Category Archives: da family
For those of you worried at home, Grandma number two (my wife’s mother) hasn’t been here for even 24 hours and I’m happily fed and full of gin. Yes, gin. She feeds/rocks/soothes RR, feeds us, grocery shops, walks the dog, works on her quilting during nap times, doesn’t judge when RR fusses, and indulges me in social butterfly conversations about topics that don’t involve people I went to high school who manage that retail store at the mall. Oh sure, she has her crazy, but for the first time since RR was born, there’s another pair of fully capable hands in the house, and it makes the world of difference. It could also be the gin talking, but that’s another topic.
Grandma, Take One
Friday began the parade of Grandma’s coming to visit. My mom arrived Friday evening, and will leave Monday morning (well, her version of morning, which is our version of afternoon, most likely). My mother in law will arrive on Tuesday, and stay for two full weeks. Who doesn’t like a Grandma, right? Well, RR, that’s who. Who knew? Not us.
I’m not sure if it’s the constant handling, or my mom’s foreign shoulder, or rocking motion, or passive-aggressive comments, but we have fought with RR every day since my mom arrived. Fought while feeding her, soothing her, getting her to sleep, getting her to stop screaming, putting her down, picking her up – anytime my mom is in the room, it’s a battle. Our tiny, wonderful bundle of cozy happiness, with her predictable every-three-hour eating/sleeping schedule, and mornings spent cooing at my wife while she sings to her, has turned into a restless demon. Oh sure, it could be her three week growth spurt, or gas, or colic (though this isn’t exclusive to evening), or just her dislike for repetitive conversations that start with, “Oh, guess who died?” but her attitude adjustment just so conveniently coincides with my mom’s three day, four night stay at our house.
Maybe RR can sense our tension. I mean, we do have a history with our visits. We knew it would be hard – it’s always hard. But I didn’t assume it would be transferred to our delicate, sensitive daughter in a way that would mean constant battling with feeding, burping, rocking, and sleeping. You know, her whole world.
The tension is also brought on by having to take care of my mother while she’s here, which is, I think we could all assume, should be the opposite when you’re dealing with two very exhausted, sleep-deprived moms who have only left the house a few times in the past three weeks, at the expense of Little Miss Car Seat Meltdown. Grandma’s are supposed to come help, right? Cook dinner, watch the kid so that you can go out and have some couple-time feed the baby, change the baby… you know, anything but terrorize the baby. But my mom is just about as helpless as RR – she won’t feed herself, much less feed us. In fact, we had to go to the grocery store specifically before her visit to pick up things that she would eat. Then we had to play a game called “hide the narcotics” because she has a history of getting up in the middle of the night and raiding our medicine cabinets for pain medicines or muscle relaxers. There’s a hundred more similar examples, but I’m too tired to list them all. Although (for a brief moment) we entertained the thought of leaving the house without RR, watching my daughter writhe in choking cries while tears pour down from her eyes while my mom held her didn’t leave me with the confidence that we could leave the house.
It’s been a challenging visit… on everyone. Monday she’ll depart, and Tuesday, my wife’s mother will arrive. She offers a whole different kind of crazy, but she can at least be trusted to make coffee and bacon in the morning, lasagna for dinner, and probably a lot of pies in the meantime. She might take more kindly to suggestions of “Maybe hold her this way?” or “Maybe I should take her for a bit?” unlike other Grandma’s we know. My mom will be back for a week (yes, a week) in late August when my wife goes back to work full-time. Maybe RR and she can spend some time reconciling their differences. If not, God help us all.
I have eight grandparents – four grandfathers and four grandmothers. Thanks to a few accidental deaths, and one illegitimate pregnancy, I started racking up excessive grandparents before I was even born. For instance, my maternal biological grandmother died in a car accident (did she fall out of the cab? was she pushed? no one knows.) when my mother was only two years old. My paternal biological grandfather knocked up my grandmother when she was 16? 17? No one knows his name, although my mother says it’s “Arthur.” First name? Last name? No one knows. I contacted the county where my father was born, and the only genealogical sleuthwork the librarian could unearth came in the form of a voided marriage certificate the year my father was born between my grandmother and a man named “Paris.” Apparently, back in 1920 (yes, 1920), you can’t get married if you’re only 16… or 17. My father ended up being raise by his grandparents, and three aunts – one of which was actually his mother, although no one told him that until he was 18.
