Friday, June 26, 2009

Bits and Pieces

There is a school bus stop outside my house. If Kathleen isn't in an early nap (or strangely still asleep), we go out and say hello to our neighbors. Today was the last day of school, and as I stood holding Kathleen watching Meg get on the bus for the last day of first grade, I remembered holding Henry watching a younger, much more tentative Meg get on the bus for the first time on the second day of kindergarten. And I smiled, a bit wistfully, but I smiled.

Wednesday I made jam. Strawberry, strawberry rhubarb and a batch of double strawberry rhubarb. The pectin I use doesn't specify amounts for strawberry rhubarb, but I knew I had the recipe on a little scrap of paper somewhere. I sifted through my recipe box and a pile of papers tucked into my jam book—and there it was. I dropped it, and picking it up realized it was written on the back of an appointment card, one of Henry's pediatrician visits. I took a deep breath. I sighed. And that was all. It didn't break me. Not that day.

On Tuesday night, we went to a regular potluck dinner hosted by friends, the potluck where two other bellies grew large at the same time mine did when I was pregnant with Henry, the potluck where we went numbly after Henry died. It has gotten easier over time to be there, to see the other spring 2007 babies, but there are still twinges. But this Tuesday, Zoey, who adores Kathleen, wanted to see her as I was feeding her in the high chair, so I scooped her up on to my lap. And it struck me. This should be Kathleen's little brother on my lap, this child of just the right age. But again, it was strange, rather than crushing.

Earlier, or perhaps still now on a different day, any one of these things could have flattened me, reduced me to a sobbing heap, wiped me out, left me useless for the rest of the day and worn out the next. I feel in some ways stronger, but also more distant. Is the distance part of the strength? Am I simply letting go of some of pain to make room for more pleasant memories? Or is all this just a fluke and tomorrow a memory, a scrap of paper, or another child will take me down? I'm not sure. I'm hoping for b) the less pain, more pleasant memories option. Though that thought makes me sigh again—I wish there were more than memories.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Food for Thought

I think I'm heading into something of a food kick. Reader beware if you are hungry. After my last post, I went to bed thinking about food. Namely about food we ate while Henry was in the hospital. There was too much hospital and restaurant food, but there were also many meals made for us.

Kim made me mac and cheese with squash, enough to put some in the freezer. Tina made me raspberry brownies and when asked for her recipe confessed she was afraid to send them to me because I am a good baker. Amy made 5-layer squares with excellent precision (the key to a good 5-layer square is careful distribution of ingredients and not skimping on the chocolate). Carol and David made Guinness beef stew, which we made later; it's time consuming, but hearty and very tasty. We got homemade salmon chowder and shrimp and corn chowder. My dad brought in fish chowder from The Causeway, a milky, rather than thick, chowder with mounds of fish and potato in it. We had turkey dinners and meatloaf, lasagna, and pork chops. Our friends and family were good to us.

And when meals were in short order, our favorite thing to get was burritos from the place across from the hospital. Despite the sad connotations, I'd still eat one of their summer burritos (mmm, mango salsa) with pork any day. Usually we'd grab breakfast there, though. That's where I became partial to breakfast burritos.

Breakfast burritos were one of my two cravings when I was pregnant with Kathleen. I had a breakfast burrito nearly every day. On my laziest days, I'd simply wrap a scrambled egg in a whole wheat tortilla with shredded cheddar cheese and a little salsa. On a more ambitious day, I'd add black beans, avocado if I had it, or chili and sour cream (I have been lucky to not suffer heartburn during my pregnancies). My burritos were smaller and not nearly as well wrapped as the ones we used to get when Henry was at the hospital, but they were quick and tasty and a fairly balanced meal.

