Monday, December 26, 2016

2016: Year in Review

Every year I think maybe I'm done with this, and yet, here we go again...

If you're feeling like a real stalker, or just trying to kill time with your in-laws by reading blog archives on your phone, feel free to take a look back at 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?
* Successfully potty-trained a two-year-old (I can’t believe that Zuzu had only been consistently potty trained for about five months at this time last year...). And let’s be real: it was NOTHING I did. The secret of potty training is that the kid decides. And some kids are more cooperative than others in this area…
* Flew in an airplane with both kids on a family vacation.
* Joined a book club!

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Short answer? Not so much and yes, of course.
Goals for 2016:
Read 50 books for fun.
Got to 44. Not terrible, but I think I could have done better.

Write (besides blog posts). More specifically, draft an academic article and write at least three other things non-related to academia--fiction or creative nonfiction.
Ok, this goal setting is making me feel shitty. I did draft an academic article, and then I gave up on it because my argument seemed simple and obvious. It would have earned an A in an undergraduate (or maybe even graduate) class, but it’s not exactly publication material. Sigh. I did do a lot of writing of other stuff, but I want to be more focused.

Do something active 2 times a week (minimum).
I kicked ass at this at the start of the year when I was attending barre classes on the regular. I slacked over the summer, then picked it back up in fall when I started working out with a student trainer again. Now that’s over and I’m really going to make an effort to do more yoga, but it’s hard to fight the desire to do nothing.

Get your shit together when it comes to photos--order books, order prints, get organized.
Did some of this, but not enough! Dang. I need a personal assistant to take care of that stuff for me. There's probably a service of someone who will put your photos and videos in some kind of organized product for you... Anyone? Anyone?

Goals for 2017:
Reach Out. I have spent a lot of time turning inward for the past six years, and I think it’s time to be more social and do more stuff, particularly becoming involved in causes and issues that I care about.

I’ve blogged before about the possibility of writing a book about Eliza. I think I’m scared of writing something that will never measure up to how much I love her and will face rejection and criticism. AND YET it feels important and like I'll always be sorry if I don't do it. So I’m going to take the pages of writing (I have more than 30,000 words now!) and I’m going to write a little more and I’m going to turn it into the shape/form of a book. And then I’m going to figure out what happens after that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My friend Natalie had a baby boy this summer (love ya, Petey!). A couple of BLMs I follow on IG had rainbow babies (yay!). (And I look forward to meeting my new little niece in 2017!)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Also no. That’s a relief. 

5. What countries did you visit?
Stayed in the U.S., but visited California (heart eyes for Lake Tahoe), Colorado, and Minnesota.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
More time to read for fun. A new floor lamp for my living room. New light fixtures and curtains in my kitchen. Nothing really important.

7. What dates from 2016 will remained etched upon your memory?
July 2016 was when my 23-month-old baby decided to stop nursing. Bittersweet!
Halloween 2016 was the first day that my 26-month-old baby wore big girl panties all day long (and she didn’t have an accident!). I still can't believe how easy she was when I think about what we went through with Zuzu at this same age...

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I became chair of my department at work and while I swear I haven’t let the power go to my head, I discovered that there are some things I like about being in charge. (Also some things I don’t like, but that’s an answer to a different question.)

9. What was your biggest failure?
Well, I failed to meet most of my new year's resolutions, so there’s that. Also, pushing Zuzu into organized sports before she was ready. We changed course early on so it wasn’t that big of a deal, and I guess you never know until you try, but we’re going to wait another year--or two--before we mess with that stuff again.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I think I canceled class one time for illness, but otherwise I had a really healthy year (knock on wood…). Zuzu's bout of HSP was enough illness/injury for all of us. Fortunately, her bloodwork and urinalysis at the last of our three follow-up appointments were all clear, so her doctor has declared her condition Resolved. He doesn't think we'll have any further complications, so that's an enormous relief.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets to Colorado and California and Minneapolis. Private swimming lessons for Zuzu. Also, Ugg boots. I waffled over them for years because I still they’re kind of ridiculous looking and would I really wear them enough to justify the price? But then I pulled the trigger way back in July during Nordstrom’s semi-annual sale, and holy crap. My weekend uniform includes ridiculous looking boots and my feet have never been warmer or cozier. Who cares if they look like astronaut boots wearing sweaters?

