Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Year of Zuzu

Where it began, I can't begin to knowin'.

But then I know it's growing strong.

Was in the spring... and spring became the summer.

Who would have believed you'd come along?

Sweet Caroline.  Good times never seemed so good...  

Until there was you.

Happy Birthday, Zuzu.  You make us happy when skies are gray.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Powder Room

I have a few [million] errands to run and things to do before The Big Par-tay tomorrow (which really isn't that big, but might be a real par-tay, if my sangria recipe turns out).  But my parents are here, which gives me a lot of free time since they keep Zuzu thoroughly entertained.  She's really discovered The Wonder of Grandparents and burst into tears this morning when Grammy left the room.

Anyway, this gives us a little time to take a peek into the powder room!  Also it's an easy room to talk about, because it's super tiny:

The previous owners painted the wall to match the turquoise/aqua stripes of the tile.  I would have matched it a little closer, personally, but it's not bad.  I originally thought I would stencil some kind of trellis pattern (like this) and I actually purchased that stencil but then now that seems really hard.  And I'm not as interested at this point.  Maybe because the rug is sort of enough for me?  The wall hanging is kind of a random mixed-media canvas that I picked up years ago at Urban Outfitters and had hanging in the guest bedroom at the old house before it became a nursery.  I still like it, and I was pleased by the way it fits in here--the hole in the wall for hanging something was already there!

One thing about the room is that the fixtures are bright white while the tiles are kind of a creamy off-white.  The rug and the wall-hanging blend those colors quite well.  The hand towel is a cute little chevron from Kohl's, but I also purchased hand towels to match the rug (from my favorite French boutique: Target).

Below is a slightly different view, with the light on.

The light is nothing special, and I probably would like to switch that out down the line.  I don't have anything in mind, but I think in a tiny room like this, it's nice when all the details are special.  I mean, there's not a whole lot else going on in here.

Speaking of special details, please note the wastebasket in the photo above.  It's actually a wicker planter.  That one of our neighbors put out by the dumpster.  What can I say?  It fits perfectly and is obscure and inoffensive.  And now you know my secret for accessorizing my home.  #nottooproudtodumpsterdive  #trashtotrashcan

The window glass is textured/frosted for privacy and doesn't require a window treatment.  It's so narrow that I think one would look weird anyway.  I need to get an actual bar of soap on the built-in soap dish.  If for no other reason than to cover up the crack from where it was obviously broken and repaired at some point in time.  I love the compact little sink.  One thing I'm not crazy about is the mirror.  I can't decide what really bugs me--the decorative etching or the oak trim.  I would like to switch it out (or maybe paint the trim?) at some point.

The powder room is tucked behind the kitchen and after living with one bathroom for many years, having two and A HALF feels positively luxurious, even if the half bath is a little bitsy one.

Update:  For a closer look at tile and such, see this post.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Let's Talk About My Kitchen

So when we bought the house, I barely glanced at the kitchen.  As long as it existed and was big enough to fit two people at the same time, it was a step in the right direction.

This is the view when you walk in to the kitchen straight from the entryway, and look toward the left.  You can see the bay window which desperately needs some seating for someone beyond a baby in a high chair and a parent perched on a stool.

Yes, baby is wearing a halter top, and playing in pots-and-pans cabinet.  The blue bowl on the window sill is the dog bowl.  Zuzu will crawl over to it, say, "Uh-UH!" out loud, (just like we do!) and then proceed to splash around in it.  So it has to be put up out of reach.  Poor Cooper.

The wood cabinets are obviously quite dark and the stainless steel appliances might be part of what makes the space feel so dark to me also.  I guess I'm used to blond wood and bright white appliances.  I know stainless steel is still the cool thing, and I've often admired it in other people's homes, but I loved how clean and bright our white appliances were at the old house.  I won't be switching them out, BUT it's totally making me consider painting the cabinets white.  I know it would be a lot of work, but might be worth it?

The curtains are... not my favorite.  Maybe they're your style?  White and lacy?  Let me know.  I'll send them to you!  Oh--I also don't love the super shiny tile.  The weird pattern on them is great for masking dirt, but I'd also like to SEE where the dropped food particles are so I can clean them up.  Anyway, it doesn't pain me, but we'd probably like to change it down the line.  I'm not sure if we'd stick with tile or do something different like cork flooring.

Here's the other side of the kitchen, if you entered from the dining room:

Laminate countertops are a dark gray/blue, which isn't horrific, but not something I would personally choose.  Hardware is very basic and since there are relatively few cabinets, I'd definitely like to dress them up with something cuter, whether or not we paint them.

