Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Today I stacked 3 thin gold bracelets on my wrist. They all belonged to my grandmother. My Bandie always wore bracelets, the tiny gold chains tumbling down her wrists when she propped herself up on her elbow in bed. That's how I think of her, mostly. Comfortably reclined in her nightgown and housecoat, adorned in gold and sparkly things.

My Bandie loved things that were pretty, and in her 81 years of life she gathered a reasonably extensive collection of things that are lovely. My Bandie passed away quietly in December, leaving her lovely things to her children, including her jewelry collection which she left to my mother, her only surviving daughter.

Last week, many of the girls in my family gathered in my mother's bedroom to ooh and ahh at the tables lined with the pretty things my grandmother left to my mother, and we each chose a few things to have and wear and think of her. This morning, I stacked those bracelets on my wrist, and I thought of my grandmother.

Sometimes I forget for a minute that Bandie died. I couldn't attend any of the services or cry at her funeral. She passed at home without any preamble or fanfare sometime in middle of the night the day after my due date with Doogleberry. Four days later, my mother dressed her body in a dark room of the mortuary; in those same moments, I was delivering my baby.

I hope my Bandie danced between the two, both rooms full of love and tears.

My Bandie was short, "a scrub oak among redwoods!" she used to laugh, referencing my Papa's nearly universally tall family. She was small, with olive skin and dark hair that sat on her head in soft curls. She was a lady.

Bandie was kind and thoughtful and generous. She was elegant and polished. She valued good manners, good grammar, and bad jokes. She loved Beanie babies and pigs (the decorative kind) and Rottweilers (the real kind.) She loved shopping from catalogs and QVC. She loved food and parties and clothes and flowers. She loved her friends and she loved her family.

And Bandie loved my children. I was her oldest granddaughter, and my Bug her oldest great-granddaughter. The two of them played matching games on our couch after Papa died, Bandie's soft voice rising in pitch with a child-friendly sort of sing song. She loved Mr. Baggins, with his playful little grin. And I know she loved my littlest son. I don't know exactly what life before or after this one looks like, but it brings me peace to imagine her admiring my baby's golden locks and round baby cheeks as they passed each other on that road between this life and the one beyond.

Plus, it explains why he was so late. My Bandie was never on time for anything.

Just as I do with my Papa, I cherish many fond memories with Bandie. My parents and I lived in her home when I was a toddler, and my mom tells me stories of myself as a two year old, like the time I unknowingly snatched one of her precious Lladro statues off the coffee table and toddled across the room with it clutched in my tiny little hand. 

Later, when I visited her home by myself as a teenager, Bandie was nervous to allow me to swim by myself while she got ready for the day in her room (a process which, it bears mentioning, took hours to accomplish.) We agreed on a plan, which, in retrospect, was pretty ridiculous: I'd float on a raft while reading a book. Every few minutes, I'd ring this enormous brass bell to let her know I was still alright. Dutifully, I floated there, ringing that silly thing every few minutes to reassure her I had not drowned. After what must have been nearly an hour of ringing every 3 or 4 minutes, my Bandie appeared at the sliding door. 

"Are you ok?!", she called. "I heard you ringing the bell so I came right down!"

It still makes me laugh to think of all the bell rings she missed, and to think that she imagined that in the process of drowning I'd be able to ring that stupid bell.


Bandie was particular. She appreciated the fine things in life, and enjoyed surrounding herself with beauty. Bandie expected quality.

Once, when I was 15 or so, she took me through the drive-thru at Arby's. I had never seen my Bandie eat fast food before, but someone had told her about the Reuben sandwich and she wanted to try one. She leaned far out the window and spoke loudly into the intercom system. In her deliberate way of speaking, she ordered as if she was at the finest seafood establishment.

"That Reuben you have?" she asked. "Is it really--- fresh?"

I secretly laughed, imagining a fast food joint answering that question honestly. 

But since then, I've thought more about it, and about what my Bandie meant by her question, and here is what I have come up with. Whatever you are going to do, you might as well do it right.


When I think about it, I guess I always thought of my Bandie a little like a bird. She seemed so... delicate, like maybe the winds and the storms of the world were sometimes too much for her fragile little wings. And in some ways, I suppose maybe it was true. I think of my Bandie in her perfectly curated nest, chirping a pretty little song but only for those who stopped long enough to hear it. I feel a little sad when I think of all the times I marched by too quickly to hear her singing.

