Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Follow-Up

Happy Friday! It's Halloween weekend, which means that all of us parents are bound be be half-insane by Sunday night. Between the costume paraphernalia, the parties, and the trick-or-treating, we've got our hands full. And don't forget the candy, staying up late, and that oft-underestimated parental nightmare: The Hype. Good luck with all of it. May your child's stockings not tear as you pull them on, already late for that party.

Also this weekend is Daylight Saving Time. I've already done a practice run-through, so I think I am ready. Still, I'm not making any plans for Sunday, just in case.

You remember how I confessed to dropping Nathan off at the YMCA's Child Watch area so that I could sit around in the lobby with my laptop? Well, not only did Nathan have a great time playing with the other little kids there, but I got a bonus Christmas present idea when I came to retrieve him and saw him playing with a little tool bench toy. The wonderful babysitters told me that he had been playing with it happily for over 30 minutes, which gave me the mom-equivalent of a cash register cha-ching in my head. Hmmm...if I bought him one of these, would he play with it at home for long stretches like that? Well, you know I intend to find out! I'm also thinking of getting him one of those Tag Junior reading thingies so that he can sit with a book and wave the little sensor-mabob over the words and pictures and be entertained.

I remember when they first came out with toys that would read to children (Teddy Ruxpin, shudder), and I judged. "Nice," I snarked, "Whatever you do, lazy-ass, don't read to your own kid. Buy a creepy robot-bear to do it for you." Um, yeah. That was before I had three kids, one of whom craves adult attention every second of the day. I've spent so many hours working with Nathan to engage him and get him talking socially that now I am ready to hand over the reigns to any creepy robot toy, wand, or laser-thingamajig if it will give me ten minutes to take a shower or (gasp!) read a magazine.

I am still loving my $6 sweatpants, and in fact find myself fantasizing about them throughout the day as my jeans get pinchy and the chilly autumn wind whistles right through the Target denim. My sweatpant manifesto proclaimed that I would be putting them on before my husband came home if he was working late, but now I find myself grabbing them out of the closet as soon as I've picked the kids up from 3:00. On the days when we don't have playdates, errands, or swim lessons to shlep to, and we are settled in right after school, I'm putting those suckers right on. Sorry, babe.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A post that manages to reference Popeye

Now that I've told you about the dumb moments of my weekend, let me tell you something nice that happened: I went to a MOMS Club workshop and got to see my NY friends who had traveled down for the occasion. I "talk" to these ladies all the time via Facebook and email, but only see them in-person twice a year, at MOMS Club functions.

Though I hardly see them, they've had a major impact on my life. I won't get into the emotional stuff about how they are inspirational and all that - I don't want to trigger your gag reflex as I wax Hallmark-y. But I can tell you how they've influenced me in a cultural sense.

Two years ago, at a regional luncheon, we first got to know each other and instantly clicked. I'm usually shy and awkward when I talk to people, especially new people, but somehow I felt instantly comfortable in their presence. They just got me.

Toward the end of the night I must have whined about how it wasn't fair that they all lived close together in NY while I lived all the way in Massachusetts, because one of them plopped her Mac in my lap and demanded that I sign up for Facebook. I knew little about FB and felt a little unsure about its usefulness, but I signed up. Now, I can't imagine living without it.

Score one for the NY Peeps.

The next time I saw them, they were all a-flutter about those Twilight books, watching trailers for the first movie on their laptops and discussing which "team" they were on, Edward's or Jacob's. Inside, I rolled my eyes a little. Teen vampire stories, really? It seemed so weird. But I love and respect these women, so I thought that if they liked it, maybe it was worth a shot. I read the first Twilight book and remained unimpressed. I joked around with people about how lame the whole phenomenon was. Then I read the second Twilight know, just to see what would happen to the characters...and I was hooked. I read all of the books in the series and Netflixed the movie while Jason was traveling.

Score two for the NY Peeps.

And then this past weekend, they invited me to crash in their room, slumber party-style. I was so excited...until one of them brought out a True Blood DVD. I was exasperated. I mean, isn't obsessing over vampire books and TV shows the 21st century-version of the soap opera and bon-bon devouring housewife stereotype? I wanted to pass on watching, but they were all into it, and I wanted to be with them, so I watched. Well, it took just about five seconds for me to be so immersed in that show that I almost forgot to breathe. And now I've gone and downloaded the first book in the series onto my Kindle, a book I think about during the day as I'm driving the kids to school and shampooing my hair.

Score three for the NY Peeps.

What I've learned from all of this is that I should quit being so afraid of becoming a stereotype. I should quit worrying about what things I like say about me.

