Wednesday, December 30, 2009

the best gift

Once we got in the car things really seemed to get going. Of course we were almost out of gas. Of course my contractions got more intense. The one I had as we were leaving the subdivision had me whining like MiniMe, pushing my feet against the dashboard, calling out to The Huz. I listened to my hypnobabies tracks on his iphone as The Huz drove up I-75 at 90 miles an hour.

I realized no one had called Christina, the midwife, to let her know I was on my way up there at this point. When I called her I couldn't really talk at first because a contraction hit as soon as she answered. I got through that, told her what was happening & she asked us to come to the birth center before we checked in to the hotel. We had to wait for a while because Christina was seeing another patient. I was okay, leaning over things, bending over at the waist through contractions, which were slightly less than 10 minutes apart at this point, but some were closer to 5 minutes. I don't remember much about the exam except that I was dilated to 3 cm, 90% effaced, & the baby was at 0 station. All signs pointing to baby coming soon. We had to go to the hardware store to get a coupler to run a hose from the faucet to the birthing tub & Cheryl was having a hard time finding a birthing tub for me. I had procrastinated, not gotten one myself, & had asked her to take care of that for me. Now she was having a hard time doing that.

When we got to the hotel we were disappointed. I had done a lot of research to find a hotel with 2 separate bedrooms so that my mom & MiniMe could be there comfortably, as well as a kitchen. The space was huge, but not as clean as we would have liked & awkward in ways like the toilet was too close to the wall.

Biggie left for about 15 minutes to get us some food. I hadn't eaten very much at all & had thrown the nachos up in the middle of the night. Even so, I couldn't really eat more than three bites. I don't know if it was excitement, fear, dread, or any combination of the three, but I just couldn't eat. Even though I was most scared of running out of energy, it was like my body didn't care about being reasonable. I guess this could be called Lesson #1 in Go with The Flow. No matter how much I thought I needed something, my body had ideas of its own.

I remember I was sitting on the sofa near the window when Cheryl got there. She came & hugged me before she brought in her things. We were excited, but not as excited as I had thought we would be. I remember that I had told myself to prepare for waiting a long time before she got there because I would have a long labor. I didn't feel like we had been waiting very long. Honestly, everything was just going along so smoothly. Yes, I had been having regular contractions for almost 24 hours, now but they were more than tolerable. I had actual breaks between the contractions where I could walk & talk & pee & just be fine. The difference between this labor, my labor, & the labor that was forced upon MiniMe & I was about the size of the Grand Canyon. I could do this labor, in fact, I was. & it was at this point that I really realized that I was. My mom came in with MiniMe around this time & I hugged her goodnight. They went upstairs for stories & ticklies without incident.

Cheryl kind of took over for Biggie at this point when I had contractions. When one came, she knew, & she got to applying the counter-pressure in my lower back quickly. While her hands weren't as strong as his, she had brought a sock filled with rice that I wish I had spoke out about, that it was more helpful so she would have used it more. She suggested I move to her birthing ball & I sat on it while leaning over the arm of one of the sofas. I remember talking to her while I was sitting there, as if it were just another day, & I wasn't pausing from time to time for a contraction. Things seemed so normal. I didn't think about how things were going, how quickly things were going, because I felt like I was going to jinx myself. In the split seconds that Biggie called attention to how regular & close together my contractions were, I acknowledged it briefly, but with caution. It wasn't that I had a sense that something was going to go wrong; not at all. I just felt like things were going so well that if I said so somebody else would correct me, saying something like, "Oh, but your contractions are only (fill in the blank) this long," or "Yeah, but I really don't think you're going to have this baby tonight." When I look back on it now I can articulate that I somehow didn't feel like I could have a normal birth experience because I was so afraid I couldn't.

At some point when I was sitting on the birthing ball I got up to go to the bathroom & had blood, bright red blood, coming out of me. I was alarmed & called Cheryl to the bathroom. She said it was normal. I had to ask her a few times to repeat that it was. I went back to the ball, still having what I felt were good breaks between the contractions, but the contractions were becoming more commanding, more authoritative. Biggie & Cheryl asked me if I thought the should start getting the birthing tub ready & I said yes. Cheryl had not been able to find a tub for me but had instead borrowed the back-up one from the birth center. When they were almost done filling it I had gotten up to go to the bathroom again. After I got up from the toilet, another contraction hit. I leaned over the sink waiting for someone to come help with the counter-pressure, & I felt a pop that I knew was my water breaking. Cheryl came in & confirmed that it was & that there was no meconium staining. Biggie didn't believe that was what it was because there wasn't a lot of fluid. Both Cheryl & I explained that because the baby was so low her head was acting like a cork, keeping most of the fluid behind her in the uterus.

I got right in the tub after that & the contraction I had almost immediately was absolutely devastating. I couldn't move, it was so crushing. I was scared. I thought when I got in the tub things would calm down a little bit like they had that morning. It was the exact opposite experience. I crawled over to the side of the tub & clutched Cheryl's hands. I remember begging her to make Christina be there. She assured me she was on her way. When a contraction would come she would remind me to "breathe for the baby" which I knew I needed to do, but I still found annoying. I was going to tell her it's hard to breathe when you're trying to keep from biting off your own tongue, but she was pretty pregnant herself at that point & I didn't think it was appropriate. Biggie asked me if I wanted him to get in the tub with me & I gave him a resounding yes, as if it was the stupidest thing he'd asked me in days. The tub felt so big, & I so unsteady, I felt like I had to hang on to the side or when a contraction came I might just drown. I remember at one point that Cheryl was on the phone with Christina. I was starting to get panicky that I was going to have the baby or something was going to go wrong before Christina could get there. I was mad. It seemed like years I was waiting for her to get there!

When Christina finally got there the first thing she did was check the baby's heartbeat. I haven't remembered to ask her about this, but when she first tried to find it, it seemed to me it wasn't there. It seemed like she then tried lower & got it, the precious sound, but like it was much lower in my abdomen then she had expected. It was there, nonetheless, & it reminded me that I was going to meet our younger daughter very soon. At that moment I felt a glimpse of this girl's personality. I felt that she, like her older sister, was going to be a force. I felt her preservearance & strength. Her beauty.

The contractions had now become at least four times bigger than myself. Not the pain, but the shear force of the contractions was terrifying me. I vocalized my fear & everyone reassured me. When Christina had first got there I realized my body was pushing the baby out on its own, but I had been scared to release myself to the power. Now I couldn't hold anything back. It was almost mechanical, electrical. I asked Christina to check that I was actually fully dilated; that there wasn't any bit of my cervix in the way, & I think she kind-of laughed at me. She did reach down there & told me that there wasn't anything there but the baby's head. She encouraged me to reach down & feel for myself, but I was too scared to. I felt like if I didn't have myself in the right position when a contraction hit I would collapse, doing something like fall into the water or out of the tub or just something completely ridiculous but completely reasonable to me. I wanted to tell Christina how ridiculous she was, maybe I did, but I know I did panic at this point. I knew I was going to tear & I was trying keep it from happening. At the same time, I didn't feel like I could endure very many more contractions. All of the planner & obsessive parts of me were freaking out: "You can't push- you'll tear!" "You have to push; you're going to run out of strength!" Polar opposite, classic gemini thoughts running around my skull, waving their hands in the air like they were keeping bats from getting in their hair. Finally it occured to me that I didn't have very much say over pushing or not because my body was pushing the baby out & that it didn't seem to care very much that I might tear & that her head was the biggest part of her body & after that, it was all but over. So I relented. I just let her come & the force was so humbling, I was truly beside myself that my body was so amazing.

Biggie caught her & I had to be told she was out. She came so fast & so powerfully that I didn't even know until I heard her sharp cries. I turned around, sat on my butt & they handed her to me. It didn't seem real. It was so normal & so strange at the same time. But she is here: Miss Violet Caroline. Seven pounds, nineteen & one quarter inches. At 9:45pm on November 12, 6 days before her due date. Only THREE hours of hard labor, with really no pushing on my part but for maybe two contractions. I did tear enough that we had to go to the hospital, which is a story in itself, but I'll post this & let it be for now. I'm sorry it took me so long.

