Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Our microwave is possessed by Satan.

Several months ago (wow, it's embarrassing to admit that it's been that long), our microwave stopped working properly. It didn't stop working...not all the time, at least...but it began to display a troubling pattern of sporadic non-functioning. Sometimes, it would run for a few seconds, then just shut off. Other times, it would keep running, but it would beep continuously, sometimes even past the moment when we frantically yanked the plug from the wall. From time to time, it would not actually do much in the way of heating up food, but it would continue to make noise and produce light for as long as the timer was set. Several other permutations of non-working developed, but as long as we verbally and aggressively threatened to replace it, the microwave mostly did its job, even if it took half a dozen tries to partially heat a muffin. Then, I made a terrifying discovery.

The microwave will work perfectly - and I mean perfectly: the expected amount of heat is produced in the anticipated amount of time, with the stop and start buttons functioning correctly - as long as we punch in the time six minutes and sixty-six seconds. I tried it out on a whim, and was strangely unsurprised when it worked. This bastardly microwave has seemed to be taunting us for months, intermittently operating as a microwave should and refusing to do anything but beep incessantly. Jerk microwave. We've started heating up your food in that sucker, and even still...even with you squirming in your chair and furiously pounding your fat little fists on your tray...we haven't gotten a new one. Why, you might wonder, do we keep an essentially non-functional appliance on hand that may actually be possessed by some demonic presence when $45.00 and twenty minutes of our time would easily provide us with something new, usable, and...well, not possessed by some demonic presence.

Simple. We just don't give enough of a crap. Hudson, when you almost never get more than three hours of sleep at a time (and when three hours is a luxuriously long stretch of time to sleep), then you either spend eight hours by yourself chasing an increasingly mobile and energetic not-quite-yet-toddler - or work an eight hour day then come home to said not-yet-toddler and a cranky, overtired spouse, THEN you can decide how much of a crap it is worth caring about a microwave that usually does close to nothing when there is any alternative to replacing it (even if that alternative is "suck it up and eat it cold"). The desired amount, you will find, is not a lot.

You have just exploded in the last few weeks. Your hair started growing in tufty, wavy tendrils around over ears. Every now and then, I catch you turning your hands over and over and studying the movement of your chubby fingers. You can more or less crawl backwards, and smoothly transition from sitting to scooting and back to sitting again, though I'm not sure if you are quite aware that crawling is something that can move you forwards, too. You can stand leaning on a table or chair or person, or holding someone's hands, and bounce in place with furious strength. We were scared for a few weeks that you weren't interested in solid food at all, but then we realized that you were just sick of us feeding you; you want to do it yourself, and when you do, you'll eat pretty much whatever we put in front of you. You can pick up tiny puffs and beans and pop them into your mouth, and at least 60% of what goes in there stays in. You babble the most confident, assertive sounds that have ever not been words, and I had a dream last night about you suddenly speaking; I don't remember what you said in the dream, but I know it was two words together, and I almost cried I was so happy to hear them.

The fact that you are stomping, scootching, rambling, and yowling your way towards words is a source of no small amazement to me. Completely barring the gross reality that you nearly didn't make it to a point where you were making sounds, it still catches me off-guard that you are so rapidly and obviously growing into a little person. It clearly takes a lot of your energy, and I hate to admit it drains a great deal of mine. There are days when we go out and do nothing but go to the grocery store, and I am too tired to even return phone calls; even on the best days, your Dad and I end up in puddles on the couch. We can justify the effort it takes to go out for a meal, a drink, a snack, or even a walk when it has a tangible result. We ate! We drank! We felt more sane! You were happily occupied for any length of time! Result! Shopping trips have become somewhat trickier to justify, as you can't yet move yourself around as much as you want to, so you occasionally get antsy...or alternately, you require us to dance and leap around like crazy people in places where dancing and leaping are generally not done. Like the underwear section at Target. Or the dairy section at the grocery store. Or standing at any intersection waiting for a walk signal.

Buying a microwave, aside from being a logistical challenge for one person attempting it alone and an excruciatingly boring way to spend time together as a family, is just not worth the time it would take. I would rather stare off into space, glassy-eyed, for forty minutes while you nap than take that time to run to Target and buy a microwave that is not fueled by some demonic presence. Sometimes you don't give us a choice, and we have to spend potential shopping time letting you hurl plastic cups across the floor, or hover with a hand behind your butt as you bounce gleefully in place standing next to the window. Satan may have possessed our microwave, but you have utterly, unconditionally commandeered our time.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Brace yourself...

In my life, I have made some decisions that I knew would be received with open arms and excitement by everyone I told. I chose to go to a highly-competitive liberal arts college in a beautiful part of the world that had a great reputation; family members kvelled, and high school friends supplied me amply with high-fives. I opted to stop dyeing my (apparently very pretty naturally blonde) hair bright red and grow it out; even my former allies in weird hair activity smiled and nodded their approval. Ryan and I decided to get married, and when he (finally) asked me formally, I said yes; if anyone disapproved of that, I've never heard a word because everyone we told seemed positively thrilled.

Then again, there have been some decisions that were clearly unpopular, even if few to no people flat-out opposed them. Rather than repair a sensible tan Honda Accord that I never particularly loved when it was going to cost over half of its value to repair, I traded it in and bought a bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle; more than a few eyebrows were raised. Instead of going straight to graduate school after college, I decided to take a few years to "establish myself," which meant nose-diving into financial instability while working a series of crappy retail jobs; even I had some doubts about that. I took a job an hour from home in a school that I knew was struggling, in a position I was only qualified for on paper, with immediate coworkers who made a very questionable first impression; we know how that turned out.

I've found that as a parent, this middle ground no longer exists. If I make a decision, it is either unequivocally the right thing to do and I should never have even considered doing something else, or it is wrong-wrong-wrongity-wrong and I am damning myself and my family to a lifetime of pain and suffering by even considering the horrid choice in question. We are lucky not to live amongst people who are overly judgmental about fringe social issues. When I dress you in a blue onesie, no one close to us gets angry about the fact that we are reinforcing society-crippling, identity-molding gender stereotypes and forcing male social standards upon you (blue just happened to be the color of the onesie that was clean, and you can grow up to be whoever you damn please). I think some of that is our choice of the people with whom we associate, but I'd like to think that part of the acceptance our choices have received is owed to society growing up a little and accepting that there are actually different ways to do things. (Right?)

For the most part, I feel like we don't have anyone breathing down our necks about even more mainstream issues. For example, your stroller has been sitting in the backseat of my car for almost a month because we carry or wear you everywhere. No one has tried to convince us that you will be a helpless, spineless, eternally dependent Mama's boy who will forever live in our basement...just because we don't put you down often enough. I am, however, terrified about the reception of one choice that you have essentially made for us.

Since we got you home from the hospital, you basically haven't slept for longer than a few hours at a time. I think we can count the number of times you have been asleep for longer than three and a half hours straight on one hand, and the number of times you've stayed down for more than two and a half hours is only slightly less numerous. A normal night for us has you waking up about once an hour, sometimes every hour and a half. I love you, Hudson, I truly, madly, deeply do, but I'm pretty sure I contemplate putting you in a laundry basket and locking you in the bathroom at least once a night. A few weeks ago, your Dad and I started putting some serious work into making your crib a palatable place to be. Seriously: I wanted to crawl into this thing and sleep there instead of in our own bed. Still, you had no interest, and even though you still sleep only sporadic chunks at a time, you don't scream uncontrollably and panic when you wake up as long as you're in our bed.

Your Dad and I made the executive decision to just go with it. We're buying a king size bed, and moving the crib out of the room to make space for our upgrade. This way, you can sleep snuggled with me and we will all have space to be comfortable together. Hopefully this will lead to you actually sleeping, and if it doesn't, then at least your Dad and I get to be a little more comfortable despite our sleep deprivation. In the over three months that you have been sleeping in our full-sized bed with us, you have neither suffocated nor perished suddenly...so where does anyone get off telling us that you are sure to die if you share our bed?

I knew that as soon as I made it publicly known that we were getting a new bed that flak was going to fly our way. I was sure that one way or another, someone - close, distant, or stranger - would jump to the defense of innocent children everywhere by confirming the danger of our choice. Someone did. It wasn't rudely stated, aggressive, or even particularly wordy, but it was definitively disapproval. I wasn't prepared for how upset it made me. We have needed to make so many compromises and sacrifice so many choices that being judged for this one feels like a slap to the face. I am confident that you are in no danger, and that this is the right choice for our family. No one has the right to tell us how to take care of you.

Hudson, there will always be people who disagree with even the tamest, sanest decisions you make, and it is just a fact of life that you will sometimes be upset when they do. I hope you have the fortitude to politely ignore them, or the guts to tell them to shove off and keep their nose out of your business. I'm doing my best to do the former this time, because I'm just not ready to do the latter, but I will be quietly prepping myself for a civilized fight. It sucks that I need to, but I guess that's just the penalty of being even slightly public with one's choices.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fair warning?

There are a number of things that new parents are not told, and I'm beginning to wonder why. Hudson, don't let yourself think for a moment that I feel anything but the deepest, most profound, earth-shaking love for you...but right this moment, I kind of want to put you in a Rubbermaid storage container and leave you in a corner for a few hours so I can get some goddamned sleep. Much like how no one can really describe the pain of labor, I don't think anyone could have accurately described this terrible blend of love, frustration, guilt for feeling frustrated, and general exhaustion before I experienced it myself. Sleep deprivation is just the tip of the iceberg.

1. Acne that would put the worst of prom photos to shame. Your sweet little face has been kind of gross since roughly three months of age. I mean, come on...aren't babies supposed to have this soft, beautiful, porcelain skin? Shouldn't I just want to kiss and snuggle your adorable face without fear of popping one of your zits? It's gross, and baby photographers definitely do a lot of editing.

