Monday, October 28, 2019

Weekend Update

We've had some pretty great weekends this month. We did a trip to my parents' the first weekend of October, had a weekend at home, then went to Kansas City to visit my best friend from high school and do the pumpkin patch thing. This past weekend was busy but in all kinds of delightful and restorative ways, although we had some last-minute schedule changes due to weather and we missed out on an adult Halloween party I would have liked to go to, we had a great weekend all together.

On Friday, I met up with a friend and walked Forest Park. From there, I picked up the girls and we did a quick costume change (literally into their Halloween costumes) and sandwiches for dinner so that I could then take them up to David's school for Trunk or Treat.

hippie flower child & cowgirl
In the middle of this, I got a call that Cooper had wandered off AGAIN. We've had an occasional problem with this, and thought that we had solved the problem with some additional fencing. Clementine wears a collar for the invisible fence, but Bubba has always been cool just sticking around. Suddenly, though, he seems to have a desire to wander, despite the fact that he sort of staggers when he walks and moves very slowly. Honestly, I'm a little worried he's getting senile.

Anyway, he's super friendly, so we've gotten very lucky in that a neighbor finds him and calls the number on his tag and we walk over and pick him up. But back up a minute to last weekend (as in two weeks ago), I was getting the car loaded and everything ready to go to KC and he must have slipped out the door without my noticing. When I realized he was gone, I walked to our nearest neighbor's house, as he occasionally likes to visit them. No Cooper. So then I walked around the adjacent neighborhood, where he has also gone before. No sign of him. We were supposed to leave for KC around 11am, so I started getting anxious as the morning went on. I loaded up all the girls in the car and we drove around everywhere I could think that he might be. No puggle.

David got home from his morning meeting and he went walking around. Then he drove around. When he got back, I went walking. By this time, it was long past the time we'd planned to leave and we had to make a decision. We had tickets to see Dear Evan Hansen at 7:30pm in Kansas City. David had a friend who was willing to pick up Cooper if we got a call about him, but I couldn't stomach the idea of Cooper coming back home and us just being gone for two nights. I'd wanted to get a dog sitter, but David had talked to our friends and they said it was fine to bring the dogs, so we were planning on bringing them with us, which meant Coop would return to an empty house if we didn't wait for him to show up.

Time kept ticking by and Cooper still hadn't been found. I'd spent forty minutes walking around and yelling for him (which is silly because he's so hard of hearing). At last, we decided to sell our Dear Evan Hansen tickets. We were still hoping he'd turn up--I was sure he'd make it home for dinner time!--but we had hit the deadline of when we needed to leave to make it to the show.

I was bummed about selling the tickets (fortunately, we were able to get face value for them, but I still REALLY wanted to see the show), but I was even more worried about Coop. As it got to be 4pm and he still hadn't turned up, I started crying because he is so food-driven and I felt like if he could make it home for dinner, he would. It didn't help that as we drove around the girls kept saying things like, "I hope we don't find his smushed body" and "Is this how sad you were when Eliza died?"

At 5:15, we got a call that someone had found Cooper and David drove over to pick him up. He was a little farther than we'd expected, but at a house we'd driven by three times, so we don't know what he was doing or how we missed him. At least we got him back! And we made it to KC so we were able to go to the pumpkin patch even though we missed the show. We did have a great weekend with Monica and Johnny and the kids.

Anyway, we blocked what we were pretty sure was his path of escape, but he found some other way to wander this past Friday, so I'm afraid I'll have to put the invisible fence collar on him, which I don't want to do because he's old and he's my baybee. BUT obviously I need to keep him safe. We got a call that he had wandered and a guy found him and put him in his garage but had to leave for the afternoon before David got the message, so after I dropped the girls at Trunk or Treat, I swung by and picked up Cooper and then made it home in time to do an Adventures in Babysitting style clean up of my house (tell me you know that scene in the movie? Elisabeth Shue is so great.). 

