Friday, November 30, 2012

November's End

I made it!  A post a day everyday for 30 days.  I thought I might not make it today, as we were crazy busy, but here we are at almost 10 o'clock (almost past my bedtime!) and I'm typing my final November post.  Seems appropriate to reflect on this month.

Zuzu is the cutest she's ever been these days.  She's chatty and so curious about the world.  She loves to be part of adult conversations, and she is so intrigued by toys and spoons and dogs and the world at large.  I love watching her take notice of new things--it's almost like you can see her brain working.

Going back to work has been good, although I tend to get a lot of road rage on my way home from work when I feel like other people are keeping me from getting back to my baby!  I know that the reason this transition has been as easy as it's been is because I feel so good about the daycare we have.  In just a few short weeks I feel like Zuzu's teachers have gotten attached to her (and her to them) and even though I miss her, I don't worry about her, which is wonderful.  And Zuzu has started taking a bottle at daycare (as in really latching on and sucking, as opposed to just crying while they let a fast-flow nipple dribble into her mouth--a big improvement!).  She's so close to sitting up, and she wants to crawl.  If only she could figure out how to lift her butt and her head at the same time...  Once she masters that trick, we're all in trouble.  Especially Little Mac.

This month also leaves us almost 24 months without Eliza.  We are less than a week away from the day that she should be turning two years old.

I'm so grateful for every smile and every snuggle and every breath that Zuzu takes.  I know that her first Christmas is truly something to celebrate.  But sometimes I feel like a total ingrate because you know how much fun Christmas would be with a two-year-old?  Every time I think about it (especially since so many of my friends have kids that age) I feel sad and left behind.  No matter how much I love the life I have now, I will always, always, always miss the life we would have had with Eliza here.

This week was busy, and my post-Thanksgiving slump seems to have lifted a little bit.  We even plan to put up our Christmas tree this weekend.

The last time I put up a Christmas tree, I was pregnant with Eliza.

Somehow that feels like forever ago, and like no time at all has passed.

A friend wrote us a sweet note about the journey that we've taken, the journey that has brought us to Zuzu and to the life we have now--which is a good, happy life.  And she said that she knows Eliza is such an important part of that journey.

It was such a sweet sentiment, and such a true one.  Two years is an unfathomable amount of time to live without your daughter.  But I could never leave her behind because she's an inextricable part of me, influencing everything I do and shaping everything I feel.

The moment I lost her, I knew that her absence was the greatest pain I'd ever felt.

What never ceases to surprise me is that I'm still discovering all the ways that her presence continues to be a gift.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Let Me Tell You About Me. More Than Usual.

In Southern Living magazine, they interview some celebrity and ask the following questions.  Let's pretend I'm a celebrity and you're reading Southern Living.

I will now tell you things about myself you never [knew you] wanted to know.

I NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT... my iPhone, my water cup, and Burt's Bees chapstick.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I sometimes leave home without one, two, or all of these things.  But then I stress sweat.  And those of us who watch television know that stress sweat smells worse than regular sweat.  (Is that a fact?  Can a biologist confirm that for me in the comments, please?)

THE MOST STYLE YOU CAN GET FOR UNDER $25... a scarf.  Ever since David and I went to Paris (three and a half years ago but who's counting?) and I saw all the stylish French women wearing their scarves, I've loved accessorizing with them.  They make me feel cuter no matter what I'm wearing.  I wear a black sort of pashmina-ish scarf the most, which is boring and yet I swear it makes my outfit more interesting.  I'm into circle scarves right now and I think Nordstrom's juniors department has the best prices on really cute ones (as in under $25).  Target's are pretty cute, too.  I often have to tell myself to FOCUS so that I make it out of the accessories section and on to whatever it is that I'm actually there to buy.

MY VANITY IS ALWAYS STOCKED WITH... Tarte make up and Whole Foods brand body lotion.  Both are paraben free and don't have all the crazy chemicals found in a lot of cosmetics.  Also Burt's Bees chapstick.  I'm an addict, it's true.

BEST SHOPPING ADVICE...  don't be scared to shop off-season.  (Possibly my most favorite purchase ever is my tall brown boots, which I got on sale in June.  I debated so long over whether to get them because it was summer and I wouldn't wear them for months.  But I did get them, and it was definitely the right decision.)  Also...  Pack a granola bar for an energy boost.  Wear comfortable shoes.  When in doubt ask yourself if you'd buy that item of clothing if it were the same price but for sale at Wal-Mart (maybe its just me, but sometimes I find that I get suckered in to the name brands when an item isn't actually that cute so the Wal-Mart test always helps). Finally, take my mom with you.  She's a great bargain shopping partner.

I ALWAYS SPLURGE ON... handbags.  Because you carry the same one every single day (at least I do).  And having a great handbag can make any outfit.  Or at least distract from it.  I got my first "cool" handbag when I was in college.  It was a Kate Spade.  One of those black boxy ones--you know what I'm talking about?  And I always felt coolest when I carried it while wearing yoga pants and a hooded sweatshirt and running shoes because that was my college uniform and YET I had this fabulous bag that I'd begged my parents for and gotten as a Christmas gift.  That purse still ranks up there as Best Christmas Gift Ever, along with an electric car I could drive and a swing for my Cabbage Patch Kids back in 1985.  Plus you need one that is convenient for your lifestyle--whether it's big enough to hold a novel or small enough to fit in your diaper bag.

I ALWAYS SAVE ON...  shirts.  I'm happy to spend more on good pants or jeans that fit perfectly, but especially now when I've been all different sizes in the past two years (and my boobs are still, um, vacillating), I buy only inexpensive tops.  My back-to-work wardrobe was entirely sale or consignment buys.  (And I often cover the shirt up with a scarf anyway).  I always save on David's shirts, too.  He is picky about his pants, but I shop for his work shirts in the clearance section at Macy's and Kohl's and I rarely spend more than $10 on a dress shirt or necktie.  Seriously!

EVERY WOMAN NEEDS...  jeans that flatter her butt, comfortable ballet flats, and a best friend who works at Neiman Marcus (one of my BFFs is a manager there and I love getting her hand-me-downs).

MY SECRET STYLE SOURCE... undergraduates.  Mostly my students are total slobs, but sometimes they wear really cute stuff or accessorize in a unique way that I find inspiring.

MY MUST-HAVE FOR WINTER... my brown boots and fingerless gloves.  So I can pretend I'm a writer living in a garret in London, obviously.

You know you want to do this, too.  Let me know in the comments if you post your own Southern Living celebrity interview.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Karaoke Queen

I don't have a drop of musical talent.

No, no.  I'm not just being modest.

I really wish I could sing.  I was a total theater geek in high school.  I loved performing.  (I think that's why I chose the career path I did--most of the time I feel like I'm an actress playing a professor).  I always wanted to do musical theater, but I just don't have an ear for music. I can't carry a tune.  I have no sense of tone or pitch--except enough to know that I can't hit a note.

My brain is just not musically wired.

It's really unfortunate, because not only did this lack of talent prevent me from being a musical sensation of Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift proportions, it also means that I pretty much suck at karaoke.  And I love karaoke!

Despite knowing the limitations of my talent, I still long for the spotlight of karaoke night.  In order to overcome the voice of reason in my head stage fright about singing in public, I require the liquid courage of more vodka tonics than anyone should consume in one evening.  Once I've met that requirement... all bets are off.  I will sing my heart out to a bar full of drunk people.  David is just as tone-deaf as I am, so we can bring down the house with our rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Since I no longer find the hangover to be worth the indulgence, and our evenings spent in karaoke bars these are few and far between (read: nonexistent), we have not done our "Total Eclipse of the Heart" duet since about 2007 (not counting all the times we've sung it to ourselves/each other in the car).  (I'm not sure I've had a vodka tonic since then either, come to think of it...)  It's true that our voices are not exactly melodious instruments, but I like to think that I can wow the crowd with an emotional delivery that makes up for the utter lack of talent.