Monday, December 28, 2009


So. Let's go back to Sunday, November 8th, shall we? See, MiniMe's class had an assignment to dress as their favorite book character. She picked Ella the Elegant, so we had to get her a big, floppy red hat. I am so smart (S-M-R-T!) that I called all of the goodwill & thrift stores instead of trapsing all over town whilst extremely pregnant. I found a hat on the south side of town (I can't type that without giving props to Journey) & since we were down there I decided to go on a culinary adventure. I got food poisoning. I believe it was the tartar sauce & not the fish sandwich, but regardless. I puked well into Monday night & still wasn't up to eating much on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, November 11th, I woke up with contractions about 15 minutes apart. I had an appointment at the birth center that day, so I was as calm as an Ansel Adams portrait. Doo-to-do. By the time my appointment rolled around I was no longer contracting. It's alright. I had some. I had some bloody show. My midwife, Christina, discussed where we could put my heplock. She palpitated mah bellah to figure out how the baby was laying (head down, facing the passenger side), & she estimated the baby was approximately 7 pounds. She offered to do a pelvic exam to see if I was dialated. I said, "Nah. Why? It's not really going to tell us anything. So I'm dialated; it doesn't tell us much else. I'll just wait for the contractions to come back."

You must know that EVERY pelvic exam I had when I was pregnant with MiniMe sucked ass. They were EXTREMELY painful. I wanted outta there. Oh, & nachos.

My mom had come with me to the appointment in case I was still contracting, as it's an hour drive to the birth center. We went to have dinner, I got my nachos, & we went home.

Around 9pm Wednesday night I started having contractions again. They were 15 minutes apart all night long. They weren't really painful, but I was tired. I took some skullcap. No sleep. At 3am I got disgusted & took a benadryl. I slept from 3am to 6am. Ugh. The Huz got up & took MiniMe to school at 7:30. We he came home I called Cheryl, my doula. I told her I was worried because I was tired & was getting no sleep. She told me to get in the bathtub & listen to some of my hypnobabies tracks. The contractions did slow down & I was able to come up with some visualizations that I felt would get me through. I was in there for over two hours, only having about three contractions, but when I got out to go to the bathroom they came right back.

I had to break the news to The Huz that he needed to call & book our hotel room. He was under the impression that he was going to go to work. Um, no. I had him bring me a pad & pencil so I could make him a list of things still needing to be done or packed. He was acting a little hen-picked, but he got everything. He called my mom & asked her to pick MiniMe up from school. I got out of the tub & started getting a little testy. For prosterity, this is the last photo of my beautifully pregnant belly. Note the lack of stretch marks...

I have a lot more to report, but am swamped, so I'm going to leave this post as is for now. I promise, I'll post again soon. And when I say soon I do mean like within a week.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

One More Year

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I'm trying to keep this from being a hard time of year for me, but it isn't working very well. My dad's birthday was August 8th, & it was two years ago today that he died. His birthday snuck up on me & I didn't even realize what it was until the evening. That was a blessing. But ever since that day, I've been eying the calendar, keeping myself busy, trying to not mark the days.

I keep going back to the last time I saw him, in April of 2007. We had made one of those vacations that's not really a vacation that those of us who have moved away from their families have. Ten days of crazy driving, literal itineraries, literally a guilt trip.

This is why my dad never wanted me to get married. He never wanted to share me. Many, many trips were made from wherever I was living to his house. I would lay in the grass in the warmer months, split wood in the winter, or sweat it out in the house. (He heated his house with wood & it was usually around 85 in there!) I got there when I got there & I left when he had to go back to work. We would work on my car, wax it, mow the lawn, go into town to rent a movie, visit with his neighbors, go fishing. Just sit at the kitchen table & talk.

That last visit was nothing like that. MiniMe was 18 months old. My dad's brother & his wife had come over because they'd never met her. Dad spent most of his time on the front porch where he could smoke. MiniMe was stir crazy from all of the driving. We decided to bundle her up & take her to the cute neighborhood park up the street, even though it was in the 40's.

My dad had booked & paid for us to stay in a hotel near his house. He knew it would make it easier for me to negotiate spending time with him. It hurt me to think that he felt like he had to weigh things in his favor, but I let him do it, mostly because he wanted to.

As we all watched MiniMe scamper around the park, we were all fairly quiet. I know my Dad & I were thinking the same thing. She was exactly the age I was when he & my mom divorced. She looked so much like me I could tell it pained him. I felt like I was breaking his heart. I ached for him. I didn't know how to make it better.

But MiniMe did. In her innocence, she was just herself. She scaled the apparatus with no fear & sufficient grace. My dad was amazed by her. Her joy healed the pain. Her giggles were contagious. He commented on how capable she was & how he could tell we didn't chase her around, waiting for her to fail, & how he thought that was the way it should be. I watched him circle the park with his camera in one hand, cigarette in the other. I wasn't happy with how he looked. He looked sick. He had gained weight. His always there cough was worse than normal. He was quiet, with a fake smile plastered on his face. I wanted desperately to drag him out to the barn & ask him what was wrong, but I was afraid. I was afraid of leaving The Huz to have to run interferance between MiniMe & my family that he didn't know very well. I was afraid of what my Dad would say, more, though.

We left early because we had to get MiniMe to bed. I said goodbye to everyone, but to Dad probably at least six times. I just wanted an excuse to hug him. But everytime I did, I pulled way feeling a littel nauesous. He reeked of cigarettes. His body felt tough, like over-cooked chicken. His arms were thin & frail. It scared me.

We intended to go back the next morning, but when I called & grandma told me Dad had already left to make a run, I didn't want to. I didn't want to go back to my Dad's house, be fawned over by m grandmother or stepmom. As I've said before, that's not something I did when I was at his house. I wanted to see him. At the same time, I was kind-of glad that he had left. Being there now was awkward & awful. It was too much of a reminder that things are different. Too stark of a difference because I had changed so much, not necessarily for the worse, mind you, but drastically, none the less. Seeing my father, physically being with him, was strange because we had been apart for so long. When we spoke on the phone every week it wasn't so obvious. We were always the same. To see each other made the changes so exaggerated it was disconcerting.

We were in Michigan for several days after we left my Dad's & his route at that time was north through the Upper Peninsula, down through Wisconsin, into Chicago, over to Cincinnati, north through Toledo, than back to Port Huron. He called me on my cell phone a few times while we were there. His mood was cheerful, better than it had been on the playground. He talked about MiniMe in a way that told me he did see her as her own person. He expressed joy at getting to be with her. He was happy that I was home; that we could talk about where I was at the time & he knew what I was talking about. He would call when he knew my phone would be shut off to leave me messages telling me things he couldn't say to me in real time. Sweet things. I remember that I saved his voicemail messages from when we were there for like three months after that trip. It made me feel like I was still there.

Thinking about this trip has brought me a sense of peace about my Dad. I realized that looking back, it wasn't physically being in my Dad's presence that I needed so much as the connection. I have decided to convince myself that the connection is still there, even if the talks, the hugs, the smiles are not. Thinking about the overwhelming smell of cigarettes, the sorrow of things lost, I am trying to convince myself that we are liberated from those trappings, now. What it is truly is reminding myself that I am still me. I do not need his validation or even celebration, no matter how much I miss it. I ams what I ams & I only need to be a little more assertive of that. It was not he who made me, it was me all along. But still, it sucks that I can't talk to him about our plans, about this new daughter, the one in my belly & the one I'm becoming, about everything. I refuse to be one of those people that sits around talking or writing letters as if he is still there. It's too morbid. I'm looking for something more uplifting. That's what I miss.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Parenting Rationalizations & Pep Talk

MiniMe started VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) last week at the local Catholic School. She did great adjusting to the mandatory white leather shoes. She got up & put her uniform on all by herself. She thinks it's cool that I turned one smaller drawer of her dresser into a school-clothes only drawer & as long as she picks from that drawer, she can wear whichever shorts, shirt, sock combo she chooses. I wonder how long it's going to take her to figure out that there are seven sets of exactly the same shirts, shorts, & socks in there.

MiniMe 'signing in' on her first day

The way that they transition the kids is pretty good. Half of the class came on Wednesday, the other half on Thursday, then everybody comes together on Friday, then everybody gets a weekend back home with the fam before they start again. Sigh. Well, today, the Tuesday of the first full week, sucked. I forgot a few things I had learned back when I was still a working mom & MiniMe went to 'school'. They are my parenting transition rationalizations & they have proven true several times, so I'm sharing them.

