Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Public Apology to Cooper

As you know, we lost Dixie-the-Chicken just over a week ago.

RIP, Dixie
The situation:

(1) Dixie was missing.

(2) No DNA evidence available in the form of blood or feathers.

(3) Loretta and Wynona were still in the coop.

(4) There was a big hole in the side of the pen.

(5) Cooper was INSIDE the pen.

Damning evidence against Cooper:

(1) The accused had demonstrated much interest in and curiosity about the chickens--far more than Little Mac.  His quivering enthusiasm for his chikn sisters suggested that he would eat one if he could.

I luv u, Chikns!

Cooper:  OMG!  Look at 'em chikns!!!!
Little Mac:  WTF. I am so over chikns. 
(2) He has been known to chase small critters (mostly bunnies).

But I haz never catched them. Sigh.
(3) He can use his paw to open the back door if it's not latched; therefore he could have ripped at the chicken wire until it pulled away from the corner of the pen.

(4) He was caught INSIDE the chicken pen, peering at the chickens in the chicken coop.

(5) He has a serious appetite.

Did u say DINNER?


Reasonable Doubt:

(1) There was no mess whatsoever.  Cooper tears apart his squeaky toys, holding them down with his paws and ripping off their heads.  There was NO evidence of that kind of violence at the scene.

(2) Diligent observation of Cooper's digestive waste indicated no presence of feathers or bones.

(3) Look at this face!  He's the sweetest boy in the world.

Hey girl, come back to bed and let's haz a snuggle.
Reason for Acquittal:

On Friday night, we sat out on the deck with friends.  David had repaired the chicken pen, and discussed further security measures with our friends.  Cooper spent his time hanging out on the deck getting his ears rubbed.  He was not over by the chicken coop.  He was never left outside unsupervised.

Saturday morning, we discovered this:

Another big hole in the pen!
But we KNEW it was NOT created by Cooper.  Which means two things:

(1) There is an unknown predator lurking in our neighborhood!

(2) My precious little snuggle buddy is not a chicken killer!

U no trust me?
Please consider this my public apology to Cooper, whose guilty conviction has been overturned.  He was the unfortunate victim of circumstantial evidence, and we now believe him to be innocent of all charges.  Although we recognize that he is, sadly, probably not above tearing apart a baby chick, he has not actually done so.

Of course we're still sad that Dixie is gone, but we're also relieved that she wasn't murdered by her dog brother.

As for the unknown predator, it was unable to get at the chickens on Friday night, as we always make sure their coop is shut up before we go to bed.  We have found no trace of this killer, but I've already accused and convicted the new guilty part in my head.  I think it's an Evil Assassin Opossum.  With their damn opposable thumbs, pulling back the chicken wire.  I could gag just thinking about it.

David has doubly secured the chicken pen, and we'll continue to close up the coop at night so that even if something got into the pen, it couldn't get into the coop.

And Cooper got lots of extra loving to make up for the grievous error in judgment.  I think he's forgiven us.

A chew treat and an ear massage

Kisses for David

Snuggling in the car
The plot thickens as we consider one possible accomplice to Evil Assassin Oppossum:

I haz no interest in chikns.  But I like to see Cooper in trouble.  Tee-hee-hee.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dear Ms. B: What's Wrong With My Condolences?

* For those of you new to Ms. B, she is an alter-ego who offers well-meant advice here at bythebrooke.  You are by no means expected to agree with her or follow her advice.  Sometimes she responds to real e-mails from blog readers, other times she makes things up to keep herself busy.  She's no where near perfect, but she is earnest and well-meaning, as is the advice she puts out there.  Also, she talks about herself in the third person. *

Dear Ms. B,
A good friend of mine from church recently lost her baby and I have been trying to be really supportive of her grief.  I take meals to her and her husband, I send cards, and I call or text to see how they are doing.  I want to say things to her that I know would make me feel better, so I've told her that God has a plan and that these things happen for a reason.  I know that she is a Christian, but she told me that she does not want to hear those things, and I don't understand why. I know that she used to believe these things are true!  I hate to think that the loss of her child has resulted in the loss of her faith, but I'm really worried for her.
Church Lady

Dear Church Lady,

Oooh, this is sticky territory.  Ms. B hesitates to address issues of religion/spirituality because they are SO intensely personal.  Please, please, please keep in mind that Ms. B cannot speak for your friend.  She can only speak for herself, and her views may be quite different from that of you OR your friend.  However, she will try to address your question because she thinks it is an important one, and one that many people wonder about.  You are obviously coming from a good place, and trying to be kind and supportive.  Why is it that your comments, made with the best of intentions, seem to be upsetting instead of comforting your friend?

Here's the basic answer:  Your friend's world has just been turned upside down.  She may feel like the God she believes in, the one she prayed to for the health of her baby, the one that she feels has blessed her life in so many ways, has suddenly betrayed her.  She doesn't know how to reconcile what she has been told about a loving God who answers our prayers with the reality of her life.  It is a painful and difficult place for your friend to be, and she has to work through those questions in her own time.  You cannot rush her, and there's probably not a lot you can do to help her except to listen.

As for your comments, you obviously mean well.  Here's the problem:  God has a plan, to a bereaved parent, sounds a lot like God wanted your baby to die.

Everything happens for a reason comes across as another way of saying Your baby was defective.  

Or, You were not meant to be a parent.  Or, You needed to learn a lesson, and this is how God is teaching you.  Or, Something else will happen to you eventually to make you realize it's actually a good thing that your baby is dead.  Or, God is a Machiavellian whose ends will justify His means and if you're a good Christian, you won't question it.  

You may or may not believe any of those statements are true, but Ms. B can say with certainty that none of those is a particularly comforting idea.  And none of those is likely to be exactly what you actually mean when you say "God has a plan" or "Everything happens for a reason."  It may be nice for you to think that there is a greater plan at work in this world, and that there is an explanation for all that is scary and unknown.  But your friend is experiencing an eviscerating grief.  There is nothing that could justify to a bereaved parent the loss of their child, and few parents will find peace in the idea that their much-wanted and much-loved child was conceived only because he or she was meant to die.

Ms. B would encourage you to think carefully about what you really mean when you seek out a phrase like "God has a plan."  Do you believe that God is continuing to care for their child?  Do you think their baby must feel safe and loved in the spiritual realm of heaven?  Do you believe that God received their baby with open arms and seeks to comfort them in their grief?  Do you think that someday they will see their child again?  Do you mean that the love of God is more powerful even than grief?

Those are all pretty uplifting thoughts, yet none of those is expressed when you simply say, "God has a plan."