The sink is not divided, which drives me batty because I'm used to a sink with two compartments, but I know it's perfectly normal for some people.  It's a Moen faucet, but I greatly preferred the faucet at our old house.  I'll probably try to get used to it unless/until we do a big renovation.  I have other things I'd rather spend my money on.  There's no backsplash at all, which I think is weird.  But also an opportunity!  For me to stress over a decision...  traditional subway tile?  Hexagons?  Penny tiles?  Get me a Pinterest board, stat.

I have purchased shelves to go in that bare wall spot next to the sink.  I hope they will be both cute and functional.  I'm also thinking we're going to switch to a small trash can under the sink.  Having that big thing out in the room is not attractive, and there's no ideal place for it.  Plus the baby loves to play with the foot lever thing and that grosses me out.

Here's the view if you're standing with your back to the bay window:

You can see the hallway leading to the staircase and the front door.  We bought the fridge new when we moved and I have to say... I love it.  It's a Samsung and has the freezer drawer on the bottom.  So far it's the most functional and efficient thing in our kitchen.  The pantry is the narrow door next to it, and the pantry itself is a dark, deep, and narrow cabinet.  It holds a lot of stuff, but finding what you need (and remembering what's deep in its bowels) is a challenge.

The laundry basket in the hallway (way to clean up for photos, Brooke) marks the step-down that leads to a side entry door leading outside.  To the left of the door is a half-bath, to the right of the door are the steps leading down to the basement.

Oh, and here's the baby again:

Hey, Mom.  Steam me some veggies already.  Or I'll dismantle and chew on the steamer basket.
What I didn't realize until we moved in is that although there's a lot of space in the kitchen, there's NOT actually a lot of cabinet or counter space.  It only seemed that way coming from such a tiny kitchen, but since we had a huge island-style counter in our old kitchen, we probably have almost the same counter space.

The bay window area is actually an eensy nook that should hold a bistro table but I haven't yet found one that seems sturdy enough and doesn't have a glass top.  (Actually, I want this one, but I don't want to spend that much. #thrifty).  So, yeah, the room is big, relatively speaking, but the usable kitcheny space is not so big.  In other words, we have a great time dancing in the middle of the room, but cooking and food prep is a little cramped.  And yet there's not quite enough space for an island cart (which was my first consideration).  We're considering getting something custom made (Hey, Dad!) but we're still figuring it out.  (I keep reminding myself that we lived in our old house for nine years before we really got organized, haha).

We were used to a tiny kitchen, so we were able to make it work, but my dreams of luxurious storage space were quickly squelched.  I have bigger dreams of really renovating the kitchen--sometimes I wonder if it would be possible to really change things up and open the kitchen to the dining room, include bar seating, move the oven and refrigerator around to make a more workable work-triangle, renovate the pantry so it's more efficient...  But that would all be waaaaaay down the road.  If ever feasible at all.

So right now, we're just trying to get use to the configuration and think about what small changes we could make so that it works better for us now.  Old habits die hard, and I used to be able to reach everything in the kitchen in one step or an arm's reach (literally).  So the extra space feels really nice, but also like we're not making the most of it yet.  The room also seems oddly dark to me, despite the big windows and tall ceilings.  I can't shift any major appliances around, but I think finding a table that works for us, switching out curtains to something more our style, and possibly painting cabinets and adding a backsplash would do wonders to lighten up the place.

- the big window
- the wall color
- the refrigerator
- the high chair (seriously the Ikea high chair rocks--it cleans up so nicely)
- the baby

- the dark cabinets
- the countertops
- the lack of backsplash
- the shiny tile
- the inefficient use of space

So there you have it.  First room on the house tour!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The House: Outside

I have been meaning to post pictures of the new house and I have been delaying it because, you know, things are a mess and we're still unpacking and we don't have stuff up on the walls and I want to plant some flowers and...

And if I don't post pictures already, I'll never get around to it.

I'm going to do a bit at a time, and I think this will be a useful exercise because then I can post about what I plan to do for each room and then random people from the interwebz can criticize those decisions and leave me plagued with self-doubt and second-guessing myself.  It will be awesome!  (Also:  That is why I don't have a DIY/Home Decor blog.  That and I don't have the time, energy, or incessant cheerfulness required for such things.  Although I do love reading them!)

So, here's the front of the house:

There are many things I love about the house, and the street view is one of them.  I love the blond brick, I love the arch-shaped front door.  There are a few things I don't love about the exterior as it is.  I like having a screen door, but I'm thinking it might look better if it were black rather than cream colored.  I don't think the screen door needs to be a focal point.  We used a power washer on the front porch, which made a huge difference in getting off mossy green coloring.  Even the mailman commented on how great it looked after David finished.  I also want to change out the porch lights--they are these solid metal cylinders and they just don't do it for me.  I think some oversized lantern-style lights would better suit the house.  I like the sort that have seeded glass and oil-rubbed bronze--maybe like this?