After all the rushing around, it was time for a book club meeting. My old book club is on a bit of a hiatus, although I'm hoping we'll reconvene at some point, so I've joined another book club. Anyway, I was telling the whole Cooper saga at our meeting and how sad I was to miss DEH, and one of my friends who was there mentioned that she has DEH tickets for this week, but her husband recently saw the show in Des Moines. Because they are the BEST people ever, he's letting me have his ticket! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.

And a Friday night with bookish conversation with new/old friends and some champagne was just what I needed. 

Saturday morning, David I took the girls to the City Museum. He was working an event for his school district, so he had to do some set up but then he was able to hang out with us. The girls love the City Museum and G was content in her carrier, so we had a good time. The step team from the high school performed, which is always so fun to see, and the girls were really into it. Such great energy and love in the room when they perform!

We parked in the parking garage, but I felt like my car was too big to get into the parking space they directed me too so I freaked out apologetically and then they directed me to a bigger parking spot for my soccer mom car ("I'm not a regular mom. I'm a cool mom."). As I walked through the parking garage in total mom-mode with the diaper bag on my back, the baby on my front, and one kid holding each of my hands, Coco said, "Mommy, you look like a teenager with that backpack on!" LOL. Man, I love that kid.

Saturday was a rainy, dreary day, so that afternoon we got home and watched the new version of Aladdin. I also watched YouTube tutorials on braiding and practiced on Zuzu's hair. Her high physical pain tolerance makes her fun to practice hair styles on because (unlike Coco) she doesn't complain about a little scalp-tugging, but her low tolerance for anything scary or suspenseful on TV meant that she was really stressed out by the movie, even though she'd seen the animated version and knew what was coming. She hid behind me for a lot of it and was almost in tears at one point. It's a little baffling, but we just try to be reassuring and not make a big deal out of it. It explains why she prefers shows like Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse and Shimmer and Shine, because they are so formulaic and predictable, and apparently that's what she likes in her TV!

Anyway, we mostly enjoyed the movie and then the girls had a long bubble bath and David fixed dinner and they all went to bed early and I read a mystery novel and it was a lovely evening.

Sunday morning was one of my favorite services at church, when we do a remembrance service. Everyone is invited to bring a photo or memento to place at the front of the church on the altar, and then you can write down the names of those you are remembering to add as well. This morning got off to a rough start though, and it was honestly because I had nothing to wear. I can fit in most of my pre-pregnancy clothes, but they don't fit the SAME, and I can't stand wearing any fitted shirts while I'm still breastfeeding. I hate it. Plus I really, really need to get a decent bra instead of the nursing tanks I've been wearing for almost six months. So I felt gross in everything I put on and it was terrible.

Anyway, we made it to church but I had forgotten that remembrance Sunday was this weekend, so I hadn't brought Eliza's portrait and that made me really sad. David was like, "It's fine. Really. It's FINE." I held it together and I wrote her name on a card and put my bracelet with her name on it up there as a little memento, which was fine. The whole service was so lovely and sad. I cried off and on through the whole thing. The pastor who spoked works in hospice care and he talked about the glorious Nora McInerney and how you don't move on from grief, you move forward with grief. So that was perfect and the music was so beautiful. It all made me cry. G fell asleep, so I held and snuggled her warm, heavy, perfect little body and breathed in the smell of her baby head while I tried not to drop tears on her.

After church, we headed over to Coco's best friend Evelyn's house for brunch, which was super fun. I need to do more family brunch dates with my friends with kids. It's easy to prep in advance, everybody likes breakfast food, and it's early enough that you can get out of there before tired meltdowns start. Evelyn's mom had even made salt dough cookies for the girls to paint (and she even let them use glitter because she is a kindergarten teacher and a saint). They were delighted. They  all played really nicely and we had a great time. Coco and Evs got a little silly during clean up (there was a lot of soap suds being applied directly to faces and hysterical giggling) so that was our cue that it was time to go.

We decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather by heading out to old town St. Charles and walking around on Main Street. They have a Halloween festival so there were spooky characters out on the street and the kids could collect stamps from each one. We saw Ichabod Crane and the Weird Sisters and Medusa and Lizzie Borden and the Big, Bad Wolf. We also browsed in a few shops (I bought G a hat). 

We made it home in time for me to get to my Sunday night restorative yoga class. I left David mowing the lawn while wearing G in the carrier and had a relaxing hour just breathing and stretching and trying to clear my mind. It was glorious!

I'd be happy if every weekend played out like this one. We have more to look forward to this week--tomorrow is gymnastics and ninja night, I've got Dear Evan Hansen coming up, and of course the girls are already pumped for Halloween. This feels like a really sweet season (particularly right this minute with everyone already in bed asleep, haha) so I'm trying to soak it all in. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

My Favorite Age

Baby G, Almost 6 Months.

Genevieve can roll over both ways, entertain herself with her feet and hands, grasp toys, put all the things in her mouth, and--most delightfully--belly laugh at her sisters' antics. She just rolled herself from her playmat all the way over to my desk and is lying with her legs under my desk chair, just grinning up at me and occasionally sucking on her thumb or fingers.

She's not sitting up on her own yet. She's mastering the yoga "superman" move, but she's not crawling. She makes her needs pretty well known, but she's generally a happy baby, especially in the morning, which is her best time. She'll lie around and coo and giggle, needing little more than a diaper change and some mama milk to keep her content.

She's still very portable, although the carseat is getting heavier by the day, and she's a good sport about carriers, strollers, and other means of transportation. She's just glad to be in the mix. She travels without complaint to school drop off and gymnastics and keeps her cool pretty much until the end of the day when--especially if naps have been spotty--she will lose her mind during the evening hour.

My stresses... we're still not on much of a regular schedule. She's not a huge fan of napping more than 20-40 minutes some days and then other days she'll sleep a solid 90 minutes in the afternoon. I read that she should sleep 3 - 3 1/2 hours during the day and 12 hours at night. She's getting those 12 hours in at night (she basically sleeps 7-7) but those twelve hours also include two wake ups during which she DEMANDS mama milk. I keep thinking that surely we can break her of that habit by just rocking her back to sleep, but no. Last night she was literally screaming. Not crying, mind you. SCREAMING. And I have this interior battle about staying strong and comforting her other ways and then my brain is like "OMG she's a baby and she won't be a baby for long. Just give her what she wants." So I nurse her and she falls asleep with a smile on her face and I'm like, "Why did I fight that for so long?" But then I think I should be working harder to get her on a regular schedule so life is easier for both of us...

I worry about her going to daycare, of course, and I want her to be able to be soothed without my boobs. But I also know that she'll be another two months older and everything will be different by then. So I'm trying not to stress about it too much, while also recognizing the irony that this is the baby who literally slept 8-10 hours a night at 1-2 months old and then hit 4 months old and was like hahaha just kidding let me have your boobs as an all-night buffet.

Coco, Age 5.

I really think that five is one of my all-time favorite ages. They're so little but so big and so smart but still learning so much and asking such big questions. Coco is a joy at five because she loves to report what she's learned at school, which is fascinating, and she's always singing songs she learned at school and solemnly reminding us of rules for behavior (which she also conveniently forgets quite frequently, as she seems to enjoy putting her feet up on the dinner table, which grosses me out).

She's such a big helper, but she's still little enough that she cried this morning when Vieve got a really good yank on a handful of her hair (to be fair, Vieve seems to have supernatural strength when it comes to hair-pulling). She knows her own mind and can rarely be convinced otherwise. I thought Zuzu was stubborn, but compared to her sister, Zuzu was actually more pliable, particularly when it comes to what she wants to wear. I've essentially given up on anything except enforcing what is weather appropriate and Coco has a strong preference for soft knits and dresses--the longer the better. She also likes tights, but they must be pulled "up to my vulva" because a saggy crotch in tights is obviously a total deal-breaker.