But you know what? In lots of ways, I think I was wrong about Bandie and her bird wings. After all, in the end, being delicate and particular and fragile didn't keep her from flying.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nutritional Facts

Today Bug asked me if she could eat salad for lunch. 

I was immediately smug. "What kind of five-year-old asks for salad for lunch?" I wondered, rather satisfied with myself. "I am basically the Nutritional Mom of the Year. Hooray for vegetables!"

I took another bite of my own lunch- warmed up leftover steak on processed white bread.I'm nothing if not a shining example to my offspring.

I dug out the bag of salad, and that's when Bug gave a detailed explanation about just what kind of salad she wanted. 


Plain iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing. Presence of a carrot shard may warrant punishment up to and including beheading of the offending parent.

Like I said. Nutritional Mom of the Year.

Speaking of nutrition, turns out we have more than one rather particular eater around here these days. This little ball of adorable has basically only one flavor profile available to him, so you might assume he would be pretty easy to satisfy.

You'd be wrong about that, unfortunately. It's sort of a long story, but essentially one day Mama came home from a doctor's appointment to find her Doogleberry's face and neck covered in hives. He had been contentedly munching a bottle of formula, which is pretty rare for him as Mama generally serves as the pantry, and every place that formula had dribbled had immediately erupted into red, angry hives. Suddenly the terrible eczema, rashes necessitating InstaCare visits, gassiness, and that one incident of projectile vomiting (FUN! Kid is capable of some real distance!) all seemed to make sense. A call into Doogie's pediatrician supported Mama's suspicions. Kiddo's little gut is sensitive to milk proteins.

Mama rather naively volunteered to cut out dairy, thinking maybe it wouldn't be a big deal. It's not a big deal, not really. It's worth it to see our boy so happy and comfortable, he'll almost surely grow out of it in a few months, and it's not that hard to remember. Pretty much the basic rule of thumb around here these days is "if it tastes good, Kris probably can't eat it." See? Easy to remember.

Sigh. These kids.
Worth it. 

Please pass the raspberry sorbet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hot sill-ull (and my cake!)

Last night around 10:30, I found myself raiding my mother's pantry in search of a stray boxed cake mix. SOMEONE in our house is turning 3 today, and while I planned to make a tasty cake in a few days when we celebrate his birthday with family members, the little squirt conned me into a last minute addition.

Every day for a week or so before his birthday, I asked him what he wanted to eat on his special day. "MY CAKE!" he'd excitedly exclaim. I tried to redirect his focus to any other food-- spaghetti, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, eggs, pizza-- you know, real, actual FOOD, but had only limited success.

Which brings us to late last night, when the stinker face managed to earn his way out of bed for a brief moment by pooping in his diaper. (Potty training this kid... now there's a prospect that makes me want to poke at my eyes with a fork.) We had considered taking him to IHOP this morning for breakfast while Bug was in preschool.  His little eyes all blurry from sleep, I asked him if he wanted pancakes for breakfast in the morning.

"Nope!" he chattered, cheerfully. "I want hot sill-ull. (Which is Baggins for 'hot cereal'- basically Cream of Wheat.) With MY CAKE!"

And so, because he is just about the most delicious, delightful, and adorable little man ever, I scrounged up an old cake mix and whipped it up at nearly 11:00 at night.

As crazy as our lives are right now-- three kids! House hunting! Work!-- I couldn't let today sneak by without a little tribute to my precious Mister Baggins. My middle child. My precocious, silly, smart, goofy little dude who could not possibly have joined our family only 3 years ago.

He is kind. He is naughty. (Oh boy, is he naughty.)

 He is witty with a wicked sense of humor. He is full of energy. Mister Baggins approaches most of life the way he approaches playing with his Daddy: head first and at full speed, arms stretched out wide and that light-up-the-room grin splitting his cheeks wide open.

Baggins can charm his way into extra cell phone time with every single one of his extended family members after Mama and Daddy have cut him off. He can quote State Farm commercials (She. Sounds. Hideous. Well, she's a guy, so...) He can sing the ABCs and "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and, sort of embarrassingly, plenty of current radio hits that may or may not be entirely kid friendly. Baggins loves hunting tigers with his cousin, loves his slippers, loves his big sister, and loves Matchbox cars.

Oh yeah.

And Mister Baggins loves cake.

Mama loves you, Nugget. Right up to the moon. Happy birthday.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Doogie is born, part two.