Did I lose you yet? My family tree is this crazy, untamed, thorny bushed full of dead ends and unexpected off-shoots. Very Lifetime movie.
Needless to say, family, to me, is not exclusive to the people with whom you share bloodlines. This bodes well, I suppose, for Vegas, who will have no connection to his biological paternal side of anything. It doesn’t really phase me, since the grandparents I consider the most influential have no biological connection to me. They are people who stepped up as adoptive and step-parents to my mom and dad. They are caring, selfless people who I am very proud to call my grandparents.
Without going into gory details, the last of my eight grandparents got her two weeks notice last week, thanks to some liver cancer, and passed away this morning. She’s the woman who married my maternal biological grandfather, who passed away in 2002 from his own cancer. My sister and I didn’t even meet this pair of grandparents until I was about eight years old, when my mom tracked him down, (very The Locator) in the hopes of giving her kids a grandfather (since the other three had died). She’s a super tall, red-headed, sassy, Southern woman who married my granddad, but they never had any kids together. She never treated my sister and I any less than “real” grandchildren, complete with knitting us pastel-colored sweaters with kitties on them.
She was very excited to find out we were pregnant, and we had a long conversation sometime around Christmas, when she told me about how she always wanted children, but after one miscarriage, it simply never happened again. My wife met her for the first time on Saturday, when we drove about an hour away to visit her in the hospital, where they were offering pain control throughout her last few days, which were, obviously, fewer than we all expected. She was a delightful, truth-telling, gardening, family-loving lady who will indeed be very missed, and I’m extraordinarily proud to call her my grandma.
Fries with that?
According to “the books,” Vegas will be doubling in size over the next couple of weeks. This could explain so many things – my recent back aches, strange itchy spot on my outer thigh (just one thigh), unquenchable thirst, trouble sleeping, feeling drained, and the nudgings/pokings/jabbings from him as if he’s trying to claw his way out to freedom. So this is my cue to really get my leafy green vegetables on. Oh sure, sure – I should have been eating spinach and kale like they were mini Cadbury eggs all along here, and we’ve been doing relatively well, but I don’t want to give the kid hamburgers and fries to double up on. How fair is that? “Hey, kid… growing a brain and some arm-length? Here, have some fat and grease. Chop chop!”
It’s becoming less of a weight complex about myself, and more about making sure this kid comes out with every advantage under the sun to finally break away from my pre-disposed familial beefiness. I’m not saying big isn’t beautiful, but big sometimes means sucking the fun out of things like riding roller coasters, or flying in a plane, or walking with thin people. See, my whole family is hearty. Sturdy? Thick, as my drummer would say. I’m the tallest of the bunch (at 5’6″) and the thinnest (see other post re: size 22). Environmentally, my mom started sabotaging me with feeding me fast food every night (as my only dinner option) long before it hit the evening news out of popularity and concern. Call her a trendsetter. I’ve also had this body type since I can remember, and these broad shoulders started eclipsing other kids’ when I was about ten, as evidence by line-up-type softball pictures in which I look like I’ve eaten a teammate before the photo shoot. Now, we don’t talk about “the donor” a lot, for various reasons, but I will say that we did make sure to pick a guy who was pretty lean (with a family history of being lean), and not very tall (in Caucasian donor standards, which is around 5’9″). Lean, to hopefully off-set some of my chub-genes. Not very tall, cause… well, we’re not very tall, and didn’t want a kid to tower over us, as if one of us boinked a basketball player on the side.
