Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Conversations with Zuzu and Coco

Scene: Getting Silhouettes Made, Expressing Uncertainty

Me: So we are going to go have your silhouettes done.
Coco: What's a silhouette?
Me: An artist looks at the side of your face and then he cuts the shape out of paper.
Coco: Will it hurt?

Scene: Fussing Baby, Knowledgeable Big Sister

Coco: I think I know why Genevieve is crying. I think she just wants to grow up!

Scene: Making Dinner, Preparing for the Future.

Coco: Mama.
Me: Yes?
Coco: Do you sleep at college?
Me: Yes. You sleep in the dorms with your friends.
Coco: (teary-eyed) But I want to sleep here!
Zuzu: Don't worry. When you're older, you're more tired, so you sleep all night without waking up. And when we are at Cottey, we can stay at Grammy and Bops's house.

Scene: At the Doctor's Office, Pondering the Origins of Life

Coco: How did they make this? (gestures at walls)
Me: Well, these fish on the walls are actually stickers.
Coco: No, how did they make this world?
Me: You mean the doctor's building? The hospital?
Coco: No, this world. Like, how did they make us?
Me: What?
Coco: Like in the old days? How did they make us?
Me: Are you talking about creation? Or evolution? I mean, science tells us that life begins at the cellular level--
Coco: Did they put googly eyes on us?
Me: ...

Scene: Riding in the Car, Throwing Shade at Sister

Zuzu: Novelle got to wear pajamas to school yesterday!
Me: Oh, really? Why?
Zuzu: She got TEN dojo points!
Coco: I wonder why YOU didn't.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Appearances, Expectations, and Reality

Things I thought I would do after dropping my kids at school today:

- Work on job search and job applications.
- Write.
- Meal plan and grocery shop.
- Yoga.

Things I have actually done today after dropping my kids at school:
- Watched that Michael Buble video and cried
- Read articles by moms dropping their children at college and cried
- Stepped in puddle of dog pee, took several steps before brain caught up to what just happened.
- Mopped entire dining room and kitchen and hallway.

My expectations are clearly not quite matching up to reality, but I'm feeling really grateful for the flexibility to make all that happen.

I was e-mailing recently with my friend Julie (we're so old school like that!) and she mentioned one of the photos from G's newborn photo session:

I know... aren't we precious?

Look what a perfect, happy family we are. Just sitting around on the couch, admiring the baby, laughing at each other's jokes, wearing coordinating colors and a lot of white. Like you do when you're one week postpartum.

Please see how well-behaved my children are! They are like this all the time. We spend hours simply cuddling on the couch and enjoying each other's company while gazing at our newborn. I mean, do you see Coco's chin in her hand? And Zuzu's gentle touch on G's head? It's darling! How lucky I am to have such delightful offspring! This is just a normal part of our day! We sit like this for hours!

And look at our pup. He's just the best dog. He's certainly not the kind of dog who would refuse to go out in the rain and then pee all over the kitchen floor, ignoring the puppy piddle pad three feet away that I had actually remembered to put down for him just in case. He definitely wouldn't nose through a photographer's bag and try to eat the chocolates that she'd brought me as a gift. He doesn't shed everywhere! Oh--and look at Zuzu's little hand reaching for G's tiny foot? It's so cute that I can't even.

Please. Let me tell you The Rest of the Story. There is so much more truth behind these photos. Casey Rae Photography did capture the bleary, hazy love-fest that was G's early days at home, but there's a lot of reality going on that her beautiful, "lifestyle" photography does not reveal.

Let's start with me: I'd tried to do my hair for the first time in a week and was unhappy with the way it turned out. My face is still swollen from pregnancy. We'd been home from the NICU for three days and I was nowhere near caught up on sleep. I was exhausted. My boobs were so engorged that I could barely button that blue shirt I put on, but G was still so sleepy that she wasn't nursing well. I was stressed out about the photo session to the point that I was sweaty. I put on white jeans because I wanted us all to color coordinate with light, springy colors, but those pants did NOT fit me and I had to fasten them with a hair elastic. Wearing white pants while still bleeding from having a baby a week earlier is pretty ridiculous, but my only other option was black yoga pants and those just didn't fit the "aesthetic" I was going for. So I put in a gigantic pad and hoped for the best!