When you say, "Everything happens for a reason," do you mean that this world is full of mystery and tragedy that none of us will understand in this lifetime, and its unfair that your friend must go through this?  Do you mean that when faced with adversity, we have to find a way to trust in the greater good?  Do you mean that when tragedies happen, we have to rely on faith because logic cannot make sense of them?  Do you mean that their child can continue to be a beautiful presence and influence in their lives?

Those ideas are not communicated when you say "Everything happens for a reason," even though you may intend them to be.  Suggesting there's a reason for such a loss is almost like saying, You're supposed to learn a valuable lesson from this,  which is pretty hard to swallow, especially if it's coupled with the implication that if the parents are good Christians, they will quickly be at peace with their loss.

Ms. B knows that you're not trying to compound the suffering that your friend is already experiencing, so she  simply encourages you to be very careful about the way you choose your words.  Don't just reach for a ready-made phrase that gets printed on signs at Hobby Lobby.  Really try to speak from your heart, and if you can only say, "I'm sorry.  I wish this were different for you," then that's all you need to say.  Try to take some time to articulate exactly what you think.  That doesn't mean your friend will agree with you, but it also opens up the opportunity for a conversation instead of coming across like a judgment.

Many people want to believe that there is ultimately a divine way to make sense of the world, but that we won't understand it in this life.  Some people find great solace in believing that God is ultimately in control of everything that happens.  Others are able to reconcile their faith in God with the idea that human tragedy is random, not caused or condoned by God, but grieved by Him as well as us.  They do not believe that God is in control of the pain and suffering of this world.  Ms. B's understanding (after considerable research, reading, and conversations with therapists, counselors, and pastors) is that either perception is compatible with a Christian faith.

Many people have found comfort in the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner.  It's significantly different from the Max Lucado brand of spiritual literature.  It's major premise is that God does not cause or prevent bad things from happening.  The gift of free will to human beings necessarily means that God cannot intervene in the course of human events.  But that doesn't mean that God is powerless.  Prayer is still important because it connects us to God and to each other as we struggle through this world.  When we pray for God's influence in our lives, it does not happen in back-from-the-grave miracles (no matter how hard we pray), but we can experience God's grace through the gift of inner strength, and also through the presence of other people, who do the right thing at just the right time and in doing so are truly gifts from God.

You and your friend may or may not find you have similar perspectives on this issue, but Ms. B hopes that you can respect each other's perspective.  Above all, please try to keep in mind that rejecting the notion that "God has a plan," or that "Everything happens for a reason" does NOT necessarily mean that someone is rejecting his or her faith.  Faith is plenty large enough to accommodate variety in points of view and even uncertainty.

Also keep in mind that your friend's ideas about faith are likely to evolve as she processes her grief.  This should not be an issue of whether she is right or wrong, but it may be an opportunity for the two of you to find common ground.  Ms. B encourages you to keep in mind that pushing your agenda or your own specific beliefs on someone who is grieving (especially if you've never experienced the loss of a child), is not helpful and is not likely to have the result you desire.  Abiding with your friend in her grief, and helping her find her way back to love?--now that sounds like the kind of spiritual comfort that anyone would appreciate.

Ms. B

P.S. As always, Ms. B welcomes additional comments from blog readers.  Because this is a sensitive topic, please keep your comments respectful.  Any comment that seems disrespectful or judgmental or mean will be deleted straightaway.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Where I Am Now: Almost 18 Months

I participated in this project a year ago.  I was in a very different place a year ago.  But you know?  It wasn't all that different.  I can reread that post and still feel all those same emotions.  They're just a little softer now.

So maybe time does help.  Right where I am now is one week shy of eighteen months out from the loss of my daughter and 35 weeks pregnant with my second baby.

I was trying to articulate to David the other day exactly how I felt, feeling the Deuce kick and wishing Eliza were here, too.  I read this on another blogger's post (Amelia) and I have been borrowing it in my head ever since.

I am happy about all the things in my life that I can control.

It seems like a pretty accurate way to sum things up right now.

When people ask how I'm feeling, I mostly say "Fine" and I mean it.  Physically, I'm fine.  Emotionally, I think I'm doing as well as can be expected.  I guess I'm fine.  Sometimes I even feel lucky, which I never would have believed as possible.

The idea of happiness is still something I struggle with.  How to be both happy and sad.  How to reconcile the bitter with the sweet.  How much I wish things were different, how glad I am that we've gotten to where we are.

So much of the heaviness has lifted.  Grief isn't suffocating me.  It can still blindside me, tears still come so easily, there is still nothing I wouldn't do to change things and get her back.  But it doesn't hurt to be alive the  way it did for so long.  Ordinary life is enjoyable again, and there was such a long time when I didn't believe that would be possible.  I can't believe that my sense of humor is still intact, that it's possible to have fun again.

The bland, gray world that seemed to be all that was left without Eliza, has sparkle and flavor again.  It's not without darkness and shadows (how could it be, when I miss her so much?), but there are more bright moments than dark ones.  I feel like I am living instead of just going through the motions.  Eliza is still right there with me, but it truly feels more like a presence than an absence.  She's the daughter I love, not just a gaping hole in my life.  I miss her being here, but I also know that she'll never stop being our first baby and a beloved member of our family.  And that brings me comfort instead of just sadness.

I feel recalled to life this summer.  I don't know what I did last summer.  I taught a class.  I sobbed my way through my birthday.  I fled the country to the wonders of Canada for two weeks.  But we didn't go to the farmer's market.  We didn't visit green houses and carefully choose new flowers.  We didn't eat dinner (and breakfast) out on the deck.  We didn't barbecue with friends or invite people to come in town for the weekend.  I thought we were functioning, but it was all we could do to get through the day.  I forgot what it felt like to have energy, to get excited about little things, to relish life and delight in things like sparkling citrus water and strawberry shortcake.

That doesn't mean that I don't wake up at 4am with a grief and fear that weighs so heavy on me that eventually I can't take it anymore and my sobs wake up David and he wraps his arms around me while my tears and snot make a wet puddle on his chest.  Yeah, that still happens.  But those days are few, and far between.  The hardest thing about right now is the conflation of grief about Eliza and fear about the Deuce.  It's hard to separate those emotions, and I feel conflicted about the way they seem to twist together and overlap.

I've said it before and I'll say it again and again:  there are no silver linings.  There is no lesson great enough to justify the loss of the baby we wanted and loved so much.  But I am so appreciative of the gifts we've received because of Eliza, of the people who have reached out to us in kindness and in friendship.  And I feel now like I can try to give something back sometimes.

