photos back in October, they were not into it in May. Coco hated her dress and called it ugly because it wasn't as twirly as Zuzu's was. Zuzu liked her dress, but had no interest in doing the things the photographer or I would ask her to do--or she would do them in such an exaggerated way that it was not what I wanted for the photo. I seriously wanted to cry in frustration because they were being so difficult. And yet... this is what Casey photographed:

It may have been the one split second they weren't arguing or whining. And it's freaking adorable.

G also had a huge blowout mid-diaper change that nearly got all over me but was caught in her blanket instead and we had to switch swaddle blankets and David snapped at me as though it was my fault that I hadn't predicted she would shoot mustard poop out of her bottom the moment I removed her diaper. Clementine had to be kept in her crate because she wouldn't stop barking. I asked the photographer to re-do the naked baby shots at the end of the session because I was afraid the first time we tried hadn't looked the way I wanted it to, but G wouldn't go back to sleep and it wasn't working. I collapsed in exhaustion when it was all over.

(Casey the photographer had brought me good chocolates as a new-baby-mama gift, which was so incredibly thoughtful, and at one point I heard Cooper nosing around in the paper bag in the kitchen and I ran in there--yowch, hemorrhoids--and rescued the chocolates before he'd been able to access them. And they were delicious. I sampled several of them on the couch after our session was over.)

So trust me when I say that the pictures don't tell the whole story! I know too well what was really going on that afternoon.

And yet, when I look back at the photographs, I just see us dazed and delighted with this gorgeous new babe. I know that we were running on not enough sleep and too much adrenaline, the girls had not adjusted to the change in routine, I was experiencing huge anxiety about G being so tiny and fragile, and David was trying to keep the house clean and keep me happy and keep things as normal as possible for the girls while also wrapping up the busiest month on the school calendar... but the photos blur those harsh edges of that reality and just capture the best parts of all of us together.

The good was there, of course, it was just hard for me to feel it in that moment. And yet when I look at the photos, I marvel at the way the good is ALL that shows up in the edited pictures--big smiles, good lighting, forgiving camera lenses.

A lesson for all of us that when someone else is making it look easy... it's not. It's so not easy or pretty or fun all the time. But the loveliness is still there, in and around all the hard parts. You just need the right camera angle to see it.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Conversations with Coco and Zuzu

Recent conversations I've typed up in my phone notes.

Raising a Future Vegetarian?
Coco: Did this chicken strip come from a chicken?
Me: yes.
Coco: Did it die?
Me: Yes.
Zuzu: Wait. Did they kill it?
Me: Um, yes.
Zuzu: Seriously? Like with a gun?
Me: Well, probably not with a gun.
Coco: I know how they kill them. WITH FIRE.
Zuzu: I think they just let the chicken get old and die. So then you get the meat but you don't have to hurt them.

How The World Works
The girls recently took an online survey about how kids think about race and one of the questions was about two kids living in two different houses (one nice, one crappy looking). The question was whether one kid lives in a nice house and the other kid lives in a not-nice house because of things that happen in the world or because of who they are on the inside. Coco chose "because of who they are on the inside" (OMG so much work to do) Zuzu (much to my relief) chose "because of things that happen in the world."

Zuzu: Everyone is kind on the inside, so that other answer doesn't make sense. Except for bullies. Like Donald Trump.

Coco: Why do we lock the doors at night?
David: To keep us safe.
Me: To keep the critters out.
Coco: Like worms? And werewolves?

Jokes for Days
Coco: I know a joke for Halloween. How does a house get inside a house?
Me: I don't know. How?
Coco: Someone puts a little house inside a house!

Coco: I've got a cute joke!
Me: Okay.
Coco: How does a dog bark?
Me: I don't know. How?
Coco: (laughing) Out its mouth!
Zuzu: That's just the truth, so it's not really a joke.

Questions to Ask Your Mom in the Car When She Already Has a Headache
Coco: When you die, do you have skin?
Zuzu: Why do people have nakey time if they don't want to have a baby?

Clementine's Middle Name is Actually Cutie-Pie
Coco: Clementine Audrey! Oh, I have a great idea for Clementine's name since we're the Duckworth family. (dramatic pause) Clementine Duckworth!
Zuzu: Yeah. That IS her name.

Watching Shimmer and Shine
Shimmer: My favorite color is glitter!

Brushing Dolls' Hair
Coco: Shimmer and Shine are really good about tangles. They don't even fuss!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

School is Cool

I bought a light board at Aldi (like a light up letter board with letters you slide in to spell short messages). Its first message was "Happy Birthday Coco!" And now it reads "School is cool." Both girls are in school and it's just me and G hanging out at home. I'm managing to stay busy. My goals for today are to clean the bathroom, do some reading, and make a Target run.

I've been doing lots of contemplating and searching job possibilities and plenty of fretting and stressing out over it. Uncertainty is so hard for me. I remember talking to my old therapist about how I didn't need to have a contingency plan or answer for every future possibility. I could just trust Future Me to not be an idiot and figure out what was necessary when the time came. I had to return to that idea yesterday when my brain wouldn't stop spinning. We'll just let Future Me sort this out. She's not an idiot. It will be fine.

Meantime, I am doing my best to soak up the present with a baby who feels gigantic to me (she's all cheeks and thighs, basically, which are my favorite baby parts anyway).

Her sisters are still doting on her and fighting over who gets to hold her. I worry sometimes about the intense friendship and bond that Zuzu and Coco have with each other making Vieve feel like she's on the outside, but my hope is that they will both have a different and equally powerful bond with her.

The transition back to school has not felt as fraught and frantic as last year--I think because I'm not also transitioning back to work, so I'm better able to play the supportive role to David who has been dealing with more enrollment than expected, hiring more teachers at the last minute (literally the week before school starts), having a teacher accept a position and then decline it the next day (literally the day before school starts), and the general anxiety of getting the building and schedule and everything ready for the first day. Life is easier when one of us can be home getting dinner and taking care of bath time while the other one is losing their mind, answering e-mails and making a zillion phone calls.