2. Violent, borderline sociopathic kicking and punching. So far, you haven't caused any real damage, but I feel like it's just a matter of time. When falling asleep, you've taken to basically attacking whichever parent is trying to lovingly snuggle you down. When you're playing, the punching has recently started to blend with open-palm slapping, which I guess is an improvement...?

3. Sudden jackknife-style body stretches that nearly fling you off my lap. Or the couch. Or out of your high chair. Or off the bed. I don't know why doctors don't scream this at new parents every chance they get, so here I go: "Your child will regularly appear to attempt suicide. He or she will do so with voracity, enthusiasm, and a shameless disregard for your desire not to scream and panic every time."

4. "Helping" with your chubby, not-yet-well-coordinated little hands in such a fashion as to threaten to shove a bottle up your nose, rice cereal into your eye sockets, or any number of toys into any other orifice you can get near. Babies in movies and on TV reach hesitantly for a toy, then gently grasp it in their chubby, cute little fingers while cracking a satisfied smile. In reality, you grab frantically for quite literally anything that you think you might possibly be able to grab. This results in a number of messes, especially while we're attempting to get solid food into you, but especially when you decide to grab something you really shouldn't have, and WE make a mess trying to stop you.

5. Nipple attack. Okay, given that I'm not breastfeeding, one might think that this is a moot point, but you have actually threatened more damage to your Dad's nips than mine, and that's not to say you haven't been rough as hell on me. You seem to take genuine pleasure in the act of grabbing and twisting at, shall we say, the most protuberant part of the chest, which is certainly your favorite thing to fall asleep on, but there is no way of stopping you. It's like your hands are furious little magnets.

6. Teething: A Crappy Thing That Lasts Forever. According to a number of medical professionals, you have been "teething" for upwards of six months now. Yes, there are two little chompers in there now, but those made their appearance when you were seven months old, and we've been waiting for teeth to pop out "any day now!" since you were just about two months old. The drooling is non-stop, your discomfort is persistent, and while it's still adorable when you try to nom on my fingers, sooner rather than later it is going to get messy.

7. Clothing labels are complete and utter fantasy constructed by "the man" to trick you into feeling weirdly bad about your baby either being too skinny or too fat. Right now, you are wearing clothes meant (according to the labels) for a three month old AND for a nine month old. A few days ago, you even wore something intended for an eighteen month old. I just assumed that having a bunch of clothes in different sizes (according to the labels) would mean that we had enough clothes to get you through those ages. Not only did you outgrow most everything almost instantly, but...

8. No one can accurately describe how much stuff comes out of a baby's body. Sometimes it's poo. Sometimes it's pee. Sometimes it's some icky combination of half-digested food and not-digested formula. Sometimes it's a charming melange of all of the above. I was not prepared for the volume and frequency of what your little system can produce. Still...

9. I more or less completely accept all of it. Yeah, I have pants that might have some coffee spilled on them...or possibly pee...and I still wear them to school. Our kitchen floor would probably send the CDC into a panic, but I still just brush off spoons that fall on it and go back to eating whatever I was eating. Sometimes you pee absolutely all over me. That's just a thing that happens. Whatever.

10. I've kind of turned into one of "those people." Sometimes I tell horror stories and offer unsolicited, vaguely pushy advice. Damn it, I even make biased statements at experienced parents that somehow suggest that I am an authority based solely on the fact that I'm a parent. I don't even know when this started to happen; maybe I can blame hospital culture for instilling in me a compulsive need to over-share with anyone who sits still long enough for me to make eye contact?

Hudson, I know parenting advice is a far-flung need for you. Hell, it might even be completely moot, but this is just as much for me as for you. Apparently number eleven on this list is "You forget humongous chunks of things, bad and good, and eventually decide to do it again because by age two or so your kid is adorable AND he sleeps enough for you to stay sane." Let's hope that is true - at least the last part - and that I heed my own advice.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Semi-deliberate hiatus!

Fun fact: teaching full-time in a position I LOVE takes up about two thirds more time than teaching full-time in a position I only mostly liked. Also, Hudson, damn it, you really, really need to start sleeping better. I think we're on the right track, but it is absurd. While I flummox to catch up on grading, spend as much quality time with you and your Dad as possible, and keep myself at least relatively sane, perhaps you should spend some quality time looking back at what I've already written for you? (Either that, or make me a sandwich. By the time you're reading this, you must be old enough to make a sandwich, and I'm sure I would enjoy one.) I promise new material soon, or at least a completed post of any of the dozen drafts I have in progress!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Do you want fries with that?

It's a tough thing to work a job you hate. I've had a few part-time gigs in the past that were simply horrific, including a few that I couldn't even manage for more than a few weeks. Sometimes it's the work itself, sometimes the coworkers, and sometimes the place is too depressing or awful to bear, but Hudson: there will be a time in your life (maybe more than one) when you just need to cut and run. It's okay. We all do it. The important thing is knowing that it's okay to leave - in fact, it's necessary sometimes.

My first awful job (my first not at summer camp or "my parents got this job for me" job) was really not all that bad but for the fact that I was a vegetarian at the time and therefore completely incapable of handling all the bloody meat. The kosher grocery store up the street from my parents house was one of the only places to get kosher meat locally, and had a selection and reputation so excellent that Jews from several adjacent states flocked there to stock their freezers. Granted, it was good meat...especially the turkeys and rotisserie chickens...but for a store that specialized in a highly perishable product prone to leaking, oozing, and otherwise exuding blood and salmonella-prone goo, they did a crap job with packaging. The conveyer belts at the registers were constantly wet, either from some kind of meat juice or the sanitizer that was perpetually being wiped over them in a feeble attempt to maintain kosher standards. As a stalwart vegetarian - the kind who got really grossed out watching people eat meat, and the kind who was prone to acts of polite uppity rebellion - I lasted in this job for a full three days before I decided that I was just not meant to slap leaky brisket into Mrs. Rosenberg's crusty reusable grocery tote.

The second awful job was really not THAT bad...kind of...assuming you like sitting at desks and not being able to read things. I worked as an "office assistant" at my parents' synagogue, which primarily consisted of attempting to read mailed-in census forms filled out by the thousand plus members of the congregation (most of whom were really, really old, and many of whom read and/or wrote only broken English) and input the information into a circa 1994 computer database. Basically, I sat at an uncomfortable desk in a windowless office space and politely ignored the fact that Mr. Seymon Burstyn (I can't make this shit up) apparently thought that his household attended synagogue "Connecticut" times a year. I lasted about a month before my teenage wanderlust got the better of me, and I chose to spend the rest of my summer reading pretentious literature and making up goofy songs with my best friend. The next summer, I got a job at Starbucks and loved it.

College jobs are by their very nature awful, though there is a gradient of awful ranging from "hideously and unspeakably" to "hilariously and playfully." On the pleasant end of the spectrum was working at my college admissions office, which I actually kind of loved despite the scorching heat, occasional injuries caused by walking into things backwards, and inevitable moronic questions from families that thought they were at a different college altogether. On the "sweet mother of god, why am I still doing this and why do I continue to do it?" end of the spectrum was the tea shop. At first glance, it looked like I would be waiting tables at a classy, CIA (and that's the Culinary Institute of America, mind you) chef-owned restaurant. After my first night - a special catered dinner for some froofy club for fine dining enthusiasts that yielded me a roughly $150 tip - I was sure I'd found myself a cash cow, complete with gourmet staff dinners. The next day, I was handed a frilly apron, chastised for not wearing black heels to work, and had to wait on all twelve tables of cranky tourists entirely by myself because they did not currently have another waitress on staff. By the end of the month, I had been screamed at by the chef three times, yelled at by a customer twice, had three tables walk out on me without paying, and broken several hundred dollars of Royal Kent Staffordshire bone china (their standard serving ware). After the owner threatened to fire me if I didn't work extra hours polishing silver and not earning tips past my $4 an hour base pay, I pocketed several plastic containers of in-house made clotted cream and stopped showing up.

Incidentally, during college I also worked at a quite fun, casual coffee shop/cafe, waited tables for a whole evening at a fairly avant-garde fusion restaurant, and almost got trained to work at a Nazi-state-esque "family dining experience" that boasted a twenty page menu before their pep talk about "always focusing on appearances" just tweaked me out so much that I opted never to come back. I also spent a summer working at the "information desk" in the campus center, which was basically an $8 an hour position entirely focused on calling security to call the campus center when it closed and referring anyone who called the desk phone to the appropriate other office on campus that could actually give them information. (I loved that job.)

After college came a string of moderately silly jobs. I worked at a coffee shop in a touristy beach town that only netted about $50 a day, mostly in sales of water bottles to those French Canadian families who wandered further from the beach than they thought they had. That lasted about a month and a half before I actually got so bored of sitting and reading for eight hours a day (I could have a book but not a laptop or notebook, so no writing) that I had to quit. I worked at a now-defunct bookstore chain, and generally had a lot of fun there until they started trying to make us sell books and non-book product. I quit after being offered a $.09 an hour raise after a year of almost full time hours, and four years later, the chain shut down. Coincidence?

Looking for a little extra cash to support my rent-paying habit, I soon got the silliest job of all silly jobs. I was hired to work on commission selling...wait for it...fancy crystal figurines and costume jewelry. Yes. It was a whole store filled with hundred and thousand dollar crystal animals, flowers, tiaras, ornaments, pins, earrings, heavy machinery (there was a tractor), necklaces, and most memorably, fruit. I actually sold a $5000 crystal pineapple once, but the poor sucker who bought it came back not an hour later to return it. How I didn't ask for an explanation I'll never know; I guess I prefer to imagine his reasoning. Put simply, I could potentially be good at sales, but who the hell can convince anyone to spend upwards of a hundred dollars on a crystal raccoon that they didn't come into the store planning to buy already? Maybe I just wasn't trying hard enough, or maybe I was entirely justified in quitting after my fifth straight month of not meeting quota.

