There she is, sweet Ophelia Rose. Born at the beginning of December by c-section, 10 days early.
What is the Birth Story?
This could be a long one, due to some medical weirdness in my blood requiring a lot of doctors and a bonus captive period in the hospital a few weeks before she actually came for infusions and other excitement. Boring. Here are the parts that count:
Surprise! I know we’re catching you at the end of your work day, but just wanted to let you know the stars have aligned and your platelets are up and you’re having major abdominal surgery to produce a human tomorrow morning at 9am! Be there or be square! Oh, and don’t eat or drink anything after midnight! Tell your boss! Bye!
2. It turns out that while you lie there on the table, nice and sliced wide open, the hot topic of conversation is Types of Salsa in the Hospital Cafeteria. The anesthesiologist likes the fruity salsas. Turns out there are far more choices since Baja Fresh opened. Residents are all about the roasted corn, and the nurses dig the green chile business. What’s that? Oh, shit! A BABY!
Also, being conscious through surgery in a teaching hospital means listening to the surgeon grill observing students about your innards. “What is this?” is not something you expect to hear from someone who is elbow-deep in your abdominal cavity. Even for the sake of education.
3. …And truly miraculously, it happened again: a perfect baby girl. Generally grunty and squeaky with a bad-ass hunger cry and a voracious appetite, big blinky eyes and a nice baby smell. Oh, we are lucky.
What does Bird think of all this?
Where to begin? She’s huge, for one. A gigantic, sweet and bumbling monster of a child, doing her very very best to not crush or eat this baby out of love or frustration. Always in her face, nose to nose. So much adoration for this tiny new thing, so much curiosity and, alternately, boredom. So much sharing of attention to be done, so much change. Trying so hard to be the big sister we all made such a big deal about. We congratulate her on her kindnesses, on sharing, every victory we can find. We try to be gentle with redirection, give her a little wiggle room. But we also get annoyed. She gets annoyed. We snap. We all act out. We reconcile. We say to each other, “I love you very much, even when you are DRIVING ME BANANAS.” Permission to say that is worth its weight in gold, for all parties involved. I hear it just as much as I say it these days.
Goodness, though. It’s complicated. Sometimes I want to set her out on the front porch and lock the door behind her, sometimes I literally cry over her sweetness and the hard, clumsy work she’s putting into her part of becoming a family of four. Sweet Bird. Oh my.
Are you getting any sleep?
Am I supposed to? Stop asking silly questions. Are you winning the lottery? No? Did you expect to?
How is A. holding up?
Wow. The most wonderful husband/ father/ friend. I hit the spousal jackpot, y’all. This man was born to be a daddy of girls and a partner to a lunatic like me. He is incredibly kind, patient, and so easy to love. And damn cute, eh?
Can we bring a casserole?
And oh, the friends! The best in the whole dang world and beyond. We have eaten well and been so loved. Who says we don’t live near our family?
How were the holidays?
The first in nine years without a single trip to Indiana. Plenty of visitors– two separate shifts of grandparents and family before and after the Main Event, full of joyful company and personal quirks and general holiday drama. But Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were just ours– free to sit around in our jammies and gaze at the baby and play with our (modest) Christmas loot and eat nachos and watch Mary Poppins. I never knew Christmas could be so lovely. Best. Gift. Ever.
How is Maternity Leave?
Oh, man. Livin’ the dream most of the time. Sometimes feels a little solitary, sometimes wonderfully so. Adjusting to the pace of home, re-working my definition of urgency and daily accomplishment, trying to keep the dishes done and the laundry caught up, trying to work in a shower once in a while.
But also: YOU SHOULD SEE MY LIST, Y’ALL. Budgets, closets, books, sewing, projects, purging, thrifting, cooking… half of me fighting for long hours of napping and dreamy baby-gazing and the other half barking tasks like a drill Sargent. This is the last maternity leave I’m likely to have– and possibly the most time away from work until I retire*– and both of me (dreamy mama and taskmaster) just want to make the most of it. Sometimes it is an ugly fight, but everyone eventually gets their say, and it tends to cost me my nap.
And what else?
Ran over my own keys in the pet store parking lot this weekned. And you thought it couldn’t be done!
The neighborhood free-range chicken has taken a particular shine to our front yard tree/ garden. As her shitting place.
Lovin’ the MOBY.
And up to my general scheming, as usual. Wheels turning, turning. Always.
A list of things my Granny says:
downtha (down at the)
(3/15/09) Edited to add:
Thanks to Mr. Littlebrother– can’t believe I forgot that one.
