Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The goose LOVES holiday cheer. She is ho-ho-ho'ing her way through the month of December like a seasoned Christmas elf. Much of her joy, I suspect, comes from Tim Allen's rendition of Santa Claus, in the movie "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause." She yucks it up at the site of a snowman, real or fake, as well. When we exit the Y, she runs at the little stuffed snowmen and honks their noses. Then she bolts over to the statue of Santa and shouts "HO HO HO." It is impossible to get her to stop pushing the button on her Mickey and Minnie Mouse holiday snow globe, much to my husbands dismay. He told me last weekend that he cannot stand Christmas Carols until a day or two before Christmas; then on Saturday he was blasting the XM Satelite Radio stations holiday cheer channel and singing, actually belting, along with each carol - simply to get a giggle out of the chicken. She infects us with holiday cheer.

I've always liked the holidays. As a kid, of course, presents are killler. Its always fun to get together with family, have a few schnocks, play games, or go sledding. All good things. But the holidays, like nearly every other aspect of my life, have completely changed post-baby. Beyond the "seeing things through her eyes" aspect, I just love how into it she is. And she really is into it.

Saturday night we had our first holiday event. My daughter received her first present, and wasn't sure what to do with it. She looked at it like, "ohh pretty." Then her aunt tore a corner of the paper and showed her - "You have to rip the paper off." She got it. In no time, tiny bits of paper were flying. Then she wanted the toy immediately. The next gift she opened was from her great-grandmother. She ripped and tore at it and then exclaimed, "OHHHHH A BOXXXXX!" I said, "Hunny, we have to open the box." Again, "A BOXXXXX!" It was as if the box itself was the greatest thing she'd ever seen. Truthfully, the reaction she gave to the bear inside the box paled in comparison.

Every night when I rock with her before bed I am thankful for this amazing gift. She amazes me and inspires me to be a better person and mom. I can't imagine wanting more than to make her Christmases the most special time of the year, not because she deserves toys and stuff to unwrap, but because she deserves to know how wonderful she is and how much we love her. And now I love Christmas. Like went out the door 22 months ago.


Live Forward

Friday night I thought I was 22 again. My friend, Jessica, and I hit downtown Naperville ready to get drunk. We had a mission. We planned to cab it home. We went to Bar Louie, had two drinks and some very dry chicken satay. Then we went to The Two Nine and continued to drink gin-n-tonics until we were drunk. She throwing up in the bathroom drunk, and me dishing out love advice while chain smoking cigarettes drunk. Chain smoking at a bar in Illinois, you question? Rear patio, I respond.

It is fun. In the moment, I was having fun. Showered, hair styled, full makeup on, delicious drinks, girl talk - the stuff of my youth. The things I was good at: drinking, smoking. Check and check.

The next day at promptly 7:30 I woke. While my daughter was with my mom, I had no reason to wake - other than the internal mom clock. I was sick. Puke. Shower. Aleve. Toast. Water - sleep. At 9:45 I felt substantially better. I left Jessica's place thinking about the challenge of child care with a hangover, disappointed that I'd not make it to workout because of my raging headache, and irritated with myself for acting like an asshole in public. Bumping into walls, tripping on my own feet, slurring my words incessantly.

The thing is I am not 22. I am pushing 32 by weeks - and while I DO LIKE TO DRINK - there is no solid reason to re-live my past. I like my life now. I am happy as a nearly 32 year old stay at home mom. I enjoy eating healthfully, exercise, and having the occasional bottle of wine. Those things are all good.

I think for so long the idea of "girls night" or "girls weekend" has included over-the-limit intoxication that the two are one. The truth is, I'd much rather go to dinner and have a glass of wine or two, and a weekend retreat to a Pilates clinic would kick last Friday nights ass. As I was throwing up the other morning, head literally in the toilet, I was thinking to myself, "Who is this person?"

She was a girl who wanted what I have now: home, husband, daughter. And I am not a woman who wants what she did then. I just need to accept that past and live forward.


