Sunday, August 15, 2010

Time, flight of

Back in April I said I am taking 2-3 weeks off. Ha! Tomorrow it will be 18 weeks. 18, which is, 3 squared times 2 ([3^2]x2). I did that for a bit-- thought as each week drew to a close that come Monday I will definitely post again, and, because nerd is who I am, not just what I do, found a way to represent the number of weeks it was in terms of 2s, 3s, and mathematical operations-- 2+3, 2x3, 2x2+3, 2^3, 3^2, 2x(3+2), 3^2+2. I think that's where I stopped, at 11 weeks out-- it got too depressing as each week zoomed by with a cackle and a whooooosh.

It was about the house projects at first. Then it was all about the job-- a great interview the very day of that last post, an interminable wait, a growing panic, and an official rejection email. Yup, email. Some more drama, twists and turns, and finally an offer of adjunct position for the fall. More drama yet with the course planning and coordination, then a major plot twist and a cliffhanger. The latter only resolved as of two weeks ago, prompting a mad dash of meetings and emails trying to get the course organized, coordinated and ready to go.

I am still in the middle of that dash, and will be right through the first part of the term at least. Because damn, but it's impossible to put the whole course together in the time I had from the final staffing assignment to the start of the course. Not happening is all I am saying. Also, there's the crazy and fun science thing I am doing at Monkey's school. Not paid, but I am getting to put a lot of my crazy ideas into practice, so that's a plus.

I haven't been entirely unplugged since that last post. I've peeked, here and there. More lately, as I've tried to get back to this place. And now I sit here, a mere hour (exactly) until the point in time when my youngest son turns two. If I look at him or, say, pick him up, two seems just about right for the heft of him, and for what he is up to these days. Though two also seems like a lot. And it just doesn't feel like it's been that long.

Or maybe it has. I am feeling ready to talk about the last part of my pregnancy with the Cub, and his early days, and what the whole thing did to my head and my heart. Last year the topic still felt tender, the way it doesn't anymore. Tonight I've been walking through the timepoints, two years ago. I am feeling a sort of a removed wonder, tenderness towards the people in the moving pictures in my head, towards the moments in those moving pictures. But I am not there, in the moment. I am here, this side of it all. Though I am compelled to watch again, to trace the timeline.

So I guess two fits what I am feeling, or what I am feeling fits two. I guess two it is then.

I've missed you all. I've missed this place. I've had things to say. I have things to say. Hopefully, I can find time to say them, and time to be a good blog reader as well as a writer-- time to read, time to comment, time to be there.

And if you have a bit of time, would you please stop by Sally's as she is walking through her hard days-- from Hope's due date today towards her birthday on Thursday, the 19th?

Monday, April 12, 2010

What? Where? Aaaa.... Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!

So today is my blogoversary. Again. Where did my online year go? Anyone seen it?

Actually, I have a pretty good idea what happened. As I think back on where it all went kaboom, I have to go back to the one insane project that ate my March of 09, and then joyfully munched on April for good measure.

See, as part of the Judaic studies curriculum, in the second half of first grade, Monkey's school presents each student with their own prayer book, to be used for prayer and study. And as part of the community/continuity/uniqueness thing, the school asks each family to design and make a cover for the book, personalized to each child.

I bitched about this before, and even posted a picture of the work in progress, while I bitched some more. You may ask why the hell was the work in progress weeks after the ceremony where the books and the covers were handed out. Excellent question. And I will even tell you.

See, I spent a lot of time last March making drawings and looking for fabric. Predictably resulting in needing to more than less make the actual cover in laughably short time, like less than two days and two nights. Also predictably, I ended up pulling an allnighter the night before the thing was due.

I took pictures as the assembly process rolled on. Here's the nearly finished front and the back the way I was going to let it be for a time. The table under the stars thing is the back cover (books in Hebrew open from what we are used to being the back). See the monkey in the tree?