Obviously there are many reasons I have no business going out and singing karaoke.  And yet this lack of creative expression seems to have left a gap in my life!  So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that I have a newly appreciative audience right in my own home.

This morning Zuzu was sitting in her lobster chair and getting a little fussy as I folded laundry.  So I started singing for her. (A fabulous take on Bob Dylan's "Forever Young," if you're wondering--I used my cup with a drinking straw as my microphone.)   And this is the response I got:

Encore, Mommy! Encore!  
(Also, doesn't this hat make my cheeks look especially delicious?)
Look at that face!  FINALLY!  Someone recognizes how awesome my singing performances are!

Perhaps she was totally laughing at how embarrassing and ridiculous I am.  Meh.  Same difference.

The fact is, Zuzu loves my singing.  No matter how horrible.  In fact, the louder and crazier I am, the better.

I'm totally thinking I should ask Santa for a karaoke machine.  Really.  It's not for me, you guys!  It's for the baby!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More Tiny Beautiful Things

I finished Cheryl Strayed's book Tiny Beautiful Things -- taken from her Dear Sugar advice columns-- a few nights ago (I first wrote about it here).  And yesterday I copied down some more passages from it that I wanted to remember.  That I need to remember, especially this time of year.

I suppose it's not at all surprising that one of her responses that especially spoke to me was written to a dad whose son had been killed by a drunk driver.  His son was twenty-two years old.  The accident had occurred a few years before; the dad was still devastated.  His life felt hopeless and meaningless.

The circumstances of his grief are obviously different from mine.  But not so different.

Sugar responds to him with some things she learned from the early loss of her mom.  Again, a different kind of grief.  But not so different.

Anyway, these are some of the things Sugar said to him that I also needed her to say to me (I think this will be obvious, but her words are in italics and my rambling thoughts are in regular font):

I don't know how you go on without your son.  I only know that you do.  And you have.  And you will.

The funny thing is that I don't know how I did it, either.  I don't know how any of us do.  How do we cobble our lives back together when the bottom drops out from under us?  But we do.  And we keep going.  And if we're really lucky, we find ourselves surrounded by people who help us.

No one can touch [your] love or alter it or take it away from you.  Your love for your son belongs only to you.  It will live in you until the day you die.

You are not grieving your son's death because his death was ugly and unfair.  You're grieving him because you loved him truly.  The beauty in that is greater than the bitterness of his death.

I think this is true.  I still taste a lot of bitter, but I know I miss Eliza so much because I love her so much.  I would have done anything to save her.  I tried to do everything I could for her.  And it wasn't enough.  I can could-have should-have would-have all damn day, and it will never be enough.  I will never make right the unfairness of her death.  But I love her regardless of life or death, which is pretty amazing.

Your boy is dead, but he will continue to live within you.  Your love and grief will be unending, but it will also shift in shape.  There are things about your son's life and your own that you can't understand now.  There are things you will understand in one year, and in ten, and in twenty.

The eternal missing is something I struggle with.  In those early days, I felt positively suffocated by the thought that I would miss her for the rest of my life.  For like ever.  How could I keep going on when she would never be there?  There was no end to this.  There was no point at which this would be "better" or "fixed."  There is no getting over it.  Did that mean my heart would always ache like this?  It was too overwhelming to consider.  I didn't fully understand at this point that grief could (and would) shift in shape.  I didn't understand how I could permanently carry such sadness with me and not be overcome by it.  I still don't quite know how it works, because it doesn't go away, and it never gets "better."  But it does get easier to cope.  

You all know I don't abide by silver linings or "all things happen for a reason," but I do think it's important to recognize that I will continue to understand new things about Eliza's life and my own.  None of these lessons is worth her loss, but they are valuable all the same.

When my son was six he said, "We don't know how many years we have for our lives.  People die at all ages."  He said it without anguish or remorse, without fear or desire.  It has been healing to me to accept in a very simple way that my mother's life was forty-five years long, that there was nothing beyond that.  There was only my expectation that there would be--my mother at eighty-nine, my mother at sixty-three, my mother at forty-six.  Those things don't exist.  They never did.

I will never understand why Eliza--or anyone else--died before she was born.  I see no greater purpose there.  But there was something a little shocking and a little freeing about the thought that that was simply how long her life was.  Eight and a half months in my belly.  That was how long she lived.  Other people live longer lives.  Some people live shorter lives.  We don't know how many years we have.  I don't believe the length of our life has a greater purpose--I think it's just random.  Luck, biology, happenstance.  The length of our life is just one fact of it, though.  I think we'd all acknowledge that what we do with our life matters more than how long we lived it.  It helps me to know that in her short time, Eliza brought us only happiness and we felt for her only love.

It's just that I expected there to be so much more.

Letting go of expectation when it comes to one's children is close to impossible.  The entire premise of our love for them has to do with creating, fostering, and nurturing people who will outlive us.  To us, they are not so much who they are as who they will become.

The entire premise of your healing demands that you do let go of expectation.

This, for me, was one of the most important parts of Sugar's reply.  I expected so much for Eliza.  I had planned so much of our lives together.  I don't think this was a mistake.  I think every parent does this (although I did it much more cautiously and much less extensively with the Deuce).  Letting go of my expectations--of my beautifully planned, flawlessly executed, then completely broken life--that's been one of the greatest challenges for me.  I expected so much.  I worked so hard to make it happen.  And then...  nothing worked out for me the way it was supposed to.

I know the only way to move forward is to let go of what was "supposed to be" and focus on being grateful for what is.

But I still struggle with that.  I really do.

I'd give it all back in a snap, but the fact is, my grief taught me things. It showed me shades and hues I couldn't have otherwise seen.  It required me to suffer.  It compelled me to reach.

Your grief has taught you too.  Your son was your greatest gift in his life and he is your greatest gift in his death too.  Receive it.  Let  your dead boy be your most profound revelation.  Create something of him.  Make it beautiful.

I've seen so many bereaved parents creating beautiful things out of their heartbreak--starting foundations and nonprofits, reaching out to others through websites and newsletters and magazines, attending or leading grief support groups, embracing new friendships, offering support to others, strengthening their relationships, finding humor in the darkness, parenting their living children differently.  It sucks that these are the only ways we have to continue parenting the children that we've lost.  But it is possible to see the good that has come from their lives and to try to create something beautiful out of the life we're left with.

This life is an ongoing struggle, full of loss and suffering.

But it's possible to make something beautiful out of it anyway.

And perhaps the best thing that Eliza has taught me is that none of us is in it alone.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Not Ready

The holiday weekend came and went and was really nice, even with the germ-fest of sickness.  We ate a lot and shopped a little and mostly let the baby entertain us and it was lovely.

But I think the menu planning and decorating and shopping was mostly serving as a distraction.  It was serving as a buffer from the next major event on the calendar...

Eliza's birthday.

Just typing those words makes my eyes fill up with tears.

Thanksgiving is over and now there's nothing standing between me and the day I received the worst news I could have ever imagined and met that baby I loved more than I could have ever imagined.  And you guys I'm not ready for it to be here again.

I'm not ready for it to have been two years.

I'm not ready to have lived for two years without that baby girl.

I'm not ready to mourn two years--twenty-four months--without her.  I'm also not ready to mourn what was essentially a year and a half of my life stolen away--lost to grief and sorrow and selfishness and aching sadness.  

I'm not ready to remember those early black days of December 2010.

I'm not ready to have been a bereaved parent for so long that new grief startles me and gives me flashbacks.

I'm not ready to have the tears coming back so easily.

I'm not ready to feel the kind of tired that comes with being so damn sad.

I'm not ready for it to be December--that cold, dark, sparkly month that will never be like it was before Eliza and now will never be like it was before Zuzu and I don't know what to do with that.

I'm not ready to figure out how I'll handle Christmas this year, with all the sad mixed with the happy.