It's also easier because Zuzu is not starting at a new school, so her nerves were minimal. She was nothing but excited for second grade and although we knew nothing about the second grade teachers, she feels that she got the best one.

The minor disappointment was that her one really good friend isn't in her class, but she has other buddies in class and sees her other friends at recess and after school care, so she's doing just fine. She told me the first day that she was a little nervous, but her favorite before-and-after-school teacher was there again (she'd mentioned last year that she was thinking about retiring so we weren't sure) so we were both happy to see her. Zuzu's drop off went smoothly and she loved the first day and was excited to go back for day 2. In fact, when I picked her up yesterday around 4:30pm (school gets out at 4pm), she was pissed off at me because they were playing Harry Potter and I interrupted their game. She asked me to please not pick her up before 5pm today. Ahem, well, okay then.

Of course my Coco-Puff is a kindergartener now and I'm not having as many huge emotions about that as I thought I would. Maybe because she's been eagerly anticipating kindergarten since she was three?

She's at her same little Montessori school with her same little bestie and she was up bright and early the first day asking me from the moment she opened her eyes if it was time to leave yet. So kindergarten drop off was easy breezy for her.

The girls are currently loving their gymnastics and ninja warrior classes and that was clearly driving their choice of future career (gymnastics coach and ninja teacher). It's also been driving evening entertainment around here as they were literally climbing door jambs yesterday as part of "ninja training" at home. We are back to having no screens during the week and the transition has not been as tricky as I'd feared. School gets out so late that there's not a lot of hours to fill and they have been wanting to play outside or ninja train, so it's been fine. We've never done a lot of TV in the evenings anyway, so I'm hoping it won't be a big issue. I'm still not sure how we'll navigate things once Zuzu starts asking for a phone and needing to do school work on a computer... it feels so far away right now, but I know it will be here in no time.

G continues to be the easiest baby. I had a friend watch her yesterday for an hour and a half while I took an important phone call and did some work stuff.  She was happy or asleep the whole time, which is basically her approach to life (if only I could be so zen!).

She does get fussy when her tummy is bothering her and in the evenings (dinner time! always!) before she dozes off. But anytime she cries, I know she needs to poop or sleep. It's nice to have a little creature who is needy but whose needs are simple and easy to fulfill. The only thing tricky about her right now is that she needs her fingernails trimmed (they are so sharp! and grow so fast! and she's drawn blood near one of her eyes!) and she's not particularly tolerant of that. I need to wait for her to fall asleep.

I've been worried about Cooper lately, as he tore his ACL (or the doggie version of the knee ligament). It's not that uncommon in dogs, but it left him unable to put any weight on it. He's been walking gingerly on it since going to the vet and getting some anti-inflammatory medication, but he's still unsteady. He's not a good candidate for surgery due to his age (13) and size (rather overweight). So we are just watching to make sure he can maintain mobility and isn't in any pain. So far, so good, although he sometimes needs help up the stairs.

The girls talk frankly and morbidly about his death, which is sometimes disturbing even though I try to take it in stride since we have worked hard to normalize talking about death/grief. But I was pretty upset after our vet visit and I did not particularly enjoy processing it with them the next day (especially because they were with us at the vet and were fighty and obnoxious the entire time the vet was explaining our options). I have a friend whose elderly dog healed up pretty well without surgery after the same injury (which can apparently occur in dogs without a specific violent injury--we have no idea what happened to Bubba, only that he started limping) so I'm feeling more hopeful.

I've missed writing here and my brain is often composing blog posts that I never find the time to sit down and write. It's hard to share my lap with a baby and a laptop, and I just can't do the posts on my phone. Plus I'm trying to do less phone time... the blessings and curses of modern technology. Anyway, I have lots of thoughts lately on getting older (I turned 39!!!) and on being completely 100% done having babies (so happy to never be pregnant again; asked David the other day if he'd consider adopting out of foster care and he looked at me like I was bonkers and said we can maybe have that conversation in five years). I'm still having ALL the intense feelings about my campus closing and doing a job search, particularly not knowing what kind of job I want but also realizing that I personally feel most fulfilled and happiest and least resentful and impatient when I work outside of the home. At the same time, I am treasuring these days with G, my last babe. (At least for the next five years. LOL. I don't know if I'm kidding or not.) I probably should be in therapy to process my feelings about having a third baby in a world facing climate catastrophe (guilty, selfish, optimistic, and scared), not to mention to the humanitarian crisis at our borders in this country and the general anxiety that taking my kids to school or the store is asking to get them shot. I also want to write about trying to get back into yoga, about how hard it is to practice self-care when you need it most, about trying to separate my sense of self-worth from my job/degree/outside approval. I could also write more about shopping at Aldi, about my desire to consume less and my desire to buy all the things, about my effort (and failure) to join a local writers' critique circle, and about how I want to paint the wood trim in my house but it feels so daunting and overwhelming even though I usually don't shy away from get 'er done projects.

All this to say, I have so many thoughts and hope I have time to do more writing in the near future! To those of you who have stuck around and are still reading this--thank you! xoxo

Friday, August 2, 2019

Watch This

I have managed to watch more TV this summer than I do during the school year, even though I don’t watch it while my kids are awake because I apparently don’t bother with kid-friendly programming. Anyway, I’ve been recommending a few shows to anyone who will listen, so I thought I’d put it out there on the Internet.

Of course if you haven’t watched already, get you some Hulu and binge Veronica Mars. Then message me so we can process all our feeeelings about it.

I also treated myself to Killing Eve on Hulu, which is occasionally gory/violent but also fascinating.

Now I’m watching Four Weddings and a Funeral and it’s an absolute delight.

My best treat on Netflix has been Friends from College. It’s truly so good! I adore Fred Savage (had a crush on him back in The Wonder Years days) and the show starts good but then gets better. I watched the winery episode twice and I NEVER do that. It’s LOL funny but not in a sitcom laugh track kind of way. 

Of course I’d be remiss not to mention Fleabag again (on Amazon prime) because it’s still my favorite blend of quirky humor and awkwardness. Brilliant writing, acting, and costuming. Season 2 was everything I hope for in a show.

