Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: Year in Review

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
Gave birth (without meds!) to a third baby girl. It was the easiest and best labor and delivery experience I could have imagined--even with the close call of my doctor barely arriving in time to catch the baby! I loved our doula (so if you're in St. Louis and looking for the best doula ever, e-mail me and I'll hook you up.)

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year
So these were my goals for last year (all house related--because evidently as a person I need no further improvement, haha): Complete bookshelves for living room, paint kitchen cabinets, paint basement walls, organize craft/sewing/desk area in basement, make closet more functional, save money!

Those were all completed except for organizing my craft/sewing/desk area. And having another baby means we haven't saved a whole lot more money. So let's just say that's ongoing.

Goals for 2015: Figure out how to use my DSLR camera in manual mode. Be more active. Don't bring work home too often. Make time for yoga. Be energetic and ready for fun.

And one I've had before, but that I think is most important: Give proofs of love.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes. Brandy and Laura both had girl babies just a few months before Coco came along.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

David's grandma Mary passed away this spring.

5. What countries did you visit?

We stuck around the ol' US of A. In fact our travel plans for this summer were canceled due to Baby Belly.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

I'd like to have a relaxing summer. Last summer I taught a class the whole month of June, plus I was huge and uncomfortable with an awkwardly breech big baby, and I couldn't always play with Zuzu the way I wanted to. And then there was all the anxiety that hit me around 36 weeks. So I just want a fun, relatively stress-free summer.

7. What dates from 2014 will remained etched upon your memory?
August 7 - Coco's birthday.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I think I did a good job of balancing my responsibilities and focusing on my priorities. I've found I'm getting much better at shrugging off drama and just focusing on what I know to be true and what matters most to me.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Failure to cloth diaper Coco, failure to potty train Zuzu.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope. Knock on wood. I wasn't sick at all this year. Makes me think I should take prenatal vitamins all the time forever. We are also so fortunate that Zuzu has never been ill with anything more serious than an ear infection, and Coco has also been healthy. I hope so much they stay that way this winter.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets to Las Vegas to meet up with some of my best friends and their darling babes.

Non-material item: Our monthly sponsorship of a girl in Ethiopia who is taking part in Studio Samuel's Training for Tomorrow program. I love hearing how she is doing (my girl is now a group leader!), and it is humbling to think that a negligible sacrifice on our part makes a huge difference in the life of a girl.

Materially speaking: A new headboard for our bed. It's one of those things that I had no idea what I was missing until we got one. It makes our bed feel luxurious and makes our room feel complete. It also inspires me to make the bed every single day.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I'm with Time magazine here--I'm awed and impressed with the doctors and healthcare workers fighting Ebola. 

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The controversy and aftermath of the death of Michael Brown is Ferguson has been incredibly depressing. I think it's important to acknowledge, discuss, and attempt to remedy the systemic racism in our country, but it sucks that we haven't done more to eradicate social injustices.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage and daycare (we are so bourgeois like that).

15. What did you get really excited about?
Raising sisters.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
"Let It Go" - Zuzu's song of the year, and one that she loves belting out, regardless of whether she's singing off-key.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder?  happier - so relieved that the pregnancy I found out about in December of 2013 ended with a healthy baby in 2014.
- thinner or fatter?  fatter - I think it's going to take a little effort to lose these last few pounds of baby weight.
- richer or poorer?  poorer - I took unpaid leave from work so I could stay home with Coco. Worth it. But look for posts on budgeting in 2015!

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Yoga. And cloth diapering--that's its own saga.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Potty training! Haha. But seriously.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my parents at our house, then with my brother, his girlfriend, and my parents at my parents' house, then with my Papa and my dad's siblings and my cousins at my aunt Tammi's, and then with David's family in Kansas. It was a long Christmas week!

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?
Yes. With this little girl:

22. What was your favorite TV program?
The Good Wife (I swear it's the best show on TV, hands down.)

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hmm. Nope. I have written off a few people with a feeling of indifference, but I'm over the hate.

24. What was the best book you read?
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I really got sucked in. I also enjoyed Amy Poehler's book Yes, Please!, JoJo Moyes's Me Before You, Cristina Henriquez's The Book of Unknown Americans, and TaraShea Nesbit's The Wives of Los Alamos. A wide range of topics/styles/types of books.

