Monday, July 31, 2006

Love and Frustration

I love so much about Ellie right now. Her tiny shoes next to Daddy's huge ones on the shoe rack. The way she says, "Back!" while holding up her index finger and walking away from me, signaling "I'll be right back," but it's a lie and we both know it. She's just escaping the hairbrush. The way she is so attentive to her dolls, feeding them and rocking them, covering them with blankets and talking to them, diapering them and patting their backs.

But I'm afraid that I don't love everything that Ellie is into these days. For instance:
  • When she drinks from the dog's water bowl
  • When she plays in the dog's water bowl and puts stuff in there
  • When she spills the dog's water on the floor, then sits in the puddle, usually just before we need to leave the house
  • When she tells me that she doesn't need to potty, then goes in her diaper (or worse, if we're going diaperless)
  • When she grabs onto the toilet seat
  • When she puts things in the toilet while sitting on it (yesterday: her sock, today: her ponytail elastic)
  • When she throws dishes away in the kitchen trash
  • When she climbs into the tub and sits down, right after I've taken a shower (again, usually just as we're about to leave the house)
  • When she knocks all of the books off her bookcase, just to make a mess
  • When she pulls the floor lamps over and breaks them
Good times, good times with a toddler.

Also, typical times with a toddler. Times I treasure, even if it takes a few minutes (or hours) of reflection to remember to do so.

Sunday, July 30, 2006



Monday - Friday last week, we ate creative meals that involved ingredients from the back of the pantry, like the surprisingly spicy Italian vegetable soup I made on Thursday night. There was no meat to be found in our house. Before my book club meeting on Monday, I'd managed to pick up some eggs and milk, but hadn't had time to make a grocery list and do a full shopping trip to replace the frig and freezer supplies that we'd had to pitch after our last power outage.

Right now is the busiest time of the year at work for Paul and for me.

On Saturday afternoon, Paul had been at work all day, and Ellie and I finally made it to the grocery store. In the car on the way home, I noticed that the sky was looking pretty dark to the north. It was so, so hot, I looked forward to rain. It was 100 degrees, with humidity about equal that. (And so it remains.)

We arrived home, put away the groceries, and made up the guest bed for Grandma. Then the skies opened and the deluge came. I looked out the window and saw Grandma's truck in the driveway.

I told Ellie that Grandma was here - "Gamah! Gamah!" and opened the front door for her so that she could dash out in the rain and get soaked while she waited for her beloved Grandma to open the door and rescue her.

We'd no sooner gotten Grandma inside than the lightening began. And the power went out. Again.

My lasagna, garlic cheese bread, and sweet corn-on-the-cob celebratory dinner for the completion of Paul's project at work became a steamy spaghetti and corn dinner. (I can cook on my gas stove in the dark, but the oven is controlled digitally.)

Then I sent Paul back out for ice for the frig and freezer. We went to a blessedly cool movie.

I spent most of the night lying in bed awake, sweating and uncomfortable, thinking about all the spoiling food.

This morning, I took the food over to our friends' house, where I discovered that the frozen chicken had managed to thaw completely overnight, even in the freezer with all the other frozen goods and ice. Not good.

And I was very, very irritable. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one in a mood.

Church was wonderfully air conditioned. The all-church picnic in the park afterwards was not. Then Paul and I both had work to do, so we headed to our offices. Since my office was nicely air-conditioned and deserted, Mom and Ellie came with me.

By the time I'd finished my work, our power was, thankfully, back on.

I should be grateful, and I am.

But I'm also pissed. I mean, it was a thunderstorm. Nothing out of the ordinary. And it was the third time in less than a year that we've had a power-outage we can measure in units of Days, rather than Minutes. (We get lots and lots of several-second outages all year long.)

I often rant about cell phone companies, and how people pay such an exorbitant amount every month for the privilege of using a mobile phone that sounds tinny and goes in and out of range with no warning. We don't accept that kind of service with our other utilities, I rage.

