Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Birth Day, VII

Seven years ago today, I gave birth to a baby girl.

That sentence alone is the most surreal thing to write and read.

I am smack-dab in the middle of travel-hockey/another-snow-day-on-tap/beginning-swim-training-for-a-triathlon/winter-that-won't stop hell.  My bandwidth is down to the width of a piece of dental floss, and I have a feeling when the Nor-easter comes tomorrow I will lock myself in a closet with a bottle of something and my cell phone and a box of tissue.  My day breaks and sets with yelling -- and for the record, seldom my own anymore.  (Pats self on back.)  But the boy, oh the boy, he's a loud kinetic force who has spent too much time this winter in the car seat and in the cold hockey rink and he's ready to blow.  That or he has a small hearing loss and is freebasing caffeine when my back is turned.

And I joke (through tears) that my hands are full, too full, and god help us all when the small one starts travel sports too because I will remember this crazy as the good ol' relaxin' days of yore.

And there -- this time of year especially, when I'm ramping up the annual fundraising project and dealing with my family's many seasonal maladies -- is something tugging gently, and then more insistently at my pant leg.  I try and shoo it off, make a sweeping motion to show that I'm knee-deep in dinner prep, or getting two separate breakfasts, or -- crap, please leave me be -- driving in some snow/ice debacle, but it persists.

And sometimes it takes the leg-pulling to scream at me through the din and remind me:

I'm here.  But I'm not.  Remember me?

If she had been born healthy as I (stupidly) assumed all babies were, she would be seven today.



I didn't know them as babies except for one, but for some reason I now know a slew of children in the first grade at Bella's school.  New kids in the neighborhood, younger siblings, kids of newfound friends.  One of these just celebrated a birthday a week or so ago, and I didn't know her then but I do now and I find myself staring at her in wonder.  Seven-year-olds don't bother me, but babies still do.  They are all still mystical, lucky, elusive creatures that make me catch my breath and tremble.  I don't understand them, I don't understand the allure in them, I don't get how so many of them are here.


The family scorecard has altered only slightly:  Buddy is still here, the geriatric cats finally both dialed in their ninth (or, in Kirby's case, 49th) life.  We have a new rescue cat name Violet; she's two, but acts as though she's two months and still learning how to play.  Though she loves us all (well, except Buddy still figuring him out) she plays rough and we're all playing mama cat and telling her no.  She is the current baby.

Bella is beautiful, Bella is overdramatic, Bella will someday make a great lawyer the way she argues ev-er-y-thing.  She asked this morning if I was buying flowers, I said yes, and she smiled and showed me that she was wearing her blue Maddy bracelet.  She is at once a selfish, impatient, loving, and fantastic big sister.

I did buy flowers as I do annually, and I'll light a candle at some point between appointments and dinner-prep and studying for the science quiz on salmon and Valentines.  I'll quietly congratulate myself for carrying and delivering three babies, those beautiful flowers are there in part for me, too.  But mostly I'll remember the delicate sweet baby that was mine for ever so briefly.

She was here.

I love you Maddy, and miss you awfully.


Side note:  I switched web browsers (long story) and while it corrected many of the problems I was having, and my smile was widening, I clicked over to Feedly . . . and it had erased all of my feeds.  All of them.  I crawled through the FAQs and help sections and sent them multiple emails (all met with "Welcome to Feedly!" auto-bot-bullshit), and . . . nothing.   And I was so sad and depressed I couldn't bring myself to even click in there and see the empty page.  But I miss keeping up with even the annual posts of my old friends:  If you still blog, if you were on my radar, could you please comment here if only to say "I'm still writing!" and I'll add you.  I may not comment often, but I'll try and check in and read.  I promise.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Birth Day, VI

Remind me of my blogger password.

Remind me how to edit and spellcheck on this thing.

Remind me how to write.

Remind me why I start clenching my jaw in January, and why during winter I have vivid daymares involving my children and blood and hospitals and machines that go beep, and feelings of anguish.

Remind me why that story on NPR my husband told me about  -- the one with the woman whose infant died from Whooping Cough -- pushed every fucking button on our panels.

Remind me why I have a button panel again?

Remind me why there's this monstrous age gap between my children?

Remind me why driving to Children's for a completely innocuous, non-life-threatening, totally completely superficial appointment for one of my children made me tense?  Why I had to take deep breaths in the parking garage?

Remind me why people (people I don't even know) who said the whole Sandy Hook thing on TV made them so "sad" they had to turn off the television and "get away from it" made me hate my in-laws all over again?


We went to a child's birthday last week where my husband had a chance to finally meet the new baby of the family who lives a few doors down in back.  For some reason I thought they had another boy, but it turns out it's a girl.  In the safe warmth of my kitchen, after the party, with Bella standing two feet away from me, Mr. ABF said, "Do you know what they named her?"