I'm not ready to go to another candlelight vigil and cry outside in the dark with a bunch of other people who are also missing their babies.

I'm not ready to have those evenings where David and I mope around and I cry and then we try to make each other laugh with black humor and we talk about things we should do and we do nothing because every little effort feels too damn hard.

I'm not ready to drag myself up from the depths of despair.  I'm not ready to remind myself how many good things have come from Eliza's life.  I'm not ready to find the energy to keep going when I want to just fall apart.

I don't want to think back to where I was two years ago.  I don't want to think about where we should have been today.  I am not ready for that inevitable exercise in self-torture (even though I do it all the time).

The calendar is going to flip.  The days are inexorably marching forward.  December 6th is coming, whether I'm ready for it or not.

I'm not.

I'm so not ready.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Baby In a Chair

Oh, were you really wanting to see photos of my baby in her new seat?

I'm happy to oblige.

Please ignore the terrible lighting.  I had my camera on the completely wrong setting.  Because I'm brilliant like that.

Here's Zuzu, sitting in her big girl seat at the kitchen counter, talking to us.  As you can see, she has a lot to say these days.


Tell me more!


Lemme think about that.

Whoa.  Just whoa.

Oh yeah.  I'm 21 weeks adorable.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Simple Gift Idea for Kids

Oh my WORD do you all have NaNoBloMo fatigue yet?

Meaning, are you all sick and tired of reading my posts every damn day?

Or maybe you've just quit reading.

Anyway!  30 days in a row!  We're nearly there...

Today I am sharing a brilliant idea that is probably already on Pinterest and therefore not that original, but I swear to you that I thought it up on my own!

So David has an adorable set of cousins who are more like his niece and nephew:

They are fun to buy for, but they also have basically every toy under the sun.

I am that aunt who buys them books for every holiday (yay for reading!) but I usually want to get them something besides a book.  And yet the last thing they need is another Lego set or princess dress up dress.

This year when I was at Target on Black Friday, I saw they had board games on sale for $7.  So... yay!  Board games!  Now I just have to choose which ones!

I chose Twister because Twister is awesome.  

And when I saw Jenga there, I got a brilliant idea, inspired by none other than an alcohol-fueled night in college.

I know, right?  Who says you didn't learn anything valuable in college?

My memory of this is somewhat fuzzy (I have NO IDEA why), but someone I know had a Jenga set that they had turned into a drinking game.  (Note to Jamie:  Was this in Rolla?  I can't remember.)  Anyway, the set up was very simple.  It was a regular Jenga game, but each piece had a drinking game command written on it.  So you'd pull out your piece and before you could stack it on top of the tower, you had to follow the command.  "Take a shot."  "Finish your drink."  "Remove an article of clothing."  You get the idea.

(Needless to say, our Jenga games were relatively short lived as drinking is not especially conducive to smooth and steady hand-eye coordination).

As soon as I saw Jenga, I had the idea to personalize it somewhat similarly, except to make the commands family-friendly and appropriate for little kids.

So I opened the game and wrote on every single one of the pieces with a Sharpie marker.  I just made up commands that I thought would be fun or funny for the kids to do.

Some are educational--like "Spell your favorite color" and "Solve this problem:  5 x 3 = ___".  Most of them are active:  "Hop on one foot."  "Spin around ten times."  "Do a silly dance."  And a few of them are just for fun:  "Sing a Christmas carol."  "Give everyone a high five."  And--David's suggestion:  "Fart."

(Because nothing says funny like farting on command.)

I actually enjoyed coming up with the ideas and it didn't take that long.  I did use a couple of things twice--like "Shout 'Go Cards!'" and "Do 5 push-ups."  And in addition to "Bunny hop across the room" there's also "Skip" and "Leap" and "Gallop."  But I figure that they'll draw different pieces each time they play, so there should still be a good amount of variety.

I know they have family game night on a regular basis, so it was kind of hilarious to think of not only the kids but also their parents following these commands to get through the game.  I know they will be really good sports about it.

The kids have played Jenga before, so I wanted them to know that this game was different.  So I added a tag to the box that says "Warning!  This is not your ordinary Jenga game!"  Now I just have to wrap it up.

Super easy, inexpensive, personalized game.  And one more Christmas gift checked off the list.  (My goal is to get all my Christmas shopping and crafting done before December.  I think I can do it...)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Odds and Ends

Last night, David got really excited about a Black Friday deal he saw online.

Thirstie wipes!  On sale!  For $7!  At Cotton Babies!

Because, yeah.  We get really excited about butt wipes up in here.

We did not get up early (or stay up late).  In fact, after napping for a total of maybe an hour and a half ALL DAY LONG yesterday, Zuzu crashed at 7:15pm and was out for the night.  I was right behind her.  I fell asleep at 8pm, woke up on the couch at 10pm, and put myself to bed while the rest of my family watched a movie.  

I'm telling you:  Wild and Crazy.

So today we headed out to Cotton Babies and invested in more wipes, more diapers, and a few other odds and ends.  

And since we were already out and about, we headed over to the Target just across the parking lot.  This was a pretty upscale shopping area (it has a lots of little boutiques, and the best Whold Foods ever) and the Target was not too crowded at all (by this time it was almost noon) and my mom got the Christmas tree she wanted while David got the cold medicine he needed (yes--his immune system got hit while he was down and he got over the stomach bug just in time to get a cold).  

After snacking in the Starbucks at Target, we decided to make a final stop at Buy Buy Baby.  I hate the name of the store.  It's like celebrating the materialistic impulses of buying things you don't need in preparation for a baby you may or may not get to bring home.  BUT we had a very generous gift card to spend and a couple of things on our shopping list...

We bought a walk-through baby gate for our hallway leading to the bathroom and bedrooms.  It's really a doggie-gate, not a baby gate.  Little Mac has been suffering some tummy issues (I guess she caught our bug?) and guess where she wants to relieve herself of her stomach discomfort?  The two carpeted rooms in our house.  Our bedroom and the nursery.  So the gate will keep the dogs out of the bedrooms while we're gone during the day.  We've been using an old-school baby gate (not the walk-through kind) there and we're constantly not stepping high enough so we trip over it (not safe!) or moving it and having it fall over, which makes all kinds of racket and scares the crap out of Cooper (metaphorically).  And we've moved it and then forgotten to put it in place often enough that Mac has managed to take a shit on the carpet every day for the past four days.  (Great for resale value!)   We told ourselves it was worth spending money on something that we use multiple times a day that will be much more convenient as well as more aesthetically pleasing.

And David's stoked about steam cleaning our carpets.  Again.

We also got our big girl a big girl seat!  

Phil and Ted's Lobster Seat pic from here 
It's hard to believe she's sitting up well enough to be ready for a chair like this, but sure enough.  I know a lot of people use a chair like this to take out to restaurants in lieu of a germy high chair.  But the short length of the lobster claws is also perfect for attaching to the short overhang on our kitchen countertop, and the claws are padded so we can also put it on our dining room table.  Since space is tight in our little house, this is a nice substitute for a regular high chair, and obviously it's also easy to travel with.  We also were given a high chair seat that fits on a dining room chair.  It's possible that we may end up preferring that for meals since it will have a sturdier tray, but the lobster seat is perfect for perching her in the kitchen while we're making dinner.

She also looks really cute in it, but I don't have a picture of that yet.  (Stay tuned!)

After we returned from our shopping adventures, Brandon and David and I decided to go see the new James Bond movie.  My parents saw it last week, knowing that we'd probably want to go over the weekend, so they were prepared to babysit.  But of course we didn't plan ahead so the show was sold out.  


We considered going to another theater to catch the movie at a later time, but there was the problem of timing the baby feeding (since the movie is almost two and a half hours long) so we ended up just heading back home.