I’ve heard that the Eskimo people have dozens of words for snow. I don’t know if it is true, but it makes sense that something with which you are very familiar would lead to very specific descriptive terms for what seem like minute details.

Maybe it is because the experience was new and unfamiliar to me, then, that I seem to lack adequate vocabulary words to describe birthing my third baby. Painful, obviously, and certainly intense, but neither word seems enough. I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but the overwhelming agony and then immediate ecstasy of your birth made up the most vulnerable and absolutely present moments of my life.

Surrounded by the nurses and medical student with your Daddy at my side, I suddenly felt I was drowning, swamped and gasping for air in the crushing pain of delivery. For the first time, I felt out of control, and I cried out again and again as the waves of pain crashed over me one on top of the other without relief. The pressure was overwhelming and indescribable, making it impossible to think about the past or the future or anything but surviving that very instant. 

The only moment I remember hearing any hint of anything but absolute calm and serenity in the nurse’s voice was when she called out from the room a second time.

“I need the doctor in here-- right now, please!”

I caught my breath for a brief moment, and desperately pleaded with her. “Please, is he almost here?” I begged, my voice whimpering from the pain.

“He’s coming as quickly as he can. He’ll be here very soon,” she answered, full of compassion. She assumed I was referring to my doctor, who had yet to arrive.

But here is the thing. I wasn’t asking about my doctor. It didn’t matter much to me in that moment if he made it or didn’t or who was in the room at all. I just wanted my son.

I needed YOU.

All at once, my pleas were answered. I tried for a moment to follow the hushed suggestions from the nurses to pant, to hold off delivery just long enough for the doctor to arrive, but it was futile and lasted only an instant.

“I’m pushing!” I called out. It was not a declaration of intention. It was simply a desperate announcement that, without my permission at all, my body was doing what it knew how to do. Without any input from me, I was having a baby. 

You were—FINALLY!—coming to meet your Mama.

Resigned to the fact that you were not waiting for anyone, the nurse pushed the medical student into position and confidently looked up at me.

“One push, honey, and your baby will be here.”

The Eskimos have dozens of words for snow, and I have none for that moment.

I won’t lie to you, baby child. It was physical agony unlike anything I have ever experienced, but only for a moment. An instant later, you were here! Pink and screaming and perfect and then you were on my chest and every bit of that pain in an instant was just love. LOVE. It was incredible, unbelievable, perfect.

It was 1:24pm.

The doctor bounced into the room the very moment it was over (“I didn’t know we were doing it like this!” he said, surprised) and dashed over to the clamp the cord and assume all kinds of doctor-ly roles from the clearly bewildered and relieved medical student.

(A day or so later, when he came to check on me, I asked that student if that was his first delivery. He ducked his head sheepishly and nodded. Look at you, Doogleberry! Setting the precedence for awesome from your very first moments!)

The most incredible thing about your birth was how instantly amazing I felt. As soon as you were out and in my arms where you belonged, I felt energized, pain-free, and ecstatic to have such a gorgeous baby. Eventually I handed you off to your beaming Daddy, who took you to the corner of the room to see you weighed, (9 pounds 6 ounces!) measured, (19 inches long!) and wrapped up tightly.

There was some difficulty with the third stage of labor as the placenta did not detach as quickly as we would have liked. I am so grateful for my doctor, who, after missing the main event, was patient and confident and full of compassion. I nearly crawled backwards up the bed as he pressed heavily on my stomach in downward motions, apologizing repeatedly for the pain as he worked to ensure we could avoid infection and hemorrhage. He repeatedly offered IV pain medication, but I declined. I wasn’t trying to be a hero, but narcotics make me insanely drowsy (I’m such a lightweight) and all I wanted was to have you in my arms the rest of the day without falling asleep.

In the end, everything worked out perfectly. The doctor’s skill and patience paid off, and we wrapped up everything without resorting to the horrible sounding procedures the doctor had warned might be necessary if it took much longer. I stayed on the pitocin for several more hours to ensure contractions were successful in clearing everything out, and once he was done kneading my stomach I immediately felt fantastic again.

And how could I not?! Just look at you!

The two and a half weeks since you were born have been amazing. Circumstances at our house have been hectic—nearly everyone we live with has had some sort of health scare or another—but you have been window of peace for me. You are soft and sleepy and wonderful, and my recovery has been a breeze. I feel wonderful, I have healed quickly, and the constant pelvic pain that plagued me throughout pregnancy is completely gone.