(stunned silence, perhaps my stomach and fists clenched)


"Jesus," I said, gripping the wall corner and immediately apologizing to Bella for saying something I don't allow her to say.  She gave me an "It's cool" look.

And you know, it's a beautiful name, it's not her name, and when this girl is five and everyone is calling her "Maggie" I'm not going to care remotely.

But right now?  Today?  Because she's a baby and it's February?

Remind me why this is like a punch in the gut?

Today I will undergo the annual traipse to the flower store, and lighting of the candle at 4:30 p.m.  Mr. ABF will be at Bella's hockey practice, which will just be getting underway; Ale will likely be riveted to a "Little Einsteins" or throwing something or narrowly avoiding stitches and a trip to the ER.  But it won't matter, because it's impossible for me to forget as much as I'd like to.

Funny how so much of that week fades to black during the year when the schedule is jammed -- sometimes it takes something really grossly obvious like misplacing my bracelet for me to even remember the events of six years ago and why I even wear a bracelet at all.  It seems so "normal" to have two children at the ages they are that there's seldom a thought as to why so many years fall between them.

And then I get to this week and I can remember every last detail:  starting with the total humiliation of February 12, 2007, where I came to realize that things do not always follow the plan, you know, the plan you had just totally assumed would occur while holding your newborn,  from napping on the couch to teaching her how to walk in heels to chatting about her professional life over a glass of wine.  The plan that you never gave much thought to because, duh, of course it will go like that!

Until it didn't.

I don't need reminding of how I almost passed out the first night when they finally started to go through her litany of problems.  How I howled through the second night.  How Valentine's Day has become the ultimate irony because I remember every vivid detail of a doctor coming into my room and telling me my daughter's heart had stopped.

I remember what I ate for breakfast on the last day of my daughter's life.

I remember the ride home after she died.

It's not that I think I outright forget the rest of the year, but I think the memories have become just that:  memories, not something I touch and feel and bump into every day like I did for years.  Back then, they weren't memories, it was grief -- tangible, identifiable, slap-you-in-the-face grief.  I felt like I was in a daily wrestling match with the memories big and small, everything from the final moments to the ice-machine location would cause me to slump and ponder.  Grief slid away eventually, hallelujah, and now I'm left with memories that are part of a blurry background that contain millions of others, good, bad and indifferent.  They just sit there through the seasons, occasionally wave hi from their shelf, maybe do as much as poke me in the side and cause me to verbalize out loud:  "huh."

It's only now, in winter, especially this week in February that the memories are unpacked like holiday decorations, dusted off, and trotted in front of my conscious self in a parade of horror.

I won't need reminded, but I may need to find some time around 4:30 to actually light a candle, and then keep someone from throwing a book or cheese stick right at it.

Today, I'll remember.

Today, and even all the other days you sit quietly and observe from your perch in my subconscious, I'll remember.  Those other days, I just won't feel remotely as hollow as I do on this day when I wink back.  I love you Maddy, and miss you terribly.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Deja Vu, Not

What's the saying, like riding a bike?   Some bike ride, but instead of pumping my legs and feeling the air rush through my hair and the sweat building under my grip on the handlebars and the spray of muddy water kicking up on my back, I'm in the car.  Driving, always driving, to see a dying human.  There's the still, and the quiet.  There are the blankets, the bed, the window -- always with a rather peculiar view.  There's some amount of machinery, from the shiny and technical to the almost hidden line tracking back into the wall.

It's amazing to me how the skin softens so, in the final hours.  It's seemed that way with everyone.  His face was so smooth, the traces of lines and age and sun disappeared, and his complexion looked a robust 60, not 95.  (At one point the hospice worker lifted his blanket to explain mottling on the legs, and three middle age women were standing there and finally one blurted what I'm sure we were all thinking, "Jesus, they look better than my legs.")

And there's always the awkwardness.  What to say to a daughter, one who couldn't understand you even if she could hear you?  To a grandmother who again probably couldn't make sense of what you were saying even if totally conscious?  To a grandfather who has done everything, and kicked the living shit out of "elderly" and continued to hike and golf -- despite being legally blind?

My grandfather died.

And I was shocked to find in the car that this was not my usual death march, but an unqualified relief.  He went from 60-0, fast.  On the weekend of Bella's birthday we discovered that his hip pain -- which we had all been blowing off as old-man hip pain -- was cancer.  Humongous, spreading, inoperable, cancer.  They gave him 6-12 months, averages both, both on the outside.  He had all his faculties about him, made his plans known, and sat back with the game on and waited to die.