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Hillary Clinton. Michelle Obama. The few friends and family who continue to reach out to us on Eliza’s birthday, knowing that the day is still really hard for us and always will be. A text seems like a small thing, but to a bereaved parent, even six or ten or twenty years later, it's such a big thing that you remembered. (If you're reading this and that was you, THANK YOU again. It means so much to me.)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Much to my dismay, my answer here is the same as last year. I can’t believe this is real life.
First name rhymes with Ronald, last name rhymes with Hump. He's on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women, you guys. He made fun of a disabled person on live television. He settled a lawsuit for screwing over people who attended his pseudo-university and he won't release his tax records... I still can't even.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Montessori Preschool and Toddler House for the Special Snowflakes in our lives

15. What did you get really excited about?
Getting season tickets to the Fox for our anniversary gift to each other in anticipation of seeing Hamilton next year.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
The whole soundtrack to Hamilton and also “Five Little Pumpkins” as performed by Zuzu.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? My holidays were happier, but overall I'm sadder. I’m so sad about the outcome of the election--not just because our country has elected a leader who has been openly hateful, rude, and misogynistic, but because I’m really worried about what his policies and supreme court appointments will look like, and how they will have an impact on my children’s future. I’m scared about the environmental impact from people who deny the reality of human influence on climate change, about limitations of women's rights to reproductive choices from people who don't trust a woman and her health-care provider to make the best and most responsible choice, and about continued access to affordable healthcare for people who don't prioritize moral good above making money. And I’m really concerned about basic rights and personal safety for immigrants, minorities, and my LGBTQ friends and family members.
- thinner or fatter?  thinner (I’ve finally lost a few pregnancy pounds that my body holds onto while breastfeeding, and working out with my student Personal Trainer didn’t hurt either. Also I lost my appetite after the election and barely ate anything for a couple of weeks…)
- richer or poorer?  Poorer. Special Snowflake tuition times two is a huge percentage of my take-home salary. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wow, sadder and poorer. Thanks, 2016.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Yelling/raising my voice at my kids

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my parents at our house, then with my brother and his wife and my parents at my parents' house, also with my Papa and my dad's siblings and my cousins at my aunt Tammi's.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
With Ugg boots, Lake Tahoe, and Minneapolis in September (also with my friend Natalie's baby Pete).

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Stranger Things. I’m looking forward to watching The Crown in 2017!

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nope. I hate all the same people! Haha.

24. What was the best book you read?
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Between the World and Me by Te-Nehisi Coates. Both are fantastic. Powerful and devastating but also hopeful. Also Waking Up White surprised me by articulating things I hadn't fully recognized before, and deepening my understanding of the pervasive and restrictive force of white culture and privilege. 

25. What was your favorite musical discovery?

26. What did you want and get?
New light fixtures and a biweekly cleaning service

27. What did you want and not get?
Hillary Clinton for president.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
This is hard to say because I saw so few of them... Manchester by the Sea was really moving, but it's hard to name it as a favorite since it was such a gut-punch of grief. I want to see La La Land. I love going to the movies, but we're just not in a film-going phase of life right now.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Went to dinner at Onesto and refused to share sangria with Coco, who was furious. I was 36. It feels pretty young and super old at the same time.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying [besides your first baby being alive]?
A raise that matches my increased responsibilities at work.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Flat Shoes + Skinny Bottoms + Flowy Tops + Scarves + Maybe Some Lip Color Because Now You Are 36

32. What kept you sane?
Friends who send funny texts and link to meaningful articles and who will continue to work for political good.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Michelle Obama (did you see her in the Obama’s Christmas card photo? She’s dazzling.) I loved her Farewell to the White House interview with Oprah, too. She's fantastic.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Election 2016 and Syria. Oh, mercy. We donated here.