In the words of that sage philosopher Popeye, I am what I am.

I like watching soap operas. I record them on the DVR and watch them in marathons while Jason's away, or I'll watch a single episode here and there while paying the bills or doing some other random task - the familiar characters keep me company.

I like reading and watching vampire stories. Maybe it's not high art, but it's fun fantasy and it's easier for me to relax at the end of the day with one of these books than with Dickens' Hard Times.

I like watching reality shows like America's Next Top Model, So You Think You Can Dance, and Project Runway. And I get psyched about craptastic teen dramas like 90210 and Gossip Girl.

I like goofing around on the internet (a practice Jason and I call "gweeping" for some reason). I think it's fun to see what people are up to via Facebook - it's the perfect way for a phone-phobe like me to keep up with her friends.

I like fake shopping in catalogs. I browse through the pages and tear out the ones that have something on it that I'd like to buy, whether it's a toy for one of the kids, a pair of curtains for the living room, or a sweater for myself. I even organize the torn pages into a tabbed folder in case I ever want to look at them again. I do this because I have a hard time sitting still, just staring at the TV without doing some kind of "busy work," and also because before I did this I actually bought all of that stuff. This way, I get the thrill of shopping, of finding that perfect thing, without really pulling out the wallet. Once the page is torn and filed, I know that I can go back to it and make the purchase for real if I want it that badly, but I rarely do. Instead, I exclaim, "Look at this old-fashioned train set! I'm gong to fake-buy this for Nathan's birthday!" Jason doesn't even make fun of me for all this, probably because he prefers the fake buy to the real one.

I'll own up to all of these hobbies and interests because I am less afraid now: if you don't like me because I admit to knowing who Chuck Bass is, well, then I guess that's too bad for both of us. I owe this new-found confidence to my NY Peeps, who showed me that a stay-at-home mom can be intelligent, responsible, valuable, respected...and a Twilight fan, all at the same time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The blue hands mystery

So, I told you about being tricked into thinking it was the start of Daylight Savings Time when it wasn't, causing me to blow numerous obligations and disappoint multiple people on Sunday morning. I'm still reeling over this weird mistake - who doesn't know what time it is?

But you know what? That was not even the dumbest thing that happened to me that day. Here's what else:

On the way home from Annabelle's game, I grabbed some Dunkin' Donuts iced coffees for the grown-ups and some kind of apple pastry-things for the kids. We were all sitting around the kitchen table enjoying our treats when I suddenly noticed that my hands - particularly my fingers - had turned blue. I must have made some kind of noise about this, because the next thing I knew, Jason and I were both standing up, on high-alert, trying to figure out why my fingers looked dead. I stripped off my shoes and socks: nope, toes were whitish-pink as usual. Jason noted that my lips were a little pale, and we immediately (but silently) started jumping to all kinds of medical conclusions. I was baffled that my hands didn't feel particularly cold or numb or pins-and-needlesey - when you have a major circulatory issue that makes your fingers turn blue, shouldn't you be able to feel something weird going on there?

I sat back down at the table, flexing and rubbing my hands together, trying to get the blood flowing back into the Smurfy digits. Annabelle started to whimper in concern. Jason started Googling and Web-MDing to figure out the possible whys and what to dos. Mad and Nathan kept eating their pastries.

Jason called down the hallway to me: "Try washing your hands!" I agreed that some warm water and rubbing might do the trick, so I got under the faucet and washed with gusto. Sure enough, my fingers looked just about normal again.

My husband returned to the table with a diagnosis: I had Raynaud's Phenomenon, a vascular disease that can cause fingers and/or toes to turn blue in times of cold or stress. I came to terms with my new medical condition quickly, recalling strange pains in my right hand over the last couple of weeks. And, yeah, I certainly had been both stressed and cold that morning - I'd run out without a coat and shivered through the whole Pop Warner game.

It all fit. I started to envision myself in a rubber Raynaud's survivor bracelet ("Live Blue!"), plastering my van with blue ribbon magnets, and leading a talk about overcoming Raynaud's discomfort at the next MOMS Club meeting.

By now, the kids were bored with the whole scene and had migrated to the room with the TV. Clearly, Mom wasn't dying.

Then, my hands got a little wet from my iced coffee cup and I rubbed them on my jeans as I often do to warm them. As I had for an hour straight at the game that morning just before coming home.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

Yes, my hands turned blue as I rubbed them on my jeans.

Turns out my hands were not blue from some weird syndrome out of a House episode. It was just the dye rubbing off of my jeans.