1. Even if kids don't have separation anxiety, they will be difficult. When they go somewhere new, like a new school, new dance class, etc., they don't really know anybody. Because it's a new place with new people, many kids don't feel comfortable speaking up when they really want to. They don't feel secure, yet. Even in a very assertive child such as MiniMe, they don't know even who to go to when they have a problem or need help. They don't know if their needs are going to be met. It takes time, experiences, for that comfort level to be built up. The rules & expectations need to be felt out so that security can be established.

2. When kids are with their families, they know what to expect. They feel loved. They trust that they will still be loved. They feel secure enough to be themselves. They feel secure enough to work through the feelings accumulated throughout the day & unwind.

3. Because I am Mommy, I get the shit. Because I have done such a great job providing MiniMe with that sense of unconditional love, been consistent, holding fast to the rules & expectations, all while maintaining a cool, calm attitude, I am rewarded by being the dumping grounds for all the frustrations, challenges, lack of hugs. I am supposed to be comforted by reminding myself that the reason MiniMe is such a nasty little viper when she comes home is not because she thinks I deserve to be spoken to this way, but because she knows that even if she does, I am the only one (at least that's around) that will see her act this way & still love her. It's like she's trusting me with a secret; that she can be reaaalllly beastly, ugly, mean.

4. My job is to find a balance between reassuring her that she will find her way, that things will get more comfortable at school, and not letting her turn me into her own personal punching (& kicking!) bag. I have to remember that she still needs all the hugs, kisses, ticklies, snuggles that she has always gotten, but we have less time to squeeze them in. I cannot allow her to shout & bellow for me to, "(fill in the blank) RIGHT THIS SECOND!" I must make it clear that she is still expected to maintain a respectful tone & attitude, speak in her nice voice, use her words, cooperate.

Okay, now that that's out there, can I just say that it sucks & spend my time between laundry & dog-washing to have a little pity party for myself? Oh, & how long do I have to wait to teach her the Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Catholic School Girls Rule"?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


So, we have known we are having a girl for quite a while, now. & we are all pretty happy about it. Before Biggie & I were married he told me he didn't really want a son the way many men seem to, but he definitely wanted a daughter. When we found out MiniMe was a girl we were very happy. For me, I was especially relieved because I had made a promise I didn't know if I could keep. Biggie had agreed that if it were a girl she could be named after my maternal grandmother, but if it were a boy, I would have to consent to give him a true Italian name. So, in case you're wondering, God loves me & I have proof.

Naming this girl isn't proving so easy. I gave Biggie a list of ten names that most of them he has commented over the years that he found appealing in some way. Talking about names is a touchy subject & I am sincerely hoping that I don't offend anyone in discussing names in this post. If I do, because I feel like it's inevitable, just know that I have been there. When Biggie told his old secretary what we were naming MiniMe she screamed across the dealership that our daughter was, "Going to fucking hate you!" & that her name is, " old lady name!" It sucks that people do that. I would never be so crass, but if you feel like I am, sorry in advance.

In order for me to explain my current number one choice, I kind of have to reveal MiniMe's true name. I'm just going to tell a story & let it be out there. We'll see how that works for a while. I will ask that my readers try to refrain from using her real name in the comments for this & any future comments because I do try to make a serious effort to protect her identity. Thanks.

Gram & I on my 3rd Birthday, They had just brought in my swing set.

Growing up I always knew my grandma's name was Evelyn & I didn't think very much of it. Most people called her Lynn, which was fine, but if I could have picked, I always would have picked something more spectacular for her, because she was a spectacular woman. When we wrote each other letters over the winters when she was in Florida & I in Michigan, we developed a habit of including unique names we had heard in our post scripts. I had suggested the name "Zoe" after seeing the movie New York Stories where there is a short entitled "Life Without Zoe". In her return my grandma replied, "Ok. What about Chloe?" When I asked her where that came from, (keep in mind this was in the late 1980's where these names were pretty uncommon), she responded, "it's my perfume". I always thought that was silly & I hated to admit that liked both names.

My grandma grew up the younger daughter in a fairly well-to-do family. She & her older sister, Lucille, went to private Catholic schools their whole lives. They were two years apart, but very close. When my Great Aunt Lucy graduated from high school she had decided that she was going to move to Ypsilanti to work in the bomber plant at Willow Run. My grandma dropped out of school to go with her. Grandma was only 16. While she was living & working there, she developed nearly fatal rheumatic fever. The man who would become my Grandpa came back from Germany & found her in the barracks, sicker than sick. The story I was told by him is that they never really dated before the war, they had just been friends. But, knowing my Grandma, I'm sure that the fact that she saw him as someone that saved her life in more ways than one had a lot to do with what they would come to mean to each other.

Grandma Lynn & Grandpa Red, August 1944

While I was growing up I always noticed how close Grandma & Aunt Lucy were. They were fun to be around. They both had six kids, even in the same order, 4 boys, 2 girls. While they raised their families about 3 hours apart in Michigan, they both bought houses in Florida when they retired that were about 3 blocks apart. They both were incredibly crafty & would sew together. When I was about eight years old I heard my Aunt Lucy call my Grandma "Evie", & I thought it was one of the sweetest things I had ever heard. It fit my Grandma so much better than Lynn, & the way Aunt Lucy said it changed everything. When I heard Aunt Lucy call her baby sister that name, I heard the lifetime of experiences they had shared. I heard secrets no one would ever know or understand. I heard the love of two sisters, now wrinkled & much duller than they had been, but absolutely sparkling in their joy, gratitude, and wisdom.

When I chose to name MiniMe Evelyn, I chose to do so because I could think of no greater legacy to attempt to bestow on her. Grandma taught me so many lessons in my life that I still frequently hear her voice whispering in my ear, the final lessons in her death, when I was just 16. Holding her hand, telling her I loved her, & knowing that it would be the last time I would actually hear her say it back was undoubtedly the hardest thing I had to do in my young life.

Aunt Lucy was mad that Grandma had left my Great-Grandmother's wedding ring to me, saying that I was too young to understand the responsibility. But Grandma did it anyway, & I have worn that ring on my right hand every day since it was given to me almost twenty years ago. When my Mom's Dad, who is still alive & full of piss & vinegar, tried to called our daughter Lynn, I downright pitched a fit. I insist that she is an Evie, & he doesn't understand.

About a week ago I took MiniMe to see The Spiderwick Chronicles, & in it there is a character named Lucy. The name haunted me. I began to remember the stories I'd been told about my Grandma & her sister. I remembered that Biggie had suggested the name Luciana a few months back, & I had given it the equivalent of a raspberry. But I thought about it again. I thought that using Luciana would honor Biggie's Italian heritage, as they so expect. But, I would also have a more personal, more sacred opportunity to honor my own heritage, & the heritage of sisters in my family. I see it as an opportunity to deepen the legacy I wish for MiniMe. I always hoped that if I were to have two daughters that they would love each other the way that my Grandma & her sister did.

Well, Biggie doesn't like that name. I don't think he's trying to be mean. I just don't think it means as much to him as it does to me. I'm trying to get him to pick something, anything, that we can both agree on & I am sick of not having some resolution. Honestly, I wish we could ask the baby what name she would like, but of course I have to keep in mind that MiniMe would rename herself Princess Aurora or Scarlett Violet, because they are her favorite colors.

But when my mom told Grandpa about my idea, of naming her Luciana, she didn't even get to the part about calling her Lucy. My Grandpa roared with laughter. He was smiling from ear to ear & said he doesn't know if the world is ready for that, yet. He said they would both be honored. & he said that he completely understood why I would want to name two sisters those names, because they were the best sisters he ever knew. By the way, he's 84, & he's known a lot of sisters.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Before Biggie & I went to Michigan I asked him a favor. I asked him to not reveal our birth plan to his family. I asked this because we are planning a homebirth vbac, I don't think that they would understand, & I don't want them to be worried. I have also been trying to figure out if I wanted to put this out there on this here blog, because I was afraid of the comments I would get. I'm not scared anymore. I know what we are planning is the right thing. I thought that maybe if I put this out there I might help one more woman trust her intuition & that is worth whatever comments anyone could throw at me.