The landscaping is pretty scraggly, although David already filled in a lot of it before I took this picture--it is even fuller now.  The big green bushes are azaleas, which are lovely for like two weeks in the spring and then are just kinda meh.  We have big plans for landscaping next summer--we want to do a two-level raised bed in the front to add texture and visual interest next to the porch.  I love the dogwood tree, which blooms very lovely blossoms right outside the upstairs window, which will be Zuzu's "big girl" room.

Here's the back of the house:

My mom and Zuzu are playing in the yard.  Along the right, you can see David's vegetable garden.  Just a few tomatoes, squash, and herbs this year.  We've already added a bit more landscaping to the back of the sided extension, where you can see the concrete foundation.  Just some hastas and other plants that like the shade.  If you look to the far right, you'll see a chicken-wire gate that leads to the chickens' house.  On the privacy fence, you'll see a basket of flowers.  That came with the house and--get this--the flowers are fake.  Like polyester and plastic.  We have since removed them!

As for future plans, we want to continue to spruce up the landscaping around the backyard, and add some additional seating on the patio (a storage bench would be useful).  I'd like a table of some sort and David is talking ambitiously about a pergola, but we'll see how things go.  The backyard is nice and shady in late afternoon, but the patio is quite sunny in the morning.  It might be nice to have some kind of shaded canopy, but I'm thinking maybe a big umbrella would be sufficient...

The patio already looks quite a bit different than it does in the previous photo.  We just splurged on new cushions for the patio furniture, and it's currently housing Zuzu's kiddie pool and water table.  And David's already done a lot of work on the landscaping.  He removed two overgrown Rose of Sharon bushes that were way too big for the space and he did this all on his own while I was out of town:

My photo is terrible, but the plants are quite lovely, and that's a fountain in the middle.
The stroller is usually parked under the carport.

Here you see our a one-car garage with attached carport.  The previous owners wanted to expand and have a two-car garage, but they couldn't find a match for the brick (evidently blond brick is hard to come by these days).  So rather than build a garage and put siding on it, they decided to just attach a carport.  It's super convenient for parking off the alley.  (In the city neighborhoods here, all the houses back up to alleys, where there are dumpsters for recycling and trash and yard waste.  Super convenient for walking the dog and throwing away poop bags!  No one has attached garages because the lots just aren't made that way.)  Eventually, David should be able to park his car in the garage, but right now it's still full of stuff that needs to find a home or be donated to find another home.

From the carport, you can see another view of the chik'n sisters' quarters:

Also pictured:  Dogg butt, Grammy, and cute baby.

And a closer look:

Their run is between the house and the privacy fence next door.  We're lucky that our neighbors have been very gracious about the chickens.  David made a point to mention the chickens with our neighbors on both sides.  He explained that he takes very good care of them and cleans their cage regularly, but told the neighbors to please speak up if they ever think it's stinky or too loud.  And yes, we also bribed them with gifts of fresh eggs.  (The girls took about a week to get settled after the move but have been laying regularly ever since.)  They do get to wander the back yard pretty frequently, but we're glad they have even more room at this house than they did at the old house.  Cooper has been pretty good about ignoring them; however, we make him go inside when they're in the backyard. We're not taking any chances.

So that's the outside of the house.  Now I need to take pictures of the inside.  No point in waiting until things are all put together, right?  I'll keep it real and show the "in progress" photos.

Speaking of progress, someone is really proud of herself for standing up on her own!

She's getting so big.  Birthday party, here we come!

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Patch of Green Grass

Looking at the photos of these "rainbow babies" together never fails to make me smile.

There's so much joy here--so much life and activity and so many little personalities.  

After we lost Eliza, we hoped and prayed and wished for another baby.  We wanted a chance to bring home a baby, to be The Mommy and The Daddy, to do all the things associated with raising children.  We were parents already, but we only got to experience a small sliver of what that meant, and the vast majority of our experience was choked with grief.  We had the huge love for our baby, but we also had the huge emptiness she left behind.

So of course Zuzu was a dream come true.  She gave us hope and brought us joy and she continues to be a delight and a challenge.  She's everything I could have asked for.

But she's not her sister.

And just as I could never wish Eliza back to take Zuzu's place, I can't expect Zuzu to fill the emptiness Eliza left--at least, not entirely.

It's easy to assume that having another baby has "fixed" us.  We are happier now, and Zuzu is a big part of that.  Our grief rests easier now, and some of that is Zuzu.  A lot of that is time.

Rainbow babies are freaking awesome, but they don't fix the loss that we experienced, and seeing all those rainbow babies together underscored how lucky we are to have them, and how unbelievably tragic it is that we don't have their siblings.

It seems that the grief that results from having a stillborn baby can be hard for some people to fully comprehend.  How do you love a baby you never met?  Even for a baby who died in infancy, some people may try to diminish the agony, as though the length of a baby's life could possibly be in direct proportion to the grief experienced by her parents.