And it turns out that my poor mom has evidently caught our stomach bug.  She hasn't barfed (yet) but she is running a fever and feeling crappy.  And of course the house smells like the delicious turkey and vegetable soup that my dad make from scratch with stock from our turkey, but the smell of any food makes my mom want to hurl.  

As a testament to what a nice daughter I am, when I found out my mom appears to have what we had last week, do you know what I did?

I cleaned the bathroom.  

Because it sucks to be sick at someone else's house, but it really sucks to be sick when there's one bathroom and it's been used by five people for two days and hasn't been thoroughly cleaned.

So at least the bathroom is clean and smells like cleaning products.

Now we're watching the Purina dog show (a favorite Thanksgiving tradition of mine).  I was rooting for the Great Dane.  But that little wire fox terrier that won was pretty cute.  If only there were a puggle category.  I think we all know who would win that one...

Honorary Purina Dog Show Champion.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks Is For Giving

Dinner is eaten.  Dishes are mostly washed.  My dad is making turkey stock out of what's left on the bird.  We still have two pies in the fridge and plenty of other leftovers.  I am giving David nad my brother the evil eye because they are playing stupid violent zombie killing video game but as soon as I post this blog, we've all hit our screen time quota for the day and we're going to settle down for a nice round of Cranium.

I was thinking today about how thankful I am for this teensy little corner of the internet and all of the people who peek in on us and who have mourned our losses and celebrated our joys with us.  I'd like to invite you all over for Thanksgiving, but with five adults, two dogs (one of whom currently has a stomach issue--I'll spare you the details), and zee bebe, we are bursting at the seams.

So I'll just post a bunch of pictures so you can feel like you were here.  And know that when I count up all the things I'm thankful for, if you're reading this, you're among them.

My attempt at a Thanksgiving tableau on the side table.  The printable is from here (hilariously, David asked me if I had finger painted it with Zuzu's fingerpaints and told me I'd done a great job). The painted pumpkins are still going strong!  That D is a wooden letter wrapped in chunky yarn.  The photo on the table is David's grandparents.  The photo on the wall is David around the age of 5 (adorable!).  The turkeys were purchased at a Kirkland's on clearance a few years ago.

Screen time with Grams and Gramps.  Grammy has a children's book on her ipad.

Food prep.

Zuzu and Cooper

Mommy's big girl

Carving the bird
Hey folks, when do we eat?

Happy Baby.

 Pensive baby.

Over the photo session.

David in front of the spread

dinner time

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Best Friends

Zuzu has just really started interacting with the dogs, which is totally adorable.  Her face lights up whenever Cooper or Little Mac wanders into her line of vision.  We don't let her touch Little Mac but Cooper is fair game for mauling petting gently.  He's such a good sport and he loves the attention.

Petting Cooper (Zuzu really wants to sit up on her own but she's still very unsteady)
Kisses from Cooper!  Love.
Besties for life.
So sweet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Grief is love, turned into eternal missing.

I started this grief journal after Eliza died.  I didn't write my own thoughts in it--most of those got posted here, because I needed so much to put my reality out in the world and to hear back from other people who would say, "Me too, me too, me too."

But I had this little spiral bound blank book, and I put other people's words in it.  Quotations and poems and phrases that resonated with me.  Also pictures, sometimes.  Photographs or cut out of magazines.  The simple act of cutting and pasting was like a balm for my wounds--a predictable, easy, satisfying process.  Similar to copying down someone else's words.

It was like finding the perfect articulation of my emotion--in pictures or words--helped me to control it.  If I could name it, label it, express it in language that got as close as it could possibly get to experience...  there was some kind of relief in that.  And my own brain couldn't always (ever?) get it quite right.  So I relied on other people to do it.  Tennyson.  Elizabeth Edwards.  C. S. Lewis.  Lisel Meuller.  J. K. Rowling.  Many others.

A couple of nights ago, I wanted to read a certain poem again, make sure I was remembering it properly, and as I flipped through the grief book, I happened upon this sentence, carefully copied at the top of one page: "Grief is love, turned into eternal missing."

It's from a novel by Rosamund Lupton called Sister.  It's a mystery novel I read back in June when I was reading a novel a day to distract myself from a certain baby's imminent arrival.  I hadn't expected it to deal so much (or so well) with grief.

I also hadn't expected the plot to involve a stillborn baby.

Anyway, it did both, and also managed to be an engaging read.  I figured out the mystery before the novel revealed it, but the mystery wasn't the entire point, if you know what I mean.

And that simple sentence stuck with me.  So I wrote it in my grief book.  It's not particularly poetic or well-written and it doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know.  But the simple truth, simply stated.... sometimes that's good enough, you know?

Oh--and here's the poem I was actually looking for.  I first read it here and I have it posted now on the bulletin board above my desk.  I think about it more than almost anything else I've written in my grief book, and I looked it up the other night to get the words exactly right.  Every time I read it, it takes my breath away a little bit, and it kind of makes me want to cry, but in the good way.

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don't let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous.
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vegetarian With Benefits

I am mostly a vegetarian.

I did not grow up vegetarian.  I grew up in southwest Missouri, in the kind of small town where being a vegetarian isn't cool.  In fact, it's practically un-American.  Saying that I'm a vegetarian gets lots of looks of disbelief, pity, and suspicion.  Also a lot of, "So, what do you eat?  Salad?"

So after growing up in the land of burgers and steaks (but never eating much of them simply because I don't like meat that much) I went away (well, a few hours away) to college and sometime during my junior year, I watched an episode of X-Files that took place at a chicken farm in Arkansas.  I'll spare you the details, but it totally put me off chicken, which was pretty much the only meat I liked to eat anyway, except for the occasional fast-food cheeseburger.  My quasi-boyfriend-at-the-time said, "All meat factories are like that." (As in, disgusting.)  So fine.  It put me off all meat.  No burgers either.  I quit eating anything with a face for an entire year.  Then one day the campus dining hall had toasted ravioli on the menu and my St. Louis-native friends gushed about how amazing they were and so I ate some toasted ravioli.  Delicious?  Yes.  Turns out ravioli, like pretty much everything, is scrumptious when it's breaded and fried.

But late that night, I woke up itching all over and wheezing when I tried to take a deep breath.  My suitemate ended up driving me to the hospital, as I was covered with hives.  This had happened to me a few times as a kid and we had never connected it to any specific cause except "allergies."  I had pretty bad seasonal allergies when I was a kid, so we just assumed that something in the air had really gotten to me.  This time was no different--it never occurred to me that it would be connected to something I'd eaten.  So I went on, mostly not eating meat but not being strict about "rules" of vegetarianism and then one day my order at Taco Bell got mixed up and I was too hungry to care so I ate something with beef in it and...  back to the emergency room.  Again.  While my face got puffy and hives broke out all over my torso, which made me incredibly embarrassed to have to see the cute male nurse as they ran Benadryl straight into my veins.  At least, that's how I remember it.

Finally I got in to see an allergist who glanced at my food diary (they'd told me to keep one after the first incident) and told me she thought I was allergic to beef.  I looked at her in total disbelief. I was raised in rural Missouri!  Beef cows are my neighbors!  I grew up eating meat!

Blood test results came back and confirmed an allergy to beef and pork.

(Looking back on my occasional episodes with hives as a kid, they almost always happened when we were at the farm and had a bonfire.  We always chalked it up to me being allergic to the woodsmoke or something, but now I can see that the hives were linked to eating hot dogs when we'd have a weenie roast.)

So now I had a "good" reason for not eating meat.  I wasn't just being difficult!  I had a real reason that would justify my refusal to eat steak or burgers to all the folks back home.  It was sort of shock, and there was that moment of craving a Sonic cheeseburger just because I knew I couldn't have one, but I'd gone without beef and pork for a year and hadn't missed it.  In fact, the longer I went without meat, the more meat grossed me out.