25. What was your favorite musical discovery?
Since we have established that I'm too old and lame to make musical discoveries, my favorite musical moment was dancing to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" in the kitchen with Zuzu and my friend Erin. It was such a silly, sweet, funny moment. Zuzu still talks about it and asks for the "Play, play, play" song quite frequently. Say what you will, Taylor Swift knows how to right a catchy tune.

26. What did you want and get?
Another baby girl.

27. What did you want and not get?
A baby boy. (Isn't that weird? I really wanted another girl, but now I am sort of wistful about the fact that we'll--in all likelihood--never have a boy.)

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Into the Woods (Confession: I can't even remember seeing another film this year.)

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
My birthday was decidedly unmemorable this year. I was 34. I was super pregnant. I wanted to go ahead and have the baby THAT DAY. I did not have the baby, but I can't even tell you what I did otherwise. I think maybe we went to the Botanical Gardens? David and I went to dinner but I didn't have much appetite. Next year, I swear I'm going to do something more exciting.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Getting a full year of paid maternity leave. (Can I get a HELL YEAH from my fellow Americans?)

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Maternity Wear. Specifically leggings, tunics, and dresses. I've now gotten rid of virtually all my maternity clothes so my personal fashion concept for the post-August year is Postpartum Wear. My wardrobe has shrunk considerably! Still wearing a lot of leggings, tunics, and scarves.

32. What kept you sane?
David, my best e-mail buddies, my friend Erin at work, and Zuzu saying, "I love you, Mama," unprompted.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Chip and Joanna Gaines. David and I have a couple crush on them. They are SO CUTE.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

35. Who did you miss?
Eliza, of course, and grandparents whom we wish could have had time--or more time--with Zuzu and Coco.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Technically, I'd met them before, but the best new person in our lives is Zuzu's teacher in the two-year-old room at school. I love that Zuzu runs into to school and happily kisses me good-bye.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
Sometimes surprises can be awesome.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Time was I had a dream
And you're that dream come true
And if I had the world to give,
I'd give it all to you.

I'll take you to the mountains,
I will take you to the sea,
And I'll show you how this life became
A miracle to me.

(From Dar Williams's "The One Who Knows")

May 2015 sparkle for you and yours. Here's to a new year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Little Drummer Girl

Thanks for the drum set, Santa. Zuzu's mommy and daddy think that you're kind of an a-hole.

But the dancing Santa-Baby makes me laugh, so no hard feelings.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Potty Training Update: No More Puddles!

Yes, that's right! I'm not cleaning up any more puddles of pee!

Because I put her ass back in diapers.

I know, I know. Stay strong! Stay the course! She'll get it eventually!

Well, people. I was having STRESS DREAMS about potty training. I'd tried little bribes and BIG prizes--Frozen jelly beans, stickers, a Minnie Mouse book--and then I threatened to throw her treats in the trash.  David was giving her a Skittle just to sit on the damn potty (which she wouldn't always do).

One afternoon she pooped her pants, so we followed the protocol of rushing her to the bathroom, and dumping the turd in the toilet. "See! Poop goes in the potty!". And then she had the nerve to ask for a mother-effing treat! Are you KIDDING me?

When I woke up on Christmas Eve morning, she was dry but she wouldn't pee in the potty (screaming fit, "I dry! I DRY!").  About twenty minutes later I said, "Don't forget to tell me when you have to pee, honey!"

Approximately thirty seconds after my friendly reminder, she turned, looked at me, and peed her pants on the carpet. It was SO over.

I was SO MAD and I did not want to spend Christmas Eve pissed off at my two-year-old.

I did not want to be constantly thinking about and talking about pee and poop.

I was starting to fear for my marriage because David and I were being ragey with each other instead of being ragey with Zuzu and life was Very Unpleasant.

And I did not want to have to put down my Christmas morning mimosa in order to clean up bodily waste.

Also we were running out of laundry detergent.

So I plopped her in the bathtub, put her in diapers, and then did a Yoga for Stress Relief video.

My mom took her up for her nap that afternoon and, during the story, Zuzu sat up and started taking off her diaper. My mom asked what she was doing.

"I go pee."

That kid took off her own diaper, walked to the potty, and peed in it.


But we haven't had a success like that since, and we've kept her in diapers now that we're on our Holiday Tour of the Midwest.

I'm annoyed, but trying to keep perspective here. We'll try again in 30 days or so and see how things go.