I was induced at 37 weeks with MiniMe. My OB had told me that if I had started dialating she would 'strip my membranes'. I didn't ask what that was, because I thought she knew what she was doing & if it was risky, she wouldn't be doing it. I had been in the office for a routine non-stress test when she did it. Biggie was sitting right next to me. When she pulled her arm back out of my body, with my blood dripping off her gloved hand, Biggie gave me a look that I'll never forget. The look said, "Just say the word & she'll be out cold". I couldn't speak, I felt so violated. I was reeling, thinking I couldn't trust this lady, & I didn't know what to do. The next thing I remember was Biggie telling her that I was out of breath all the time. She asked me what my pulmonologist had said at my last appointment with him, & I told her my blood oxygen was 96%. She practically leaped from the room, coming back to tell me to go immediately to the hospital. She was afraid the baby wasn't getting enough oxygen & I was going to be induced.

I remember in the car, a moment where Biggie & I questioned what we were doing. We didn't get why we were doing what we were, but we were doing it anyway. I ended up with 3 12-hour doses of cervadil, a suppository that is used to soften the cervix. I laid on my left side for the majority of 21 hours because I was terrified that our baby wasn't getting enough oxygen. I writhed in pain for most of this time, to which nurses responded with little empathy, only believing that I was legitimately in pain when they held the sides of my body when I was given an epidural.

After the epidural, which only worked on one side of my body, the next doctor on call broke my water & started me on pictocin. In my records, it says that I was given the option to stop everything, sleep, & start the pictocin in the morning. I don't remember this, but when I think about it, this seems crazy. There is no way I could have slept before the epidural. My lower back felt like someone had beat it repeatedly with baseball bats & the contractions were mind-numbing. Once the pictocin was started, I went from being dialated at 3 to 6 within an hour. I was excited; I was making progress. I remember the doctor wanted to put an internal monitor in. I didn't know why. She explained that I had been in labor for a long time & they were worried that the baby wouldn't be able to handle much more. She didn't explain that this meant they were screwing a wire into her scalp. Handy little welcome to the world, eh?

Suddenly, people were looking at the paper coming out of the monitor with concern. Shaking heads, making marks, leaving to get other people to come in & do the same. The doctor told me that that MiniMe's heart was a little too high & not coming down. She said if it didn't start coming down, we would need to consider a cesarean. It seemed like as soon as she left the room she was racing back in. Apparently MiniMe's heart rate did go back down, but so far down they were panicked. The pictocin was turned off completely. I was told that I would be getting a cesarean immediately, that it wasn't a choice, that MiniMe was dying. When they rushed me into the operating room I thought that once they got me settled they would let Biggie come in. They roughly shaved my lower belly with a cheap single blade disposable, nicking me several times. They tried to get some sort of medicine in my iv, but it wasn't working. On a good day my blood pressure is low, but after laying in a bed for a whole day, it was at a crawl. They had my arms strapped down like Christ on the cross while they poked me with needles & panic at the same time. It hurt. I cried. I asked for Biggie. They told me that there wasn't time & they were going to have to "put me out". They said if they couldn't get this one last iv to flow they would have to put in a central line. They didn't say this to me, but to each other, as if I were already "put out". A central line, in my jugular vein. So, not only would I have a scar on my belly, but on my neck, too. I pumped my fists & let myself weep. My heart rate went up & the iv flowed. I was unconscious.

MiniMe was born two days before my birthday. On my birthday I was still in the hospital, but to celebrate Biggie agreed to watch Funny Girl with me on the laptop. We ended up fighting because MiniMe was having trouble nursing & he was afraid she was starving. After he left to go home, because I asked him to, I ended up dripping little drops of clostrum into her mouth with a medicine cup, weeping because I was terrified that I wasn't doing the right thing.

While the first week that we were home was one of my favorite times in our marriage, Biggie only had one week off & after he went back to work things were not okay. I did not have post-pardom depression; I was very closely bonded to MiniMe before she even came out of me. I couldn't take my painkillers because I was alone most of the time, was afraid I would fall asleep & not wake up when she needed me. My incision became infected & Biggie had to clean it out with peroxide for me twice a day. I drove 45 minutes each way to see a lactation consultant twice a week. MiniMe couldn't go for more than 4 hours without eating for the first 3 months of her life, & this was only to be once a day. The rest of the time she had to eat every 2 hours. So for the first 3 months of her life I never got more than 4 hours of sleep at a time.

I went back to work, full time, when MiniMe was just 9 weeks old. My marriage suffered terribly. We bought a new house to be closer to our work & MiniMe's school. I think if had been thinking more clearly at the time I would have just stayed in our old house & quit working. It didn't occur to me.

It took me nearly two years to figure out that my reaction to MiniMe's birth was not normal. I sought therapy & was told I had indicators of post traumatic stress disorder. Throughout the therapy I had nightmares that were largely flashbacks. I realized that I was terrified of having another child because I didn't want to go through what I had again. My therapist recommended a new movie tht had just comeout on video, "The Business of Being Born". I watched it with Biggie & that was one of the handful of times I have seen him cry. He was furious. It was exactly what had been done to me.

So I've been investigating what our options are for the last two years. & this is what we've come to. I'm excited, not scared. I just wish we could decide on a fricken name.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

& I didn't need the red shoes to get there

We all got up at the crack of dawn to get to the airport. As soon as we landed, we drove north, to Petoskey, where I was born. We stopped about an hour north of the airport to eat at The French Laundry, what used to be a little restaurant, in the little town of Fenton. I once worked just minutes from the place & they have a sandwich that is probably one of my favorites, anywhere. It's a combination some find weird; chicken salad, cream cheese, red onions, raspberry preserves & leaf lettuce in a whole wheat wrap. I think it's delicious & I cannot quite replicate it. Plus, they have new dill pickles, which I also love & cannot find anywhere in our county. If I could find some decent cucumbers, I'd make my own. But I digress.

As soon as we got out of the car to go into the restaurant, MiniMe immediately noticed the grass. She stood on the sidewalk staring at it, then crouched down to brush her hands over it, calling it "baby grass". She was shocked when I told her she could walk on it & looked at me like I was suggesting she walk on silk sheets. "I know," I told her. "I think it's wonderful, too."

We ate outside. It was about 68 degrees, but it was breezy & sunny & felt like heaven. The food was good, but the service was slow, lousy, & we had a long drive. The drive was surreal. We do have trees here in Florida, but they aren't as tall or numerous as the ones in Michigan. Even in the city, things in Michigan somehow seem cleaner. I have a theory that the process of winter, the freezing & thawing, make everything seem that way, but Florida gets such rain, you would think it'd be a wash. (ha!) As we drove, I felt like I was sitting there with my mouth open, in a haze. I was tired; I only got about 3 hours of sleep the night before, but it was so weird. As my mom moved downstate when she & my Dad divorced, I made this drive many, many times in my life. There were experiences that felt like flashbacks. Little miniscule things I had forgotten; the way sunlight dapples through the leaves of deciduous trees in the afternoon, the feeling of weightlessness for that second when you launch over a dip in the road. They seem so insignificant, but I had not felt them for so long after being a daily occurrence. Like I said, surreal.

Our first destination was the home of my godparents, Craig & Harriet. Their three children are all younger than me, but all grown & gone. They lived right next door to my parents before I was born & though we went through a long stretch of time where we had lost contact, Uncle Craig tracked me down right before I met Biggie & I have never felt anything but love from them. When my Dad died we stayed with them for 3 days & it was a great comfort to me to be with people that were more concerned about my loss; that I didn't have to comfort over their loss. We really just went to be with them, in their home, in that town. Petoskey is a beautiful little town on a bay of Lake Michigan. The views are stunning. It is one of those places that if you visit in the summer you can't understand how it is not overrun with Holiday Inns & high-rise condos. Well, the average snowfall there is such that as a child we had to shovel the snow off the roof of the house so the roof didn't cave in. Most people that live there have snowshoes, because they are needed, & if you don't have a tractor, you certainly seek someone out that does to befriend, because it is inevitable that you or a loved one will need to be dug out at some point. Jobs are scarce there, & although it hasn't had the steep decline of the Southeast part of the state, it has always been of a slower pace, a simpler time.

