Saturday morning I was negotiating my way through my atrociously messy office when I tried to step over something, and failed spectacularly.

As my heel came down on the corner of the milk crate (don’t ask) with the weight of my body behind it, a chain reaction took place. It was like when you stub your finger — hard — only with my leg being stubbed into my back. The pain was instant and unbelievable. The muscles in the middle of my back seized up tighter than a Marine’s first haircut. I managed to get into the living room before I collapsed to the floor.

I lay there barely able to breathe and in so much pain I couldn’t even writhe in pain. I heard my four-year-old say solemnly above me, “I think she’s gonna die.”

I had not ruled out the possibility.

DearDR heard my cries, and came downstairs at top speed to see what had happened. As he put it later, “The only time I’ve heard you make sounds like that was when you were in labor.”

Once he determined that I was not going to die, but I certainly wasn’t going to move under my own power for a bit, he said, “This is Jesus’ way of telling us we have to clean the office.”

I eventually made it to the couch. A phone consultation with Dr. Sis was not encouraging. “It sounds like a compression fracture,” she told me. “You should probably get to an emergency room for an X-ray.”

Now considering everything else that was going on at The Compound, and that DearDR was heading out to see his Saturday patients and visit his father, this was going to require some amazing logistical luck. Additionally, I wasn’t supposed to be icing my back on the couch: I had grocery shopping to do, two birthday parties, and then a grown-up party with some Twitter people to get to. I didn’t have time for a bloody compression fracture and X-ray.

After another half-an-hour, I made it up onto my feet and discovered that walking was possible. I called Dr. Sis back.

“I can walk,” I said.

“Does it hurt more when you’re standing?”


“Okay, it’s probably not a compression fracture.” She gave me a couple other symptoms to look for in case it was a disc issue (among them, increasing pain during the day), and advocated for me to go to a chiropractor as soon as I could (which I plan to do). She was moving to Wilmington, North Carolina, that very day and offered to stop in Pittsburgh on her way out of Erie. I told her to call when she was leaving; if I could, I was still planning to make it out of the house. (We did end up missing each other as I was already at a b-day party when she would have been in the ‘burgh. Well, she tried, and I am grateful.)

I missed one of the birthday parties (Happy Birthday, Alex! You’re even cuter at 2!), but made it to the second one (one of Monkey’s day school friends). After the girls and I got home, I turned them over to the babysitter, and gingerly freshened up for the Pizza-Off. We got there incredibly late (considering the party started at 3 p.m., and we didn’t make it until 7), but Uncle Crappy had saved some pizza for us, and there was still beer to be had. We had a lovely night, which, considering how the day had started, was a big relief.

Two days later, my back is still tender, and stiffens up if I stay in one position too long. If it gets too achy, ibuprophen helps. I am going to see a chiropractor this week. Which I am sincerely hoping is much less eventful than last.

You Wouldn’t Believe Me If I Told You

I vaguely remember going downstairs at 2 in the morning today to get DearDR off the couch from where he had passed out, watching TV (I’m regretting cable). I told him to turn off the TV, and heard Bun start to moan in her room.

Bun had felt warm to me the day before, but I did not take her temperature. I wanted to be in denial.

After stumbling back upstairs, I tried to get Bun settled back in her own bed. She kept drifting off, but would cry whenever I attempted to leave the floor next to her bed. Finally, I scooped her up and brought her into bed with me. DearDR had not made it upstairs.

I woke up with Bun pummeling my back with her feet.
I woke up with Bun snoring and pummeling my back with her feet.
I went into the guest room.
I woke up with Bun crying for me in the hallway. We went back to my bed where she pummeled me with her feet. And snored.
I woke up to the phone ringing. At 5 a.m.
I woke up to DearDR standing in the doorway of the room saying something about his grandmother (Nanny).

This was the morning that my MIL (with whom Nanny lives) needed to leave at 5 a.m. to go to the hospital in Beaver to be there when her husband (my FIL, obviously) went into surgery for a triple bypass.

Well, Nanny was hemorrhaging. Nanny has diverticular disease, and she does bleed from time to time. But she wasn’t *just* bleeding this morning.

Bella (MIL) did get off to the Beaver hospital. DearDR and his sister were left to get Nanny to the hospital (and clean up). After trying to get Nanny to his car, DearDR decided it would be better to call an ambulance. (Nanny is very, very frail, and she had lost a lot of blood.)

