Ear Update

Thursday the verdict came in: Bun needs ear tubes. The current infection she has must be the eighth one this winter (at least the eighth — I’ve lost track) and the antibiotic she is taking for it is not kicking it. She is scheduled to go in Monday.

I am having many emotions about the whole thing. The encouraging thing has been all the support I have gotten here and elsewhere from other parents, regardless of whether or not their kids have had tubes. To a woman and man, I’ve heard nothing but good things, most along the lines of: “He/she was a completely different child afterwards.”

Reading back over what I have written, I feel pretty defeated, resigned. I was dead set against them, and we tried some alternative remedies — albeit maybe not enough chiropractic visits — but nothing has worked. And now the antibiotics are on the verge of not working either.

Looking at the history here, tubes seem so inevitable. The constant running to the doctor and the pharmacy and the chiropractor (when I could — to say that the chiropractor was difficult to get to would be understating the case; his hours were hard for this working mama, and he didn’t accept my insurance; LOVED the guy, and I miss going with the girls, but it was HARD) and leaving work early or going in late and over and over and over again.

So: tubes. Monday. I’m trying not to freak out — it is a 15 minute surgery, the guy we’re going to comes highly recommended from several sources, it’s going to be fine. Freaking out anyway, a little bit. It’s my Bun, my little girl. The most encouraging mention about tubes I got is from my friend who is a nurse anesthestist who says these surgeries are the quickest, easiest, busiest days she has had.

I am on the mend; DearDR seems to be verging on unwell, although he hasn’t had the most physically easy week; Monkey has an ear infection, too. DearDR took her, so I don’t know if tubes were mentioned. I could have wished for a better Friday, but we’re all still here. And the weather is rocking, so today we’re going to the park.

And Now for Something Completely Different (II)

Because I don’t feel like talking about my cough, or the girls’ ears, or Bun’s ENT visit, or DearDR’s non-surgical procedure (he’s fine).

Yesterday was the 50th birthday of one of my favorite books ever, The Elements of Style, also known as Strunk & White. If you aspire at all to be a better writer, this is an invaluable little style manual. And very entertainingly written.

Speaking of entertaining, here’s an NPR commentator’s take on Strunk & White (funnier to listen to than to read).

And that’s all I got today, folks. Thanks for stopping by. If you feel like it, tell me what has helped you be a better writer — or a better whatever-your-passion-is, or even a better parent. Was it a book? A person? A web site? Share!

Lost Hiatus: Have a Happy Post Day

For days in my head, as this cold virus and its attendant nasty cough has kicked my ass, I have been thinking about the post entitled: How Being a Mom Means You Don’t Get Any Sick Days. Especially how this cold virus and its attendant nasty cough utterly defeated me this weekend, and yet I could not collapse into a heap of sleep-deprived, stuffy-head, hacking-up-a-lung achy-ness and pain until Monday, and then again yesterday. (I am pretty sure that going to work and then coming home with the kids would not have kicked my ass so thoroughly Tuesday if I had actually been able to sleep. But that attendant nasty cough had other plans for me, Delsym and hot water with honey and lemon — and possibly a shot of whiskey — be damned, and entertained me endlessly, or, rather, until about 1:30 in the morning.)

But instead, I thought, “No. No. Instead of bitching about it, let’s go around the world and tell people what you love about being a mom.” After these many posts about sorrow, and loss, and the gifts that loss can bring, let’s do something happy.

(Oh, and the Lost post? Due to various and sundry health issues, not all of them wholly my own, Lost theorizing on this here site has been postponed until further notice. Or Sunday, which ever comes first.)

Here are a few things I love about being a mom:

* My girls’ giggles. Monkey has developed an appreciation for slapstick, and nothing makes her giggle harder than animated pratfalls and physical high-jinks. Bun laughs at anything Monkey laughs at, and in turn, tries to get Monkey giggling at her.

* My girls’ love of and appreciation for music. Sometimes, instead of a DVD, they want me to put on the CD and dance around to the tunes. They love singing in the car. They squabble over the portable CD player (note to relatives: a good gift opportunity right there). Sometimes, Monkey will be humming a song, and Bun will recognize it, and start singing along. It blows my mind.

* My girls’ imaginations. Everything is alive, including forks and spoons, and cheddar bunnies. Everything talks and sings and falls and climbs and needs to be tucked in. Pretend naps need snores. Pretend waking ups need dramatic cover-throwing-asides and loud announcements: “I wake up!” Littlest Pet Shoppers (as Monkey calls them now) need names, and need to be brushed and fed, and each one needs its own home inside a plastic Easter egg, which in turn needs to be piled into a basket and carried to bed.