The biggest difference between now and a year ago may be that eighteen months out is long enough that I can look up from my pain and interact with the world around me.  It's long enough that I can talk about Eliza without crying, and the Deuce has actually made it easier for me to do so.  What I've found is that I'm not the object of pity and wonder that I feared I would be.  Instead, Eliza is a connection I share with anyone who has lost someone they love dearly.  Because of Eliza, I've heard stories of death and loss and sadness that would otherwise have been hidden.  I never expected to enter this world of shared tragedy and empathy and understanding, and I certainly wouldn't have traded my daughter's life to get here.  But I'm honored that people trust me with those stories, that they see me as someone who can listen and understand in a world that wants to ignore grief and sweep it aside. I know that they only do so because of Eliza.  And, surprisingly, it doesn't feel like a burden when someone shares their story with me.  It feels like a gift.

Yesterday we bought a baby swing for the Deuce right before we visited the park where we have a memorial brick for Eliza near the Angel of Hope statue.  The park was gorgeous and blooming, and a cardinal fluttered around us, which always makes us think of David's grandpa.  It was a day of preparing and remembering.  It was happy and sad.  I cried and I laughed.  I felt overwhelmed with love for both my Baby Ducks.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Uncharted Territory

Well, here we are.  Welcome to Week 34, Day 4.

I am surprised at how light I feel.  Happy, even.  Ready to revel in the last few weeks of this pregnancy.  (Not that the fear is gone, but there are so many other emotions filling in the gaps around it.)

I've kept myself busy this week, and also let myself enjoy getting some special treatment because of the belly.

Why yes, young man, I will let you return this cart for me.

Why, thank you, Crazy Target Checkout Guy, for loudly jumping to my defense and telling me I did NOT need to apologize to the woman who was trying to pass through because she could have said excuse me, nevermind the fact that she actually DID say excuse me before I said, "Oh, I'm sorry," and you evidently didn't hear her and now you are kind of causing an awkward scene.

And thanks to you, too, large middle-aged-man-on-a-small-scooter, who not only stopped so I could cross the parking lot to my car, but who also held out your arm to a car that did not want to stop and wait for me and shouted, "No!  Mommies first!" as I waddled to my car.

Thanks again to the hospital worker in scrubs who whispered to me in confidence by the elevators, "You might not feel like it all the time, but you look so cute!"

Thanks to the worker at Qdoba last night who told me that my veggie burrito was on the house because he didn't want me to have to stand and wait while he restarted the cash register computer.

And thanks, a million times over, to everyone who has commented and e-mailed, and to everyone who has included the Deuce and Eliza and me in their thoughts and prayers.  I told the Deuce today after our NST (passed without me in tears--a real success!) that there are so many people out there rooting for us.  It's an amazing feeling.

Yes, there's still a deep, broken place in my heart.  There's still so much regret that we don't have our toddling little girl with wispy blond hair and big blue eyes and that little round nose here with us right now.  As the Deuce passes every NST and my fluid checks continue to be perfect (today the Deuce charmed the nurse doing the fluid check by showing off some adorable kicking action), there is a sad, melancholy voice that will always ask, "Why wasn't it like this last time?  Why couldn't we have Eliza, too?  What the hell happened that we couldn't see?"

But mostly, I'm trying to turn my focus to right now, to this miracle, instead of the one that vanished long before I wanted to let it go.  Here's another amazing thing--this baby--and the fact that there was another baby, and that we loved her and lost her and thought we'd lost ourselves for a while there too, it makes all the difference in the world, and yet it doesn't make this baby any less incredible as a weensy little person unto itself.

One of my favorite poems opens with the line, "Speaking of marvels, I am alive together with you, when I might have been alive with anyone under the sun."  I say this to David, and I say it to the Deuce also.

It is a tragedy of epic proportions in my little life that my first daughter is gone and I'm left to mourn her forever.  But I don't want to lose sight of the fact that it is a breathtaking marvel that the rest of us are alive here together, when life might have gone so many other ways.

I read Jack London's credo today on another blog, and I'm copying it here so that I can remember it and so that I can honor Eliza and everybody else I love by trying to live by it:

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

The time I had with Eliza was a gift.  This time--this new post-34-weeks-and-3-days time that I have with the Deuce, it's a gift that I will never take for granted.  I shall use my time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw

Oh, you guys.

Yesterday was a rough day.  I was tense and on edge from the moment I woke up.  Writing it out and reading your comments helped enormously, but there's no sigh of relief at this point.  We're still playing the waiting game (and I, for one, am tired of it).

The title of this post is a line from Tennyson's In Memoriam, which is a beautiful poem about suffering and trying to reconcile the loss of a loved one with one's faith in God (plot spoiler:  It's not easy.  For Tennyson or anyone.).  But it came to mind yesterday when we lost the newest member of our family (and NO I DO NOT MEAN THE DEUCE--the baby and I are both fine and I DO have a good sense of perspective about that, thank you very much).

We lost our little Dixie.

I know, I know.  The Urban Farm thing seemed so sweet and idyllic.  A place where flowers bloom and birds sing and the sun is always shining and the garden is always ready to harvest and dogs lie down with chickens.

Except our dogs do not lie down with chickens.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

I got home from work in time to have a quick lunch before heading to the hospital for monitoring.  I let Cooper out in the backyard to enjoy the beautiful day while I ate.  No more than thirty minutes later, I called him to come in because I needed to leave.  He did not come when I called him.

He has been fascinated by the chickens, but we've mostly ignored him, hoping he would lose interest once he realized they were here to stay.  We let him see them through the pen (supervised) Sunday afternoon.

Then we ended up moving them out to their coop permanently when David caught Loretta up on the side of the tub in the garage, ready to hop over the edge.  They are still so small that they just stay in the coop and have not ventured out into their pen on their own, although during the day we leave the ramp open so they could go outside if they wanted to.  Cooper couldn't see them at all, just hear them (and smell them), so he was pretty intrigued by the whole thing, but we didn't think much of it.  He spent a lot of Sunday evening hanging out near the coop, but he couldn't actually get to them, and he wasn't barking at them or anything.  We planned to introduce them when the chickens were bigger, making sure that Cooper understood he wasn't to lunge at them, and figuring that once they had wings and claws they would be intimidating enough that he would leave them alone (as he does the chickens at our parents' houses).

But when I went outside yesterday to see why he was not responding, I found a fox in the hen house.

And by fox, I mean puggle.

And by henhouse, I mean that he had clawed his way into the pen by separating the chicken wire from the entry way where David had nailed it in place.

Cooper was in the wire pen.  The chicks had been left in the coop.  But the door between the two was open.
I screamed--the kind of blood-curdling scream that probably should have made my neighbors come running.

I leaped across the deck to the chicken coop and threw open the roof, convinced I was about to see a horror-movie style scene of blood and gore.