And we had a very nice, puddle-free Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 Christmas Letter

Every year I sent out snail mail Christmas cards and I always include a Christmas letter (you can read last year's letter here). I don't think many people send letters anymore--probably because Facebook means that most of us (I'm still not on FB) keep up with each other more easily than back in the old days. But I used to love reading the Christmas letters my parents got, so I'm keeping up the tradition.

Another annual tradition is that every year I realize someone got inadvertently left off the list or skipped over by mistake and I don't have enough cards. (And yes, it happened again this year, with two families, so sorry about that. Check your mailbox for Christmas 2015.)

Anyway, if I don't have your snail mail address or the letter got skipped in the assembly process (when a toddler helps, things tend to go a little haywire), you're in luck! Here's this year's Christmas letter. Super cheesy, but fun to write.

’Twas a few weeks before Christmas, and all through our house
The talk was of Santa (and also Minnie Mouse).
The stockings were hung, the tree all alight,
A candle for Eliza glowing soft and bright.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of toys and mama-milk danced in their heads.
And I (with my laptop) and David (with his phone)
Had just settled down in our peaceful home,
When I decided to write a rhyming Christmas letter.
As a use of my time, there seemed nothing better.
This letter will take you through our family’s last year,
The laughter, the fun, the crazy, the beer.
January started 2014 with snow that never got old
For Zuzu, who didn’t seem to mind the cold.
February brought an announcement of joy
We were expecting a baby! Surprise girl? Or boy?
March was a month of travel for all:
David went to KC for beer fantasy baseball;
Brooke and Zuzu flew on a plane out west
To meet up with friends (some of the best).
We also visited Papa out on his farm
And Zuzu petted a baby goat out by the barn.
April was Easter with Grammy and Bop.
(Zuzu is kind of like the bunny that just won’t stop.)
In May we welcomed the end of school
For professors and principals, summer’s always cool.
June brought us something new—
Caroline was turning two!
She had her favorite kind of birthday bash
A party with water—a big splish-splash.
We went to Branson for Independence Day
Gma Peggy, Memaw, Pepaw, Grammy, & Bop came to play.
July marked ten years of marriage, standing side by side
(It’s obvious to all that I was a child bride).
But our anniversary travels are still on delay
Since a big baby belly was in the way!
July marked our countdown to Baby Duck #3
We couldn’t wait to find out if it was a she or a he.
August 7th brought us the results of that gender bet,
Our third beautiful girl: Baby Colette.
Zuzu adored her baby sister,
and school started for the Duckworth mister.
The missus stayed home with Zuzu and Coco.
And by September, they were on the go-go.
To the park! To the library! And Zuzu to school!
(Sometimes it was still warm enough to go to the pool.)
October had lots of fun to match:
visiting friends, trick-or-treating, and a pumpkin patch!
We had family in town to see our Little Bo Peep
And they all got to hold her sweet little sheep.
November days brought cold and early snow,
and warm afternoons cuddling Zuzu and Coco.
Thanksgiving was spent at home in St. Louis
With the girls’ grandparents traveling to us.
And now Christmas is fun is heading our way
And Zuzu’s counting down the days.
It’s always bittersweet, this month of December
We miss our Eliza, family, and friends we remember.
Our hearts go out to those missing loved ones
And we hope the days ahead are peaceful and fun ones.
Tonight we are sending you love and good wishes
And from our sweet girls, plenty of big hugs and kisses.
Caroline and Colette have made this our very best year
Full of laughter (and laundry) and lots of good beer.
We love it when Colette giggles and Caroline sings,
      (“LET IT GOOOOOO…”)
And we can’t wait to see what the New Year brings.
Now I’ll add this last note, before we turn out the lights,

Merry Christmas, Happy Everything, and to all a good night!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Adventures in Potty Training: Even Less Fun Than I'd Imagined; Or, You Probably Don't Want to Sit On Our Couch

Perhaps you've wondered where I've been the past week. Perhaps you've imagined I've been busy with holiday shopping and holiday crafts and holiday baking and holiday gift wrapping, and soaking up the wonder of the season and the beauty of my children and the love that fills the air.

You would be wrong.

I have been in potty training hell. And, guess what? It does not allow time for blogging.

Before I had kids, I swore that I would never talk about potty-training as though it were actually a subject of interest to anyone else.