And that fifteen-minute escapade was how I out-dumbed the Daylight Savings Debacle.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday morning surprise

It was Sunday morning, and I was in that brief half-waking, half-sleeping state when worries do not yet clog your mind and quicken your pulse. I noticed that sunlight was peeking through the blinds and, surprised, I wondered how late it was. With one eye open, I looked over toward the clock - it was 6 something, and no peeps were coming from Nathan's room, so I rolled back under the covers in delight.

A little while later, I woke again and noticed that it was REALLY bright in the bedroom. Panicked, I looked at the clock again, but it read only 7:10. I elbowed Jason and exclaimed that it was very bright in the room for such an early hour - usually it's still pretty dark when we wake up around 7. I quickly concluded that it was the start of Daylight Savings Time, which made sense because our alarm clock is supposed to be some kind of "smart clock" that automatically resets itself when Daylight Savings Time starts and ends. I was a little surprised that I hadn't heard any reminders about DST, but hey - I'd been away for the weekend and hadn't been watching any TV or goofing around on the internet, so it was possible that I'd missed it.

When my clock read 7:34, Annabelle burst into our room, wearing her cheer uniform and an anxious face. "Mom! It's 8:34 - weren't we supposed to be at the field at 8?" I gave Jason a knowing look and launched into a lengthy explanation of what Daylight Savings Time was and why we still had about 20 minutes before we needed to leave.

I kept lazing around and chatting with Jason for a few more minutes before reluctantly getting dressed. As I was putting my shoes on, Jason said, "Are you sure it's Daylight Savings Time? You should check. The computer clock would say the correct time."

I checked my laptop: it read 8:44.

Oh, shit.

I googled Daylight Savings Time 2009. It said "November 1."

Oooooooh, shit.

The clock, purchased several years ago, had not received the memo when Daylight Savings Time dates were changed, so it had set the hour back on the wrong date. Smart clock, my ass.

Jason jumped out of bed and started working on Anna's ponytail while I simultaneously brushed my teeth, smell-checked yesterday's bra off the floor, and looked for the team manager's cell phone number. Not only were we going to miss practice and possibly be late for the start of the football game, but I had also missed my volunteer shift at the raffle table.

As Annabelle started to wail that Dad wasn't doing her hair right and that she'd known we were late all along, I connected with the team manager. "How far away are you?" she asked, "We're doing photos right now! Bring your form to the back field - we're about to do the team photo - we'll wait for you."

Ah, right! It was picture day to boot. Of course.

Cursing, I ran out to the van with no coat and no keys, a crying cheerleader trailing behind me. "Get in!" I barked. Then, "Shit! Keys!"

Five seconds later, I re-emerged from my house after dropping several f-bombs at my husband, with keys in hand, but still no camera, coffee, checkbook, or coat.

I defied the posted speed limit signs and made it to the field at warp speed. Annabelle suffered through a bogus pep talk about "pulling it together" even as her mother's voice cracked with emotion.

We arrived, and I was full-on crying behind my sunglasses, in shame, embarrassment, and most of all, frustration. Last game of the season and no camera? Picture day and ill-constructed Dad-ponytail? Well-prepared, responsible daughter and day-ruining Mom? It was all so upsetting.

As I crouched on the ground, haphazardly filling out the photography order form, desperately trying to hide the fact that I, a grown woman, was crying at cheer practice, my daughter's teammates and their moms rallied around her to get her smiling. I felt overwhelmed with love for all of these people. They did what I couldn't, and within a minute Annabelle was laughing and joining her mates in the team photo.

The girls then ran to the football field, ready to cheer on their football-playing teammates. I looked on with relief as the adrenaline finally shut off and the full body blush gave way to my natural pale skin. I volunteered in the Snack Shack to make up for blowing off my shft at the raffle table. At halftime, Annabelle was not a "base" in the stunting group as usual because she had missed the pre-game practice. But! She got to do a cartwheel right in front of the stunt groups instead!

And so, I was forgiven. By my daughter, her team, and by myself.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sweatpant justice

While shopping at Target on Friday I spotted something I never imagined could excite me so: a big rack of Hanes Her Way sweats in all different colors. The big picture-sign above the shelves of fleece informed me that these cozy pieces were just $6 each, and the woman in the picture looked so comfy and happy.

So I bought a couple of sets. Now these are not clothes you'd actually wear to the gym. No, women must be wearing tighter-fighting yoga or running pants with some kind of coordinating tank and zip-front jacket when sporting gym clothes in public. It's the code. These sweats are more the old-fashioned type: a boxy, unfitted sweatshirt with loose-fitting straight-leg sweat pants in mix-and-match colors like black, gray, and purple. These are the sweats I remember from childhood, minus the elastic cuff at the bottom of the pants-leg. Apparently no one wants to go that retro.

