Monday, September 26, 2011

Stomach bug

It turns out, your child doesn't have to be in the ICU for you to feel completely helpless as a parent.

Kathleen has a stomach bug. It started Saturday night and continued through dinner time tonight. I'm waiting to see what's next. She hasn't been puking constantly, just every time I think she is starting to feel better.

Until mid-day today she seemed fine in between losing whatever she had eaten. Today, though she looked sick. I don't know what it is, but eyes are the indicator to me and she had sick eyes. That and she just wanted to sit on my lap most of the day and voluntarily went to lie in her bed at my mere suggestion. In the morning, hours and hours and hours before her usual nap time.

So we sat and read books and we sat and I rubbed her back and we simply sat.

To her requests for orange juice and pizza and onion rings (a hoped for lunch with the neighbors) and chips (Daddy had some after work) and more crackers and her big water bottle, I had to say no and no and no. Or wait. Or just a sip. Because when I said okay, just a little, maybe a little more, it all came up. So we tried again. S l o w l y.

Popsicles and a video and a bath at the end of the day and that sitting. It was the best I could do to make it better, and it didn't really work.

Hovering around the periphery of my thoughts is the memory of a night in December 2007 when Henry's stomach bug erupted full force. We could not keep up with changing sheets and him, so we left him in his diaper on a blanket while making slightly hysterical phone calls.

This is nothing like that. They are both stomach bugs, but the similarity ends there. Still, that memory hovers hazily as I go about my day comforting and cleaning up after my sick girl. The memory is hazy only because I refuse to bring it into focus. It is, I think, the one night I do not revisit and review and process again and again and again, the one night out of all 203 that he had that I let lie in the darkness.  I still stand behind my decisions of that night and believe the outcome would have been the same, but perhaps more prolonged. But sometimes I wonder.

Without that night, I would still be here, wishing I could make my little big girl feel better, wishing there was something else I could do. Without that night, I would just be here, wishing there was something else I could do.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Just last year?

Kathleen has been climbing on the plastic play structure in our backyard. She climbs up the ladder section and right up over the top. "Look at this!" she calls me. Eventually she goes down the slide and climbs back up again and again and again.

Last summer, she could not climb the play structure. She wanted me to pick her up so she could slide, again and again and again. My belly was big and my back ached and I would pick her up a few times and sigh enough. Often a neighbor would take pity on me and help her up more and more and more until I convinced her it was time to go in.

Just last year.

Yesterday I stopped at the outlets on my way home from my sisters to buy pajamas for Kathleen and see if there were any other good deals. Kathleen ran around hiding under racks of clothes and played at the Lego table; Elizabeth checked things out from the Baby Bjorn.

As I poked through wintery, Christmas sleepers, I remembered searching last year for matching winter-themed pajamas for a newborn and a 2-year old, something not too girly in case that newborn was a boy.

Just last year.

Elizabeth roams the house on hands and knees, pulls herself up to standing anywhere she can, and jerks around whenever she hears her sister's voice.

Last September, a baby kicked and rolled and squirmed about as Brian read The Hobbit to me.

Just last year.

Nine months in seemed to fly by and take forever.
Nine months out has simply flown by.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Lately I've been listening to "So Glad I'm Here" from Elizabeth Mitchell's You Are My Sunshine every morning. It's been going through my head for over a month now, and it feels like a really positive way to start the day. Because I am. Glad I'm here, that is, and I'm trying to let go of the need to hold onto the hurt.

I have been, holding onto the sadness, without even realizing I was doing it. It's like when I would swim at the pool wearing my rings. I'd come out with a hand cramp from inadvertantly clamping my fingers together for fear one would slide off and be lost. For a long, long I didn't have to hold on. The sadness was just so big and heavy it wasn't going anywhere, but now, almost four years down the road, when I stand in the light again and smile and laugh and feel as well as see the beauty around me, I find I still cling to it sometimes, holding it out to anyone, who might think it is gone. It's what prompted my bitter grumblings. It's what makes my smile dim just briefly when somebody tells me I have a beautiful family. It's what makes me prod around inside sometimes to see if something is going to bother me.

It isn't gone. It isn't going away, but I don't need to call it up. It will visit me on it's own. So right now, I'm facing the sun, seeing the light, feeling the warmth, enjoying the brightness of the world, knowing that my shadow is behind me whether I look at it or not.

I still face December with trepidation, not sure how it will hit this year, but for now I'm not revisiting four years ago. I didn't race down the road in the back of ambulance on September 11, didn't rewalk in my mind the labyrinth of halls from the ambulance entrance at Children's to a too bright room on the eighth floor on September 13. I went for a run on a cool, dry, clear day and thought perhaps I could run forever. I shopped for groceries and sorted clothes and gave Kathleen high fives for using the potty. I lived, I didn't relive.

My zinnias are still blooming, three shades of pink and a little orange. The leaves are starting to pile up. Tomatoes fill my counter waiting to be cooked down, and in a minute I will brave that late batch of mosquitos to pick green beans and see what else is ready in the garden. This is the September I love.

I am opening to the golden days and the gladness. I wish he were here, but I don't have to tell you that. I'll always wish he were here, but it doesn't stop me from being glad that I'm here, so glad I'm here enjoy these golden summer-fall days, so glad I'm here with Kathleen making up songs and Elizabeth chewing everything she can find.