Then came the doozy, the until-now worst of the worst. I somehow thought it would be a good idea to work at Build-A-Bear Workshop. First off, I had to wear khaki pants and completely white shoes. I think I spent more money on my clothes for this gig than I made in the first few weeks, and did I ever re-wear either? Methinks not. Second, I had to pretend to be REALLY excited about clothes and accessories for stuffed animals that cost about as much as my own did. Third, and perhaps most embarrassing, I had to guide children, gushy grandparents, giggly teenagers, and the occasional blushing dude getting a present for his lady through the "ritual" of stuffing their animal. I think I've repressed the details, but it involved forcing them to kiss a little silk heart, then ramming a giant metal tube up the butt of the creepily deflated animal they were "building" until it was filled with polyester fluff that I swear I still sometimes find clinging to my clothes. Creepier still was the fact that the fluff (which came in giant bales that we tore apart with gardening tools in the back room) was prominently displayed in a giant clear plexiglass tumbler. There was a giant clear box of bear guts just sitting in the middle of the store. How is that not terrifying? They also insisted on putting the word "bear" in front of or in everything, like "Bear-vitations" or "Beary Special Friends." This was offensive enough, but when it was made mandatory to create and maintain a character in the online Bear interactive universe (Bearniverse?), I decided that I had better things to do than play WoW for tweens. You know...like, anything.

After that I was a substitute teacher, which I actually mostly enjoyed save the one time I got sent to a middle school and a kid actually tried to light the room on fire (thankfully, your Dad was subbing in the same school that day, and we were able to curtail the potential chaos). Then grad school happened. Then the real world! Whatever that means! I got a job teaching English classes that I loved at a school that I loved, but it was a one-year contract. After the year was almost up, I was told that the job was going to become permanent as long as I jumped through all the procedural hoops of applying, interviewing, etc...and then they hired someone with more experience instead of me and broke my heart.

I scrambled. I interviewed for a dozen teaching jobs towards which I was mostly ambivalent, was a finalist for one that I would have adored at a private school I would LOVE to send you to if money allows, and was ultimately offered a position at a school I truly had no opinion about whatsoever. I had a friend who liked working there, but it was another one-year position and I was wary. The day after I accepted that, with resignation, I was offered an interview at a school about which I was genuinely excited. I hadn't signed a contract in the other district, so after interviewing and getting a job offer that same day at a school that sounded legitimately awesome, I opted to smear my own name by breaking a previous verbal contract. To date, that has yet to bite me in the ass, but I ultimately made a totally shit call.

The "awesome" job at the "awesome" school turned out to be something that I am literally willing to pay to leave. The long and short of it is that I drove almost an hour each way (admittedly with a thoroughly, genuinely awesome friend as my carpool buddy) to work in a school that...well, for the sake of politics, let's just say that there is a lot of work to be done, and a number of people who work there probably oughtn't. A few exceptional teachers and administrators have helped me stay sane, and a few fairly nasty individuals have made it easy to want to leave. When I got pregnant with you, I was midway through a seventh to eighth grade loop with kids I truly loved, so rather than leave them (and start at a new school four months away from popping out a baby) I opted to stay for at least their full two years. Obviously, I was away from work a lot longer than I had initially planned, and had to borrow as-yet-unearned sick days from the district in order to cover our time in Boston. What a double-edged sword. I was generously granted an opportunity to take the time I needed, but at the cost of selling myself into indentured servitude at the hands of disorganized and generally helpless masters.

Then my old job was posted as open and accepting applications. Exactly my old job. I spent three days flipping out over whether or not to apply, then realized that not applying was about the stupidest thing I could do. I am not selling crystal tiaras to high school princesses (or their adoring boyfriends, which was actually incredibly sweet the two times it happened), and I am not scraping old scone crumbs out of tea cups that cost more than my car insurance premiums. I am not falling backwards up a flight of marble stairs, and I am not whimpering in the shower as I try to scrub away the ghost of chicken skin from under my fingernails. Even still, I was working in a job that I both want and need to leave, so I spent a week obsessing over the wording of my application materials, had most of your aunts and uncles in Massachusetts edit them for me, had current coworkers and administrators write me some truly touching letters of reference, and dropped my application off at the district central office with you in tow (because seriously: who doesn't remember the applicant with the adorable baby?). Hudson, someday I'll tell you that you were there when I applied for what I hope will become one of my favorite jobs of all time. Hopefully you'll remember me going to this job, and even more important, you'll remember me coming home in the afternoons (hopefully happy). Ultimately, it's just as important to keep a job that fits as it is to leave one that doesn't.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bring your towel...

I interviewed Tuesday of this week for essentially my dream job: good school, great colleagues, almost no commute, growth potential, great salary, curriculum I actually want to teach, and generally kids I know I will enjoy. (I'll explain why soon.) It is under two weeks from the start of school, so I would have figured they would hire fast. As of 5:00PM on Friday, I had no answer. Maybe they already snagged someone else. Maybe they were still deciding. Maybe they were just waiting to hear from my references. Maybe my current district was fighting back somehow...? Who knows. In any case, I was more or less in panic mode all weel, not because I fear unemployment, but because damn it...this job would make life so much easier and more pleasant, whereas my current job sometimes (actually sort of often) makes me cry. I am not generally a superstitious person, but to get a job that I desperately want - one that presents truly excellent conditions all around - there are a number of things I will shamelessly do.

1. Make an article of clothing. This harkens back to my college days when any challenge - however insignificant or life-altering - was met with the creation of a sigil, some kind of token, or another hand-made receptacle for all the intention I wanted to send in the direction of a particular endeavor. Before I got my current teaching job, I made a ridiculously complicated skirt out of a dozen or so different patched together fabrics. It took days, and remains one of my favorite articles of clothing, despite the fact that the job I made it for turned out so...dubious. This time around, you created some time constraints, so I kept it simple and just made a simple skirt out of dragon and phoenix patterned brocade.

2. Acquire a Ganesh. He has been my guy for a number of years, and we happen to have a number of shops around that sell pretty neat Ganesh sculptures, jewelry, images, etc... Your little green Ganesh came from a shop downtown, and I'm still pretty convinced that him hanging out by your bed is one of the few things that made me feel safe/sane leaving you in the hospital. I don't necessarily need to buy a Ganesh; it can be a drawing, an online image, something borrowed from a friend, or whatever. This time around, I opted for a fairly actively posed Ganesh from one of the weird import stores in Portland with lots of gold and green all over him, and he will live in my classroom forever and ever and ever. (And ever.)

3. Paint my toenails. I find that identifying a somehow significant color and painting it onto my body makes me feel more actively engaged in the process of getting whatever it is I'm trying to get. Sure, I'm sitting on the couch eating ice cream at 10:00 at night while I wait for the alarm to go off to remind us to give your 11:00 meds, and I haven't moved anything more than my arms in the last two hours, but my toes are red...like the school colors...and passion...and...er...the insides of tenth graders...?

4. Buy earrings. I bought earrings before I went to tour Bard, which almost immediately preceded my applying to the college. I bought earrings before my moderation panel, and apparently did a spectacular job. I bought earrings before my senior project panel, and actually before graduation just a few weeks later. I bought earrings before interviewing for my first teaching job. (Incidentally, I did NOT buy earrings before I got my current job, which I can only think means SOMETHING, but what I cannot say.) So...I bought earrings while I was out with your Uncle Cameron last weekend. They are shiny big spirals and I really like them.

5. Sort of creepily drive past the place of potential employment and yell at the building. This was SUPER convenient for this particular job, as the school is just a few blocks from home, but really no less weird than if I had to travel farther. Basically, the technique is this: I drive past the building at a normal speed, and loudly announce to it that it will give me a job. I do not bargain, I do not mince words, and I do not offer any reason for why I deserve the job in question. I simply state that I should have it. I think a construction worker saw this happen on Wednesday, and he definitely did not know what to do about it. Maybe I should only do this with jobs that aren't a few blocks from where I live...

6. FREAK THE F*CK OUT. Inevitably, invariably, and with frustrating certainty, I will freak out after a job interview so badly that some amount of time (ranging between a few hours and a few days) is completely lost to self-doubt, overanalysis of the interview/application/how I smelled that day/etc..., and fairly crippling depression over what I eventually determine to be my failure. Every damn time, I get a certain amount of time past the interview and decide that I have not gotten the job. It is then that I launch myself into a spiral of self-loathing that only really resolves when I get the job in question. If I don't completely lose my bananas for at least a little while, nothing happens. If I demolish my self-confidence, ruin my sleep and eating cycles, and generally become a loathsome bore to all my loved ones, I get the job.

After four days of waiting, at 5:30PM on the Friday before the week before school starts, I was offered the job. Yes, your Dad was about ready to lock me in the bathroom to cry quietly in the bath tub, fully clothed, with the water running. Yes, I was gearing up to add a loop past the school to every errand I had to run, regardless of whether that errand was in that direction or even as far away. Yes, I had bought, worn, and surrounded myself with everything I needed to supposedly ensure success. I have a very weird sixth sense about this sort of thing, and as much I seemed to have lost faith and gained both doubt and loathing, I kind of knew from the beginning that this would work out. So, I guess I have to add to the list...

7. Know the outcome in advance. Hudson, there are some things I just know. I just knew when I had found the right college, I just knew that your Dad and I were meant to be together (awwwww...), I just knew when I applied to grad school that I would get in, I just knew that you were a boy, I just knew that you were ultimately going to be okay, I just knew we weren't going to wait long for your heart, and I just knew that I would get this job. I really need to learn to trust my gut and possibly skip that pesky step #6, but if I did, would everything still work?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Some oak and some pine and a couple of Norsemen...