What happened is this:  We had a baby.  For nearly nine months we poured our heart and soul and love and energy and plans and dreams into that child and then for reasons no one can explain and no one could predict, her heart stopped beating and we never got to bring her home.  We had a baby.  And our baby died.

It didn't just happen to us.  It happened to far too many other parents.  Good parents.  Smart, educated, successful, loving, generous, hilarious, intelligent, sensitive, compassionate people.  

My friend Julie Serena was reflecting on the photo of all of these babies.  Her daughter Catherine is on Zuzu's left in the picture below (her hat has the two purple pom-poms).

Julie's first daughter, Anna, died suddenly during her delivery due to a cord accident.  She was perfectly healthy until the moment her cord got pinched and deprived her of oxygen.  She was so loved.  She was so wanted.  And she was almost here.  And then she was gone.

Julie's comments about this photo made me realize that maybe the best way to describe to someone else the unfathomable reality of our loss is to show them this picture.  She mentioned that looking at it highlights both how amazing these babies are AND how equally amazing their brothers or sisters would have been.  In depicting our greatest joy, it illustrates our greatest sorrow.

Look at this picture:

And then imagine a blank patch of green grass where all those babies were.  An empty lawn instead of so many sweet babies.

Because, as Julie pointed out, That's what happened.  

We give it labels:  stillbirth.  infant loss.  cord accident.  sids.  unexplained fetal demise.  None of that changes the reality that the picture above represents fourteen gorgeous babies AND fifteen little lives cut short.  Each baby in a rainbow hat had a brother or sister whom we fully expected would be here and alive and present and taking up space on their patch of green grass.

And then all those babies were gone.

The death of a child, whenever it occurs, leaves a void that nothing can fill--not even the most beautiful siblings we could dream into life.

The babies we lost were just as magical, just as beautiful, just as unique, just as full of potential, and just as real as each one of the living, breathing little persons wearing rainbow hats.  We carried them for months and months, expecting we'd carry them home.

And maybe the most concrete way to understand that loss is to see their siblings and then imagine the empty expanse of green lawn.  So many babies brought into this world, wanted and loved.  And then they were gone.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Treasure Hunting and Toilet Water Showers

Warning:  Do not read this if you're eating or about to eat or thinking about eating.

You have been warned.

I send Zuzu to daycare with cloth diapers.  On the mornings she goes to daycare (she's down from three days a week to two for the summer), I carry clean diapers in her Planet Wise wet bag.  I take out the diapers and put them in her bin under the changing table, and then I hang up the bag nearby.  They stick the dirty diapers in the bag each time they change her (the lining does a sufficient job of holding in any stink when it's zipped shut).

Back in the day when she was on a breastmilk-only diet, I could just unzip the bag, toss the whole thing in the wash, and be done with it.

Now that she is a Big Girl eating Big Girl Food and having Grown Ass Man Poop, each evening she gets home we have to go on what I like to call a "treasure hunt":  unfold each dirty diaper to see which one(s) holds a Grown Ass Man Turd and dump it in the toilet before washing the diapers.

Cloth diapering--it's ultra glamorous.  Don't let anyone tell you differently.

I force David to take turns with me doing the treasure hunt.

Last night was my night to locate the turd.  (I hold my breath the whole time.  I hold my breath for so long I could probably set a world record.  Or I mouth-breathe.  Anything to avoid inhaling through the nostrils.)

We have a sprayer attached to the toilet for spraying out turds.  It's a powerful little sprayer, and you have to hold it low or you end up spraying poo all over the bathroom tile. (Not that that's ever happened to me.  No way.  I would never.)

For some reason when we moved (weeks ago), we never got the sprayer hooked up.  So on daycare nights we'd have to coax the poop from the diaper into the toilet with the help of a wad toilet paper or sometimes just vigorous shaking and/or dipping in the toilet.


That method wasn't all that effective, and after doing a load of diaper laundry that ended up with very clean and very rinsed but STILL RECOGNIZABLE black bean in my washing machine, the sprayer had to be put back into circulation.


David hooked up the sprayer just in time for my treasure hunt, so after locating the turd diaper, I held it low over the toilet, pointed the sprayer at the turd, and pushed the trigger.

And I shot a high-pressure stream of cold water directly into my own face.

Somehow I had completely turned the sprayer around so instead of pointing it at the diaper, I had pointed it directly up at myself.  The good news?  I missed the diaper entirely so the poop wasn't going anywhere.  The bad news?  I had just drenched myself and was still holding a diaper full of shit.

It was so shocking that I didn't even register HOW it happened, so it took me a second to realize I was doing this TO MYSELF and I had to LET GO of the trigger.

Also I was mouth-breathing so as not to smell poop, so some of the water went into my mouth.