Thanks to Kathleen and Elizabeth for bringing joy to my days and to Mandy for giving me the song and to Angie for Right Where I Am, which I keep circling back to, and for asking for questions, which prompted me to start answering my own, and to Barbara for helping me remember to notice good things and to open this space up to them, and to Liz for making me think about being open to and seeking joy, even if it made (and may make me still) grumbly. Thanks to you who come here and listen to me grumble and glow. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Since late June, they've been stacking up in my office closet, boxes of canning jars filled with jams and pickles and sauces:
strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, strawberry vanilla
raspberry, raspberry rhubarb, raspberry chocolate liqueur sauce, raspberry with orange liqueur, raspberry peach
dilly beans, lemon beans, Asian (soy-ginger) beans
blueberry, blubarb, spiced blueberry
dill pickles, bread and butter
peach, peach raspberry, peach ginger, peach tomato salsa
mild tomato salsa, bruschetta

16 boxes of jars, 180 jars in all, not counting those I've already traded or given away (or eaten), and I don't think I'm quite done yet.

I've loved picking in the sun and the heat and the humidity and the rain. I've loved standing in the steamy kitchen with juice dripping off the counter on to my toes, standing until my legs and back ache. I love the ping of a good seal and the early tastes of the jars that don't seal. I love my weekly canning date with my friend and her big garden and raspberry patch and two kids. I love my new canning friends and trading goods. I love thinking ahead to winter and what we will eat and what I will give away. I've loved simply watching them stack up, seeing the fruits of my labor, tangible proof of how I spent my days, the abundance of it.

I chafe often at not having time to do so many things I want to do. Writing and craft projects and bigger cooking projects and gardening and reading pile up underneath the dirty diapers and the laundry waiting to be folded. I sit down at night, too tired to get motivated. So I grumble and I look with amazement at other people with as many or more kids as me. I see them write and tend a big garden and chickens and well-maintained blogs. How do you do it?  I always want to know, but I realized after I posed the question to Angie (who answered today) that people have been asking me that all summer as I posted on FB about my canning escapades.

So I started thinking about how I do it. Sometimes Brian takes the kids, but usually I have both girls in tow, and the friend I usually can with often has both of hers. How did we do it? Occasionally there were extra hands or kids not there. Sometimes the babies would nap. We put babies in backpacks and offered lots of homemade popsicles. There was a sandtable and a trampoline and a hammock and a tricycle. Kathleen ate goldfish crackers and drank more juice than I ever allow (or even have) at home. Kids (the four year old and the two and a half year old) helped wash jars and pick berries and snap beans. We had painting projects and stories at lunch and ice cream when we were all done. We sang and cajoled and took turns refereeing arguments. And every now and then, we just had to laugh as four kids erupted into tears right at the point where we just needed to get hot stuff into hot jars.

I made it a priority. I hate people telling me that to do something I really care about I have to make it a priority (even though I know it's true). But because I know it's true, I've been working on choosing.

I have prioritized running, because I want to get back in shape and because it helps clear my head.

I have prioritized writing in the mornings that Elizabeth is up at 5 and everyone else is sleeping. I feed her and then (if I don't fall asleep on the couch with her), I make myself coffee and I write. Even if the dishes are piled up in the sink or diapers need to get in the washer or I'm behind on my work. I write until one of my girls needs me. It doesn't feel like enough really, but it feels like the right balance for now.

I prioritized canning this summer. At least once a week from late June to the last days of August, I met with my friend and put something into jars. Because I love doing it, because I love spreading jam on Kathleen's toast when she asks me for some "blubabane" jam. I love giving jars of jams and pickles at Christmas. I love tasting summer on cold winter days. I love being connected to my food and the past.

I can look at the list of projects still untouched or my weed filled garden or the mess of my office and sigh about what I can't seem to do, or I can look at that stack of boxes and the notebook filling up and my sweaty running clothes and realize I'm doing okay. And I can listen to Kathleen making Elizabeth laugh and laugh and laugh. I can snuggle with my girl at nap time. I can say yes when she asks for a story or to do music or to sit and color with her. I can have all this abundance of life. Sometimes I just have to remember to see it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Waiting for the Bus

Today is the first day of school here. I made muffins and a little extra coffee for my friend J. and her kids who wait for the bus outside our house. Kathleen and I went out in our pajamas, Elizabeth in a hooded onesie and legwarmers against the morning chill. We waited for the bus, always late on the first day as routes become familiar and proud parents snap pictures, and had our breakfast party.

The other day we were talking  about the start of school, and J. said, "Sara and Henry used to come out and wait for the bus." For less than two weeks, we were out there every morning to see, but in neighborhood/friend lore that is "used to" and I love her for remembering. 

I have sat outside my house for five Septembers—with Henry, with a big belly and a ghost, with Kathleen, with a big belly and Kathleen, and with Kathleen and Elizabeth—to watch these neighbor friends of ours off to school on the first day. I thought I'd watch them get on the bus with Henry in a few years (that is now suddenly next year). Our older friend will have moved on to the other school by the time Kathleen boards the bus as a kindergardener, but our younger friend will wait with her and Elizabeth too. 

This morning we were out in a classic September morning, sky blue, grass dew wet, with coffee and muffins and another neighbor and her dog. It felt a little like a morning block party. Festive.

And as our friends got pictures taken in their first day of school outfits and new backpacks, I found myself thinking not of Henry who would be in preschool (preschool!) this year and ready for the bus next year, but of Kathleen, who is already clamoring to get on the bus. Not yet, my little big girl, not yet, but you will.