Finished front cover, already on the book. Quick tour through the significance. Behold the Tree of Life. The top of the trunk recalls the schools logo, and the each root hides the first letter of Monkey's name in the three languages of her life-- Old Country, English and Hebrew. Point being that she integrates all the parts of her identity at the school. And monkey in the tree is because she is, you know, Monkey.

The back cover, when it was finally finished. By which I mean that when it went to school on the day of the ceremony, the back was just that table at the top of the world. Over the next couple of weeks I kept taking the book home on the weekends until finally the table was set for Shabbat and the travelers were on their way.

Closer view of the travelers. Monkey's actual middle name makes her a lioness, so there she is, carrying a cub that represents (DUH!) the Cub. And the puppy... The puppy is for A, hopefully looking at least a bit like our stuffed A puppy.

Before this thing happened, I was almost down to zero in my reader again. But then the cover came over, made itself comfortable, and decided to stay a while. And I fell behind on my internetting. And never caught up. Oh, I made several rather valiant attempts at it, but I always, always lost. Giant FAIL. So now it is over a year later, and I have to admit defeat.

Which I am doing, now. I have been a crappy internet friend and supporter over the last year. I know I missed important events, both good and bad, in the lives of many of the bloggers I read, and I never got around to adding everyone who was so lovely in coming out of the bloggity closet for me a year ago.

I need to write. But I also need to read. Not being able to do either (I have to admit to feeling bad about writing without reading) because of the backlog and because of all the continuously accumulating life crap has not been good for me. Not even a little, as my sister is fond of saying.

So here's what I am going to do, as an anniversary present to myself and a serious mental health measure. I am going to take a blog break for the next two to three weeks. By which I don't just mean that I won't be writing here during that time-- I've gone longer stretches in this past year, every one unintentionally. What I mean is that this time I am going to close the tab with my reader, and am not even going to attempt to skim. (Though I will read comments, since they come by email and since I am way too weak-willed not to.) I am going to use the time to clear the hell out of my to do list-- items large and small, you're all on notice. And when I come back, I am going to hit that awful mark all as read button, add all the blogs I have been meaning to add, and will start again with a clean slate. Clean slate sounds nice.

I've missed you all. I miss you all. I will be back. Soon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Show and Tell: Sand and Time

If anyone was looking for me sometime in the last couple of weeks (ha! like anyone would), my apologies, but I was wholly swallowed by preparations for and after-care of one little girl's way too many birthday parties. (Plus, a cool school-related project. Not material to today's post, though hopefully to be expounded upon tomorrow.)

This year, we are apparently going for a new record on the number of times one can celebrate a birthday. For the last two years Monkey has already had two kid parties-- one for classmates, and one for kids of our friends, the ones she grew up with and still hangs with a lot. Think of them as an unusually large bunch of cousins. Separate because I could never find a place that would accommodate that many kids all at once. This year a third kid party made its debut-- one for the girls of Monkey's gymnastics team.

She lucked out with that one-- envisioned as a karaoke party (because she wanted one, and because we figured the team was just small enough to fit here, unlike the contingents of either of the remaining parties), it turned into a mostly outdoor party thanks to a rather atypical patch of weather. A first for Monkey, and a big hit all around. Her class party was actually on a weekday, brought to all of us by the parent-teacher conferences and the attendant lack of classes. It went surprisingly well, and I might just bookmark those spring conferences as good days to keep track of for possible future birthday parties. The last of the kid parties is next weekend, but that is not the point here.

The point is that with all this crazy, I just couldn't bring myself to consider making the little bags'o'crap (aka the goody bags) that are such an integral part of kid birthday celebrations. In this country, that is-- we never had these in the Old Country, and we all turned out just fine. For a wide range of the values of just fine of course. So goody bags. Couldn't hack them. Came up with a brilliant idea to do a craft, and for that to be their goody bag. Hence, it had to come out looking nice and be somewhat useful. And I really didn't need it to break the bank.

Somehow I hit upon the idea of doing mosaics (getting a kit for someone else's birthday and seeing all the things you could buy piecemeal didn't have anything to do with this, I am sure). Shouldn't take too long, reasoned I. Doesn't look too messy at the design/tile gluing stage-- a definite plus. And of course, I wasn't about to let any of them near the grouting.


