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.


  1. The chilli/pizza analogy really hit home with me. Last night was a pretty rough day, and I think my husband realised this because as soon as G and I got home I was greeted with "do you want to go get a beer?" (There's a craft beer place a block away.) So we did that instead of getting supper ready...and after the first half-pint we decided we could have another half-pint if we grabbed some frozen pizzas on the way home for supper. Because we do after all have a 7yo kid who has to eat and get to bed on time because she's got school tomorrow! But I appreciated so much the flexibility our family has that allowed us to say "screw the usual weekday evening routine" and go out for beers and rants against the horrible ways in which UK universities let down both their staff and their students, and still get home, fed, and in bed only 15 minutes after usual bed time. :)

    Having a partner who can both make pizza AND chilli is a real blessing.

  2. Nacho cheese doritos before pictures is for sure insane.

  3. I love this blog post.
    It comes full circle in a really nice way. From baby loss to little sisters and from deep thoughts to spit up in the hair. Life!
    I saw the wave of light last night. I didn’t actually light one as we were in PT conferences right at that time, but definitely had Eliza and other little angels and their families on my mind. I wish you were a 3rd grade mom too and that Erin and Eliza could know each other. In the Yom Kippur tradition, I am sorry for every time seeing Erin might have hurt a little. I do try to be very conscious of such things but I know I’m not perfect and I’m grateful for your grace.

  4. About a year ago, my grandmother decided that she'd like to go have some makeup put on, and have her picture taken with her three daughters (my two aunts were going to be in town and my mom lives close by). When my aunts got to town, we all went shopping together to find coordinating shirts that would look nice with the purple outfit my grandma had chosen, which turned out to be easier than we thought. (Because my sister, my daughters, and I all live close, we got to be in some of the pics.. Nice four generation pics! I just wish my cousins could've been there too!)

    So after the photo shoot, as we're all walking to the cars, we realized my aunt's shirt still had one of those long stickers that has the size printed repeatedly on it right on the front of the shirt, just blended into the pattern enough that it was difficult to see, *except when the lights for the photo shoot reflect off of it*... So. You know. I feel you! Whaddya do.

  5. For me it's a mixture of the chilli maker and pizza orderer. Ever so often I enjoy cooking a big meal but a lot of the time I don't want to miss out on what's happening.

  6. I WANT to be the chili maker, but in my heart, I'm the pizza orderer. ;) I've never been happy to miss out on what's going on... Even when I was a kid, I would eavesdrop to hear what was going on downstairs when I was supposed to be asleep. ;) Love this post.