Even though we didn't arrive until the early evening, it was still warm. MiniMe was amazed at how comfortable it was outside, with more baby grass, the breezes, the lack of the oppressive heat. Biggie looked at the clock at 10pm & was shocked because the sun was just going down. Petoskey is north of the 45th parallel, so in the summer the days are almost 16 hours long. It is something I relished as a kid. Just another one of those things MiniMe is missing out on that she doesn't even realize.
Being with my godparents gives me the illusion of growing up with many things I did not, but easily could have. The illusion that I grew up with both a mother & father, in the same home, for example. The illusion that I belong more to this place than I truly do. Uncle Craig & Aunt Harriet give up their own bed for Rick & I to sleep in when we come to visit them. The simple sweetness of this gesture speaks volumes. I was miserable with an upper respiratory virus while we were there, as was MiniMe. When she took a long nap the second day we were there, Aunt Harriet & I had a nice talk on their deck. She loves me, & I her. It is so nice to be with people that love you & pray for you, even when you speak infrequently.

The second day we were there we went to see my step-mother, Linny. She has been staying in Petoskey, with her own mother, for much of the time since my father passed. The home that was her & my dads' is in a remote town on 3 acres. She fell the winter after he died trying to clear the driveway & they didn't realize until the following fall that she had actually broken her pelvis when that happened. She had surgery to re-break the three places where it had broken & since healed incorrectly, last December. She has been staying in Petoskey, also near two of her three children, all of this time.

Visiting Linny was a strange experience for me. We have both remarked to each other that we both feel that no one else can understand the loss we feel for my Dad as we do for one another. My dad's mom is still alive, & yes, we know that she misses him, too. But her loss is almost as if she has lost a prize possession; something to be angry about, to avenge. I have not spoken to her much since my father has been gone because the conversation inevitably turns to things that were either my dad's or his father's or both & how Linny is not doing as my grandmother thinks she should with these things. I don't think it is any of my grandmother's business, & more over, I think it's a cruel place to put Linny when my dad didn't leave a will. I have developed a policy that I never really thought about that I would keep my mouth shut about things unless it really bothered me or Linny asked me. When she told me last year that she wanted to sell the house, I didn't have a problem with it. She told me the day we visited that she has accepted an offer on the house. I was shocked. The market in Michigan has been nothing short of awful, & as proof, she sold the house for the price my Dad paid for the land alone, almost 20 years ago. I don't begrudge her. It is too much for her to deal with. It's just that her children & grandchildren are already swarming like vultures because they know she will have money & that makes me ill. It's not that I want the money, it's that my dad died on the job. He never got a day off. I want him back & I can't have that. & it is his hard work that paid for that house. I talked to Aunt Harriet & Biggie about it. They understand. It's just one of those things that sucks, I talk about, it still sucks, but it will always suck, so I move on.

After two days of Petoskey, we headed back downstate to stay with my Aunt, MiniMe's godmother, just north of Detroit. We are pretty close, & I was sad that we were only staying with her for one night. She also gives her own bed to Biggie & I when we visit & it doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated. I had made plans to go to dinner with a group of women that evening; my only activity away from Biggie & MiniMe while we were there. Aunt Mary grilled us some steaks & we ate outside. We walked down to the lake, along the shore, & sat in a swing. MiniMe begged Aunt Mary to tell her a story about Sonya. (Biggie frequently makes up stories starring Sonya & MiniMe always requests her. My story character is a girl named Isla, but she's not nearly as popular as Sonya.) Aunt Mary did a splendid job.

I went to pick up another mom that was going to the dinner & Biggie, MiniMe, Aunt Mary & her friend all went to see the movie Up. It was nice to be out, with friends, & know that Biggie & MiniMe were out having their own fun. My ankles were so swollen at this point I had to take up a valuable seat at the table to put them up. I talked with another pregnant mother most of the night, but I still got to get faces to go with names I have known for months. Just to be in a place that isn't dominated by retirees, where I'm not the youngest person in the room besides our kid, was nice.

The next morning we planned on going to eat breakfast at one of my long-missed restaurants then onto an annual tour of my favorite neighborhood in Detroit. I figured out after we got everything packed up to go that I had ruined our plans. I had borrowed my Aunt's GPS to get around the night before, & when I returned it to her car I accidentally dropped the keys to our rental car in her console. She had left for work before we even got out of bed & wouldn't be done until after lunch. I figured out where she worked, called her there, & yes, that's what happened. She called her friend who came, got the keys from her & then brought them to us. It wasn't a total wash. MiniMe spent our time waiting laying in the baby grass, rolling down the hill. Although, we didn't get to eat at that restaurant, (The Breakfast Club, for my Metro Detroit readers), & just typing about that makes my pregnant belly rumble, my mouth water.

The tour was my favorite thing that we did there. It was stressful, at times, wrangling a somewhat bored preschooler through meticulously maintained homes. The number of times I reminded her to "look with her eyes & not her hands" was too numerous to count. She was frustrated because the lure of these homes to her is the fact that they have an upstairs & I believe only one home on the tour had the upstairs open. But doing the tour changed our plans as a family. We strolled through the neighborhood, in the supposedly Most Dangerous City in the Country, with no fear. We walked under trees old enough to be taller than the houses, past houses with shiny windows, in gardens with peonies and dahlias. Biggie told me if I can find a way for us to afford it, we can move there. While my taste tends to run more toward the Arts & Crafts style, which we did get to see in the Stratton house I wrote about before, Biggie's favorite house was a federal style colonial by architect C. Howard Crane that used to belong to Jack White. MiniMe loved it, too, but I think it was more about the gracious Airdale in the backyard. "It's a Neighborhood!" she said, like she had found The Definition according to Webster.

My ankles were hideously swollen at this point, so we left to check into our (thankfully) nearby hotel. We drove up Grand Boulevard, past houses that were once as grand as those we had just toured, but were now in shambles. I fight the sorrow. I've come to a place where I can see it for what it is. I believe that the change is necessary, inevitable, & gets much more than its' share of publicity as the best example of the worst things happening. I am just happy to see them occupied. Our hotel, The Hotel St. Regis, is a place I have spent a considerable amount of time in. It just recently underwent a substantial renovation & I was pleased. While our room was small, the view was directly down Cass Avenue, & the beds were the most comfortable we slept on for the entire trip. I rested for a bit & then changed my clothes to meet Biggie's father & sister for dinner.

They fought my choice of restaurants, Andiamo's, but I was going under the advice of the women I met from the Detroit Free Press, & I didn't relent. I could go on & on about this, but just know that Canadians, well, at least the ones I married into, don't like doing anything in Downtown Detroit. I forced their hand, because I am The Mean Daughter-In-Law & I travelled several hundred miles, with a preschooler & pregnant, the least they can do is let me pick the restaurant.

It was during the Stanley Cup playoffs, so the restaurant had tried to make things easier on themselves by limiting the menu & offering a buffet. I felt gypped. We all got the buffet, which was great, but I still had like 3 different entrees in my head that I was trying to pick from before I sat down. I indulged in an Ice Cream Puff Sundae covered with Saunder's Hot Fudge for dessert. This hot fudge is a Detroit standard & is actually a milk chocolate caramel, not the plastic-y dark brown most other places serve. I didn't eat all of the pastry, but I did scrape up every bit of that stuff that I could.

My father-in-law & I tend to clash, but I think we got along fairly well; we even sat next to each other. MiniMe decided almost immediately that she loves my sister-in-law, Biggie's younger sister. She chose to have her Aunt take her to the bathroom about five minutes after we met up, which isn't like her at all. Biggie's sister is a competitive body builder, yoga instructor, & licensed massage therapist. She was discussing yoga & MiniMe piped up to say that she wanted to show her Aunt her tree pose. I think her Aunt was touched that MiniMe knows yoga & she asked me to take a picture of them doing it together. She posted it on her facebook page the next day. It was sweet. (& yes, Kristine, that's the aforementioned Christmas tree)
The following day we had plans to meet up with some friends that were going downtown for the Tiger's game, that we hadn't seen since 2004. They tend to not do much downtown, as do many suburban Detroiters, except contribute to traffic to attend sport events, & then leave right away. I suggested a place practically right across the street from the ball park. We had a nice breakfast together & they asked us what our plans were for the day, which were to go down to a newer park on the riverfront where there is a carousel & a bike shop that is owned by a friend of my from college, Wheelhouse Detroit. MiniMe begged her new friends to come with us, & they did. While Kelli B., my friend from college, was doing a bike tour of her beloved Corktown that day & not at the shop, we had a nice time down at the riverfront. We all rode the carousel & MiniMe even got to ride the token mermaid.