You know grout, yes? It is this sandy stuff that you mix with water until it's a fairly thick paste. You grout around, say kitchen tiles you install, that I knew. But it turns out you also grout to fill space between the pieces of glass and plastic that constitute your mosaic design. Then you wait a bit and sponge (or scrape with some serious effort; either way, you know) off the excess grout.

So some kids in the class didn't want to make one. And some kids at the gymnastics party wanted to make two. Altogether, that left me with 30 pieces to grout. Various number of tiles involved. Some very symmetrical and evenly spaced and all kinds of thought out. Others-- less so.

The thing I failed to consider when embarking on this ever-so-clever no goodie bag path? Time. it would take to finish 30 projects. And let me tell you, it took hours and hours. And hours. Many-many hours. But last night the last batch was drying, and today almost all of them went home. Like ET, but with far less drama.


But nu? They come out pretty, yes?

This post is part of Mel's Show and Tell for the week. To see what the cool kids are showing, click on over!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nadia Rose

Eight years ago I was in the hospital. Confined two days before, exactly four weeks before my due date, with the second episode of bleeding from my (as it turned out, partial) placenta previa.

The first night I was there, the 8th, I had a roommate. She was about 31 weeks along then, her first pregnancy. Around Christmastime, something like seven weeks earlier, a scan found severe growth restriction in her daughter. Severe as in that 24 week singleton fetus was nowhere near a pound. She was in the hospital that night because the doctors thought she'd might've reached a tipping point on the in vs. out safety scale, and they were going to decide, early in the morning, whether to do the C-section right then.

I wasn't allowed to get up on account of the whole previa thing, and she couldn't or wouldn't, I don't remember anymore. We talked through the so-called privacy curtain that night. In my memory, the lights in the room, or most of them at least, were off. In my memory, we talked in the dark. We talked for hours. So it is not exactly surprising that though I saw her in the light of day the next morning, and though I saw her several times after, it is her voice, her turns of phrase, and not her face that I remember.

I remember how she called one of the doctors in the practice Doogie Howser, because he-- DUH-- looks like the character. I still refer to the doctor by that nickname. I remember how she described the daughter of an acquaintance who was born weeks and weeks early, but only had a few minor challenges, fine motor skills, that type of thing, a few years later. I could tell that was her guiding light, her hope.

I remember her talking about the doctor who became her MFM after that scan at 24 weeks. I knew him too. A very big shot, chief of ultrasonography at the whole place, he showed me an extraordinary human kindness in the early, spooked days of my pregnancy with Monkey. A kindness I sorely needed because this was my second pregnancy, first ending in a miscarriage barely two months prior. For my roommate, he went beyond a kindness. He had her come in for a scan every weekday of those seven weeks. A short respite in each day for her, reassurance of "for now." I remember her talking about how scary the weekends were, having to make it from a Friday scan to a Monday one. I remember her saying that the doctors admitted to her some time earlier that when they first diagnosed the IUGR, they thought the baby wouldn't make it, and they thought that might be the best outcome for the baby. But not anymore, not since she's hung on for so long, not since she's put on that little bit of weight that she did.

I asked if the baby had a name. Nadia Rose, she said. Another trick of memory-- I don't remember my roommate's name anymore, but I remember her daughter's. I asked why she chose that name, and she said she just liked it. She talked about hope too, and I asked her if she knew that Nadia meant hope. She didn't, but she was glad I told her.

In the morning, after a somewhat prolonged back and forth among no less than three doctors, they decided to do the section that morning. I think I thought they would bring her back to our shared room after. But they didn't, and I was still on bedrest. I don't remember if I tried asking the nurses for information, but I know I didn't get any. A couple of days later as they wheeled me down to the clinic for the big ultrasound, my former roommate flagged me down. She was smiling. The surgery went well. The baby was very small, only about a pound. But she was in NICU and doing well. Come visit us sometime, she said.

