Sunday, December 16, 2012

Stand In

Someone asked me if Corey will be home for Christmas. He will not. I miss him, but I am happy for him.

He's gone to the dark side. I mean, he got a job at WalMart. It's his first job ever. Orientation is Tuesday. Feeling more cautious than optimistic, but I don't tell him that. I hope it works out.

Last year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we not only spent time with my mom and Corey, but also had my niece Sarah join us. Her parents had moved from the L.A. area up to Oregon. She stayed to finish her first year of college and be outstanding in another play. Sarah is a rapid-fire talker, but she brought a sense of calm, peace and love to the holidays last year that we'd missed out on the two years prior.

Last Thursday evening she boarded a plane and headed up to Oregon to join her parents. I miss her, but I am also happy for her. And my brother and his wife.

Christmas this year is going to be different. Madelyn really gets it this year, and she has pulled Fynnie along with her into the excitement.

Letters to Santa were written last weekend and mailed... sent to Santa... posted in my office space. I love that they have each asked for one gift (a frog and a baby) no matter how many times they have been asked. After watching a video of a mommy friend's Santa visit with her kids, and seeing how many times Santa asked, "And what else?" I realized we won't be attempting Santa photos this year.

We are excited about the gift shopping and the cookie baking and spending time with family. Cutting down our Christmas tree and all the steps that lead to decorating it have filled this weekend.

But at the near back of my mind is the longing for what won't be.

Corey cannot yet come home for the holidays.

Sarah is home, even though she's so far away.

This past Wednesday evening I missed a call. The message was from Rosemary, the coordinator of the exchange student program we participated in last year. Does it seem longer ago to you, too? In her message she said that she needed a replacement host family for a young girl from Japan. For a week in January. Unlike the program with Chinese students, this girl would only need to be in school one morning; she would spend the rest of her time with us.

I looked at my work calendar for that week in January. Booked solid, but with fun activities and field trips with my middle school program, I thought this would actually work out nicely. I'd have the coolest experience for any of the students.

Tom agreed that we could do it and I called back.

"Oh, not January 21, December 21. I'm sorry, did I say January?" Rosemary was a little frazzled.

And so the universe has sent me a stand in for Christmas this year. Someone who may very well have the same wide-eyed wonder as both of our girls at all the lights, decorations and presents.

All we know about her at the moment is her name and that she is somewhere between 13 and 17 years old.

And all she knows about her host family is our names, ages and that we all have curly hair.

Oh, and Rosemary was kind enough not to mention before showing up for the home inspection that she now takes a photo of the family. So that tank with a shelf bra that is a great alternative to flopping all over the place, but doesn't really keep the girls up where they belong? Probably scaring Yui out of getting on a plane in a few days.

Poor thing.

But, as Grandma Margaret suggested kindly, "She'll think you're so much prettier when she meets you in person."

Thank you, Grandma Margaret.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Does That Make Me a Grandma?

Okay, off the bat, no. This has nothing to do with Corey. This is all about one Fynnie Fynn.

Do you remember her traumatic poop incident? Happened in early July, took 'til September to recover. And many dietary changes. And put potty training, which I was so sure was going to be a breeze, on hold.

By mid-October things were really looking up.

Two weeks ago the signs were clearly present, she was ready to potty train again, right before my week off at Thanksgiving. Only we weren't staying home for Thanksgiving. 

A seven hour drive just really doesn't mesh well with potty training.

Fynnie is such a sensitive child. I don't think this is such a bad thing, generally. It has caused me to stretch and grow (okay, yes, and groan).

Unlike her traumatic poop incident, this time I do not know what happened.

I think maybe she connects using the potty with the stress, pain and strain of this summer. But she was the one asking to use the potty recently.

Whatever it was, she quit pooping again. For four to five days at a time.

She went on Monday and then nothing all week during our little vacation up in the Bay Area.

The vacation? 

Unfortunately, the girls didn't often get the two things they need when they needed them. You know, food and sleep.

On the up side, it was better than this summer's trip to Boston in that I only spent about half the time in a darkened room with the girls. Plus, this room's curtains still let a little light in. Said room had a very nice seating area reasonably separate from where the girls were sleeping, too.  And my new phone kept me connected to the rest of the world longer than five minutes at a time.

But unlike Boston, where I attended a wedding and had a brief walking tour of downtown, this time my excursions included a girls' night out with my friend who lives nearby (thank you!), two walks in a shopping center, one of which was during normal business hours. One happy trip to the park (that ended with Madelyn having a meltdown). One very tense trip to the same park (that ended with Madelyn having a major meltdown) after I declined taking the girls to a different park about 35 miles away when no one else could get themselves ready to go for the day until it was the girls' lunchtime.

Did you know lunchtime comes right before nap time? No? Then, like the rest of Tom's family you are either the parents of adults, the parents of your first infant or childless. For the record, I do not expect any of them to automatically understand our girls' needs. However, both of their parents should know this. And the one who is actually related should grow a pair feel comfortable speaking up. It's not even remotely like Tom's family is a pack of wolves. They would understand if they knew. *ohm*

Oh, and we also had a lovely meal on Thanksgiving at Matt and Sarah's, after which everyone but Fynnie and I went for a three hour walk. Why stay back? Because the girls hadn't napped yet, since the meal was scheduled to start at 2:00. True to form for Tom's family, it actually started about 90 minutes later, which means they could have slept.

That tense trip to the park? That was yesterday. It was awesome. Between Mad's meltdown, Fynnie's obvious discomfort and Tom and I searching different parts of the sky for the answers to life's persistent questions... well, I'm glad it was yesterday. After the park, we went back and put the girls down for their nap. Tom and I worked on a little 160 piece puzzle together, solving it almost silently in record time.

Last night we joined the family at this fabulous vegetarian/vegan restaurant. They were very nice and didn't seem at all put off about our party having two littles and a wee bebe. The servers engaged Madelyn and talked with Baby Zoe. They would have included Fynnie but she was only up for being held by Mama.

Dinner was amazing. Seriously, if I could get vegan food like this regularly, I would give up meat in a heartbeat.

The restaurant? Tiny, but very hip.

Since they have do have one highchair, there's a sense that the occasional kidlet does come into the joint.

You know what they probably don't usually get?

A toddler, no longer able to delay the inevitable, using vocalizations... LOUD grunts and gasps while clawing at my shoulders and crying... as she pushed out something unholy that made the back side of her heinie seem to grow by three or four inches.

The upside? Fynnie usually declares, "I'm pooping!" This time? No. But in case people had any doubts about what had just transpired, she did announce, "I want you cwean ma diapah!"

Oh, and me? Yeah, I was the one cheering her on the whole time. Rubbing her back, kissing her sweaty head, giving a big thumbs up and goofy grin to the rest of my table mates. And in case that wasn't clear enough for them? I added, "Successs!"

The single restroom in the joint was occupied (I have my doubts we'd find a changing table anyway), so I carried Fynnie out to my car and changed her in the cargo area.

Right in front of the little Prius that was parked just a few feet behind us.

With a couple that, only moments before, could not keep their hands off one another.

I'm pretty sure they were parked close enough that they couldn't see around me. But I know they quit hanging around and left right after I double-bagged that diaper.

This morning all of Tom's family gathered in the hotel lobby where we stayed and hung out before heading off in separate directions.

Fynnie ate more than she had the entire trip.

About 90 minutes into our drive home she started fussing about having "booboo for you booboo," which is our rather long pet name for nursing. It was almost lunchtime, so Tom pulled off at the next stop. I brought Fynnie into the front seat with me while Tom took Mad in to get lunch.

Not long into it, I realized that Fynnie was acting very similar to last night. I sat her up and held her with her bottom hanging between my legs.

Again I cheered and rubbed and smooched while she sweated and grunted and pushed. Again, her diaper grew by several inches. When I went to change her, however, I found that things had stopped coming out simply because there was no more room. Using the diaper, I pulled while she finished pushing. Seriously, it was like performing a poopectomy.

As I was about to close up her new diaper, I realized that we hadn't gotten everything. So, with her half-naked body not quite fitting across the front passenger seat of my car, I again cheered her onto victory.