It was painful for him, and painful to watch.  When the pain was at 11 in early September, I wondered how in hell he could possibly go six months, or even get to some "average" like four, or (gulp) eight.  I wondered if the DA would actually prosecute a mother of two if she offered to grind up her grandfather's percocet in a glass of scotch and sit and watch the game with him.

So when they called and said, it'll be in the next 48 hours, I may have smiled.  Thank god.  Jack up that morphine, let him ride that dream, no 95 year old needs to go through this crap.  I drove out and said goodbye.

Of course, being my grandfather, I drove out three days later, to say goodbye, again.

And I held his hand while he grimaced, and although he was in a world where he didn't know me and wasn't speaking much, he scrunched his face up when I told him the Steelers had lost.

And they called and said, "any minute now," and my mother went to his side in the middle of the night, and 12 hours later, he finally decided he had fought enough.  This, almost a whole week after that initial call.

And I'm sad, don't get me wrong.  And I'll miss him.  But my grandfather got an amazing, long, life.  I got to travel with him to his favorite place, and he will now be cremated and taken to Alaska where one of his many many friends will disperse his ashes from a plane somewhere remote and high and cold and beautiful.

I've had so much ugly shitty and gut-wrenching death in my life the last five years, I had forgotten that death can be welcome, and peaceful, and beautiful.  I hated that line about being "in a better place," but there is zero question in my mind that my grandfather is now in a better place than he was curled up in a pain so extreme he temporarily lost his sanity.

I miss him already.  I was amazed that Ale took to this crotchety old dude as just another guy, and it seemed to make perfect sense, what with Ale speak-yelling his two-year-old sentences into the deaf man's ear.  They would both laugh at their private inside joke.  It was some bizzaro circle-of-life meets sit-com, but it was beautiful to watch.

I've been helping dismantle his house, riddled with mouse droppings (big surprise, what with the old house in the woods inhabited solo by the legally blind guy) and it's strange, as always, to find yourself the caretaker of someone's passed down stuff.  The stuff, it lives -- the old crank phone that's easily over 100 years old will now hang in my kitchen; my great grandmother's china, also over a century in age, now occupies a high shelf.  My great grandmother's linen chest is coming, next time I can make it out there with the truck.  And it's so odd to think that people die, but the flotsam and jetsam of their lives just trickles down on onward, and my house has become a repository for baby bracelets and blankets, two sets of old china, and nineteenth-century needlework.  I dream about the people who used this stuff, and wonder about all the awkward handoffs that preceded my possession.

It's odd to think that at a week, even Maddy had "stuff."

I'm good with this one, though.  I'm going to don his old Steelers cap and put on the game, and dig around in my liquor cabinet for the scotch I bought, just for him, for when he came to visit.  And I'll hope fervently that I too live to 95, and have time to break down all the cardboard boxes in my house before my death, before passing on all my stuff.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mind the Gap

It's fairly inevitable:  I'm surrounded by people, literally -- you should have seen the baby explosion on my block in the last two years -- who are on their first child.  And they turn to me/mine and ask sweetly and naively,

What if any tv programming does he watch?

Does he still take a bottle?

When will you start potty training?

And I try my best to keep the snark in check and answer as sweetly and politely and truthfully as possible:  Phinneas and Ferb; never did, drinks out of a technical camelback water bottle or a regular ol' cup and has since he was one; he started himself when he was 18 months.  (No, by no means there yet, relax yourselves, I am by no means that lucky.)

When Ale breaks into song it's frequently something from the pop charts; today, just for example, it was, out of the blue from the backseat, "THIS IS CRAZY!" He can name the title of a Ting Ting's song in the opening bars, and chants the chorus from the Beastie Boys "Sureshot".  He wants to do potty "by self," eat "by self," and tells us to leave his room at bedtime.  "Go mommy, nap time.  Goodbye."   He eats pizza "big," and is generally in the habit -- for better or worse -- of monkey see, monkey do.

He is by no means independent, and by that I mean he clings to his mommy with a ferocity known usually to atomic particles.  I don't sense any nascent super intelligence.

What he is, is the little brother of a much, much older sister.

So, the conversation goes, "Oh!  How old is his sister?"

"Seven."  "Eight."

And then I can fucking hear the gears start turning as they contemplate that six year gap, maybe with some stupid turn of phrase, "Oh, nice gap."

(Nice?  I mean, not for nothing, but if everything was lovely and it was 2.5 years, is that "nice"?  Or "Not nice?"  I'm confused.)

And I can practically read their minds as they eyeball me:


Remarriage, baby with husband number two.



And very seldom, nay, rarely, do I step on the toes of their wisps of thought with the concept that the gap really isn't, and like every other red-blooded American (it seems) my children are in fact about 2.5-3 years apart.  It's just that the middle one is, um, missing.