After the split-second in which I realized what was happening but still hadn't fully processed it, I SCREAMED loudly enough to send David running upstairs with the baby in his arms to see what had happened to me.

Nothing hysterical, mind you.  Just the kind of screaming you do when you're leaning over the toilet and mouth-breathing and NOT expecting a powerful jet of freezing cold water to shoot up from the direction of the toilet and into your face and then a powerful jet of freezing cold water suddenly shoots up from the direction of the toilet, into your open eyes and open mouth and all over your face.

I met David at the top of the stairs, still sputtering, my hair dripping.

Oh, honey, it's nothing.  I just SHOWERED myself with TOILET WATER.  And some of it went in MY MOUTH.  No big deal.

David pointed out that it's not technically toilet water--it just comes out of the wall pipe.

(The same pipe that sends water into the toilet.)

Whatever.  It it FELT like toilet water.

Also I was still holding on to the turd-filled diaper.  Which still had to be rinsed and flushed.  Gag.  I managed to do that without soaking myself or covering the entire bathroom in shit, so the story has a happy ending.

The lesson here:  Make sure you know which way the diaper sprayer is pointed.

Also:  I feel that it's important to state here that I still have no regrets about cloth diapering.  We are eleven months in, and when I think about how many diapers we haven't thrown in the landfill, I'm so glad we're doing it.

But, yeah.  It can be really super gross.  Treasure hunts and toilet water showers are the prime examples.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Where I Am Now: Two Years + Six Months

It has been two and a half years.  Thirty months.  I'm still grieving.  I'll never stop being a bereaved parent.  But I'm also living again, and that life feels easier and lighter than I ever thought it could.  It has its moments, of course--prickles of sadness here and there, happy moments followed by a bittersweet chaser, and sometimes still the big, ugly cry for all we've lost and all that might have been.

And yet, it's easier to laugh.  Easier to see friends.  Easier to be around other kids.  Easier to talk about Eliza, and easier to rest quietly with her on my mind, which is perhaps the biggest change from a year ago.

I still love her like she's alive.  It continues to be a remarkable thing to me, that a baby who never took a breath could still have such a hold on my heart.  But she does.

Seeing little girls at the park--especially those with a certain kind of straight, light-brown, chin-length hair--between the ages of two and three, gives me a lump in my throat.  I don't cry.  I don't have to leave.  But I feel the sting of those tears sitting behind my eyes.

A couple of weeks ago we were visiting my parents and went to church with them.  A baby was being baptized.

I did not have to get up and leave.  I didn't love it.  I tasted some bitterness.  I might have whispered a snide comment or two to David.  I might have zoned out a little and not paid close attention to what was being said.  But I've had two and a half years to get used to the idea that my first baby died, and it appears that I am now capable of sitting through baptisms of babies who didn't die.  I'm still sort of astonished that this is possible.

Equally astonishing is the fact that two and a half years after my first baby died, I'm planning a birthday party.  Zuzu will be one year old in less than two weeks, and time continues to play tricks on me.

Elize died in December 2010.  Zuzu was born in June 2012.  And I'm still fuzzy about everything that happened in those eighteen months.  The year 2011 might as well have not existed for all I can remember of it.  Much of last year is a blur.  My grief for Eliza is both ancient and fresh.  And suddenly my rainbow baby has been here for an entire year.  My brain can't figure it out.

I'm finding a kind of balance.  I no longer feel like a freak when I'm out in public--like I need a black arm band to explain why I wince when I see a pregnant woman smugly rubbing her belly, why I can't make eye contact with the parent of new baby, why I'll pet any dog in the park before I'll peek into a baby stroller.  I can do these things and they don't hurt anymore.  Sometimes there's a sting, yes, but sometimes I do it without even thinking about it.  So sometimes I feel "normal" and other times I feel totally outside normal.

I try to remind myself that everyone has his or her share of sorrow, but the reality is that not all that many people know what it feels like to hold a dead baby, particularly their own loved and wanted firstborn child, so I definitely have my moments of dwelling in self-pity.  Two and a half years and one rainbow baby later, those moments are usually matched in frequency by appreciation of how lucky I am, but my sadness--though it's balanced pretty well these days--is never too far out of reach.

My friend Keleen talks about "The List of Broken Dreams," which are all of the things we wanted to do with our lost babies that we may or may not get to do with the rainbow babies.  It's thrilling to cross something off that list, but it's also a little heartbreaking--one more thing we've missed out on with Eliza even though we're not missing out on it entirely.  I've struggled with that list this year, because I want to celebrate Zuzu for her own merit--she's such a fascinating, hilarious, delightful little person all her own.  I usually find that while I can't keep reflecting for a moment or two on what I missed with Eliza, I almost always find myself caught up in the moment, enjoying Zuzu, and I think that's as good as it gets.