But it's all I can think about. (Well, that and the soundtrack to Rent, which I've been listening to the in the car, even though it's loaded with the F-bomb--those songs are so catchy I wake up in the middle of the night with them running through my head and can't stop reciting the entire damn soundtrack.)

So my friend Brandy told me about the 3-day potty training program she was going to do with her son. I thought it sounded great, but with Christmas coming up and holiday traveling, I didn't think we were going to tackle it until the new year (you know, when I also start exercising and cut out sugar and unnecessary spending and get all my paperwork organized and purge the house of toys and go back to work--so FUN TIMES COMING UP).

And then I thought--with all the crap we are packing up for our Midwest Christmas Tour, I do not want to pack double diapers. There is NO REASON why Zuzu shouldn't be potty-trained. She's capable. I would have gotten serious about it months ago if Coco weren't in the mix. I know she's ready. She is perfectly capable of communicating verbally. She wakes up dry from naps and, often, in the morning. She announces poop in her diaper. It is time.

I read about the program Brandy is using, and I got ALL FIRED UP and ready to DO THIS THING.

So I gathered our supplies (about 20 pairs of big girl panties--I'm counting reusable swim diapers), gave her unfettered access to watered down apple juice and encourage her to guzzle it (the idea being that she'll have to pee a lot and will therefore get a lot of practice at identifying the sensation), and put the potty chairs in the bathrooms at the ready. I made a big show of throwing away her diapers (Bye-bye, diapers!) and the games began.

The basic premise of this program is that we say, approximately every 5-10 seconds, "Tell me when you have to pee." And then (until she actually starts telling us) we watch for her to pee, and make sure she gets to the bathroom. When pee hits the potty, we respond with lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Eventually, she'll actually start to tell us because she will blossom under our encouragement and will also have a natural desire to please us.

How did it go?


Day 1 (keep in mind that ALL DAY E'R'R' DAY I'm saying, "Tell me when you have to pee, ok?" a minimum of 20 times an hour in a really chipper voice)

9:30 a.m. We throw away the diaper and put on big girl panties.

10:00 a.m. Pees in basement on the floor. I totally missed it. Not an ideal start.

11:00 a.m. Pees in kitchen. We race to bathroom but don't make it. I give her the speech that will end up getting LOTS of practice:  "Oh, it's too bad that your big girl panties got wet. You need to tell Mama when you have to pee. We want to keep your panties dry."

11:45 a.m. MADE IT! Sits on potty at my suggestion, pees. We dance, sing, give stickers and Skittles. Life is so good. This is easy. She's totally getting it.

1:00 p.m. Pees on the top step of the stairs on our way up to use potty before nap. Bummer.

1:20 p.m. - 2:20 p.m. Is so jazzed up from sugary apple juice that nap does not happen, even though we read stories and rock in her room for two hours.

2:30 p.m. Starts to pee in the living room. I pick her up and race through dining room and kitchen to bathroom. Pee goes all over my pants; none in potty.

3:43 p.m. She pees in the laundry room. I race her to the big potty. She's already done.

4:35 p.m. MADE IT! After I saw her dancing around, said "It looks like you have to pee" and carried her to the bathroom. We celebrate huge with Skittles, Minnie Mouse Sticker, and dance party.

5:00 p.m. She pees on the f$%^ing couch. Fortunately the couch is leather so it wipes clean easily. But she was sitting on a silk throw pillow.

6:15 p.m. We're back in the laundry room. She has evidently marked her territory because she pees in the same place, right by the furnace.

7:30 p.m. Bathtime. It's possible she pees in the tub, but I don't notice/care.

8:00 p.m. Pees on the bathmat next to the potty. We'll call that effort? I praise her anyway for being NEAR the potty (grasping for straws here, people).

11:00 p.m. I heard her waking in her room, rushed in, and took her to the potty. MADE IT! (She was also half asleep and too tired to resist.)

8:00 a.m. She wakes up dry. Yet, she refuses to sit on potty. "Okay!" I say cheerfully, through gritted teeth, knowing her bladder must be bulging. "Tell me when you need to pee!"

8:20 a.m. Starts to pee in our room, next to Coco's changing table. I rush her to the bathroom, some pee got in the potty. We celebrate this even though I'm actually totally pissed off about it.