The Bucket List

When should a person write his Bucket List? Is it a reviseable document? I think the concept of the Bucket List started for me shortly after having my daughter. It occured to me then, 19 months ago, that while I am here its got to be good.

For that reason, I want to do the things I want to do and I want to do them now. Obviously, money is a road block on some of the items I'd like to accomplish. To get to the end and say, "Oh NO! I didn't do this, and this, and this, and this, and this..." would be a major disappointment. But in the now, the things I have the ability to do I intend to do. I think the concept of creating a Bucket List as a living document is far more practical than writing the good stuff down when there is only blank amount of time left.

Do it now. It now will be different than it now when I'm 40. It now is staying in shape, eating good food, drinking good wine, and making the days the best that I can for my daughter. I want her days to be fun and new. I have control of that. It now is getting back to writing. Writing writing writing. If I'd been asked when I was 21 what it now was, I would have said the same thing I would say today: publish a book. A book a book a book. So what am I ever doing to that end?

The problem that I face is I have never published anything in any form. In the 5th grade I wrote a book for the Illinois Young Writers something-or-other, but it wasn't published, just awarded. I think writers are supposed to write for something, for a medium of some kind - newspapers, magazines, newsletters... I think that allows opportunity for further published work. I was an English major, not journalism. I didn't study how to publish. Aside from hitting the "publish post" button at the bottom of this page (and may I mention I'm the only person reading this page), publishing isn't my strong suit.

I went to church on Sunday for the first time since, um. Long time. I went because the church in my parents town has an interim minister. The minister I grew up listening to at The First United Methodist Church in Downers Grove is filling in at my mom's church. In my opinion, he always hits the key elements in giving a sermon: He always kept my attention, created a space for introspection, and made me laugh. I was excited to listen again.

The sermon was on the Bucket List. He asked us basically the same thing I've been asking myself for 19 months. What are you waiting for? In remission from prostate cancer, Rev. Conger described his bucket list. He told us four things he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He wanted to take his sixth grandson on a trip, organize his videos and pictures, write a book about the death of his son, and help someone he didn't know. I was in awe of him Sunday morning. I felt like his life had been spent helping people he didn't know. How well does a minister know the members of his congregation? I imagine he knows only those that show up weekly for years on end, participate in every committee and function, and donate solid amounts of money to his church. I thought it was generous of him to think he hadn't helped anyone he didn't know without that being the specific goal. I was also intrigued in the story of his son's death. I was very young when it happened, and can't recall the details. But I'd read the book.

The common life goal made me think he'd helped someone he didn't know again. The sermon itself compelled me to live life now. If it isn't good now, when will it be? When I'm dead? What kind of parenting example is that? Its got to be good now. Ask me again in 20 years, but right now my Bucket List is that simple: Its got to be good now.



On the eve of her first birthday I am filled with excitement. She will have no idea that it is her birthday, despite my valiant efforts today describing the events of last year, of tomorrow, and the various renditions of "tomorrows your birthday birthday birthday birthday." She seems taken by the singing, but its certain she has no idea the meaning.

My heart and mind go back to the happenings of last year. My daughter was a breech baby and I didn't want to try the external version - a horrific attempt on the part of the doctor to turn the baby from the outside, by manipulating my stomach. No thank you. I signed up for a c-section because, while my lamaze instructor, Nurse Fenima, indicated the recovery would be long and horribly painful - she had never actually had one and all the ladies I knew who had, disagreed with her. Nurse Fenima told my class of her own labor as, "quick and over before she knew it." While I'd heard that story from a few other moms, logic told me a breech delivery would be neither quick nor over before I knew it. C-section it was.

My husband and I visited the ob/gyn on February 7 for my weekly checkup. We'd thought quite seriously about the external version and told her that we'd decided to schedule a c-section. Together we decided on February 19 as the date. She asked to see me on February 16 for a final check up and if the baby hadn't turned by then, we'd move on with the c-section on the following Monday. It was surreal to walk in and determine the date of your child's birth. I remember driving home after the appointment thinking, "February 19 is a good birthday." We called our family, gave them the details, and then looked at each other like, "holy shit - she's really coming!"