It was like delivering twins.

In other news, I am looking forward to having a vacation that feels like a vacation. Some day.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Here's a little secret about me: I always want to ask everyone at our table what they are thankful for, but I never do.

After three days of cooking, I am always exhausted by the time the Thanksgiving dinner is on the table. Throw in the emotions that come with gratitude and I can pretty well guarantee that it would come out like this:

*Deep breath*

*Quivery smile*

*Tears forming in my eyes, but coming out my nose (WHY?!)*

"So, um, I was hoping we could all *gasp for air* say something we're, um, *wiping tears off my upper lip* you know *deep breath*"

And then, without finishing my sentence I'd break into the ugly cry.

Oh, and? I have a feeling my mom would offer up something that is maybe meant to be a good thing, but is at best a backhanded compliment.

This Thanksgiving we'll be spending time with my in-laws. I won't be cooking that day (we'll host our own in a couple weeks). I don't know if they will go around the table talking about what makes us thankful or not. If they do, you can trust that Madelyn will respond in dog language, which will bring out Fynnie's inner kitty. I will probably say something genius, like, "I'm happy for time together with the family."

Let's be honest, it's been rough lately. On top of everything with Corey, which should be enough, I have a list of other things that I recently described as "just too fucking much."

But still, there is good.

I am thankful.

For a husband who works ridiculously hard, but who still laughed uncontrollably as I read him this at 1:30 in the morning: The Hater's Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog

For Madelyn, who grows more beautiful and smart and, yes, challenging every day. All the same, she is the one I feel I know best. The one who is most like me and yet nothing like me at all. When Mad is being her best Big Sister, she is enchanting. I look forward to watching her go through this life.

For Fynnie, the one I understand the least, who doesn't always think I'm funny, but who wants always to be close, to "shwuggle in yo bey-ed." It's nice to always be wanted, no matter what. As we (hopefully) wrap up this weekend's bout with the flu, I am also grateful that she is still nursing. I can't believe that 28 months later she can survive on what I have to offer.

For Corey and all the calls and texts I've received since he moved away. I'm thankful he put me in the very short list of numbers he can contact without getting charged.

For my mom, who didn't get what I went through with Corey, but now does because she took him in for 22 months. That she didn't actually kick him out, but let him make the choice to get a job or not, and that she stuck with the decision. No matter how things go with him, I know she did the best she could. And that it was a lot more than most people would have done.

For the people who have taken my son in, both here in California and there in North Carolina. I can imagine what life would be like without them, but I'm glad I don't have to right now.

For my real life friends. The decades-long friends and the ones made over my young children. These people are soul soothing.

For my local mommy group. Okay, no, most of them are not "my people" (which is turning into a running gag), but it doesn't take all 500 women in the group to make me feel sane. There are a good dozen or so who I truly like. I feel like they get me. If MNO could happen every week with these women, I'd want to be there.

For my blogging buddies. With all the love and support I've received, it's a wonder I am not blogging all the time. Plus, it's people like Molly over at Crazed in the Kitchen, who turn me onto things like that Williams-Sonoma post (parts of which were very hard to read out loud without hyperventilating). And Cara at Twinthusiasm, who reminded me that it's good to say why we're thankful, even if it doesn't happen 'round the table.

For my birth board buddies, both on the board and in the spin-off groups on Facebook. Having a place to go where everyone understands the entertainment value of kids in pajamas with Christmas lights and duct tape? Hilarious!

Last, but not least, I am thankful that one (not so) little Miss Olivia has made her way into this world safely. I'll probably never meet her or her family, but they have been ingrained in my heart since the birth and death of her older brother, Mini Cooper. Olivia's mama worked incredibly hard to be able to meet her third child face to face. To have her be full-term and healthy is almost more than the heart can bear.

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Crazy Is Hard

These past few weeks have really been interesting where Corey is concerned. The people who took him in allowed him to stay until yesterday afternoon. In the meantime, he had to do yard work and stay off the computer and phone most of the time. In exchange, they bought him a one way bus ticket to the continental US destination of his choice.

They would have provided a ticket to Vancouver, but those pesky immigration laws and the fees associated with minimal documentation made that a nonstarter. No more than 11 hours later Corey had selected a new location, North Carolina.

I know, I know, you have questions and I have answers.

A girl.

Her name is Audrey, but she goes by Audie.


WalMart, and she might be able to get him a job there, too.

They've been together for a while now.

Oh, in Vancouver? That was just a friend.

Audie lives with her parents who, while apparently relieved to be in on the plans are not participating in them any more than we are. So, no. Corey will not be living with them. I mean, she has been thinking about getting her own place. In the meantime, she has provided Corey with a list of shelters where he can stay at night.

Taking the I should be on serious meds to be able to see the bright side like this positive outlook, I am trying to view this as an adventure. It could be awesome.

Tom and I met online. It was one of the best things to ever happen in my life. No reason to believe Corey can't have that same good luck.

Yes, yes, the games I play with myself. I know.

I spent about an hour with Corey this afternoon. We picked up his ticket and went to lunch. He was feeling the weight of his decision and remarked a couple times that it was crazy.

Yes, it is. But if I had to choose between having one of my children making the choice between moving across the country for a chance to start fresh or stagnating at home, I would choose crazy every time.

On the other hand...

He just exchanged couch hopping in southern California for shelters in North Carolina.

He does not have Audie's address, just her phone number. What good is the address if he can't stay there and she lives outside of town anyway, right?

I wonder if the people Corey is about to encounter will ever understand him. My kid packed almost all of his belongings into two bags, a backpack and a satchel.

Yeah, a satchel.

And the almost? Well, he left a knife with me that he's asked me to ship to him when he gets settled. Corey practically taught a class as he talked about the details of the knife that he "bought with his own money." (There were so many questions I could have asked about the source of his own money, but he has already admitted to my mom that he stole repeatedly from her.)

When he arrives in Audie's hometown, will she answer her phone? Will she really come and pick him up? And take him where?

Today I hugged my son three times.

I told him I love him and he said the same.

He said, "I'm going to be alright, Mom. But you have to be alright, too."

And I said I will.

And I will.

I just have to get past the part where the thought, I may never see my son again, makes me wince with an unidentifiable soreness as my eyes flood with tears and my throat tightens so much it hurts and I have to open my mouth to get air.

And I have to figure out a way to explain to Madelyn that Corey has moved away. That he would did not come to tell her goodbye, and that she won't be seeing him. Some day Fynnie will understand this, too. She might now. I guess we'll be finding out.

Just not tonight.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Games They Play

Did I ever mention that Mad came along within a few weeks of Tom and I mutually agreeing that we weren't going to have children together? It's true.

The short version of that experience is this:

I told him on a Friday night, "I'm either really sick, like cancer, or I'm pregnant. I looked it up online. I'm not sick. No, I'm sure. I'm pregnant."

And then he saved my soul by saying, "Well, this is just another adventure for us, isn't it?"

The next day we sent Corey to my mom's, went straight to the store and home with a pregnancy test. He made me wait to look until after the full two minutes and he had to be right by my side.

Within a few days we were at my OB's office, getting official confirmation. That afternoon he insisted I find a better doctor's office because, frankly, that one was crap. By the end of the week we interviewed a new OB, loved him and signed up with him on the spot. He went ahead and did a preliminary exam that day, including an ultrasound.

We will never forget the awe and joy and love when we saw that little tiny peanut with a flickering heartbeat.

And I will never forget how surprised I was when I learned not long after that Tom felt we really needed to have another baby, too. Like, the one in my womb didn't even have more than arm flaps and a heartbeat yet and he was on to the next one.

Eventually he wore me down and I agreed.

And now we have Madelyn and Fynn filling our days (and sometimes our nights) and I know he was right. At four and two, they are (mostly) a lot of fun, individually and together.

That does not mean I will ever understand some of the games they play. (You will see that Mad's nickname, The Director, is well earned.)

Madelyn to Fynn: I say "no" and you say "yes." And then one nods and the other shakes her head. Sometimes they switch. This game lasts 5-10 minutes.