I was so excited about buying these (Only $6 per piece! Comfy and warm for these chilly autumn nights!) that I immediately washed them when I got home, eager to wear them later that night. (This is significant because I had mulitple laundry piles waiting patiently for their turn to be washed, and I shockingly let these sweats cut the line.)

Jump to 7:30 that night. I've tucked the kids into bed, and I am deciding which TV show to watch while waiting for Jason to get home from work, decked out in my cute little jeans that make my bum look smallish. I'm still wearing my bra and a nice shirt, too, so that I will still look presentable when he gets home. (Overall, still closer to Roseanne on the done-up scale than to Donna Reed, but trying, anyway.) The minutes tick by as I squirm in my uncomfortable clothes, trying to relax and enjoy another gross-out episode of CSI:Miami. My mind keeps returning to thoughts of the sweats, washed, dried, and folded neatly in my closet. But I resist putting them on and wait for Jason.

And wait.

By the time he gets home, it's close to 10:30, and I give him a quick hello, barely listen to some stories about his day, and then race to the closet to change into the sweats. He saw me in the jeans and shirt, right? As long as he saw me, even if only for five minutes, I get credit, right?

But credit from whom? He probably didn't even notice. And I spent two-and-a-half hours cooped up in tight, pinchy jeans when I could have been lounging in soft, cozy fleece.

So from now on, husbands of the world, a new rule: if you're going to get home from work after 9pm, please do not expect to see your wife's cute little denim bottom and perky little push-up bra. Instead, you can expect to see your wife in amorphous $6 sweats. But, hey - at least she'll be soft to snuggle.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Working out, or hardly working?

I just checked Nathan into Child Watch at the YMCA, where he is happily playing with other tots whose yoga-pantsed, stainless-steel-water-bottle-carrying moms have dropped them off, too. It's that time of the morning, when the dads have gone off to work and the moms who stay at home with their children hit the Y to whip their post-baby bodies into shape.

With nothing on the calendar for this morning, I woke up with the idea to come here so that I wouldn't have to spend another day hanging around the house, trying to do laundry while Nathan follows me around, asking the same 3 questions over and over. ("What are we gonna have?" "Where are we gonna go to?" "What are we gonna do?") And after dropping all that cash on furniture last weekend, I figured I should lay low on the going-out front.

So, I put on some sweatpants and sneakers, made some tea for my travel mug, and headed to the gym. Well, not the gym, exactly. I never really intended to work out here this morning, but I figured I'd dress the part so I don't stand out. Instead of going into the Wellness Center and toning my ass on an elliptical, I sat my ass right down in one of the overstuffed leather chairs in the corner of the lobby with my laptop. Free Wi-Fi! (Y-Fi?)

And here I sit, feeling equal parts guilty and smug. But mostly just happy to be sitting, quietly enjoying my tea. Hey, you've got to grab these moments however ... and wherever ... you can.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Follow-Up

It's Friday, y'all! I told you it'd come fast this week, and it sure did. So, here are some updates on past stories:

First, I want to thank you all again for the amazing support you gave me while I was going through my miscarriage. Last week was ROUGH, but this week has been all about keeping busy and moving on. I'm feeling good, although I do seem to have developed a bit of an angry edge. (On the inside, so don't worry that I'm going to cut you or anything.) I thought I recalled hearing something about anger being one of the 7 stages of grief, so I Wikipedia'd them, figuring anger must be the last one before the Being Over It stage. Turns out it's actually only step 3 in the process. Ouch.

But wait! I seem to be in hyperdrive, because I am simultaneously experiencing:

Anger: I'm swearing in my head a lot more than usual, especially when I see baby stuff. Fuck off, Pooh booties.

Reflection: Been thinking about the crazy ride we were on when we discovered that we were surprisingly expecting and then surprisingly not expecting anymore. Wondering whether we'll decide to try again or keep things as they are.

The Upward Turn: Experiencing a welcome lift in mood and productivity - for example, I cleaned for the whole morning while Nathan was at playgroup on Tuesday...typically something I'd do only to avoid embarrassment if company's coming over, or to avoid playing another game of Go Fish with Nathan.

Reconstruction and Working Through: I finally decided what I wanted and bought furniture for the living room, family room, and kitchen on Monday, and am currently investigating window treatments. Thinking about personal and "professional" (i.e. blog) goals. Noticing that my body feels back to normal. (Bye, bye, bigger boobs.)