As we walked along the river, I marveled at how clean the water is compared to my younger days, as well as to the inter-coastal waterway here in Fort Myers. I laid in the baby grass, again, and spoke to our unborn child with my heart. If I close my eyes, I can still go back there, & I have several times since we came home.
We dropped our friends off at the stadium & went back to the hotel. We then drove out to a town to the west, Belleville, where Biggie's brother & sister-in-law live. They had a small birthday party for my mother-in-law with mostly people I know, & a few I did not. I tend to not fit into the typical doting, hovering females, but am not welcomes into the activities of the men either. I tend to stay on the periphery, where I am okay, but now that MiniMe is older, it is more obvious. After most everybody left, Biggie's sister was kind enough to give me a small yet intense massage. It was needed, but I always feel bruised the next day, she is so strong. We went back to our hotel & we all slept well.

The next day we got up & checked out of the hotel, then went for breakfast at a fairly new restaurant I had read about located in Corktown, Le Petite Zinc. It was a cool, drizzly day & MiniMe was grumpy in her slightly too small raincoat. Honestly, breakfast would have been heavenly without her whiny, testy little attitude, but even with it, our meal was the best we ate on this trip. Biggie & I both had crepes with spinach, pine nuts & a salty cheese. The coffee was strong, not bitter, & fresh. I can understand why, even on a Monday morning, the sweet waitress had to rush around briskly & take help from the chef. We let MiniMe wander out the doorway into the garden where we could still see her as she picked up stones to put into the fountain & we rubbed our bellies, sipping the last of our coffee. We took our time leaving & MiniMe validated my perspective that she was cranky by falling asleep in the car as we drove back to my brother-in-laws.

Belleville, where they live, is closer to Ann Arbor than to Detroit. My brother & sister-in-law wanted to go to Zingerman's, a bourgeois, expensive, yet good deli in Ann Arbor that is pretty famous. The original deli is located in a converted victorian home in downtown Ann Arbor. Biggie loves a lot of their mail order catalog, but detests actually eating there, because the tables are either outside in a tent or really teeny tables upstairs. He likes space when he eats & if he pays $15 for a sandwich, it should have more prosciutto on it than what he has gotten there in the past. I lived in Ann Arbor for four years, & during most of that time I did not have a car, so I know it pretty well. I suggested we instead go to Zingerman's Roadhouse, an actual restaurant they established in 2004, inside a former steakhouse. It made me feel good to help his family discover a restaurant they didn't know about as well as find a compromise between what they wanted to eat & Biggie's issues. The meal itself was a trial for me because, again, MiniMe was really cranky. At one point I did take her back out to the car to sit for a few minutes to decompress, but it was still nice.

MiniMe took to this Aunt, as well, much easier than I expected her to. It was a shock to me to have help around in regard to her & to not be the sole person her endless stream of thoughts is directed at. Our last morning of the trip, I woke up to go to the room where she slept only to find my sister-in-law wedged into the sofa bed next to her. Apparently, MiniMe had nightmares the night before & my sister-in-law just climbed into bed with her. I was touched that she would do that for her, & appreciative that I got one last good last rest before we had to schlep back to the heat of Florida.

The trip home was brutal, uneventful, & this post is bordering on novella, so I will let that sweet gesture be the end. I wanted to get all this down for MiniMe to read later & before I forgot how things were. I have proofread it a few times, I feel like there are still some things to fix, but people are pestering me about our trip, so here it is.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This little light of mine

Dear MiniMe,

Four years ago, on June 11, 2005, at about 1:30am, I was unconscious as you took your first breaths. About an hour later, I am told that I held you for the first time, that I wept, but I don't remember it. The first thing I remember is putting my hands on your belly as you lay in that plastic bassinet & singing the Waylon Jennings song "If You Ask Me To" to you. To anyone who has heard the song a few times, they might think the morphine was still a little high, but for anyone who knows the words, I'm sure they'd understand. I mean every word, & you now know them by heart. 

As we have come to know each other, your personality has seemed to be there all along. I've always felt like I've known you for a long time. When I think back to my life before you, when I would think about what a child of mine would be like, you are just as I always knew you would be in so many ways. Yet, you are so much better. I always thought you would look more like Biggie, with darker hair & eyes. The first time your Nonna met you she held you up in the air, saying, "Oh! Look at my little Calabrese!" I scoffed inside. You look so much like me it hurts sometimes, but you do it better. Your eyes sparkle more, you've got some of your dad's curls right at the ends of your hair, you are more honest than I could ever hope to be. I am proud of how authentic you are. I do my best not to be hurt when you don't want to hug me, but thankfully it is rare. You indulge my policy that I don't get out of bed until somebody gives me a hug, & I thank you for it. 

I need you to know that I am not the kind of mother I want to be, sweetheart. I hate that we are trapped inside during this relentless heat. I am sorry that I can't take you for a walk in the woods, to try to master your new scooter, or to just lay in the grass & look at the clouds. I'm sorry that you are forced to settle, day after day, with your sometimes cranky & not-so-creative mom. I am trying to do something about it, but the guilt is a heavy burden. 

I am so grateful that you love to help me. Yes, most of the time it takes me longer to get tasks completed because you do, but the fact that you want so earnestly to make things easier for me speaks volumes about your character. In your own way, you tell me that you see all I do for you & that you think it is right. So many times you show that you understand me better than most adults do & you never question my motivations. You seem to always trust that I will not let you down, & while some may see that as a disservice in some way, I don't. Some days it is the only validation I can find. 

Although I want this to be about you, I have to tell you I am so excited for you to become a big sister. Just yesterday I asked you what am I going to call this new baby, because only you can be my Punk. You said, "Oh, Mama! You'll come up with something! You always do!" You are such a great little cheerleader, you make our whole family excited to see what is down our path. 

You are on the cusp of going out in the world to meet new people. While I worry over if you will find the balance between staying true to yourself & being gracious, I'm excited. I can't wait to hear you describe your experiences in your exuberant, colorful vocabulary. I savor every morsel, lovey. More than anything, thank you for loving me back. I don't know what I did to deserve you. I strive everyday to do so.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

For Mimi...

My mom was a single parent, essentially, living 4 hours from my father. I spent a considerable amount of time in day care, with babysitters, some family, for most of my early childhood. I remember very fondly the sweet Montessori school she sent me to when I was 3 & 4, run by the Dominican Sisters & a bit of a drive for her. I remember learning how the calendar worked in 1978, when I was four, & the feeling of pride I got from understanding. I remember generally gazing over the classroom & being proud of the sense of order that there was, with everything having a place, & knowing there were still discoveries for me to make. I felt comfortable with my teachers as well as my peers; I had a sense of community. This was a primary reason in me wanting to send MiniMe to Montessori, & I know she found her experience to be as satisfying as mine.

When we moved into the City, 3 blocks from the very house my mom grew up in, I was to go to the same elementary school as she did. On the first day of kindergarten I had an awful experience I remember very vividly almost 30 years later. The teacher was going over the alphabet, probably to get a sense of where we, the students, were in our understanding. I was bored. I reached over another student to grab a Little Golden Book, opened it, & read quietly to myself. The teacher scolded me for not participating with the group. I told her, "I already know that, though. I've never read this book before." She mocked me. She ended up bringing me up to the front of the class, where she was standing & all the other students were sitting in front of her on the floor. She didn't believe that I could read, so she literally dared me to read the book aloud. I knew that she expected me to fail, which was something I hadn't really experienced before. I read, slowly, but certainly. The kids in the class didn't seem to understand that what I was doing was a positive thing. All they understood was that the teacher was mocking me. The fact that I could read was irrelevant. I was disobedient. I did not conform. I was to be punished. I was to be mocked. 

I went home that day & cried more than I had when my Brittany, Missy, had run away. I was beside myself. I didn't understand. Thankfully, my mother understood exactly. In fact, she had even endured the cruelty of the same kindergarten teacher herself as a child. She made an appointment with the principal of the school & I did not go back until after we met with Mr. Castle. 