Madelyn to Fynn: I'll say "now?" and you say "no!" and then I'll say "agh!" This game can go on during the entire trip down the Cajon Pass... about 15 minutes of Now? No! Agh! *giggle*

There's also the time out game, where one person will say, "You hit me! TIME! OUT!" It's a taking turns game. The "hitter" gets off the naughty mat and immediately repeats the key phrase. Sometimes this leads to actual hitting. No bueno.

Right now, as we all wait patiently for Daddy to come out of the potty (there's a whole post in that statement) so we can go to the park, they are playing the napping game. This one can be particularly cruel if Mama is tired because they yawn (which makes me yawn), say "I'm tired" (which makes me tired) and get in bed (which is no fair). One lays down and the other tucks her in. "Sleep" lasts about two minutes before the sleeper wakes up and asks for permission to get up.

Sometimes I wonder if we should fill our house with electronic games and the apps that accompany them. We've considered buying a Kindle or something like it as a joint Christmas gift. Mostly, though, I love their creativity, even if I don't always get it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Claws At My Heart

This blog seems to have turned into a mommy blog, which was never really my intention. At first it was just a place where I could pour my heart out in badly written excruciating detail. Those first posts? Awful. Read further into my blog and you'll find a few years where I laugh at all my own jokes. (Full disclosure: I still do, I just refrain from adding the hahahas and LOLs now. Most of the time.)

One thing I have done well is compartmentalizing my life. Apparently that's a "guy thing." Spend your life growing up around a bunch of alpha male biker types and see if you don't pick up a few things along the way. Right?

Over the past several years I've switched from pouring my heart out to recording things. First it was for my kids and then it was for my girls. A lot of things involving Corey weren't good. And who wants to hear about the bad stuff? And why bother telling it when I can say things like, "And then I told her not to wipe her nose on the table"? (Twice, people. I had to tell her twice.)

It feels awkward and kind of scary to open this door, but I am going to anyway. It has become more than compartmentalizing lately. It's become avoidance. Some of the stories I have put in a box and set to the side? They are not funny. Unlike my last post, I sincerely doubt many people would find them moving. They are angry, confused, hurt stories that make me wonder what the hell happened and where do we go from here?

So this, I think, is the post where I let you into the biggest, darkest, saddest and hardest part of my life.

Let's talk about Corey.

There are several posts on this blog about my son. I came across a couple recently that surprised me with their candor until I realized I posted them when I had two followers and one regular reader, someone I never met in real life. So different than now, when I know a few of you and and feel like I know a few more.

There is a lot more to Corey than those posts and this one and any that come from here on out.

He is the first pure love I ever experienced.

I still love him just as much today as ever before. Please keep that in mind.

Two years ago I kicked him out of this house.

It had started as "I'm onto you. Get back on track with attending school and doing the work and stop spending so much of your time with a stream of people you hardly know. It's damaging the trust and respect within your family."

You know how people say, "It was like he flipped a switch"? It was like that. The tenor of the conversation was light but serious. And then...

And then, honestly, I don't even remember everything that happened.

But I know that I thought he was shooting into the front door from outside. (He wasn't.)

And I know that he shredded our Christmas lights with his bare hands.

Shredded. I still don't know how that is possible, except that he was so enraged.

Tom wasn't home. Fynnie was a wee baby; I don't really remember where she was, but she was most likely in my arms or a carrier because that is where she lived. Madelyn was about two and a half and clearly frightened.

I grew up in a home where explosions like Corey's were frequent and living in fear and walking on eggshells were not uncommon. I would never tolerate that for my kids... not even if it was my kid who was scaring the hell out of us. And the dog.

I told him to leave and not come back or I would call the police.

He called my mom and she drove up here, picked up his medicine and then went to find him.

She didn't plan to keep him long-term, but he has this way of explaining why things didn't pan out that can be very difficult to cut through until later, when you're looking back and asking yourself how the hell he managed to do it again.

He did not graduate from high school.

He did not finish enrollment into Job Corps.

He did not get a job.

He did take money from my mom. Cash and credit, thankyouverymuch.

He did spend a lot of time eating and sleeping and playing games and buying access to porn online.

He did gain a lot of weight.

He did not help around the house aside from taking out the trash occasionally. Because, you know, she asked too nicely about the other stuff.

He did, however, threaten to kill himself last year and landed in a mental hospital because she told him he had to start helping out around the house more. (His version is different than this, but not significantly.)

Staying with my mom was a blessing and a curse. I knew where he was. That he was safe and warm and obviously fed. He was with someone who loves him. But there was no accountability. No demands were made on him to do anything, especially after what happened last year. And my mom kept keeping cash around the house!

Seriously, if you know you have taken in someone whose parents have put locks on every door and window with access to electronics, jewelry and cash, then DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING VALUABLE LAYING AROUND. And no, the fact that you put money in your bible is not going to make him not take it. It just isn't.

Sometime around the end of August or beginning of September, my mom told Corey he had until the middle of October to get a job and start contributing to the household or he would have to find somewhere else to live.

A couple weeks ago she got more specific and decided on October 15.

For some reason, even though I had long-standing plans for Tuesday the 16th, I kept thinking about how hard it was going to be on Tuesday (the 15th in my mind) when he had to leave. Because he was not getting a job.

A surface conversation would lead you to believe that he'd been doing everything to find work. Dig a little deeper and "everything" turned out to be "I bookmarked, like, three sites. But they're not hiring right now."

I provided job leads and offered to help get him ready to interview... because getting people ready for a job is what I do. And if he wasn't comfortable with me helping him, there were other people he could talk to from my work.

I was pulling for him and hopeful that he would finally step up and meet his responsibilities head on.

And, frankly, full of bravado with Tom and my mom and Nance about how "he cannot come back here. It is not an option. He scared the crap out of Madelyn!" (And me. And the dog. And he still scares me now. He scares my mother sometimes, too.)

Monday afternoon I spent four hours on the phone with my son. We rehashed the hows and the whys of that night 22 months ago. I was pelted with his blame.

"If anyone else had been in our house, doing what you were doing with your sisters right there, what would you have me do?"

It was the first time I felt like he understood why I reacted like I did. He loves his sisters, especially Madelyn, more than anything.

In the midst of the conversation I had to get off the phone and get rid of pretty much everything I'd consumed in the past three weeks. And then I called Tom.

"I am not sure I can do this."

He brought up a few very salient points. I knew he was right, even though I cannot tell you now what those points were.

"I know. You're right. You're not going to get a rational argument from me. *sobbing* My son is about to be homeless."

Because he didn't really do anything to prepare. Not look for a job. Not look for a home.

The thought of leaving him out there was awful, repulsive. Terrible.

The thought of bringing him back into our home was frightening.

Do we have a bed for him? Yes. Not his old bed. He had pretty much destroyed that and it was thrown out not long after he was gone. But there's a sleeper sofa in the loft. Right outside of our room. Which would have to be kept unlocked in case the girls wanted to come to us in the middle of the night.

He would be between us and the girls.

Laying it all out there, I am afraid of my son. I love him. I don't trust him. I am not entirely alone.

A few weeks ago my mom and Corey came up to the desert so he could see a girl friend and then he and my mom would visit with us and the girls. My mom hung out with us until it was time to go pick him up.

An hour later he and his friend still weren't back at her house, so my mom came back and had dinner with us. Two hours later she went home. Alone.

Over five hours after he was supposed to be hanging out with his sisters, he called. Tom took him back to my mom's.

I would not have taken him and I didn't think Tom should go out of his way to drive 90 miles.

Tom's unassailable logic?

"I am doing this for your mom. She'll feel better knowing where he is and that he is home. And so will you. And I don't want him roaming around our neighborhood."

And so, on Monday, I did not ask him to come on home.

He did not ask to, either.

I did not ask where he was going.

I did ask if he packed ID (just in case) and a toothbrush.

I asked him to meet me every Tuesday afternoon. He chose the park with the cannon where we would go and eat on special occasions back in the days when it was just him and me.

Tuesday would mean that I would see him in less than 24 hours if he was willing.