Years ago, your Uncle Peter and I had a radio show on our college radio station. "Jesus on the Radio" was named after a beloved Guster song, and we loved telling people (on the air and off) that our show had nothing to do with Jesus. The general theme of the show was...er...well, it was basically Peter and me rambling about interesting things we had found online, weird cultural facts, and music that happened to catch our attention at that moment. We had more or less free license to play any music we damn pleased, since the radio station really only broadcast a few dozen yards from the station and no one off campus ever listened to the online stream, but Peter became entrenched in the culture of "podsafe" music: that which could be played for free by any podcaster or amateur broadcaster without creating any copyright conflict. One of those songs is the Ikea song; you should ask him to play it for you some time.

That song was playing in my head pretty much the whole morning when we were down in Boston last week. Your Dad took you to your clinic appointment (everything looked awesome, by the way, and your docs continue to be amazed at how well you are doing) and I scooted through the city to head to Ikea. Despite hanging around below the 15th percentile for weight for a while, you've jumped up to the 50th kind of suddenly, and were about to outgrow the co-sleeper - not that you slept in it all that much anyhow - so we decided to give in and get you a crib. Everything at Babies 'R Us is terrifyingly huge and terrifyingly expensive, and nothing else we could buy locally was going to fit anywhere in our apartment, but Ikea...of course, Ikea has a crib that converts to a toddler bed just the right height to scoot up against our bed. Sending me in to Ikea was not unlike sending a hungry puppy into a doggie biscuit convention, but I was not my own undoing this time.

Still...oh, Ikea. I was haranguing your Dad all last week the same way kids must nearly drive their parents up the walls before they go to Disney. Ikea has this weirdly magical power over me, and while I'm sure a lot of that can be owed to scarily good merchandising, I feel like it's more. Oh, Ikea. Never have modular cabinets, suspiciously low bedframes, superfluous art that sometimes feels like it belongs in a classy dentist's office, and $.99 ferns been so sexy. I couldn't shut up about the friggin' Swedish meatballs, so much so that I actually bought a frozen bag of them, a packet of gravy seasoning, and a jar of lingonberry jam so that your Dad could experience the wonder of the Ikea cafeteria lunch. Oh, Ikea. I spent a few days scouring the Ikea website to be sure I had picked out exactly what we wanted and needed before I got into the store, knowing all too well that I was screwed the minute I walked in there if I didn't have a solid battle plan. Lesser shoppers than me have fallen prey to Ikea's seductive, oh so sensible, eerily low-priced goodies. Oh, Ikea...

Getting out of Boston was a cakewalk. Seriously! In a city organized around cow paths, it's suspicious how easily I kept my orientation. A half hour down the highway, I bumbled around off a weirdly rural-looking exit...then around a corner...behind some trees...and looming like an aircraft carrier behind a Home Depot was the leviathan blue warehouse of wonder known as Ikea. I parked, scrambled to organize the car to accommodate what I prayed would be a reasonably sized box, and walked inside.

Ikeas are all organized more or less the same, and the entrance is extremely clever. Some friendly person welcomes you at the base of an escalator, hands you a giant yellow bag (you would have gotten lost in this thing), and you have no choice but to be carried up into a deliberately curated maze from which there is no escape. You can't go around anything and you can't really skip seeing any section; you have to just go through it. All of it. Perfectly composed displays of elegant, fun, utilitarian, and sometimes even traditionally apportioned rooms edge brightly-lit, friendly showrooms scattered with complementary accessories and accent pieces. Play spaces for kids, relaxing corners for adults, and informational booths for the industrious are placed strategically throughout so that you are never just shopping...you are more or less invited to pull up a $49.99 chair, snuggle up in a $24.99 duvet cover (with $15.99 duvet!), and just stay there. Forever.

Clearly, I have a problem with cleverly marketed home goods. That problem is that I tend to want to buy them exactly the way merchandisers want me to, so having my short, specific list of items to purchase was a very smart defense mechanism. I still managed to grab a few extra things not on the list, but I kept that number small and their prices cheap. Quicker than I had even hoped, I was through the display area, past the "Marketplace" (a polite name for what I call "Room after room of incredibly cheap stuff to decorate around your cheap furniture, none of which you actually need but most of which you kind of, sort of want enough to stop and look at it until it somehow ends up in your giant yellow bag oh god what have I done,") and into the warehouse-style, no frills "Self-Service Furniture" room, which is exactly what it sounds like. You go to an aisle, find the box for the thing you saw all prettily assembled upstairs in the showroom, and pray that it will fit into your car.

I found your crib, and given the dimensions of the assembled piece, I was fairly terrified at the size of the box. It was over six feet long, and probably weighed around sixty pounds, but I managed to get one off the shelf...and then a hysterically screaming old woman started running down the aisle at me. She was yelling "Give me my box! Give me my box!" and when she got to me, she started beating her hands on the front of my box (not her box: this is key), leaving me trapped behind it with no clue what to do. If I let go of the crib, I was likely to crush all eighty pounds of this tiny, frail, furious woman, but I couldn't very well pick it up and just walk away. Thankfully, some people (presumably her daughter or son and her or his spouse) found her pretty quickly, assured her that they had her box, and ushered her away without so much as making eye contact with me. I decided to write that off as either really crappy performance art or some flummoxed children not knowing how to apologize for their sick parent. I headed for the registers.

Word to the wise: always check out who you are in line with. That isn't to say you need to introduce yourself to everyone you stand in line next to (though some people do try), but you definitely need to assess your options carefully when you pick a register. I thought I was in the clear when I got behind a young couple with a few carts full of identical boxes, and didn't bat an eye when three college-aged girls pushing around an apartment's worth of furniture stepped up behind me. Within about five minutes, the couple in front of me was screaming for a manager, then screaming at a manager, and the poor cashier was flipping idly through a stack of printed out coupons that the couple seemed to have brought in. (Fun fact: Ikea doesn't make or accept coupons.) The cashier turned off the light for her register, and rolling my eyes, I turned around to ask the college girls if they could back out so I could move to another aisle. (Another fun fact: Ikea's check-out aisles are exactly wide enough for one cart to get through at a time.) That was when I realized that the three girls behind me did not speak a lick of English.

I stood there between an increasingly furious couple and three obliviously giggling girls for thirty-five minutes: thirty five minutes that I will never get back. Eventually, they stopped texting, tittering, and ignoring their surroundings and the girls wandered off to another line. I did the same, grumbling all the way because all the lines had grown dramatically longer (because everyone else realized that ours wasn't moving, unlike some people). Checking out was mostly uneventful, and I made my way downstairs to the parking garage, carefully balancing the massive crib box and praying no one tried to move past me too quickly. I will summarize the last bizarre series of events as a bulleted list, mostly because it amuses me but also because it would take way too long to describe in proper detail.

  1. I move my car to the loading area.
  2. Using every ounce of "girl power" in my reserves, I wrangle the crib into the car. Miraculously, the back hatch closes AND I can still shift gears without bonking my elbow, however I set myself up for a guaranteed concussion in the event of a side collision.
  3. I notice a dude about your Dad's age standing in the parking space next to me. He informs me that his mother is getting the car, and glances tragically at the massive pile of boxes he needs to load.
  4. His mother arrives, and goes on a holy rampage because she can't find anyone to help them load the car.
  5. Her rampage continues, and escalates, to a point where she is storming around the loading area accosting total strangers and essentially demanding they produce an Ikea employee to help her.
  6. I offer her thoroughly apologetic son my help, and we covertly begin loading boxes while his mother is out of sight. He cautions me that his mother would not appreciate "a stranger" helping when she expects store employees to, so we only load while she is out of sight.
  7. Eventually, the diminishing pile of boxes apparently raises her suspicions, so she rudely barks "what are YOU still doing here?" and I flee.
  8. In my rear-view mirror, I see her run out behind my car and shake her fist at me. Seriously. She shook her fist at me. 
Then I wound my way back into Boston (like a rock star, incidentally), collected you and your Dad, and we were on our way. The crib was super easy to put together, and it's wonderfully smaller and simpler than pretty much every other crib I've seen, but it does still give you more personally allocated bed space than either your Dad or I have with our full sized bed. Yes, I made it out of Ikea in one piece, and yes, it was absolutely worth it, but good lord...what is wrong with people? Hudson, your crib is probably something you will hardly remember or care about, but you should know that its acquisition was one of the hairiest, weirdest shopping experiences of my life. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Half a year.

This is a quick one because I am so completely overworked and overwhelmed and busy being your Mom. Hudson, you hit six months old and transformed from a squirmy little baby to a little person just aching to GO and DO and SEE and BE all sorts of exciting things. Crawling seems like it must be just around the corner, and you can keep yourself amused for ages in your bouncy seat, kicking off hard then tucking your feet up underneath you and grinning like a madman while you bounce in midair. You're eating half a dozen "solid" foods (which are still mush, but make your poo completely normal instead of terrifyingly...er...gooey) and making some incredible consonant sounds. I swear, you actually said "ma-ma" the other morning, but I'm pretty sure you were facing directly into my armpit at the time, so I'm not going to count that as the real thing until I can attribute it accurately.

So often in your life, I've waited with bated breath for the next thing to happen. You smirked a few times, then for days I anxiously hovered over you waiting for a smile. That first real smile happened, and then I was obsessed with hearing you laugh. Months later, when we could tickle your ribs and get belly laughs out of you, I found myself longing for a deliberate, intentional hug. It's always something with me, isn't it? This week, when you have made some of the most amazing strides all compressed into one short burst out of any chunk of your life to date, I'm finding myself almost wishing for you to slow down. Yeah, that first real hug will be amazing, but it will also signal an end to the time when I could just scoop you up, snuggle you, and tell myself that I was giving you exactly what you needed then because nothing you did suggested that you wanted anything else. Maybe you didn't, but as soon as you have the power to express your opinions, I will sometimes do the wrong thing, and that will suck.