Outlander is on Netflix now, so if you’re looking for a sexy historical drama, look no further than the hunky Scottish Jamie, whose single-handedly giving gingers sex appeal. 

If you haven’t watched Longmire on Netflix, now is the time. A crime drama with a great blend of episodic and over-arching mystery plot, plus an excellent cast with several Native American actors.

After making my way sloooowly through all the seasons for Father Brown, I’m venturing into Midsomer Murders. I love a low key British crime drama! Speaking of which, of you haven’t watched Luther, you’re missing out on excellent crime drama PLUS Idris Elba and your life is sad.

Any shows I haven’t mentioned but shouldn’t miss? Do tell.

Monday, July 29, 2019

This Monday Calls for a Can of Wine

We spent the weekend at a family reunion at my uncles house in Indiana. The kids ran wild, stayed up way too late, swam and played outside with cousins literally the entire day. Now we are home and the adjustment is... tricky?

The girls brought home cupcakes and left the container open on the kitchen table and Clementine ate almost all of them. I made Zuzu dump what she didn’t eat into the trash. She then left the cabinet door ajar where the trash can is and Cooper dragged out the trash and ate the cupcake remains, plus who knows what else. He left coffee grounds all over the floor. So I got to clean the kitchen floor on my hands and knees.

My children are feral and naked. Coco just jumped on the ottoman and yelled, “Here's my bottom and here’s my vagina and here’s my armpits!”

Zuzu tickled Coco so hard that Coco dribbled a little pee on the couch.

After three days of being held constantly by Grammy, aunties, and cousins, Genevieve only wants to be held. Go figure.

I’ve done six loads of laundry and I’d pay you $100 to put it all away for me.

Am contemplating a capsule wardrobe except really I already have one because nothing fits over my ginormous breastfeeding boobs.

Baby is now sleeping in swing, which is a minor miracle.

Literally all I want to do is read this book by Pat Barker called The Silemce of the Girks that’s about the Trojan war. Instead, I’ve agreed to take the kids bike riding after dinner.

David just got a haircut that is totally channeling Logan Echolls in season 4. Basically the biggest compliment ever. Also, I still haven’t recovered from season 4 of VM. I’m planning a debrief with a friend to help me process.

David got me a birthday card that says, “Sassy, Classy, and Kick-Assy. There are many layers to your awesome.” It is my favorite card ever and I might frame it.

Conversation just now, while D prepares quiche for dinner.

Me: If we were two different species of animals, do you think our souls would still find each other?
D: What species are you?
Me: does it matter?
D: I think I would need to get high to have this conversation.

And now I’m off to put eucalyptus in a vase and maybe put some laundry away...

Sunday, July 21, 2019

All the Luck in the Universe

This past week, I took the girls and drove down to my parents'. G was an amazing traveler (by which I mean she slept in the car and we only had to make one stop each way to eat lunch). The stay was fun but not exactly relaxing. The big kids were a bit challenging (there's a story here about Zuzu skinny dipping, but I'm just not ready to talk about it). I will say, thought, that parenting is easier with a Grammy on standby!

The last full day we were there, I loaded up the kids and drove up to Kansas City to visit my friend Monica and her new babe. Seeing Baby G and Baby Johnny together was truly awesome.

I've written before (at length!) about Monica's pregnancy with EK--she got pregnant a few months after I lost Eliza and even though I was genuinely happy for them that IVF had worked and they were expecting a baby, it was hard for me to have her pregnancy following the same timeline as mine. I didn't attend her baby shower and even though I understood why she wanted to celebrate this pregnancy, I was also mad at everyone who knew me (even tangentially) and was pregnant and who thought they should still have a baby shower, like they could count on their baby being okay after my baby had unexpectedly died. It felt like a tacit way of saying that there was something I'd done that they could avoid so that they could be sure everything would turn out fine for them. Except we had no idea what happened and in my new world of internet-connected-best-friends, babies were dying right and left. So why would anyone buy anything for a baby in advance? In my weird grief mindset, having a baby shower was basically calling attention to your pregnancy and asking the universe to take it away.

(Newsflash: Grief is hard on friendships and also makes it hard to think clearly about things.)

Anyway, this is the story of my fourth pregnancy and Monica's second pregnancy, both of which started in the fall of 2018. When David and I found out that I was pregnant, Monica and Johnny were the first people we told--not because we are the sort who celebrates a pregnancy as a sure thing at 6 weeks, but because the week I found out was the same week Monica was having her one good embryo transferred after doing IVF for the second time.

David and I talked it over and we decided that we needed to tell them before they got the news about her pregnancy. Sure, if they got good news it would have been awesome to say, "OMG! I'm pregnant, too!" but as I whispered to David in bed one night, I was scared that maybe there wasn't enough good luck in the universe for us both. I felt like I'd won a lottery I hadn't even meant to enter, and now I was going to have my FOURTH baby, while my best friend was spending tens of thousands of dollars to try to have a second child. I know it doesn't make sense, but I was afraid that somehow I'd accidentally stolen her prize. Logically, I know that makes no sense, but I think what was really going on was that the idea of us being pregnant and having babies at the same time was delightful, I couldn't believe we'd ever get away with it. Pregnancy feels so precarious to me--surely it wouldn't work out for at least one of us.

So we agreed that we needed to tell them before they got any results. If it was good, we'd celebrate. If it was bad, we'd let them have their space and we wouldn't talk about it. But I couldn't imagine them getting bad news and then me saying, "Well, uh, just so you know, I'm possibly going to be having a baby about the time you would have had one..."

Of course they took the news graciously, but I'm sure it was a bit of a shock for them, too. I texted her to tell her because that's how I prefer to get pregnancy announcements (PSA: please tell anyone who has had a pregnancy loss about your own pregnancy via text so they don't have to compose their face--even when we're we happy, pregnancy announcements are hard.) So now they knew.