But it seems that we do. More than 100 years after the invention of power lines, Ameren still can't keep electricity flowing to my home, in an accessible, urban area, when it rains. Unacceptable.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Count

16 weeks pregnant:
  • Spontaneous belly touches: 2
  • Comments about how freakishly large I am already: 3
  • Follow-up queries as to whether or not I'm "sure," or if I might be carrying twins: 2
When it's people I like who touch me, I generally don't mind. But the "My, how big you're getting!" comments are going to wear thin very soon.

One great thing about pregnancy: ability to pretend that all that tummy fat is baby and comfortably wear stretchy, high-waisted pants for several months.

One of many, many not-so-great things about pregnancy: people feeling quite comfortable talking about how "huge" you are and asking quite personal questions about weight gain, etc. I am much less tolerant of all this when it's a stranger who's asking.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I'm for Josh Blue!

I am particularly bad at blogging when we have people visiting, even when I have all the possible advantages: a laptop and wireless internet access. It doesn't get a lot easier than sitting on the couch with my computer on my lap, each evening a little further away from me. By the time this child is born, I'll need go-go-gadget arms to reach my keyboard.

I'm 16 weeks along, and all is well. My blood pressure is 110/70 and New Baby's heart rate is a leisurely 135. All you believers in the old wives' tale may now predict comfortably.

We've had people here at the house for the last couple of nights because, contrary to Ameren's best promises, chunks of the greater St. Louis area are still without power. So my friend Lisa, her husband, and their adorable kid stayed here for a couple of nights. This was great fun for the children. I'm pretty sure that "Ollibear" was the first name of another child that Ellie learned, and that "Ellie" was one of Oliver's first words, after other critical terms like "baaa" (ball) and "mo" (universally: more).

You are more than welcome to come back tomorrow night, folks, if your power's still out. And I promise that it won't be one of those kinds of slumber parties that we were speculating about earlier.

Still, it's nice to have a quiet evening at home tonight. I'm all caught up on the email on my new computer (I'm pretending that all the email on my old computer doesn't exist. I'm about 200 messages behind.) The answering machine is empty. My work email is only at half a screen of actionable items. Sure, there's laundry to do and there are groceries to buy. But the house is neat and Ellie's asleep and life is good.

So I think I'll finish watching this episode of Last Comic Standing, my one reality show indulgence, and head off to bed myself. !Buenos Noches!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fizzle, Melt, Chill

OK, here's what happened.

Paul's parents arrived on Friday night and stayed until Wednesday noon. I worked a little longer than usual that afternoon, while Paul stayed home with Ellie (who had a cold with fever). I got home and heated up some dinner while Paul gave Ellie her bath.

We'd just sat down to eat when we noticed that there was lightening to the north. Then the trees to the south went flat. Then the power went out. Then the storm struck. It was a quick Midwestern thunderstorm, didn't seem too unusual. We spent a little time in the basement with the hurricane lamp when the tornado sirens were going off, then opened all the windows as the rain passed and went to bed early.

On Thursday morning, as the outside temperature climbed higher than the inside temperature, I closed up the house and made plans. Both of Ellie's therapists cancelled her home visits, so we went to Walgreens (power!) the Post Office (power!) the gas station (power!) and the mall (power!). I was really glad to have air conditioned places to hang out, but I think it's pretty annoying when all the local homes are without electricity while the local businesses are lit up like football stadiums. Stadia?

Ellie fell asleep on the way home from the mall and took an uncomfortable nap in her bed. After that, no air conditioned businesses or cars were enough to make her happy. She was hot and she was pissed. This matched my mood nicely. My mom stayed home, glued to The Weather Channel all day, and called me regularly from Indiana with updates.

"Now they've called in the National Guard to help evacuate the elderly and people who can't get out on their own!"

I called Paul. I called him again. I left messages. He was very busy at work, where there was plenty of air conditioning. When he got home, he found two very hot and cranky women who were half-packed, sweaty, and ready to leave town.

So we took off for his family's annual reunion in rural Iowa a day early, and spent a cool, rainy night in a hotel in Kirksville, MO. With air conditioning.

Our electricity came back at some point over the weekend. Wahoo! And, somehow, the fish even survived. (Lizzi the pug came with us.) But, as usual, I was frustrated by having to throw away all the food in my frig and freezer, especially the huge box of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The frig hasn't been this clean since, well, since last August's big 3 day power outage.