Acceptance and Hope: I accept that this kind of thing happens. A lot. And I hope that it won't ever happen to me again. For closure, I morbidly peed on a stick yesterday, and I saw only the one lonely pink line, when last week there'd been two. I'm a visual kind of person, so this creepy maneuver helped me turn the page.

So there you have it: proof that women can multi-task anything, even grief.

In other news, Romeo accidentally injured Annabelle in school yesterday and he felt terrible. He seems like a pretty nice kid, actually. For a player. He kept apologizing (although it was an accident), and he told her that she looked pretty, despite the bloody lip.

And the Academy called this morning. Madeleine has been nominated Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Mom's Embarrassing Interview Fart in The Emotions Game. She says she's honored just to be nominated, but you know she wants to bring home that statue.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seven going on seventeen

Annabelle, my second-grader, has a boyfriend. She came home last week telling me that this boy - we'll call him Romeo - asked her if she had a boyfriend. "No," she answered shyly. "Why, do you have a girlfriend?"

And so it began.

The next day, Romeo disclosed to Annabelle that he already had a girlfriend, technically, but that she could be his "number two." She was game, although it did seem to weigh on her a bit as she confessed her secondary status to me on the way home from school.

The day after that, I saw Romeo for the first time, as he walked Annabelle out of the front doors to the car pick-up line. He was cute, and he seemed really into her. I caught him looking at her once she was in the van and buckled up, bubbling over with stories of her day.

Then, he bumped her up to "first girlfriend" status. I asked Annabelle what it meant to her to be someone's girlfriend. She explained that the two of them are together all the time, and had even gone for a romantic walk at recess. "A 'romantic' walk?" I asked, eyes bugging out. "Yeah," she grinned. "We were about to hold hands, but the whistle blew and we had to go back inside."


Annabelle and her boyfriend have been joined at the hip (not literally, I hope) throughout the day: during morning work time, at music class, in the cafeteria. But yesterday, this Lunchtime Lothario announced to her that he wasn't sure that he wanted "to be with her anymore." She kept silent and went back to work on her Christopher Columbus coloring pages, unphased. Later, he approached her again with a similar pronouncement. This time she warned him, "You'll have to tell a lot of people you changed your mind, then, because you told everybody about us." (This had been a source of great embarrassment for her - she'd have preferred keeping things on the DL.) He backed off immediately and claimed that he'd never really wanted to stop being her boyfriend. Then he gave her an Arthur sticker.

I am blown away by these developments. Aren't boys supposed to be blind to the opposite sex until, like, middle school? I thought it was the girls who were supposed to be the first aggressors, what with their earlier development, maturity, and Disney princess movies. I can't believe that this little boy has been trolling the schoolyard for girlfriends. Plural.

And hey, where is Little Cassanova learning this behavior? Who is the kid's dad, Hef??

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm a winner!

I won a little contest on Christine Green's blog, grown ups are like that! I didn’t do anything special to “earn” the win, but I am still excited that my name was the one she picked out of a hat. So I will soon be the proud owner of a book of beautiful writing about motherhood called Mother Muse. Isn’t winning something the best feeling?

But I’ll tell you what’s an even better feeling: thinking of myself as a writer. Yeah, my blog is written in a style that’s more like a journal than like anything you’d find in the Literature section at Barnes and Noble, but hey, I am writing. I go through my mom routine, wondering what to do with those chicken breasts, searching for that missing sock, and all the while I am thinking about what I’m going to write about next. One of the kids says something funny, like “Mom, you need to change my diaper. I stink!” and I laugh, “That’s going in the blog.” I even carry a Where the Wild Things Are journal in my purse so that I can jot ideas and funny quotes as they happen. All of these things, combined with the fact that I publish musings on the internet, make me a writer, I think.

But I feel so much more like one today because I won Christine’s contest. You see, Christine is a real, honest-to-goodness writer and I admire the hell out of her. To be associated with her in some way – even just by winning a giveaway on her blog - makes me feel all puffed up and proud.

I met Christine a year-and-a-half ago, through MOMS Club. I met her just the one time - she lives a couple hundred miles away - but I was so impressed with her. We became Facebook friends, and I soon learned that she’d been published in a collection of essays and poems and in a local parenting magazine. Wow. Published! More than once! I started reading her blog, and my respect grew as I devoured each thoughtful, artfully-crafted post. And then, I saw photos of her penning her name at a book signing, and whoop, she officially became my idol. Published, reading her work to a crowd in a book store, and she wears glasses to boot. (I’ve always dreamed of wearing glasses, but my stupid eyes work fine.)