For example, I'll never think about Mommy & Me yoga without being a little wistful because I'd planned to go with Eliza.  But then I went with Zuzu and it was funny and ridiculous and not at all the magical zen experience that I'd expected (Zuzu literally motorboated my boobs during one class and we all just laughed because it was SO LOUD).  My reality will never quite align with the life I'd once imagined, but this reality can be awfully sweet (and funny) in its own right.  So I try to acknowledge that I miss Eliza, and then let myself enjoy Zuzu (or be embarrassed by her, either way).

I do find that I'm rushing milestones a little bit, and I know I'm not alone in this either.  As much as I wanted to savor and soak up every minute with Zuzu, I also was doing a lot of countdowns to milestones in my head.  And a lot of those milestones involved her living longer than babies I know who died.  It was like a sigh of relief when she lived a certain number of days, then weeks, then months.  Although I can't believe it's already been a year, you'll never hear me say that I'm sad my baby is growing up.  Sometimes I feel like I want her to grow up as fast as she can--before something happens to take her away from me.  I want all the days with her that I can get.

And do I need to even say that I'm so grateful for Zuzu?  She cracks me up and she exasperates me and she tests my patience and she melts my heart on a daily basis.  I feel privileged to be her mom and thrilled to plan her first birthday party.  But even still, there's part of me that wants to "catch up" to where Eliza would be, part of me that still feels like I'm a year and a half behind where I am supposed to be.

I continue to value the connections Eliza has brought me.  E-mails and comments from blog readers, growing friendships with other bereaved parents, deeper connections with certain people that I meet--these are gifts I'll never stop appreciating.  Almost all the friendships I had before Eliza remain intact, but a few are significantly changed, and I don't know if those changes would have happened anyway with the busy-ness of having kids, or if my grief created the wedge that caused a distance between us.  I've found it relatively easy to accept those changes--I think because I've gained new friends who truly understand what I've been through, and because after losing my daughter, the adjustment of a friendship seems like a relatively minor loss.  (Talk about a shitty way to get perspective:  The basement's flooding?  Well, at least nobody died.)

My relationship with David feels both solid and uplifting, and after our experience with trauma and grief, I think that we have survived for each other as much as anything else.  Losing a child and having another child has inevitably transformed our relationship, but I feel closer to him now than ever.  (For example, today I asked him if he'd seen my sewing scissors because I couldn't find them and he said no, but I KNEW he must have seen them and put them somewhere, so I tried to imagine where David would put a pair of scissors that I had DELIBERATELY left out and that he wanted put away, and I found them in the second place I looked.  So we're basically mind-melding.)  Watching him parent Zuzu makes my heart grow three sizes, and also ache with longing for the little girl he never got to play with.

As for my sweet Eliza girl, it has been two and a half years since I held her, and I miss her still.  I love her and I miss her.  I love her sister and I miss her.  I love her dad and I miss her.  I'm happy, but I miss her.

One Year Ago

Two Years Ago

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rainbow Weekend

Rainbow baby is the term for a baby after the loss of a previous child. It is the understanding that a rainbow's beauty does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean that the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds.  

Several of us got together last weekend near Chicago.  Fourteen broken-hearted mamas and fourteen rainbow babies who helped us find our way back to life.  These are women who sent love and light my way when my world was as dark as it could possibly get.  And they did this while suffering themselves--almost all of us lost babies in late 2010 or 2011 and had our "rainbows" in 2012.  We were in the trenches together, slogging through the worst part of grief simultaneously, and reaching out to carry each other through it.

at the park
When I think about the path that I've walked in the last two and a half years, I know that the greatest loss of my life was coupled with an amazing gift of friendship and connection with people I would never have otherwise met.  It's no compensation for the loss of a child, and many times I heard someone mention over the weekend that we wished we could have all been there for some other reason.  But there is some consolation in shared sorrow, in knowing that you're not alone in your pain.

And there is far greater consolation in shared hope:  these women were also my pregnancy support team, encouraging and worrying and wishing and hoping alongside me in those anxiety-filled days of pregnancy-after-loss.  It's crazy because in some ways we are each other's horror stories--fourteen different ways a baby can die.  There's ten years' difference between the oldest and youngest of us.  We come from various cities, states, and countries (hello, Canada!).  We have different jobs, different backgrounds, different interests (and fall in various places on the "hippie spectrum"--the biggest hippie being the crazy girl with cloth diapers and backyard chickens.  Oh wait, that's me.).

We all experienced a life-shattering heartbreak, and somehow in the brutal aftermath of living with loss, we found each other.  And we formed real friendships, that started because of our losses and then moved beyond that to be something more, something good that grew out of the most terrible thing we could imagine.

speaking of something good - Bode, Zuzu, Kellan, and Grace
The magic of the interwebz allowed many of us connect through blogs, through Instagram photo-sharing, through e-mail and g-chat and Skype.  So meeting in person for the first time (or second time, for a few of us) was weird in the sense that it didn't feel weird at all.  There were very few introductions because we'd seen almost everyone (or at least their rainbow babies) before.  It felt more like a neighborhood block party (on what would be a tragically unlucky block).