35. Who did you miss?
Eliza, of course, and David’s grandma Peggy as well as my grandparents who have passed.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Another new colleague in the English department—Rob is funny and weird, which is the best kind of colleague to have.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
Keep the kitchen scissors completely out of reach of four-year-olds.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
This is from "Bluebonnets," a song by Aaron Watson. I didn't listen to much country music this year (unless David has it on) but Monica told me about this song after she saw him in concert. He wrote it for his daughter, Julia, who was born prematurely and died shortly after she was born. As frustrating and sad as the end of the year felt for me, I definitely try to practice the art of gratitude each night when I tuck the girls into bed. They are growing so fast, and while I can't complain about them growing older, when too many babies are denied that privilege, I still recognize how fast it goes and how sweet these days are.

There's so much I can't explain
Such as gravity and pain
Still I remain, blindfolded and full of faith
I kissed my angel girl goodbye
Still can't help but wonder why
But I believe I'll see her again someday
So, hold 'em tender, hold 'em tight
Pray every mornin', day, and night
That God will help you raise them right
And don't you blink, don't blink
'Cause like bluebonnets in the spring
We're only here for a little while
It's beautiful and bittersweet
So make the most of every mile
So pack light and love heavy
Give it all your heart and soul
So in the end you won't regret one thing
Life is like bluebonnets in the spring

2017, may you be less politically sucky than I fear and even sweeter on the home front than 2016. Love trumps hate, no matter what.

Binky Yucky

OK, so Coco still takes a binky in the car. 

She's two and a half. I'm pretty sure she should get rid of the binky. But she's the baby. And she loves it. We (mostly) limit it to bedtime, car time, and as a remedy for serious insult or injury. It's so sooooothing. For all of us, because baby girl cries LOUD.

Anyway, on the four and a half hour drive to my parents' house, she definitely gets the binky. But she's still not the pleasant little traveler her sister is (no sarcasm there--Zuzu has been a brilliant traveler since she was born. Coco is much less happy in the car). 

So we attempt to meet her needs with snacks, new toys, crayons, and, when things get really grumpy, the binky. But on very long car rides, even the binky doesn't necessarily keep her happy and when she's raging, she'll throw her binky and then SCREAM for it. It makes for a super enjoyable drive. 

I planned for this by putting an extra binky in my purse, but she’s as capable of tossing away two binkies as she is one. We were on the backroads of Missouri, heading to my parents’ house, when this exact scenario played out. She was screaming for her binky, and I was asking her to use her words and tell me where she put it. She said it was “Behind Cooper.”

The girls are pretty cozy in the backseat, with their two big carseats on each side and just enough space for Cooper to sit in the middle. We put a beach towel down to try to keep the shedding to a minimum (never really works). Anyway, as David navigated the curves in road, I unbuckled my seatbelt to twist around, hang my torso into the backseat, and dig around behind Cooper to find the binkies. 

Sure enough, they were both back there, under his haunches. Just as I found them and gave them to Coco, Cooper let out a super stinky fart that was so bad I actually rolled down the windows. He occasionally has what I call “dead ass smell” because it smells like a combination of ass and dead animal. It is TERRIBLE, and only my love for him makes it at all bearable. Anyway, Coco popped the binky in her mouth just as he let loose with dead ass smell and I had to roll down the window because it was so gross.

At the same time, Coco starts crying (again) but this time she's saying, “Binky yucky!”

I figured it had dog hair on it (let’s take a minute to remember the days when I would have sanitized a binky before I let it near my baby’s mouth… those days are obviously gone.) so once I got the window rolled up and the dead ass smell had mostly dissipated, I told Coco to hand me the binky so I could wipe it off with a handiwipe.

She handed it to me and I looked at it closely to see if there were hairs on it. Then I immediately started gagging. Then choking. Then hardcore retching and dry heaving.

Cooper’s butt had leaked some brown liquid. It was on the front side of the binky (not the nipple), but when Coco had sucked on it, she’d actually sucked some of the liquid poop INSIDE the nipple. And there was still brown poo juice on the handle of binky (and also on my hands).