When we met with him I remember he & my mom explained to me that I would be given some questions on paper & I was to just do as best as I could. There was no right or wrong answers, they just wanted to see how much I understood. I remember rows & columns of words that were somehow related. I had to circle some things, or underline them, or simply read them aloud. I was comfortable. I didn't feel like I had on that first day of kindergarten & was relieved.

The decision was made to just put me in first grade at 5 years old. I remember my teacher, Ms. Shirley, who used phonics before they were very popular. She used to put words on stars around the ceiling & we would take turns reading them aloud as she pointed to them with her pointer. I was not afraid to succeed or be proud. 

I remember in 2nd grade I left the rest of my regular class for a few hours a week & went to the library with other kids from other classrooms. We did special projects where we got new markers, new books, & it was there that I first heard that I was gifted. In the 4th grade, my best friend, Rachel Hernandez, & I were moved out of the same class as our other friend, Ramona Castro. Ramona's mom tried to get her moved into our class, but they wouldn't let her. I remember how mad Ramona was at us, but we didn't understand why the grown ups did what they did. Rachel & I were put into a 'split' classroom, where there were about another 8 students our age, 4th graders, but the rest of the class were 5th graders. My mom made the decision to put me in private school before I got to junior high because she was a juvenile social worker, she knew too much, & she didn't want me to be 10 years old going to school with pregnant girls.

When I was older & we moved out of the City into a more affluent suburb, I had a hard time. I was the girl from a broken home with the wrong clothes. I had a hard time adjusting socially & because of that my grades suffered initially. Eventually, I grew into high school, but while I did have a few close friends, I was behind socially. When my classmates turned 16 & got cars, my parents tried to compensate by buying me a moped. I didn't turn 16 until the summer before my senior year. I started college when I was just 17, and I wasn't very street smart. I had a hard time in college because I didn't know what to do with myself. For the first time in my life, I had to study, & I didn't know how. 

I have been thinking about this a lot because MiniMe is going to four in a few short weeks & she is eligible for the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program, which covers a big portion of the cost of her to be in certain pre-school settings starting in the fall. (You know, the fall, when I'm due to have another rugrat to suck up my time as well as my breastmilk) She is desperately in need of being with some sort of a peer group, as we live in a seriously unbalanced population. She was used to being in group care from 9 weeks old until just last summer, so she is incredibly social. But the choices for schools here are, well, let's just say that the state of Florida is currently ranked #49 in the country for quality of education. 

In raising MiniMe thus far, we have cultivated a love of learning in her that is nearly unquenchable. She is caught between wanting to be an astronaut, a violinist, a veterinarian, a scientist, and a dancer. The library is like a fantasy to her, where any question she has can be explored. She has asked for Gray's Anatomy (the book) for her birthday because she is fascinated with what is going on in there. I love to hear her questions, as they are already so thoughtful, it is possible to have an intelligent conversation with her. I am afraid, however. 

I feel as if there is a choice where you have to cross a boundary, & I feel I am upon its' precipice. As we have let MiniMe's desires lead her, she knows all of the planets in the solar system, but does not recognize each letter of the alphabet. She can tell you what a gardenia, bougainvillea, hibiscus, plumbago, & bromeliad are, how banyan trees grow from the top down, but she cannot grasp why twenty-ten is not a number. 

We have chosen to send her to the local Catholic school because, well, we are, & this is the first year they are participating in the VPK program. Another part of my rationale is that if we are still here (God forbid) for the following school year & cannot get her into the arts magnet elementary, at least we would have the option of keeping her at the Catholic school as it goes through 8th grade, & we would be able to provide her some sort of continuity. I am worried, however, that they will squelch our passionate girl. 

I remember, sitting in Calculus class, & being irate with the teacher. I could not grasp the concept & was trying to get him to help me visualize what the concept was. He lost patience with me & told me to just follow the directions. It was the first class I ever failed. This rutabaga cannot just follow processes very well without understanding how the process related to something tangible. I learned math in Montessori, which uses a series of manipulative beads to illustrate the concepts. I realized that while I was given a firm foundation of loving to learn, a gift of having things taught to me in a way that I fully understood them, I never learned to just memorize for the sake of memorization. What a waste, I thought, of my time & my thoughts. 

The Catholic school expects MiniMe to be able to write her name when she starts in August, & I am expected to teach her this. I'm annoyed. This is yet another fine example of where No Child Left Behind has gotten us; children must learn how to test well. We both have such better things to do with our time. When she decides she wants or needs to know this, she will, & it will take her all of a half hour at most. But to force her to sit, at not quite 4 years old, & learn this thing that someone else has decided she needs to know, I don't know if I can do it. Part of the reason I think the Catholic school would be good for her is because I don't want her to be in Calculus class one day & be in that place that I was. I want her to know how to study. But at the same time, I hear Yeats, whom I share a birthday with saying, "Education is not a filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire."

I know she is smart. I don't care if someone thinks she's gifted; in fact, I hope no one ever labels her as such. It's an awful kind of pressure. I'm more worried about squelching that little flame. It is so beautiful, it lights up my days. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

raising my hackles

I was thinking about one of my favorite houses in Detroit that was on the market last year for a very reasonable price. It is known by some as the Mary Chase Stratton house, who was the founder of Pewabic Pottery. I lived right down the street from Pewabic for a while & I use to go there just to look & touch the magnificent tiles that they make. I went to the Pewabic website to revisit some of those tactile memories & I got a chill. 

Mrs. Stratton was an amazing woman. She grew up in the Upper Pennisula of Michigan,in what is called Copper Country because of the copper mines. Mrs. Stratton named the company after a river where she grew up near Hancock. Pewabic is an Ojibawa word used to describe copper, or the sheen of copper, which Mrs. Stratton replicated in her beautiful glazes. 

As I was reading about all of this, I felt a breeze on the nape of my neck, though no windows were open. I was thinking about my family that comes from the same place; my father's family. I felt, very strongly, the presence of my father. I could even smell the Swisher Sweets.

I don't like to say I believe in ghosts. I want & need to believe the loved ones that I have lost are away from this world, its' pain, & in a better place. All of them were lost to cancer. But when I put my hand to my belly, my heart sends out tentacles to wherever that place is. I cannot fathom that I will be having a child that my father will never know. When I heard these words in my head, I cried, but almost immediately, I felt comfort. I felt the comfort that my father, even though he is gone, believes in me. 

I am afraid to think about the things that I want too much because I am afraid of failing. I am afraid to miss home too much because I may not be able to return. My mother reminds me often that you can't go back home. But in that fear, I look up to see MiniMe at her easel. I hear my dad's giggle. I remember him telling me that it is okay to fail, but not okay to give up. 

So I will push forward with my plans for a business that will help us to be able to go wherever we want to go, regardless of the local economy. Biggie is taking us to Michigan for my birthday & I am giddy to get there. I can't hope too hard that he will find a way to want to go back. I have to keep reminding myself that MiniMe's birthday is right after we come back so I don't forget to plan it & send out invitations. This trip is eclipsing so many exciting things, even my first ultrasound, that it is speaking volumes to me about how much I miss Detroit. I can't wait to take pictures of the places I miss & share them with you.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Taking Me back to Dionne Warwick & Stevie Wonder

I think Kristine was in my car for all of 30 seconds before I had told her I was pregnant. We hadn't been in the same room together since 2003, but I couldn't tell. We were right back at it, finishing each other's sentences, swapping stories, just as we always have. It was so nice, to not have pretense, not that I normally do, but it's different with certain people.

Morgan, or Momo, her daughter, is a doll. I think she may be the most mellow baby I have ever spent time with. The kid cried maybe twice that I noticed in four days she was here, furthering what I have always said; if we have another girl we might as well name her Scarlett, because that would be more honest. I loved following her chirpy little butt around, introducing her to the chalkboard easel, the ball tracker. So easily entertained. With none of the dramatic sighs & "Well, you know..."s that are MiniMe. But then again, MiniMe is also so affectionate, not that Momo isn't, but I like me some hugs. & I got them, from Kristine, in spades.

Whenever we have company Biggie is always trying to get them to the beach. I know people like the beach, but I don't. Especially since I've become a mother. The sunscreen slathered everywhere, the squinting, the covering of the fat rolls, the greasy food, the sand in every crevice & throughout the car for months, it's just not worth it to me. God Bless Kristine. She was content with the few sporadic plans I had made; open gymnastics, lunch, the fabric store, the Italian market, walking in our woods were enough. She came to see us, not the place. 