I've been remiss in writing for the last while. Really, your Dad and I have just been working on finding our stride. We do a kind of crap job actually accomplishing the tasks we need to get done (it took me almost a week to send a single email, I manage not to return phone calls for days, and I'm sure I have a goodly handful of appointments for my own care that I need to get sorted before school starts up again in a month), and frankly, this summer has been pretty hot and gross, so spending most of a day in the air conditioned bedroom playing with your colored stacking cups sounds a hell of a lot better than actually being productive anywhere else. I keep telling myself that in a year...five years...ten years...thirty years...longer...I won't regret not spending ten minutes on the phone to get our car insurance tweaked, but I would sure as hell regret not spending the same ten minutes sitting on the bed with you resting against my bent knees while I jiggle your arms and sing silly songs to you. I have half a dozen posts half-written, some even more so, but you have this nasty tendency of waking up every time I get into the swing of anything, so I'm going to cut myself off now and go have ice cream before you rouse yourself for another snack.

Hudson, you are taking up every moment of my time, and it's wonderful.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Being sick sucks...right? Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling a little off, but figured some Tylenol and coffee would more or less take care of it. I trekked the hour up to work for a planning meeting, all the while still feeling kind of iffy, but managed to keep it together...until I started vomiting. The coworker I was meeting with is pretty oblivious to most things (seriously: I'm pretty sure anything short of flashing him would evade his notice), so he seemed not to care that I was sprinting from the room regularly, then returning bleary-eyed and paler than when I had left.

My drive home was one of those rare, truly hellacious experiences that I'm sure I'll find hysterical in hindsight. I made it almost halfway before I had to pull over on the side of the highway to throw up (which was delayed slightly by a call from one of your transplant nurses, who just couldn't seem to get off the damn phone), then I had to race off the highway to lay waste to a Starbucks bathroom about ten minutes later. I got home, sprinted for the bathroom, and was promptly told by your Dad that I was roughly the color of old paper.

So I went to sleep. For the rest of the day...and the whole night...and much of the next morning. The highest I saw my fever was over 102; I don't even remember the last time I had a fever that high. I woke up this morning feeling at least somewhat better, but I've still got a lingering fever, full-body aching, a nasty headache, and zero appetite. I've basically just been a slug in the spare bedroom.

Hudson, you've been fighting a really minor eye infection for literally more than half of your life. We've tried three different types of antibiotics, and now have to give you some crazy strong stuff and take anal-retentive care of that eye because your immune system is so heavily suppressed. You've been so healthy for most of your life; I mean seriously, what five month old has never really been sick? Other than that whole heart thing, you've never even had more than the slightest suggestion of a head cold. Seeing your eye stay infected has been a tiny but terrifying reality check. You really do heal that slowly, and you really can hang on to something that easily. 

Of course, that means that with this flu I've got, I need to keep my distance. I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be near you at all for days, but while your Dad is doing a rock-star job being a more or less single parent for now, I'm going kind of nuts not being able to be around you, and I'm sure he'll get exhausted way sooner than later. This is how it will need to be any time one of us gets really, truly sick. Even colds and small ailments will likely earn the bearer quarantine status, if what we have is anything contagious, and that is just the way it will be from here on out. 

Hudson, this is one of the first times I've really understood how different our lives are because you are a transplant recipient. It used to be that being sick meant being fawned over on the couch, not locked into the spare room. One of our friends commented to me that when she was sick, her baby was perfectly happy to nurse while she was lying down and too weak to hold him up. I shouldn't even be in the room with you, much less feed you. I've had to cede the air conditioning in our bedroom to you and your Dad because I don't want to fill the air with my germs. Worst of all, I just want to snuggle with you, but there is no way I'm putting you at risk just to feel better for a few minutes. This is just how things are now, so I'll keep watching bad TV on my laptop and wait this sucker out. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

The couch.

When your Dad and I moved in together (before we were even dating, but that's another story), neither of us had any furniture. Somewhat ironically, your Dad had just given away a really comfy set of chairs and a couch from his old apartment in Upstate New York; he had assumed he was moving to Japan, and therefore wouldn't need squashy, oversized furniture. Instead, he ended up in an apartment with me, and we needed something to sit on. Your Nanny (Dad's grandma) had an old couch that, by all accounts, was in "great shape," so much so that she even requested that we return it to her if we ever decide we don't want it anymore. I was excited for a free couch, even if it was essentially a loaner, but then I saw it.

This thing was lurking in the back of her garage like a dead whale under a boardwalk. It was massive, smelled a bit funky, and was so ugly that I started mentally slip-covering it within seconds of laying eyes on it. At some point in history, some very forgiving and probably not especially opinionated individual might have found this couch attractive or comfortable, but decades of use and a definite shift in styles made it entirely defunct all around. I'm sure it wasn't miserable to sit on at some point, but several boards and many springs had long since broken, and I'm not sure how, but the scratchy fabric must have gotten scratchier and crappier over the years...because really, who in their right mind would spend money on something that essentially caused rug burn every time you sat on it? Still, a free couch is a free couch.

Hudson, it is positively shocking what crap people will put in their homes if it's free or really, really cheap. I bought a couch and loveseat for $50 from the Salvation Army when I was in college, and yes, they were comfy, but damn were they ever questionable. They vaguely smelled like something - not something bad, just something - and they never quite felt clean, but I guess that's what you get when you adopt something that complete strangers have lived on. Our new couch was not smelly, but it did have a strange habit of shedding. After Nanny decided she didn't want this couch anymore, she loaned it to some neighbors who had at least one German Shepherd. I'm convinced they actually bred Wookies AND had a small herd of German Shepherds, because for years after it came into our dog-free home, this sucker would send up poofs of fur and loose hairs any time you sat on it without a slipcover or blanket keeping the explosion at bay. 

We put blankets on it. Two of them. The hair stayed mostly in place, but the structural integrity of the cushions and the frame degraded rapidly. If this couch was an animal, it would have had brittle bone disease and leprosy. (Suffice to say, we would not have adopted THAT one.) Of the three main cushions, only one was lacking a massive hemorrhage out of which gushed crumbly yellow foam, and all three had numerous patches that were worn so thin as to release foam dust and chunks regularly. It was like sitting on a soft bag of potatoes. Blankets kept these issues more or less at bay, but your Uncle Pookie inadvertently dealt this beast a vital blow when he moved in with us.

One thing you need to know about your Uncle Pookie, Hudson, is that he is a perfectionist. When he truly sets his mind to accomplishing a task, he will research, strategize, practice, and do everything in his power to get that task done in exactly the manner of his choosing. This is how he plays video games. The newest version of Halo came out right about when he moved in with us, so almost every free moment of his time was spent refining and perfecting his technique. On the left side of the couch, squarely between two cushions, grew the pwn hole. This was where Pookie pwned (or, to use less timely parlance, kicked the asses of) other Halo players, a task to which he often devoted hours of time. The boards under where Pookie sat almost every day eventually gave way, leaving a cavernous spot of dramatic instability that sucked you something like eight inches further into the couch than anyone ever expected.

Let's check our running total of reasons this couch was terrible.

  1. It was hideous, but that was rendered moot by the fact that...
  2. It may have contained the desiccated corpses of at least three dozen tribbles, or the fur-releasing equivalent thereof.
  3. You could only really sit on about half of it without potentially damaging your spine if you tried to get up.
  4. The cushions were liable to explode at any moment, and had a tendency to poke you in the butt with loose chunks.
  5. Oh, did I mention that generations of animals before and including ours had shredded most of the fabric on the back and front of this thing? Yeah, that too.
Suffice to say, I was overjoyed when we found ourselves gifted with the cash equivalent of a new couch. Your Dad and I roped your Grampa into babysitting for a few hours, and tore like bats out of hell to the closest furniture stores. This was when we learned something new about ourselves.

Hudson, every relationships requires compromises. Your Dad and I have been exceedingly lucky that there are ultimately not many compromises that we need to make; we generally agree on big things, and whenever we disagree on something less significant, we're very good at talking through our opinions, wants, and needs. Generally, we either find a third option that we're both happy with, or a blend of our two original positions that is less compromise and more creativity. This time, we reached something of an impasse. Your Dad wanted something squashy, high-backed, and ultimately much larger than I was interested in having in our relatively tiny apartment. I wanted something soft, low-backed, and apparently way smaller than he thought it was worth spending money to own. He likes recliners and pull-down cup holders, which I think are superfluous and doofy. I like chaise lounges, which he just couldn't care less about if he tried. This is, quite seriously, one of the few times in our relationship when neither of us felt like a compromise was possible or even fair. It was weird.

After scouring two places, we plopped down on an (exceedingly ugly) couch (that your Dad liked but which I thought was just friggin' absurdly huge) and got a little snippy with one another. This never happens, by the way. We decided that we needed to find a couch that was cushy, but not too much so, tall enough for your Dad to lean back on but not so tall that it blocked our windows, and lacking in any extra features so that neither of us felt like we were missing out on what we wanted. We did find such a couch at a somewhat higher-end, privately-owned place, and it was delivered yesterday. 

There is nothing - and I mean NOTHING - quite so glorious as having the couch you want, not the couch you're stuck with. This may seem like a weird thing to be hung up on, but after five years of fearing that a loose board would skewer my butt cheek every time I sat down, and cautioning elderly relatives to sit anywhere but on the couch, it is amazing. The fact that your Dad and I had to come to a genuine compromise to get it kind of makes it better in a way, since we know it is something we both ultimately wanted, and we decided on it together. You will doubtlessly have your share of terrifying furniture in your years to come, but this one...at least this one...is lovely. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Who needs sleep?