I used to love thunder storms as a kid. Now they make things really uncomfortable. Or deadly. And Parents magazine tells me that I should take my children inside as soon as I see the first silent bolts of lightening in the distance, not letting them go back out to splash in the puddles until well after the storm has ended. It's amazing I've lived this long.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I Like My In-Laws

This morning, I was falling asleep during a meeting about our European Dentistry publications. I stepped out to buy myself a cuppa coffee and a bagel as an energizer, and had my first embarrassing pregnancy question. Last week I had my first spontaneous belly touch, so I suppose it's time for the questions.

"How long do you have left?" the cashier asked.

"Quite a long time, actually. I'm in my 4th month."

"You're kidding me!"

No! And I'm nothing on my friend Jeni, who has a toddler Ellie's age, 1-year-old twins, and is due in December with #4. Her poor little body has been pregnant for most of the past 3-1/2 years, and she looks about 7 months along already. Her back already hurts. It's going to be a long 5 months for her, I think.

But I did "pop" a bit this weekend. It was Saturday and I felt awfully uncomfortable. I didn't eat much. I went to lie down in my room. I started feeling better, so I got back up and put myself together to rejoin society. Ugh. Other than getting vertical, what had I changed? Ah.

While I was lying on my bed, I'd unfastened my shorts. It seems that they are suddenly too tight. It looks like I might be almost ready to jump from clothing two-sizes-too-big into maternity pants. Already! But the large, shapeless maternity things and the kangaroo pouch pants are too big still. Bah humbug.

Ellie's been feverish, congested, and up at night coughing again. We're headed down to Children's later today to make sure that her pneumonia is gone. (I hope so I hope so) But in the meantime, there's no school today for the recently feverish. It's worked out very nicely that Paul's parents are here visiting this week. Right now, I'm at work (waiting for my internet connection and email to come back up so that I can work), Paul's at work, his dad's installing a new vanity in our guest bathroom, and his mom is watching Ellie. Perfect!

That's not why I love them, it's just an example of how thoughtful they are. What do you do for summer vacation if you live in the beautiful Wyoming mountains? Apparently, you drive to muggy, hot St. Louis to help out "the kids." And the kids will appreciate every minute of it. Especially the cooking and dish washing and the no-longer-dripping faucet. And the Ellie watching.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Big Sister

May 7 (from the journal)

We told Ellie pretty much right away. We knew that we'd be talking about the pregnancy a lot and wanted to make sure that she was in the loop as much as possible.

As with any will-be-three-year-old, I'm sure that the reality of a new sibling will be a shock to her. But she seemed to get the idea right away.

I bought a book at Borders and she asked me to read it twice in a row, then looked through it herself. Later, she had Paul read it to her again.

The parts that seem to interest her most are:

  • The drawings of baby in mommy's tummy (growing larger each frame!)
  • Grandma and Grandpa coming to visit when the baby comes
  • Helping Daddy give Baby a bath and put on its diaper
She also seems really interested in the parts of the story about "when Ellie was a baby" and the idea of bringing all of Ellie's baby things up from the basement for her little sibling. It doesn't seem to bother her at all that "Ellie" is a brunette boy and none of the other characters look anything like the rest of us, either.

They Gleam and I'm Content

My big goal for tonight was to get the bathrooms cleaned. They were in desperate need of a really good cleaning. While I was nauseous for weeks and weeks the last thing I wanted to consider was scrubbing bathroom gunk, so we had to make do with the occasional Clorox wipe over the surfaces. And that is not cleaning in my house. Except when company's at the door. Then it can do in a pinch.

But we have a system for this. Paul lowers the barrier to cleaning entry by preparing my bucket of water and Pine Sol, using the precise recipe that I share with him every time. I have to remind him of the chemical formula, because his natural tendency is to believe that to be effective warm water and Pine Sol should be in a 1:1 ratio. And last time he tried that, I ended up locking myself in the bedroom with the ceiling fan going and the window open, still with a big pregnant headache from the reek hours later.