This might be hard to understand, given all that I have said already, but part of me was hoping I could convince Tom to open our home to my son during those intervening hours. I am not expecting that to make sense, but it is true nonetheless. 

Corey told me how he didn't think it was possible to go up from here because he didn't have a high school education.

And then I told him a story about me he had never heard. About how my boyfriend, Travis, graduated at the end of my junior year, and then my mom got engaged to this man. The man had just bought a little house that had a room for them and a room for his daughter... no room for me. So I dropped out of school my senior year, took the equivalency exam (only good in California, damn it all) and went to work. (And then my mom realized that all of her friends and family thought the man was creepy and whatever hold he had on her was broken, but it was too late. My high school wouldn't take me back.)

I tried to pull from my own life to show him that there are always options if he will only work for them.

Somehow we made it through that conversation without him blowing up. We cleared up some misconceptions but we didn't exactly solve anything.

A little while later, I spoke to Tom. He had done a fairly speedy research into shelters and found a few that might take Corey.

Called my mom, but he was already gone.

I sobbed like a baby.

I can imagine how hard it is understand how I let my son go.

So many of my friends, both online and in real life are surrounded by toddlers and infants. Every single one of those children is a bundle of hope and expectations and wonderful possibilities.

So was Corey.

So he is.

The next morning during a field trip, Corey called.

He went to a friend's house and she directed him to some people who had taken her in when she ran away.

They have taken him in.

In order to stay he has to fill out seven job applications. A day. He is following through, but slowly.

He was calling to see if he could have Nance's information for a job reference.

It is short term, this help from nowhere. But it is here for now.

Corey went by my mom's place today to pick up a few things. He said the lady he's staying with is pretty upset that Corey was tossed out, "but she doesn't know all the stuff that went on before."

The woman made Corey ask if he could come back if he did get a job. He asked after my mom had spent several hours cleaning up the grossness of a teenage boy's room, so he probably didn't get the most positive response.

He has put my mom through the wringer. I feel for her.

But, because we are crazy and because he is my son and the first pure love I have ever known, I am pulling for Corey. So is Tom. If Corey gets a job, we will probably offer to bring him home. He may or may not accept.

I suspect we'll feel conflicted either way.

Monday, October 01, 2012

On Time. And Wounds. And Healing.

Today a young woman I know found out that, yet again, her pregnancy has ended without a baby.

When she announced the pregnancy, it was with the wild abandon and hope that this one was gonna take. A baby had to come this time.

Because the first time it happened? Who knows?

And the second? Well, he was just about to leave on a yearlong deployment and so maybe it was god's way of saying this was not the right time. Right?

But he's home now. Life is beautiful and happy. Just the way you dream of life when you're a child. It should really work out when everything else is going so well, shouldn't it?

Only it doesn't always. And it doesn't so often that I find myself hoping I can somehow absorb the worries of my friends' hearts. Like that will raise the chances of a happy outcome.

Because I never want anyone to feel that kind of loss.

Do you even know how quickly an entire life can be imagined? From the realization that a pregnancy test is in order to the confirmation of life, plans are already hatching. Dreams are already forming. A future life is already being lived.

How many times have I sat in front of a monitor in a dark room and seen the still shadows on the screen?

Saw the words, "NO FETAL HEART TONE"? And why do those words have to be in all caps?

I have to say, the best part of getting my tubes tied two years ago is never having to worry that much through another pregnancy.

Okay, yes, until someone is carrying my grandchild. And then, hopefully, I will do what I do now. Cheer and celebrate and hope for the best while silently sending out little pleas that this one will make it.

Last week I was going through an old magazine that we have laying around. There's a note in the back from the editor. To the infant son he lost 36 years before.

It was one of those pieces that slammed into my head as much as my heart.

It never goes away.

I am not a freak because I look at young adults around me and think I could be their mother. I mean, not theirs, but the mother of a friend that they never got to make. A brood of young men and/or women could be filling my life, along with the son and daughters I know.

Where did they go?

And at the other end of this babyloss-marked life, I have to say that I'm grateful to the little being that never was, who gave way to Fynnie. We could not have had that baby and Fynnie since they were created less than two months apart. I cannot imagine choosing anyone else.

October is a somber time for many people. It's National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Did you know that? Did you know that people all over the country will be lighting a candle at 7:00 P.M. on October 15 in remembrance of the little lives lost? It's to create a wave of light.

That saying about time healing all wounds? I suppose it does. To some degree. Define healed, right?

I am heartbroken for my friend and a little sad for me. I hope she feels the light on October 15 like a blanket. Between now and the peaceful sadness and wonder I think she'll eventually come to find, I hope there is a rainbow in her arms.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rushing? Too Slow?

Corey went to an in-home daycare just before he turned one. It was a fabulous place, but took about half my earnings to keep him there. A year later, he was able to go to nursery school where Grandma (AKA Saint Margaret of the Children) was the director. It was good in terms of academics and potty training and excellent for my wallet. Nursery school on the family plan cost the same as about seven days at the in-home daycare.

On the other hand, within about a week Corey learned about Power Rangers, guns and fighting. And he found out what it felt like when a cute little red headed girl with an equally fiery personality chomped on his arm. A few times.

Preschool was at a private Christian school (yes, my son heard the word of god. No, no lightning strikes at pick up or drop off. I am not surprised). Academically excellent, this place was more expensive and the parent population was older and more professional, which seemed to translate into calmer classmates. Only by then, genetics and environment and who knows what else combined to begin giving hints of what was in store from my beloved son. And the preschool had one teacher who insisted that the children move from one room or space to another with their hands clasped on top of their heads.

Like mini criminals being taught to assume the position.

Whether it's fair or rational or not, I associate preschool with the start of Corey's problems. The place where testing would show that he was functioning academically like a seven year old, but where brief observation would point out glaring deficiencies.

Apparently I harbor a grudge against preschool.

Having Grandma care for our girls in her home, teaching them their letters and numbers, shapes and colors, and keeping them away from those yucky kids with foul mouths and hurtful hands...

I won't lie, it has been a dream come true.

For the better part of two years, Madelyn has been talking about going to preschool. We told her she could go when she turned four.

And then we made her wait another four and a half months until the new year started up.

I got referrals from no fewer than three sources and ended up with a list of about 25 places in the cities around my job.

Looked at online reviews, made a few calls and narrowed it to six.

Note to preschools and daycare centers everywhere: If you have an outgoing message instead of a person answering you're phone, it's a no. If your outgoing message talks about your "curriclium," it's a hell no.

Presented the list to Margaret, who chopped one off.

Tom, Margaret and I came up with a list of questions aside from the ones I'd used to grill whomever answered the phone at each site.

Yes, I did organize the questions into four categories and make a spread sheet so we could do forced scoring after each visit.

Note to preschools and daycare administrators everywhere: Your teachers should acknowledge the parents of their potential future students. Ignoring us and/or scowling in our general direction will not encourage us to leave our special snowflakes with you.

Special note to Montessori schools: If you spend "the first two hours doing paperwork with the kids," then you are not a Montessori, regardless of how many fun looking wood toys you have sitting off to the side. And if you are the owner of said school because you "fell into it while going to medical school" and then "decided to go for it while pursuing a criminal justice degree and working on computers" you really don't have the focus we are seeking. Also, "ingredience" is not a word. It's bad enough that you charge $165 a week and make the parents provide meals and snacks. At least have the decency to spell check your damn list of demands.

Do I seem overly harsh? I probably am. As I say, I hold a grudge against preschools and day cares everywhere. I didn't even know it until recently.

Madelyn started preschool last week. She had a "free day" to check it out toward the end of August.

We signed Mad up to go twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays. Of course, school started the week of a holiday, but I'd rather her be shorted one day than miss the whole week.

She and I had a few good talks about school. One went like this:

"Blah blah blah and then Mama will come pick you up after lunch."

"You're going to leave me there?"

"I am. Well, I mean... you'll see that the other parents don't stick around. I could stay if you're not comfortable with me leaving you, it's just not how most people do it."

"I'm comfortable with you leaving me."

"Well, alrighty then."

The free day went well enough. There was a cash register to play with, and Madelyn decorated a dog tracing with little pieces of brown yarn.