I was horrified that I had handed dog-poo butt-juice binky to my baby, and also horrified that said dog-poo butt-juice was now on my hands. Plus the smell itself was horrific (dead ass).

I seriously thought I was going to vomit. I had to roll down the window and hang my head out, heaving and gagging as David passed a semi. 

Zuzu was yelling over the wind roaring in my window, “Mommy, are you going to frow up?’” and I was frantically trying to get the handiwipe package open so I could wrap up the binky (to dispose of—thank the baby Jesus I brought an extra) and use another wipe to give all of my exposed skin a sponge bath in a desperate attempt to rid myself of the dead ass poo juice smell that now seemed to be clinging to the inside of my nostrils.

Coco's favorite butterfly binky is now ruined. The beach towel on which Cooper was sitting needs a bleach bath. And we still have about twelve more hours in the car before this holiday season is over.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Holiday Break

If we can step away from the loaded expectations and emotional baggage of the holiday season, we can take a moment to appreciate the glory that is Christmas Break.

I hate to brag about this, but basically I went to graduate school for seven years so that I can live my life on an academic schedule. Which means I have a glorious month between the end of classes in December and the start of classes in January. And it. is. nice.

I went into the office for a few days after classes ended, to finish grading (it was a slog) and to get myself organized for the spring semester. But now I've set my e-mail away message and I am On Break.

...Of course, I'm spending part of that break prepping for two classes I haven't taught before that I'm tackling this spring, but that's part of the fun. One is Shakespeare (!?!) which is not my field, but something I volunteered to teach because I enjoy it. The other is a course on Gothic fiction, which is totally in my wheelhouse, but I'm still reading up on stuff because it's fun. My job can be really exhausting and frustrating and even demoralizing when students disappoint me, but it can also be super great.

* * *

David scheduled a massage for me on Thursday of last week, which was wonderful. I feel like it kicked my Christmas break into gear, setting just the right chill-the-eff-out tone. I got a little crazy and bought a package of incense in the gift shop, so now our living room smells like a hippie lounge every evening and I find it very soothing.

* * *

The girls are fun in lots of ways. For one thing, dark and cold nights make early bedtimes easy, and we are loving that (we've actually had time to watch hour-long TV programs after they are asleep! This adult-time thing is marvelous!).

For another thing, they are so excited about Christmas. They've left the presents under the tree alone this year, which is an improvement over last year, when I had to keep all the presents put away until Christmas Eve (four-year-old Zuzu is a walk in the park compared to three-year-old Zuzu, and I thought that life was three-year-old Zuzu was easier than two-year-old Zuzu, so basically I hope things keep moving in this direction).

They are excited to find Elsa each morning, but completely undaunted by the idea of her spying on them and reporting her behavior to Santa. Since the spy-elf IS admittedly creepy, I don't really mind too much. Next year I think we're going to revise Elsa's visit a little bit. For one thing, we're going to have her show up later (maybe like 10 days before Christmas, as my friend Kaley suggested), and I think she'll bring a note with suggested acts of Christmas kindness that the girls can do.

Simple things that are not a pain in my ass. Like deliver Christmas cards to the neighbors. Help mom put away laundry. Donate some piggy bank money to the Salvation Army bell ringer.

* * *

The unwrapping a book-a-day advent project is going well after getting off to a rough start (when Zuzu opened books 2-5 all on December 1 while David and I were still at the dinner table). I've hidden the books away, and I just pull out the one that the girls get to open. The idea was to alternate nights, but instead they sort of descend on the book together in a vulture-like frenzy of unwrapping. It's not ideal, but it gets the job done and no one has cried over it (yet).

They are super into the story of Baby Jesus, and over the weekend we started the Donkey in the Living Room book.

If you're not familiar with this book, it's a 9 day countdown to Christmas. The book comes with a little nativity set and the idea is to wrap or hide each of the figurines and then open one per day leading up to Christmas.