* My girls’ ability to love on each other and (on occasion) share. Their ability to play together, if not for long periods of time, for long enough periods of time. My girls holding hands with each other, and with me, as we walk down the street or in a store.

* My girls’ enthusiasm — for anything. Time for a bath? Yay! cries Bun, throwing both hands in the air. Going to a restaurant for dinner? Yippee, Monkey yells, jumping up and down. Heading to the library? Stupendous! is the girls’ reactions as they scramble for socks and shoes and coats and toys that need to be brought along for the ride. And most of all, for their enthusiasm upon seeing me, upon seeing their father, upon learning that it is Saturday and Mommy doesn’t have to go to work, upon pancakes on Sunday with Daddy.

* Their boundless love of me and Daddy, and Nonna & Pap-pap, and Bella & Tadone, and for just about everyone, really, and life itself. Their joy of and their wonder at it all.

(The first two are other Burgh moms, both of whom I suspect of having a more international outlook on life than I, and the contacts that would go with that. Do not ask me why I have this impression, although one of them is married to a Brit, and the other to a lawyer. The other three I found here.)
Masquerading as a Normal Person
Playard Mommy (New Zealand)
Overflow… (Cebu — the Philippines. Yes, I had to look it up.)
Missionary Moms (Russia)

What I Am: Reading On-line

A lot of loss and sorrow are traveling around on the Internet this week, and a lot of hard questions are being asked. I don’t have any of the big answers. But in the course of things, I found some questions at Glow in the Woods that I felt I could handle.

Pray if you pray. Think good thoughts if you cannot pray — send good vibes. Walk if you can. Donate if you can. Just be a good friend if nothing else is left to you. Sit in silence for awhile. Hug your children. Hold someone.

1 | Give us a few words you would have used to describe your body, your health or your sense of physical vitality before the experience of babyloss—and a few that you’d use to describe it now.

I used to live through my skin, through my body. I felt very present in my physicality; I trusted my body. I was alive through the tips of my fingers. Losing a baby means losing, especially, the trust, the simple wonder of what a body — a woman’s body, my body — can do. Having other children can help recapture that, but it is not for everyone. My relationship now is different, whether because of age or loss or the need to accede to the demands of other bodies. I’m not entirely sure. I feel as if I live less through my skin, more through my thoughts. Maybe that’s maturity.

2 | What do you do to take care of yourself? Has this changed?

The biggest thing I try to make sure I do is get enough sleep. At times, this is challenging. I eat well. I used to exercise — and I want to start exercising again. I read, and I write, and I try to be by myself for a little bit. None of this has changed. Well, the sleep thing, probably. I used to be able to get by on much less.

3 | Give us one or two words to describe sex or physical intimacy before, and then after the loss of your baby.

Sex with my husband before Gabriel was carefree.
Sex with my husband after Gabriel was fraught. Did I want to be pregnant again? Did my husband want me to be pregnant again? What if our answers are different? Sometimes we cried.
Sex with my husband now is a pleasure, is our own intimacy, doesn’t happen enough. It’s still a little fraught. Will we try one more time?

4 | Has loss and/or grief left a physical mark on you (a scar, a chronic condition, insomnia, a tattoo)?

No. Nothing physical. Not yet. I have a tattoo in mind that I want to get, a series of glyphs to represent the members of my family. Gabriel will be an angel with a trumpet.

5 | Do you medicate or control your emotions with food, wine, altered states, prescriptions? Without judgement, what have you gravitated towards in an effort to heal, and how do you feel about it?

When I feel stressed, I want to smoke cigarettes. I haven’t quite managed to break this addiction, although I do go for long times without cigarettes. In an effort to heal, though, I don’t think I’ve “used” anything. In an effort to heal, I’ve tried to use my words and my voice.

6 | Was physical healing important for you in the first year after your loss? What did/does physical healing entail and how did/do you work towards it? If physicality hasn’t been a priority for you, what do you do that makes you feel stronger or more able to cope?

Is it odd to feel that I didn’t have to physically heal after Gabriel’s birth? Except for stopping my milk. That period after his death was summed up perfectly by the phrase “insult to injury”. But I had a low-trauma — physiologically — vaginal delivery.

Sleeping well and eating well (both challenging as a mother to young children) make me feel stronger and able to cope. The Internet community helps me examine my feelings about Gabriel, and about my girls. Having time to myself for myself gives me strength. Being both physically and emotionally intimate with my husband helps me.