Not much to pick up from that one, amiright?

It's tough this, when people start asking me what the up and down sides to this break are.  I try and answer honestly because I know they're asking from a good place:  It's lovely to have an older child who attends school, can get in/out of the car by herself, uses the toilet AND takes her dirty dishes to the kitchen and unloads the clean dishwasher.  It may take four nags, but she can in fact put her shoes away and sort her laundry.  So only having to deal with one child's tiny shoes and dirty dishes and plastic crap is a relief.  I  make one meal a night, and I can grab a half hour for the shower by plopping them down in front of the same programming (Ale loves to imitate Candace, it's a riot).

It's a bummer in that Bella was/is an awesome traveller.  I could easily see taking her to Alaska or Africa right now, tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself.  Yet, every time I think "You know, I think we could do London, maybe with a day trip to Paris -- Ale eats and sleeps pretty well," he up and contradicts me by melting down during a trip to Ikea hours later.  The kind of meltdown where other mothers silently mouth "I'm sorry" as they pass by with their wide-eyed toddlers staring at my screaming progeny.  Bella can climb and ride skateboards and get in and out of the tub by herself and a load of other stuff that looks amazing attractive to a small guy who doesn't understand helmets or that his hands and feet are still a bit too far apart to do things.  We've have some extremely close calls, some bumps, and a bloody nose or three.

The gap is lovely, the gap is tough, but what the gap really is is a daily reminder that there's something in there, something in the middle, that the oreo is missing something rather critical.  There's a whole lifetime of counseling and depression in there, and watching him coo "Happy Birfday" to his sister only highlights the chasm between them.  There shouldn't be a canyon between my children -- a path perhaps, a very windy road maybe.  Not something that requires road guards and a suspension bridge.


Bella is eight.  I fight the urge to put a "teen" on the end of that.  She is at once, extremely mature and a bit of a hot mess.  She is a lovely combination of girl and tomboy; yesterday she determined with her birthday cash and savings she had enough for the American Girl she's been pining for, today there were real hot tears when I broke the news that one of her favorite ball players --  the one whose name graces her very pricey and very favorite official jersey -- had been traded.  She gobbles up pop tunes like M&Ms, and deigns to get down on her knees with the stuffed animals and play school with her little brother.  Usually she looks so old it drives me a bit bonkers, but I was looking at pictures from her party on Sunday and I can still espy that baby fat in her face, that glimmer of three still peering out at me from those eyes.  Still a girl.  But not for long.


We've fallen into a nice tradition of ordering a small copy of our wedding cake from the baker who made it along with Bella's birthday cake so we have something to remind us of our anniversary.  This year the Birthiversary picnic was at the farm where we were married, but for the first time sans Max who actually attended our wedding.  He was just a year old then, hard to imagine -- about as hard to imagine as watching our children run around with my cousin's children.   It was beautiful, and surreal, and exhausting.

Per usual, Ferdinand was at the front of my mind on Sunday as well.  I wondered what Janis was doing, much as I always wonder how all these mind-blowing events can occur on a single day.  Who knew four years almost to the hour after getting married in a meadow I'd be holding my first child; who knew three years later I'd be celebrating her birthday, bereft.  Who knew within the year I'd discover someone had lost a son on the day I'd been mindlessly doling out cupcakes and goody bags and wondering if my marriage would continue through this shitstorm.

Who knew.

It's a few days belated, but:

Happy Birthday, Ferdinand.
Happy Birthday, Bella.
Happy Anniversary, us.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

So an old Babyloss Blogger walks into a bar

2012 owns me.

I am 2012's bitch.

I am a slave to the coffee bean, and frequently count down hours and then minutes until bedtime. I recently told someone I could easily become alcoholic with the stupid piles of poo that have conspired to drown me this year, but I'm too tired. Given the choice between motoring through dinner and getting the kids to bed a few seconds earlier, I'll bypass a glass of wine, easy. Kids asleep? Work done? Pillow. It's not a choice. My book club books are collecting virtual dust in the Nook, and this blog . . . oh dear, this blog.

It's not all bad, not really, not when I reflect, although in the moment some of it seemed (and still does seem) a bit reminiscent of the unholy 2007.

The day of my last post, Maddy's birthday, all I could think was "Thank god Maddy is not here to turn 5, because how much would it suck to put down your dog on your 5th birthday." It turned into the day after, but still. The previous day, Max, just about 13, riddled with cancer, gagging every time he stood up, his breathing turned into a bit of a death rattle, sniffed and walked away from a sirloin hamburger that neighbors had bought for him so he could "go out in style." Nothing says "It's Time" like a dog turning down a medium rare piece of quality beef. We called the vet, and arranged for her to come to our house, and the evening of February 13, we held Max as he left our lives.