Our variation on this is that we're using the Little People Nativity set that Coco got from my friend Erin as a Christmas gift on Friday. I don't wrap the figurines, but I hide them (in plain sight, but tucked away on a windowsill or peeking out from the side of a pillow). The girls get to find them and then I hold the figurine while it tells its story (the stories are written in first person from the point of view of each person/animal). Then they get to place it in the stable. So far, the donkey, cow, and sheep are crowded into the stable with Mary forlornly looking in from outside, but I'm expecting the holy family will eventually oust the animals from their beds, just like in the real story!

* * *

A couple of weeks ago, we recently checked out a book from the library: Fancy Nancy Stellar Stargazer. Zuzu selected Fancy Nancy (whom she calls Fancy Wancy, which makes me laugh) and I agreed because it's a library book, why not.

(Side note: I have a complicated relationship with Fancy Nancy because one time one of my Wash U students did an interesting analysis of her that started with the assumption that Nancy teaches girls to be independent and dress the way they want to, but ended up arguing that Fancy Nancy may actually demonstrate harmful expectations of beauty and femininity. As a result, I'm wary of Fancy Wancy Nancy.vBut I'm trying to limit the enforcement of my feminist agenda, Cinderella Ate My Daughter style).

I was pleased to discover that this book was less about being fancy and more about learning about the stars. It was actually educational, so we read it a couple of times. Zuzu was particularly taken with the glow-in-the-dark cover.

ANYWAY, the real story here is that last night I had gathered all the library books by the back door to return them today, which of course sparked renewed interest in reading the books they hadn't looked at in a week. David remarked on how cute the girls looked, flipping through the pages of the books on their own while we ate dinner. A few minutes later, he looked up to see Zuzu sitting at the desk in the living room and said, "Zuzu, are you being naughty?"

(If you have to ask, the answer is always yes.)

She had taken her "Fancy Wancy" book and written her name across one of the pages in black crayon.


Because she didn't want to take it back to the library. She wanted to keep it.

Now, you may be thinking, Where would she get the idea that writing her name in a library book would mean that she gets to keep it?

Well, believe me, I asked her this question. And she started talking about a book that her teacher read, and the little girl writes in the library book. And she gets in trouble.

Bells started ringing in my head... Had I read this story? I had.

She learned this lesson from a little girl named Ramona Quimby.

Ramona writes in one of Beezus's library books. Yes, she gets into trouble and they have to pay for the book, but in the end, because she buys the book from the library, she gets to keep it.

Today after school, we're going to the library so Zuzu can talk to the librarian about what she did and pay for the damage with her piggy bank money, but we are NOT keeping this book!

* * *

Well, time to get back to my Christmas break regime of daytime yoga (courtesy of YouTube), and then Hallmark Christmas movie watching, reading about Gothic novels, and maybe working up the energy to venture out to the grocery store before I pick up the girls and go to the library to make Zuzu apologize to a librarian. Defacement of library property aside, break is the BEST, you guys.

Monday, December 12, 2016

In the Sunset

On Eliza's birthday, my friend Kristin dropped off a gift for Zuzu and Coco while we were at the candlelight vigil. It was this book:

It features a child wondering about where people go when they die. This has been a hot topic of conversation around our house. We talk about how Eliza is in heaven with our grandparents, but also in our hearts. Zuzu has asked me questions recently about how Eliza got to heaven--did she fly there? The whole thing is confusing (for me, so probably for her, too).

I also like the way the book imagines people who have died visiting those they love in different natural phenomena. In our family, we see red cardinal birds as a special symbol of our loved ones who have passed, and I always talk about how sunsets and lights breaking through clouds help us remember that the ones we love are with us always. I like the way the book offers those ideas as questions from a child rather than prescriptions, which invites us to have conversations about it.

Inside, Kristin wrote a short note to the girls and said the sunset page was their favorite. The page that precedes it is imagining the beautiful parts of nature in which we can see our loved ones, and this page continues that thought:

We'd just gotten to this sunset page when my phone binged that I had a text.

My friend Anna, who lives on the beach in Virginia, had sent a thinking-of-Eliza text and included this photo:

Even as I look at those images side-by-side on my computer screen, it makes my eyes a little teary. Is Eliza in that sunset? I wish I knew.