I had a great pregnancy. From start to finish, I had no major complaints. I didn't actually know I was pregnant until my ninth week, didn't see the doctor until week eleven, and by the time I did see her I was quite shocked because my assumption was that I'd just missed my period and expected to hear I was barely pregnant - 3 weeks or so. I remember hearing the heartbeat that first time and looking up from the table saying, "no no that's not right, you can't hear a heartbeat this early." She said, "I'm estimating you're 11 or 12 weeks along." I nearly fell off the table. Learning of a pregnancy at the end of the first trimester makes for a very quick pregnancy, and thankfully, it was a lot of fun. I have no pregnancy horror stories. I actually worked up until the day before I had her - I was very large, but that comes with the territory. I'd planned to work until the sixteenth, but because we had the doctor appointment I decided to take my maternity leave on the fifteenth. It was very bizarre walking out of the building that day.

Before I was a mommy, I was a high school teacher. Leaving the classroom that day was unusual because I hadn't thought of or expected my nerves to kick in, and they did almost as soon as I opened the door heading for my car. It was as if my heart just knew. I became giddy with excitement and eager to get home. When I got out of my car in the garage, I found my husband standing at the door to the house. His hands were on top of his head, which has proven to be a sign of sheer emotion one way or another. I could barely get in the house, the hallway is very narrow, and he was walking backwards in front of me talking at lightening speed.

"The hospital called!!!!!!" He continued, "The nurse asked to talk to you and I told them that you were at work and they said that is what they thought, but that we missed our appointment for the c-section this morning so then they called us here, and left a voicemail, we'll have to check it, but they didn't get us, so they called the doc and asked where you might be and the nurse there said, 'well I imagine she's at work.' And the nurses at the hospital said that is what they thought. So they rescheduled us for tomorrow. We're having the baby tomorrow! When she told me that they rescheduled it all I could say was, 'no shit?' and thankfully she laughed. But we have to be at the hospital at 8:30 a.m. we can't be late. She had a lot of other directions for you, so you should call her back. But we're having the baby tomorrow!"

His energy was overwhelming, and I needed a chair. We hugged, then I sat and called the nurse. Indeed, the doctor told us one thing and then scheduled something else completely and didn't communicate that to us. After the list of what not to do before having a c-section, I hung up the phone and said, "Let's go to Portillo's." Apparently, I wouldn't eat again for 36 hours or some nonsense about a liquid diet after the surgery.

The nerves that kicked in earlier, ramped up at this point and I got pretty nervous. I was thrilled to be hours from meeting my sweet bird, but nervous as hell about the c-section. I trust my doctor completely, so I felt some security in that. All the drugs, the removal of organs, the stitches. It was more than I could imagine.

The Portillo's was delicious. We went home and didn't sleep. We arrived at the hospital at 8:20, we pulled up at the valet stand and I said to my husband, "Can you grab the bag and pillow?" He looked at me like I was speaking another language.

"I'll just come back down and get it once we're settled." He disagreed. I reached for the luggage and pillows and he fought back. We had a fight. The morning of our daughters arrival he picked a fight with me about bringing our shit into the hospital that, mind you, we'd be staying at for the next four days. We were bound to need our things and with the car in valet it'd be a pain in the ass to have to get them later. On the elevator up to the labor and delivery wing I lost it, crying hysterically. How dare he? How dare he pick that moment, that very moment to disagree with me. Through sobs I said to him, "I am about to give birth to our first child, I am more overwhelmed than you will ever know, and you have to choose now to pick a fight about the luggage that I know we are going to need!" I was IRATE. I don't know that I've ever actually felt that irate before or since, but it was unpleasant. We stood outside the wing, waiting to be let in, he just looked at me as I cried and finally he apologized. It seemed like the longest wait, but when she arrived two minutes later, I'm certain I looked like any other first time, freaked out, crying mom.