In the meantime (and in ignorance of Nanny’s condition) I had dragged my exhausted ass out of bed and gotten ready for work. DearDR called at 6:30 a.m. with the update on Nanny, and what he was going to do.

I packed lunches. I gave the girls their breakfast. Bun didn’t eat hers. I started getting the girls changed.

Bun was still warm to the touch. I steeled myself and took her temperature.


Looks like I was staying home from work again.

The ambulance was still in my in-laws driveway when I left. Everyone seemed to be okay, albeit worried and groggy from lack of sleep. Monkey wanted to stay home, and Bun wanted to go to day school. Tough luck on them.

The updates rolled in around noon: FIL out of surgery and doing okay. Nanny staying at the hospital so they could locate and deal with the bleeding, stable condition. DearDR and SIL torn in many different directions (work, kids, two hospitals, other obligations).

Once Bun started napping, I channeled my Italian grandmother. I made a huge batch of pesto sauce; I made some no-cook tomato basil sauce; I made a baked vegetable strata. If you can do nothing else for people, then you feed them. It is very simple.

Oh, and I edited something for Dr. Sis. Yer welcome, Dr. Sis!

Things to look forward to: Beer (as always). Going to work on Friday. The Pizza-Off on Saturday. Ice cream with my brother and his family. The Dark Knight and Bottle Shock.

I’m thankful that everyone is doing fine. Now I just want everyone to be doing fine at home.

What I Am: Reading this Week

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken

I have been avoiding this book since it was published in 2008.

To summarize, it’s a memoir about her first son, who was stillborn, and her subsequent pregnancy. In part I didn’t want to read it for the obvious reason — hello, been there, done that.

But there were more complicated reasons, too, not least of which was, “Why didn’t I write that book?” Of course, over the course of numerous journal and blog entries, I have written that book. Lots of parents have, unfortunately. What if she trivialized her loss, especially since she’s had a live baby since? (Unlikely.) What if her language was melodramatic or, conversely, dull? (Also unlikely; she’s a well-known published popular author, hence probably not boring.) What if it hurt too much?

Additionally, she and her husband decided to name the baby what they had called him when she was pregnant: “Pudding”. I never thought of naming Gabriel “Li’l Bean”, which is how we referred to him when I was pregnant. We had had names picked out, one for a boy and one for a girl, but we didn’t want to use one of those either. We finally settled on Gabriel for a boy; I don’t remember the name we picked for a girl, possibly a variation of Angela (for angel, obviously) or Dolores (which means ‘sorrow’).

My fears, as they say, were unfounded. (Well, except for the Pudding thing. She explains their choice, and I understand it, but it’s still a bit of an obstacle for me.) Reading this book is a lot like reading my own thoughts about Gabriel — and my subsequent pregnancy with Monkey. McCracken and her husband suffered their calamity (her word) in France, which lends an exotic twist to their horrendous experience.

At one point, McCracken writes about a man she encountered as a teenager in Boston. This man handed her a card on the subway that said I AM DEAF.

“I have thought of that card ever since, during difficult times… surely when tragedy has struck you dumb, you should be given a stack of cards that explain it for you. When Pudding died, I wanted my stack. I still want it. My first child was stillborn, it would say on the front. It remains the hardest thing for me to explain, even now, or maybe I mean especially now — now that his death feels like a non sequitur. My first child was stillborn. I want people to know it but I don’t want to say it aloud. People don’t like to hear it but I think they might not mind reading it on a card.”

My brain and heart said in chorus: THIS.

An Exact Replica… encapsulates the pain of a baby lost parent, which is not simply the loss of the baby. (It is not simple in any way.) It is the loss of everything future; it is the loss of definition (am I a mother/father?); it is the complete confounding of discovery; the obliteration of joy. These are the things that our children mean to us: future, identity, discovery. Joy. And McCracken captures it, the horror of it and yet the matter-of-factness of it. We lose and continue; we continue and we grieve, and always grieve.

I also like the chapter of the book where she talks about the kinship of baby lost parents, the “family tree of grief”. That struck me, too, and I know it’s a part of the reason why places like Compassionate Friends and A Glow in the Woods exist.