I was hospitalized one more time that pregnancy, at 37.5 weeks. My MFM came on the floor with the morning shift, and that time his instructions were to get up and walk around. If I didn't start bleeding again by the end of the day, he'd send me home.

So I walked around the floor for a bit, and when nothing dramatic happened, I went to the NICU. Nadia Rose had one of the four glass-enclosed cubicles in the front of NICU. She was tiny and had a whole lot of wires about her. My former roommate was out, but I got to talk with the father for a bit. She has been doing real well, he said, but it is tough. This life, the NICU life, it's hard. And not just emotionally. I remember him talking about parking, and I remember thinking it odd in the moment that this would be what he'd gripe about. Now I think it a very human thing, to gripe about parking after the tubes and the wires and everything else becomes normalized into one's reality. And besides, he had a point-- they had to pay $6 for parking every day. And if they wanted to leave and come back, another $6. And they were looking at months more of this.

So, about that... A few days after I'd had Monkey, and we'd gone home, I had to go back to the hospital to be seen. Let's leave the gross and embarrassing details out of it, and just say that they needed to make sure I was healing appropriately. After they did, I made JD go by the NICU with me. As it turns out, the desk lady only buzzed me in because she thought I was a NICU mother. When she figured out I was trying to see someone else's baby, she focused on getting us out the door. I kept asking for Nadia Rose, explaining that she's my roommate's daughter, but the desk lady wasn't budging. She didn't know who I was talking about, or didn't want to tell me. I got her to let me look into what I thought was the cubicle where she was those couple of weeks earlier, but she wasn't there. Another baby was. After that it was quick work of kicking us out.

Once outside, I thought I looked in the wrong cubicle. But I couldn't be sure. JD, who then didn't know about the lengths of NICU stays, didn't get why I was so upset. I knew, though, and so I had to explain it to him. If she wasn't there in NICU, if I didn't just screw up the cubicle, or if she wasn't moved to the common room in the back where less fragile babies were, then she didn't make it. Then she died. But I didn't know for sure. And I had no way of finding out.

I thought of them, my roommate and her Nadia Rose, through the years. I hoped they made it, but always I didn't know. I still don't. After A died, I thought of them more often. And for some reason I wanted to know enough that at the Cub's anatomical scan appointment, supervised by my former roommate's ultrasound wizard of a doctor, the one who showed me that very human kindness, I blurted out my question. I asked him if he remembered Nadia Rose, baby of a patient from more than six years ago by then. The one he did daily scans for, the one with severe IUGR. What happened to her, I asked. He said that he honestly didn't remember this particular patient. That sadly he has too many patients who match the description. But also, and this I should've known, that even if he knew exactly who I was talking about, he couldn't tell me because of the privacy laws.

This past weekend, at Monkey's gymnastics competition, there was a girl with a name that reminded me again, essentially the same name, but spelled a bit differently. And a hyphenated last name-- not the same child. But thinking back, I realized that it was February when I met her mother. A bit of mental calendar flipping later, and I was sure-- her birthday was coming up. February 9th, somewhat early in the morning.

And this is where I am stuck. I don't know the proper grammar form to use now. She is eight now? She'd be eight now? I hope her mom, my former roommate, is busy with party plans for the coming weekend. But I also know it is very possible that she is walking through her hard season now, her grief season.

I don't really know how to end this. I hesitate to say Happy (belated) Birthday, because I don't know whether it was, whether it can be. So maybe just this then-- Nadia Rose and Nadia's mom, wherever each of you is now, I hope you are both happy.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Grief, changes

Heading towards the first anniversary, I said we were not the cake and candles type of people. Yeah, go ahead, cue the laugh track. Last year Monkey changed her mind from previously conceived cupcakes to brownies sort of last minut-ish. Specifically so that we wouldn't have to make frosting. This year she insisted on frosting, to write his name with, and the date. And candles. (We didn't buy these candles for the occasion-- they were left from one of Monkey's birthdays. And yet, here it is-- happy birthday on A's cake. Um, actually, Monkey's reaction merits a longer description. I'll be back with that, later in the week.)