She loves babies and still asks frequently if she can hold Vieve and, last weekend, Johnny Boone. She likes to change diapers and help babies get dressed, and Vieve loves to laugh at Coco. She's blowing my mind with her reading skills, which just goes to show that every kid is completely different and you can parent them pretty much exactly the same, but they will do what they want when they want. Zuzu was not at all interested in reading at the beginning of kindergarten, and Coco always wants to practice her skills. She's also going to be the kid who enforces that you read every word on the page--Zuzu never minded if I summarized some of the longer, more tedious passages. Coco lives for tedious children's books.

She came upstairs bellowing, "Mama!!!" the other night when I was trying to get Vieve down for the night. I wasn't yelling a response since I was rocking a sleeping baby, so she burst into the bedroom, "MAMA!" and I whispered to her that I was trying to get the baby to sleep.

Coco: I need to tell you something!
Me: What do you need to tell me?
Coco: I know how to spell "toot." Tuh-oh-oh-tuh.
Me: Thank you for telling me that.
(Coco exits)

She also has the sweetest, most serious conversations. In the bathroom at a restaurant last weekend, she asked me how I could still be her mom when she's a teenager.

Me: I'll always be your mom, just like Grammy is still my mom.
Coco: Even when I'm a a grown-up?
Me: Yes. I'll still be your mom when you're a grown-up.
Coco: Will you die before me?
Me: I hope so!
Coco: I want to die when you do.

Oh, my heart.

Zuzu, Age 7.

David and I were just saying last night that we can hardly believe she's already in second grade. By age 7, Zuzu has officially learned pretty much everything and knows more than her parents, although admittedly slightly less than her second grade teacher who is the authority on all things. We had a funny conversation about being a good friend the other day and Zuzu said, "The only rule is, you just give people a chance! Just give them a chance!" and she did this really specific inflection with her voice and gesture with her arms that I actually recognized from meeting with her teacher (who's really animated in conversation) the day before. She is apparently taking some lessons to heart.

She's so confident and proud of her ninja warrior skills and we had such a great time at Elephant Rocks state park last weekend. Zuzu was in her element, climbing and jumping, with Coco working so hard to keep up with her.

She still can't handle any books or shows that are "too intense" which means really the least bit scary or suspenseful. Annedroids on Amazon Prime is a favorite, but she'll also still return to Shimmer and Shine--I think she finds the predictable storylines really comforting. It was the same with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for a long time. She likes knowing exactly what's going to happen and being surprised only by her brand of humor.

She loves her sisters fiercely, and she and Coco remain best of playmates, punctuated by frequent spats. She is also very good at making Baby G laugh and Baby G is absolutely smitten with her.

She still wants to snuggle if she wakes up in the middle of the night and she told me that last night she had a bad dream about aliens and video games, which is puzzling because she's never played a video game except for nintendo wii sports. She's just getting so big so fast I can hardly keep up with it. I love that she's big enough that when Coco is having a meltdown or just being silly, Zuzu and I can exchange glances and little smiles like we're in on a joke together. I can remember my aunt Peggy doing this with me and it made me feel so cool and grown up. She's excited about being a "flower child hippie" for Halloween after seeing a picture of a costume on Pinterest.

She still prefers that I read to her over reading to herself, which blows my mind, but I'm trying not to stress over it. She will occasionally pick up a book unprompted and read to herself, which is a fairly recent development that I'm celebrating, and she's very kind about reading to both of her sisters.

She'll still tell me that she's not sure who she is going to marry, but probably her best friend Gemma or maybe Will, but Oliver S. and Tyler B. both have crushes on her.

Me: How do you know?
Zuzu: They told me.
Me: Well, it's fine to just be friends.

Her problems are still little and she asked to take a stuffie to school to play with at Adventure Club and she still isn't much of a people pleaser and she'd much rather ask forgiveness than permission. She's clever and funny and kind and confident and she has gotten SO much better about being rational and listening to me when I explain something. Seven looks good on her.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Making Chili and Other Big Deals

Tomorrow is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. There's a wave of light that starts at 7pm in every time zone, so we'll be lighting our candles tomorrow evening. I'd love it if you'd light a candle in memory of Eliza, too.