So, thank you, Christine, for the book I won, and for inspiring this mom to follow her dream of writing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Family dinner

Does it feel like Monday today or what? I've been so confused all morning, setting out a gym-day outfit for the wrong girl, gearing up for the wrong after-school activity, and wondering whether the trash goes out or not. But I love this kind of week, the short kind. It'll be Friday even before we can moan, "Is it Friday yet?"

We had a nice long weekend here at the Paradis homestead. Jason turns 35 today, so I got the idea to take him out on Sunday for his birthday. Little did I know that Sunday was the day that both the Red Sox and the Patriots would be playing. (And losing.) It worked out okay, though - we headed over to Bar Louie at Patriot Place to watch the games. The food was good, and the beer was good, but as halftime approached and we'd already been sitting there for two or three hours, we decided to make a mad dash home to watch the rest of the game on the couch, drinking our fridge beer for half the price. I don't want to use the term "old farts," but let's just say that we didn't even touch any more beers at home, and I was dozed off on the couch in my pj's by 8:15.

Still, it was nice to be able to walk around the house, talking in full voice after 7:30pm because there were no sleeping children about. And it was really nice to wake up on our own terms the next morning, which is usually my favorite part about sending the kids over to Grandma's for a sleepover.

So then, after having the wonderful chance to actually miss the kids, we all gathered around the table last night for a family dinner. I made lasagna, Jason's favorite meal, in honor of it being his birthday eve. We dined on matching plates, the novelty and excitement of which still has not worn off, and enjoyed each other's company. After we ate, we decided to play this game that makes us laugh when we're all together at the table. (That doesn't happen often because Jason usually works late.) One person, the judge, picks an emotion, and the rest of the participants have to pose in their best display of that feeling. Then the judge chooses the most convincing poser as the winner.

Well, last night we took our game to the next level. Now it's more about improv than modeling. Jason, as the first judge, created a scenario for each of us and we had to act accordingly. So, for "excited," he told Annabelle that we were going to Disney World, Madeleine that she was getting a pony, and me that we had won $127 million in the lottery. (Annabelle's reaction was the most genuinely excited-looking, so she won that round.) Next, Annabelle judged and chose "embarrassed" as the feeling she wanted us to emote. She told her sister that her friends were looking at her while she was getting dressed in her bedroom. (I guess they were supposed to have been hiding in the closet or something? Creepy!) Coming up with Jason's scenario was tricky - he doesn't embarrass easily. So Mad and I pretended to be his bosses, sitting at dinner with Jason after work one day. Annabelle pretended to be the waiter, who gave Jason the old, "I'm sorry, Sir, but your card's been declined." The girls' performances were great, but Jason remained annoyingly unrattled.

But the best was the scenario they cooked up to get me to act embarrassed: I was on a job interview, sitting across the table from my prospective boss, Annabelle. She asked me to tell her a little about myself, and as I began to answer, Madeleine, crouched on the floor right behind my bum, made farting noises. It was hysterical! We were all laughing so hard, we forgot to pick a winner.

The whole dinnertime was awesome because I actually enjoyed myself. I know this makes me sound like a jerk, but I usually HATE to sit down at the dinner table. I prefer to serve the kids and then go do my thing for the few minutes that I know Nathan is sitting down somewhere. And who wants to sit down and eat the gross dinners that I've made, anyway? Not me! (shudder) But I know that's wrong, and that I need to be a good role model for table manners and eating, and that it's a great opportunity to have family time and talk about our day. So, now that we've got the new dishes and use non-disposable cups like city-folk, I'm sitting down at the table more and allowing myself to relax and enjoy it a little.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Follow-Up

Happy long-weekend Friday! I want to thank you all for your support as I've gone through my miscarriage. I am amazed at how many of my friends have been through similar experiences and have now shared their stories with me to help get me through this loss. I was pretty arrogant to have thought that something like this couldn't happen to me.

People knock Facebook and Twitter and blogging because we are not communicating face to face anymore these days. While I agree that sometimes there is no substitute for holding a friend's hand or seeing their expression while delivering a joke, I'm all for using the internet as a means of connecting with people. I've always been very shy in person, but still have a need to talk about well, everything. Like this miscarriage for instance. Being able to talk about what happened helped me to deal with the confusing feelings of loss and mourning that seemed too big for something that I'd only known about for a little over a week. And wow, did people come through for me! So many women shared their stories and their caring with me via email, blog comment, Facebook, phone call, handwritten note, flowers, and even tearily in person. Had it not been for my big blog mouth, I never would have had such a wide-ranging outreach from friends old and new.