It feels tawdry to complain about our lack of sleep given that your Dad and I got to sleep on our own terms for about three and a half of your first four months of life, but goddamn, Hudson, have I ever come to appreciate the necessity of a good eight or more hours of uninterrupted snoozing. You have gotten into a pattern of waking up roughly every two to three hours - which isn't so bad - but I am such a delicate, delicate flower when it comes to sleep. I need at least eight and a half hours or I am a ditzy zombie. Some interesting side-effects have begun to present themselves in the several weeks we've actually had you for twenty-four hours a day, and I feel that if I don't document them, they are likely to fall prey to one of the following:

#1: I have a short-term memory like a pot-addled goldfish. There are times when I actually forget what I am talking about mid-sentence, which has been hilarious fun while attempting to cram a meaningful unit on the Holocaust in to the last week and a half of school. "Hitler introduced the Nuremburg Laws which had a major...er...impact on...uhm...some people...the Jews, maybe? Sit tight, let me check online..." Grocery store trips are likewise a laugh riot, in that I frequently come out of the store with about six things I didn't plan for, three things that I did, and missing at least two or three truly necessary items (I've been out of conditioner for days, by the way). On the plus side, my long-term memory seems fine, and anything that I write down is generally safe.

#2: Gross things don't phase me in any way, shape, or form. This may be a side-effect of having an infant, but while I might have grown desensitized reasonably quickly regardless of how tired I am, being sleepy makes me react to even the most hideous full-body poo blowout with little more than a shoulder shrug. Even the funkiest teenager funk in my classroom is no big deal, and I don't know why. It's not like I care less about gross things being in my space (or lap, or wherever), I just don't want to bother to spend any energy doing anything about it.

#3: I have inactivity-triggered narcolepsy. For someone who almost never naps, this is a very strange development. As long as I'm up and moving, I can stay up and moving even with virtually no sleep fueling me, but the second I stop...I really, really stop. Many, if not most, parents that I know have told me in a knowing, almost threatening voice: "You'd better sleep any time that baby is asleep, or you won't be able to." It's true, but it's also uncontrollable. Sitting on the couch to play with you in the evenings is wonderful, but there is a very real threat that I might doze off with you on my lap and not notice when you flop over sideways.

#4: My mental filter is gone. I know that not everyone wants to hear about your most recent diaper blow-out, and surely no one cares about the texture of your St. Bernard-style drooling, but somehow my brain fails to get that message to my mouth. Anyone who will stand still long enough is liable to hear something gross and/or embarrassing about you - probably your butt, to be specific - and I utterly lack the social cognizance to know if/when that person is disgusted. Oops. I mean, poops. Heehee.

#5: Task completion is very...er...not. Anything that requires more than a few minutes of concentrated effort, or that takes more than a few simple steps to complete, is probably not happening. I've been working on this one, little piece of writing for days, and I'm not even sure I'll finish it in this sitting, despite you being asleep and not really having anything else I need to do. This definitely harkens back to the goldfish memory issue, but is also probably just a substantially escalated version of my already weak work ethic. As I write this, I'm regretting not already having gotten up to get a fresh cup of coffee, feeling awkward about not having made the number of important phone calls I've been putting off for days, and preemptively worrying about the planning I'm potentially likely to skive off this summer. Yeah. Good stuff.

#6: I move at roughly the speed of a stoned sloth with three broken hands. Somehow, your Dad and I manage to be on time for almost everything, but I think most of that owes to our choice to start motivating to get out the door at least forty-five minutes before we actually need to. When attempting to go anywhere or do anything, I just drag. I'll start something, sort of...wander off...and, er...forget...I should probably go make sure the oven is off.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Saving Private Hudson"?

When my alarm went off last Monday morning at 5:00AM, I didn't carefully roll up cradling you to go draw up your meds, and I didn't poke your Dad to ask him to get us a bottle for you to eat. I woke up in our bed - alone - and went about my old, normal morning routine. I made sure coffee was brewing, brushed my teeth, showered, got dressed, threw together my lunch, and was on the way to my carpool before 6:00. I drove to work and taught middle schoolers, which was about as weird as normal. Of course, that was a stilted reintroduction to life because you and your Dad were still in Boston. Monday night was more real, since both of you were home and needed attention and care, but even then reality seemed tenuous. What the hell is the real world after four months of hospitals, displacement, medical drama and uncertainty, and the still unthinkable paradigm shift of becoming a parent? It might seem an insensitive comparison, but I feel like a soldier returned from deployment.

Before we were discharged, one of your transplant doctors asked us "What are you most worried about?" I can only assume she expected us to be afraid of the big stuff (rejection, heart failure, messing up your ribcage, infection, or some other catastrophic medical scenario), but what really scared me was the most mundane. I'm terrified of you catching some totally normal illness like a cold or a stomach bug, and I have no idea how I will be able to recalibrate myself to work properly outside a hospital setting. Oddly, I'm almost less anxious about you than me. If you get sick - even a teensy bit - we have a dozen people we can call who will tell us exactly what to do. You have safety net upon safety net, whereas I have been essentially left to defend myself. If (when) I find myself panicking about something - your health or safety, my ability to fit into non-medical conversations, being a full-time teacher again, or what have you - there is little I can do.

I might be more shell-shocked than I thought I was, though, because I walked back into the building feeling painfully self-conscious. Of course, no one else has been through exactly what I have, but even those who have been dragged through some serious shit haven't been through it as recently as me. I always feel painfully awkward around people who have experienced major trauma, and part of me assumed that others would treat me differently somehow. Even at the hospital, you stood apart from many other kids because of your age and the severity of your problems. Critically ill teenagers are sad, but critically ill (really cute) infants whose parents are displaced from home and financially in danger despite being educators? Who knows what to do with THAT? It feels like expressions automatically soften, topics of conversation shift, and voices go a bit maudlin when I join a conversation. I'm sure much of this is in my own head, but Hudson, it seems impossible to ever feel completely normal again after such a dramatic interruption.

I feel like a war veteran. I don't have flashbacks, per se, but the last four months of my life have been completely saturated with minutiae that are genuinely unrelatable and often scary to others; I don't really have anything to talk about that isn't generally about you. Despite this being an election year and my generally caring about politics, I couldn't tell you a single thing about what has happened in the campaigns during the last four months. I can, however, rattle off pretty much every medication you've ever had, recite the details of a pre-op consent form, and I have stories upon stories about people in and around the hospital. Everything is you, Boston, cardiology, or hospital.

Walking out into the world - whether that be into a grocery store, work, bank, whatever - I feel labeled. I know this borders on hubris, but I feel like anyone I encounter can see on my face that there is damage under the surface that I still haven't reconciled. Grocery shopping feels untoward; how can I do something so utterly mundane? Shouldn't I be home hovering over you, or talking to a doctor, or responding to some kind of crisis? (Isn't there a crisis?)

I recently read through the entirety of a blog written by another mother whose child - a girl - received a transplant at around the same age as you. The girl had a long, complicated recovery and required almost constant care. The mother consequently took months off of work, ultimately leaving her job. The whole way through, she kept a positive perspective to the point of almost being gushy despite the fact that her life was literally crumbling around her. She embraced having a "transplant kid" to the point of reshaping her personal identity; put simply, she reveled in the label rather than feeling self-conscious about it. I'm still not sure how you will bear the burden of being so intrinsically different, especially since I'm bucking the distinction in a way I never expected.

Some people attend veteran rallies and hang out at VFW halls...others do their best to forget they were ever in combat. I knew from the beginning that I would be the latter more than the former, but I never realized how forcible the decision would need to be. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

And I miss you when you're gone...that is what I do...

I don't even know how to process the last twenty four and some hours. In over a year, I haven't really been alone for longer than one night's sleep (the second night after you were born) or the length of time it takes to go to and from some appointment or another. Even when we were in Boston and you weren't staying with your Dad and me, I was at least with him, but not right now. I didn't think I would be excited to go back to work - frankly, I am still somewhat terrified at the prospect of interacting with human beings who aren't 100% focused on you or your care (or who are actually you, for that matter - but I think that even one full day alone has given me a sufficient need for meaningful human contact to make any affectionate contact appealing.

Today was weird on many levels. I woke up in your Dad and my bed surrounded by all three of our kitties, which was lovely, but otherwise alone. Nothing woke me up. No one needed me during the night. I didn't even really need to get out of bed, but for the fact that I got hungry and really wanted some coffee. As soon as I was out of bed, however, I was in action mode. I packed away a ton of the stuff we came home from Boston with, re-organized the kitchen (because your Gramma is well-intentioned, but does not put things in the same places as we do), and took a surprisingly unremarkable shower. The whole time, I kept reminding myself "Hudson and Ryan are just in Boston...they're just two hours away..." not because I was worried, but because I couldn't keep my brain wrapped around the fact that you're not just in the next room.

I don't have much to say. I spent a nice chunk of time flipping through photos of you this evening, and even longer this morning putting together a slide show of pictures of you and facts about heart transplants to share with my students tomorrow. I am really excited to see them, and not just because they are human beings who I can have any kind of meaningful interaction with, but because they were kind of my first kids. I've been with them for almost two years, and it is going to be REALLY strange for them to go off to high school and for me to stay in my classroom to receive a new batch of seventh graders. What can I say...I get attached. My big fear is that I will become aggressively maudlin and teary in the coming days without you there for me to fawn over. Obviously I can't just scoop up and snuggle a fifteen year old if I need a hug, but I might get gushy.