I haven’t finished the book yet; I am at the point where McCracken is writing more about her subsequent pregnancy, and the way Pudding’s death affected her experience of that pregnancy, much of which so far resonates for me, also. I admit that I am taking a pause because my FIL is going to have triple-bypass surgery tomorrow, and I’d rather put some energy into praying for him and taking care of the people who need care, than toward dealing with the emotions roiling through me as I read this book. (Instead I’ve picked up Up in Honey’s Room by Elmore Leonard.)

Because An Exact Replica… does hurt to read, it does hurt to remember. But I’ve never been afraid of my grief for Gabriel, even when it was crippling. It’s okay to revisit it through the vehicle of McCracken’s book now. The pain is something familiar; the grief is something I’ve integrated into my life. It just is.

If you have not lost a child (and I sincerely hope you have not and never do), I don’t know that you would read this book. However, if you know someone who has lost a child under these circumstances particularly, someone you are struggling to understand or help or just, you know, not to turn away from, this can be a good book for you. The writing is powerful and direct, two things that it can be hard to be when you are brought down by grief.

Welcome to the Dark Side

It’s over. The fight I fought is lost.

I joined Facebook. I’m having an anxiety attack just thinking about it.

I had to join for work; when a friend found me, I decided to set up a personal account as well as my professional one. Here’s hoping never the twain shall meet.

The first person to want to friend me on my personal account? An ex BF — of course. (Not The Ex, although he’s on FB too. We’ll see what happens.)

Now I just have to fiddle with my privacy settings, and then figure out if Twitter updates to Facebook (anyone?). I need to keep Facebook time suck to an absolute minimum.

I have kids to raise and laundry to do, yo.

A Completely Gratuitous Harry Potter Review

If you are any kind of Harry Potter fan at all, you have probably already seen the sixth installment of the film series, and I probably don’t even have to say this: *Spoiler Alert*.

DearDR and I finally went to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Saturday night. (Much thanks to my MIL and SIL, and the impromptu and, I’m sure, rowdy sleep over that ensued at my MIL’s that evening.) My thoughts about it have been percolating in my allergy-ridden head since. The movie is clearly occupying brain cells formerly taken up with Lost theories.

What I Didn’t Like:

That Useless Scene: You know the one I am talking about. Why send the Death Eaters to set the Weasley’s house on fire and have Ginny and Harry running around in tall grass? I have no idea how this scene figures into moving the Harry Potter film stories forward. Seemed utterly pointless to me.

The Memories: Not enough memories of Tom Riddle were shown in the movie. Not enough exposition of what the memories mean to what becomes Harry’s quest in the last book. The oversight is going to have a huge impact on how they decide to write the last two films. Somehow or another, they are going to have to get Harry the information regarding what Voldemort’s Horcruxes are. Look for a raid on the headmaster’s office early in the next movie.

Hiding the Book: The whole scene where Ginny went with Harry to hide his potions book was pathetic. Hated it. Well, except for the kiss. The kiss was very sweet. But the kiss in the book was way better.

Totally Petty Thing that No One Else is Having a Problem with: Ginny is taller than Harry in the movies. This is very distracting to me as a tall girl who could never date a guy the same height as me, let alone someone shorter. Totally irrelevant to everything and besides the point, but I notice it. Wish I didn’t.

What I Liked:

The Laughs: I think this is by far the funniest (and yet the darkest) of the movies to date. At the expense of the characters, of course, and their romantic whimsies. Rupert Grint is hysterical as the confused romantic object of girls’ affection. Cormac McLaggen’s aggressive pursuit of Hermione was laugh-out-loud funny; for a brain, Herimone certainly catches the attentions of some major jocks (remember Krum?). On the other hand, watching Herimone and Harry struggle with their jealousy makes me remember that I never, ever want to be a teen again.

Malfoy’s Story: I think the writer and director made a brilliant choice of how to portray Draco Malfoy’s role in this book. Instead of Harry’s obsession with Malfoy and the long-winded explanation we get at the end of the book, we get a minimalist treatment of Malfoy’s plan and execution of it. Just spot-on. (Another irrelevant aside: Tom Felton is a hottie.)

James Broadbent as Horace Slughorn: I really enjoyed Broadbent’s turn in the film. Much less blather than in the book. He made Slughorn, to my mind, a more sympathic character. Probably something to do with that hangdog expression he wears.