So I officially quit eating beef and pork because of my allergy, which was no sacrifice at all.  (Fact:  Toasted ravioli is just as good when it's cheese ravioli).  And I gave up poultry again because it just seemed gross.  Plus around this same time they were coming out with the books and documentaries about factory farming practices and the inhumane treatment of animals, and it was horrifying.  And then I went to grad school, where every other person in my department was a vegetarian, and it was like I'd found my place in the world with other non-meat-eaters.

Fast forward through those meatless years to a couple of years ago when I read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which made me more conscious about what I was eating, particularly trying to eat locally and seasonally.  (I do ok with eating locally when David's garden is going strong...  I'm afraid we don't do a good job of eating seasonally in the winter.)  It was also this book that made me reconsider my stance on not eating animals.

I still hate the thought of factory farms and inhumane treatment of animals, but I also understand that certain beasts are essentially made for human consumption.  It's not like a turkey has some other more fulfilling purpose in life.  I guess you could say that I was convinced by Kingsolver's argument that as long as a turkey has had a good life, then harvesting it to eat is not a crime against turkeydom.  So I adjusted my vegetarianism to occasionally eat poultry, as long as it was a local, free range, "happy" bird and I can manage to not be grossed out by the idea of it.

I don't EVER cook meat (gag, gag, a hundred times gag) and if I see David preparing meat, I'm usually too grossed out to eat it.  Ground beef = gross me out.  So eating meat is still a pretty rare thing for me.  I ate it more often when I was pregnant because I worried about getting enough protein.  And I do eat fish--usually just salmon and tilapia.

So, yeah, I will be eating a little bit of Thanksgiving turkey this year, but the side dishes are MUCH more important, obviously.

Some of my friends have asked if Zuzu will be a vegetarian.  I'd say that she'll probably be a vegetarian-with-benefits also.  David eats meat on a regular basis (he usually buys some portion of a free range, grass-fed cow and splits the meat with someone else, so our freezer is stocked with dead animal), so I'm not going to "forbid" her to eat meat.  Often David cooks a vegetarian meal and then grills himself something on the side, so she could try what he's having, but meat will never be the center of her diet (or ours).  But I'm going to be incredibly cautious about introducing it because of my allergies, so I don't know when she'll actually give it a try.

I think the biggest misconceptions people have about being vegetarian is that there is a sense of deprivation, and that it is impossible to plan a meal if you're not planning it around a meat product.  Not so!  I don't miss eating meat on a regular basis at all.  But then again, I never liked meat that much to begin with.

Good news today--I think my appetite is returning.  At least the thought of lunch (a vegetarian lunch) doesn't gross me out today.  That's real progress.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Menu Planning

We're staying here for Thanksgiving this year.  My parents and brother are driving in and my mom and David will do most of the cooking, although I do plan to help.  We invited David's grandma, and actually offered to drive to her house, but she opted to go to David's mom's, and since we're not up for a 10 hour drive (each way) over a four-day-weekend, we opted out of that trip.

Hosting Thanksgiving is awesome because it means I get to control what we eat.  Which means I'm nixing a couple of things that are standard Thanksgiving fair, but that I think are disgusting (or at least totally unappealing):  that ubiquitous green bean casserole and sweet potato with marshmallows on it.  Gag.  I did exercise the art of compromise and agree to have mashed potatoes (David's favorite) instead of cornflake potatoes (my favorite).  My generosity is, I think, only slightly diminished by the fact that I keep reminding David of what a great sacrifice I have made.

We needed to finalize our menu plans today because we wanted to run to the grocery store this morning, knowing that it would only get crazier and more crowded as the week went on (and good luck getting stuffing at Schnucks on the Hill--they were already running low on Stovetop!).  Menu planning was weird, however, because none of the delicious food we were talking about sounds good yet.  To either of us.  I started feeling all queasy again in the beer aisle just thinking about beer.  Ugh.  I haven't puked since Wednesday night but this stomach bug is lingering in a vaguely unsettled tummy feeling that is not pleasant and not particularly conducive to grocery shopping.

Anyway, after much deliberation and talking on the phone to my mom, my dad, my brother, and my cousin Amanda (Amanda's not joining us for Thanksgiving, but she gave me my sweet potato pie recipe), here is our Thanksgiving menu:

A real surprise, eh?  And it's a turkey I will eat a little bit of, which means it's a free range (aka "happy") turkey.  We didn't plan far enough ahead to order one through a local CSA, so David just went to Whole Foods and spent a boatload on it.  But it was a happy turkey!  Happily for us, preparation will be easy.  We're having it smoked by a parent whose kids go to David's school.

Mashed Potatoes
They don't quite compete with frozen hashbrowns, shredded cheese, and cornflakes, but David does make a mean mashed potato.  Interesting Fact:  My brother and I refused to eat mashed potatoes when we were kids.  In fact, I didn't eat mashed potatoes until I started dating David and his grandpa essentially bullied me into eating them.  And they were delicious.  Maybe the cup of sour cream that David's grandma adds is the secret ingredient?  Anyway, I don't put gravy on them.  They don't need it.

We bought a jar of this.  David puts it on his turkey and stuffing, but not his mashed potatoes.  My dad puts it on everything.  I don't put it on anything because gravy = gross.

David's grandma makes this from scratch, old-school style with giblets or chitlins or gizzards or whatever people used to put in stuffing when they were eking out a living from God's green earth and using every last bit of that turkey.  We're going with Stovetop's cornbread edition.

Sweet Potato Pie
No marshmallow bullsh!t here.  My cousin Amanda made this one year when we were in Memphis at her mom's house and I fell in love.  It's essentially mashed sweet potatoes, baked, with a glaze of brown sugar and pecans on the top of it.  It's like dessert posing as a side dish.

Broccoli-Cauliflower Bake
I was going to make a cold broccoli-cauliflower salad that David's grandma always makes that I really like, but my mom requested a baked dish instead.  So I dug around in my recipe archives (read:  googled) a recipe that included broccoli (my favorite vegetable--is that weird?) and found an interesting recipe from Taste of Home that calls for monterey jack cheese and green chiles. I think it will be a nice zingy side dish.  And we all know that you can't really serve a green vegetable at Thanksgiving unless you coat in cheese and bake it.

Macaroni & Cheese
This is for my brother, because Lord knows we don't really need another side dish, or another vat of cheese on the table.  But my Aunt Terri (Amanda's mom) makes this macaroni and cheese that David and I are crazy about.  My brother used to claim that nothing could beat the powdered stuff in the blue box, but I'm pretty sure this recipe is going to change his mind forever.  We're going to halve it--not because we're not gluttons, but just because refrigerator space is limited.  (If only it would get cold enough to use the back deck as an extra refrigerator...)

Mom's Mystery Salad
My mom is making a green salad of some kind.  A real salad--not the kind where you add mayonnaise and call it salad (although I'm not knocking that; I'm just saying I think we need a little more green on the table).  She mentioned cabbage and pears, so I'm not sure what she's concocting but I'm sure it will be delish.

We're outsourcing these because nobody can compete with my Aunt Tammi's homemade rolls.  (Mmm, my mouth waters just thinking about her rolls.)  But we're going with the next best thing, which is ordered from our favorite bakery on the Hill.  I just called to order it today and since my order was small (just a dozen rolls) they went ahead and squeezed me in, although they have over 300 orders that people will be picking up on Wednesday.  We are getting their Italian-style rolls, which have a crusty outside and super soft inside.  They won't be as good as Aunt Tammi's, but they'll be close.

Pumpkin Pie
My mom is making a pumpkin pie, as it is obviously a Thanksgiving tradition.  My brother also has a tradition of putting as much whipped cream as possible on a piece of pumpkin pie and then shoving as much of the piece of pie as possible in his mouth all at once.  The family gathers 'round to watch.  I'm not sure how this became a tradition or why we are so hard up for entertainment, but we're all set for that to happen again this year!