Instead, I saw two chickens, hanging out together in the corner, as far away from the door leading out to the pen as they could get.  Wynona and Loretta were there.  But Dixie was no where to be found.  The pine chips near the door were moved out of the way, as though there had been a scuffle at the top of the ramp.

Cooper was out in the pen, next to the ramp, staring at the chickens, and then at me as I started crying.  He tried to come over to me when I called him again (my voice edged with hysteria) but he seemed to be afraid of the ramp, and I couldn't reach him.  I also couldn't lift the big lid to the pen and reach in and lift him out because (1) he's freaking heavy and (2) my belly is freaking huge.

I was looking everywhere for Dixie, but there was absolutely no sign of her.  I knelt down in front of the little door to the yard, opened it, knocked the ramp out of the way, and dragged Cooper out of the pen by his collar.  By this point, I was sobbing.

Dixie was gone.

And my sweet, precious, unbelievably cute, most lovable dog in the entire world had MURDERED her.

I haz chikn?
I couldn't bear to look at Cooper.  I KNOW that he's part beagle and his instincts are to hunt, but I felt like he was a secret sociopath, lurking in our midst, waiting to slaughter the innocent.

It didn't help that Dixie was the smallest and sweetest and my favorite of our chickens.

It also didn't help that I was now late for my non-stress test.

I got Cooper in the house, Loretta and Wynona safe in their coop.  I hurried around the yard, hoping against hope that somehow Dixie had escaped the pen through the hole Cooper had created and was hiding somewhere.

I knew it wasn't true, but I wanted to find her so much.  I was still crying, and knew I had to pull myself together and get to my appointment, but it felt like I was the one who had let Dixie die.  I had let Cooper out in the yard unsupervised.  I had failed to protect a defenseless little baby bird.  I had allowed her to be attacked and eaten by a big, bad wolf (evidently in one gigantic gulp).  It was so horrifying.  I'd already become attached to those chickens, especially to Dixie, and I still didn't want to accept the fact that my sweet, cuddly, snuggle-buddy Cooper was a vicious and bloodthirsty predator.  I mean, he is a freaking PUGGLE!  It's a novelty mixed-breed!  He should be DOMESTICATED!  He should not be a merciless KILLER of innocents!

I called David and managed to say, "The baby is okay, I'm okay" before I burst into tears and started wailing.

David thought I had been in a car accident and totaled the car.  He kept asking me to repeat myself.  Finally, the third time, I managed to take a deep breath and say, "COOPER.  ATE.  DIXIE!"

Honestly, I think David was as sad as I was.

So you can imagine the sort of mood I was in by the time I got to the hospital for my appointment.

The NST started and the Deuce was apparently napping, perhaps worn out from all of the excitement of my horror-filled afternoon?  I watched the machine print out a graph that showed no accelerations and I started to feel panicky.

This was it.  This was what happened to my babies at 34 weeks and 1 day.  This is where everything starts to go wrong.  I was preparing myself for the worst.  I needed to get David there.  I was starting to convince myself that they were going to admit me, there was going to be an emergency c-section, the Deuce would be in the NICU, there would be danger of brain damage and cerebral palsy and other risks associated with prematurity... and... and... (because when you start worrying, why not go WHOLE HOG, you know?).

The nurse came in and said, "Your baby is sleepy!" and I burst into tears.  I said I was worried.  I told her I'd eaten lunch and a cookie and I was drinking ice water and I was afraid something was wrong.  I told her that 34 weeks was when we'd lost our first baby.

The nurse went to get me an apple juice and I texted David and told him that no one but me was concerned, but I needed him to get up to the hospital as soon as possible.

Then I chugged my apple juice, David texted me that he was on his way, and about fifteen minutes later, the Deuce had passed the NST with multiple accelerations and I was on my way to have my fluid level checked via ultrasound (it was normal).

I called David on my way from the testing center to my OB's office to ask him where he was.  Traffic was crawling, so I told him not to bother coming to the hospital--he probably wouldn't make it there before I was heading home.

He got home shortly before I did.

I was still weepy and only somewhat convinced by my OB's reassuring hug that everything was going to be okay.

Dixie was still gone.

We were both so sad.

Cooper did not go anywhere near the chicken coop.  David said he'd gotten "in big trouble."  I asked if he spanked Cooper (we don't spank the dogs as a general rule).  David just repeated, "He got in big trouble."  I was glad I wasn't there, but honestly I'm even more glad that he is afraid to go over by the chicken coop.

I think we're going to get one more baby chick while Loretta and Wynona are still small, and try to keep our number at three this time.  I also think that I am not really cut out for the realities of life and death on a farm.

Cooper wanted to snuggle as usual on my lap last night.  I was horrified and angry with him, but I also knew that he did not understand why.

Why no luv?
So I, reluctantly, allowed him to sit with me.  He sighed contentedly and rested his head on my belly.

 My ever-loyal and loving companion.  And killer of chickens. 
Life is fragile and fleeting.  The laws of nature are mysterious.  And I am so freaking ready for this week to be over already.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Week 34

This is it.

We are 34 weeks in.

We lost Eliza at 34 weeks 3 days.

It's not like I've ever lost track of where I am in this pregnancy.  But for the past few days, the timeline is all I can think about.

My coping method has been to keep busy-busy-busy, and then anytime I have a spare moment (or I've worn myself completely out) and I sit down, I whip out the cell phone and do a kick count for reassurance.

Over the weekend, we cleaned out the shed, reorganized our closet, mostly emptied the guest room closet, reorganized wrapping paper storage, ruthlessly gathered a zillion things to donate to charity (including seven pairs of my shoes AND some books, both of which I find very difficult to part with), watched four episodes of Game of Thrones, planted flowers, moved the chickens from their tub in the garage to their coop, walked the dogs at the park, and made a run to Target specifically to purchase gelato.  I finished reading a novel (Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca--I can't believe I waited this long to read it.  I totally loved it) and immediately started another one (I'm rereading A Room With a View).

I also did about a dozen kick counts, and burst into tears at least five times.

There are so many things that are reassuring about The Deuce and this pregnancy.  Lots of activity, including some kicks and movements that are so intense, especially up by my ribs, that they cross that weird line where tickling becomes painful but still makes you laugh.  I have a non-stress test scheduled for this afternoon and another on Thursday.  Every NST has been reactive since we hit 32 weeks.  My amniotic fluid level has been well within the normal range every time.  The Deuce has never failed to give me ten kicks in an hour, and most of the time it takes less than 10 minutes to get ten kicks.  So even though I am hyperaware of everything that could go wrong, my vigilance always meets with reassurance.

And so I wonder why I wasn't more vigilant last time.  I wonder why I can't remember the way Eliza moved.  I wonder what signs were there that I should have seen.

Why wasn't I doing kick counts with Eliza that last weekend?