Thinking about my cravings during my Kathleen pregnancy brought me to thinking of my cravings/aversions during my Henry pregnancy, but it's almost lunch time here, Kathleen has turned herself 180 degrees on the floor and is suggesting she might like to eat whether or not I'm hungry, so that will have to sit for another time. To lunch.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I've been cruising through Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life. It's been sitting on the floor for weeks, but I just got a library reminder that it is due (today) and can't be renewed. Fortunately it is the perfect kind of reading for the time I have right now—brief stories plus recipes—and I'm whizzing through it.

I would have devoured this book last year. I immersed myself in books about food and gardening. And I cooked and I ate. People talk about not tasting food as a symptom of grief. Perhaps I had that for the first couple of weeks. But then I couldn't stop cooking. Gooey mac and cheese, hearty beef stew, warm oozy cookies, cheesy lasagna, roast pork with warm apples and onions . . . I sought comfort in food. Not simply eating, but eating well, making food, choosing food. I spent more than I should have on good wine and fancy cheese and local eggs and small-farm meat. I made up for months of hospital cafeteria food and restaurant meals. I read and I cooked and I ate and I savored. It was what I could do for myself—that and buy flowers all through the dark days of winter—and I had plenty of time to do it.

Time is at a bit more of a premium now, but I still find myself baking cookies or bread or muffins a couple of times a week. Today, my mouth has been watering for banana and chocolate, maybe Molly's recipe with crystallized ginger; maybe my friend Julie's banana's bread, which is one of my favorites; or maybe the banana oat bran muffins with chocolate chips that sound healthy but are deliciously buttery and best warm. I just wanted that combo of banana moistness and melty chocolate.

But I'm making myself wait, because I'm having coffee with friends tomorrow, two friends and their kids, a meeting I couldn't have done last year. A meeting that would have paralyzed me last year, exhausted me just thinking about it. The idea of being in a room with two moms who could talk about their three kids, two moms who were dealing with sleeplessness and feeding issues and discipline and growth spurts. Two moms and me, a mom who had known mostly hospitals and paralytics and procedures and then knew empty arms and aching heart. No, I wouldn't have done this meeting last year, just the muffins.

Muffins are good, friends are too. I'm looking forward to both.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Brian and I were supposed to go canoeing today for my birthday. His mom was coming up to babysit, and we were going to take a paddle and then go out to dinner. We've only seen the sun for bits and spurts all week, but today was simply steady rain. We aren't afraid of a little rain mind you. We did an all day paddle and nearly got hypothermia a few years ago (also a birthday outing, hmmm maybe canoeing and my birthday don't mix), but we decided we didn't need to do it again. Maybe a movie? Nothing playing near us looked appealing. What to do, what to do.

Ah, a hot tub and massage. Just the thing.

We had talked about doing just that after Henry died, but neither of us was motivated enough to make a plan. And then I got pregnant and the hot tub was out (though help in relaxing was needed more than ever). So we finally got around to it today. I wouldn't have minded the massage going on longer, but it was good. Lots of tightness melting away.

Then a yummy dinner out—sea scallops with a ginger, carrot, orange butter, grilled asparagus, and roasted potatoes/sweet potatoes. We ended our meal with a peach lambic. (If you have never tasted a peach lambic, you really should. Brian proposed to me over peach lambic, and we toasted with peach lambic at our wedding.) This place has it on tap, which is even yummier.

And then I came home to a girl who was starting to get sleepy, who woke right up when she saw me, and was delighted to see me. She smiled and smiled and laughed and babbled.

I had had a lovely day despite the rain and our change of plan. But even a crappy day would have turned around with that welcome home.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Kathleen was named after Brian's sister. Today, we marked the one-year anniversary of Auntie Kathleen, or Auntie K. It's hard to believe it has been a year.

We announced my pregnancy with Kathleen early, much earlier than I would have. But we knew Kathleen was dying, and Brian wanted to give the news to his sister, to let her enjoy that news for as long as possible. After we shared the news, Kathleen told Brian's mom that she already knew we were pregnant, that she had had a dream in which the Virgin Mary told her that we were going to have a little girl and that her name would be Avery.