(She doesn't drink as much juice this morning. Perhaps she's making connections? I keep encouraging her to drink.)

12:00 p.m. I'm trying to convince her to sit on the potty. She refuses. Then she pees on the tile floor outside the bathroom. She points at the puddle and says, "Mommy! I poop!"

(Could the lack of distinction between pee and poop be part of the problem? I'm pretty sure we've been consistent about calling it like we see it... Not sure what is going on there.)

1:00 p.m. Pees on couch. #$%$!!

1:30 p.m. Getting ready for nap, asks to go, pees a bit in her room, gets some in the potty. We celebrate.

2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. - Takes a nap. We take turns sitting in her room, waiting for her to stir so we can rush her to the potty. She wakes up at 5:00 p.m. completely soaked. She peed without stirring. Whoops.

6:00 p.m. - We leave her with a babysitter (bad idea) because we are going to dinner with friends to celebrate my friend Beth finishing chemo and I am NOT missing this to sit home and watch my kid pee her pants.

Zuzu has three accidents for the babysitter between 6:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., including once on a PILLOW on our BED. Like a pissed off cat.

Day 3

8:00 a.m. Wakes up dry!

8:02 a.m. Refuses to sit on potty.

9:15 a.m. The dam finally bursts. She runs away and starts peeing in living room, I catch her and we got some of it in the potty. I praise her, and hand over a sticker and Skittles even though I'm pissed off at how stubborn she's being.

10:00 a.m. We're entertaining her and keeping a close eye on her by creating a fort of sheets in the TV room. She pees just outside the fort. We rush to bathroom, but it's too late. I clean her up, David cleans up the carpet.

10:30 a.m. Another pee in the back room next to the fort. We decide the fort we created is actually serving as a restroom for her, so we take down the sheets.

11:30 a.m. She pees her pants in the kitchen. She tells me that pee-pee belongs in the potty. I need wine, but it's not even lunch time.

12:15 p.m. I am nursing baby, I see her doing the pee-pee dance by the Christmas tree. I yell for David, he rushes her to the potty. She throws a fit, "I dry! I dry! No sit on potty! I dry!" He lets her go. She runs and IMMEDIATELY pees in the back room. David loses his temper, yells, drags her into the bathroom. She cries. I ask her why Daddy is upset. She says, "No! upset!" (She's not sorry, though. Not at all.)

1:00 p.m. She goes down for a nap. David notes that potty-training her is just like Cooper. It works best when we keep her confined to a small area and catch her in the act. It's also messy and exhausting and taking for-freaking-ever.

2:50 p.m. Wakes from nap. I'm downstairs writing grocery list instead of diligently watching her sleep (another bad idea on my part). She walks to the doorway of her room, pees. Walks to the bathroom and takes off her wet panties. I make it upstairs, observe this situation, call it progress and tell her I'm VERY PROUD of her for TRYING to make it to the potty.

4:00 p.m. I escape the house with Coco and go to a friends' house. Zuzu poops for the first time in three days. MAKES IT it because David smells that action and carries her to the bathroom. But she doesn't fight him and she poops on the potty. They celebrate with Skittles and stickers.

6:30 p.m.  David answers a phone call and Zuzu takes advantage of his distraction and pees on the leather couch. (Who wants to come over and hang out on our couch? Anyone? Yeah.)

8:30 p.m. She's getting ready for bed. I'm at Target with Colette, who sleeps through the entire store in an obvious effort to secure her position as #1 on the Nice List this year. (It's working.) Zuzu won't settle down, so David leaves the room, says he'll come back when she's calm and ready to read books, and closes the door. She has a tantrum and pees herself.


You guys.

I thought it was supposed to CLICK at the end of Day 3.

I really believed it was all going to be worth it--the carpet cleaning, the couch wiping (thank goodness it's leather and only the bonded kind, not the expensive kind), the positive reinforcement when I really want to scream, the ragey feelings that David and I express by biting each other's heads off since we have to be nice to Zuzu. I mean, I really thought this would work.

But it's been THREE DAYS of intensive potty training (okay, minus the one evening when I left her with a teenager and went to hang out with my friends) and she is NOT POTTY TRAINED. I'm not even sure she is NEAR potty trained.

The problem with this positive reinforcement technique is that Zuzu really doesn't care about pleasing anyone but herself. She is missing the natural desire to please her parents (this bodes well for the future, doesn't it?) And evidently Skittles and Minnie Mouse stickers aren't sufficient reward for the inconvenience of running to the potty BEFORE she starts actually peeing.