Why wasn't her movement the last thing I thought about before I fell asleep and the first thing I thought about when I woke up?

How could she have slipped away without me paying attention?

It makes me feel like such a failure.  Worse than that, like I failed her.  I let her down.  I was distracted, oblivious, naive.  I thought I was smart and well-read and highly informed.  But in the worst kind of irony, as I was trying to read and absorb everything I needed to know about pregnancy and birth and having a new baby, I missed some crucial sign that something was wrong with my baby.

My OB tells me that this is a new chapter.  But I can't stop flipping back in time and wondering what I missed, what I should have known.  It's the worst part of not knowing what happened to her, of not having answers.  Because maybe there was nothing I could have done.

But maybe there was something.  And I just didn't do it.

So in between my various household projects, I'm paying attention to every kick, every hiccup, every movement.  I know my doctors are watching these tests carefully.  I know that I can call my OB or our doula anytime I'm worried.  But that doesn't change the fact that I have to make the call, I have to be the one who realizes that the Deuce needs help.  It sounds melodramatic, but it honestly feels like the only thing standing between where we are now and losing the Deuce this week is my vigilance.

It's an exhausting and terrifying responsibility, to try to guard a child that I can't see or hear or touch.  To make judgment calls based on physical sensations that I am constantly second guessing.  To have to trust my intuition when it's that intuition precisely that failed me last time.  We are so close and the stakes are so high.  We've reached the point where everything depends on me knowing whether something feels wrong.

And we all know what a great job I did with that responsibility last time.

When I  had a huge meltdown about this over the weekend, David kept telling me, "We're in this together."  And I know that's true.  I know that he worries about and loves this baby as much as I do.  After all that we've been through, I absolutely know that I can count on having him next to me no matter what.

But it's not quite the same level of responsibility, you know?  Because if something goes wrong, I let him down, too.  Again.

He can sit with his hands on my belly and feel the Deuce kick (in righteous indignation at how horrible King Joffrey is on Game of Thrones), but he's  not in a position to potentially save this baby by realizing that something is wrong, that the movement has slowed, that there are signs of pre-term labor.  I'm the only one who can do that.

And I am really scared that I'm going to miss something.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Urban Farm

Quick photo update:  Since a few people have asked, our DSLR is a Canon t2i, in a bundle with two lenses and a camera bag.  As for why we chose Canon over Nikon, it was seriously a toss-up and David carefully weighed prices, consumer reports, various online ratings, and word of mouth recommendations from family and friends.  I seriously think we could have gone either way, but I'm happy with what we got (or I will be, you know, as soon as I figure out all the fancy features).  I used it to take the pictures for this post, too.

Now, let me introduce you to our newest family members:

Meet Dixie, Loretta, and Wynona
Yes, friends.  THEM ARE CHICKENS!  Well, they are cute baby chicks that will eventually be big, sassy, egg-laying chickens.  

At least, we hope they lay eggs.  That's kind of the idea.  In the meantime, they are adorable balls of fluff that live in a big rubbermaid container in our garage.

We had a lot of fun coming up with names.  I was really pushing for Madonna, Beyonce, and Gaga, but David was not on board.  He says they are country girls.  My mom suggested Dixie, and I chose Loretta.  I also suggested Dolly, but David though that Loretta would be left out if the other two were D names.  So he named the other one Wynona.  Wynona is the biggest and the sassiest of the bunch.

Dixie is the one with the dark spot on her head (back, right).  She is the sweetest of the bunch.

Having a girls-only pow-wow in the corner.

Fluff ball!  I think this is Loretta.  She has a little black spot on her head, not as much as Dixie.  

Chowing down on chicken feed.  Loretta, Dixie, Wynona.
I still can't quite believe that we have backyard chickens.  Even though I grew up in a small town, I'm kind of, well... I'm not a tomboy and I don't really like things that smell bad (Cooper is occasionally the exception to this rule).  I've never thought of myself as the backyard chicken kind of girl.  My mom has two chickens, and they kind of make me nervous with their eyes and their beaks and their grody legs.  I really have no experience with chickens other than the chicks we hatched in my third-grade classroom.

But I love the idea of fresh eggs with low cholesterol and lots of omega-3's!  My parents have had much success with their backyard chickens (one terribly sad incident with a hawk notwithstanding).  And the more we researched it, the more do-able it seemed.  So we decided to go for it.  I'm still a little nervous about the whole thing (and it was really not cool of Dixie to poop IN MY HAND yesterday) but my husband seems to have morphed into Farmer Duckworth these days, with his gardening and chickens.  So overall, I'm pretty excited about this little project.  I fully expect that I will grow to love Dixie, Loretta, and Wynona, just as I grew to love Little Mac.

No, we have not introduced the dogs to the chickens.  The wee baby chicks are still so tiny and skittish and the mere idea makes me nervous.  When they get big enough to move into their coop and pen, and defend themselves from nosy dogs, then we'll make introductions.  Mac and Coop have been around chickens at my parents' house and at David's dad's house, and they actually haven't demonstrated much interest in them.  That may be different now that the chickens have moved in to our yard, but we shall see.

Here's a view of their coop and their pen:

We bought the coop from a local farm supply store, way out in the county.  David built their little pen himself.  They will have full access to the pen all the time, and we'll let them out in the backyard when we can be there to supervise them (and scare away hawks, cats, etc.).  I think I'm going to paint the coop to match our house.  Won't that be the cutest?

back of our house - this picture was taken standing just in front of the garden
This view better shows the position of the coop and their pen.  Tucked away to the side, but easily accessible from the concrete slab that meets up with our deck.  I think it's awkward to have the grill so close to the coop, considering we occasionally grill chicken, but David just stared at me like I was a lunatic when I mentioned this concern, so the grill stays.  FYI...  The big blue things are actually a barrel that David cut in half and uses for planters.  The gray cabinet houses a radio and other yard/deck/bbq supplies.

I've been amazed at how many of our friends have been SO excited about the idea of backyard chickens.  It's like trendy these days.  Of course, one friend called us "hippies," but I think he'll be singing another tune when we're living off the grid, post-zombie apocalypse.  AM.I.RITE?

In just a few months, we should have plenty of eggs and a shitload of fertilizer for our garden!

the garden
So there you have it.  Our little urban farm.

The only thing missing is a clothes line with cloth diapers flapping in the breeze.  Hopefully we'll be installing that in July.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Photo Op: First Edition

Yes, we're totally that couple.  We'd planned to buy a digital SLR camera right before Eliza came along.  She was due in January, so we were hoping to get a good deal with some after Christmas sales and gift cards, which was the only reason we continued to put it off.

And then there was nothing to take pictures of.