What I Missed Most:

The battle at the end between DA members and Death Eaters. If they had cut that Useless Scene out, they could have put this in instead.

Overall, I completely loved the movie, though. David Yates and company capture the encroaching darkness of the book so well. It hits (almost all) the important points. The next two films cannot come along quickly enough for me.

Note to my husband with whom I love to see movies: Please start reading these books. Tonight. Instead of an hour of classic NHL games and WWII documentaries on cable, crack open Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Because if you keep asking me questions about how the movies are different from the book, I’m going to see the last two movies without you. I have read (and reread, and enjoyed) the LOTR books and films with you. Harry Potter is my LOTR. Get cracking. Yer ever lovin’ wife, rpm

Oh, Fantastic

DearDR loves Looney Tunes. Since they have been coming out in sets of several DVDs, he’s been buying them (or getting them as gifts).

And lately, he’s been sharing them with the girls. (Monkey sometimes asks me if she can watch them. I tell her that is something special she and Daddy get to do together. Not because I don’t like Bugs Bunny, but I cannot take the volume in which they have to be watched. It’s a lot.)

When Monkey and he stayed home Tuesday it was a veritable glut of Looney Tunes. They make Monkey giggle, which is the cutest sound ever, and I know DearDR loves to share them with her. They are a part of his childhood that he gets to recapture through her eyes.

Or some such poetic nonsense.

Last night, I mentioned going for a walk after dinner. Monkey had another idea. It was probably the carrots we had.

“Bun, I’m going to be Bugs Bunny. And you be the other guy. And I’m going to say, ‘What’s up, doc?’ And you shoot me.”


Random Thoughts: More Quickies

Go read Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I could barely put it down, and although I checked it out of the library, I am seriously thinking of buying it. It is, apparently, going to be part of a series.

I had first heard of Hunger Games through a review by Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly. I love me some King, so I figured I would like a book he recommended.

Boy, did I. The action is non-stop, the relationships are intriguing. The protagonist, Katniss, is tough, pragmatic, likable, as well as a fighter. I think Collins does an amazing job of capturing this girl’s voice, making it believable in the context of the action. I would have read that book in a day and a night if my schedule allowed for such luxuries.

I was surprised that the ending clearly and unambiguously meant that more was to come.


The sequel to Hunger Games, Catching Fire, comes out on September 1 this year. It would make a great anniversary gift! (hint, hint, DearDR.) I’m not quite sure how that fits into the bronze/pottery category, but we’ll just wing it.

Although Hunger Games was captivating, I did not read while the children were awake. Well, maybe once. It was Saturday; I was drinking coffee; they were playing with toys. It was fine.


Also, tourmaline is the stone for the eight year anniversary. I love tourmaline. I already have a tourmaline necklace, so maybe some complementary earrings.

Just a thought.


What should I buy DearDR that would fit in the bronze/pottery category? Guess I better start thinking about that.


Lately, Monkey has been into Imagination Movers. How come I am just discovering them now? Finally, another children’s show that is more than palatable. I enjoy the Backyardigans, too; everything else… is at least a little bit painful — if not really painful (I’m looking at you, Max & Ruby).

And guess what? They are coming to Pittsburgh right around Monkey’s birthday. I think I know what DearDR and I are going to get her.


Yesterday in the car, as I was switching radio stations, we came across “American Idiot” by Green Day. Bun piped up from the back, “Dat one.”

“You like this song?” I asked. I haven’t played much Green Day for the girls. Profanity, you know.

I glanced back, and she was bopping along in her car seat.

“Yesss,” Bun said (she draws out her “ess”‘s). Then she added, “It’s my favorite song.”

That’s my girl!


I’m not a big one for mommy guilt, I’m really not. My children are the most important thing in my life (along with DearDR, of course), and I weigh a lot of decisions by the effect it will have on them.

However, I had a knee-jerk reaction today when I thought Monkey had croup, and I feel horrible about it.

I don’t often write about work here, and for good reason (can you say “dooce”?). But, as all WOTHMs know, this work/life-with-children balance transcends challenging at times. Especially those times when you have a sick child (or two).

When I stayed home with Monkey, Bun, and strep in June, I used my sick time allotment at work. I feel lucky to have gotten paid sick time in the first place, but I knew I was pushing it. (I did use a few vacation and personal time hours, too.)