On top of this, I had wicked hemorrhoids. These were problematic throughout my whole pregnancy, no matter how much water I drank or Colace I dutifully swallowed along with my prenatal vitamin. They only got WORSE during delivery and they were truly the most uncomfortable part of my recovery. A natural birth with no tearing, no stitches, but a hemorrhoid that was so huge and painful it hurt me to move at all--walking, standing, sitting. I winced and moaned every time. All the Preparation H and Tucks pads in the world couldn't really fix it--it took two and a half weeks for it to go away. I was googling things like "hemorrhoid surgery" (word of advice: don't look it up). Anyway, my butt hurt so badly that I had to grit my teeth every time I moved for photos.

Plus these were all taken on Mother's Day. In my sleepless delirium, I'd texted Casey to let her know that G had shown up three weeks early and we'd like baby pictures as soon as possible after we got home from the NICU Thursday evening, so would Sunday work? I hadn't even realized we'd scheduled them for Mother's Day. When I discovered the date, I thought it would be fine--kind of sweet even. But really it was hard. Having G's baby pictures on Mother's Day was NOT a happy ending, silver lining, big fat bow wrapping up my motherhood story. Yes, I got my first positive pregnancy test on Mother's Day in 2011. Yes, I had a newborn photo session with my last baby on Mother's Day in 2019. But nothing about it was easy. How is it that this baby's decelerating heartrate was caught and she was safely delivered and we were all home and okay but eight years earlier I left the hospital empty handed? And was G going to be fine? The NICU stay had been hard on me but it was also hard to be home and on my own with a teensy tiny baby.

I was pretty stressed about G. The night we got home from the hospital, I called my pediatrician in a panic about her looking jaundiced. The girls wanted to hold their sister constantly, but I was so scared they would hurt her because she was so teensy and I needed them to be sooooo gentle. When G slept, she was so small and so still that I would constantly check the Owlet app on my phone to make sure her oxygen levels were good. I was scared that she'd need to go back to the hospital--or worse, that she would just stop breathing.

I was feeling the baby blues in a way that I hadn't with the other girls. And although I wanted pictures taken soon after she got home, this was still TWO WEEKS before her due date! G was so bitsy and skinny and yellow--especially compared to her sisters (who weighed in at 8 pounds and 8 pounds 7 ounces). I wanted to have G's newborn photo be a naked photo just like Zuzu's and Coco's were, but naked newborn G looked like a tree frog. She was so scrawny and had no butt cheeks and you could see all the bumps of her little spine! It made me feel like my body had failed her--that she had to come out into the world before she was ready. I was afraid there would be complications we didn't know about yet.

Then Zuzu and Coco, who appear to be devoted big sisters, were actually not very cooperative and pretty bratty about the photos, although they were very enthusiastic about the baby. Poor Coco spent the month of May having a ton of meltdowns. She had a really hard time adjusting to the sudden change of routine when Mom and Dad essentially disappeared to the hospital for a week and Grammy and Bops showed up to take care of the girls, except then Grammy got a stomach bug... then we got home but the baby was here and everything was different and Mommy was tense and exhausted. So anyway, while the girls had been super great for family photos back in October, they were not into it in May. Coco hated her dress and called it ugly because it wasn't as twirly as Zuzu's was. Zuzu liked her dress, but had no interest in doing the things the photographer or I would ask her to do--or she would do them in such an exaggerated way that it was not what I wanted for the photo. I seriously wanted to cry in frustration because they were being so difficult. And yet... this is what Casey photographed:

It may have been the one split second they weren't arguing or whining. And it's freaking adorable.

G also had a huge blowout mid-diaper change that nearly got all over me but was caught in her blanket instead and we had to switch swaddle blankets and David snapped at me as though it was my fault that I hadn't predicted she would shoot mustard poop out of her bottom the moment I removed her diaper. Clementine had to be kept in her crate because she wouldn't stop barking. I asked the photographer to re-do the naked baby shots at the end of the session because I was afraid the first time we tried hadn't looked the way I wanted it to, but G wouldn't go back to sleep and it wasn't working. I collapsed in exhaustion when it was all over.

