The Circle of Life

I was changing the Bun’s diapers when I overheard this conversation between my mother (Nonna) and my mother’s mother (G. G. for great-grandmother):

Nonna: So you’re wearing regular panties now?

GG: Yes.

Nonna: You’re not wearing the Depends anymore?

GG: No, not right now.

Nonna: Well, are your pants wet? Should I change you?

I listened to this exchange as I listen to many exchanges between these two women. In some ways, I feel as if I’m listening to my future.

My grandmother, GG, is almost 89 years old. She has been a widow for more than 25 years. Since I was a teenager, she lived in a senior citizens’ apartment complex; she was very independent. Until about two years ago, she drove by herself. Then she started getting lost, forgetting where she was going and/or how to get there. 

Although for most of her life she has been in good health, lately she hasn’t been doing well mentally. She doesn’t have Alzheimer’s (thank goodness), but she clearly has age-onset dementia.

A couple of months ago, she took a spill and fractured her pelvis. My mother and her brother, my uncle, had to move her out of the independent-living senior apartment where she resided. She is now in assisted living and will probably be there the rest of her life. She walks with the assistance of a walker, but she can’t do many other things for herself.

GG is deaf. She is extremely forgetful. Sometimes, she has acute attacks of paranoia. For awhile she was convinced my uncle tried to kill her (he was with her when she fell). Sometimes she thinks my uncle and my mom are stealing all her money.

I watch the interactions between my mother and her mother with curiosity. My mom is already losing her hearing, although she doesn’t like to admit it. She says she misses the first parts of words, and often if she’s not looking at you, she doesn’t realize you’re talking to her.

My mother is in very good health. She eats well; she exercises. At 62, she looks fantastic. She still works, and she and my father are very happily married, enjoying travel and their grandkids, and looking forward to retirement.

Where will she be in 20 years? Will she be forgetting how to get from her house to mine? Will she forget what clothes she owns? Will she forget about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Will my brother and sister and I be figuring out who will be taking care of her? Will my father still be around?

Goodness, I don’t mean to tempt fate. But someday, will Monkey or Bun be changing my grandchild’s diaper in the other room while I ask my mother if she needs a new Depends?

Part of me is already in mourning, of course. I know a lot of stories of my grandmother’s life — and they are excellent stories of a well-lived life — and I hope I remember them for a good long time.

Because she can’t tell them to me anymore.

In the Days When Memes Were Chain E-Mails

I got this e-mail from my friend Hope, and although I don’t do these things often, I was in the mood this morning:

A) Four jobs I have had in my life:
1) Erie Zoo concession worker (the summer the polar bear were in heat)
2) table server at the Gertrude Barber Center (nursing home)
3) delivery person for my parents’ pharmacy (yeah, I delivered drugs!)
4) secretary to the chair of LIS at Pitt

B) Four movies I could watch over and over:
1) Pirates of the Caribbean I and II
2) O Brother Where Art Thou
3) Narnia
4) the Harry Potter movies

C) Four places I have lived:
1- Erie, PA
2 – Pittsburgh PA
3- Coraopolis PA
Um, I’ve only lived these three places!

D) Four television shows I watch:
1- Heroes
4- sometimes: House, CSI: Miami (I like to see how many times David Caruso takes off his sunglasses)

E) Four places I have been on vacation:
1) Florence, Italy
2) Paris, France
3) Seven Springs (every year since I was about five)
4) San Francisco/Napa Valley

F) Websites I visit almost daily: When I’m online…
1) Her Bad Mother
2) Cynical Dad/Dad Gone Mad
3) my “blog”:
4) my bank account

(G) Four of my favorite foods:
1. Organic strawberries
2. Cheese from Penn Mac in the strip
3) salad tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic salt and salt & pepper
4) Sarris Easter chocolates (esp. Peanut butter or caramel filled ones)

(H) Four places I would rather be right now:
1) the Pittsburgh Zoo with my family
2) traveling to the Horsetrack Party in NJ
3) (believe it or not) working at a full-time writing job
4) Ithaca, NY on a winery tour

Things That Look Like Poop

Wet, mashed up pine cones.
Masticated chocolate cookie.
Poop (duh).
A stick.
A stick covered in mud.
A piece of very dry roast that ended up under the table overnight. (Don’t ask.)

I will add to this list as I find other things ground into the rugs in this house, some of which are poop, either from the neighborhood pets or my Monkey’s own, stinky behind.

Edited (on 5/19) to add: Come to notice, regular pine cones that have not opened up yet also look quite a bit like poop. I didn’t find one ground into my carpet (yet — give the Monkey time), but I did register this fact on our whirl-wind walking tour of the neighborhood today.

Added 5/26: Dried blueberries look like rabbit feces.
And brown play-doh (yes, BROWN) looks exactly like poop.