It's staggering the love you feel as a parent. I visited a friend in the hospital today who had her third daughter...erm...today...and who was just happily lounging in bed and snuggling her little girl. She so calmly, casually let me hold this incredible little creature she had made while telling me all about giving birth, plans for the summer, her other two girls, and life in general. At the same time, she hardly took her eyes off her daughter. While I was holding her (and holy crap does almost eight pounds feel tiny compared to your thirteen pounds of squirming glory), I was struck by how desperately sad I was that your Dad and I didn't get to hold you for days. Okay, I exaggerate: your Dad got to carry you across the room to me right after you were born, and you hung out on me for a few minutes before you were whisked to the NICU, but I hardly remember that happening at all. (I needed your Dad to remind me that ever even happened, since all I really retained was holding you for the few seconds right after you were born.) Obviously, we're doing our best to compensate now, but it is bizarre to consider the sheer volume of time we haven't gotten with you so far.

Because I'm weird like that, I've been re-reading "The Cider House Rules" by John Irving (which I hope you eventually read and love someday, but not too soon: it's got some serious darkness). Despite the enormous quantity of abortions that are performed or referenced by one of the main characters, Dr. Larch, I keep finding myself using the opening litany from his many written works when I start a new train of thought. "In other parts of the world..." ...parents get to hold their children right from the beginning. Children get to go home mere days after they are born, assuming they weren't born at home. Babies are pink right from the beginning. Some children never even see the inside of a hospital, and many don't feel a needle until their first immunizations, assuming they even get those. In other parts of the world, parents don't need to leave their children every night in an ICU. I am so overwhelmed with happiness for other parents who get to spend every second with their children right from the beginning, and so stymied that we didn't get to.

At the same time, that's all the parenting we ever knew. Seeing a new mother cuddling her baby, changing her diaper, feeding her, casually plopping her up on a shoulder to burp...this was all so weird to me. Beautiful, of course, but definitively weird. I'm caught off guard every time I see a parent grab a small child under her or his arms because we have NEVER gotten to do this with you; you've always been on precautions (which is such a contrived term, but part of our vernacular by virtue of interacting more with medical staff than anyone else in the last four months) because your sternum has always been recently opened. Really...what the fuck? It's pretty devastating not to be able to just wander into another room - or at worst, travel five minutes by car or foot - to see you at any given moment, but I guess in the grand scheme of totally weird shit that has happened in the last chunk of time, this is relatively unremarkable.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I am not ungrateful. Hudson, there are many wonderful things in my life for which I have much gratitude. Your Dad is all that and a bag of chips. I have not one, but two families who are fabulous blends of loving, crazy, fun, complicated, and supportive. Even if it sometimes drives me bananas and some of my coworkers are - shall we say - challenging, I generally love my job and the wide majority of the people I work with (kids to adults and everyone in between). We live in a wonderful place. You have many incredible doctors and nurses who have cared for you throughout your life, and we are lucky that they will continue to do so. Medical technology has come far enough in human history that you are alive. Friends and family who range from close to previously unknown have been jumping through hoops to help us through this all. Do I direct my gratitude at a benevolent creator? No. I thank people, and I am grateful for actions and choices that help and support us. I'm afraid I sometimes seem like I don't appreciate the incredible things around me just because I don't engage with some popular means of joyful expression, but boy am I getting frustrated with abstract and displaced gratitude.

How could I not be grateful for the new heart you just received? To use some support groupy jargon, you've been given a second chance, new lease on life, fresh start, etc... ad nauseum. However, to what or whom should I be grateful? The family of your heart's previous owner, of course, for their decision to let their loss serve such a vital purpose for another child...my district union (or maybe the administrators?) for ensuring that we have such kick-ass insurance that we can afford your care...your Dad for wanting to live anywhere near the hospital where the right people with the right expertise could list you for a transplant at just the right time for you to get it...those doctors for trusting you, themselves, and one another to make this successful...yup, that's pretty much the bulk of it. I am deeply grateful to those people. I will even go farther and be intensely grateful to whoever established this hospital to function the way it does (it's profoundly family-oriented, and the overall organization of the place just makes sense). I'm even happy to thank the genius who decided to put a place that sells chocolate croissants in the lobby, because seriously. Chocolate croissants.

Friends and family alike have been thanking God a whole lot, and that continues to make me uncomfortable. I get what that means to many (if not most) people - I really do - but the further along we've gotten in your life, the weirder it makes me feel. Let's look at this situation objectively. From a purely biological standpoint, you have no business being here, Hudson. A hundred years ago (hell, ten or fifteen years ago), your chances would have been crap. No human being was meant to survive with only part of an only partly functioning heart. No child should need to grow up covered in scars, regularly being poked and prodded to make sure that his motor is still working. (To be selfish for a moment, no parent should need to live along with a child's life like this, either.) I'm less disturbed by ascribing this all to fate or destiny, but that still implies a divine plan that seems like it could only be rooted in sadism. Any deity that would put a child into the world that is as damaged as you - then require the sacrifice of another child to keep that first one going - is not something I'm willing to thank.

It's been basically impossible to internalize the fact that you are alive right now because part of your body was taken out, essentially thrown away, and replaced with part of some other kid. You've had open-heart surgery before, and I never really bought the fact that a tiny piece of Gore-Tex was put into you then, so how can I understand you having a whole new heart now? Somewhere, some other family is probably having the worst week of their lives. I only say probably because I just don't know what happened: there may be no family left, they may have encountered other substantial tragedies before, or the loss of the child whose life turned into yours might have been a bittersweet relief. We won't get to know for a year - if we ever get to know - the life story of your donor. Like I said, I'm certainly grateful to whoever made the decision to let that heart come to you, but what kind of sicko would I be to be thankful that another child had to die for you to live?

As angry as I have been lately (it's catching me a bit by surprise), I don't want this to be another angry atheist rant, especially because I had a really odd experience a few nights ago that gave me pause. I'm certainly not bouncing towards a different theological slant, but as much as I claim to understand and appreciate what role God, prayer, etc... plays for others, I don't think I'd really seen it in action before.

Since moving in to what I call "the dorm you DID want to live in" (the patient family house just a few blocks from the hospital), your Dad and I have gotten to be buddies with a couple whose son was born with similarly complex heart defects to yours, but he also has Down's Syndrome and has needed to follow a pretty intensive course of treatments and surgeries since he was born. They've been here almost as long as we have - in fact, they started out right next to your first CICU room - but their little guy has never been out of a hospital in his eight months of life. Regardless of a dicey prognosis, both parents have essentially let their lives fall apart in order to pursue the best treatment for him. They've lost their home, lost their jobs, displaced their two year old (healthy) son, and essentially lived in and around hospitals far from home for almost the last year. The dad has gotten especially friendly with us, to a point where we check in with with him about his family whenever we see him, and vice versa. The day after you got your new heart, I ran into him in the kitchen. He had heard the news from your Dad, and was about as excited as anyone else we've told. I said something to the effect of "I guess the stars just aligned..." and his response was about as emphatic as could be. With an enthusiastic fist pump, he said "Luck had nothing to do with it: that's the power of PRAYER!"


I mean, I'm as thrilled as humanly possible that you got what you needed, but I get what that means. I know what had to happen. (Clearly,) I can ramble on about balance in the universe, the feasibility of divine intervention, and the potential ethics of any deity overseeing proceedings such as these. What I saw in this utterly tragedy-ridden individual was that his life - his tragedy - had to be the fault or doing of something external because there had to be blame or rationale. To most people, these things don't just happen. How could they? Statistically, there is no reason for anything in your life to have gone the way it has (your initial defects, your initial survival, your thriving, getting a heart when you did, and far more), so it's arguably almost as reasonable to be grateful to a benevolent and loving God for everything working out as it is to thank excellent doctors and a healthy dose of freak luck. I'm going to stick with the latter for now, but I think it's fair to say that I've come to understand just how reasonable my position is relative to anyone else's. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

We can rebuild you...

This is hopefully the last "holy shit, my baby is being cut open right now" post I have to write for a very good, long while, but yeah, this is one of those. Your new heart is en route, you are already knocked out and filled with tubes, wires, and other scary shit I don't really want to think about, and a nurse just stopped by to tell us that they've made the first incision. (Something about that phrase feels so TV medical drama, so scripted.) Honestly, the gravity of the situation has yet to fully descend upon me. By the end of the day, your heart - that damaged and only just barely functional pile of defective cells that has kept you going for three months - will be replaced with a healthy new one. A part of my brain has just skipped ahead to the reality in which you are a healthy, happy, growing little boy who just happens to be on shit-tons of medications and who regularly need to check in with cardiologists. That has to be the reality we inhabit.

Right now, my brain is just skipping around like the music from a CD walkman that keeps getting jostled. I can stay on track for a couple of seconds, then something jiggles loose and I drift into silence for a little while. Even though this morning started completely normal, and we are (thankfully, as everyone keeps reminding us) well-rested and appropriately fed, and I got to spend pretty much the whole morning snuggling you, everything feels like it's skipping around. I'm reading NPR, half-assedly chatting with your Aunt Stephanie, writing, vehemently trying to convince myself to eat and drink (your Dad got me a mango smoothie and nutella wrap from the awesome burrito place across from the hospital), and watching out the window as people smoke directly underneath a no smoking sign outside the hospital. Nurses in the "liaison program" have been stopping by to keep us posted on your progress, but waiting rooms do not actually operate within any normal parameters of time. 