There’s been a lot going on around here. Tons of work, a little accomplishment, not much balance, more family loss, a sense of things totally falling apart (and also– weirdly– coming together), and really, not a minute of time to myself. A lot going on, for sure.
So instead of talking about any of that, I’d like to tell you about a sandwich– on homemade whole wheat with peanut butter, bananas, thin apple slices, a drizzle of honey and cinnamon, toasted–the very one we just ate on this gorgeous 65-degree Saturday in February.
And now, off to make: pita bread, a shopping list, a trip to the grocery, sense of everything.
hours in the car again this past weekend (hey, it beats our usual 10), up and back to E’burgh for the last of the’08 Christmases. It was an especially difficult one, as everyone is still so raw from A’s Mamaw’s death in November, but everyone kept their shit together for the most part and a good time was had by all. And as a bonus, I passed on my 24-inch Dancin’ Singin’ James Brown to a STOKED ten year old in the (lively) gift exchange. DSJB was originally a wedding gift from my brother, who reads this blog, and dude, before you get all hot under the collar about it: the Godfather of Soul was scaring the crap out of Birdy and he had to move on to a place where he would be loved. Okay.
Degrees in our house Thursday night, even though the thermostat was promising 72. Ice on the insides of the windows and sub-zero toilet seats. Frozen pipes to the washing machine. Wearing several pairs of socks over my tights, under my jeans. Birdy’s icicle fingers.
It got very cold in Tennessee– the coldest in 12 years or something crazy– right around the end of last week. It wasn’t any colder than what we knew as “normal” in Indiana, but we have softened up and thawed since then and DAMN, single didgets are brutal. And it seems our little old Southern heat pump agreed with us. The heating repair guy came out in his van and spent some time in the scary dirt basement region while I ran up and down the steps to flip breakers on and off (more responsibility than I was prepared for). He delivered a sorry prognosis.
Replace this whole part, he said.
$700, he said.
Wait, he said.
They don’t make that part anymore, he said.
Replace the whole thing? I said.
Yep, he said. Ob$cene amount, he said.
Wait it out? Miracle recovery? I said.
Take your chances, lunatic, he said.
Sounds like a plan, I said.
And lo and behold, when the temperature started to feel more like a Tennessee January than a Siberian one, the Little Heat Pump That Could? Totally DID. And we took off our coats and hats and thanked God above in advance for Birdy sleeping in her own warm toasty bed and not digging her little toes into our ribs.
The moral of this story: Sometimes old shit still works, but just part of the time and probably not when you really need it. But old shit does not require financing, just extra socks and sweaters and a decent space heater where you sleep.
A number between 6 and 10
percent paycut. Announced last Friday, the freezingest day, just before I left work to meet the gentleman about my failing heat pump. Asking your child to take off her mittens to eat dinner makes you feel one step away from the poor house, and doing the paycut math in your head while you serve the beans and rice* makes your kitchen feel even colder.
But! I have a job! And the people at that job are optimistic, positive. The cut is promised to be temporary. Kind things were said to me about the way I do my work, and truly, I am feeling quite happy there, finally comfortable. And hey, the heat came back on. Just put on another damn hat and wait it out, right?
*that’s not for dramatic effect, we just happened to be having beans and rice, but it did make things seem a little bit more desperate in my moment of hand-wringing.
I’m still alive out here, very much so, but I happen to also be in Indiana doing the Hoosier Holiday Hokey Pokey, eating cheese balls, a collection of spreads, and a wide variety of other bullshit non-foods.
beautiful. A. played guitar and sang during the service with his cousin and uncle, and the funeral procession took the long way through her small Indiana town, with people standing at the sidewalk outside of their homes in respect as we passed. Side streets were blocked off with banners, and the flag was at half mast. People were kind, others behaved poorly, it was crowded, it was joyful, it was mournful, it was family. And it was good to be in Mary’s house, though we’d never been in it without her there.
THE SIDE STORY:
We slept at Mary’s house on an air mattress in the back room in the freezing cold, under quilts we scavenged from the upstairs closet that may not have been unfolded since 1974. And no surprise, slept terribly and battled stabbing sinus pains and cement-quality congestion during the visitation and funeral the next morning. So imagine my relief when I found– and swallowed– a friendly Tylenol Allergy Sinus I discovered in the bottom of my purse while standing on the front porch of the funeral home. And imagine my horror when I turned the package over and read “nightime.” The rest of the day I was mildly stoned and not too upset about it.