(Saint Margaret of the Children says that she would never make a tracing; children should be allowed to use their own imaginations. In case you were wondering. Rowr!)

But when we picked her up, she burst into tears.

Because Mama left her.

Wednesday morning, Fynn left with Daddy in the wee hours and headed off to Grandma's. I'd taken her with us on the free day and it was hard to explain to her why Sister was over there doing that while she was supposed to stay over here with me.

Madelyn and I had talked a few times about how I would stay for a little while, until she was comfortable, and then I would go to work and return after lunch, but before the other kids went to nap. She seemed to get it.

She would venture off for a few seconds and then come back for a quick hug or to ask a question. This checking in reminded me of her crawling and toddling stage when she was just starting to explore away from me. Once she was settled in, I repeated our plan.

"I am going to work. I'll be back after you eat lunch, but before the other kids go to nap."

And then I left after a smooch and a hug.

At some point in the morning, her teacher got a break. Who knows if she pointed out the new adult in the room or not or said that she would be back? Most of the kids have probably been "going to school" for years already. Probably at that same place.

Madelyn was upset and crying when Ms. Juanita came back.

And then, there was this point where the kids had to come in from playing at the playground outside.

Oh, the tears!

Well, listen. I know my girl. This is the one for whom there are "let's not have a meltdown" discussions before during and after a trip to the park.

But Ms. Juanita actually seemed to attribute all of Mad's crying (off and on for two hours) to the fact that, you guessed it...

She missed Mama.

Here's what I don't get: I am not the one she clings to at home.

She has mostly stopped asking Tom to go to the potty with her in the past couple weeks. Me? Months ago. Yeah, because I make her head off on her own and then show up when she's almost done.

At night when she calls downstairs to say she needs someone to go with her? I ask her to feel around on the wall and flip the switch.

"Now you can see where you're going. Go ahead and go."

I am that mom. Not the coddling, babying, delaying independence type of parent at all.

But when I went into her room and the teacher said, "Oh, I'm so glad you're here. She's crying. She wants her mama." And then my girl runs over to me sobbing with swollen, red eyes and a red nose...

I scooped her up and was rocking her in a toddler sized chair and whispering little words of love into her hair when Tom walked in (a total surprise to Mad and I that momentarily made the sobbing start up again).

We decided to try again on Monday. Sunday evening I took her out to get new school shoes. She talked about not wanting to be left at school. About feeling sad and missing me.

"Daddy and I really want you to try again."

She hung her head and quietly said, "I know." Like it was her duty as our daughter to go and do this terrible thing, but she would. For us.

Monday morning I suggested she wear a particular shirt.

"Do you see the word right there? Do you know what it says?"

"Yeah, what's it say?"

"It says peace. Do you know what that means?"

"Yeah, what's it mean?" (We have never had a problem with her saying no. She says yes to everything.)

"It's a calm, good feeling that means everything is going to be okay. It's how I want you to feel while you're at school."

With tears welling in her eyes, she said, "I just don't want to go. I don't want you to leave me there."

I opened my mouth to say something wise.  All that came out was, "You do not have to go."

That afternoon I spoke with Ms. Juanita about Mad's time in class last week on Wednesday. No surprise to me, she did great on all of the schoolwork. (During and around the crying, she did all of Wednesday's assignments, plus made up for being out on Tuesday. This is our girl who thinks reading is good, spelling is fun and counting her money is awesome.) Mad did well socially, too. She played with the other kids and had no problems sharing.

Although he denies it, I suspect Tom was pretty upset with me for not making her go on Monday. Or something. We were all upset for maybe different reasons, I guess.

I have strong feelings about what the right thing is to do here.

To me, she is simply not ready. This is a girl who knows what she is thinking and how she is feeling, and she knows how to express herself clearly. I believe that should be respected. (Plus, why are we paying for her to be tortured eight hours a week? I think we could at least wait until she's a teen to do that. Makes a lot more sense!)

Unless I'm wrong. Because there is this history with me, my kid and preschool. Going through all the prep work to find the right place for Mad made me realize that. And if there's one thing that having your first two kids 15 years apart can teach you, it's that some of those times when you thought you made the best decision... you did not.

Or, as I said to Tom, I am prepared to stand my ground on this one. I will fight to the bitter end. However, I don't want you to just agree with me.

Yeah, because that's not crazy talk.

This is probably not much of a surprise, but Tom and I didn't rush into a decision regarding Madelyn and preschool. We discussed with one another and with others. We weighed options and tried to discern which freaking way would be the best one for Madelyn.

Note to jackasses everywhere: The statement, "She's gonna have to learn sometime," is asinine. She is four. In our world, preschool is an option. As long as that's true, she does not have to learn it right now.

Also, I am not kidding when I say that my motto for this school year is, "I have a limited tolerance for jackassery." Forewarned is forearmed.

We talked with Madelyn. Mostly I stayed back from those conversations because I wonder if I'm projecting something that she's picking up. I hope not.

Somehow in all the brouhaha between Monday and yesterday, Madelyn decided that she would go to school again. But she would bring her stuffed rocket.  She changed her own name to Rocket, too. (Yes, again.)

It was all going so well. Right up to the point when I called Tom. I was there and I'm still not sure what happened. We ended up going straight to Grandma's house.

I floated the idea of trying again later.

"Maybe we can try again when you're a little older, like four and a half or in the spring."

"Maybe when I'm five."

"What about when you're four and a half?"

"What about when I'm five and a half?"

So... that went well.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Real Poop

Since late winter or early spring, Fynnie's been gearing up for potty training. I was actually looking forward to it. I had three goals this summer, potty train Fynn, get her to take naps in her own freakingbedbyherselfsoIcouldactuallygetthingsdonearoundhere *ohm* and learn to french braid Madelyn's hair.

Summer ended three weeks ago for me, and I'll tell up front, I'm one for three. French braiding and potty training are not on my current horizon.

We started off with converting her crib to a toddler bed. I will not say that Fynnie is a difficult child. Really, she's not. But she happened to be born after her rule loving, get-it-right-the-first-time big sister, over whose successes Tom and I would often high five as if we'd really had a hand in it.

Yes, karma spent the first 28 months of Mad's life preparing to backhand us into reality. Success.

But making the switch went pretty well. That was the big one. I put it at the top of the agenda because I just could not spend one more entire summer nursing Fynnie through naps (or holding her in nursing position while she snoozed and drooled in my lap with her spidey senses working around the clock to make sure "her booboo" didn't find its way back inside my bra).

It's not as though I can snuggle her, put her down and walk away, but I can eventually walk away, and that's what matters to me.

Next up, potty training! I was kind of excited. Fynnie was kind of excited (about the promise of getting "canny" every time she used the toilet), too!

With Madelyn, we did the half naked method. It worked great, and I could see no reason why we wouldn't go the same route for Fynnie.

Except that, oh yeah, my girls could not be more different from one another if they were born on opposite sides of the earth to completely different parents.

The big hold up getting started was our schedule. Because of my allergy shots (which are a waste of time happen close to my work), I did not take several weeks off in a row. I worked every Tuesday. The girls went to Grandma's every Tuesday.

And good friends of ours who were expecting twins dropped their two older girls off at Grandma's one day a week, too, but not Tuesdays. So the girls were also there on Wednesday or Thursday each week.

And, because I now actually have something of a life up here in the High Desert, the girls and I often had other places to go.

Three weeks into my summer "vacation," we made plans to start potty training on Thursday morning, with a goal of being done with day training by the end of the weekend.

Mad was essentially done in two days, which I blamed more on me and trying to get started the first day I was home alone with her and her one month old baby sister.

In advance of that, I was occasionally letting Fynnie run around the house half naked, and she was occasionally using the toilet.

The Tuesday night before potty training, we came home and she had a good try on the potty. I let her run around while I went outside to spend five minutes in the garden.

Coming back in, I found my very upset little girl had pooped on the floor.

I was glad she was upset, honestly; it meant she got it.  But I also tried to reassure her that everything was okay.

As we came out of the bathroom from cleaning her up, I saw that our dog, Maisy, had eaten the poop.