And you? You are my dream. Your Daddy adores you, your siblings are over the moon, and Mama is dizzy in love.

Welcome to our family, Doogenheim. It’s going to be a wild ride.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Doogie is born, part one.

Early in the morning on Tuesday, December 10th, Daddy and I headed into the hospital buzzing with excitement to meet our baby boy. I changed into one of those oh-so-stylish hospital gowns—pale, non-descript in color with a dizzying geometric print all over it, nearly identical to those worn by patients in every hospital I’ve ever worked in. Who designs that fabric anyway?

My cheerful nurse started the IV and hung the Pitocin to start contractions, and Daddy and I talked and laughed and reveled in our growing excitement until the contractions became strong enough to interrupt our conversation. I stood at the side of the bed for a while and swayed my hips back and forth, and your Daddy pushed hard into my lower back to ease the pain. Before long, I climbed back up into the bed where I could rest between contractions.

And here is where I gush about how much I love your Daddy. This pregnancy and birthing business is not easy on the man that I married. Medicine and hospitals make him anxious. Three times now I have been lucky enough to have relatively easy, uneventful pregnancies, and all three times your father has spent the ten months from when I happily told him a baby was coming until the day we took our baby home tempering his excitement with a healthy dose of worry. But on the day that you were born, when I closed my eyes to let the waves of pain wash over me, I fell in love with your Daddy all over again. He was calm and patient and unendingly helpful—getting me ice chips and cool washcloths and very literally fanning me with the homemade fan Bug made for me to take to the hospital. I sat in the bed with my legs bent, and he dutifully pushed my knees toward my body during every contraction, pressing my hips just enough toward the back of the bed to ease some of the pain. He is just the very best man. Try to be like him, ok?

Once labor progressed enough to be distractingly painful, I wasn’t terribly social. I found, sort of to my surprise I guess, that breathing slowly and audibly through my nose like I do during yoga was calming during contractions. The waves of pain never lasted more than 5 very slow breaths, so I counted my breathing to manage each one.

I had epidurals when your sibings were born, and those births were beautiful and perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing. I am grateful beyond words for the advances in modern medicine that allow me the privilege of walking out of the hospital healthy and with beautiful babies. That relief for the excruciating pain of childbirth exists is a beautiful miracle. On the day you were born, I had agreed to the epidural when we arrived at the hospital, but I had also considered the idea of skipping the medication this time. My thoughts weren’t part of some social statement or exercise in self-punishment, it was just that I was nearly positive I could do it without that extra intervention. Delivering your siblings happened quickly and uneventfully, and I figured I could avoid giving the anesthesiologist a thousand of our hard earned dollars if things went well. (You know, high deductible plans and whatnot.) The thought of suffering through a contraction or two hunched over and trying to hold perfectly still while the epidural was placed was just enough motivation to keep me focused, and before I knew it (about five hours from the time we arrived at the hospital), I was dilated to seven centimeters.

From delivering the Bug and Mr. Baggins, I knew that the transition portion of labor typically goes very, very fast for me. With both of your siblings, I went from seven centimeters to having a screaming baby on my chest in about 45 minutes. My experience with you was no different, only this time I was experiencing everything without the benefit of pain relief. The advanced stages of labor were incredibly intense. I remember looking at the clock at 1:00 in the afternoon, wracked with the pain of strong contractions coming one on top of the other, and saying to your daddy, “he’ll be here by two. I just know it.”

I was right.

While I had been nearly silent for the first 5 hours of labor, I found myself moaning and crying out quite a bit in the last 30 minutes. The nurses (who were AH-MAZ-ING) called for our doctor to come from his office across the parking lot to get ready for the big event. Swamped with something at the office, he sent his medical student (who I had met at my appointment the day before) because, as he put it, “things might go fast for her.”

That proved to be the understatement of the year.

To be continued...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Welcome to our family, Doogleberry.

Dearest Son,

You are freshly bathed and smell of lavender and milky baby breath, and I am watching you sleep beside me on the couch, swaddled in the softest blanket and dreaming whatever new babies dream. Your little chest rises and falls softly, interrupted by the little hiccups and chirps of a little one still unfamiliar with life on the outside.

I love you.