It was horrible, and would've been horrible in June, but to do it during this week, when all those memories were there was . . . . a lot. A lot to deal with. His death was extremely peaceful and still is perfect in mind, second only perhaps to dying quietly in his sleep, and he led a wonderful long life. He was a happy dog, the softest dog ever, and will probably be that dog as we continue down the avenue of our pet owning lives. But I know perfectly well you don't have to regret the actual death in order to be severely bummed out by it all, and god was I.

But not for long, because Tuesday morning, Valentine's Day, the morning Maddy's heart stopped five years earlier, and now with my dead dog lying in repose in the back of the truck awaiting burial in my aunt's pasture, I dressed up, caught a train and went downtown for Jury Duty.

Of course I got picked.

It was criminal not civil, and it's so not my story to tell, so I'm not gonna, but it was one of those cases, those awful gut-wrenching things that turn your tummy until you realize you need to focus and analyze and think critically and so you do. My brain, it was full. Overtaxed. And thankfully the trial and decision was only three days because I came home a pile of goo. I mourn the fact that Maddy's white matter was liquefied about as much as I joke about it, and for the first time I wondered if this is what it might feel like to start down that road of brain seepage. I had trouble tying words together, my emotions were all over the map, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, I didn't know what to think.

Of course there were some take-aways, not that I was looking, but I'm gonna catch the low-hanging fruit, thank you: For starts, the jury I sat on was awesome. I had extremely low expectations, and I was not pleasantly surprised but downright amazed. This group made me proud to live here, and once again I climbed on the lucky-star train for ever moving here in the first place. Secondly, this case, without going into any detail, was predicated on the lack of love. I'm not talking hate, because there honestly wasn't much of that going around either, but the total dearth of love, the misunderstanding or perhaps complete lack of understanding of what love felt like, looked like, was, is.  It made me really appreciate the love I take for granted, have taken for granted.  And when I found my voice that weekend, I turned to Bella during some meal and told her: I will always love you. I don't care what you do, and how mad you think I'll be, and how mad I am at you, I will still love you. Always. She teared up and turned back to her waffle, and I teared up too.

(Did I mention during this week Ale came down with croup for the second time in two months?  Don't children develop immunity to this bug within the same season?  (Cue ominous foreshadowy music) And for those who don't know croup -- and I didn't because Bella never had it -- in addition to all of the lovely effects like this awful wheeze that inhibits your child's capacity to breathe and a cough like a circus seal, it keeps you up for five nights.)

It was an awful week.


MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE FARM: I mentioned in passing during an old post (not that you can remember, because that was a whole geological era ago) that Mr. ABF and I chaired a fundraiser that was held in late April. It bled me dry. And every day I left jury duty for the world's best latte across the street I flipped on my phone and was greeted with email telling me something went wrong, someone quit, someone else quit, and instead of a manageable one hole to fill by the end of the week we were pushing around buckets just trying to catch the torrent.

Nothing is as thankless as fundraising.  Because the institution you fundraise for thanks you, but you are left having worked your goddamn ass off and when it's done and you should be kicking back and throwing remnants in the circular file, your email is filling with complaints.  Sure, some second-hand compliments trickle in, but you wind up wishing they were actually addressed to you to counter the absolute crap that people find to bitch about.  I am never volunteering for anything again, civic-duty can kiss my ass.  My checkbook is open, my time and life and marriage and kids?  Not.   It took weeks for the mail *ping* not to make my stomach clench.  I don't think Mr. ABF and I have ever been close to divorce, but we might have thought counseling was in order towards the end of this endeavor.  I could just hear the therapist mewing, "So, what was it exactly that pushed you over the edge," and having me scream manically, "THE LABELS!  THE FUCKING LABELS!  No wait, THE SPREADSHEET!  THE GODDAMN THIRD COLUMN WOULDN'T PRINT!"  Divorce via Excel.

Did I mention that apparently toddlers do not develop an immunity to the virus that causes croup within a season?  They don't.  Because a week before the event, when I was at the height of batshit, I hadn't even brushed my teeth for bed yet because I was downstairs working on, why yes, a spreadsheet, when I heard that oh-so-familiar trained-seal bark coming through Ale's monitor.  Three times since December 31, godddammit.  And unlike the two previous times, this time his little neck muscles were clenching and the ol' shower/stand in the cold thing (twice) didn't work.  So off we went to the ER for a wee pump of steroids and we were both calm as punch since we knew what the deal was, being croup pros by now, but neither of us lay down to sleep (him/bed, me/floor next to his bed) until 3 a.m.  And a friend involved in this fundraiser chose the next morning to insinuate that I wasn't working hard or fast enough for her AND I ATE HER WHOLE, ALIVE.  WHILE SWEARING.  THE END.