I had forgotten how fun Kristine is & how much she likes me. I was remembering being on the phone with a resident when we worked together, Kristine was sitting across my desk, drawing crazy stick figure drawings. I was being given a verbal finger-shaking from the person on the phone, but my voice was smiling, because Kristine was bored. She would come out to sit with me when I took a cigarette break, even though she didn't smoke. When she was here, Biggie did something, maybe it was my hormones being insensitive to him or my hormones making me overly sensitive to him, that hurt me. I didn't have to say a thing. I got one of those sobbing, can barely get the words out talks that we all need to have with a girlfriend every once & while. Other company that we have had has stressed me out, making me worry about the dishes, the towels, the dog hair. Kristine is the kind-of friend that loads the dishwasher, finds the coziest way to sit on the sofa, & is like she lives down the street.

MiniMe has this ritual thing that I have always done to calm her down before she goes to sleep called ticklies. It involves feathery stroking of her limbs, torso, wherever her bossy self can think of. When MiniMe wanted Kristine to read her a bedtime story instead of Mom, I didn't have to explain what ticklies are. Kristine already knew. Even better, on Sunday, while we were laying around before we had to go to the airport, Kristine gave me some ticklies. Now THAT'S a friend. 

So, Kristine. Thank you for coming to visit me. It meant more to me than I can explain. I so hope I can find a way to come visit you. Bless your sweet girl. Thank Brad for letting his girls go for a few days. My only regret is that we didn't get a picture of us together. But, we will.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Our Little Pilgrim

So, I'm pregnant.

I'm due two days before Biggie's birthday, (Nov. 20th), which is funny because MiniMe was born to days before my birthday, (June 13th). Not that I put much stock in due dates. MiniMe's was June 27th. My mom's due date for me was May 22nd. So in other words, we're not a timely bunch in these parts.

Be glad that I decided to not blog about this in my first trimester. About 2 days after I figured out that I really didn't need to rush out for tampons, Kristine decided she was going to come visit so I decided to wait to tell her face to face. I also considered the fact that things happen & I didn't want to force a bunch of people that have never laid actual eyes on my person feel sorry for me if something went wrong. But let's just say that being pregnant at 34 is a lot different than it was at 29. No, I haven't had morning sickness; I've had evening sickness. It starts right around the time I'm supposed to go in the kitchen & mess around with raw meat, stinky cheese, other generally smelly things. The actual first red flag that I might be pregnant was when I was cooking sausages with cheese & parsley for the fam, lifted the lid to turn them over, & promptly did an about face to vomit into the sink. The only thing that has sounded appetizing to 'me' (I am temporarily hijacked & my taste buds are not to be trusted), is turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, with gravy & cranberries. Poor Biggie. There is a Bob Evans on his way home that we have developed a first name relationship with. I think it's waning, though. I actually managed to eat a chicken burrito last night, so let's hope I can move on to other foods soon. 

I think I just have an aversion to food I cook, because nothing I can think of cooking for dinner sounds good. Well, maybe some grilled cheese & tomato soup?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The week, a summary

I hate sippy cups. MiniMe has been able to drink out of a regular, open-topped cup since she was a year old. When we go to restaurants we always ask them to bring her a regular glass of water, just like the rest of us. Sometimes I'll get crazy descriptive & ask for a juice glass. Is that unclear? Because, a lot of the time they go ahead & bring the damned plastic cup with the lid & the straw that we know is just going in the damned landfill as soon as we leave if we don't take it home & recycle it. So, then if they bring it to the table & we send it back, we know it just goes in the damn trash. I hate these people that make our carbon footprint bigger because they are too lazy to listen. Dammit.

I am MiniMe's friend. She has been ultra affectionate with me this week. I am a great mom, she tells me. This has nothing to do with homemade chocolate chip cookies, four trips to the park this week, one spur-of-the-moment playdate with one of her favorite girlfriends, or Bubblefest '09. 

I have BIG news. BIG. I just can't tell y'all yet, because it's not ready to be unveiled yet. But please come back soon, because I NEED INPUT! 

Biggie rocks. He has sold 24 cars this month. Craziness. Some whole dealerships don't sell that many cars in a month. Not our Biggie. Oh, & he took today OFF because he sold 4 cars alone yesterday. He may not help me much around the house, may be a little too much a smart-as morning person, but hey, he sells the cars. 

Kristine coming Thursday. Much cleaning, sprucing, checklist making between now & then. Plus, MiniMe has her fricken VPK interview. I'm thinking that the interviewers better have their game faces on because she wants some answers on why, exactly, they are going to make her wear plain white leather tennis shoes. She thinks they are ugly. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Warning: If this doesn't make you tear up you have no heart

On Easter we went to Mass, came home, I made cinnamon rolls & chicken sausages. MiniMe found her eggs & basket. She proceeded to hatch & heal the plastic eggs all day long. She completely reinforced the idea that we need to obtain a living situation where we can have a couple of chickens. She loves them.

My mom came over & we all sort of tag teamed dinner. It was rich & we all ended up splayed over our sofa. After growling over the car shows that Biggie chose to subject us to all day, I insisted on watching The Sound of Music. He groaned. It was 4 hours long, due to the fact that it was on ABC Family & had commercials. He said he has seen it before, but I don't think that was a true statement. I think a true statement would be that he has been in the room before when it was on, but I'll elaborate on this further later.

I am ever-so-glad I insisted on watching this movie. I love Rodgers & Hammerstein. My Gram was one of those women who would chirp about the kitchen, humming these old classics, & was famous for making up her own lyrics when she couldn't remember the actual words. I can't listen to Blue Indigo without tearing up, remembering how she changed the lyrics to be about how sad she was without me around. My friend Kristi & I used to play a travel game where we would sing snippets from show tunes & the others in the car had to guess the show. But in the Hierarchy of Show Tunes, anything once sung by Julie Andrews is known backwards, forwards, sideways, in reverse ala Black Sabbath. I have VIVID memories of The Sound Music viewings with my Gram. I knew that MiniMe was finally old enough to at least stop & stare a few times at the screen. She exceeded my expectations.

First of all, through the viewing of the Good Night Song, MiniMe has perfected her curtsy. She has requested a "twirly" dress every day since then, so as to have sufficient skirt to hold to the sides of her body n the event she stumbles upon what she believes is an appropriate time to curtsy. Say, to Farmer Red, the farmer we buy our greens from at the Farmer's Market. 

She chirps around the house, I am certain in her head she is flanked by matching siblings, prancing around Salzburg. She has requested a white dress with a blue sash. She has consulted with many people she thinks are smart to attempt to come to a solution on the problem of Maria.

By the last scenes of the movie, when the von Trapps are attempting to escape the Nazis, my mom had gone home, & MiniMe was snuggled in between Biggie & I on the sofa. I explained that the men in the matching suits were trying to make The Captain leave Maria & the children to fight in a war he didn't believe in. Biggie made me absolutely speechless, saying that he didn't think it was fair to the family to leave the lavish existence behind, that he would have just gone along. Apparently he didn't pay much attention in history class about the Nazi's. I explained that there was no way they would have let Maria, a Catholic, stay in that house with the children. They surely would have taken it for some senior officer. As far as The Captain, there isn't even any certainty that they would have even put him in command of anything, given his outspoken disagreement with the Third Reich; they may have just taken him away & killed him to prevent him from lending his support to The Allies. I told Biggie, in no uncertain terms, would he ever have left us to fight a war none of us supported, and that we would all be better together than separate with more material wealth. His life is priceless to us.

At this point, MiniMe looked up at him and said, "Daddy, I'd die for you."

Heart. Shattered. I couldn't speak, I just hugged her. I looked over her head at him with tears in my eyes & told him she had heard Father David during the homily talking about how few of us realise we have people in our lives that would give their lives for ours. I make no attempts to force our religious beliefs on anyone, I am just relaying the concept. But, still. She loves. 

The one thing that I've always said is the most important value for me to teach to my children, she's got it. At 3 years old. I will hold this memory up for those times when she is screaming at me to stop, even when she's a teenager telling me she hates me.