As timing would have it, our annual visit to the pumpkin patch with the Lewis family (see previous years here, here, and the very first year here) coincided with the day Monica was supposed to go to the lab for bloodwork that would tell her whether she was pregnant. This meant she was going to be at our house in St. Louis when they got the call. We talked about this in advance and talked about rescheduling the pumpkin patch, but there was no other weekend that would work. So they came up anyway, she went to a local lab here to have blood drawn before the pumpkin patch visit, and when it came time for the phone call (they'd scheduled it for late afternoon), D and I took EK and our kids to a park to play so that Monica and Johnny could get the news alone. If it was good, we'd all be our version of celebratory, which was more like cautiously optimistic with a strong helping of super cynical. If it was bad, we'd give them space to be alone for a while and everyone would go to bed early and cry.

My stomach was in knots as I watched the kids play. I was preparing myself for the worst and trying to remain hopeful. Monica had told me that she absolutely didn't feel pregnant at all (even though it would be so early she wouldn't have symptoms yet). I know she was also trying to protect herself by preparing for the worst. They had no other embryos after this retrieval, so this was her one shot.

And finally she texted me and said something like "I might be pregnant."

Ummm... might be?

You think that blood work for pregnancy is a pretty definitive yes/no, but it turns out that--particularly when you're testing super early after IVF--there can be complicating factors... So Monica's numbers indicated she was pregnant, but they weren't as high as the lab wanted/expected. They have pretty firm expectations for that sort of thing. She had to go back to the lab the next day for another blood draw to see if her numbers were doubling.

Our mood that evening was lighter than you might think--I mean, it wasn't bad news! But it was uncertain, which is hard. Lower than expected numbers could indicate a chemical pregnancy, or simply one that wasn't viable. Suddenly everything depended on the blood draw the next day. Still, I remember feeling kind of giddy with relief because we'd been bracing so hard for bad news and this was... promising, at least.

And the next day brought... more uncertainty. Her numbers had gone up, but they hadn't quite doubled. What did it mean???

Basically, she was pregnant unless she turned out not to be pregnant. She went in for an ultrasound when she got home and texted me that they saw a sac. My heart sank because I thought that meant there was no heartbeat. It turns out that it was so early (4-5 weeks?) you couldn't see a heartbeat yet and the sac was exactly what they were hoping for.

Finally, they saw a heartbeat and it seemed like maybe, just maybe, we'd gotten away with something. Maybe we were both actually going to have babies, and maybe those babies would be a due a month apart. Maybe this could actually work out.

Then Monica started bleeding.

I was googling all the things she wouldn't let herself google about statistics for viable pregnancies with spotting in the first trimester. I tried to be encouraging without pretending either of us were naive about what might be happening. She went back to the doctor and there was still a heartbeat. So, again, she seemed to pregnant.

We usually see the Lewises at some point around Christmas (often spending New Years with them) but this past year, My family went to Disney World the week before Christmas, and Monica and Johnny and EK went the week after Christmas (the most crowded week of the year--because they are bonkers).

We were driving home from Pittsburgh after visiting my brother when Monica texted me to tell me that she'd lost the baby. They were visiting the space center in Florida and she felt a little weird so she went to the restroom and there was so much blood. She thought she was going to pass out, the nurse at the first aid station was essentially useless since this was not heatstroke or a blistered toe, and poor EK had just celebrated her seventh birthday and then was told through the bathroom stall at the space center to go get her dad because her mom needed to go to the hospital.

I started crying in the car--like full out silent sobbing that nearly made David panic but I was trying to cry without the girls hearing me in the backseat. Checking to see that their headphones were on, I managed to tell him that Monica was having a miscarriage. I was still crying when my phone rang and her face popped up on the caller ID. I said hello and Monica said, "I need you to talk to Ellie Kate and calm her down." Then I was on the phone with EK, who was crying so hard that I could barely understand her. I pulled myself together as she sobbed, "Mommy is losing my baby brother."

I didn't know what to say. I wanted to calm her down, but I also didn't want to make impossible promises or tell lies. So I said something like, "We don't know yet what has happened. Are you on your way to the hospital?" She said that her dad was going to get the car.

(Sidenote: Johnny had run out to the parking lot to get their rental car, which was parked miles away from the entrance. He'd jumped in the car and couldn't get it to start, so he'd had to run all the way back to the bench where Monica and EK were waiting. It turned out he'd gotten in the WRONG CAR--the same make and model, but not their rental. Once they figured that out, he had to run back out to get the right car.)

I told Ellie Kate that they have great doctors in Florida and if there was anything that could be done to help her brother that they would do it. I told her that her mom was going to be okay. I asked her about her trip so far and how she liked Harry Potter land and she calmed down as we talked. Then they got to the hospital and she hung up.

It felt like ages before I got a real update. Monica texted me some more details as she waited for the doctor--there was so much blood and tissue and she was certain she had lost the baby. But when they got her on an ultrasound machine at the hospital (the SECOND hospital they drove to because the first one had such a long wait the ER)... there was a heartbeat.

So maybe she was still pregnant?

I couldn't believe it, and I know she couldn't believe it either. It was like the uncertainty of this pregnancy was dragging on forever, but at the highest level possible.

She was on bed rest for the remainder of the Florida trip, with one brief visit to the Magic Kingdom in a wheelchair. Then she flew home, saw her doctor, and they determined it was a subchorionic hemorrhage. Baby was--to everyone's shock and surprise--doing just fine.

A few weeks later, I had my bleeding scare. But it turned out I was still pregnant.

It seemed like these babies--should they actually make it here--were determined to scare the shit out of us before their arrival.

I really thought we'd lost each of them at some point during our pregnancies. And then one hot afternoon in July, I held both of them in my arms.

It's like we BOTH won the lottery. An embarrassment of riches for everyone! The universe smiled upon us. The fates were feeling benevolent. The odds were somehow in our favor.

These are the result of love and science and money and perfect timing and offhand chances and good medical care and genetics and DNA strands lining up just right. No wonder we call babies miracles--because no matter how many people get to make them and have them naively and thoughtlessly and with relatively little effort, there are so many moments when things could go sideways. And when they don't, no matter how flawed you are, you find yourself gazing at a little lump of perfection.