Coconut Cream Pie
We outsourced this from the bakery also.  Because after a heavy meal, sometimes you want something light and fluffy.  Like coconut cream pie.  Am I right?

Gosh, I hope that's enough food to feed an army.  Or the five of us.  My mom's also bringing some kind of pear muffins for breakfast and David's trying to convince me we need cinnamon rolls (because when you're doing the gluttony thing, you might as well go all out, right?).  We do plan to live on leftovers for the entire weekend.  I'm hoping there's enough turkey for sandwiches and also maybe for white enchiladas (I think it's the Pioneer Woman's recipe?).

So that is our Thanksgiving menu.  What will you be eating on Thursday?  Anybody else hosting the family (or the in-laws) at your house?  I think I'm going to make festive Thanksgiving display on my sideboard table in the dining room.  (Yes, I will post pictures if that happens.  You're welcome.)  How many people are appalled that I refuse to have the green bean casserole with those onion things on it?  How many people love marshmallows on their sweet potatoes?  You people are CRAZY!  But go ahead.  Tell me what I'm missing.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

October Photo Session

Here at the homestead, we are still recovering from the Great Stomach Bug of 2012.  David took good care of me on Thursday only to start barfing exactly 24 hours after I did.  Amazeballs.  I was no where near back to normal, although I am definitely feeling better today.  David still says that he can't change poopy diapers today because it makes his stomach too queasy.  If he weren't such a champ about diaper changes most of the time, I'd think he was faking it.  But seriously, that curried-yogurt smell gets to me sometimes, too.

Anyway, the baby has stayed healthy and has actually been pretty great through all of this, except for yesterday when she napped for only 20 minutes between the hours of 8am and 1:30pm.  I was like SERIOUSLY?  Are you just finished with naps now that you're four and a half months old?  We're still hunkering down for the weekend, keeping the germs to ourselves.  Everyone has improved, but we're all still kind of queasy and shaky.

One bright spot?  Since we've been basically homebound and couch-bound since Wednesday, we've already managed to watch Season I of Homeland.  And yes, it's just as good as everybody says it is.

We're getting started on Season 2 now, and since the most interesting thing to happen to me in three days is that I'm currently keeping down the soup I ate for lunch, I'll give you a special treat! A link to the blog of the sweet photographer who took our family pictures back in October:

Family Photos by Sarah Sue Photography

For local peeps, Sarah was super great and her prices are very reasonable.  She gets my recommendation.  Tell her I sent you and maybe she'll give me a discount for next time.  For everyone else, feel free to admire the cute baby.  The only thing I'd do differently is have her take a few more pictures of Zuzu by herself, but that was my own fault for not requesting it.  And I probably didn't request it because Zuzu was actually not the happiest of campers that morning, having woken up earlier than normal and needing a nap at about the time we started taking photos.  She was pretty cooperative, for the most part, but not super smiley.  And then she cried, but the picture of me holding her on the bench and trying to comfort her is actually pretty sweet.

One funny note:  David and I started bickering when we were posing on the bridge.  I didn't like how he was holding the baby and wanted him to position her differently for photos and he was snappy with me and said that I should just hold her if I didn't like how he was doing it.  So our smiles are totally fake!  But those pictures are some of my favorites!  Go figure.

Hope you're all staying healthy.  The only creature in this house really enjoying our three day barf fest is Cooper, who is delighted that there's always someone flopped on the couch to snuggle with.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ms. B Reeved on Fairweather Friends

Ms. B. Reeved is an alter-ego of mine who is presumptive enough to offer advice on subjects related to bereavement and grief.  She is well-meaning but never claims to have all the answers, and she hopes you will respond with your own advice.  If you'd like Ms. B. to blather on and then ask her readers for real advice about sticky circumstances or obnoxious people in your own life, please send inquiries to attn: Ms. B. at bythebrooke (at) gmail (dot) com.

Dear Ms. B,

What do you do when a friend from the past pops back into your life out of the blue?

I roomed with a girl for a few semesters in college who I was friends with while in college, but never super close, and then after we graduated we sort of went our separate ways with the occasional email to check back in.

Then we lost our baby. And I never heard from her. I can't be certain that she know, but because of our mutual friends, I'm fairly confident that she knew. But I do know that she knew I was pregnant. She had emailed me only a few days/weeks before he was born - talking about how crazy it was that I was about to be a mom. That was the last I ever heard from her.

Then my brother-in-law was killed in Afghanistan. And again, I never heard from her. But again, not certain that she knew what happened, but given that the West Point network is small and when graduates are killed, especially those with siblings who are also grads, it's hard not to hear about those things.

And then today, years later, I get an email. Just saying hi. Seeing how I am. Telling me she's pregnant (of course), and that she's moving here.

Ummm, Ms B - what do I do!?! 

Write her back and say "thanks for not saying anything - don't bother trying to get back in my life" - but then what if she didn't know? But then if she didn't know, it's clear that it's not a friendship I've needed, during the highs and lows, during the last few years. Is it rude to cut her out without giving her a chance? Seeing as though she knew I was pregnant, and never checked back in - I'm assuming she knew what happened. I didn't even get the "how's the baby" email that I got from other people who assumed I did have a happy ending.

And what if I just don't really care to re kindle a friendship that was never super strong to begin with? How do I politely respond and say thanks but no thanks.

Basically - how do you update people on your life when you think they already know, but never said anything when you needed kind words the most?

Errrr. . . .advice please? 

In No Need of Fairweather Friends

Dear In No Need,

A tricky quandry, indeed.  Really, though, I suppose you have two options:

1) ignore the e-mail.

2) respond.

Ms. B thinks you are welcome to ignore the e-mail if you'd like.  A random roommate assignment from years ago does not obligate you to play welcome wagon for this person when she moves to town.

But, let's say you are a compassionate, generous, open-hearted, and generally nice person, as Ms. B suspects you are.  Let's say you would feel kind of weird about ignoring her e-mail, even though she appears to have ignored you in your time of crisis.

I think that the most generous thing you can do is give her the benefit of the doubt.  I understand this is difficult, but it's also clear from your letter that she wasn't a close friend who let you down in a shocking and unforgivable way.  She sounds more like a friendly acquaintance who just had no idea what to do when (if?) she heard the news.  That doesn't mean you have to like her or want to be her friend now, but it also means you'll probably feel better if you reach out to her with some measure of friendliness, rather than stewing over what she should have done.  (Ms. B makes a mental note here that she should try harder to follow her own advice...).

Keep it on the friendly-acquaintance level, which is easier if you have no expectations for how she'll respond. You don't owe her anything--if you ever did, she made that null and void when she failed to give you the love and sympathy you needed.  Still, most of us feel better when we treat people with a measure of politeness, so it seems to me the right decision is to give her the benefit of the doubt and send a short but polite response.

Having grown up in a small town, where my parents still live, even without being on The F-Book, I often find myself knowing details about the lives of people that I used to know back in high school, but whom I've barely spoken to in years.  I'm sure this works both ways, given how the small-town gossip mill runs.  It can be awkward when I assume people know our story, particularly when they express congratulations for Zuzu though they never expressed condolences for Eliza.  I can easily let myself feel sad and resentful about this, but I try to keep in mind that in general it's much easier to express congratulations than condolences.  Especially true, I think, when you hear news second- or third-hand.  Many people are more likely to reach out to someone who has just gotten engaged or had a new baby, for example, than they would be if they heard through the grapevine that someone got divorced or lost a parent.  In the same way, everyone and their dog will write "Happy Birthday" on your F-Book wall, but won't acknowledge a post you make about missing your baby.  It's not ideal, but that's just the way things are.  We can hate it, but we can't change other people, unless we lead by example.  I think you're probably right in guessing that she knows about your losses.  I'd venture to say that she simply has no idea how to address them.  Probably because she's clueless rather than malicious.