I'm not buying things to prepare for the Deuce, but somehow I could handle the idea of buying a new camera.  It's not quite the same as pastel colored baby clothes, you know?  So David did his research, comparing prices and camera reviews and even interviewing the photographer who came to his school to take pictures of the kids to see what kind of camera he would recommend.

And we finally decided on a camera and spent almost the equivalent of a mortgage payment on it.

So in the last couple of weeks, we've been trying to figure out how to use it.  It came with a DVD that is 86 minutes long.  However, it took us almost an hour to get through the first little bit of it because I kept having to pause and rewind so we could figure out what the hell the cheerful guy in the coral button-down shirt was talking about.  Where is that button?  How do I move from one selection to the next?  Should we have read the manual first?  

(Answer to that last question is yes.)

Mostly we know that it will take a lot of trial and error, so I've ordered a book that my cousin recommended, and for now we're just trying to use the camera as much as we can.  We've pretty well mastered the different auto-settings, so really it's just a matter of figuring out the manual settings.

Anyway, as part of our figure-out-how-the-hell-to-use-this-thing project (and to make ourselves take pictures with something besides our cell phones), we decided to each do this 30 Day Gratitude project from Pinterest.

And yes!  I will be posting this every once in a while over the next month!  Because there's nothing more exciting than looking at some newbie's amateur photography attempts!  (Except perhaps hearing about their Couch to 5K progress, which I assure you, should I ever decide to undertake, will NEVER get mentioned on the blog, no offense to anyone who is progressing from the couch to a 5K--it's a worthy goal, it's just not one I'm interested in reading or writing about).

This post is the First Edition of Photo Op.  Please note that none of these pictures will be edited or Photoshopped because OMG people that's a whole 'nother class/book/effort that I have not yet undertaken.  So you're getting them straight from the memory card.  Do not expect them to demonstrate photo skillz, either.  The fact that we're just using a camera again is really a big step for us.

One thing I've discovered in this project is that there's some pleasure in documenting these little things, and I try to choose things I really do feel grateful for each day.

1. Favorite(ish) Food

Sugar Snap Peas:  BEFORE (they are the vines growing along the back and right side of the garden)

Sugar Snap Peas: AFTER
OK, this one is kind of a lie because although I do really enjoy sugar snap peas, I definitely would not say they are my favorite food (not when compared to popcorn, salted caramel gelato, caprese salad, etc.).  But they are a food.  And we are eating a shit ton of them, because we are growing a shit ton of them.  In fact, judging by the number of sugar snap peas in our garden, you would think that we were feeding the Duggars instead of the two of us.  But I'm glad we have a garden growing so many fresh veggies, and I'm even more grateful to have a husband who prepares dinner each night.

2. Smile(s).

D's smile (and the neighbor's hydrangea bush)

Cooper's smile (anticipating a chew)

3. Happiness.

Is there anything happier than a dog rolling in something nasty?  I don't think so.  This is Cooper in gleeful ecstasy.

4. Leaves.
Specifically, mint leaves.  Mimosas, Mojitos, anyone?
Not sure if honeysuckle counts as leaves, but David took this photo and I was impressed.

5. Morning sky.  Favorite Athlete.

David in action on the mound.

6. Books.

I looked at the Gratitude Photo Project  on day 6 (it hangs on our fridge because we are nerds like that) and groaned to David, "We'll never be able to do today's photo!  We just don't have the material for it!"  Because I am the world's most hilarious wife.  Then I took this picture.

7. Something funny.

That is Cooper's butt.  He is head-first in the middle of our compost bin.  Which obviously needs some repair.  Naughty dog.  I knew he was into trouble when I called him to get a treat and he didn't come running.  He didn't even hear me sneak up on him.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Last night I got a text.  It was from someone in David's family.  It read:

Happy almost mommy's day!  Hope David is spoiling u.  How are you feeling?

I read those words and I felt like someone punched me in the gut.

Almost mommy's day?

Are you fucking kidding me?

I wanted to cry.  I wanted to throw something.  I wanted to puke.  I wanted to scream the f-word a million more times.  I wanted to grab this person and shake her and make her understand that that no matter how nice her intentions might be, she seems to be utterly lacking in empathy.  I wanted to tell that nothing could be more inconsiderate than implying that I am not yet a mother.  I wanted to scream at her that I will not deny my daughter's existence, that it does not make me feel better to pretend she did not exist, that I am a mother just as much as she is, and that Eliza still matters--that her life still makes all the difference in the world to mine.

I took a deep breath.  I had to do something.  I didn't want to react in anger, only because I knew that would be counterproductive.  But there was no way I could let this go.

I wrote back:

This is my third mother's day since we found out I was pregnant with Eliza in 2010.  Hard to believe. Emotional day.  We're really missing our girl.

I got no reply.

I didn't expect to.

But it needed to be said.  How dare she imply that I am not already a mom?  How she could POSSIBLY suggest that after what I've been through, I'm "almost" a mommy?  I've now endured my second mother's day without my baby girl.  I have lived through what I would have sworn was unsurvivable.  I will not pretend that my daughter never existed, and I don't give a shit if that makes some people uncomfortable.  Almost mommy's day my ass.

Every day it hurts that I was robbed of the opportunity to continue to parent my daughter.  Every day I am struck by how unfair it is that we never lived through the everyday joys and struggles of bringing home a newborn and watching her grow.  I think about this member of David's family, and I try to make excuses for her (they have a long family history of dysfunction and denial, and, after all, she's the only one in his family who even acknowledged me on mother's day, so I guess you could say she made an effort?).  But mostly, I feel really hurt and really pissed off.

ALMOST?  I wondered what her definition of motherhood is, and what it would take for me not to fall short of it.

I am as certain of being Eliza's mom as I have ever been certain of anything in my life.  But I realize that I was never given the opportunity to do so many of the things I had dreamed of doing, that I had always associated with motherhood.  So when did it happen, exactly?  At what point did I actually become a mom?

Was it the Sunday morning in May of 2010, when I saw those two pink lines on the pregnancy test and felt the giddy rush of realizing that it had really happened--I was really pregnant?  Was that the moment I became a mom?

Was it a month later, when we first heard the baby's heartbeat at the doctor's office--wow-wow-wow-wow-wow?

Was it seeing our baby duck on the ultrasound for the first time?  Hearing the sonographer exclaim, "There's your little peanut!" and feeling the biggest smile of my life spread across my face as I squeezed David's hand?

Was it when I started researching and reading everything related to pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and parenting a new baby?

Was it when we mailed out our pregnancy announcements, so thrilled to share our news with family and friends?

Was it the first time I felt the flutter of her in my belly as I sat watching David's ballgame on a sultry August evening, when it was all I could do not to stand up and shout out to the pitcher's mound that I felt the baby kicking?