Fundraising sucks, don't do it.


There were casualties this spring:  Maddy's week got massively, tragically swept under the rug by Max, sleeplessness, and my brain having to be focused on some other-people's-tragedy.  The floral arrangement I get every year from the same awesome florist really looked like crap on day two; any other year I would've run it back because it's expensive and meaningful and they're good, but there was no time.  I told Maddy repeatedly that I was sorry, that I remembered her, and I'm pretty sure she gave an eye roll to Ale and Bella who shot her back a sympathetic look of allegiance.

I had the best of intentions to actually throw a birthday party for my son this year -- a totally casual playdate with the jillion babies who live within three blocks of us -- and when I finally picked my head up off the counter band looked at the calendar I realized:  His birthday is in 5 days.  I thought that was too late to organize something and expect people to show up, so no party.  We'll have something this summer.

Two years was marked by taking Ale to the Van Gogh exhibit (the only time we could make it before it left) -- really, the IDEAL activity for a two-year-old -- and eating take out pizza.  We got a marvelous, wonderful video of him listening to us sing and then blowing out his candles -- hell, even I looked good! And a few mornings later Mr. ABF handed Ale the phone, and and while everyone's attention was elsewhere, Ale watched it and deleted it.

It's strangely metaphoric -- the lost video and the way this year has gone, whizzing by in an amazing array of tension and shit with little good to grasp and cling to.  I suppose I could moan and groan and flail and say "typical," and perhaps tense up thinking of what horrible significance there must be erasing the only evidence of one's turning two.  Certainly in a past life, this would toll Omen.

But I smiled and kissed him and told him, "I was there."  I was there.  I got to watch him, and his eyes, and his fat cheeks, and witnessed him stuff his face with homemade chocolate cake.  I don't need a video, or a picture, or a charm, or a birthstone.  He's right here, not in my phone, not in my imagination, not poking me irritatingly in the subconscious.  No, he's poking me irritatingly, in real life, at 6 o'dark o'clock, proclaiming, "Just woke up!"  Thank goodness.  I'll take it.


Somewhere else in there was a vacation to a warm climate marred by having to check fundraising email daily and Ale once again picking up some noro-whatsit on the last night and passing it along like a good boy.

After swearing on a stack that my child would never be over scheduled and would enjoy childhood, Bella somehow had three sports this spring.  Which sucked until we all realized that her baseball team was a bit Bad News Bears meets a Ritalin advertisement and then I became grateful that she had two other experiences within the week to remind her that sports could be fun, not all coaches were incompetent, and not all children her age had the emotional maturity of her little brother.

Project "Move Children to the Third Floor" is still in progress (see: fundraiser time suck) but damn are we close.  We are thinking it's time to move our sleeping bag out of Benjamin Moore and give them a break from us, and the other half of the floors get sanded this week.

A week or so ago, 10 minutes after putting Ale down for a nap, his voice chirped from the top of the staircase:  "Climb! Out! Self!"  Wuh oh.  So he's in a big boy bed, and doing great.

Second grade has been so, so awesome I don't want it to end.  I want it to continue forever.  I feel like there can't possibly be anywhere to go from here, what could be left to learn?  But end it must (sob) and Bella has requested a smattering of camps this summer:  sports, zoo, baseball, hockey, sewing.  Her hockey program introduced to her the goalie position back in winter and she lurves it.  I'm not sure mommy  lurves it, but watching her throw on a hundred pounds of pads turning her frame into a square shape and then trying to look mean while skating backwards goes a long way toward changing my mind. Cuz that shit is hilarious.

Did you know Wegmans sells Maddalena olives?  They do, I bought some.


Good lord, how in fuck's name ARE you?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Birth Day, V

Or, Physics.

As a joke, sorta, I taught my wee little soccer team some physics last fall. You know, fun goofy things like: a well-kicked ball can travel faster than a person. (We had a race. Everyone lined up, I said go, and they sprinted and I passed the ball and we saw which made it to the 20 yard mark first.) The ball does not run out of stored energy, but you do -- let the ball travel for you. (Yes, yes, I know the ball has some too when kicked, but let's not blow the young children's minds just yet, m'kay?) Goalies can train and learn to jump; but because of that crazy thing called gravity, it's harder to learn to fall fast. Ergo, shoot low. I sent them forth to run in circles and kick wildly and discuss the oeuvre of Justin Bieber. Bella complained the whole time, "But I don't like Fidgets!" A malprop which I'm going to tuck away until she wins a nobel prize for her studies in plate tectonics.