Yesterday, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I found out that my husband, who sounded horrible on the phone, and my daughter, who ran a slight fever and complained of a headache, had stayed home from work and day school, respectively.

And my thought process went like this, “Oh, great, if she’s feverish again tomorrow, I’ll probably have to stay home. And I just got an interesting project at work. And the deadline is Friday. Dagnabit!*”

(*All right, that’s not the first word that popped into my head.)

And then I thought, “You heartless mother! This is your daughter we’re talking about.” Bring on the mommy guilt.

When DearDR called this morning to say that Monkey had to go to the doctor, I was even more discouraged. (I go to work very early in the morning, before my kids are awake.) “She’s coughing, and hoarse, and wheezing.” At least she wasn’t feverish any longer; and her headache had gone away.

Someone at the day school had mentioned croup yesterday when I picked up Bun, and that’s what I immediately thought. And then I worried not just about Monkey (and Bun to some extent — hello, contagious sucky viruses), but about what I was going to do about my job and this interesting project I was on.

Does that make me heartless, or only practical?

I was going to trudge up to our HD department (which is just like your HR department, only they say ‘development’ instead of ‘resources’) and talk to someone about FMLA. Yes, seriously. I didn’t want to burn my already scant vacation and personal time on sick-child leave. You can take up to 12 weeks of FMLA time in a year (I think) but you don’t have to take it all at once. Again, practical or selfish?

I did, at least in my head, have a lot of fun staying home with Monkey. We baked oatmeal raisin cookies from scratch (stop laughing). We polished our toenails; we played plenty of games and did arts & crafts. During rest time or TV viewing time, I was going to impose some order on my office. Not a lot — maybe just clearing off the top of my desk.

And then my MIL called and basically told me Monkey had a cold.

The sore throat and wheezing and cough were due to post-nasal drip.

My relief was immediate. I’m so glad Monkey doesn’t have croup. That would have sucked, much more for her than for me.

And I don’t have to miss any more work. Yet. Waiting to see what fall and winter will bring.

Do you think I’m a monster for thinking about work when my kid was sick, and worrying about it? How do you feel when you have to stay home from work with a sick child? Stressed, guilty? Or glad of the break and extra time your baby? Both, neither?

All A-Twitter

The problem with Twitter, for me anyway, is that after using it for awhile, I tend to start to think in 140-character blocks. For example, if I had been able to Twitter this weekend, it would have gone something like this:

“Wow! the Sewickley Farmers Market is amazing. Why haven’t I come here before?”

“Going to the playground was a giant mistake. Hot slides + hot swings = no fun.”

“DearDR just offered to make dinner! OK, brinner. But still! Mama’s not cooking tonight.”

“Nothing is funnier than watching a 4yo trying to jump rope. Not funny? Convincing her that she doesn’t suck at everything.”

“Vantage Point is pretty badass, right until the end. And then it’s crap.”

“Matthew Fox speaking Spanish is hysterical.”

“Too hot to be outside again. We’re going to the Children’s Museum.”

“Went to the Children’s Museum for the waterplay room. Guess what room the kids didn’t want to go to?”

“We’ve been members of the Children’s Museum for more than two years. This is DearDR’s first visit. He sez, “I work a lot.” Boo!”

Admittedly, I am weird. The narrating voice in my head (what, doesn’t everyone have one of those?) tends to reflect the tone of whomever I am reading at the time, for example, Margaret Atwood or Stephen King or Neil Gaiman. So as a Twitter user, I am parsing my life into 140 characters in my head. Even without an iPhone or a laptop. It’s kind of odd.

Also, I think it’s affected my blogging, resulting in less. I’m trying to think up clever tweets instead of entire posts. I’ll sit down to post about something, and get caught up in the immediate gratification of Twitter. It’s like a drug! (No, really.)

Anyway, it was a nice, uneventful weekend. I got a good handle on the laundry, and the general cleanliness of my house. DearDR was around a lot, which was also nice. We ate as a family, twice. Almost everything we ate was from the Sewickley Farmers Market: green beans, corn on the cob, a fruit salad of blueberries and nectarines, even DearDR’s brinner of sourdough French toast — so delicious. So going back there.

The winning tweet this weekend would have been: “Monkey to DearDR: I love you. DearDR: I love you, too. Monkey: I’ll always care for you. Me: Dude, I think she just broke up with you.”