* * *

I've been thinking more about how I'm enjoying maternity leave and also looking forward to going back to work... a couple of weeks ago the sermon at our church was about letting go of expectations.

I'm an anticipator, so this is really hard for me. I enjoy planning. I like envisioning how things are going to go. I enjoy party planning more than the party itself (at least when we're talking kids' birthday parties, lol). I felt like my expectations were flung back in my face when Eliza died so much that I became afraid to plan ahead--how dare I allow myself to assume that any of us would even be alive next week? But now I'm falling somewhere in the middle--dutifully filling in my paper planner and buying clearance clothes a size up in the off-season--and yet still reminding myself that there's only so much we can control.

What I'm trying to do right now is really enjoy this time without dreading a return to work or wishing away the hours that feel dull and lonely when I'm just home with a baby and relying on social media to make me feel like I'm still connected and part of the world. I just want to focus on what's happening now that's really good without feeling like I'm missing out or that something unpleasant is looming. Most days I succeed, but I do better if I have some kind of project for the day--besides laundry. Today I started redecorating a dollhouse I got the girls for Christmas and it's so much fun that I think I'm going to do two of them. I'm not even kidding.

* * *

I've been listening to a podcast called 10 Things to Tell You and one of the early episodes is something I keep mulling over. It's about whether you are a chili cooker or a pizza orderer, and how that might change depending on where you are in your life. The host, Laura Tremaine, tells about an ex-boyfriend of hers who was called to ministry and who explicitly wanted her to fill the role of pastor's wife and chili cooker. She explains that this is the kind of person who offers love and support by nourishing others behind the scenes. It's a crucial role, but some people find it more fulfilling than others.

Being a pizza orderer means you're willing to skimp on the quality of the food you're providing so you can be right there in the moment, at the table, hanging out. It's not better or worse than making chili, but different people tend to be drawn to different roles. Spouses might trade off who is being background support or they might outsource chili cooking so they can both order pizza. (I'm stretching the metaphor here a little, but I think you get me.)

I see this show up in different ways--for example, on family vacations, my mom is very much a pizza orderer. She'll lay out a menu for the week, but it's always super simple, quick-fix meals. Spaghetti with sauce from a jar and frozen garlic bread. Tacos stuff with the meat pre-made and everything else ready to just heat up. And then restaurant meals or take out. She doesn't want to miss out on the swimming or games or whatever by being in the kitchen. My aunt Tammi is the opposite. At our family reunion, she planned a menu that included homemade bread and my great-Grandma's zucchini cake and she spent a lot of the weekend in the kitchen preparing delicious food. It was a sacrifice of sorts--she had less time to simply hang out by the pool--but it's also apparent that she enjoys loving people in that way, by making food and coordinating meals. And that's not to say that my mom doesn't cook for us or Tammi doesn't spend time with her family. Both my mom and aunt Tammi are amazing grandmas/moms/aunts. They just prefer to show up for their people in different ways.

I definitely fall in the pizza-ordering camp. I don't want to miss out on what's happening by being behind the scenes making chili. Still, as I was literally making chili yesterday, I was thinking about how this moment in life allows me time to be home and it means showing love for my family in a different way--by doing more cooking and cleaning than honestly I'd really prefer to do.

(Sidenote: I find the mindset of "this is how I can show love for my family" to be HUGELY helpful in motivating me to clean the house... I'm also hoping that when I go back to work our budget can cover housekeeping again and I can show love to my family by paying someone else to do the chores that take up precious evening and weekend time.)

Basically, I'm trying to enjoy the shift and remember that I'm not locked in to any one way of being, but that some moments in life I have time to make the chili, and other times we'll be grateful that pizza delivery is also delicious.