It turns out there was enough good luck in the universe for both of us. And we are so grateful.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Ordinary Milestones and Unexciting Revelations

I don't want to jinx us, but I think we've gotten into the rhythm of life with baby without too many missteps. Basically, this depends on Baby G being willing to chill in her car seat, nurse efficiently, and sleep for a couple long-ish stretches at night. Since she's been cooperative on that front, everything else (camps, swims, park playdates, ninja and gymnastic class) has fallen into place.

Of course, we were seventeen minutes later leaving the house than I wanted to be this morning, putting us ten minutes late for art camp, but that was not Baby G's fault! Coco was dragging and I was getting so frustrated with her. Finally I realized that she was nervous about a new camp and that was making her dawdle and change her clothes and refuse to put shoes on, etc.

I will say that I do feel the stretch of attention divided three ways. I'm glad the girls are old enough to be helpful (and really they are SUPER helpful with the babe) and understanding, but I also feel bad about how often I respond to their requests with "In a minute, after I feed/change the baby." But they are really great about it, and still very thrilled to be big sisters to a baby. Zuzu is counting down the days until I trust her to carry the baby (ummm... never?). I'm telling her that we'll reevaluate when G can hold her head steady.

Another shift this summer has been that Zuzu and Coco are really old enough for drop off play dates. Zuzu has gone over to friends houses and had friends over here, and Coco's bestie's mom is also home in the summers, so we've done play dates and park meet-ups that have worked really well. My friend Angie is also home a lot with her kids, and my brother's wife's brother's wife (haha but seriously) has recently moved here, so meeting up and having some adult conversation (in between chasing toddlers and feeding babies and trying to keep an eye on the bigger kids) has been a lifesaver.

Poor Zuzu was sick on her actual birthday, so we had to postpone her party. It's this Saturday and the loose theme is ninja obstacle course meets sno-cone party with confetti cupcakes. Sounds fun, right?

David has spent this summer transforming the backyard into his own childhood backyard fantasy. In addition to two swing sets (the one we had and the one the previous owners left), the sandbox, the playhouse, and the zip line, he's added a rope ladder, and a slack tightrope. He's adding a few more obstacles (tunnels and hurdles) for the party.

We finally got Zuzu riding on two wheels! We knew she was more than ready, but for some reason our fearless girl was pretty freaked out about bike riding. (Maybe because she's such a wuss about scraped knees?). Anyway, we didn't get out on bikes much last summer, mostly because we have to go somewhere to ride because our house is on a huge hill and the nearby neighborhood has no sidewalks and quite a bit of traffic, plus it's pretty hilly, too. We spent about 45 minutes in a flat parking lot down the street and she totally took off! She was so proud of herself. I was excited for her, but I still felt the pressure of tears as she pedaled away from me at top speed, ribbon streamers waving from the handle bars. My baby! Wasn't I just carrying her in a pumpkin seat?

Baby G has a portable fan we drag around so she spends a good deal of time snoozing in the shade with her own personal air flow keeping her cool and comfy. She went ahead and turned 2 MONTHS OLD on July 5 and I love that she's started smiling for real and I can't get enough of this little dimple she's got.

Meanwhile, Coco watched Zuzu take off on her bike and wanted her training wheels removed, too. She hasn't quite mastered the two wheel bike--she goes for a stretch, then wobbles and veers into the grass before crashing. But she's really close. And if we hadn't been operating in roiling humidity, she probably would have had the energy to keep at it last time. As it is, we've had two sessions of less than an hour each, and I'm so impressed at how quickly both of them have caught on!

The rest of our summer is looking busy... the girls have art camp this week, next week we'll visit my parents, the following weekend we go to a family reunion. And then it's August and Coco's birthday. And then school starts! I'm not teaching in the fall, so I'll mostly be home with Baby G, with some days on campus doing administrative stuff and overseeing senior thesis projects. Plus job hunting, or figuring out what next fall will look like for me.

Full disclosure: I am still vacillating between being in a completely freaked out cold sweat about what comes next, feeling super sad that this chapter is over, and feeling cautiously optimistic that I'll find something else. Of course the negative feelings overwhelm me in the middle of the night when I can't get back to sleep after nursing. I really struggle with the whole closed door / open window philosophy, but I'm working on it. I will totally embrace some woo-woo stuff (looking at you, pink Himalayan salt lamp!), so I have been keeping a gratitude journal in which I list at least three things each night that I'm grateful for, and I've started doing a list of daily affirmations where you write down things you want to happen as though they already have happened. We'll see if I can visualize my way to a good place by 2020!

(Side note: that makes me think of that meme that reads something like "Maybe it was your vision board, maybe it was your white privilege.")

Another revelation I've had this summer? Shopping at Aldi. YOU GUYS. It's so inexpensive. I'm getting ALL our groceries for the week and spending $100 or less. We occasionally have to pick up groceries elsewhere--we buy Cheerios in bulk at Sam's and can't give up our fresh ground peanut butter from Fresh Thyme, but shopping at Aldi has been a game changer and I find it very satisfying.

I've been thinking about my old novel a lot and decided to do some rewriting. I'm struggling a little bit with pacing. So I decided to get proactive and join a writer's circle on Facebook. That means next month I'll start meeting up with TOTAL STRANGERS and having them read my work and give me feedback. Just typing that is enough to make me feel like barfing, but it feels like a necessary step if I want to keep working on this thing.

Zuzu told me the other day that the days were short but the years were long, which cracked me up because that probably is how it feels to her, but of course parents of young kids are used to hearing the opposite (the days are long, but the years are short). I'm feeling both the rush of time and the endlessness of summer afternoons that are filled only with whining, fighting, and demands for snacks. Mostly I'm just trying to be present while also not feeling guilty if I need to escape into my phone for a little while.

And that pretty much sums up summer so far!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Summer Solstice (a few days late)

I got an e-mail from my aunt Beth a few days ago asking if the date of June 8 was correct as the last time I updated my blog... I had not realized it had been so long! And there goes my summer plan of blogging once a week. Oh, summer. I have such big plans for you and then the time slips away.