So he prepares the bucket, I remove everything from the bathrooms, clean the sinks et al first, then the toilets. When I'm not pregnant, I do the tub and shower in between. Toilets go last, of course, with their own sponge. Then Paul comes in and scrubs the floors by hand. Lately, he's doing the shower/tub too because I'm lazy.

Tonight he threw off the rhythm by deciding to go downstairs to the basement and clean his own bathroom. That room is nearly a year and a half old, and I'm not sure it's ever really been clean. Now it is! Stunning.

Anyway, while I waited for him to finish cleaning downstairs, I laid on the couch and read Parents. And my stomach felt weird. I usually try to ignore this type of thing, but I was procrastinating so I decided to focus on it. And I realized that I was feeling . . . movement. And not, I think, the bowel kind.

It's a whole different experience this time around, with a male OB. For one thing, he's nice and has an actual bedside manner, unlike my last doc. For another, he actually asks me things, which still surprises me. At my last visit, he asked if I was feeling the baby move.

"Oh! Sometimes I think I am. But I figure that I must be wrong because it's way too early, right?"

And he told me not to worry if I wasn't feeling anything yet (it is early) or if I don't feel anything regularly for a while. But he's heard patients tell him what they feel at this stage, and with not-first pregnancies, some women say that they are feeling movement this early and he believes them. He believes them! The women!

I believe I was feeling the baby move tonight while I was lying on the couch reading quietly. It felt great.

I didn't call Paul upstairs to share the experience, though. For one thing, it's totally cool that his bathroom is clean. For another thing, it will be many many weeks before he can feel the movement himself.

If I recall correctly, his ability to feel the baby move through my abdominal walls happens sometime after that strange minor miracle involving my little layer of soft belly fat.

At some point in the midst of pregnancy, the softness that waxes and wanes but is always on my gut no matter what I weigh or how many sit-ups I do disappears. It doesn't vanish from my body, but it migrates South for the winter and spends some months hiding at the nadir of my distended abdomen, where it's easily hidden and I can't see it no matter what I do.

During those months, I'm prone to lifting my shirt and allowing people to pound on my belly. "Hard as a rock!" I cry, as proud as if I'd earned a 6-pack at the gym.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pizza, Pizza Daddio

Sears came to steam clean our carpets at 8:00 this morning.

I always dread the cleaning absolutely everything in the house before the carpets can be cleaned part. It seems, at times, in our toy and paper and clothes cluttered house, like an impossible task.

But I'm wrong. The cleaning up goes quickly. It's cake compared to the next part: living on wet carpet with a two-year-old when it's rainy and humid outside. Oh, yeah, baby, that's a challenge. And the soles of my feet itch; I'm trying not to think too hard about what's in the "carpet protectant" they sprayed all over everywhere before leaving.

I try to ignore it when Paul rubs the soles of his bare feet then doesn't go immediately to wash his hands. I can't ignore it when Ellie decides to suck on her toes as I'm trying to rock her to sleep. Yuck.

This evening, for the first time all day, Ellie seemed interested in a brief session of independent play. Wahoo! I sat down on the couch with the end of my novel for a few minutes. (Friend Elizabeth, the only reason I am not going to beat you with this book next time I see you is because you're not my sister Jessica, with whom I'm been having the same fight for about 15 years. She too loves to give me books where every conceivable horrible thing happens to the characters.)

I heard Ellie move from the front room into the kitchen, making her way through the obstacle course of miscellaneous chairs, benches, and tables cluttering our small kitchen until the carpet dries.

Suddenly, she was beside me, leaning casually against the couch, and I looked at her. She was eating a slice of mushroom pizza as if it were nothing out of the ordinary. (I ordered a pizza for our dinner tonight and we ate it outside on the patio, probably tracking back in sand and dust, dammit. Cooking in the "kitchen" seemed impossible. The remains of the pie were out on the counter. I often top half the pizza with mushrooms as a big NO BOYS ALLOWED sign for my husband.)

I know she's getting to be such a big girl, but it amazed me to see her walk right up to me (over the clean wet carpet!) with a slice of pizza she'd procured herself, holding it by the crust and eating from the tip just like I would, like most grown people do. We're still at the stage when an adult provides Ellie with most of what she eats.

How big is Ellie? So big!