* * *

For the longest time after Eliza died, it was so easy to imagine what my life would be like if she had lived that I couldn't stop doing it. Eventually it got trickier, and although I still think wistfully of what it would be like to have her here with us, it's harder for me to imagine. I just have no idea what kind of third-grader she would be.

Zuzu has two little friends at school who both happen to have little sisters who are in kindergarten. I think this is great as far as playdates go, and even better, I really like both of the moms. And I was thinking about how different my phone contacts would be if Eliza had lived. I would know the third grade parents instead of the second grade parents. I wouldn't know the babyloss mamas of 2010 and 2011. I would be a completely different person, connected to completely different people.

It's a strange thing, to feel mostly happy and settled in this life (I mean, job drama and daily annoyances aside), but to still ache a little bit for that other life that was almost mine.

I've played the game for so long... what would I give up if it would mean getting her back? And really I'd give up pretty much anything as long as I could keep her sisters, too. But I guess what I'm saying is that it would be a lot to lose. The choice doesn't feel so simple anymore, nine years later, and much of the good that I have in my life (and in my phone contacts list) came this way by way of Eliza. We've managed to cobble together a decent life here (midlife job crisis again is the exception) and it makes me so happy.

But I still sometimes think about how I'm supposed to be a third grade mom and how different that would feel.

* * *

I'm also ruminating on the fact that the next three months are the last three months of a decade. For me, the past ten years have held the deepest sorrows and greatest joys of my life--it's been my entire parenthood journey beginning with my first pregnancy and ending in 2019 with baby G. I can't remember now who it was (maybe Elizabeth Gilbert) who said that at a certain point in life every woman's autobiography could be called Not What I Had Planned. That's certainly what I feel in many ways, but gosh there's been so much unexpected goodness alongside the pain that blindsided me almost nine years ago.

I wonder what I would have felt if I could have gotten a glimpse back in December of 2010 of what life would look like in 2019. It certainly wouldn't have made Eliza's loss any easier, but I just feel so damn grateful for what we have now.

As for what the next three months (and subsequent decade) will hold... I'm envisioning my Eliza book in a slightly different way (more on that soon), I'm trying to be open-minded instead of fretful and fearful about my career path, and I'm doing that by letting go of expectations of what will come next and working on being grateful for what is here and now.

* * *

As for the here and now, currently my seven-year-old and five-year-old are sharing a crib in my bedroom while the five-month-old still sleeps in a bassinet. They wanted to try out the crib, they actually stayed in it all night long (and therefore out of my bed) and asked if they could sleep there again tonight. So... okay then!

I used to be really judgy about family sleeping situations and I have no idea why. Like, it's NO ONE's business and people should absolutely 100% do what works for them.

Also, I don't really want my kids to sleep in my bed except when they are breastfeeding babies, but then I get too anxious about it, so the bedside bassinet will suffice.

David is much more chill about bedsharing and when we've discussed it, he tells me that when they come in and ask if they can snuggle, he just can't say no. I was like, "Well, actually you CAN!" and then he said, "There's going to come a time really soon when I can't fix everything for them just by snuggling with them. So I want to do this while I can."

So then I got all misty-eyed--I mean, how can I say no to that? Plus, he's right. It feels like forever, but it will just be a tiny blip.

Seriously, though, how long will it take before the novelty of the crib wears off? Thinking about bringing in a trundle bed and creating a family bunk room... then I could turn their bedroom into something like a yoga studio or craft room or something fun...

* * *

We had family photos taken on Saturday. I asked David to throw some snacks in the car as we had to go to photos straight from Zuzu's Brownie ceremony and Coco gets really cranky if she's hungry. When I got out to the car, I saw he'd put a bag of Doritos in the front seat. Nacho cheese flavor, naturally.

A BAG OF NACHO CHEESE DORITOS. For a snack. Before a photo session.