(Casey the photographer had brought me good chocolates as a new-baby-mama gift, which was so incredibly thoughtful, and at one point I heard Cooper nosing around in the paper bag in the kitchen and I ran in there--yowch, hemorrhoids--and rescued the chocolates before he'd been able to access them. And they were delicious. I sampled several of them on the couch after our session was over.)

So trust me when I say that the pictures don't tell the whole story! I know too well what was really going on that afternoon.

And yet, when I look back at the photographs, I just see us dazed and delighted with this gorgeous new babe. I know that we were running on not enough sleep and too much adrenaline, the girls had not adjusted to the change in routine, I was experiencing huge anxiety about G being so tiny and fragile, and David was trying to keep the house clean and keep me happy and keep things as normal as possible for the girls while also wrapping up the busiest month on the school calendar... but the photos blur those harsh edges of that reality and just capture the best parts of all of us together.

The good was there, of course, it was just hard for me to feel it in that moment. And yet when I look at the photos, I marvel at the way the good is ALL that shows up in the edited pictures--big smiles, good lighting, forgiving camera lenses.

A lesson for all of us that when someone else is making it look easy... it's not. It's so not easy or pretty or fun all the time. But the loveliness is still there, in and around all the hard parts. You just need the right camera angle to see it.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Conversations with Coco and Zuzu

Recent conversations I've typed up in my phone notes.

Raising a Future Vegetarian?
Coco: Did this chicken strip come from a chicken?
Me: yes.
Coco: Did it die?
Me: Yes.
Zuzu: Wait. Did they kill it?
Me: Um, yes.
Zuzu: Seriously? Like with a gun?
Me: Well, probably not with a gun.
Coco: I know how they kill them. WITH FIRE.
Zuzu: I think they just let the chicken get old and die. So then you get the meat but you don't have to hurt them.

How The World Works
The girls recently took an online survey about how kids think about race and one of the questions was about two kids living in two different houses (one nice, one crappy looking). The question was whether one kid lives in a nice house and the other kid lives in a not-nice house because of things that happen in the world or because of who they are on the inside. Coco chose "because of who they are on the inside" (OMG so much work to do) Zuzu (much to my relief) chose "because of things that happen in the world."

Zuzu: Everyone is kind on the inside, so that other answer doesn't make sense. Except for bullies. Like Donald Trump.

Coco: Why do we lock the doors at night?
David: To keep us safe.
Me: To keep the critters out.
Coco: Like worms? And werewolves?

Jokes for Days
Coco: I know a joke for Halloween. How does a house get inside a house?
Me: I don't know. How?
Coco: Someone puts a little house inside a house!

Coco: I've got a cute joke!
Me: Okay.
Coco: How does a dog bark?
Me: I don't know. How?
Coco: (laughing) Out its mouth!
Zuzu: That's just the truth, so it's not really a joke.

Questions to Ask Your Mom in the Car When She Already Has a Headache
Coco: When you die, do you have skin?
Zuzu: Why do people have nakey time if they don't want to have a baby?

Clementine's Middle Name is Actually Cutie-Pie
Coco: Clementine Audrey! Oh, I have a great idea for Clementine's name since we're the Duckworth family. (dramatic pause) Clementine Duckworth!
Zuzu: Yeah. That IS her name.

Watching Shimmer and Shine
Shimmer: My favorite color is glitter!

Brushing Dolls' Hair
Coco: Shimmer and Shine are really good about tangles. They don't even fuss!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

School is Cool

I bought a light board at Aldi (like a light up letter board with letters you slide in to spell short messages). Its first message was "Happy Birthday Coco!" And now it reads "School is cool." Both girls are in school and it's just me and G hanging out at home. I'm managing to stay busy. My goals for today are to clean the bathroom, do some reading, and make a Target run.