7 | If you could change anything about your body and/or health, what would it be? What would it feel like to be either at peace with your body, or at peace with this babylost state.

I need to get back into shape. That would bring me more into peace with my body, which I still regard very fondly. I think I am at peace with my babylost state. Which is not to say I don’t grieve. I’ve come to accept Gabriel’s loss and the gifts that he brought us. Which is not to say that I’m not still sad, that I don’t cry. That I don’t miss him.

Because I do. I do.



the eggs our children
our womb their cradle
we hold them from our own
womb time
every potential life

a child lives there
for many of us for some time
if not the whole time
children die there too
our hearts die there

then the body goes on without us
forgets injury
forgets childbirth
bones settle home & we who have lost
did we have the baby?
did we hold life?

could this faithful body
have betrayed us, our hearts?
no. no.
we do not believe
unless we are sad

Exercise Conundrum

If you’ve met me, you know this: I am a skinny bitch.

Not only am I skinny, but I’m tall.

I am this way for two reasons: DNA and a normal relationship to food.

First off, I come from a skinny family. I don’t know how my dad manages to get his weight over 200 pounds (it has happened). When he married my mom he was about 145 soaking wet. Must have been all that Italian food over the years. But even so, I’ve never seen my dad really fat, even when he was his heaviest, he didn’t look that heavy. And when he’s in shape, he’s in good shape for a sixtysomething. And don’t even get me started on my mom. She’s got a better figure than I do, and she’s not tall like me. But dang. I hope I look that good in twenty-odd years! (I’m sure DearDR hopes that too.)

Second off, as far as food goes, I have a pretty simple philosophy made up of a few parts:

1. Eat when you’re hungry.
2. Eat what tastes good.
3. Eat fresh food.
4. Eat low on the food chain.

When I go looking for a snack, four times out of five, I want a handful of nuts, or a piece of fruit, or some yogurt. That’s what I’m craving. (Yes, that fifth time, sometimes I’m looking for a Snickers bar or some chips. I ain’t gonna lie.)

But for all my tall skinny hotness (*snort*), let me tell you something else: I am out of shape. I am probably in the worst shape of my life, actually. And I need to do something about it. Stat.

I have almost always exercised: sports (mostly soccer), aerobics, step classes. For years I ran; although I never trained for a marathon — or even a 5K — I could, and did, enjoy quick 3- and 4-mile runs around the South Side. I weight trained; I did crunches. I was toned and fit and comfortable in my body.

But since having kids… need I say more? I have had short spurts of structured workouts in the four-some years since Monkey was born. And I’m hardly sedentary these days between kids and cleaning and laundry, but it’s not consistent, and it’s not enough to tone my triceps and give me rock-star abs.

Since I also work full-time, with only a 1/2-hour lunch, I simply do not know what to do. DearDR’s not home evenings in time for me to go for a run; my spring and summer time strolls around the neighborhood with the girls, while refreshing, don’t really get my muscles burning. (Nothing is slower than taking a walk with a couple of children.) Trying to work out in the evenings with the kids (I’m looking at you, Mom and Toddler Fitness was a total fail.

I’ve heard a lot about this 30-Day-Shred. Should I give it a go? Should I join a YMCA and take swim classes with my kids? Should I convince DearDR that we should Wii Fit?

I need to get in shape. I’ll be hiking in Cook Forest in a couple of weeks, and I’ll be walking three miles in a couple more after that. I think one of the reasons I got sick this past weekend (besides the fact that I co-habitate with a couple of petrie dishes) is that I got run down running around. Getting back in shape should give the immune system a good boost, shouldn’t it?

If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them. What works for you?

Meatless Monday: My Simple Easter Addition

When my MIL hosts an event, there is enough food to feed about 50 people. Possibly more. Not because 50 people are coming, but just because that’s how my MIL cooks. She married into an Italian family, and that’s how Italians cook. Trust me.

So I often feel bad offering to bring more food over, but I also consider two things:

1. Six of us are vegetarians (my girls and me, and my SIL Earthmother and her two children) and
2. It’s important to have something that the kids will actually eat. (This doesn’t always work out, however. Regardless of what my children will eat at home, if there are enough people and/or enough snacks and candy available, you can bet that getting a healthy protein or vegetable down their gullets is a foregone conclusion.)

Earthmother contributed a fabulous quinoa salad (most overheard quotes of the day regarding her dish, “What’s that? Keen-wa? What kind of food is that?” I am eagerly awaiting her recipe because it was good.