I might have asked him whether he was out of his g.d. mind in front of our children. Zuzu called us out for fighting in front of the baby (I'm always telling her and Coco not to fight in front of their sister) and I said, "What's important is the baby sees us make up after we have a disagreement. And in this case, I'm going to say I'm sorry and I'm going to need your dad to admit that he was out of his mind."

After apologies and a snack switcheroo, we went the nature preserve to meet Zuzu's girl scout troop.

The girls wanted to paint, so I took off their sweaters, rolled up their sleeves, hovered and reminded them to be careful, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when they finished painting their "toad houses" without getting any paint on themselves! I took them to wash their hands and felt very proud of myself for being chill enough to let them enjoy painting and proud of them for being tidy about it.

Riding that high, I agreed to let Coco have a hot chocolate with marshmallows. She promptly spilled it all over herself.

I took her into the bathroom, took off her dress, sent her out in her cardigan sweater (buttoned up, obvy) and her leggings (off-white, with her patterned underwear boldly shining through the fabric) and then washed and dried the dress under the hand dryer. The hot chocolate washed out of the dress just fine, but the leather cowboy boots look like she's actually been shoveling out horse stalls.

Once we started the photos, things seemed to be going well. David was holding G for the first few photos. Then he handed her to me. She chose that moment to spit up. It was like I could see it coming, so I stretched out my arms, trying to save my shirt. As a result, she only got a little bit of spit up on my shirt--just enough to drip down my boob. The rest of it fell on Zuzu's hair. She was totally horrified and I was wondering if we should just give up on the whole thing.

But! We mopped up her hair and my shirt and continued smiling. Mostly.

Zuzu kept wandering off to try to climb trees and I had to keep yelling at her to come back (and then she got yelled at by a super grumpy park ranger because apparently you're not allowed to climb trees in the park).

Coco was so sweet and asked for a photo of just her and me.

The photographer invited the girls to throw some leaves in the air, which they were all about last year, but this year Zuzu was Too Cool. So Zuzu suggested a pose where she and Coco stand back to back with their arms crossed, not smiling. The photographer obliged. It will probably be the best photo of the bunch.

After we finished all the photos, we went to Ted Drewes and a women in line next to me was like, "I don't want to be rude or anything, but I wanted to tell you your sweater has the tag on it still."


I have no idea how the photos will turn out, but the Great Pumpkin concrete (a piece of pumpkin pie chunked up in custard) is still the best thing at Ted Drewes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Making Bank, Shaking Hands, Driving 80

Spitting out all the things that have been rattling around in my mind and seeing how many I can get through before Vieve wakes up from her nap.

I'm just starting to actually try to get Vieve on a real schedule. Like yesterday was day one. I've been letting her nap willy nilly, mostly in the car seat while we run errands at my convenience or on my lap at her convenience (Mama not complaining about being forced to sit under a sleeping baby while watching TV or reading, I mean that's basically my dream afternoon). But the truth is that eventually I'll go back to work (sniffle and also yay) and we'll all function better at that point and in the meantime if she has some kind of schedule.

The good news is she has taken to it like a fish to water, to use a tired cliche. I'm loosely following Taking Cara Babies recommendations (she's on IG and someone in my nursing moms group recommended her to someone else so I started following her). So far it's going well in terms of naps, but then baby was up three times last night where normally it's one or two. I don't think that's a reflection on the nap system, though. I return to the only truth I actually know about babies, which is that they are their own people doing their own things and that as soon as you get used to something, they hit a developmental leap and it all changes.

I still wasn't thrilled to hear her fussing at 1:45am with David gone at a conference and the other two girls in my bed, snuggling sweetly at first but later unconsciously flinging a knee or elbow my way. But when I sit up groggily and reach into the bassinet (I know, she's really outgrown it. We're moving her to a crib this weekend.) and I pick her up, she quits fussing and nuzzles her fuzzy little head into my shoulder, and I push my nose into that warm little part of her neck just under her ear and I just melt. Worth waking up for, even when I'd rather not.