What I mean by giving her the benefit of the doubt is that when you reply to the e-mail, you simply say that it's a surprise (or a nice surprise, if you're feeling generous) to hear from her after such a long time.  Then you are open and honest about what you've been through since you heard from her last--the good, the bad, and the heartbreaking.  After all, you don't know for SURE that she is aware of all you've been through, and even if she does know, she may have found out at a later time, when she felt that contacting you would be awkward or invasive, or any number of other misguided and crazy things that people think when they find themselves at a loss to deal with someone else's grief.

I would say something like, "It's such a [nice] surprise to hear from you after all this time!  We are doing really well these days, but we've certainly had more than our share of heartache in recent years.  I'm not sure if you heard that we lost our first baby.  After a perfect pregnancy, he died when he was born.  Losing him was absolutely devastating, and it was just a few months later that my brother-in-law was killed in Afghanistan.  We are still dealing with our grief and missing them very much.  Our new baby is a bright spot in our lives.  He's growing so fast and making us laugh (and/or pull our hair out) every day.  Congratulations on your pregnancy--I hope everything goes smoothly for you.  I wish you the best of luck with your move!"

You've put your truth out there (but no more information than she could get if she spoke to a mutual acquaintance and asked about you), you've kept it friendly but not too personal, you haven't made any unfounded accusations about why she wasn't there for you, and this way you'll know for SURE that she knows.  Then you can decide whether or not it's worth your time and energy to reconnect with her based on how she responds to you.  You're not asking for anything in return, but you are giving her the opportunity to do what she should have done long ago--tell you how sorry she is and offer some kind of support, even if it's simply belated condolences.

What you do not have to do:  Rekindle a friendship that was never super strong.  In a way, the stakes are lower simply because this person isn't very important to you.  She may turn out to be a super nice friendly-casual-acquaintance if/when you do see her again.  Or she may just remain someone you used to know.  You do not have to meet up with her when she gets to town if you don't want to, but you also don't have to decide that right now.

Once you've e-mailed her, she might send some magic response that would make you want to be friends again.  Or (perhaps more likely?) she may try to ignore your grief and blab on about her pregnancy (ugh).  Or she may say all the right things, and you still may feel that you guys don't click enough to make it worth the time and effort to really "be friends."  There may be nothing she could say at this point that would make you wish to meet up with her and her pregnant belly or her new baby.  Ever.  Fair enough.  At that point, you can either be blunt and direct:  "I'm hurt that you never got in touch with me after I lost my baby and I'm just not interested in reconnecting right now."  Or you can be indirect, "I'm sorry I'm not available for coffee next week.  Let me get back to you when things aren't so crazy."  Or you may decide to let things take their natural course and you may see her once or twice and then not hear from her for another few years.  The important thing is that you'll be fine no matter what.

It's easy and (I think) normal to want to punish people who weren't there for us then by not letting them get close to us now.  Sometimes, especially with people who are truly toxic, this is the right choice.  But sometimes offering someone a second chance can be more of a gift for yourself than it is for them.  Because you have no (or very low) expectations, you won't be irreparably hurt by her response (or lack thereof).  In this case, it seems opening up the opportunity for her to demonstrate she's not a jerk would be the most potentially rewarding choice.  The three potential outcomes:  (1) she'll rise to the occasion and pleasantly surprise you and you'll be friends on some level again; (2) she'll respond appropriately but you still won't be interested in meeting up with her, but at least you won't feel (as) bitter or angry toward her; (3) she'll prove without a doubt that she's definitely the not kind of person you need in your life and then you can cut her out of there with no qualms about it.

For what it's worth, Ms. B hopes you'll end up with option (1) or (2).

What do the rest of you think?  Should In No Need respond to the e-mail or ignore it entirely?  Anyone been in a similar situation?  What did you do?  How did it turn out?  What would you do in this case?

Warmest regards,
Ms. B

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tummy Trouble

Yesterday morning, Zuzu woke up ay 6:30am. This is a little early for her.  She started squawking in her bassinet, and I lazily rolled across the bed to get ready to pick her up.

Then she spit up.

Zuzu is not a spitty baby at all.  I can probably count on one hand the number of times she's spit up any kind of significant amount (her biggest spit up ever was on our friend Vicky when she was two weeks old--I'm sure Vicky appreciates that fine distinction).

Anyway, the spit up kind of unnerved me because it's a rare thing, and she hadn't eaten since 2am.

My tired brain was trying to figure out why this would happen and the room was still pretty dark, so I couldn't see if it was a lot of spit or just a little.  And then she spit up again.

She wasn't really crying or anything, but I was freaking out.  I quickly picked her up and then she spit up down the front of me.  So I yelled for David and he came hurrying in and told me to quit freaking out because I was going to scare the baby.

I got a hold of myself and we changed her diaper and her clothes and took her temperature (it was normal) and I fed her and she didn't spit up anymore.  She seemed her usually happy, chatty self, so after much internal debate, I decided that I'd go ahead and take her to daycare.

She was asleep in carseat when we arrived.  I told her teachers about the spit up situation and they promised to keep a close eye on her.  I headed to work.

When I called later to check on her, I learned that one of her teachers was out for the day (with a stomach bug) and Zuzu had thrown up on herself in her carseat.  At that moment, I was ready to leap up from my desk and go get her, but her teacher assured me that Zuzu seemed to be feeling ok and was having normal diapers.  I asked if she'd been fussy and the teacher told me that she only got upset when a substitute teacher came in the room to help out.  Zuzu let this substitute teacher hold her, but would cry anytime she looked at her.  The teacher was laughing when she told me about it--I think she liked that Zuzu so clearly expresses her preference for her regular teachers.  I know I liked hearing that--I mean, I think it's a good thing that Zuzu is already attached to the teachers she sees everyday.  She assured me that Zuzu was doing just fine.

About this time I got a text from one of my BFFs telling me that she was home from work with a stomach flu.  Not good.  I worried about this as I sat down to have a quick lunch at my desk and realized that I didn't have much of an appetite (which is VERY unusual for me).

I made it through my afternoon meetings, feeling a little queasy and worrying that the baby might be getting sick, and then left work about 2:30pm to pick Zuzu up at daycare.

By this time, the daycare had signs up about a stomach virus going around.  Cue freak out!

But Zuzu was happy to see me, had taken both of her bottles without spitting up again, and was perfectly cheerful.

I decided I wasn't taking any chances with this virus, though, so once we got home I started the laundry and began washing all her blankets, her car seat liner, the sheets from the crib and the pack & play, the liner of her bassinet, and the soft toys we'd played with the night before.  I sprayed doorknobs and plastic toys with Lysol spray.  And I gave the baby a bath and put her in comfy pjs.

When I sat down to breastfeed her, I was exhausted.  And I had to admit that I wasn't feeling very good.

Normally I'm starving for a mid-afternoon snack by the time I get home from work, and despite eating very little for lunch, I hadn't even thought about a snack.  The idea of dinner made me queasy.

By the time David got home from work, I was collapsed on the couch, watching the baby entertain herself on the floor.  She seemed fine, but I kept worrying that she was sick.  I told David, "If I were a stay at home mom, she wouldn't be sick."

The thing is, she didn't seem sick at all.  But I was feeling worse.

After feeling queasy and vaguely unpleasant all evening, I puked before we went to bed, got up at 11:30pm for more puking, and spent most of the night awake and miserable on the couch with a fever.

We all had to stay home from work today because my breastpump is at work so I have to have the baby here to feed her (I'm also not thrilled about sending her back to daycare until this virus thing somewhat resolves itself), but I feel so miserable that I couldn't take care of her by myself (I've only managed to drag myself off the couch to go to the bathroom and that was exhausting).  David just brings her to me when she needs to eat and I lie around whining and feeling sick.

Zuzu's tummy troubles seem to have cleared up completely, but mine have knocked me on my ass.

I told a friend a few days ago that in a very Bridget-Jones-ish way, I kept thinking that I was just one good stomach bug away from fitting into my jeans.