A couple of months later, Kathleen died, and Brian and I agreed we would name the baby Kathleen if it was a girl, and to fulfill Auntie K's dream we would use Avery as a middle name. And of course we did have a girl, and we named her Kathleen Avery.

Our Kathleen's namesake lived with a wonderful grace and enthusiasm and humor. I hope our Kathleen will share these qualities. I wish she would have a chance to know her aunt, just as I wish she would have the chance to grow up with her brother.

Tonight, as I do most nights, as I rocked Kathleen to sleep, I sang to her of the story of her name and of the aunt who dreamed of her before she was born, the aunt she will know only in pictures and stories and song.

To Auntie K, we miss you.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another Year Older

Happy Birthday to me.
Please feel use my birthday as an excuse to indulge in some cake and ice cream.
I'm off to get some ice cream now, myself.

Friday, June 12, 2009

6 Thoughts* at 6 Months

* And 4 pictures at Sally's request—and an UPDATE

Kathleen hit the six-month mark yesterday. I can't believe how quickly this time has gone, how big she has gotten, and how much she has changed. And I can't believe how much she does that Henry never did already, while she is still within his lifespan.

Kathleen is on the verge of rolling over. I've been saying it for about three months now, but I think now it is really true. She goes from back to side regularly, and I can see her just itching to get to a toy that's just beyond her reach. Right now she kind of tumbles out of tummy time into a roll onto her back. Henry rolled over—twice. It was the last night he was home, and he was so riled up with his stomach bug that he managed to get himself over. I didn't see it though.
SHE DID IT! Today, she did her flop and roll from her belly to her back, and then, as I was coming back from brining out the trash, I saw her get from side to belly. I'm so impressed!

We've started solids—oatmeal, squash, rice cereal, pears, sweet potatoes. I'm a fan of the pears and sweet potatoes myself. Tomorrow we start avocado or banana, which ever is riper. I've been pureeing the food myself, just like I planned to do for Henry.

I play music for Kathleen as part of her bedtime routine, either You Are My Little Bird (song 7 onward) or an instrumental CD my sister gave us. (Cait's mom, I sing too!) The CD player in Kathleen's room is a little portable one. It has a piece of medical tape on it that says Henry B— from when Henry was in the hospital. I don't want to leave it there forever, but I can't quite make myself pull it off.

I've been working a lot lately. A lot meaning several hours outside of the time that Kathleen naps in the morning. I'm surprised by how much I miss my baby girl in that time, and I feel lucky that I work at home and can control my hours somewhat.

Can we slow things down a bit? This is all flying by in too much of a blur. I soak up and savor something each day.

Ah, the wonder.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Happy Baby

I did yoga all through both of my pregnancies. With Henry, I took tough intermediate level classes up through seven months and a prenatal class; with Kathleen I went more for meditation and easy beginner. One day the teacher had us do happy baby pose. Feet up in the air. Hands on feet. "Think of your favorite baby," she said. "Or," standing over me, "your favorite baby to be."

It was the one time I had to leave class. I wept my way through half the classes I took when I was pregnant, but that day, I walked out of the room. I stood in the bathroom and gasped and cried. I couldn't think of my favorite baby to be, only my favorite baby who had been, my favorite baby whose feet I'd never see sticking up in the air.

Henry was a pretty happy baby despite everything he went through. On more than one occasion he pulled me back from the brink of despair with his smile, his big, bright smile that seemed to light up his whole body.

When I was pregnant with Kathleen I worried about her happiness. I worried that to get a healthy baby I'd have to trade off happiness. I worried that the tears I shed nearly, if not every day, the pall of sorrow that hung over me would seep into her as she grew in me. So I prayed for her to be healthy and happy and whole and I told her how much I wanted her, despite my tears, despite my lack of delight and anticipation.

And she is happy. She has a smile as bright as her brother's and a ready laugh. She makes me smile too.