Another thing I've learned from all of you is that women really come through for each other in times like these. Yes, some of us may give each other once-overs at the playground ("Are those real Uggs or knock-offs?") or gossip about each other at practice ("Are those real boobs or did she get a little help?"), but when it comes down to it, we all relate in a fundamental way, and when one of us experiences a painful woman's issue, we drop everything and cry for her. We offer meals, babysitting, hugs, listening ears, and above all, sympathy. I am amazed at how both women I've known for half my life and women I've known for a few months have all come together to offer their support. It's like we have created our own virtual red tent, and we're in it together though we are technically, physically apart.

Thanks to all of you.

I have had ups and downs since I wrote last. Wednesday was good. I didn't cry, even though I saw a lot of friends in person and feared that I would break down or turn to stone upon seeing them. I listened to a lot of music, thanks to Nathan's reminders to "Bring the iPod!" whenever we were in the van. That helped. Miley Cyrus, of all people, with her cheesetastic "Party in the U.S.A." actually got to me when she said, "And you know I'm gonna be okay." Like because this 16-year-old sings it, it must be true.

Yesterday was not so good. I walked into early intervention playgroup, feeling all cool with Miley's teen pop anthem in my head and my iced coffee in hand. The group leader saw me come in, and nodding her head toward a newborn in a little infant carrier said, "Kelley, does that make you excited?" I froze, mute, head down, hair falling around my face. She thought I hadn't heard her, so she asked again: "Kel, does that make you excited?" I couldn't speak. I raised my head to meet her eyes and just started shaking my head "no." Tears streamed out of my eyes and I even made one alien sob noise as the already-seated parents looked at me, standing there, coming apart in front of them all. The rest of the 2-hour meeting was a blur. The group leader was there, hugging me, and thankfully a rocking chair happened to be vacant in the corner near where I stood, rooted to the ground, so that when I was able to sit I didn't have to make my way through the parents, but could just sink into the seat in the corner and keep my head down. I worked on my Ken Ken puzzle book and made sure that my unruly hair was unruly enough to cover my face so that I couldn't be seen too easily as I silently cried throughout the morning. There are a couple of other pregnant moms in the group, and naturally the topic of pregnancy and childbirth comes up a lot in a parents group. One question, asked by one expectant mom to another, "Is the baby really active in your belly?" kicked me the hardest, but as the morning went on I became desensitized and the eyes dried up. I know that I'll be much better able to handle next week's meeting.

Today has been pretty good so far. Nathan's going to a drop-off program in the morning, which leaves me kid-free for a couple of hours. I'm going to look at furniture again, looking at ways to home-ify my drab, vagrants-live-here house. I'll grab an iced coffee and listen to some Stones and, okay, probably some Miley, too.

P.S. My "Uggs" are knock-offs, but my boobs are real. ("No kidding," you're smirking about my teeny booblets.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bye, bye, baby

I'm not sure how to tell you this, so I'm just going to say it. I am not pregnant anymore. I've had a miscarriage.

Watching soap operas throughout the years, I'd learned that a miscarriage always happens like this: you have a heated confrontation with your husband's lover, then you clutch your abdomen in pain and croak, "Something's wrong. Something's wrong with the baby!" Next scene, you're in a hospital bed, crying as a handsome doctor shakes his head, eyes to the ground. Next scene after that, you're on somebody's yacht, scheming about how to get another baby to pass off as your own...

Turns out that a real-life miscarriage may not happen in this way. I was sitting at my in-laws' house, stuffed from a bowl of GG's homemade beef stew, chatting with my mother-in-law about Nathan. I kept feeling cramps, getting more and more insistant, so I ducked into the bathroom to see if anything was going on Down There. Now, I do things like this to psych myself out all the time. Like, okay, I'll check and see if there's something wrong because I know that there isn't really going to be anything wrong.

Except there was.

I was bleeding, and I was so surprised to see that there actually was something bad happening. So I paged the midwife on call, still thinking that I was being dramatic and that she was going to (kindly) laugh at me about getting overly-anxious over nothing.

Except she didn't.

When the midwife called back - the very same one who had delivered Nathan, actually - she asked me to tell her what was happening. I explained that there was some cramping and some bleeding, and I just wanted to see if I should be worried. "Well," she said nonchalantly, "In a situation like this, when what you're describing happens, we think 'miscarriage.'"

I was dumbfounded, waiting for the rest. But there wasn't much else she could tell me except that I should go in for some bloodwork on Monday morning, and then again on Wednesday morning, so that the hormone levels could be measured and I could know whether my pregnancy was still viable. I awkwardly lingered on the phone with her; I couldn't understand that she was telling me that a) I was probably having a miscarriage, and that b) there wasn't anything that I needed to do, like go to the hospital, and that c) I wouldn't even know for sure until probably Wednesday.