But not before walking through it.

Aaand that's when Tom and Madelyn got home.

Two years ago Madelyn somehow managed to train our big galloop of a dog to race back and forth from the door to the back of the house whenever someone gets home.

Over and over.

This is the point where I'd say Fynnie really freaked out.

She'd been upset before, but this scene and the yelling at the dog and the mess all over the place and the smell... I am wondering if she is not scarred for life.

No joke.

Potty training? Over.

For the past six weeks or so, the main focus is what can we do to make Fynnie poop?

She used to go 2-3 times every morning.

Now? It can be three days.

We've altered her diet to the point that she sometimes cannot help but go.

She thinks dried apricots are "gums" and that all the other special treats she gets are the new "canny."

She can spend a day and a half randomly squatting and looking scared. When it can no longer be avoided, I find myself holding this crying, sweating, grunting, shaking little girl. I whisper softly in her ear and tell her it's going to be okay, she's going to feel so much better when this is over and I'm so proud of her for working so hard.

At this point she's pooping every 1-2 days. It's better, seems less painful, but it's still upsetting her.

I'm not sure how to help her move past this.

Did you ever have a kid who withheld poop? How did you help them overcome it?


Saturday, August 25, 2012


When Corey was a baby and toddler, I was going from being in a badly chosen marriage and into single parenthood. And living with my mother.

My son was my life, no doubt. But a big part of that life was simply putting one foot in front of the other. I had tunnel vision that was focused on making it through this day. This hour. This minute. My ultimate goal? I said it often.

I just want peace.

As a young mom, overall I was pretty good. But I lacked that sense of magic and awe that parents really should have about their kids. I remember feeling like people lied when they said, "It goes so fast."  Several times the words "they grow so fast" seemed like a terribly false thing.

The fact that I spent all of my waking, and most sleeping, moments almost exclusively with my son for his first 11 months made it harder for me to see how he changed from day to day and week to week.  The things he did that were advanced, I just figured they were normal.

It wasn't long after Corey was in nursery school that I started getting the reports. The calls. The list of problems that had to be dealt with straight away.

Memories of a very few people saying, "You must be so proud of him because... ."  "Isn't it amazing how he... ?"

Only I don't remember why I was supposed to be proud or why he was so amazing.

There's a great mother of the year admission for ya.

I do, however, remember the thoughts that filled my head during these times that I should have been embracing.

They often started with "Yeah, but... ."

It wasn't always like this. And I'm not saying I was never proud of Corey. There have been times that he accomplished things or attempted something I never thought he would. And I was present and aware and so incredibly proud.

It was just that I was stuck in this one-foot-in-front-of-the-other thing and I couldn't get out.

Madelyn's start, on the other hand, was so full of love and happiness. Well, obviously not the part where she started out in NICU.  But the pregnancy was textbook perfect, and bringing her home and living life with our new little girl; it was exactly the way I wish all kids could start out.

Sure, there was this quiet desperation that please, don't let anything take her from me, always in the background of my mind. But she was the center of the universe for Tom, Corey and I.

We oohed and ahhed over everything she did.

Her mere presence could calm tensions between any of the rest of us because, really, who wanted to shatter the spell?

She was amazing and wonderful, the smartest and strongest and most beautiful baby ever born.

Wouldn't you want to live in a world where people thought that about you?

I would look at her and think, "I made that, whoa."

And then along came Fynnie. These days Mad and I call her Fee Girl, which is Fynnie Girl the way Mad used to say it.

Fee Girl is the sibling Tom wanted Mad to have. I was perfectly happy not to have any more kids after I got the daughter I always knew was out there waiting for me.

But it wasn't long after I became pregnant with Fee that I was in love with this little being growing inside me.

That pregnancy was, by far, the hardest.

Morning sickness that starts at 17 weeks? Evil.
Being pregnant with a torn hip muscle? There are no words.
Heart burn and random vomiting while driving? Painful and embarrassing.

Not to mention that I sat around so much during that pregnancy that I lost a lot of muscle tone. People weren't sure I was pregnant even at the end.  Maybe I was just that fat.

Awesome, right?

And then there was the labor. With Pitocin and no pain meds. (If you're contemplating doing that and ask me if it's possible, I will say yes. And I will bite my tongue so hard that you may see blood dripping out of my mouth. If you ask if I recommend it, I will say HELL NO.)

Fynn is my snuggliest baby. She is the one who makes hearts melt. The one for whom attachment parenting was created.

These are all wonderful things, but for the longest time I had a hard time seeing that they rose to the same level as the wonder of Madelyn.

There are some extenuating circumstances here.

Like I'm about 98% sure I lived through undiagnosed postpartum depression.
And that I didn't feel as close to Tom (or Corey, really) during Fee's pregnancy or newborn days.
And that, although the whole "let's have another child" thing was Tom's idea, he wasn't as interested in the pregnancy or newborn development in the same way that he had been with Mad.

In his defense, the man was working full-time and trying to get his own business off the ground, which meant working four weeknights and all of one weekend day after his other job. The man was probably living through that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other tunnel. I don't discount that or blame him (now. I did.)

All of this is to say that it took me a long time to find the wonder of Fynn.

But I did.

I have it.

Sometimes I look at her and I think to myself,

"How did you make this person?

How is it possible that she is here?

How is she possible?"

And I am grateful for this awareness while she is so young.  Because it is what every child should have, this wonder at their very existence.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dear Jason,

You are the cutest six year old boy in our neighborhood.  Your sister, whose name I never really caught?  Equally adorable.  Maybe more so with those shoes and that hair.

Jason, there are some things we need to clear up.  This is serious.

Okay, yes, I do laugh every time you and your sister manage to weasel your way into our house while Tom is standing at the door trying to block you.  We both know he's just trying to put off being direct when he gives you a time to check back, especially since you can't quite tell time just yet.  (Between you and me, he does the same thing with the dog.  I hope you catch on quicker!)

The way you just pushed in so you could check out our clock and made Tom hold up his hands out to show you what 5:00 looks like?  That was five minutes ago and I'm still laughing.

But the way you're ringing our doorbell every 10 minutes or so because you don't know what time it is?  Annoying!

And the way you're hanging out in our front yard, climbing on the window ledge and peering in our windows?  Creepy.  You may want to get that under control before you hit middle school, little dude.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Do Not, I Swear!

Madelyn:  "Mama, why do you have a hairy heinie?"

Me, gasping for air and feeling up my own cheeks, "What?!"

Mad:  "Right there, your hair."

Me, trying not to laugh or sigh too loudly with relief:  "That is not my heinie.  Heinies are in back."

Throwin' 'Em Off The Trail

Today I decided to never again say, "Mama has to go to the potty," while walking behind my girls toward my bathroom. 

Instead I will say, "Mama has to go stand right next to the tub."  Having them head seven or eight feet in the wrong direction?  Brilliant.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Tom became an uncle today.  His sister-in-law delivered a baby after five hours of pushing, and with forceps assistance.  My heart went out to her.

It happened that my mother-in-law was able to reach me and give me the news.  When Tom and I met back at home, I told him what I'd heard.  His remark?

"Well, she is so... you know, little."

"What does that have to do with it?"

"You know.  She's so petite."

Giving him the look that should clearly express, "I pushed both of your daughters out in a combined total of about 15 minutes.  Tread carefully."

Tom either did not read me correctly, or he is a complete and utter jackass.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"How Did You Get Through It?"

That was what my very pregnant friend, Maija, asked me the other day.

It was when Madelyn went into the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, after she was born.

It came up because Maija is recently home from a nearly three week stay in the hospital, where she and the doctors successfully stopped her twin daughters from arriving two months early.  Now home and just under four weeks away from her due date (and less than two from when the doctors would be happy for them to arrive), emotions float just under the surface.

"How did you get through it?  I don't know how I could do it.  How could I leave them at the hospital and just walk away?  I don't think I could.  I mean, how did you?"

As I listened to Maija, my immediate response was, "I was very strong.  I did what I had to do.  You will, too."