I take it back.  I hate the muffin top, but I hate puking even more.

And is it just me, or does this virus seems to be rampaging across the country?  A few different blogs I read have mentioned having tummy trouble of various levels of disgustingness.  Nothing like a good gut-purge to get you ready to binge at Thanksgiving, I guess.

Mostly, I'm relieved that the baby is fine.  But I'm also really hoping that I'm on the mend.  I don't think I can handle another sleepless, puke-filled night.

It's such a cliche to get sick after sending your kid to daycare.  It's also really super gross.  My immune system needs to catch up with my new germ-infested life, stat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Our Little Diva

Zuzu already has a nickname at her daycare.  (Besides Zuzu, I mean.)

Her teachers call her a little diva.

She's certainly not the first little diva to come through their doors, as they told me this week.  She's a baby who likes to accessorize (she got compliments on the bling of her sequined hair bow earlier in the week) and she also has pretty strong opinions, which she is not shy about expressing.  These qualities land her in the "diva" category at her school.

She's already taken to the teachers who are primarily in her room.  When one of them had to step out of the room today and another teacher came in to fill in for her, Zuzu wanted none of it.  She let the substitute teacher hold her, but every time she looked at her, Zuzu started fussing.  Which is not very polite, but also makes me glad that she obviously feels safe and happy with the ladies she sees everyday.  I can't tell you how much easier it is to go to work since I get to leave her with a daycare provider I feel so good about.

She IS taking a bottle--sort of.  She does not latch and and suck (too much work for a diva?), but (after putting up a bit of a fight) she will tolerate a fast-flow bottle nipple dribbling into her mouth.  So it isn't a quick or easy process, but she is eating at daycare!  And her teachers (thankfully) are patient with her.  Still, she drools and dribbles a lot of it down herself, so she has to wear a bib everyday now.  We got several bibs as hand-me-downs from David's cousin, so I was delighted to find the perfect accessory to send with her to daycare yesterday.  And her teachers got a pretty big kick out of it, too:

Who you callin' diva?

My thumb is waaaay better than a stupid bottle.  Except for the milk bit...

OK, you're right.  I'm a charming little diva!

(Nevermind the scratch on her nose.  She did that to herself in a fit of dramatics.  Go figure.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Division of Labor

I sometimes read these statistics about how women who work full time still do 70% of the household chores and they blow my mind.  (I'm not sure that's the actual statistic, but it's something close to that.)  But it also got me thinking about the way David and I divide up chores, especially now that I'm back at work.  Even though my hours are part time, the days feel very rushed since I'm getting myself and the baby ready to go in the morning, and trying to get out of the house with clean diapers, a wet bag for dirty diapers, a change of clothes for the baby, her hane, her bottles, the pumping accessories I need, my purse and phone and papers and planner and water, and I have to eat breakfast and feed the baby before we head out the door.

I'm curious as to whether our division of labor matches up with many of your households, and whether I'm really lucky or part of the happy commonwealth in having a husband who pulls so much of his own weight.

David and I both feel more comfortable when the house is clean, but he is far more anal-retentive than I am, at least about certain things.  He loathes clutter (though seems not to notice crumbs on the counter) so I never have to nag him to clean up.  I'm much more of a clutterbug than he is, and I tend to haphazardly distribute books, magazines, and shoes throughout our house.  I don't mind leaving things out if I have an ongoing project; David wants everything put away at the end of the day.  I have a lower tolerance for dog hair dust bunnies than he does.  But he will take it upon himself to vacuum the house and clean the bathroom on a Sunday afternoon while I'm reading or playing with the baby.

After Eliza died, neither of us had any motivation for cleaning.  Our vacuum probably went untouched for a full month.  We did what we had to do to not live in squalor, but we just didn't care about our house being tidy, let alone gleaming.  Finally we got to a point where the filth was bothering us, but we still didn't have the energy to deal with it.  So we hired a house cleaning service to come every other week for a thorough dusting and wiping and cleaning.  And then even when we started coming back to ourselves and having more energy, we liked it so much that we didn't want to stop having them come.  So our house gets a deep clean every other week, and we do the surface stuff in between.

My Duties:
- feed the baby (multiple x daily)
- wash the bottles and pumping accessories (daily)
- wash the dirty diapers (one x daily--we decided that a daily load of laundry is actually easier than every other day so we have fewer diapers to stuff and we're never in danger of running out of clean diapers to take to daycare)
- pack Zuzu's things for daycare (daily)
- make the bed (daily)
- dust-bust the bathroom floor after blow drying my hair (every other day)
- do all the laundry besides diapers (We generate 5-6 loads a week.  Sometimes I spread them out, more often I do them all on Sunday afternoon.)
- fold and put away my clothes and Zuzu's clothes (I make David put away his own stuff)
- pick out David's outfits and iron David's clothes (I do two outfits on Sunday night and two outfits on Tuesday night, plus a pair of khakis for him to wear on Fridays.  The truth is, I enjoy matching up his shirts and ties and I find ironing to be relaxing.  I'm weird, I know.)
- pick out Zuzu's outfit and accessories
- vacuum (As often as the dog hair starts to spaz me out, which is usually twice a week.  To be honest, I have a pretty high tolerance for dog hair these days.)
- empty dishwasher (occasionally)
- water plants (when they start to look wilty)
- clean up after dinner (occasionally; David usually cleans as he cooks--a brilliant trick he learned from his Grandma)
- make dinner (occasionally... maybe once a week, and I act like it's a huge deal)
- bathroom cleaning (before company comes over... just being honest here)
- pick up and declutter (I maybe do this once or twice a week now--the house actually gets less messy since I'm back at work with less time for "projects" at home)
- pick up baby toys and dog toys (daily)
- feed Cooper (every evening)
- feed Little Mac (on demand whenever David beats me by saying "Not it" first; last night she demanded three meals.  She freaking loves her senior dog food.  We acquiesce because otherwise she wails and it's intolerable to listen to)

David's Duties
- make dinner (almost every night)
- clean up dinner (usually, but I will offer to help unless I'm nursing the baby)
- pack his own lunch (daily)
- lawn care (weekly in the summer)
- garden tending (daily in the summer)
- chicken keeping (daily)
- bathroom cleaning (weekly)
- vacuum (weekly)
- pick up and declutter (he probably does this daily to some extent)
- put away his own laundry (weekly)
- put away baby's laundry (when asked)
- do an occasional load of laundry (when asked)
- stuff diapers (daily)
- pick up baby toys and dog toys (daily)
- feed Cooper (every morning)
- feed Little Mac (on demand; whenever I beat him by saying "Not it" first)
- bathe Cooper (whenever he smells like ass; maybe once a month)

My list looks longer, but many of my jobs are "occasional" and I think David's jobs are way harder.  I'm lucky that he enjoys cooking and he's lucky that I don't mind laundry duty.  Outside of those job divisions, I really feel like we split the household chores pretty well.  When I think about it, it's really like he does the heavy lifting on the weekend and I do most of the stop-gap stuff through the week (minus the cooking).  Sometimes I give the baby a bath.  Sometimes he gives the baby her bath.  We also make an effort to give each other "gold stars" when the house looks especially nice.  Or the dog smells especially good.

I wonder if our job division is more even than most couples?  I think it's only fair that the person who does the cooking shouldn't have to do the laundry, but I expect that is not the norm!

I'd love to hear how it works at your house--at least the laundry/cooking breakdown.  Are there chores I've completely forgotten about?

My least favorite chore right now is washing the bottles and pump parts.  Or maybe putting away laundry since much of my closet is still ill-fitting (Hi, muffin-top.  I hate you.).  I like folding the laundry and ironing it and I also like feeding the baby.  I don't mind making the bed.  And I'd rather vacuum than cook any day!

On a somewhat related note:  How did people cloth diaper in the days before washing machines?  I cannot even imagine how gross that would be.