I'm too stubborn to go back to diapers at this point (hmmm... perhaps we are witnessing a genetic predisposition at work here?) but it's almost a farce since she just pisses her way through ten pairs of a "big girl panties" a day.

We've GOT to have a break-through anytime now, right?

(David says we're not getting new carpet until Colette is potty trained.)

I really, really, really want only one kid in diapers.

So... I'm waiting for your feedback. BUT PLEASE DON'T tell me "she'll train when she's ready." I mean, yes. Obviously THAT IS TRUE. But it is also NOT HELPFUL for me to hear.

I know she is the one who has to decide to do this. But I need to find a way to convince her to decide that NOW is the time. Because we are DONE with DIAPERS.

Even though I'm second-guessing that decision all the time.

So please, pep-talks only. Nobody tell me to give up and try again in a few months. I only want POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT!

Also, feel free to send wine.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Conversations with Zuzu Part III

Scene: Our small guest bathroom. It normally has a rug on the floor in front of the sink that basically takes up most of the floor in the bathroom. I'd tossed it in the washing machine, so the tile floor was bare. Zuzu went in to wash her hands.

Zuzu: Mama! There's a sidewalk in here!

# # #

Zuzu: I want a tweat.

Grammy: You only get a treat if you peepee in the potty.

Zuzu: No, Grammy! Don't talk like that.

# # #

Scene: Zuzu is playing in her little kitchen with David.

David: Do you like milk, ice cream, or orange juice?

Zuzu: I like orange juice.

David: What about coffee?

Zuzu: No, Grammy drink coffee.

David: Does Bop ever drink coffee?

Zuzu: Yes, Bop drink coffee and Grammy drink coffee herself!

David: What about Daddy? Do I drink coffee?

Zuzu: No, you drink beer. You need some beer?

# # #

Scene: Running through dining room, Zuzu hurts her foot.

Zuzu: Oh, no! I stubbed my mommy-toe!

Me: Which one is your mommy-toe?

(Zuzu points to big toe on left foot.)

Me: Do you have a daddy-toe?

Zuzu: (In a tone that implies her mother is an idiot.) Right der. (points to big toe on right foot)

# # #

Scene: Dining at restaurant. Getting reading to leave. I'm fastening Colette into her carseat. Booth behind us has two couples sitting in it. Zuzu turns around and sticks her head in their booth (because people love that).

Zuzu: Hi!

Me: Zuzu, come on, let's get your coat on.

Zuzu: I saw Santa Ho-Ho.

Man in booth: (appears friendly and slightly inebriated) Did you ask him if he was bringing me any presents?

Zuzu: No! He brings toys! Pink toys!

Me: Come on, Zuzu, let's go!

People in booth: Bye! Have a good night!

Zuzu: Bye! Have a good night.

# # #

Scene: Coco finished eating, is burping.

Zuzu: Mama, Colette burting?

Me: Yes, she's burping.

Zuzu: She burt a lot. Big burts... yittle burts... Oh NO! She's slitting*! She's slitting!

(*spitting--in case that wasn't obvious)

# # #

Scene: I've just sat down to nurse the baby.

Zuzu: (dancing around like an elf) I'm peeing! I have to pee! My pee-pee comin' out!

Me: Seriously? Do you want to go peepee on the potty?

Zuzu: (Stops spinning, points at me, says in a voice that can only be described as a demonic growl) NEVER!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Weekend As It Was

Well, we made it through Eliza's birthday. The day didn't exactly go as planned, but it wasn't the worst December 6th we've ever had (or even the second or third worst, really).

We ran a few errands in the morning and I said to David as we were walking out the door with the girls and all their paraphernalia, that if you'd told me four years ago that I'd on my way to run errands with two little girls, I don't think I would have believed it. How is it possible that I had three children in the amount of time it takes to get a bachelor's degree?

Anyway, I needed to pick up Christmas cards and we needed to get my ring from the jeweler so we took care of those little things and came home to eat lunch--much to Zuzu's disappointment. She had overheard our conversation about dinner plans and thought we were going to a restaurant for lunch.