More accurately, the time is CONSTANTLY INTERRUPTED. As of right now, I have the baby sleeping, but Coco just came in to tell me in tears that Zuzu wrecked the volcano she made in the sandbox: "She wrecked it and she didn't ask!"

Apparently she just wanted to report, because I said, "I'm so sorry that happened. What would you like me to do?" and she just walked away to go back outside and play. Okay, then!

At any rate, this will be another brain dump post of a few things on my mind of late because I don't have the wherewithal to actually construct an essay-style blog post on one subject.

I may have caught up a bit on sleep last night when I crashed downstairs in the recliner at 7pm while the girls were having Friday Night Movie Night watching The Grinch (Coco's choice). I woke up around 9:30pm, fed the baby, left her downstairs with David and went to bed. She did her "normal" routine of waking up at 2:00am, 5:00am, and 8:00am so I didn't get out of bed until after I'd fed her at 8:00.

I'm still tracking all her feedings in my phone and keeping track of diapers. Partly out of habit, and partly because I have no sense of the passage of time and I need my phone to keep track of anything.

I'm doing a diaper study right now for a local marketing company. They provided two weeks worth of diapers (seven diapers per day, we usually need eight so we supplement with our own) and a scale and I have to weigh the diaper when I change it and record whether she peed or pooped and if it leaked (so far we've had no leaking). It's a bit of a pain, but I think it's worth the cash money they're paying for the data we enter online.

In much more exciting news, my best friend from high school had her baby Thursday night! We graduated high school together and then decided to have geriatric pregnancies together! Wa-hoo! In all actuality, having kids has been much more complicated than that for both of us, but we ended up pregnant together and due three and a half weeks apart. Thanks to Miss G's dramatic entrance, our babies are six and a half weeks apart, but we still expect them to be best friends and potential life partners. I can't wait to meet baby Johnny and introduce him to Miss G.

Miss G still doesn't have a nickname (although I'm apparently calling her Miss G on the blog). Zuzu was actually 6 months old before she became Zuzu, so I'm not too worried about it. So far Veeves and Evie are strong contenders.

An IG friend/fellow babyloss mom recently attended a conference on stillbirth and pregnancy research, and she posted in her IG stories about the lack of research/funding for this area of medicine. It's so maddening to me. As another friend (baby Johnny's dad, actually) commented the other day, if this had to do with erections, we'd have the top notch technology worked out, but pregnant women are getting overlooked. One of the doctors who presented at the conference noted that the lack of attention and respect given to this health issue means that women who experience the loss of a child due to stillbirth have a sense of being marginalized and she used the term "disenfranchised grief."

That term really spoke to me--like some of us aren't sure how much we get to grieve publicly, or we have the painful experience of our grief being dismissed because it wasn't a "real" baby or whatever.

A guy I went to high school with posted on facebook today that he and his wife had lost their baby boy. I'm not sure how far along she was, but as I typed a comment on his post to tell him how sorry I was, it made me cry.

Life is so sweet these days (also exhausting, overwhelming, and occasionally really frustrating) but I still miss Eliza. I still mourn the fact that I should have an eight-year-old here. My friends from college hosted a "sprinkle" for Genevieve and we all got together with our families. It was so much fun, and so great to see everyone. But these are the friends who all had babies within a year of Eliza. Four of the kids there were born within two months of her birthday. It doesn't hurt as much to be around them--there were years when just seeing them was so painful it would take my breath away--but it still pushes on the bruised places in my broken heart. I love these friends and adore these kids, and I'm so glad they are still part of my life. It's just hard to know that there is one more kid who should be there.

Baby G's fan club of girls
One friend of mine has a six-year-old daughter who played with Zuzu and Coco and was delighted to hold the baby. When it was time to go, she jokingly said to her mom, "I'm going to be part of their family now!" and her mom laughed and said, "That's just what she needs! Another little girl!"

It was obviously a joke... of course I have my hands full. But it still made my heart lurch because truer words were never spoken. Another little girl is exactly what I need.

And I still can hardly believe that some people get that lucky--to get to keep all their babies and watch them grow up and take it for granted that they will.

True confession: It helps me to remember how fortunate I am to have these three little girls when I'm solo-parenting!

They look so sweet here, you'd never know what stinkers Z & C can be!
David has been at a conference for THREE NIGHTS (Who makes a conference last that long?! Terrible planning!). My parents came up to help me out because we've had a couple evenings where I couldn't handle the thought of being on my own while trying to cope with a fussy baby (what is it about the witching hour?) and make dinner for children whose appetites are unpredictable and subject to change at any given time (I'll never be the kind of parent who makes a separate meal for my kids! They can eat whatever we're having!... Excuse me while I eat my words for dinner.)

The dinner hour is hard for us, mostly because when I get hungry I get hangry too, and then nothing goes well! David had suggested we get a baby swing, but I'd been holding off. We had a small travel swing for Zuzu, but she hadn't been that crazy about it. Coco never used it because we couldn't keep two-year-old Zuzu out of it, so I think I gave it away to my brother. I didn't want to buy a big, bulky plastic swing that G would only use for a few months, so I looked half-heartedly on Facebook marketplace. Then I decided to put out a call on FB to see if any of my local friends had one we could borrow--and sure enough, my friend Angie came through for me!

loves the swing--she loves movement and music--so it has been a real sanity-saver.

I've been trying to get back into meal planning and since D was gone the past couple of days while my parents were here, I also did some cooking! (I made this enchilada recipe and it was delish). But tonight it's take and bake cheese sticks because I am only human and my parents left today.

Swimming lessons started this week. On Monday, I wanted to tear my hair out because my kids were acting like they'd hardly been in a pool before. Coco is the only kid in her class and she loves to be babied, so she was basically letting her instructor carry her around the pool like an infant in a mommy & me class. Zuzu was convinced that a sign indicated two people couldn't be on the diving block together actually indicated that she shouldn't dive off of it at all (what, like she's a rule follower all of a sudden?) so when another girl in her class refused to dive, she joined her in SITTING by the side of the pool. I was like WHAT IS HAPPENING?

