Monday, January 26, 2015

Battening down the hatches as a new family of three

Sorry for the absence last Monday, ReaderFriends … If you didn't catch the news on Facebook or the Jaunty Quills blog, Arizona and I were in the process of welcoming Baby H into the world (I'm still working on an online pseudonym, bear with me … What do we think of Wallaby?). And as he turned out to be a big baby, it was a bit of a process. But I've got good drugs, Arizona is doing lots of 'let me get that for you', and over the course of the week, we've gone from happy but shellshocked:

To glimmers of a new normal:

So far, I'm grateful for a whole lot of things--my wonderful hubby; our strapping son who's already sleeping three or four hours at a time (bless him); the happy accident that we're not living in, say, the 1700s, when things probably would've had a very different outcome last Monday … and the fact that Baby H came a little early, which means that a) he didn't get any bigger before attempting to exit stage I-don't-think-you-fit-through-there; and b) we're not staring down the barrel of doing a mad dash to the hospital into the teeth of Winter Storm Juno. 

Yeppers, here on the east coast of the US of A, we're looking at our first big snow event (snowpocalypse?) of the winter. The weather hens are flapping around on the telly, telling us the sky is falling, and those of us who know the routine are doing the usual prepping. Gas for the generator, check. Full charges on all phones and computers, check. Lots of candles and lighters, check. Plenty of food, including canned stuff that will heat easily on the Coleman stove or George Foreman, check. But we've also got the added challenge of a New Baby, and not really being sure what he needs on a day to day basis yet. 

Yesterday, the three of us ventured out to do errands. I managed to pack and forget the awesome tri-fold changing-pad-slash-carry-purse that a dear friend made for me (shout out, Donna!), but we at least remembered the baby and managed to time his feedings so he was a happy, sleepy thing for the duration. (This as opposed to a couple of days earlier when I whipped out an emergency boob in the pediatrician's parking lot, thereby quelling an impending riot.) We got gas, hit the bank, and then pulled into the grocery store, where the parking lot was already packed by midmorning two days before the crap weather was scheduled to hit. Arizona visibly girded his loins and said, 'Do you want to stay in the car with Baby while I do the shopping?'

At least I think that was what he said. I was already out the door and halfway across the parking lot. 

See, he would cheerfully live on a mountaintop and venture into the nearest town only when our supplies ran low. Me? I occasionally need me some noise, lights, rude people, nice people, chai latte and two-for-one sales on English Muffins. So in I plunged to Stop and Shop, which has all of the above, and I started working my way down the daunting list that Arizona and I had put together that morning. In doing so, I completely skipped the baby aisle, not realizing it until I was well past the frozen pizza. 

When you're doing the infertility dance with a side of I-waited-too-long-and-now-am-too-damn-old, you come up with some pretty whacky coping strategies (or was that just me?). I didn't obsess about seeing babies out and about with their moms (too much) or put on my judgy pants when I saw parents doing things different from how I thought I would (mostly). I did, however, avoid going through the baby aisle of whatever store we might be in. I just didn't need to see all the mysterious stuff I might never use, like snot suckers, tiny nail clippers, and fourteen different kinds of wet wipes, each designated for a different body part. Never mind the things that parents speak of with such reverence, like the Diaper Genie and the Boppy.

I still stayed out of those areas once the doctors started saying things like 'you've got a happy baby in there' and 'we'll see you in a week', not wanting to jinx it. So you'd think that my first official venture into Aisle 4 would be a momentous occasion, right? Angels would sing, some appropriately kicky theme song would pour from the overhead speakers, and my fellow shoppers (even the rude ones) would spontaneously burst into applause because Arizona and I had Gotten It Done, Dammit.

In reality, I abandoned my cart next to the beer and waddle-bolted back to the aisle in question, dodging other bodies and carts, and doing a lot of the 'ooh, ouch, eek, ack' that currently accompanies my attempts at perambulation with a whole lot of stitches in tender places. Down Aisle 4 I went, past the wipey things, washy things, sucky things, and liquid food things that I haven't yet felt myself lacking, down to the diapers. 

Where I froze, confronted by entirely Too Many Choices. 