More Randomness

I have let the weblog go this month. Not that anyone is paying attention. I got Bun into “daycare” (a woman who watches kids at her home) with Monkey; they both go twice a week. I’m not back to full time work, yet. I thought on the days the kids weren’t here I would look for a full-time job and do something new and cool (and possibly involving advertising) with this weblog.

But then two freelance opportunities came my way, and I took them. They’ve been a bit more trouble than I originally bargained for (especially one), but I’m doing okay. It hasn’t given me any time to do anything else on the days that the kids are away from me, though.

I don’t have much to report other than that. The Bun had her four-month check-up. In two months, she gained 3 and 1/2 pounds and grew 2 and 1/2 inches. That’s on about 75 percent mother’s milk, and 25 percent formula. She is sleeping longer at night, getting up once around 5 a.m. We just had a couple of tough bedtimes; I have let her “cry it out”. It’s distressing, but after about 15 minutes tonight, she was asleep.

Monkey continues to amuse and amaze. The way she puts things together floors me. For example, while dancing to the Beach Boys “Catch a Wave” the other day, she got an idea. DearDR was playing the guitar, and Monkey ran into her playroom (which doubles as our TV/family room). She dumped out her play drum, grabbed the tamborine, and ran back to her daddy and “Catch a Wave”. She started playing along — in rhythm no less. (She doesn’t get that from me!) Another day, she was playing with an electronic toy that plays songs. She got out her Mrs. Potato head and made her dance along with the music. It was adorable.

I missed writing about Mother’s Day, which given that my Mother’s Day kind of sucked, is probably okay. You know what I want for Mother’s Day next year? Two days at a spa. Alone. Yeah, it was that kind of Mother’s Day. If you want to read about a good one, see what Earthmother got up to, go here to read a moving Mother’s Day piece. And don’t forget: we’re all good mothers — er, parents. (And I promise to write about why I am soon.)

Book Binge Results

Well, I haven’t read through everyone’s list, but Mary P put me to shame, that’s for sure. I thought I did pretty well, but she rocked it!

Anyway, here is my list:

Cujo, Stephen King: I had the urge to re-read this book — don’t ask me why. It is a fascinating look at how a series of coincidences can add up in a very bad way for someone. It takes place in the days before cell phones, which may make you think twice about leaving home without one.

Eldest, Christopher Paolini: This is the second in the Inheritance Trilology. If you don’t know the story, the author was young when he started writing (15, I think), and 17 when the first, Eragon, was published. He’s 22 now, working on number three. I like the books fine, but you can tell they were written by someone young who is steeped in the Lord-of-the-Rings types of fantasy. Which in itself is not a bad thing, it’s just something I was conscious of while reading the book. Plus, he had an in, as his parents work in publishing.

Cell, Stephen King: Another re-read, a fantastic story. He manages to make the “walking undead” plot fresh again. Mostly because they are really not dead. The characters are compelling. And, in direct contrast to Cujo, you will never want to answer your cell phone again.

A Simple Plan, Scott Smith: You know, this book was okay. It’s pretty horrifying to watch a character slide down the slope that the protagonist does. I think it should have ended differently (I thought it did end differently, until I got to the end, obviously). But overall, meh. Go read his The Ruins instead. You’ll never look at pretty plants the same way!

Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill: Great ghost story by the eldest son of Stephen King. Compulsively readable. I think he blinked at the end (i.e. it was not the dark ending I was expecting). Definitely one I will read again — oh, and possibly buy if I find it used.

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold: Wow. I had heard lots about this book, rave reviews from critics to fans, and I was just blown away. Heartbreaking in many ways, but ultimately hopeful and uplifting. Truly beautiful writing, a unique story, and characters with whom you become involved.

The Echo Maker, Richard Powers: I bogged down in this book. It’s quite complicated, a bit slow going, and a couple of the main characters are difficult to like. I perserved because of the mystery (which paid off) and because it was a book that my husband got for Christmas, and he would have made fun of me for not finishing it. Mary P, you should read it, because one of the characters is obviously a dig at Oliver Sacks (an author I also love).

Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo: A horrifying novel about the devastating effect of war on one man. Written in 1939, and referring to a soldier from WWI. Still relevant today.

The Collector, John Fowles: Another throwback novel, first published in 1963. Creepy and weirdly prescient. The most fascinating aspect of it was the language, which is implicit and subtle, especially compared to novels with similiar themes today, which are so explicit and graphic in nature. The Collector is a good book and a study of language from another age.

I really wanted to read a Kurt Vonnegut book in honor of his passing on April 11, 2007. He is one of my all-time favorite writers. We have Slaughter House Five, which I recently re-read (and what’s up with him not being on that list??), but nothing else! I am ashamed my collection is so lacking, and must rectify the situation soon.