I cried. Jason had already hustled the kids into the van as I'd been awaiting the midwife's call, so all I had to do was walk down the driveway and get in. I cried and shook so hard as I made that walk that the kids must have been terrified. Jason murmured something like, "Mom's not feeling well," and we rode home in silence except for Nathan's repeated questioning: "Why is my mom crying?"

When we got home, I laid in bed with the lights off and the covers over my head, just focusing on feeling what my body was doing. Nathan came in and hugged me and told me that he would make me feel better. And as he snuggled with me, he did.

I hid out in this fashion until bedtime, all the while looking for hope (implantation can cause bleeding and cramps!) but sensing that what was happening was probably not going to turn out to be some weird fluke that we'd laugh about after my delivery. By 7, I understood that there wasn't going to be a baby coming in May. I wiped my face and decided to give the kids a really good tuck-in. I relished reading every page of Nathan's book with him, staring at his profile as I recited the memorized lines. I felt overwhelmed with love for him, and I sang his songs with a sweeter voice than I ever had. When it was the girls' turn, I brought out a new chapter book for us to start reading together: Mathilda by Roald Dahl. As we read, I kept peeking at them, noticing how very beautiful they are. And I hugged those girls like there was no tomorrow.

Later, before I went to bed, I passed what they call the "products of conception," which told us definitively that the baby was gone.

What they didn't tell me on General Hospital was that a miscarriage is not necessarily a boom-bang-and-you're-done kind of thing. For me, it's been a sort of ongoing process as my body says, "Uh, something's not right with this one. Let's call a do-over!" Since Sunday afternoon, I've had cramps and bleeding as the field gets cleared off and reseeded for next time. It's a strange and surreal feeling to be walking around, going about your day(s), doing laundry, making lunch, running errands, all in the process of having a miscarriage.

So, I guess I should apologize to you for putting you in the awkward position of knowing that I've had a miscarriage. If I had done what most people in polite society do, I would have kept quiet about the pregnancy until 12 weeks, and therefore you never would have been the wiser that any of this had happened. Unfortunately, I've never been any good at keeping secrets, and I tend to be a pretty emotional person. As soon as I found out that I was expecting, it became the only thing I could think about, and good lord, how was I going to blog some stupid crap about what I bought at the store today when I was PREGNANT? And how was I going to make small-talk at the car pick-up line when I knew that I was PREGNANT?

So, I told. I honestly never thought that this would happen to me. I was like an arrogant senior rolling his eyes through the drinking-and-driving crash video they show a week before prom. Sure, it could happen, but it wasn't going to happen to me.

Except it did.

And I am sad - really, really sad. But I'll be okay.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Follow-Up

Wow. I have officially known about being pregnant for a week now, and it is starting to sink in. (Sort of.) Most people that I see around in daily life have heard or read the news by now, and everyone has been really excited and supportive. I must confess that I wasn't sure this would be the case. Having four babies seemed, well, excessive, and I was a little worried that people would start making Duggar references or ask me if I was angling for my own reality show.

As you may have guessed, this was not something that Jason and I set out to do. A few years after having the girls, who were born 13 months apart, we considered having another set of two babies close together. Then Nathan was born, and I said, "Whoa ... three is good." I told everyone within earshot that I was D-O-N-E, and yelped things like, "Bite your tongue!" and "Don't even joke about that!" when someone suggested that I might get pregnant again.

A month ago, when I found out that two moms in my early intervention parent group were expecting, I was very smugly unpregnant. (Or so I thought.) "Suckers," I thought to myself while outwardly well-wishing. "I wouldn't want to be starting all over again!"

Two weeks ago, I finished cleaning out my closet and drawers, and threw my maternity clothes and nursing bras into a donation bag with gusto. "I won't be needing THESE anymore!"

And then last week, I peed on three sticks and learned that I was on my way to being the mother of four children. My very first reaction was shock, but with an aftertaste of warm maternal happiness. Even though it was not something I thought I wanted, I am thrilled to be creating this big family. Growing up, I had no siblings at home to play/conspire/fight with, and I always envied my friends who had multiple brothers and sisters. Although I didn't think I'd ever be married and having children, I knew that if I did, I'd want to have the big, bustling "cool" house with lots of kids and their friends congregating in the kitchen after school, eating all of the food and gossiping about which teachers give the lamest homework. So, it turns out that now I have a shot at that. I'm creating the family I always wanted as a kid.

Of course, in my dreams, I was never the one who had to clean the toilets...