Last night, I felt inexplicably like I had to snuggle you longer and more seriously than normal...not that I really ever let you be put down while we're around. I had a tough time falling asleep, and had funky (but utterly irrelevant) dreams. This morning, your Dad and I woke up like normal. I've only been showering every other day most of the time we've been here (mostly to give my hair a break from constant blow-drying, but also, who the hell am I trying to impress?), but I chose to shower today even though I basically didn't need to. I opted to wear really comfy clothes, even though they're a little schlubby. We got to the hospital at a normal time - around 8:15 - and wandered in to find you whining a little because you were awake and bored. Your nurse came in, introduced herself, and then proceeded to ramble at us about her family, love of lobster, and a number of other seemingly irrelevant personal details. (We'd never worked with her before, but she basically did nothing all morning but kick asses and take names to make sure everything you needed got done, then left us alone to cuddle; she wins.) Just when your Dad and I started to think she was trying just a little too hard to be friendly, one of your transplant doctors came in to the room.

Now, I don't like to label people based on appearance or mannerisms under any circumstances, but when every day brings new doctors, nurses, specialists, and other assorted and sundry support staff who introduce themselves with the disclaimer "I know you've met so many people, but I'm..." it's crucial to latch on to any distinguishing markers we can. For example, we've had Hipster Cardiologist, Twelve Year Old Doctor, No Confidence Nurse, and Scarily Overenthusiastic OT Lady, but today, it was Calvin Klein Model Transplant Doctor who walked in, all smiles, and said "we're getting a heart today." I don't think either your Dad or I were particularly shocked (for reasons I will detail below), but it definitely changed the course of our day. Instead of just sitting around and quietly reading, snuggling, napping (you, not us), eating (you and us), and puttering around on the internet, we gave you glucose water instead of formula (then made a ton of jokes about pumping you full of Kool-Aid and handing you to the surgeons all hyper and sugar crazed), I went with you for an x-ray, you got an EKG, we gave you a bath (which you hated), a nurse gave you a pre-surgical scrub/bath (which you hated even more), and then you napped on me until we were given the all-clear to go to the OR. A little before 1:00, I handed you to the most enthusiastic, friendly, and potentially baby-crazy anesthesiologist on the face of the planet. Your Dad and I locked down seats in the waiting room, chatted briefly with your surgeon and our social worker, and then started waiting. I hate this kind of waiting.

So why the hell wasn't this surprising or shocking? We knew this was coming eventually, but  it had gotten terribly familiar, easy, and comfortable to just go through our normal routine here. We knew that we'd have a day - hopefully not a middle of the night - when a nurse would periodically check in with us to share such cripplingly odd details as "they just put him on the heart/lung machine and they're working on dissecting around the old heart." That really happened. We also knew that we stood a good chance of having a few misfires: a few OR preps that ended with a heart going somewhere else because it just wasn't right for you. There wasn't ever going to be a true "holy shit!" moment, rather we fully expected to just roll gently into fear and excitement. Still, we waited one month - to the day - from you being listed for transplant to your crappy heart being put into a medical research library. Nothing suggested this would happen so soon. I don't want to over-inflate my prognosticatory tendencies, but I totally saw this coming. How, you might wonder?

Indicator #1: Eerily perfect timing. It's been exactly four weeks, to the day, since the decision was made to list you for a heart transplant. Also, we had started talking with your cardiologists back in Portland about possibly transferring back there to wait for a heart to become available. After your Dad and I totally spaced out a meeting to discuss details yesterday afternoon, I was really anxious about looking like an asshat in front of your cardiology team, but everyone was so excited about your new heart this morning that any transgressions on our part were entirely forgotten. Plus, we got to the hospital just when everyone started looking for us to share the news. No two AM frantic call, no panicked hunting us down while we were out grabbing dinner.

Indicator #2: Your Aunt Erin's dedication to and success in her chosen career. As you will shortly come to know, one of the people who loves you most fiercely in all the world is your Aunt Erin. She has been on call, ready to be here at the drop of a hat from before you were even born, to a point where she has recently put off making substantial plans that would make her in any way unavailable. There was, however, a conference that put her out of town and essentially unaccessible today. A few weeks ago, she mused to me that you were almost definitely going to get a heart when she couldn't possibly be available, and of course, that's today. 

Indicator #3: Mommy gut. I knew something was going on last night. I hoped it wasn't anything bad looming on the horizon, but as soon as we got in this morning to find you plastered with your trademark cranky, judgmental face with irritated whining coming from behind a bink, I knew you were fine and it had to be something else. Yup.

Indicator #4: A balloon. Until recently, I found the pervasive proliferation of balloons in pediatric facilities kind of weird. I wanted no part in it. Much of this can be owed to my neuroses about balloons, namely that they seem to possess an almost lifelike quality that makes me extremely sad when they deflate, or "die." Within a day or two of you being listed for a transplant, I caved to the collective peer pressure of being in a children's hospital and snagged you a balloon from the "Free! Take one!" collection at the front desk of the ICU. Apparently balloon technology has progressed substantially in the last decade because this sucker just wouldn't stop floating. Somewhere in the last few weeks, it got into my head that this balloon wasn't going to deflate until after you had a new heart. I knew it was going to outlast your old heart. It has lost some girth, and it's gotten a little floppy, but this morning was the first time I saw it sag on it's ribbon. 

Your Dad and I were told within the last hour that your new heart is in, it's working, and you just need to get stitched up and situated in the ICU before we can see you. Of course I'm relieved, but once again reality is just not catching up with me. I don't even know if seeing you in the messy pile you'll be in will make me really accept this situation as something that has actually happened. Your surgeon told us that as soon as you were put on bypass (having all the work of your heart and lungs done for you), your original heart started to die. Instantly. Of course this was the right course of action. Of course it was going to happen today. Of course your Dad and I are overwhelmed with relief that one of the most important yet also tragically flawed parts of your body has been mulliganed. Of course I was terrified and crushed by your last operation; it ultimately wasn't enough. I've been saying "of course" a lot today, but the sheer inevitability of this happening seems so obvious.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Goodbye, pants.

At times in everyone's lives, certain physical objects come to carry certain significance. In small children, these are often a stuffed animal, blanket, or some other soft comfort object. As we grow, these objects sometimes switch from a single item to a category of things (i.e. cell phones, backpacks, books), but in all but those few truly successful Buddhists, there is always some precious object that provides a certain element of security and safety. As adults, many of my friends still cherish some beloved childhood treasure, but a lot of us have switched our attachment to a form that is more easily transported, socially acceptable, and entirely subject to the same loving destruction as our threadbare stuffed animal or demolished pile of shredded blanket. (Mine, by the way is the latter: I'll show you sometime, assuming it hasn't disintegrated into powder by the time you're old enough to appreciate it.) Clothing is the adult teddy bear.

Often, a beloved item of clothing just has something special about it, either by virtue of being unique or somehow expressive of the wearer's personality. Your Aunt Erin, for example, has an electric blue hoodie that is part of my residual mental image of her, so much so that I basically can't imagine her without it. With many people, it's not so much the specific item itself as a representative of a type, such as your Dad's Birkenstocks (one pair of which he had for nearly two decades, the newest he's only just started to break in). Aside from being hella comfy, they reflect back to a substantially formative part of his past and just make him really happy. Like the favorite souvenir toy from a family trip, comfort clothing can connect to a specific time, place, or event, like your Grampa's hat that bears the name of the boat on which he and your Grandma spent a particularly fun vacation.

Sometimes, there is a certain function that much-loved clothing serves that nothing else can. In my case, there was this one pair of jeans. Since I moved to Maine almost six years ago, these pants have been more reliable than almost anything else in my life. Like the stuffed animal that finally bursts a seam after years of snuggling, my beloved pants met a sadly inevitable end. Over years, the cuffs that dragged on the ground snagged and wore away, and the seams along the sides of the legs thinned. A snag on one of the beltloops blossomed into a full-on tear, but I quietly ignored it as I so rarely wear a belt. Raggedy to the last, I happily continued to wear my jeans because damn it, they still fit well. Last week, I noticed the true beginning of the end: a worn through hole on the upper inner thigh too large to ignore.

I've struggled my whole even vaguely adult life - beginning in my earliest of teen years - to find any pants that fit. I feel a little bad saying this, but as soon as we found out that having a heart condition would make it a little harder for you to put on weight, my first thought was "oh, thank goodness he won't have my butt." Seriously, dude, buying pants for this thing is nigh impossible sometimes. The first time I wore denim as a young adult (I think I was around nine or ten), I didn't realize that jeans take a few days to really break in; I suffered through several days of school with an ill-fitting waistband cutting brutally into me while I self-consciously tugged to keep it from slipping down my butt. Eventually, they loosened up enough that I didn't constantly think I was being squeezed in half, but I was wary. Oh, was I ever wary. I never shopped for jeans again without sitting, squatting, lunging, and stretching myself in every possible direction in order to determine that yes, these pants would sufficiently cover me and not be excruciating in any way.

My jeans - those wonderful pants that practically jumped off a rack at me in Macy's one afternoon when I was still trying to convince your Dad that we were a couple, not just roommates - had hit the end of the line. I persisted in wearing them, of course, because what other pants did I have? When your Dad and I threw the bare minimum effluvium of our lives into a few bags and hauled ass to Boston with you, I only brought the pants on my butt and some pajamas. Besides, my jeans were my security blanket, and even if they were getting a little ratty, I needed them.

When they dealt themselves that fatal blow by tearing, I didn't want to accept it, but you helped me out. You managed to goo your stinky formula all over my lap one day, and I was left with no recourse but to buy new pants. Of course these new ones are just pants - not magical jeans with the power to fit through every weight, shape, and season, and the indelible ability to make me feel comfortable regardless of circumstance - but it was time to move on. I've still worn the old jeans a number of times, especially when I'm feeling down for whatever reason, but every time I wear them, you make your opinion of them known. I've been spat up on, peed on, and I'm pretty sure you've deliberately burped on them by aiming your face down when I pat your back. I think you're trying to tell me you're my new security blanket, as it were, and who am I to argue? Goodbye, pants. I won't say you've been replaced, but there is definitely something better and more permanent for me to snuggle now.