I decided I wanted to do something simple and tasty, so I went with a white bean salad. The beauty of it is that you can pretty much do anything with a white bean salad — it’s like a canvas to make something pretty and fresh tasting.

I used cannellini beans (white kidney beans; other options are great Northern beans or navy beans) as my base. I added a few thin stalks of broiled asparagus (asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, and roasted at 400° for about 6 minutes in the oven), one radish, 1/4 cup fresh dill, and vinaigrette. My vinaigrette was 1/2 cup olive oil, three tablespoons vinegar (2 sherry vinegar, 1 balsamic — I would have used red wine vinegar if I had any), one clove garlic, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, salt & pepper. Just toss everything together, and let marinate for a few hours.

It was very good, and I have a little left over for lunch sometime this week.

Easter Cookies

In lieu of being able to wish you a sincere Happy Easter due to many mitigating circumstances including (but not limited to) being very tired and sick myself and an extended tantrum by a certain 2-year-old during Mass today, I offer instead Easter Cookies.

I’m not sure the blue ones will go over well, but ya work with what ya got.

Mommy’s Little Helpers

Making a Mess

Bunnies and, er, Eggs

Gifts from My Son

A few weeks ago, I was feeling rather blue because a plant that we had gotten when Gabriel died had also died, from neglect. I got quite a long email from my friend N about that post expressing her concern for me (“I just don’t like to think of you as suffering”) and wondering if, in the sadness, if there were positive things to take from our loss. “It is Spring, Lent, soon to be Easter,” she wrote. “A time of rebirth.”

I have thought a lot about that email from my longest-running best friend, and in the wake of two losses from around the interwebs this week, I thought that I would try to capture the idea of the gift that Gabriel was/is. “Every child is a gift,” I have said, and I truly believe that, and even the ones we lose — although it is hard to understand how that loss can be a “gift”.

1. As a little girl, I didn’t dream of getting married and having babies. I don’t even remember playing with dolls. Gabriel is the one who taught me that I did, actually, want to be a mother. I had not given it a lot of thought one way or the other up until I was pregnant with him. It wasn’t even ambivalence on my part. My pregnancy just seemed the evolution of my relationship with my husband, turning our family of two into a family of more.

2. Losing Gabriel meant that my other two pregnancies were more closely monitored. Without that level of scrutiny, the problems that cropped up at the end of my pregnancies with my girls (low amniotic fluid, prematurely aging placenta) would not have been discovered. Interventions would not have been made.

3. Gabriel’s loss has given me a unique perspective as a parent. Sometimes it’s not the greatest feeling in the world, knowing how very fragile life is, how very fragile a heart is. Sometimes it stops my breath, with fear, with love. It’s not a gift I would give you, in other words, but it’s a gift I have.

4. Gabriel’s loss gives me empathy for other parents of lost babies, lost children. When we went to Compassionate Friends, they reached out and supported me and DearDR, gave us a place where our grief was perfectly understood. Their message was, “We’re so sorry you’re here, but we’re so glad you’ve come.”

5. I feel like I have an angel in heaven watching over me, and over DearDR and me, and — especially — watching over my girls. Watching over his little sisters. As much as I would change that if I could, it brings me a deep comfort.

6. It gives me the desire to do something if I can, to help a grieving family or friend. Sometimes you can’t do much — take my word for it. The best things that were provided for me after Gabriel died sound like such small things: food, for example.

After Gabriel’s death, my parents and my sister stayed with my husband and me for a bit, maybe a week. I spent a lot of time sleeping in the first couple of days (daze). At one point, I remember DearDR coming into the bedroom and saying, “Your mother is cleaning the lightbulbs.”


“Your mother is standing on the dining room table, dusting the lightbulbs in the chandelier.” He sounded a little outraged.

“Let her go,” I said. “They don’t know what else to do.”

That’s why I’m walking for Maddie. Nothing will bring her — or Gabriel — back, nothing will heal the pain of the empty cradle, the lost child, the hole in the heart. But in the face of that helplessness, I will grasp the thing I can do, which is offer condolence and support.

As N pointed out in her email, “Maybe it is ok to open up a new space in your heart where you can be happy that Gabriel is a very special entity watching over you, over his Dad, and over his sisters… Because, while it was (is!) terribly sad to have lost him and your opportunity to know him on this earth, you can know him in a new way.” I have known him in this new way for awhile, and I’m glad that N’s email gave me a way into sharing it. The sadness is inevitable and accessible. But there are gifts, too, gifts that Gabriel gives.