But they don't allow parents on the pool deck, probably because they don't want us yelling, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? COCO, YOU KNOW THAT YOU CAN SWIM BETTER THAN THAT! ZUZU, YOU DIVE ALL THE TIME!" Which is exactly what I wanted to do, LOL. Anyway, today they both turned it around. Coco was finally telling her instructor to back up farther so she could jump and swim to her instead of jumping directly into her arms, and Zuzu dove beautifully off the diving block after we explained the sign.

Zuzu will probably be ready for swim team next year, but we'll see if I'm ready for that commitment!

The other big excitement around here is the zip line that David installed in the backyard. The girls have been loving it. It only makes me a little nervous... I've been baffled by their inclination to zip line in the nude, but it does save me on laundry. The main reason why it's nice to have trees surrounding our house for privacy: backyard nudity.

a rare picture of them fully clothed!
The other thing we've been doing this summer is watching episodes of Little House on the Prairie in our downtime between lunch and afternoon activities. The girls have been very empathetic about the Ingalls family and their struggles. Pa broke his ribs and then a hailstorm ruined all their wheat. Zuzu kept calling it their "weed" which made me laugh. "Pa can't sell all his weed!" It's sparked some good conversations about white settlers encroaching on American Indian territories and the idea that the land was just open for them to take. And we've also talked about how you make flour from wheat, what alcoholism is (ahem, Mr. Edwards), and why it's important to get vaccinations (so you don't die from small pox). Who knew it would be such an educational experience?

All right... Coco is getting whiny so I'm wrapping up this post with no real conclusion... I hope to post soon about Zuzu's seventh birthday party! I can't believe my rainbow baby is going to be seven.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A Few Things

Remember my last blog post, where I was all starry-eyed and smug about summer?

We've already devolved to that summer schedule meme that's like "breakfast, fight, fight, fight, anarchy."

In all seriousness, the girls do play really well together. Until they don't. And then they fight with each other until they decide to create a united front against me.

* * *

But look who turned ONE MONTH OLD!

* * *

The big girls are still crazy about baby sister. There's no jealousy or resentment there, but there is plenty of squabbling about who gets to hold her first/longest. They are pretty helpful about fetching things if I need help, and they've been really good sports about us not being out and about as much since baby G is here. I'm very grateful for that. Baby G is lucky to have these sisters!

* * *

The other morning Zuzu said I was "the meanest mom in the world" because it was time to turn off The Magic School Bus after she'd already watched three episodes. (I do like Ms. Frizzle and her weird shrinking school bus, but I'm also freak about screen time). Later, we were at the grocery store and I let the girls get juice bags for a picnic in the park. Zuzu was delighted and I said, "Who's the nicest mom in the world?" She smiled and said, "You!" Then she paused thoughtfully and added, completely serious and slightly apologetic, "Well, Ella's mom is actually really nice..." So I'm in second place to Ella's mom, I guess.

We're having a relaxing weekend because the big girls are at my mom and dad's. The house is SO QUIET. It's awesome but I also miss them SO MUCH. It's amazing to not be interrupted every five minutes with tattling, tears, or demands for snacks, and I'm sure they are having a blast, but I suspect I'll be ready to have them back.

David is outside on this day of relaxation doing yard work. I advised him of an excellent life-hack shortcut to yard work: Lower your standards.

So far he has not taken my advice.

* * *

I missed my regularly scheduled hair appointment because it was two weeks after Genevieve was born and I was not yet ready to leave my house/baby. I finally rescheduled it for three weeks later, so my hair was... unkempt. But after a trim and a root touch up and a blow dry, I feel like a whole new person!

* * *

Speaking of feeling sexy, my postpartum night sweats seem to have mostly stopped, so it's amazing to not wake up sweaty and disgusting!

* * *

Miss G (nickname still TBD) has been a good night sleeper for me (knock on wood and whatnot). Last night she slept from 11 to 3:30 and then after nursing she went back to sleep until 7. Lovely baby! Of course I somehow ended up wide awake after the 3:30 nursing session, so I tossed and turned until 4:30, then turned on my lamp and read City of Girls for a bit before dozing off again. I finished the book this morning and loved it.

As I mentioned on IG stories, I was predisposed to like the novel after seeing Liz Gilbert talk about her writing process and love and grief and creativity at the Brave Magic retreat back in September (where I remarked to my friend Julie that my period was a little late...). Liz Gilbert is so smart and funny and adorable and I want to be her friend and be just like her except I'm nowhere near cool enough. Anyway, it was another excellent read of 2019 and I recommend it.

* * *

Zuzu's birthday--YOU GUYS MY BABY ZUZU IS TURNING 7--is coming up at the end of the month. After much debate (in my head) she convinced me to have a small party at our house again. It's really all she wants. And while it would be easier to pay $200 to have the party somewhere else--a bounce house, a book store, the botanical gardens, the gym, the cupcake shop, etc.--she will be even happier to have it here at home. And we'll probably save some money too since we really just need to buy cupcakes and party favors.

The selling point was when she spent all afternoon one day last week making "treat bags" for the friends she wanted to invite to her "dog club birthday party." She took poop bags from the little poop bag container that clips on Clementine's leash and she wrote her friends' names on them in Sharpie and then she collected crap from around the house to give as party favors--stickers, tattoos, pencils, pictures she drew, and suggestions for what they could to "to help the earth," which were things like "Pick up litter" and "Help a wild dog."

(Side note: Coco calls litter "glitter" and I don't correct her because it's so precious and there are very few "baby words" she still says (occasionally yellow is "lellow" but not very often because Zuzu has dropped that all together.)

So now we are having a "dog club birthday party" but I'm only letting her invite four friends because I'm NOT the nicest mom in the world (see above). Of course now I worry--summer is so busy! What if only one of her friends can make it? But whatever. Then we'll call it a birthday playdate, I guess. Also Zuzu specifically asked me to put on the invitation that she wants her friends to bring presents. LOL. Many parties she's been to this year invite the entire girl scout troop (20 girls) and request no presents or donations to a particular charity. I think this is genius, but my poor underprivileged, toy-deprived child is not a fan of this idea. (Eye roll.) So the alternative is to limit the number of friends.