And then I, who routinely ignores the suggestions from Amazon and Netflix as to what I might like based on my past purchases, preferring instead to do my own research and form my own opinions, grabbed a familiar bag like it was a lifeline in the midst of Winter Storm Juno, going with the same brand and size (not newborn, see above re: big baby) that the hospital had provided. And, sweating like I had thrown on a heavy parka and twenty extra pounds and gone for an awkward jog (because, well, that's pretty accurate), I returned to my cart, panicked briefly when I didn't see it next to the pizza, located it next to the beer, and continued onward, triumphantly in possession of a storm's worth of Pampers. 

I hope.

Monday, January 12, 2015

First Love and Happy Almost Birthday to Me!

Click for art link

Yep, Capricorn here, with all the contradictions that come from the goat personality (driven, ambitious, unsentimental, focused on common sense, tends to gravitate towards material reasons/rewards) trying to coexist in some sort of harmony with the fish personality (focused on the arts and spirituality, prefers spiritual or emotional rewards, idealistic). I'd say that these days I'm more fish than goat, but I've definitely had my goatish decades! 

I'll be celebrating my forty-mrmph b'day this week, presumably either by taking the day off to hang with a couple of friends, one of whom is a talented photographer and wants to do a Giant Baby Bump photoshoot for her portfolio  or by waddling off to the hospital to relocate the Giant Bump's primary resident to the great outdoors (sorry about the January in New England thing, kid, and welcome to the wonderful world of layers). 

Ever since finding out that my due date falls a little more than a week after my birthday, I've been hoping that kiddo will pick a different day and gets a birthday of his own--though I'm told he'll get priority one way or another: The sonographer at the high-risk clinic laughed at me and said, "Mom's birthday stops mattering once baby is here." 

For a while, I was all like "Is that true?" and "Yikes!" Not because birthdays are all that big a deal around here, but because one of my recurring fears about this whole process (along with the doozies my sleeping brain has cooked up involving sharks, Nazis and pick-a-plague-scenario) is whether I'll be able to do Mom well and still be Doc Jess. Now that the day is nearly upon us, though, I'm more like, "Bring it on, baby!" Not because I'm dying to be done with the waddling thing, though there's some of that … but because my inner fish is ready to share. 

Back in the day, I was a late bloomer and didn't start dating until my senior year of high school. He was (gasp!) a sophomore, though at a different high school. We'll call him TN, because those were (and hopefully still are) his initials--we met at the barn where I boarded my horse and hooked up after a friend did the wing-woman thing, whispering "TN likes-likes you" and "Would you go out with him if he asked?"

It was a surprise, as TN was cute, funny, and a bit of a bad boy, and I had long been typecast as the awkward, four-eyed geek who rarely dressed or acted quite right. So I hadn't been asked out in, well, ever. The age gap was less than you'd think, too, seeing how I had skipped a grade, putting us only a year apart in age. As in, exactly a year. Because we had the same birthday.

It was a sign! (More so than our first date, which involved Howard the Duck. 'Nuff said.)

We celebrated two birthdays together. That first was spent in the heady adrenaline rush of new love. And not just love, but "LURRRRVE", in all caps, shouted to the sky. Because it turned out that we worked. We meshed. Days were brighter, colors sharper, jokes funnier … And I not only got what all those romance novels had been trying to tell me, I felt smug as hell, because I had found my happily-ever-after already, without all the hand-wringing and drama that the characters in those books always seemed to go through. 

Or so I thought for the entirety of one long, glorious summer.

Unfortunately, by the time TN and I got to our second shared birthday, we were trying to pretend everything was okay despite my having started college and him having started cooking at a family member's restaurant, and wanting to be there every spare minute he had away from school … when not that long ago, he had wanted to spend every spare minute with me. Neither of us did anything wrong--that would've made it easier, I think. No, he found a new direction, I chased and clung, and the magic just … disappeared.

When the end came I was devastated. Gone were my best friend, the boy who had given me my first kiss (among other things), and all the wild, improbable plans we had made for our shared future. It hurt all the more because we broke up within a week or so of my parents announcing their divorce--they did their best to keep the world solid beneath my feet, but still. 

It would be three years before I dated again--almost my entire college career--and nearly two decades before I stopped trying to make it work with guys who didn't threaten my equilibrium nearly enough, and let myself fall fully, stupidly and head-over-heels in love again. 