I guffawed, which startled her into dropping a piece of saucy topping onto the carpet.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Still Here. Also, Thanks!

Blogging! I used to blog regularly. 5 days a week, in fact! But lately . . .

I do still have things to say, I think. And I have some actual journal entries to transcribe, from when - at Paul's request - I wasn't blogging about my pregnancy. (And that made it very hard to say anything here at all, I might add.)

But lately I find myself less willing to push myself past exhaustion, and instead I often go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Also, I'm working on a thing. A piece of writing. Creative nonfiction. Perhaps, hopefully, one day, a book length thing. A book. About being pregnant and finding out about Ellie's diagnoses, and deciding to continue the pregnancy and what that was like, and about the heart surgery and what that was like, and starting her therapies and what that was like for me. A book. About my life.

To my surprise, I've found that when I'm writing about me there, I have less of an urge to write about me here. But I want to keep doing both; I think the daily habit of sitting down and writing about my thoughts each day is important. So I'll be back. I might just be a little sporadic until I fall back into the daily rhythm.

Ira Sukrungruang has a word for the practice of sitting down in the chair and just writing: Assitude. I like it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

It Takes Two to Make it Outta Sight

I sound just like my 2-year-old, or she sounds just like me.

"Hey, baby! Hey, baby!" she says, with her head to my stomach.

"Hey, Baby, hey, Baby," I say, almost inaudibly, my arms wrapped around myself.

I am 13 weeks pregnant, due on January 10th. The new baby is doing well: the appropriate size for its age, growing at a nice rate, apparently all the necessary parts in place, steady heartbeat. And the typical number of chromosomes in its cells.

I am the sort of person who needs to know as much as possible, to be as prepared as possible, to control as many variables as possible. I am the sort of woman who believes in the appropriateness of available prenatal testing for those who, like me, need or want to know.

Now I know, just like I knew last time, but earlier and differently, though with the same result:

I'm still pregnant, I'm still scared, but I'm also excited. I can't imagine what it will be like this time. It's a whole new world. Two children!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


One of my favorite things about Ellie right now is her generosity. "May I have a hug?" or "Why don't you give Mommy a kiss?" is almost always enough to pull her from whatever she's doing and send her running for the appropriate person to give generously of her affection. And once she's started sharing her love and gotten such positive feedback, she often feels compelled to continue around the circle, hugging everyone or giving every creature - Lizzi included - the chance to participate in a few bars of "Row Row Row Your Boat."

Ellie enjoyed the community fireworks display we went to see on Sunday night, after we had a BBQ with a few friends over at our house. We spread out our blanket on the ground, and she happily sat on it, looking up at the fireworks exploding just across the street. She moved to lie against her daddy, then to cuddle in my lap, then with just her head in my lap, then leaning against her diaper bag, legs curled demurely beside her, then, finally, lying on the blanket with her head on the bag, completely relaxed, enjoying the show, enjoying the people around us.

She fell asleep in the car on the way home, and when Paul went in to check on her later, he found her sitting up at the foot of her bed, fast asleep.

Yesterday, we went to the Webster Groves Independence Day Parade, and Ellie enjoyed that too. We liked pointing out the firetrucks and the police officers, the marching band and the horses. Paul had to name the soldiers for her, because as soon as the first marines rounded the corner in their desert fatigues, I got choked up.

It is, alas, an election year, so the parade was a bit of a campaign event. Ellie didn't mind; she happily accepted stickers and flags, pamphlets and buttons from candidates from both parties (some went directly into the bottom of the stroller as soon as she was done with them, others were affixed to her shirt until she was ready to remove them).

Last night we attended another BBQ, and again Ellie fell asleep on the way home, this time as it began to storm. Paul and I spent a quiet evening at home while the rain pounded our house; we're hoping for a chance to see more fireworks tonight, after the rain delay.

Sure the fireworks and parade we saw were kind of lame, by adult standards. But it's amazing to enjoy them all by watching a 2-year-old who's experiencing these things through eyes that are too young to be jaded. As a gift of her diagnosis, perhaps her joy in these simple pleasures will never end. And I let that be a lesson to me, whenever I think of it. She causes me to think of things like that every day, every day.