The weekend was ok, mostly. I spent some of my alone time with the Cub on Saturday morning asking him who I love the most in the world, and answering with all three of their names. Sometimes just the firsts, but more times the whole nine years-- first, middle, patronimic, last. Rinse, repeat. I think it was the convergence towards the end of the long form names, but the Cub found that hilarious. He laughed and looked at me expectantly. And I did it again, and again. That felt nice. And yet sad. Like maybe I was sneaking this in, being a little furtive.

Brownies came out well. Despite the projected great freeze, the weather was tolerable at the cemetery. I found nice flowers at the store (though as I was standing there considering whether to supplement with a bunch of small off white roses, eventually deciding in favor, a woman doing her own flower shopping proclaimed from behind "yellow and blue-- looks like spring"; apparently she wanted to register her approval of my choices, but sheesh lady, you have no idea; and besides, there was green too, and I thought they looked manly, so there). And did I mention the brownies were yummy?

So yes, the weekend was ok. Until a somewhat profound realization and the attendant complete breakdown Sunday night (actually, the clock said it was Monday by then), the kind that leaves you weak-limbed and exhausted at the end. I realized that besides the familiar missing, which, though bone-deep and abiding, I could almost call civilized, there is a whole other, much more ruthless and savage, side of grief lurking in me. I still want him. And ain't that a bitch, what with him being dead and all.

I am just now coming to, I think. I had grand plans for yesterday, and a list to go with. But in the morning I found myself still wrung out and exhausted, mentally and physically, and not much got done. Instead, I spent the whole day regaining my footing, partially by slowly, slowly, a drop, a word at a time writing about it at Glow. Visit me there too, if you will.

There is a common theme here, see? Surprises. Unexpected things that pop up, still, three years on. And yes, you can totally say that "DUH!" you've been holding in now. I know, I know-- grief is simultaneously about constancy and change. This is why it can get us, years on-- it finds new ways to say the same old thing. I guess I was just due for a refresher.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


It's here. Three years. Death today, birth tomorrow. This order of things is the reality of our everyday life, something that just is. But on the page like this, in one sentence, it seems kinda crazy, doesn't it?

I am here too. I expected, when I wrote that last post, that between then and now I would have a lot to say. And I did. I just didn't get to say much of it. Some of what it was I might try to say still. Most is gone, struggled through and dealt with, probably messier than if I'd had that chance to write at the time, but gone nonetheless.

We've been walking through significant dates here for a bit. Hebrew calendar moves around from year to year with respect to Gregorian, and this year, yahrtzeit, the Jewish anniversary, fell on this week. My sister and brother in law came over. We lit a yahrtzeit candle, had good food, and raised our glasses a couple of times. Monkey, reasoning that this is A's Jewish birthday, wanted to blow up some balloons. Surprisingly, there was enough air in an old (as in from her birthday last spring) helium tank to fill three and a half. She drew on them, writing his name in three languages, and drawing faces. She only popped one. After they are completely deflated, she wants me to put the smallest one, the one with just the face drawn on it, into the drawer whereI keep her A artwork.

We didn't go to the synagogue to say kaddish that evening, leaving that part for Friday night. So we did that yesterday.

We didn't really have much of a plan for the weekend. Making brownies, again, as per Monkey's request. That's tonight, soon. Going to the cemetery, that's tomorrow. I've had this vague idea that there should be good homemade food this weekend, and so I've made some. Unlike last year, our friends have been calling and emailing. One family asked to stop by today. We will see another tomorrow.

Like most of the week before, it's been a close to usual Saturday here, and, unlike last year, when the ordinariness was unbearable, I am ok with it. I miss him every day, every ordinary day. I miss him today too, and in this way, today is just another day.

I haven't cried yet today. But as the clock ticks towards the hour that is listed in my chart as the official time "it was confirmed," I feel the tears. They are starting to build. Not yet, but later. After the brownies are baked, and the candle is lit, and Monkey and the Cub are asleep. Unless, you know, they come before then, which, I am suddenly feeling like they might. I guess it's not all that ordinary after all.