Zuzu wrote out her wish list last week, and it included an American Girl doll, which surprised and delighted me. I still have my old Kirsten doll at my parents' house but I am not ready to pass it along to the girls! They are not exactly gentle with the dolls they love. Plus they like to apply markers to them--the Target-version of American girl doll that Zuzu has now sports jewelry-like marker tattoos, and her beloved Elsa doll bears a Harry-Potter-esque lightening-shaped-scar on her forehead fashioned from blue marker. I am not prepared to see Kirsten defaced, so the girls don't even know she exists yet. BUT I went ahead and scouted around on FB marketplace and picked up the American Girl doll named Caroline (who is now retired). She was being offered for a reasonable price not too far from here, so David picked her up a couple of days ago. Then I ordered the Caroline books from ebay ($15 including shipping for all six of them; I was pretty pleased with myself).

She's also getting a Harry Potter Marauder's Map book, a Harry Potter t-shirt, a Shimmer and Shine toy she requested, and possibly a "new" bike from FB marketplace (we're going to look at it later today and see if it's lighter weight than the one she's currently riding).

* * *

We've only had one week of gymnastics for Coco and ninja class for Zuzu, but it went really well. Zuzu was the only girl in her class but she totally kept up with the six boys (ages 6-10). There was only obstacle that she didn't quite master, but she never gave up and had a great attitude about the whole thing. She's pumped to go back. Coco also loved gymastics and she did everything with great enthusiasm. Plus she looks so adorable in a leotard with two French braids. I am a biased for cuteness when it comes to short kids with huge heads, though.

* * *

The other big excitement coming up this week is the dance recital--they'll get back from my parents' just in time for dress rehearsal and then the big performance is a couple days later. I'm looking forward to seeing their performances.

* * *

Baby G and I have been binge-watching Fleabag while the girls are gone and I'm not sure it's everyone's flavor but it is definitely my cup of tea. (One friend on mine mentioned that the breaking of the fourth wall when she talks directly to the camera was annoying to her, but I love a metanarrative!) I find it hysterical and also touching. Season 2 was even better than season 1.

* * *

So that's the big excitement around here. Not sure if it's worth blogging about, but life gets a little smaller and more focused with a new baby at home, so that's just where we are at the moment. It's funny how intensely I'm trying to savor this little season at the same time I'm exhausted by it and also sometimes feeling nostalgic about it in advance. I guess that's basically the definition of modern parenting?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Summer: Day 1

I have to confess I'm feeling pretty smug about day 1 of summer. I've been nervous about being home on my own with the baby and the big girls. Zuzu and Coco are pretty independent--but sometimes that's actually the problem! Often, they don't really feel a need to check in with us or ask for permission. They just do whatever the hell they want when we are not actively managing them (which is how they end up drawing make up on their faces with marker or attempting to ramp their kiddie jeep over a huge pile of mulch). And it's a lot harder to have an eye on them all the time when I'm also caring for a newborn.

But, somehow, this morning is going swimmingly! The girls have not been fighting or whining for screentime and they've already been awake for four hours--amazing!

Here are my lofty goals for summer so we can all have a good laugh about this later:

- "Homework." I have a couple of those grade-level work books and I'm inviting them to do a couple of sheets each day. I put it out on the breakfast table. I did this last night but didn't say anything to the girls about it. Sure enough, when G and I came downstairs this morning, they were already working on their worksheets! I know it's a novelty today, but we'll see if we can keep it up for a while.

- Reading time. I also selected a book for each of them to read. Zuzu read I Am a Unicorn and Coco read Dad and Sam. We're signing up today for library reading contests, so this was a good start.

- Read aloud time. I've decided to start the summer reading The Secret Garden. I'm not sure it will hold Coco's attention, but she's good about holding the baby or playing quietly with Barbies or characters while I read, so we'll see how it goes.

Everything else will be gravy... I anticipate lots of trips to the library. I am going to try to get myself in gear this summer and give the girls an allowance and then we'll do some thrift store shopping to practice counting and spending (and saving, hopefully!). We won't be doing the pool as much since G is so tiny, but I do have them signed up for two weeks of swimming lessons. The lessons are 30 minutes a day for two weeks and Baby G and I will either sit in the shade and watch or walk next door to the air conditioned office if the weather is too hot.

I have them signed up to go to a Vacation Bible School at a friend's church for a week, and a week at an art camp. I think the girls will also go to my parents' for a long weekend, although when my mom asked Coco about it, Coco said she wants to stay here with Mama. So it might just be Zuzu going to Grammy and Bops's. We'll see what Coco decides. I'm fine with it either way. I know my mom would like her to go, but she also doesn't want her to go and then have homesickness and regrets! So we'll just let Coco make that call.

The big excitement today was the decision to have them do a summer session of gymnastics. Actually, Coco is going to do gymnastics and Zuzu is going to try the kids ninja classes! I want to take adult ninja classes, really. The obstacles look so fun! I'm excited to watch her. She's pretty tenacious and definitely fearless, so I think she'll have a good time. I was kind of surprised Coco didn't want to do the same thing Zuzu chose, but I also love that she made up her own mind. Fortunately, the two classes are offered at the same time at a gym very close to our house, so that worked out really well.

Knock on wood, but Baby G has been easy enough that we're considering taking her to my parents' later on. And we're still considering a trip to West Virginia. I keep going back and forth about it, just because the drive feels daunting. I know that it would be fun, it just feels like a lot with a little bitty baby. We definitely will make a trip to Indiana for a family reunion like we did last summer (my Uncle Tim's house is half the distance and has a few more amenities than my brother's rustic cabin... mostly air conditioning!).

Anyway, I know every morning won't go as smoothly as this one has, but I'm relieved that summer got off to a good start.

Will check back tomorrow when everything goes off the rails, LOL. It's only a matter of time...