What I do know is that she is in the hearts of two dear friends of mine, who were each thinking of her on her birthday and reaching out to our family in a gesture of kindness that overlapped in such a beautiful way I could hardly believe it. A sign? A wink? I don't know.

But I felt the love. And of course that's Eliza.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Let's Talk About Yesterday

Last year, I had strep throat on Eliza's birthday and I actually think that was easier. Feeling physically shitty was a distraction. I've come to realize that what I really need is at least two days of bed rest and not having to be a functioning person on the 5th and 6th of December. Unfortunately, that's just not entirely possible.

I thought I was doing ok after spending a good weekend with friends in Kansas City, but the sadness started settling in on the drive home. Monday at work... And suddenly I was ugly crying in my office. 

So on Tuesday, I gave up on life, asked a colleague to collect my students' final essays and went home to put on pajamas and weep intermittently while watching Gilmore Girls and finalizing my last exam. I also managed to take Cooper for a walk and take a pair of shoes to get repaired, but otherwise I just made a butt imprint on the couch. I thought I might be able to work on Christmas gifts/wrapping, but I had zero motivation.

It just hit me hard that she would be such a little PERSON at age 6 with her own ideas and thoughts and comments about the world and I'm missing that and missing conversations with her and oh. my. god. My baby died. My baby died. How is that even possible?


One of my dark secrets for a long time was that if I could go back and never get pregnant with Eliza at all, I thought I would have made that choice. It was so hard for me to separate the pain from the happiness that I would gladly have given up all of that anticipatory joy of pregnancy, knowing it would only lead to disappointment. 

One gift of distance is that it allows me to remember some moments of happiness without seeing them as completely tainted by the grief that would follow. I'm trying to separate my love from her loss. It often feels impossible to pull them apart, but I'm trying to reframe things a little bit. 

It's hard.


Last night when I was talking to Zu about Eliza's birthday, she said, "Can we have a celebration?" and then she said, "What kind of treats and cupcakes did Eliza like when she was a baby?"

Yesterday morning our stupid elf was hanging out on Eliza's picture and we talked about her birthday again and Zuzu said, "I wish she could be alive." and I could tell that it was kind of a dramatic performance rather than a real wish, but it still got the tears rolling. 

Also she suggested we ask Santa to use his magic to give Eliza a candy cane that would bring her back to life. #greatideas


Late yesterday afternoon, I shook myself out of my stupor. David was going to be picking up the girls from class, so I planned to run out to get birthday treats to have after dinner before we went out to the vigil. But then David called because he had a flat tire and it had a hole in it, so I ended up having to pick up the girls and meet him there. 

Which would have been fine, except I wanted to run to Target to pick up a few things for the family that was adopted by my university for Christmas (as I told Zuzu, trying not to cry, "I can't buy shoes for Eliza, so I'm buying shoes for these kids instead.") and then I'd forgotten our candles, so I wanted to run home to get them (I should have just bought more at Target, but I was not thinking clearly), and that put us behind schedule. Instead of a nice dinner with special treats, the girls ate Target snack bar popcorn and breakfast bars for dinner, then had scrambled eggs and cereal as a bedtime snack. #qualityparenting

Also Coco had to pee at Target because Coco ALWAYS pees at Target and then since we were all going, I decided to go, too. I'm sure the other women in the bathroom especially enjoyed the LOUD conversation from our stall:

Zuzu: You going pee pee or poo poo, Mommy?

Me in a whisper: Shh, honey. I just have to pee.

Coco at top volume: Poo-poo?

Me: Shh! No!

Zuzu: I hear your tinkles!

Coco: Twinkle twinkle! Good job!


Meanwhile, at Jiffy Lube, the guy working there overheard part of David's conversation with me, when David was explaining that it would take an hour so he'd just have to meet me there. The Jiffy Lube guy asked David where he was headed, and David told him. 

An hour later, after the tire was repaired, they didn't charge him anything for it. Isn't that a sweet act of kindness?