Was it the day we had her twenty-week ultrasound?  When she was declared perfectly healthy and right on track for growth?

Was it later that evening when we sat outside, blissfully unconcerned about the gathering storm clouds, and opened an envelope full of sonogram pictures that confirmed my intuition--our baby duck was a girl?

Was it when we celebrated her and surprised our friends with the gender reveal at our "Donald or Daisy" party?

Was it the moment we picked out her nursery furniture?  Her car seat?  Her stroller?  Her clothes?

Was it every time David took a picture of my growing belly?

Was it when we started attending childbirth classes?

Was it each time I prayed that she would be healthy and happy?

Was it at my first baby shower, laughing with my best friends from high school, college, and graduate school, hoping that Eliza would grow up to have friends like these?

Was it at my second baby shower, surrounded by all the women in my family, knowing that Eliza would be so loved?

Was it the night I started having contractions and we headed for the hospital without even packing a bag, never believing for a second that something might go wrong?

Was it the moment that the doctor said she was sorry but our baby had died?

Was it right after that, when the room got dark and then bright and then I vomited off the side of the bed?

Was it when I saw the pain and fear in David's eyes?

Was it when I gave the final push and knew in that instant that the physical discomfort was over but the real hell was just beginning?

Was it when the nurse picked her up and said that we had a beautiful baby girl, and the hospital room echoed with silence?

Was it the moment that I held her in my arms and marveled at her perfect hands and perfect feet and then saw that her little nose was bleeding?

Was it when the blanket shifted and I thought I saw her hand move and I caught my breath and abandoned all reason and rationality to hope that this had all been a terrible mistake even though I could feel that her skin was so terribly cold?

Was it when David took her from me and held her and rocked her and tears ran down my face and I thought my heart would just burst from loving the both of them so much?

Was it when I sobbed in his arms as we listened to the faint cries of other people's babies in other labor and delivery rooms?

Was it when she was dedicated to God by a minister and we filled out the little form with her name and ours?

Was it when I cradled her tiny, perfect body in my arms and told her over and over again that I was so sorry and we loved her so much?

Was it the moment I wished with all my might that it had been my heart instead of hers that stopped beating?

The truth is, I don't know exactly when it was that I become a mother.  Eliza's short life was filled with so much joy, followed with the greatest pain I have ever experienced.  Having a baby was nothing like I imagined it would be.  Becoming her mom was exactly what I had hoped for eight months of pregnancy, and then it was absolutely a nightmare that I couldn't escape.

But none of that changes the fact that she was my baby and I loved her for every moment of her life.  She is my baby and I love her still and I miss her more than I can say.

I think back to my pregnancy, and her birth, and the dark hours that followed it, and I can't pinpoint the moment that I knew with unmistakable certainty that this was it, that I was a mom.  

But I can tell you this:  there is no almost about it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Meaning of Mother's Day

Last year, Mother's Day was too painful for words.  It was a day I wanted to skip, to ignore, to avoid.  I truly appreciated every card and text and e-mail that I received, but there was no comfort for this mother who was without her baby.  I deleted advertising e-mails, fastforwarded commercials, avoided shopping, trashed junk mail without opening.  The last thing I needed was one more cruel reminder that it was Mother's Day when my baby was dead.

There were kind friends and a loving husband, and golf, and beer, and denial of the calendar date, but there was mostly a desperate ache for a baby girl I wanted to hold in my arms.

This year, the hurt is not quite so raw, but I still plan to handle the day by ignoring it.  We're going to a baseball game, where there will undoubtedly be adorable, toddling girls in little Cardinal outfits who will shred my heart with their drooly smiles.  But I think I'll be able to handle it in a way I couldn't before.  It helps that I can squeeze David's hand and he always knows exactly what I mean (kind of like when we were at Target the other day and this extremely large woman was pushing her cart toward us, except she was bent over it so that her extremely large bosom was occupying the entire seat-part at the front of the cart so she had essentially turned it into a boob-rest, and her boobs totally filled it and I looked at David to see if he'd noticed and David squeezed my hand and I could tell he was trying not to make a weird face so we avoided eye contact until we past her and then we both giggled in the deodorant aisle).  So anyway.  I feel like I can handle Mother's Day this year, even though I'm not gonna like it.

Sometimes I let myself feel a little bitter and angry about the whole thing...  Why do we need a stupid day for smug people who had living babies and now demand breakfast in bed and jewelry and gift certificates on top of it.  Really?  Because your LIVE baby isn't enough?  You want PRESENTS also, you selfish wench?

(I mean, sure, I would have wanted presents and breakfast in bed if Eliza were here.  But she's not.  And SO THIS ENTIRE STUPID DAY IS EVIL.)

At some point--a while back--I happened to come across an article about the history of Mother's Day.  Did you know that it emerged as a national holiday in the aftermath of the Civil War?  Mother's Day originally wasn't about presents and breakfast in bed.  It was about grief, and war, and politics, and feminism.  It was an outcry against the pain and horror of the Civil War, from mothers who desperately wanted to ensure that another generation of sons wouldn't be slaughtered on the battlefield.  It wasn't really about celebrating mothers, it was about recognizing the heartbreak and sorrow that comes from having your family torn apart.

Here is Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation from 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

I love that this call goes out not just to women who are actively parenting children, but to "all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be of water or tears!"  I guess the nineteenth century knew all too well that motherhood can be a baptism of tears, that not everyone who has a baby gets to bring that baby home.

She calls for an end to senseless violence, an end to war, and an opportunity to meet as women "to bewail and commemorate the dead."  She's talking about Civil War soldiers, of course, but the purpose of the day is to honor mothers who are grieving the loss of a child.

We do this because we are all part of the great human family, and in "in the name of womanhood and humanity" we deserve a day dedicated to taking account of what has been lost and ensuring that we take good care of what has been left.

It's a call for women to be proactive, well-informed, agents of their own destinies:  "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies."  In a world where so much is out of our control, women are called to come forward, to tell their stories, to leave their mark, to mourn their children.

That's more than a Hallmark holiday.  It's a Mother's Day with great meaning for all of us, whether our children are living or dead.

We won't do anything special for Mother's Day this year.  I don't have the heart for it.  It's too hard.  I still want things to go back to the way they were supposed to be.  I still want Eliza here, and I don't WANT to celebrate Mother's Day without her.  But I know I needed the reminder that I'm not the only mother who ever mourned the loss of her child.  I'm certainly not the only person who cringes at this date on the calendar.

When Julia Ward Howe asked the government to put Mother's Day on the calendar, she saw it as something very different from what it has become, and frankly, I like her version of it.  I can relate to it.