When soccer ended, I thought I'd have some time to do stuff, like wash dishes and write here. My endless hours of computer bureaucracy were over (seriously, that is mainly what the modern coach does that kills time -- practices and games are 90 minute stretches of fresh air and contempletude by comparison), complete with two additional gaping holes in my weekly schedule. But what's the principal, nature hates a vacuum? The mud encrusted cleats remained (and I believe, still do) in the mudroom while we shuttled Bella to her Nutcracker rehearsals and tried and reschedule her ice-hockey initial fitting because it conflicted with a dress rehearsal. One of these years perhaps she'll do Nutcracker! On Ice! But until then her angel outfit will remain separate from the shoulder pads. (For the record, you cannot get a hockey helmet on over a ballet bun. In case you were wondering. Also? Please look for me in the Olympic Ballet Bun Hair-do competition, I'll be in the "moving target" division.)

The holes, they filled with dump-truck alacrity -- there was quickly hockey, and more hockey. The third floor bathroom was demolished (in the longest demo ever, where it was discovered bad bathrooms merely beget other bad bathrooms) and rebuilt. And I decided after years of participation to chair (whatinfucksnamewasIthinking) a big fundraiser in my neck of the woods. Mr. ABF is co-chairing with me, and together we are pulling our hair out and madly doling out our cell phone numbers and email. Good golly, the email. How much time can it possibly chew? Very much time, as it turns out. There are no more holes to fill; I put children to nap or bed and in the space where I used to do nice things like shower and do laundry, or clean dishes and tidy up and maybe read a blog or do a crossword or curl up with a book club selection, I ponder email and spreadsheets. And I stress.

Last fall, a few long-time, long-term members of this corner of the blogosphere finally got good news. I circled around to all of their comment sections, and even wrote a few emails, and I tried so hard to explain that it was good -- no, it was great -- that they could feel joy and happiness and relief.

And sadness.

And glee, and smile uncontrollably.

And cry at the drop of a hat.

And that it was totally possible, within the realm of medical science and understood nature and math and quantum mechanics, to feel better and whole . . . and not. To finally feel full, while still having a hole that was totally impossible to fill, no matter how busy you feel you are now, no matter how emotionally and time-wise stretched. Your life may be full of cherub photos and dirty diapers and solid food and babies who won't sleep, and somehow that gap between the mountains looms there.

Funny how that happens.


I think because of the crammed boxes on the calendar and the bizarro spring-winter we seem to be having here (I swear. to. god. I saw poor cherry blossoms wondering what gives around Thanksgiving, and a peek of forsythia in January, and already bulbs popping up and then pausing to ask what month we're in because this? is odd) February snuck up on me. That and it's been a whole five years. Half a decade.

I don't measure in Maddy's would-be time -- frankly, I really never have because it was so evident to me that she would have never lived, but I do measure in my children's time in relation to the very bad thing. And so it was last week when Ale was sliding down our backyard playset by himself (almost) that I realized he was the exact age that Bella was when we looked at this house. In fact, she slid down that very slide with my MIL, while we wandered through rooms inside. And ergo, he is the exact age Bella was when I found myself surprisingly, relatively easily pregnant with Maddy. And now this funny clock will start and I expect that while today and next Saturday will hurt me some, that the kick to the solar plexus will come in November '12, when Ale will be the age Bella was Maddy was born. It is then I will see, without bloodshot eyes and dehydration and leaky breasts and crushing sadness, what it's really like to have a two-and-a-half year old. I think it will be then that I'll emerge from the overgrowth, the now flowered weeds, to discover that all this time they've been covering an abyss.


Black holes aren't really you know, they're filled with dense matter. So I'm realizing I can't fill these holes, and nor do they need to be filled. It is entirely possible to function, to function normally and even -- dare I say -- well, with a mini-van swallowing pot-hole in your soul. My days are filled with the stress of planning and the boring regularity of groceries, and great joy of finally having the Soccer Channel, and eating a seven course seafood feast with my neighbors, and coaching a teamful of beautiful girls, and watching my own cherub glide across the stage in what I hope is her first Nutcracker. There is unabashed smiling at a seven year old who can skate backwards and do a hockey stop, and a 1.5 year old who occasionally uses the toilet, prefers mushroom/artichoke pizza to plain, and says "crap" in context. My toddler-wannabe scores a goal with his miniature hockey set, holds the tiny stick above his head, and shouts "GOOOAAAL!" And then very methodically pushes the nets aside and boards his push-bike and rides it around, imagining life on a Zamboni. I am, all things considered, quite happy. Very happy. Strangely, I feel very blessed.

All while occasionally peering into the hole that I know leads through to another galaxy, where horrible things occur, and beauty is snuffed out before it is realized. A place packed with great sorrow and unspeakable horror. A tiny wee bit of beauty perhaps, and a precious few furry-purry kisses but mostly a nightmare that I don't dare consider on any given day.