But as she spoke I remembered wanting answers to those questions.  Over four years later, I remember them like yesterday.  That line of questioning is, plain and simple, unnecessary self-abuse.  It's as if the very act of leaving the hospital without your child is the first act of bad parenting you are carrying out.  Abandonment at the very outset of this mommy and me relationship.

What kind of mother does that?  I asked myself that question a lot before I walked out of the hospital without Madelyn.

Oh, I was terribly hard on myself.  Pretty sure I'm not the only one who has felt that way.  Of course we know that it is healthier for some babies to stay in the hospital, in those damned plastic boxes.

Beyond the questions about how to get over that incredibly high hurdle, there was the matter of getting through every minute between birth and going home.

When it came to actually answering Maija's question, I gave her the truth as I now see it.

I handled it like a crazy person.  I did.  I smiled and nodded every time the nurse came to let me know that, no, Madelyn still wasn't stabilized, but they'd let me know as soon as she was.

"No, spending some time on oxygen didn't quite work like we'd hoped.  The neonatalogist will be in to speak with you and your husband soon.  We might be able to let you see her and hold her in the nursery before she is transferred to NICU."

"Here's a photo I just took of your daughter (covered in wires and tape and little gold heart shaped stickers).  She's beautiful.  I don't say that to everyone.  Sometimes I just say, "Whoa, hey, it's a baby!"  Hopefully we'll get you over to see her soon.  You won't be able to hold her, but you might be able to touch her foot.  Hopefully."

The crazy person in me came out smiling and full of energy and trying to act like everything was fine.  It was fine and I was fine and I could do it my own self, thank you very much.

What did I do after 36 hours of labor, including more than three at 8+ centimeters, and delivering an 8 pound 3 ounce broad-shouldered baby?  I walked from Labor and Delivery to my new room in Maternity.  Carrying some of the rather obnoxious quantities of personal belongings we'd schlepped to the hospital.

Other nurses protested as my nurse and I passed their station.  If I could have worn a top hat and tap shoes, I would have jazz handed my way from one department to the next.

"She should be in a wheelchair!  Why is she carrying her things?"

And there I was, smiling and waving, even laughing a little at them, "I feel great.  It's okay.  I can  do this."

And clearly, I could.  Some of why I could had to do with giving birth naturally and all the amazing things a body does for a woman whose just given birth.  But a lot of it was just me literally putting one foot in front of the other.  Getting through this minute while I tried to come up with a plan for the next one.

Away from the nurses and doctors, I let my true feelings out.  Breaking down on the phone to my aunt in Wisconsin because no one else was available.

Tom was with Madelyn, where he belonged.

My mom and Corey had gone to her house to sleep off the all-nighter they'd just pulled with me.  They left before we knew how serious the problem was.

Nancy, who left the same all night labor along with Mom and Corey, went and picked up her husband and took him on what turned out to be his last trip sailing until his ashes were buried at sea the following year.

Honestly, it has only just occurred to me that I could have used that energy to go be with my daughter and husband.  Isn't it strange how the brain works?  Why didn't I get that?

The other thing about having this experience with Madelyn is that it never goes fully away.  No, I don't sit around silently weeping about it.  I don't wake up in the middle of the night catching my breath.  I don't even think about it often.

But if I read or hear a story about someone going through a similar situation (or worse... and we got off comparatively easy, so the stories are worse), the memories come and tears will probably flow.  The feelings of that time are right there.

Back when my water had broken with Fynn and Tom pulled our car up to the hospital, my mood made a sudden shift from giddy to somber.

This was the place where we left our first daughter.

Apparently I am not alone in carrying these thoughts and emotions.  Maija recently witnessed something that brought back the equally traumatic experience of the birth of her first daughter.  She and her husband contained themselves because that's what people do, and because their young daughters were with them.  And also because the father was standing next to them in the hall as his wife was raced down the hall for an emergency C-section, and who wants to be the jackass who falls apart in front of him?

Having read hundreds of birth stories with happy and sad endings, I am fully aware that four days in NICU is hardly anything at all.  And coming home isn't guaranteed.  I'm sure Maija knows that emergency C-sections happen all the time, and that they don't always end with a beautiful child to raise.

We get it.

All the same, it's pretty safe to say that the births of our first daughters were some of the most difficult times of our lives.  I am amazed at how emotionally tied to that experience I am more than four years later.  I probably will always be.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Ballet-Slippered Foot In Mouth

Madelyn, after making her vast selections for tonight's first tap and ballet class, to the clerk at the dance supply store, "Are you going to have a baby?"

Clerk, physically recoiling in shock but trying to laugh it off, "Um, no I'm not going to have a baby."

Me, "Mana, we never ask about a baby unless we already know there's a baby."

Mad, "Oh."

Me, to the clerk, "You do not look like you're going to have a baby."

Madelyn, "I have a baby in my belly."

Thursday, July 05, 2012


As I reheated yesterday's dinner for the girls' lunch today, "Fynnie, do you want your beans warm or cold?"

"Um," hands in the air for emphasis, "I wan' dem jus' wight."

Yes.  Of course.

Against all odds, her newly converted toddler bed (complete with pre-chewed rail, a gift from her big sis) is just right.

Or she has been messing with us since Saturday.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

I Am Going to Be a Grandma

Does that give you a little shock?

It's not so bad as all that.

While in Boston, Madelyn declared that there is a baby in her belly, and she'll get married when she's "taller, maybe five."

Our second full day in Boston was Tom's brother's wedding.  It was lovely.  Heartfelt.  Full of love and tears and laughter.  I learned that Tom's and Matt's faces show emotions the same way.  Beautiful.

Madelyn danced with her daddy at the wedding.  I didn't see because I was off with Fynnie somewhere.  The dance must have been something.

Later that day, Mana (as Fynnie and I now call her), reported that she had married herself during that magical dance.

Now she has 10 babies in her tummy.  Ask what she's having and she'll tell you, "A boy."

It's the new math.

Last week the girls and I were driving home.  Up, up, up to the top of the Cajon Pass before descending into the Mojave Desert, an SUV was stuck in the number three lane (third lane over, counting from the fast lane).  A very pregnant woman was standing on the shoulder, too close to the truck lane, trying to wave drivers away from her car.

I pulled over about a quarter mile up, picked up the pregnant woman's guy at the call box (a California godsend if you are out of cell range when an emergency happens) and drove in reverse back to his girl.  The plan was that I would get behind his car, let him out and have him steer while I pushed his vehicle off the 70 mile an hour highway.

I asked him to let the woman know I would be squeezing past her, because I didn't want to freak her out, this woman who was 39 weeks pregnant.  I just wanted her off the highway.

Just then a Highway Patrol officer pulled up, took over and sent me on my way.

As we drove away, Mana asked, "You didn't want to freak her out?"

"No!  She's going to have a baby very soon.  You do not freak out the pregnant lady!"

"I'm going to have the baby in my belly soon, too."

Fynnie, "I ha- baby soon, too!"

Mana, "Did you hear Fynnie say she's having a baby, too?!"

"I did."

"Well, she didn't marry herself!"

Is there really ever a wrong place to be a frog?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Make Way For Ducklings

On our first full day in Boshum, Tom's mom and dad took us to Boston Common.
Fynnie thinks Gramma Judy is pretty smart.

Our girls are young and relatively inexperienced in the pleasures of the park.  They've been to playgrounds, something that our desert community has in abundance.  But a place like Boston Common?  Not going to be found in the HD.

Boston Common has a merry-go-round.  Madelyn and Dadelyn went around and around.  Daddy gets dizzy and queasy on spinny rides, but making this memory with his daughter was worth it.

Gramma and Grampy have been to Boston Common before, and knew all the best places to go.  Grampy isn't able to walk much, so he parked himself under various trees throughout the day.    Apparently the frog pond we walked next to is often open for splashing.  We're guessing the recent (non-flooding!) storms made it too dirty; no kids or dogs were allowed to splash around that day. 
Fynnie and I did not get the memo about the day's color scheme.

Remember how much Mad loves frogs and ducks?  Despite our attempts to encourage Fynnie's love for elephants, she is all about the fwogs, too.

That play area in the background?  Tadpole Playground, of course.
See a frog, be a frog!  