B wonders how his home invasion occurred
And let me tell you this:  When hearts break, they do break open.  There was so much love in the room when all those babies were there.  There was chaos, yes, and some screeching, occasional tears, and a few throw-down fights among the bigger boys over a very desirable lawn-mower, but there was SO. MUCH. LOVE.

Some of us were more demonstrative than others!
The thing about rainbow babies is that they are unique individuals, totally lovable and adorable in their own right.  But they also offer a glimpse, a hint, of genes shared with a brother or sister who is no longer here, and we love them for that, too.

Addison's little brother, Mason
Our greatest gift follows on the heels of our greatest loss, and it's a fierce and complicated kind of parental love that grows out of those circumstances.  One of the awesome things about the weekend was seeing other rainbow babies that I've come to love, and seeing my friends love on Zuzu, understanding what she means to us in a way that most people can't or don't or won't.

Zuzu gets some love from Addison and Mason's mom
Being in a room with other people who were relatively close on the grief timeline was like having a kind of weight lifted.  There was no need for explanation--these people got it because they are living it, too.

Grace & Zuzu 
Every tear, every wail, every twinge of guilt, every full-belly-laugh, every prayer, and every doubt--we shared these things and we continue to share them.  This is the sisterhood that grief makes.  It's shitty and it's brutal and it's one we would have all avoided if there any possible way.  But it is also a beautiful thing to know that we're in this awful mess together.  I say this because I don't know how I could have survived it on my own.

My pregnancy support group - we e-mailed each other multiple times a day every single day while we were pregnant with these guys--all born within three months of each other
We had no agenda for the weekend.  We talked and hugged babies and laughed and cried.  We talked about grief and loss and spirituality and pregnancy and marriage and families and fashion and home decorating.  We did a lot of chasing babies and referring fights over pacifiers, sippy cups, and toys (the lawn mower!).

this toy was a huge hit
Zuzu & Catherine are wrestling over Grace's pacifier

three boys in a basket
We ate.  We drank.  We laughed and cried some more.  And then we laughed until we cried.  We joked and made fun of each other.  We shared our secrets, the inescapable guilt, the unavoidable fears.  We existed in a place without judgment even as we described our experience with grief in different ways.  We talked about jobs, about parenting, about food, about travel.  We lit candles for the babies we are missing, and for the other moms we wished could have made the trip, and for the babies that those moms are missing also (far too many candles on that deck).

We're all broken here, and we're helping each other hold the pieces together.  There was something amazing about the way a conversation could effortlessly move from deep grief to superficial commentary and back again, interrupted periodically by baby-chasing or nap time.  To have that sense of ease with so many women I'd never met before?  It was really incredible.

lots of talking
When I left on Sunday, I felt so sad to be so far away from what someone (I think it was Keleen?) had aptly called "the best friends I'd never met."  Because now I had met them.  And they were just as amazing in person as they were online.  And while it's unlikely that we ever would have met if our lives didn't share the same tragedy, I'm grateful for the opportunity to know them and to love them.

Zuzu, Ginny, & Harlow, all missing big sisters
I also felt a little lighter as I drove away on Sunday.  It kind of like we'd all shown up in Chicago with our diaper bags and suitcases, and also our heavy emotional dead-baby baggage and while we couldn't leave any of it behind, we'd been able to help each other shoulder that emotional burden.  My grief rests a little lighter now--I'm balancing it better after soaking up so much love and support.

At the same time, I grieve more deeply for all of the women who were there, whose babies were so loved and wanted and so tragically and traumatically ripped away from them by a fate none of us can understand.  It's hard to fathom all the pain in the world, and at this point I think I've compartmentalized a lot of mine so that I can function on a daily basis.  The empathy experienced when connecting with people who have endured the loss of a child is both exhausting and uplifting.

Being physically surrounded by people who love Eliza and love Zuzu and who understand intimately and intensely what it is to love two babies when one is here and one is not...  I can't find the words to do it justice.

Sonja gave all the babies rainbow hats that her mother had knitted.  Her mom wrote in the note she included that each rainbow baby is also reminder of the brother or sister who isn't here.  It's such a bittersweet combination of joy and grief, and that couldn't have been more vivid than in the moments we spent trying to capture a group picture of the babies in their hats.

This was probably the best picture we got!
Like herding cats.  Who also cry and try to poke each other's eyes out.
So much life and love can be seen in these snapshots, and those little caps represent the way these babies lit up our lives in the darkness of grief.