I did manage to start Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White on Monday, and I finished it this morning. I realize I need to own this book, as a vegetarian raising vegetarians.

And, finally, I checked The Time Traveler’s Wife out of the library (most of these books came from the library, of course), and I can’t wait to really dig into it.

Mommy Burnout

It just was building and building.

I know DearDR thinks I am helplessly overwhelmed by taking care of the girls. He believes that I am overreacting, too, that doing what I do night after night, and most of the time, isn’t as “bad” as I make out. But, as I pointed out to him, he doesn’t know. He has never taken on the two girls at the same time, for a more than the half hour or so it takes me to shower and get ready.

Babyproofing Your Marriage (a book described in depth here) suggests that in order for husbands to “get it” (the it being what is it like being with children for an extended period of time), wives institute a Training Weekend. Just leave ’em to it, and see how they do. And a part of me wants to do that to DearDR, just throw him into the middle of it. Heck, I don’t even care if it’s a whole weekend. I’d like to see how he does from 6 to 9 p.m., getting everyone fed, bathed and into bed!

Sunday was IT for me. I was scrambling to get everyone up and ready for a forty-five minute drive from my house to a reception for one of my cousin’s children (First Holy Communion). DearDR wasn’t coming — he was driving to Ohio with his dad and one of their buddies to buy wine juice. He walked out of the door at 9:30 a.m. Fortunately he agreed to stick around until I got a shower, so that was taken care of. But I had to get both girls ready, feed Bun (I had meant to pump, but Bun wouldn’t leave me alone), get a bottle ready (I didn’t feel like nursing her at the reception), and so on. You know what it takes to get out the door with two kids!

So, I did my best on my own. Bun was crying and crying, and wouldn’t sleep, so I finally nursed her to sleep. I managed to get dressed and get makeup on (including mascara!). I got the girls in the car. It was 11:15 a.m. (So much for 10 a.m. Mass!)

And then I got lost on the way. I tried an alternate route because the usual route was under construction. (The joke in Pittsburgh: How many seasons does Pittsburgh have? Four: Winter, Almost Winter, Still Winter and Construction.) Well, I should have looked into the alternate route a little better. There was a point where, for about fifteen minutes, I not only didn’t know how to get where I was going, I didn’t know how to get back home. Thank God Bun was sleeping soundly, and Monkey was just being great, singing to herself and looking out the window. That saved me a lot of stress.

Thank God, too, for the cell phone. I got in touch with my sister-in-law, and she and one of my cousins got me to the venue. I got inside the doors at 12:30 p.m., only about half an hour late. It was controlled chaos from then on.

I have a large family. I have seventeen first cousins on my father’s side. Most of these cousins are married with kids — there are twenty-five “great” grandchildren (neither of my father’s parent’s are living, but this is an easy was to refer to the third generation). I had to feed Monkey — she was starving. She wolfed down pasta, eggs, French toast and part of a croissant in record time, and ran off to play with the other kids. I finished off her leftovers, and went to give Bun her bottle. I had several five minute conversations with various relations. Bun got passed around like a sack of flour, and she handled it remarkably well.

Less than two hours later, we packed back into the car and came home.

I expected DearDR to be back from Ohio, but he wasn’t. It was about 3 p.m., and Monkey walked straight over to my in-laws. I was too busy with Bun, so I just called them. My mother-in-law let Monkey in, and when she declared, “I’m hungry”, Bella fed her. In the meantime, I was changing and feeding Bun at home. I, too, was hungry — I hadn’t had a chance to do more than eat Monkey’s leftovers, and I was starving. I grabbed some leftovers from my ‘fridge, and ate them at the in-laws.

Then when DearDR did come home, at 4 p.m., he said he had to go right back out. He had to deliver the wine juice. I knew it was going to take him at least two hours (it actually took him three). I had been hoping for the night off, and had asked him earlier that day. I wasn’t going to get it.

I wasn’t mad at DearDR, I was just so over it. I love my girls more than my own life, but for a change, I wanted someone else to do the evening duties, while I went out to have a beer or a cup of coffee. And DearDR — he doesn’t know how it is to not be able to just do whatever you want whenever. I don’t sleep all the way through a night, let alone sleep in; I can’t just go have a drink or even run an errand when I feel like it. I have to figure out who needs to be fed when, and if they need baths, and get them into bed. And then after everyone is down for the night, I have to clean the kitchen, and tend to laundry, and clean the toys up. And I didn’t want to do it for once.

So when he did finally get home at 8 p.m. I was waiting at the door with my purse in my hand and my jacket on. Bun was in bed. Monkey still needed her bath and to get to bed.

And I left. I went out by myself, had a beer and a bite at a casual restaurant, and didn’t go home until 10 p.m.

And I felt much better, thank you very much.