I guess I've learned to drive around it, except for in February, where I stop and peer over the edge and remember, and ponder what might have been, and what on earth will be.

I realize now looking at my blond big-eyed children stuff their faces with warm waffles that all my children are, and were, beautiful. All of them. I love them all completely. And I do what I can in a jam-packed world to remind them -- all of them -- of that fact.

Today I park my car on the edge of the floral, cedar-fumed forest, and stroll up to the edge of the craggy canyon, peer into the stank vapor and lonely darkness, and I know it's not really an empty hole at all. So I shout into the echo and am somewhat comforted to hear it bounce back at me:

I love you, Maddy. I miss you terribly.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Boxing it Up

She handed me a familiar, sealed, white cardboard box across the counter. The absolute first thing that went through my mind was, "How can a cat's ashes possibly weigh more than a baby's?" And the second thing was, there is no better way to handle this transaction, is there.

We put Kirby down a few weeks ago.

He had been in decline over the past few years: He's 15, with a chronic heart problem, and a thyroid problem. And none of those unto themselves are anything to fret over really, but together they seemed to finally start taking a toll. Along with what I suspect was senility. Can cats go senile? I honestly have no idea. I'll spare you a lengthy cat behavior post because this could easily turn into that, but the one example that had us both wincing was when Mr. ABF walked down to the basement where we kept the cat food (so the dogs wouldn't get it) and found a mouse eating out of a cat bowl a mere foot or so away from Kirby who was also having a snack. There was the shaking, the holing up in Bella's closet for weeks while snuggled in his own damp pee stain, the vomiting accompanied by screaming and a loss of bladder control, and in the final weeks, a pattern that took him from the tree in our room to the second floor landing outside our door which he decided was a suitable litterbox, and then back again.

It was time.

We both miss him terribly; it's funny how I walked into the basement less than a week later, inhaled realizing how my house no longer stank of pee, and promptly burst into tears. We got him when he was a mere 8-10 weeks old, and in our cold Chicago apartment he used to curl up on the back of our old gas stove which was always a bit warm. Most of you would sense the danger in this and bring it to a stop, but he looked so damn cute curled up next to the tea kettle that I began calling him my little loaf.

I tore open the little white box when I walked in the door. The reason for the extra weight was not that he was big, although at 7-8 lbs he still beat Maddy. It was that they placed his ashes in a trim little wood box with his name etched in a plate on the top. His box is also currently residing on the family room bookshelf, a few shelves down from Maddy's, waiting for us to decide what to do with them.

I suppose one day we'll just know.


We put Kirby down the Thursday before the Candlelight Ceremony that we go to every year at Children's, and hence, there was no post from me, no collection of names. And I felt low about it, and guilty as shit, because I always do that, and I like doing that, and I know there are people who look forward to it and new people for whom it would be meaningful and ugh. But off we went, bundled up, thrilled to arrive and see that finally! it was to be held outside in the winter chill with real candles, and not in a cramped and warm conference suite that smelled of sterilization where glow sticks hardly take the edge off the ambiance. I was so excited for the beauty of the evening, and Ale, apparently, was not. I'm sure he was warm enough save for his hands, which were little finger-cicles before long, but he decided the evening was ripe for yelling. (There are a lot of times ripe for yelling in his day.) Not wanting to disturb anyone else's evening, we whisked him to the back of the crowd where he could run around and jabber, but it meant no standing together as a family, and no paying firm attention to other people's dead children. I did manage to keep my candle lit the entire time, and keep my eye on the screen, plus Mr. ABF spelled me for a bit in the middle and took Ale off for a diaper change, but it was . . . . difficult.

At first I was frustrated. Deeply. Eye-roll-y frustrated. But as more names and pictures that filtered past, the frustration melted and I looked at my hot mess of a child, yelling while looking like he was making snow angels but in a grassy lawn, and realized I was lucky. I was so, so fucking lucky. We rode on the elevator in the parking garage after the event with a couple with no children with them. I felt embarrassed, standing there amid my jewels and riches.

This was my fifth service -- five services ago, I thought myself one of the most unlucky shmucks on the planet. This year, I scooped up my cold, yelly overtired treasures and basked. Fucking luck.

But perhaps very good that I didn't have your names with me, because I would've felt as guilty as all get out, wandering around as I was, distracted and not paying very close attention.

Maybe I can find another moment.


There is a post, sitting here in edit, much like my holiday card -- which is sitting in edit on a card site, I suppose now waiting for a sale to hit because they're going to be late anyway -- catching up, explaining a bit of my crazy blogless fall. Hopefully I can throw that up here in the not too distant future, before it all becomes a moot point. If it's not already.

I hope you're all well. Happy holidays, whatever day or days or reasons you celebrate. I hope you can find some peace in there.