Also, my wife and I already have a tendency of unintentionally growing things on the large side. We have large cats, a large dog, large plants, and so on. The last thing we need is to grow an amazonian child. Since some obese-prevention will be in place immediately by stopping my mother’s tradition of delightfully putting a straw-ful of Pepsi in his mouth when he’s six months old (“Get ’em started young!” she says), the majority of making sure he’s not made up of layers of oatmeal pies and corn dogs starts with what I put in my mouth. Here’s to leafy greens, fresh fruits (man, that farmer’s market cannot start soon enough), legumes, and lean meats. Yeah, it takes the fun out of having wonky, fabulous, decadent cravings (which, oddly enough, I’m not having a whole lot of?), but I’m trying to think of the long run here, which is always easier said than done, but here’s hoping.
One of the reasons my wife and I decided to have a kid is because we thought we’d be relatively good parents. Doesn’t everyone? Stop laughing. Oh sure, we also thought we needed someone to mow the lawn, take out the trash, and take care of us when we’re old, but mostly, we thought we’d make a nice little family. Not once did I think, oh, I’ve always wanted to be a mom. In fact, after seeing my sister become a mom at age 18, I did everything I could to prevent ever becoming a mom, perhaps subconsciously complete with cutting out any potential physical relationship with a man. No, the fear of getting pregnant didn’t make me into a lesbian (I have pictures of me in a button-up shirt and tie when I was 7 as proof), but it sure as hell made the coming out process a little easier.
A couple years ago, I was in some therapy, and was spending half of my time there at the end talking a lot about my identity, and slowly dipping my toes into a gender identity disorder diagnosis. So if anything, maybe I saw myself as a dad, if I ever had kids. Also, I think my sister’s experiences scarred me from floating through life aching for motherhood. It doesn’t help that my mother spent (spends?) so much time talking to me about how much better my sister’s life would have been had she not had kids. Identity and dysfunction aside, my pregnancy often feels like a means to an end, and I’m a baby-makin’ vehicle. Perhaps even a little surrogate-like, some days. Definitely like the pregnant man. The real bottom line is, I simply cannot wait to pop this sucker out and give him to my wife. Here, wife! I grew us a baby! Because I can’t wait for us to be parents together, and to share in the raising of our kid together as a team effort. Rah rah ree!
Sure, this whole pregnancy thing is beautiful and magical (complete with DDR contests in my belly at 2am), but having my wife feel Vegas from the outside every so often just doesn’t seem like nearly enough interaction between them. I don’t know if I’ll stop feeling like a baby hoarder until Vegas enters this world and finds himself blissfully in her arms. Well, and then it’s only a matter of time before I find them milk drunk, watching Chelsea Lately in their pajamas at 2am.
I’ve mentioned in passing before that we have a dog, but I feel the need to clarify what I mean by that. Our neighbors have a dog, but by that, I mean, they have a dog who spends 99% of her time out in the back yard, barking at strangers walking by, and getting yelled at by said neighbors from the screened porch. Our dog is not that dog.
We got our dog one Sunday afternoon in mid-May of 2007 – he was nine weeks old, and weighed roughly ten pounds. Earlier that Spring, I had allowed a tiny pinpoint-sized hole in my heart, which developed into a gaping wound that permitted dog ownership to enter. I hadn’t had pleasant experiences growing up with dogs, and had only associated them with really unfortunate circumstances. I admit it – I’m a cat person. When we decided we might get a dog, we did some socializing… of me… at adoption fairs and pet stores. Over the course of a few weeks, I was comfortable enough to tell our friends with the rescued pregnant black lab mix that yes, we would take one of the puppies off of their hands. We first met our dog when he was merely four weeks old, and spent the entire time sitting asleep at our feet. We picked him for his brindle legs and white triangle-shaped heart patch on his chest. He was also the one who liked to try and escape. The trouble-maker, if you will.
We brought him home and took hundreds of pictures his first week. His first month with us, we took him on endless car rides, to fairs, farmers markets, parks, anywhere he could meet kids, adults, teenagers, strollers, etc. We didn’t want him afraid of anyone or anything. Everyone patted his head and most commented on his very large feet. We taught him a game called, “Where’s Mama” (which is really only effective in a lesbian relationship), in which one Mama says “Where’s Mama??” and he finds the other Mama, usually hiding behind a couch or a bed or behind a car – sometimes even just behind our own hands. He’s still very good at finding Mama.