David's car has been having some issues, so he decided to take a look at new car, leaving me to put the girls down for their afternoon nap. This did not go especially well. My friend K stopped by to drop off a thoughtful gift (this amazing, sweet, and sad book) and some hand-me-downs (we loooove her girls and their hand-me-downs) and there was no way that Zuzu was letting me answer the door alone. She gave K some hugs and waved to the girls and then we headed back upstairs where I finally got her to go to sleep.

I took advantage of naptime by reading a mindless mystery novel. I also had the book Ghostbelly, which a friend recommended, but I found that I just needed an escape for my brain.

I was annoyed that David got back later we had planned (not his fault, just another example of life not going according to plan). We'd wanted to go out to the garden where the vigil is held and place a flower at the Angel of Hope statue before we went to dinner. After the ceremony, everyone is invited to leave a flower at the angel, but because the weather was fairly decent and it was on a Saturday, we expected there to be a big crowd (and there was) so we figured that the girls wouldn't last long enough to go through the long line afterward.

But by the time David got home and we got everybody's diapers changed and ready to load up in the car, we didn't have time for that. We grabbed a quick dinner at one of our favorite delis (that word is weird looking), which is also the deli we went to before going to the grief support group at the hospital. Zuzu was on good behavior and Coco was sleeping, so dinner went really well.

In retrospect, I don't know why I had assumed the girls would be well-behaved at the vigil. It hadn't even occurred to me that Zuzu might run around the dark garden like a maniac and Coco might get fussy in the stroller.

But of course both of those things happened.

We listened to the main speech and one song and then Coco started crying. If we'd been anywhere else, I probably would have taken a couple minutes to comfort her and I think she would have settled down. But I knew there were people in that crowd who could NOT hear a baby crying--people who just a few short months or weeks (or years) ago had been those people in the hospital whose baby was silent while other newborns squawked and wailed.

I turned to David and said, "We've got to get out of here."

I know that hearing a baby cry could be such a grief trigger, and as much as I wanted to stay at the vigil and have a few minutes to focus on Eliza, we had to go. (Plus Zuzu was picking up luminaries at this point, and when David picked her up, she started yelling, "No! Don't take me up! Let me go!")

And so we loaded back up in the car, having been at the vigil for a total of about fifteen minutes.

We decided to drive through the Christmas light display in a nearby park, only to discover that the park was closed to cars that night and you had to rent a carriage to take you through to see the lights. Which required reservations and started at $75.

By this time, Coco was hungry and furious, so we pulled over in a mall parking lot and I nursed her in the car.

We decided that we'd just drive through Candy Cane Lane--a block in our neighborhood that decorates cooperatively for Christmas with red and white lights. But when we turned toward Candy Cane Lane, the line of cars was backed up three blocks.

It was kind of like the time we went to see Wicked but then discovered our tickets were for the wrong night, and then tried to go see Harry Potter but it was sold out. You just have to figure that the universe is stacked against you and you need to call it a night.

We went home and watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I felt teary and sad and also teary and grateful for all the notes and texts and e-mails I'd gotten from people thinking of us and remembering Eliza.

I ended up falling asleep before Zuzu did.

The next day we'd planned to go to church before I had to attend my university's December graduation, but then I realized that I'd brought home the gown for my academic regalia and left the hood and tam in my office. The graduation was in a big convention center no where near campus, so I had to make a roundtrip commute to campus, get my hood and tam, and come back home to get ready to drive 30 minutes in the opposite direction.

I arrived at graduation only to discover that I wasn't even on the freaking list, so they didn't have a seat for me. (No one is sure why, since I was receiving all the e-mails about being at graduation and it's required for all faculty.)

I made sure the president of the university saw me because I wanted credit for being there, and then I took the spot of someone who was a no-show.

I proceeded in with the faculty, while carrying my breast pump. I also got up an hour into the two-and-a-half-hour ceremony to walk out carrying my pump and go use it. I could have left it in a dressing room, but I wasn't sure if they'd be locked while we were in the ceremony and I didn't want to get locked out.

It was a long day, and even though I wasn't especially emotional, I was tired from the emotional hangover.

And now we are full-fledged into the Christmas season. I need to get cards mailed. I need to get gifts wrapped. You know, so I can hide them in the closet downstairs until Christmas Eve since the gifts I put under the tree were UNWRAPPED by a naughty little elf--for some reason I never imagined she would do this, even though we're talking about the child who scales the kitchen cabinets (using the drawer handles as toe-holds) to climb up on the counters and eat a baguette--she truly needs to be leashed even while at home.