I get it now--the kind of love that I've been writing about for so long, and the struggles it can take to get there. The lessons you learn along the way. How it's important to be your best self with your partner rather than expecting him to fix you, and vice versa. I also know (even if I still want to struggle against it sometimes) that the things I can't control far outnumber those I can. I can't predict where we'll all be a week from now, a month, a year … but my fishy self is okay with that. Worrying about it isn't going to change the outcome, so why not find something to love about each and every day? Especially when we live in such exciting times.

So bring it on, baby! Take my birthday if you like--I'll share. Heck, you can have it. Just come out safe and sound, because your father and I are ready to meet you, love you, and start this new--and wholly unpredictable--adventure.

Blessed be.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Do you have THAT neighbor … ?

The other night, it went like this:

Arizona (peering out a front window through a decent snowfall): Is the German Shepherds' house is on fire?

Me: Now *that's* something you don't hear every day. (Comes in from the kitchen to hunker at the window beside him. Sees flames licking up alongside the brightly lit house, which is a river and a street away, but clearly visible through the winter-bare trees.) Wow! Maybe? Or could it be on their TV? In a fireplace?

Arizona (grabs binoculars--which are never far away, and make Darwin smile at his preparedness--and stuffs his feet into a pair of flip-flops--cause, yanno, Arizona--and heads out onto the front porch for a better look)

Me (starts pulling on a parka, hat, gloves and snow boots--cause, yanno, New Englander--makes sure I have my cell phone and realizes I don't know their street number, then sticks my head out front): What's the verdict?

Arizona: Well, *something's* burning, for sure.

Me: Let's go take a look. Dinner'll keep. (Heads back inside to put our dished-out turkey and rice in the microwave--cause, yanno, cats.)

(A minute later, with him having exchanged his flip-flops for boots and thrown on a parka, we stand out in our driveway. Which, for the record, could double as a ski-jump and is wearing a layer of fresh, slippery snow, leading down to unplowed roads.)

Me: What do you think?

Arizona: We'd probably get the car down okay. Not sure about back up. 

Me: Let's hoof it.

Arizona (eyes his could-deliver-baby-any-day-now wife): Um. 

Me: I'll be careful. Promise. And if I fall, I swear I'll aim to land on my ass.

(A minute later, safely down our driveway and trudging through the snow up our street.)

Arizona: Did you bring a flashlight?

Me: No. I can see fine. 

Arizona (Shoots me a 'but the cars can't see *you*' look and produces the flashlight he almost always has on him, along with a pocket knife and cordage.)

Me (defensive): I've got my cell phone. And my keys.

(Somewhere, Darwin shakes his head and wonders if I was the best choice for procreation.) 

(A couple of minutes later, having dodged two plow trucks and one SUV going WAY too f-ing fast on the snowy back roads, we get in range of the house in question. The lights are all on, but we don't see anybody inside, and certainly no sign of an 'eeeee, fire!' response happening.)

Arizona: Smell that?

Me (wrinkles nose): Wiring. Or at least burning plastic. Maybe vinyl siding? Think their electrical box committed suicide?

Arizona (comes around to far side of house and peers down driveway): Nope. Barbecue.

Me: Whaaaa?

(Sure enough, there's a BBQ on the porch, smoking away. The flames have burned down, but it's clearly the culprit. And it smells awful.)

Me: What were they doing, the ceremonial New Year's burning of the ex-husband's things? 

Arizona: Sure doesn't smell like hot dogs. Come on, let's head home. (As we turn onto our road, he glances back.) Glad everything was okay. Also glad we didn't just call the fire department without checking. You never know with those guys.

Because, you see, the house in question is rented by THOSE neighbors--the ones with a bunch of big, ill-trained dogs that, up until a recent Facebook spat with a couple of other neighbors and input from Animal Control, would bark 24/7 in their yard and routinely roam free, chasing cats (see above for picture of Lucy stuck fifty feet up after they had come and gone), jumping fences and muddying up pools. 

In fairness, things have been soooo much better since said FB altercation, but the dialog got pretty heated, and it wasn't like Arizona or I felt like we could call over and say, 'Hey, everything okay?'

So we hiked over in the snow to see for ourselves. Because that's what neighbors do, regardless, and we hope that if the situation was reversed, they (or someone) would do the same for us!

What about you? Do you have one of THOSE neighbors? Do tell!