Is a shameful mess, suitcase still loosely packed in the living room (where I’ve been putting on deodorant by the front door for a week), dishes in the sink, clothes everywhere. We’re replacing the kitchen faucet tomorrow if we can muster the energy– the faucet slowly disconnects from the sink every couple of days, the hot water handle is broken off and the sprayer is stuck at “on.” Also, the toilet is running, the back door frame is getting weirder, and I can’t even begin to list the other 80-year old elements of this house that could use some love, and yet still get none, as we have spent 8 of the last 12 weekends with one of us on the road to somewhere.
But damn. It is so good to be here. This morning I started and abandoned a grocery list, ended up dumping dried beans from one jar to another in the parlor with Bird. There are still beans all over the floor, and that was over 12 hours ago. And guess what? There they will stay, along with the laundry and the pet hair tumbleweeds, junk mail catalogs and piles of things I intend to read, renegade socks and shoes, all of it. To quote a friend, “I prefer to waller in my squalor.” At least for this weekend, while I celebrate what looks like the (at least temporary) end of our two-state commute.
is having surgery on Tuesday. We came home to find him– my 11 year old Bear Dog– with a very swollen ear, like some kind of poofy filled pastry attached to one side of his head. Turns out he has a hematoma– which would be a bruise on any other part of his body but on his little old ear there is no tissue to soak up the blood, causing this big pocket. The vet also pointed out a dangerously infected/ rotting tooth that has to go, so we will be spending our entire Christmas budget times two next week taking care of Sir Rottentooth Puffyears and his stinky old body. That sounds resentful, but I mean it with affection. He is both stinky and old, those are facts. Plus, he is family.
has had the two worst tantrums of her short life — and I do not exaggerate, I say WORST and I mean WORST– this past week, a result of 4 days of scanty parenting, absent bedtimes and a steady diet of crackers and bullshit during our trip to Indiana. I think she is back on track, but DUDE. I have seen the dark side, and it is terrifying.
THE GOOD NEWS:
Yes, we did! We came home from Indiana Tuesday afternoon and I went straight to work, then home to the demon-posessed version of my child, then onto the couch with a bottle of nyquil and only the strength to stay up long enough to see Ohio go blue on the map. And then, several hours later in the deep, deep dark of my cold medicine slumber, I received a “YES!” text from my friend Jen, and went back to sleep relieved and hopeful. The next day, my crushing head cold symptoms showed marked improvement. So yeah, things are lookin’ up all over the place.
… That’s what A’s sweet Mamaw’s been repeating since September. “Happy Happy Happy. I’m SO HAPPY!”
We saw her last weekend for her “Celebration”- a party she dreamed up on her own, right down to the music and balloon launch, when she learned about her cancer. When she addressed her crowd on Saturday, she said, “I just come here to LOVE somebody. And I just love you all SO GOOD!”
Yep, that pretty much says it.
We’ll miss Mary’s kooky stories, her open door, her kindness, her no-nonsense advice, her Christmas celebrations in March and her overall Mary-ness… if you knew her, you know.
Tonight, Bird said, “When Mamaw stops feeling sick, I want you guys to stop crying. Because I don’t want you to be sad.”
What a year.
So, after another trip to Urgent Care and many, many hours waiting to see a bona-fide opthamologist and a series of three waiting rooms full of elderly people with cataracts, my husband is fine, his sight has been restored, and the eye patch has been retired until the next ocular tragedy or costumed holiday, whichever comes first.
I’m still looking for the camera cable so I can share a photo or two. Our little catch-all office area is still a shambles but a more, uh, planned shambles, as we now have some actual piles of things that might really go together after we build the shelves we’ve promised ourselves. A. has separated all of “his” stuff from “my” stuff… editing and video and random cables and hard drives and nerds-only equipment over here, teeming piles of shit to be shredded, shit to be reviewed, shit to be paid, and general miscellaneous shit– oh, and the massive collection of daily finger paint masterpieces on thick construction paper–over there. Seeing as “my” computer doesn’t have internet, or electricity at the moment, I’m typing this on some kind of bozo keyboard that has editing symbols and colored keys instead of letters, and I must say I’m faring remarkably well. Mrs. Gibbs (high school typing teacher– we actually used typewriters. And corrective tape) would be proud of my mad blind typing skeels.