Happy Mother's Day to every mother out there, and all women who have hearts, broken or not.  Whether you celebrate the living, or bewail and commemorate the dead, (or both), may we all work toward the great and general interests of peace.  And may this year be the start of better things to come for all of us.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ducks and Dogs and the Deuce

When I was pregnant with Eliza, I posted here about shopping on Etsy for art for her nursery.  I was so excited to decorate it, and I wanted to special-order something just for her.

This painted canvas was perfect for my Baby Duck.

We planned to hang this above one end of her crib.
When the worst happened, and we never got to bring our Baby Duck home, we packed away all of her little things, but that canvas remained out on a shelf in the guest bedroom.  A quiet little reminder of the baby we miss so much, and maybe of our hope that one day that room would become a nursery again.

When I got home from our first successful nonstress test on Monday, I found an unexpected package in our mailbox.  It was postmarked from Australia, and the name on the return address looked familiar, but I couldn't quite place it.

Inside, there was a letter from the Etsy artist who painted Eliza's baby duck canvas, almost a year and a half ago.

She said in her letter that that after I posted about this painting, way back in October of 2010, my blog generated some traffic for her Etsy shop, so she checked the blog periodically.  She was so sad to learn in December that our baby never got to see the painting we had specially ordered just for her.  (In fact, the painting arrived just a few days before we lost Eliza.)

Recently, she checked the blog again and learned that I was pregnant with the Deuce.  She said that she knew she wanted to create something special, just for this baby.  Her Etsy shop has expanded, and she's no longer commissioning paintings; however, she now does custom nursery prints.

As a special gift for the Deuce, she took two of the doggie prints that she sells in her shop, and personalized them to look like Cooper and Little Mac.  And then she packaged them up and mailed them all the way to St. Louis.  Just for the Deuce!

By the time I got to the end of her letter, I was bawling my eyes out.  I was just so incredibly touched that a stranger in another country would want to reach out to us with such kindness.  David came in to check on me and all I could do was hand him her letter--I hadn't even had a chance to look at the adorable prints yet!

Cooper counts to 12!

Little Mac sings the alphabet!

Are those the cutest things you ever seen or what?  I love them!

We are still waiting to set up the Deuce's nursery, but I can assure you that I can't wait to frame these and display them.  I want to put them up near the corner with the rocking chair, so I can sit there and tell the Deuce that there's a nice lady on the other side of the world who painted the baby duck picture for Eliza and then made these pictures--just for Deuce.  Just another sweet way that our two babies are linked by love.

Special thanks to Kylie, for her talent and generosity.  If you're interested, you can view all of the adorable nursery prints that are available in Kylie's Etsy shop if you click here.  And if you don't have pets of your own, you can probably request Cooper and Little Mac to be featured in your prints as well.  Because, I mean, look at them--we are talking professional model material here.  AM I RIGHT?

Monday, May 7, 2012

I Don't Want to Brag, But...

The Deuce passed his/her non stress test for the first time today!  With flying colors!  The nurse came in after 10 minutes and said we'd made it but we needed to be on there for 20 minutes as protocol.  The doctor looked at the little graph that prints out showing the baby's heartrate and declared it "beautiful."

David and I are very proud parents.

And most importantly, the Deuce is still kicking around in there.  32 weeks down.  Hang in there, Deucers.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Spring Sorting

It's the first weekend before summer break officially begins (and I don't have any papers to grade) so I've been keeping myself busy.

Friday night I went thrift store shopping with a friend and then indulged in a Downton Abbey season two marathon at long last.  I loved the way it ended, but I'm still wondering about Patrick Crawley...  Thoughts on this?

Today I bustled around the house doing the usual laundry and picking up routine.  Our peonies are blooming, so I cut off the ones that were drooping to the ground or hidden in the fence and filled a vase with them.  I love them so much and they smell so good that it's totally worth the little black ants that inevitably come inside with them.

I haven't tackled the bathroom yet, or my closet (bathroom's on the agenda for tomorrow), but I did do a little spring cleaning/sorting on the computer.  It's not quite as satisfying, but I went through my pictures and organized them all by date and subject label.  I'd been putting this off because I knew there would be some heartache since my "2011 photos" folder is not filled with countless files labeled "Eliza's first ___" and "Eliza meets ____" but instead things like "Florida," "Dogs," and "More Dogs."

Thank goodness for those dogs, though.  For a while there, they were the only things that could make me smile.

Cooper likes to put the corner of his bed in his mouth.  It's like a pacifier.

Little Mac "hides" in David's shirts.

Astonished that we found her in her hiding spot.

Skeptically waiting for the treat I promised.

Cooper surfs the web unsupervised.
Anyway, I put all the pictures on an external hard drive, which we store in a fireproof box with our important paperwork, passports, and a couple of precious keepsakes of Eliza's (plaster molds of her hands and feet, her little hat).  It felt good to get that taken care of.

I also cleaned up the desktop, deleting a bunch of files I no longer need.  I should continue to sort through My Documents and get rid of things, but instead I sat out on the deck in a rocking chair and read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society for the third time.  I absolutely love that book, and it makes my heart itch every time.  If you haven't read it, it's a (fictional) collection of letters--an epistolary novel--describing the lives and experiences of people who lived on Guernsey Island while it was occupied by Germans during World War II.  There's a lot of terrible things in there (I don't suppose you can write about any war without the terribleness coming into it) but a lot of hopeful and funny things, too.

This passage especially struck a chord with me today--it's from a letter written by a woman whose son died in the war:

...visitors offering their condolences, thinking to comfort me, said "Life goes on."  What nonsense, I thought, of course it doesn't.  It's death that goes on; [he] is dead now and will be dead tomorrow and next year and forever.  There's no end to that.  But perhaps there will be an end to the sorrow of it.  Sorrow has rushed over the world like the waters of the Deluge, and it will take time to recede.  But already, there are small islands of--hope?  Happiness?  Something like them, at any rate.

I made some brownies with a secret special ingredient:  black beans.  Really the whole recipe is just brownie mix, pureed can of black beans (undrained) and 1/4 cup water.

Confession:  I don't care for them.  I don't know if it's because I know they have black beans in them and I can't get past it (even though I love black beans), or if it's because they have a fudgy texture while I prefer cake-like brownies, or if they were slightly underdone because David took them out of the oven too early (I was wrapped up in my photo organization but should have gotten off the couch to check them myself).  Anyway, they are worth a try but I don't think I'll be repeating this Secret Ingredient Brownie recipe.

We went out to look at the moon tonight.  It was big and beautiful, but it wasn't long before I was chased back inside by vicious mosquitoes who managed to bite me more than half a dozen times. I said a prayer and made a wish and came inside to do a kick count.