See a fish, be a fish!

See a turtle... ah, c'mon Mama!

I love this photo for the look in her eyes.  And for the fact that her hair isn't a crazy mess.

If Madelyn could sum up her greatest disappointment about our trip, it's that we only went to Boston Common once.

Did you ever read Make Way for Ducklings?  This is that place.  That is the island.  
Gramma made sure to give the girls their own copy of the book when we returned to the hotel that night.  I attempted to read it over the exhausted screaming, but we only got so far.

"Yes, Mama made me quack like a duck while she took my picture."

"She made Fynnie do it, too, bahaha!"

"I yike to quack like a duck!  Cack cack cack!"

"Somebody, put me out of my misery!"

"I put you out mizzy!  Cack cack cack!"

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Traveling With Kids

Madelyn picked out her travel attire early in the morning the day before we left.  Striped shorts, dirty socks with sandals, tutu, butterfly backpack with her name, velour hoody, undershirt with multicolored hearts (not shown) and a balloon.  Perfect! 

We used both of Fynnie's car seats.  The newer generation of Britax Boulevards have some features that make them easier to adjust than Madelyn's.  Mad doesn't care about that.  She's just glad that Fynnie didn't choose to sit in the coveted pink seat.

Speaking of which, Fynnie didn't get to sit in her black and gray seat on the way out.  Why?  Even though Tom had a couple conversations with people about our seats and the use of car seats on the airplane, no one bothered to mention that two car seats cannot be placed in the same row.  Since Fynn's under two, she could be a lap rider.  Yes, we could have forced them to find us another set of seats.  It was not worth the hassle.

This is not how Fynnie entered the plane.  There was a collective sigh of relief when her screaming and crying stopped after a couple of minutes.  It was replaced with periodic shouts of, "We fy-y big jet wocket ship Boshum!  Bash off!"

Virgin America has touch screens and remotes for every seat!  (The downside of leaving for the airport in the 4:00 A.M. hour - Mama doesn't care about bedhead... until she sees the photos later.)

Madelyn, who aspires to be Doc McStuffins, makes sure her friends practice safe travel, too!

Some highlights from our flights out and back:
  • Tom has now changed several diapers at 36,000 feet.  He reports that it is easier to change a diaper mid-flight than it is in the baggage claim area restroom at Logan, where the changing station angled down, forcing him to brace Fynn while changing an especially messy diaper.
  • I have not changed any.  Every time I enter an airplane lav there is turbulence.  It ain't right.
  • Yes, I know how lucky I am.
  • The free word game on Virgin's system is lame.  How is it that "etc." an acceptable word, but "tine" and a host of similarly simple words are not?
  • Being forced to fly out of LAX because the city of Los Angeles owns the much more convenient but ridiculously overpriced Ontario Airport, made it clear to me why people think Californians are jerks and asshats.  Almost every person we dealt with at LAX was minimally helpful at best.  
  • The flight attendant crew on our way out were the whiniest bunch of "professionals" I've ever encountered.  I'm sure the head whiner thought she made things better after complaining about one of the other families with toddlers in front of me by saying, "But not you.  You get it.  Your kids are under control."  That was the luck of the draw for us.  I'm guessing the woman does not have kids or she would know that.
  • Just as expected, the flight out was better than the flight back.  Aside from every experience being new on the way out, Tom and I sat a few rows apart, so there was no teamwork for us, and the girls weren't able to entertain one another.  However, the people at Logan were so much more helpful, even giving us a luggage cart and pre-loading our car seats (not installing them, however, they saved that special hell for Tom while I wrangled the girls), that we were a lot more relaxed than we would have been otherwise.
  • Whoever suggested gel window clings as a mid-flight distraction, I love you.  Ditto for the Dollar Tree, where I stocked up on garden scenes.
  • People who recline their seats into the face of a toddler in her car seat and then twist around to give her dirty looks and loud sighs when she pushes on the seat should not be surprised when said toddler's mama leans forward to "pick something off the floor" while remarking that "yes, it was a jackass thing to throw a hissy fit because the big dumb man took up all of your room."  It turns out that Mama doesn't care if the big dumb man is well over six feet tall and 300 pounds.  Tolerating fits is not something I do well.
  • Although she hardly nursed at all on the way out, Fynn nursed most of the six and a half hour flight back.  This probably made Big Dumb Man happy, and did not appear to disturb the lovely lady next to us.
  • Overall, both flights were smooth.  Although it was cloudy when we arrived in Boston (which in my mind is now called Boshum), the flooding storm I'd been warned of did not rear its ugly head.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Trifecta (AKA The Perfect Storm)

Fear of flying


"Hey, did you hear there's a storm in Boston?  Something about flooding?"


My period


Clear and present danger.

Yes, Tom has been alerted.  It's only fair.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Me. On A Plane.

I hate flying.

I don't hate it enough to avoid doing it.  I hate looking like a big baby more than I hate flying, apparently.

I hate flying and I hate the stupid things people say to me about flying.

"Stop giving your fear energy.  Planes crash because people thought too much about it.  They brought it upon themselves."

Um, okay.  I watched The Secret.  File it right there with religion.  I just don't get most of it.

"Just pray about it.  Bring the angels around you."

Dude, do you even know me?  Wait, you do.  I do not try to push my lack of belief in god or angels on you.  Why do you do this?

"Drink.  Heavily."

Yeah, I'm not a big drinker.  I'll be partially responsible for two kids and their massive freaking car seats.  Oh, and I anticipate Fynnie will try hard to nurse her way through our six hour flights.  When she's not otherwise shrieking her head off, trying to antagonize her sister (with that adorable devilish look in her eyes) or doing exactly the opposite of whatever she's asked, instructed or commanded to do.

"If it's your time to go, it's your time to go."

Okay, fine.  If it's my time, I'll go.  But I don't want to.  I want to live.  I want to see who my girls are as they get older.  I want to see Corey take some major turns for the better.

And what about my girls, who'll be with us?  I don't want it to be their time.  And I don't want them to have such devastation as life without their parents.

What about Corey, who will not be joining us on this trip?  He's a wreck on his good days right now.  How would he cope with knowing we're no longer here if he decides he wants us or needs us?  And, honestly, what would happen if he had access to our life insurance?  Not like it's a lot, but it's more than he's ever going to see sitting around Grammy's house all day.  I totally foresee my mom's home being overrun with the latest in video game and tech gear.  And more junk food.

One of the things I try to have done before going on vacation is to make sure all of the photos are edited and sent off to my mother-in-law.  (Not even possible this time, ugh!)  As far as she's concerned (I hope), it's so that I have less to deal with when we get back.  But in the forefront of my brain is the idea that I want her to have everything possible before we go.  Same reason I'm hoping to get the bathrooms cleaned ASAP.  And, yeah, it's the same reason I wonder if I should toss certain things before leaving.  I mean, seriously, who wants to come across that while packing up someone's house?

It's at the head of every action and thought.  It's stupid and it sucks.  And I know it's wasted energy. I understand that the months of thinking "What if?" since booking the flights are moments upon hours I cannot get back.

But knowing it and making it stop are not the same.  The only cure is to go and to return.  To file another trip.  I've logged a lot of miles in fear.  Lame.

The upside?  Always looking for it.  There are a few highlights.  One, since we are flying with the girls, I will continue to avoid projecting my fear to them, thus not giving into all out panic.  Two, since we are flying directly across the country, we'll be up higher and hopefully have less turbulence than we have had on shorter flights.  Three, no one I've talked to has said that flying into Boston is bad.  Huge difference compared to flying into Vegas, for example.  On the other hand, no one I've talked to has actually flown into Boston.  Their stories are all anecdotes from others.

And then there's the fact that we'll be off on another family adventure.  A bizarre one where, two days before we leave, we still have no clue where we're staying or where the unnamed hotel is in relation to the airport.  We do have a room.  Somewhere.  And plenty of plans for the short time we'll be there.  Not that we know what the exact plans are aside from the wedding.

And should when we return, I will look back on this trip fondly.  As I usually do once the sense of free falling through the sky and slamming into the ground is no longer relevant.
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