* * *

Coco is half day today because her school is having their first round of parent/teacher conferences (ours are next week). She's playing so nicely and quietly by herself with little characters while Vieve sleeps and I type this. It's positively delightful.

Also the house is (briefly) (mostly) clean and laundry is put away (except for the two loads currently running in the washer and dryer) and it still smells like the pumpkin spice candle I lit this morning.

I've been thinking about the word "fall" and I read somewhere recently that it developed as the linguistic corollary to "spring" but it nicely literal what with falling leaves and quiet settling. Because my grief season is early December, fall feels a little unsettling, even now, nearly nine years out. I am usually very productive in early fall because I want to build a cushion around that first week in December. I put up fall decorations and Halloween stuff and later I'm early with Christmas decorations, knowing that I'm falling into both the literal and figurative darkest part of the year for me. I am able to look forward to the Christmas holidays now, and I think cope better with grief in general, but I still feel like I'm descending in the fall.

I fight the dark moods by making the house cozy, but fall will never be my favorite season. I can get behind pumpkins and candles and flannel, but even my most delicious vegetarian chili (my friend Natalie would be SO PROUD of me because I've used her chili recipe for years and years but yesterday was the first time that I made it from start to finish without LOOKING at the recipe and just kind of winging it with what we had in the fridge--and it's delicious!) does not beat summer's offering of stone fruit and tomato mozzarella sandwiches. Sorry, Fall, but your slimey squashes are no match for summer produce.

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I've been having some really sweet stay-at-home-days, and greatly appreciating the flexibility of being here at home in a very busy season for our family (season as in fall--heh--and season as in kids in school at two different schools and new baby). At the same time, I'm looking ahead to going back to work. I return to my old campus for a few weeks at the very end of this semester and I have a new development for future employment that I will say more about when things are finalized with my current employer. At any rate, with all the upheaval, I'm having a lot of second thoughts and questions about working, budgets, my identity, a feeling of purpose, what gives me the most satisfaction, what makes me happy, where I should devote the majority of my time and energy, etc.

You know, just light and fluffy considerations over here while nursing the baby in the wee hours.

Anyway, I read this article that captured exactly for me the reason that I want to work but that I also want to have a job that allows me flexibility and focus on my family, too. It's called What It's Like to Be 90-Something and it's written by a female pastor who interviewed 90-somethings in her church. To her surprise, they all said that the most stressful years of their lives (when their kids were young) were also the happiest. And they all valued relationships (or mourned them) far above any other achievement or accomplishment. It was her reflection on her own career that articulated exactly how I feel but had never quite put into words when I puzzled over why I want to go back to work when I also love my tiny little squishy babies so much and I know how fast the time with them goes:

"I certainly won't be giving up my job to hang out with my family more because I also recognize that satisfying careers and financial stability are great sources of fulfillment, which in turn, affect family well-being. But these different perspectives helped me to focus on what really matters in the face of competing responsibilities and priorities."

I hope that the next phase in my career allows me to find that focus, and I know that I need to be brave enough to make changes if it doesn't.

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Today on the way home from school, Coco asked to hear "the song about feeding the baby." She meant "Redesigning Women" by the Highwomen which is SO GREAT (the whole album, really), and I especially love that song right now... "running the world while I'm cleaning up the kitchen / making bank, shaking hands, driving eighty / tryin' to get home just to feed the baby."

I've definitely felt that rush even now before I go back to work as I think about what to prioritize in parenting and my own life/self/interests. Things I've thought about in the middle of the night:

- At what point will I let my hair go naturally gray?
- How many updates to the iphone will there be in my lifetime?
- Will Clementine ever be the kind of dog that I could take to work with me?
- Do I need to enroll my kids in music lessons?
- Why won't my kids play team sports? Should we be concerned?
- Why didn't I play team sports?
- What play would I want to be in if I were in a theater production right now?
- How do middle class people ever actually pay cash for a college education?
- Who benefits from our society being polarized and divided politically?
- Do deer eat pumpkins?

More musings later--I'm off to play mancala with Coco.