From there, it truly was a breeze. Went to the room, checked in, parents arrived, pictures were starting, doc came and apologized for the mess up, gave it one last check, and then we were in surgery. Surgery took minutes. I went in first, there were three people in the room: two nurses and the man with the drugs, the anesthesiologist. They got me situated, sat me up, and in went the spinal block. Seconds later, I couldn't feel my toes, then I felt a small tingling in my pubic area and I inquired, "What's that?" A nurse replied, "We're shaving you, hunny." Within moments I could not feel anything below my breast line. My husband was escorted in, a very large blue sheet went up, and in walked the doc. The room was freakishly cold, and I shivered so much I'm certain I was blue. When I looked to the left, my husband's face was right there. When I looked to the right, the drug guy was standing right there. When I looked up, I could look into his glasses and see, vaguely, what was happening on the other side of the blue sheet. When I said, "I am very very cold, I can't stop shaking." He said, "I can fix that." Then he said to my husband, "Ok Dad, they are bringing her out, look over the sheet right now!" My husband stood up, looked over the sheet, and was in awe.

I said, "What's happening? What do you see? Can you see her?" And he could. "She's perfect, babe. She's perfect." Over and over we've said it again and again. I could only hear her crying softly, and then he sat down next to me and we smiled and cried. Seconds later we heard a very loud smacking sound, like a paddle thwat thwat thwatting the top of a lake. She had some liquid in her lungs and the nurses had to smack her chest - this got her going. She started crying very loudly, like in the movies. Finally, a nurse brought her up by my head and I saw her tiny, red face. She had so much hair, we couldn't believe it. Daddy went with his new baby girl to the nursery and I headed out of the O.R.

This all took 38 minutes. I was in the recovery room, being hooked up to a new set of I.V.'s before 40 minutes had passed from exiting my room on my way to surgery. It was insanely quick. I was floored. Again there were a lot of drugs, I started a morphine drip, and it made me a bit sick to my stomach. Drugs fixed that. I was hot, then cold, then hot, then cold. Before I had much time to "recover" my husband was back, telling me all about her first bath. How she screamed and kicked her tiny legs. He said they would get her swaddled up and bring her to me as soon as they could. This "soon as they could" was not speedy. The nurse sitting with me actually called the nursery to find out what was holding her up. Moments after that call, she arrived, bundled, and finally in my arms.

Today I am elated because in that instant one year ago, my life was forever altered. Happiness has a whole new meaning, and she is a silly, silly goose.


What else is there to do?

I am lost today.

I have read Sandra Boyton's books, put the coins in the singing pig, watched baby Einstein, sang "The Wheels on the Bus," and patiently tried to convince my daughter to eat her peas without fail for the past eleven months. Today I just need something else to do!

My frustration is not at the expense of my daughters good time - she is still having a lovely day. She's playing, tearing things up, dumping blocks out of her baskets, and chewing on anything she can. She's "so big," and high fiving her way from one nap to the next. I, on the other hand, am feeling the stir crazy, 8 degrees below zero, mom stuck in the house in the dead of winter blues.

I should shower. Somehow, hot water releases the pent up energy that I'd actually like to be exerting on a beach somewhere. I think I should go on vacation. I think vacation is what I need. I would like, of course, to bring her with me. I think she'd like vacation. Sand, sun, swimming.

Last night I had dinner with three other moms. It was a brief escape out of my house, but not out of this world. We talked about our kids most of the night. The words "all consuming" don't do the concept of motherhood justice.

It sounds like I'm complaining when actually, that is not my intention. I don't want to be away from her. I just want to have something to do today that doesn't involve the interior of my home. A museum, the library - an outing. I can go to the ymca after her nap, I can ride my bike as my training program suggests I should today. I feel like one of those grumpy women I hear at the y complaining about everything. In truth, I am not one of those women. I'm one of those women who usually doesn't allow the grumps to control her day.

I've got to take a shower. Wash this stink off.