I'm glad David got to talk about Eliza, even just with the guy at Jiffy Lube, because I think part of the reason that six years feels so hard is that with fewer people directly acknowledging her birthday each year, talking about it (and her) starts to feel less and less acceptable, especially since there's nothing new to say and everybody has heard it already. How long can I keep asking people to be sad with me? It must be exhausting for them.

At the same time, people are always willing to celebrate good things. A new job! A regular living birthday! A great haircut! The end of the semester! 

Why can't we recognize and acknowledge heartache as well as happiness?


The vigil was nice, even with me feeling a bit frantic and rushed, and I'm glad we went. David got there early enough to place a flower on the angel for our girl, and I was happy that he did that. At least Eliza has one parent who can get places on time. 

As always, I'm so grateful for the texts and the e-mails and the blog comments and the love and the prayers and the good thoughts (even if you didn't tell me about them) and the candle lightings and the acts of kindness and the donations in her name. 

I don't know where I'd be today if it weren't for you all who read the blog and comment or email me. Probably institutionalized. So, thank you. xoxoxo

Monday, December 5, 2016


It's tomorrow. On the sixth. She would be six.

Her golden birthday! A party full of gold and glitter and giggles.

She would be a kindergartner. She would know how to read, you guys.

I can see glimpses of her. I think she would have light brown hair and blue eyes like Coco's and a giggle like Zuzu's and a silly nickname like Za-za. She would be stubborn and funny and our house would be even more full of little girl shoes and mismatched socks and Disney figurines and rogue crayons and dried out markers and well-loved children's books.


How can it be six?

Six years is no time. Six years is a heartbeat--or a lack of one. 

That's a lie.

Six years is an eternity.

It's long enough to go from newborn to new reader. Long enough that the baby pudge melts away so she becomes all knobby knees and bony elbows with softness still in her cheeks. It's long enough to build a family of three daughters. To become associate professor instead of assistant. To look at your husband and wonder how it is you've now been married for 1/3 of your life.

What does it mean to miss someone for six years? I'm not sure I realized how sustainable grief actually is, or how drastically it would change.


I'm doing better this year than any year previously. And sometimes that feels like progress, but often it feels more like a betrayal.

Six years is forever.

It's long enough to discover that you won't die of heartbreak, no matter how inviting death seems at first. It's long enough to recover some version of your old self, broken and twisty and unable to tolerate long conversations about pregnancy, but eventually finding the old enthusiasm for tacos and make up samples and just the right light fixtures. It's long enough for color to seep its way back into your life.

The distance gives you breathing room, but it never gives her breath, so the breathing room feels a little unfair. Unwanted, even.

If the sadness is a bruise, this time of year I push on it. I can still go back there. The day of. The day before. The day after. I can relive it like an out of body experience or simply like the sensation of suffocating. That room in the hospital. The smell of the soap and the sheets. That cold dread becoming colder realization. The shock. The numbness. The incessant ache that replaced the numbness. The ache that, over years, faded to longing that will never, ever entirely go away.

When I let myself think about her, the ache comes back. It starts in my chest and it radiates down my arms. It is so fierce I hold my breath and I don't let it out until the tears well up in my eyes and then they spill over with a long, shuddering sigh.

I count up all my regrets, I whisper aloud my apologies. I don't talk to her very often, but when I do I always say I'm sorry.

It's been six years, and some of them have been the best years of my life and all of them have been the most heartbreaking, and there's a small part of me that still wants to grab the wheel and turn back time, if given a chance to save her and walk a different path.


I can't bring her back. I can only do what I can to make this shitstorm of a life beautiful, while always wishing that she were part of it.

And when I wake up on her birthday, as sad and empty and angry as I will feel, I will also feel how much she is a part of this life. Being pregnant with her brought me an unbelievable amount of joy, and there is so much good in my life today that is a direct result of being her mom. Her life--and also her death--set me spinning on this path, and she is the reason behind almost every important thing.

No matter how many years out, the earth keeps turning and it will always come back to her.

She's the baby who changed everything for me, in all the best and the worst ways.


And tomorrow, she would be six.