But today Zuzu is at school, Coco is napping in front of the fire and I'm typing this as I sit next to her. Our tree is decorated with Baby's First Christmas 2014 and Elsa and several gorgeous Eliza ornaments and although the grief is still heavy, I can breathe. I'm looking forward to experiencing Christmas morning with Zuzu and Coco, and I'm trying to get psyched for the road trips that we will be taking on our Midwest Christmas Tour. Life is sparkly again, in a way I never thought would have been possible four years ago.

Like the anniversary day itself, it's not the life I had planned. But we are finding our way.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sisters in Hoodies

A story in pictures.

Friday, December 5, 2014

{Four Years}

It will be four years tomorrow.

I've experimented with a lot of grief analogies, seeking a way to describe or at least try to understand myself what I'm feeling.

I keep coming back to the Mary Oliver poem that says

"It's not the weight you carry

but how you carry it--
books, bricks, grief--
it's all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down."

Four years out, I've gotten good at balancing my grief. It's heavy as hell, but I've learned to carry it, to balance it, to make space for it without letting grief crowd out the joy in my life.

But in early December, I stumble.

I lose my balance.

I fight to get it back, and most days this week I was pretty good at carrying a two-year-old, an almost-four-month-old, and the ghost of their would-be-four-year-old sister.

But other days I forget how to balance this heavy, heavy grief, while I'm also supposed to be carrying the holiday countdown and grocery shopping and tree decorating and Christmas crafts and normal routines. It feels like too much, like I'm off-center, and suddenly the weight of grief is crushing me.

This means I go back to moments I don't want to relive, but that I can't stop thinking about because they are the only moments I got with her. The regret and the guilt and the sadness bubble up and among all the sparkle and the blessings and the happiness of the holiday season with two little girls here at home. And when that happens, I'm overwhelmed with sadness and grief. I miss my four-year-old girl. I still miss her so much.

I miss her the way you miss a chance not taken, a missed opportunity, a regret not of what you did, but of what you didn't do, what you should have done, what might have happened. What you'll never know. What you'll always wish you could do over.

I miss her with guilt for what I should have done and could have done and might have done and didn't do and didn't know. I fear that I failed her and even though I would argue with a friend who said she felt the same ("Of course it's not your fault..."), my heart just can't quite let it go.

I miss her with anger that has no where to go, no specific direction. Impotent fury at God, at the universe, at my luck, at our fate, at the unfair brutality of statistics that fall randomly instead of predictably (as though predictable tragedy is preferable to arbitrary tragedy). I'm angry at everything and nothing. I'm angrier now than I was at first, as though I'm circling back to that particular state of grief (of course, because we know grief is not linear, no matter how much we wish it were).

I miss her with self-pity, because seriously: "Why me? Why us? Why our baby?"

I miss her with judgment and fury at the people who have and keep healthy children, only to mistreat or neglect them.

I miss her with a gnawing jealousy of the people who have and keep healthy children and live lives untouched by this kind of loss.

I miss her with embarrassment and shame for not being smart enough or intuitive enough to know she was dying inside me.

I also miss the person I would have been if she were here--stupider, simpler, more naive, yes, but mostly a mama who got to bring her first baby home from the hospital. A person who fully embraced the cheesy splendor of the Christmas season instead of crying every time we decorate. A person who knew little of dead babies and broken hearts. A person who believed that things work out in the end because that's just the way things work. A person who could host baby showers and squeal over pregnancies. A person who didn't feel set apart from her peers, marked as different among even her closest friends. I miss being that person, and yet I almost can't remember who she was anymore.

I miss Eliza with the poignant awareness that if we hadn't lost her, we wouldn't have these two girls we have now, and the simultaneous understanding that even abundant recompense does not really make up for a unique and perfect little girl who is not here.

I couldn't trade these girls to get her back, and yet it's equally unfathomable and sickening to me that I had to give up Eliza in order to get her sisters.

Oh, how I miss the baby I dreamed of snuggling, the little girl that I should have been able to watch grow up. I miss her smile and her laughter and her first steps and her first words and her first teeth and her first day of school, and all the other firsts that never happened and never will.

But mostly I miss her. My first baby. My grown up four year old girl. Eliza.