And I don’t want to forget these little moments, sandwiched as they are between the constant hum of family chaos—Mama and Daddy referee sibling scuffles and orchestrate the frantic rush of dinner time, bath time, tooth brushing, and pajamas while adjusting to a new little person in our family. It’s the happiest kind of circus, but the days run together and smoosh together in an indistinguishable blur. I look at the clock at night and cannot believe the day is gone with so little accomplished.

But then, I snuggled you most of the day, and that’s something.

You are the perfect addition to our little family. You have a little nose and chin that look just like your brother and sister did when they were born, and a dusting of soft blonde hair all over your head. You make all kinds of little grunting and snorting noises when you are awake, and the sweetest sighs and soft hiccups while you sleep. You love eating and sleeping and hate to be bathed and you sound like a lamb when you are happy and a lion when you are mad. You are perfect. You are a dream.

And so I’ll write it all down—even though I missed a chunk of time on this little blog—so that I can remember what it was like to juggle my three babies when they were small and we lived in a borrowed space and nothing was the same as it was 10 months ago before we found out you were coming, before we sold our house and moved, before job changes and preschool and all kinds of other little life changes flipped our routine upside down.


I did a lot of reading and thinking ahead of time about what your birthday might look like. I didn’t have any real agenda other than doing my very best to leave the hospital with a healthy baby in my arms. Working in the field that I do has long-since scarred me with the knowledge that there are no guarantees in this world, that scary, hard things happen every single day to people who look a lot like me, and that real life very rarely shakes out exactly the way we plan it. All I really wanted from the experience was to get you out of the deal.

But I’ll admit it, around 3 days after your due date had come and gone without even the slightest hint of baby-action, I was getting a little restless. My mom had been in the hospital, my Bandie had died, and your Daddy had made an extremely rare and therefore unnerving trip to InstaCare all in the days after you were theoretically supposed to be here, and guess what! Still no baby. 

So I ate an entire pineapple with the dimmest hope that the crazies on the Internet were right and it would put me into labor. (Hint: nope.) I lumbered awkwardly on the elliptical and took long, painful walks (waddles?) up and down the hills near Nana and PopPop’s house.

And still, no baby.

 And so, even though I had sort of hoped to avoid any unnecessary intervention, my doctor and your daddy and I decided it was probably best to give the whole process a bit of a jump start.

Spoiler alert: turns out you were worth the wait.

To be continued...

Friday, July 18, 2014

They can, but I can't.

One of the best parts about parenting is watching the unique ways little people interact with the world. Today, while willfully ignoring the near-constant stream of chatter coming from the two people in the backseat of my car, I began imagining what the social consequences would be if I, an adult, engaged in the same habits as my kids. And so, a list of things my kids do that would be inappropriate for me to do:

1. Expressing every passing thought out loud, even if that thought interrupts a current thought.

Bug: Hey Mama, I want to go to Grammy's house because LOOK A KITTY!

2. Lacking the emotional regulation to respond to even mundane suggestions with anything other than near-hysterical energy.

Me: Who wants to go downstairs?
Mr. Baggins, hopping up and down, flapping his arms wildly: Oooo! Me me me me! Peeeeese! DOWNSTAIRS!
*See also: flopping to the ground in dismay at any event eliciting mild displeasure.

3. Commenting on every detail of every day, no matter how uninteresting or unimportant.

Bug, while eating a picnic lunch: Hey Mom, some yogurt dropped on my arm and not my swimsuit.
Me: Ok. Go ahead and lick it off. 
Bug: I did already.

4. Finding it necessary to clarify in what form their requests ought to be granted. Mister regularly begs for "milk please in cup." You know, because of all those times I have brought a puddle of milk for him balanced in my cupped palms and required him to lap it up like a puppy.

5. Discussing our bathroom-related needs at a 7/10 volume, no matter the location or situation. 

Bug, doing the universal potty-wiggle-dance (and maybe we're surrounded by people in church): Mama? I need-a go POTTY! Right NOW! CAN'T HOLD IT!
Me: Can we color for a minute instead?
Bug, shrugging: Yeah, sure.

Baggins, with energy: I dess put POOP in my DI-PAH.

Also: a desire to dip any piece of solid food in ranch dressing (Mr. Baggins), neglecting to flush the toilet after use (Bug), and displaying a near-complete inability to stand still, resulting in spastic dancing, spinning, and/or arm flailing while waiting for parental instructions (both), and eating ice cream with the gusto it deserves.