Anywho, just thought I’d share that I didn’t make bread this week and didn’t buy any either, and yet we have miraculously survived. I received my political bumper sticker of choice and continue to race home to check for my t-shirt daily, but alas, it does not arrive. I made a delicious thing from the October VT tonight that I didn’t expect to be quite so delicious, but hey, we were pleasantly surprised (served it over cous cous). Birdy has declared a tolerance for cous cous, and the new kid in her class at school seems to cause her mild stress by simply existing to this point without a working knowledge of the rules and culture of her beloved Red Building. I just spent an outrageous amount of money on 2 new dog beds and the big guy still insists on sleeping in his stinky old chair, which I have a desire to un-stink and about which he has a fierce re-stinking agenda. He is more underfoot than usual tonight, like the worst version of a needy, underfoot cat, if that cat weighed seventy pounds.
And another thing: I’m pregnant. You may know that already, because you know me outside of this blog or because I’ve not exactly been NOT hinting about it. We’re excited, we’re terrified, we’re freaking out about the cost of dueling childcare. We’re savoring the tail end of our three-pack days and preparing for a new life– both the literal human one that will keep us up all night and smell like a heavenly human biscuit, and the new life we’ll be navigating and fumbling with as everything changes in all six of the lives that are currently being lived under our little roof. I’m due April 28, almost ten weeks along at present. I’ll keep you posted.
And now, my other grandfather has become more and more sick, upsetting the delicate balance of health conditions that have somehow kept each other in check and allowed him to have pieces and parts replaced along the way without missing much more than a beat. But there’s been a decline, and a rapid one. He’s been in the hospital all but three weeks since January. All I’m hoping for is that he can come home to his house and sleep next to my Granny for just a little bit longer. Kind thoughts, please. It has been a rough year in the grandparent department.
We had a slew of people visit us from Indianapolis for a few days over the 4th, effectively filling our little house to noisy, joyful capacity (total bodies: 8 adults, 2 toddlers, 2 dogs, 1 cat, 1 fish. Plus 6 additional dinner guests on Friday.) Birdy had a fabulous time with her small friend P.,we laid on old blankets to watch fireworks in the park in our neighborhood and Bird spent half the time with her hands on top of her head, afraid the fireworks would fall on her. She and P. ate popsicles that stained their skin green until morning, despite heavy scrubbing. We all stayed up too late and ate too much. We talked about old times and how much things have changed. We laughed at my dog’s haircut. We waited in line for the one shower in my 80-year old house. We braved the heat.
I love to be the host of that kind of party. It was perfect.
I read something in a glossy home magazine recently about a woman who, of course, had some fabulously rustic summer home in, like, France or something, and it was all about her laid-back style of hosting (she doesn’t match towels!) (Mama says WTF, do people really match their towels?) and how she hosts these lounge-y weekends with fabulously simple dinners at an enormous table probably with fireflies and famously interesting people lolling around on hammocks with candles hanging from the trees, smoking fancy cigarettes and having a few too many glasses of wine, everyone jolly and singing a little too loudly and helping cook breakfast in the morning.
Well. Our style of hosting is more of a fend-for-yourself, you-know-where-the-band-aids-are, if-you-want-a-clean-shower-here’s-a-sponge model. And yet, we still have loads of guests year-round, so that must be somewhat appealing. Or at least not completely revolting. Anyway.
This woman in the magazine was talking about her steady stream of summer guests and how she felt it was good for her children as they grew up, that it encouraged spontaneity and joy de vivre, that observing an unscripted, uncensored moment around the grown-up table was healthy and made kids feel included, valued, one of the pack.
Recently, someone I respect very much wondered aloud if our constant visitors were causing stress to our little Bird. It was a part of a larger conversation about attention-seeking behaviors that really made me feel helpless and honestly, hurt my little feelings as a full-time worker bee who’s just trying her damndest to be a good mama.
Uh-oh. Shake it off.
Anyway. I believe that yes, Birdy does need very special one-one-one attention from us. And she also needs to be left alone (within earshot) to get lost in her little world of babies and songs and playdough pancakes. And I believe it’s good for her, on occasion, to be a valued member of a raucous bunch of good-natured and treasured friends, where everybody cooks and everybody parents, where people aren’t hanging on her every precious word and she can gain the confidence to strike up conversation with anyone, even (gasp) a grown-up, or feel loved enough by a non-family member to snuggle on the couch with her favorite grown up friend A.L., or discuss scarecrows in-depth with a plentifully tattooed photographer friend, or rub a pregnant guest’s belly and ask two hundred questions and never feel embarrassed, or too young, or insignificant. It’s good for her to have structure, yes, but it’s good for her to learn that you don’t always have to give a shit about bedtime. That sometimes things not going according to plan is the plan. That friends can be family and you can never be loved too much.
(Wish I would have thought to say that then.)