I've been doing lots of contemplating and searching job possibilities and plenty of fretting and stressing out over it. Uncertainty is so hard for me. I remember talking to my old therapist about how I didn't need to have a contingency plan or answer for every future possibility. I could just trust Future Me to not be an idiot and figure out what was necessary when the time came. I had to return to that idea yesterday when my brain wouldn't stop spinning. We'll just let Future Me sort this out. She's not an idiot. It will be fine.

Meantime, I am doing my best to soak up the present with a baby who feels gigantic to me (she's all cheeks and thighs, basically, which are my favorite baby parts anyway).

Her sisters are still doting on her and fighting over who gets to hold her. I worry sometimes about the intense friendship and bond that Zuzu and Coco have with each other making Vieve feel like she's on the outside, but my hope is that they will both have a different and equally powerful bond with her.

The transition back to school has not felt as fraught and frantic as last year--I think because I'm not also transitioning back to work, so I'm better able to play the supportive role to David who has been dealing with more enrollment than expected, hiring more teachers at the last minute (literally the week before school starts), having a teacher accept a position and then decline it the next day (literally the day before school starts), and the general anxiety of getting the building and schedule and everything ready for the first day. Life is easier when one of us can be home getting dinner and taking care of bath time while the other one is losing their mind, answering e-mails and making a zillion phone calls.

It's also easier because Zuzu is not starting at a new school, so her nerves were minimal. She was nothing but excited for second grade and although we knew nothing about the second grade teachers, she feels that she got the best one.

The minor disappointment was that her one really good friend isn't in her class, but she has other buddies in class and sees her other friends at recess and after school care, so she's doing just fine. She told me the first day that she was a little nervous, but her favorite before-and-after-school teacher was there again (she'd mentioned last year that she was thinking about retiring so we weren't sure) so we were both happy to see her. Zuzu's drop off went smoothly and she loved the first day and was excited to go back for day 2. In fact, when I picked her up yesterday around 4:30pm (school gets out at 4pm), she was pissed off at me because they were playing Harry Potter and I interrupted their game. She asked me to please not pick her up before 5pm today. Ahem, well, okay then.

Of course my Coco-Puff is a kindergartener now and I'm not having as many huge emotions about that as I thought I would. Maybe because she's been eagerly anticipating kindergarten since she was three?

She's at her same little Montessori school with her same little bestie and she was up bright and early the first day asking me from the moment she opened her eyes if it was time to leave yet. So kindergarten drop off was easy breezy for her.

The girls are currently loving their gymnastics and ninja warrior classes and that was clearly driving their choice of future career (gymnastics coach and ninja teacher). It's also been driving evening entertainment around here as they were literally climbing door jambs yesterday as part of "ninja training" at home. We are back to having no screens during the week and the transition has not been as tricky as I'd feared. School gets out so late that there's not a lot of hours to fill and they have been wanting to play outside or ninja train, so it's been fine. We've never done a lot of TV in the evenings anyway, so I'm hoping it won't be a big issue. I'm still not sure how we'll navigate things once Zuzu starts asking for a phone and needing to do school work on a computer... it feels so far away right now, but I know it will be here in no time.

G continues to be the easiest baby. I had a friend watch her yesterday for an hour and a half while I took an important phone call and did some work stuff.  She was happy or asleep the whole time, which is basically her approach to life (if only I could be so zen!).

She does get fussy when her tummy is bothering her and in the evenings (dinner time! always!) before she dozes off. But anytime she cries, I know she needs to poop or sleep. It's nice to have a little creature who is needy but whose needs are simple and easy to fulfill. The only thing tricky about her right now is that she needs her fingernails trimmed (they are so sharp! and grow so fast! and she's drawn blood near one of her eyes!) and she's not particularly tolerant of that. I need to wait for her to fall asleep.

I've been worried about Cooper lately, as he tore his ACL (or the doggie version of the knee ligament). It's not that uncommon in dogs, but it left him unable to put any weight on it. He's been walking gingerly on it since going to the vet and getting some anti-inflammatory medication, but he's still unsteady. He's not a good candidate for surgery due to his age (13) and size (rather overweight). So we are just watching to make sure he can maintain mobility and isn't in any pain. So far, so good, although he sometimes needs help up the stairs.