Our rainbow girl, Zuzu
Bear's little brother, Bode
I'm so sorry that we're members of this club, and I'm so grateful to have found each one of you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Faux Capiz Chandelier

Please brace yourselves as I shamelessly brag show you guys the awesome craft that I made all by myself coerced my cousin Amanda to make worked cooperatively with many family members to create.

After painting the ceiling of nursery (remember this?)

I knew that we needed a snazzy light fixture to finish it off.  Woot woot!

I also knew that I needed it to be inexpensive.  Womp womp.

It was time to get creative.  I kept checking out thrift and consignment shops (nothing) and eyeing this from West Elm and even though it wasn't all that unreasonably expensive, I also wanted the light fixture to be special.  So while it was suggested to me (ahem, David) that I could just purchase the non-faux version of this light fixture from West Elm, I decided that I really wanted to give the DIY tutorial a try.

There are several tutorials available online, but here's my version:

I started out by stripping the crappy, yellowed paper off an old lamp shade that I had replaced.  I took it apart so it was just the wire frame, and then I had my brother bend a coat hanger to make a third row of wire in the middle (held in place by garbage bag twist-ties).  I spray-painted the whole thing white.

That was the quick and easy part.

Then I took three sheets of wax paper and ironed them together between two pieces of parchment paper.  The parchment paper just keeps the wax from getting on the ironing board and the iron.  I tore the pieces of wax paper about two feet long (maybe?) and turned off the steam setting on my iron.  This fused the wax paper into a thicker material that also resembles the capiz shell texture.  

I think I ironed ten of those total--so thirty 2-foot sheets of waxed paper fused together in sets of three.

Then I started punching out circles using this circle punch which I do not recommend.

I was punching circles on Saturday morning of Family Weekend, waiting for Crafty Cousin Amanda to arrive.

Unfortunately, my circle punch was a piece of crap.  It didn't cut sharp enough to have clean edges, so I had to clean up a lot of circles with my scissors.

I tried sharpening it by cutting aluminum foil, but that didn't improve things, and then the thing totally broke on me.  My dad ended up taking it completely apart, but it was broken beyond repair.

So by the time Amanda showed up, I was kind of freaking out.  But she talked me off the ledge, and we started tracing and cutting with scissors, using the inside of the dissembled circle cutter as our tracing guideline.  Our circles were 1.5" in diameter.  It was about this point that we also enlisted the help of my great-aunts and some cousins, who assisted in tracing and cutting.  Of course I supervised, while stuffing my face with cookies and letting my mom take care of my kid.

Then Amanda started sewing the circles together.  We used regular thread and she just threaded the circles through the sewing machine one right after the other.  Once she had a good long strip sewn, we held it up on the lamp shade to determine how long we wanted the strips to be.  We decided to make it twelve circles long, so that we'd drape it over with six circles on each side.

And then it was a matter of sewing all the circles together, and snipping them off in sections of twelve.  We filled in the bottom circle and the middle circle and then determined that we would need thirty-six strips for the top circle.  Which meant we needed to cut 372 more circles.

We enlisted the help of my great-aunts and kept going.  We found it worked well to accordion-fold the ironed wax paper and trace the circles so we could cut out five at a time.  They weren't perfect circles by any means, but capiz shells aren't perfect either, right?  (Or maybe they are, in which case, keep that information to yourself.)

Thanks to Amanda's sewing skills, steady hands, patience, and the help from other people wielding scissors, it really went much quicker than I would have thought.

And it turned out great!

From a distance, it really looks like shells.

(this picture was taken in the lodge during Family Weekend)
To get it up in the nursery, I used 3M Command hooks--the clear and metal kind that say they are made to hold utensils.  I stuck them right on the ceiling medallion, impatiently waited an hour, and then hung up the lamp shade frame.

The light kit is a basic kit from Home Depot; the ceiling medallion is from Lowes and probably needs to be painted but David went ahead and put it up before I could paint it so I've let it go for now.  We'll see if it bugs me in the future.  So far I'm okay with it.

Then I added all the strands of wax paper circles that were folded up and waiting:

And hanging up in the nursery, it looks darling.

It wouldn't have been nearly as much fun--or gone nearly as quickly--if I'd tried to do it by myself.  So if you want to take on this project, I highly recommend enlisting a partner (or a group of assistants).  Makes it much more fun.

Especially if that partner is willing to keep diligently sewing away while you chat, eat cookies, entertain a baby, refill drinks, and eat more cookies.  Thanks, Amanda!  I couldn't have done it without her.  For real.  Since she did all the sewing for me.  And helped with the tracing and cutting.  But I did the ironing!  And did a lot of the cutting as well (I wasn't a total slouch, I swear.  Only a partial slouch.).

Now I just have to finish sewing the curtains, get the picture rail up, and sand and paint the trim.  That sounds like a lot of work.  If only I could get Crafty Cousin Amanda here for a weekend...