When he was six months old, we took him on a two week Thanksgiving vacation across the country, where he was introduced to various hotels (of various qualities), 15 new states, and snow. We let him run wild in the sagebrush at our destination, and I had a mini heart attack every moment he was out of sight chasing deer in the foothills.
Soon after, he was diagnosed with a food allergy. Suddenly, we had a high-need dog, who couldn’t have regular treats or food or anything, for fear that it would make him break out into a rash and lumps. Ever since, his diet consists of premium limited ingredient foods and treats – venison, duck, sweet potato. He has fish oil supplements on his food every night, and takes three Benadryl every time he might have eaten something he shouldn’t have. He is an expert at being at the vet’s office, and often lets the doctor poke, pry, swab, test, and scope with stillness and not a single complaint.
When we bought a house, the number one criteria was – does it have a large fenced (or fencable) yard? The one we bought, indeed, does. We have songs for him, ridiculous nicknames, and talk to him constantly. He is 85 pounds of pure, sweet, gentle, sensitive love. He still plays like a puppy, but naps like a dog (finally). He is often a tangle of feet laying beside us on the couch. He chases tennis balls and the cats. He slobbers… a lot. He falls asleep whenever I start to play my guitar. He steals socks and barks at any kind of delivery man. He can play with any dog of any size and any temperament. My wife assures me that not all dogs are like this.
If we love our baby half as much as we love our dog, this will be one extraordinarily loved kid.
Cream of what?
When I was a kid, my sister and I would spend every other weekend at my dad’s house. Dad wasn’t a big cooker… ok, I never saw the man actually cook anything. He gardened – does that count? He pickled things – cucumbers, peppers… does that count? But cooking, no. His wife cooked big hearty southern meals, complete with homemade mashed potatoes doused with butter and cream at every dinner, accompanied by a huge vat of sweet tea. Her cooking helped us dislike her a little less.
The only time my dad was in charge of mealtime was breakfast, Cream of Wheat-style. I have very specific Cream of Wheat memories: it was always instant, it was always made with two packets (I’m pretty sure a serving is only one), it was served in these short, squatty oversized brown mugs with handles, it was topped with a healthy spoonful of sugar, and my sister liked hers one way (lumpy) and I liked mine another way (soupy). My dad had to ask us every weekend who liked it lumpy vs. soupy, as he could never remember. She and I would be curled up in respective recliners, still in our PJ’s, under a shawl/throw/blanket of some kind, when my dad would emerge victoriously from the kitchen holding two mugs of Cream of Wheat.
About three months ago, on a shopping spree in the local Kroger, I picked up a coupon-induced box of Cream of Wheat. I was probably 11 years old the last time I had eaten any, but I had a coupon(!) and it may have even been on sale. The box stayed in our cupboard, locked-up-tight until yesterday morning, when I cracked the sucker open in search of bland breakfast options. Three months of alternative preferred breakfasts had gone by – eggs & toast, waffles, pancakes, cereal, more cereal, oatmeal, Pop Tarts, yet the Cream of Wheat’s only use was to make the oatmeal box seem a little less lonely. Tuesday, after Monday’s oatmeal option, brought a less puke-like-looking alternative to the bland and stomach settling. With iron and calcium to boot! I poured the single packet (what restraint!) into a bowl, and added water until it was in between lumpy/soupy (who knew a girl could change?), stirred it around, and topped it with a modest sprinkle of sugar.
One bite later brought breakfast relief I could only have imagined. It was kind of salty, kind of sweet, not too firm, not too mushy, and one packet yielded one very reasonably sized bowl of food. I had some again this morning, though with less pomp and circumstance. I got all but the last bit swallowed, but it was still 150% better than any other breakfast alternative I’ve tried lately. Go team Cream of Wheat.