The girls talk frankly and morbidly about his death, which is sometimes disturbing even though I try to take it in stride since we have worked hard to normalize talking about death/grief. But I was pretty upset after our vet visit and I did not particularly enjoy processing it with them the next day (especially because they were with us at the vet and were fighty and obnoxious the entire time the vet was explaining our options). I have a friend whose elderly dog healed up pretty well without surgery after the same injury (which can apparently occur in dogs without a specific violent injury--we have no idea what happened to Bubba, only that he started limping) so I'm feeling more hopeful.

I've missed writing here and my brain is often composing blog posts that I never find the time to sit down and write. It's hard to share my lap with a baby and a laptop, and I just can't do the posts on my phone. Plus I'm trying to do less phone time... the blessings and curses of modern technology. Anyway, I have lots of thoughts lately on getting older (I turned 39!!!) and on being completely 100% done having babies (so happy to never be pregnant again; asked David the other day if he'd consider adopting out of foster care and he looked at me like I was bonkers and said we can maybe have that conversation in five years). I'm still having ALL the intense feelings about my campus closing and doing a job search, particularly not knowing what kind of job I want but also realizing that I personally feel most fulfilled and happiest and least resentful and impatient when I work outside of the home. At the same time, I am treasuring these days with G, my last babe. (At least for the next five years. LOL. I don't know if I'm kidding or not.) I probably should be in therapy to process my feelings about having a third baby in a world facing climate catastrophe (guilty, selfish, optimistic, and scared), not to mention to the humanitarian crisis at our borders in this country and the general anxiety that taking my kids to school or the store is asking to get them shot. I also want to write about trying to get back into yoga, about how hard it is to practice self-care when you need it most, about trying to separate my sense of self-worth from my job/degree/outside approval. I could also write more about shopping at Aldi, about my desire to consume less and my desire to buy all the things, about my effort (and failure) to join a local writers' critique circle, and about how I want to paint the wood trim in my house but it feels so daunting and overwhelming even though I usually don't shy away from get 'er done projects.

All this to say, I have so many thoughts and hope I have time to do more writing in the near future! To those of you who have stuck around and are still reading this--thank you! xoxo

Friday, August 2, 2019

Watch This

I have managed to watch more TV this summer than I do during the school year, even though I don’t watch it while my kids are awake because I apparently don’t bother with kid-friendly programming. Anyway, I’ve been recommending a few shows to anyone who will listen, so I thought I’d put it out there on the Internet.

Of course if you haven’t watched already, get you some Hulu and binge Veronica Mars. Then message me so we can process all our feeeelings about it.

I also treated myself to Killing Eve on Hulu, which is occasionally gory/violent but also fascinating.

Now I’m watching Four Weddings and a Funeral and it’s an absolute delight.

My best treat on Netflix has been Friends from College. It’s truly so good! I adore Fred Savage (had a crush on him back in The Wonder Years days) and the show starts good but then gets better. I watched the winery episode twice and I NEVER do that. It’s LOL funny but not in a sitcom laugh track kind of way. 

Of course I’d be remiss not to mention Fleabag again (on Amazon prime) because it’s still my favorite blend of quirky humor and awkwardness. Brilliant writing, acting, and costuming. Season 2 was everything I hope for in a show.

Outlander is on Netflix now, so if you’re looking for a sexy historical drama, look no further than the hunky Scottish Jamie, who's single-handedly giving gingers sex appeal. 

If you haven’t watched Longmire on Netflix, now is the time. A crime drama with a great blend of episodic and over-arching mystery plot, plus an excellent cast with several Native American actors.

After making my way sloooowly through all the seasons for Father Brown, I’m venturing into Midsomer Murders. I love a low key British crime drama! Speaking of which, of you haven’t watched Luther, you’re missing out on excellent crime drama PLUS Idris Elba and your life is sad.

Any shows I haven’t mentioned but shouldn’t miss? Do tell.