Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Excuse Me Please, One More Drink....

My Grandpa is dying.

I think.

I’m not really sure. Either he’ll be dead soon or he will be as fine as some who is 87 years old and getting senile can be.

Honestly though, I really don’t care either way. I don’t talk about him much. I really don’t think about him much. This is why………

My Grandma died September 1995. I was 17 years old. She was my world; I know that is naive and perfection through the imperfect eyes of a child, but in my eyes she could do no wrong.

My brother and I spent almost everyday with her. Grandpa would drop her off at our house at 6am on his way to work and pick her up around 5pm on his way home. We spent at least one weekend a month at their house, often more. We went on many, many vacations with them. Even as a licensed teenager, I still choose to drive to their house and stay hours on end.

Grandma was the family matriarch. She held everything and everyone together. She arbitrated family fights, she gave the last word on right, wrong and priorities. I always saw my Grandpa as an accessory to her; the one who carried out the commands. Sure, I loved him and have plenty of good memories of him, but they all end after her death.

I was informed of her death moments after he discovered her on the couch via the phone. I don’t blame him for this, I just still wish it had happened differently. He called our house looking for my mom, I answered the phone instead.

Shan, he cried, she’s dead. Grandma is dead. I don’t know what to do. What should I do? Grandma is cold and dead and I don’t know what to do....

Yeah I was 17, but had never really lost anyone close to me. How was I supposed to give him guidance? Really, I don’t blame him though. She was his whole world too and now she wasn’t there to tell him what to do….

A few months after Grandma’s death, my mom booked him a trip to Florida to visit his sister. He never came back. His first week down there he met a lady. Less than 6 months after the death of the woman he was married to for over 35 years and had 7 children with, and without telling anyone what was happening, he married her in a civil ceremony.

He organized the sale of his/their home via the phone. His children and grandchildren found out about this, and the marriage, via the For Sale sign in the front yard and another phone call telling us we had one week to go through the house and take anything we wanted before cleaners came though to get it ready.

He never came back. He left all the family photos hanging on the walls and bookshelves. He left the pictures of me and Jerry in their frames. He declined offers from my mom to mail them to him, claiming it would make is new wife uncomfortable.

I take that back, he came home for a weekend about 2 years later in 1997. My mom decided she wanted to take me and Jerry to the Mall of America for a spur of the moment weekend trip. She bought me everything a teenaged heart desired and took us to an Indian casino where I won something like $400 dollars playing a slot machine.

On the way to the airport she claimed to have a voicemail from an Uncle saying he was having a party that night and we should come. My mom strong armed us into attending playing the goodwill card from the weekend. If Jerry and I had known he would be there we wouldn’t have gone. Not only was he there, but he brought his wife too.

When we walked through the door, he smiled and said hello like nothing had changed and that he wanted to introduce us to our grandmother.

I ran out of the room in tears, while his wife proceeded to tell my brother how selfish we were to hurt him this way and that our grandfather is much happier with her than he ever was before.

I think he went back to Chicago a few times after that, but I never attended. The wife died sometime around 2001. After her death he claimed that she was a drunk and emotionally abusive. Good.

Matt and I married in 2003. Under pressure from my mom, we invited him. I did hug him and stood next to him for 5 minutes to snap a few pictures. I can’t remember what words were spoken, but I do recall thinking about how old he looked now as opposed to the man in my memories. The man from my childhood was my Grandpa, this is just some look-a-like in much wrinklier skin.

Those pictures are the only ones from that day without a smile.

Over the years my mom brings up that I should call him at least once a season. My reply is always the same. What is there to say? Nothing. My Grandpa died when Grandma did. I do not know the man living in Florida and I have nothing to say to him.

As a compromise, I usually send updated photos of Grace when I get them. That takes little effort on my part to address one more envelope. According to relatives, he has a little shrine on his piano of all the photos I’ve sent him of Grace, ones my mom has supplied of us, and the unsmiling picture from my wedding day. I still have nothing else to say.

Yesterday, as I browsed through the online clearance section of a store, I stopped short and thought of him. There in front of me was a pair of Santa Claus and Rainbow suspenders. Rainbow suspenders were always his signature piece. At $3.00 each, I thought about purchasing them and sending them anonymously. I didn’t.

When I got home yesterday, Matt said my mom left a message on the machine saying my Grandpa was in the hospital. Apparently he has several blood clots in his lungs. Testing today should determine if they can do anything, but it doesn’t look good. She once again pushed me to call him.

My answer is again, unchanged. I am sorry for the pain this is causing her. I am even sorry for the pain and confusion that he must be going though, but my Grandpa is gone.

My Grandpa is dying.

I think.

I really don’t care either way. I don’t talk about him much. I really don’t think about him much. And now you know why.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dinosaur! Raawwrrrr!

Four day weekends are great.

Unless you don’t leave the house for the first two days and your two year old starts tearing things apart like a tornado, throwing random tantrums and refusing to nap.

Then, after two days you realize that there are still two more to go and someone is going to die.


You take the opportunity to do the activities that you normally can’t cram into a weekend. (Matt is good like that. I was voting for death, figuring that a replacement was on the way anyhow…)

So Saturday afternoon we packed up and headed down to the Natural History Smithsonian.

Gracie spent the afternoon exclaiming over the giant stuffed elephant in the pass-through between exhibit halls….

She has cultivated a new love of dinosaurs- which in person was luke-warm (you know the sharp, menacing teeth and all), but was ignited again via a giant dinosaur sugar cookie and book with matching stuffed triceratops toy purchased at the gift shop.

She was fascinated by the Gem & Mineral room, exclaiming loudly over the ‘pretties’ and ‘fancies’ and ‘sparklies’ AND she left the Hope Diamond showcase with an amazed declaration of “Daddy, I see a diamond and it was BIG!”

It was particularly challenging for Matt to coax her to sleep that night though. He said it was annoying, but too cute to really be upset. She would close her eyes for a few minutes then pop her head back up and say, ‘Dinosaur! Raawwrrrr!’ or ‘I see elephant!’ or ‘I no like spiders!’ or ‘Cookie. It good!’ and then passed back out from the exhaustion of the day.

It is just one more example to us that she is in fact a little sponge. What we think might not be making a big impact at the time, turns out to an experience to remember.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

This year, Christmas was a quiet event.

Sort of.

We prefaced the 25th with two prior weekends of Christmas exchanges while my mom and then Matt's and my brother visited. Despite having already opened a lot of presents before Christmas day arrived, things were still a little chaotic...

Making cookies for Santa....

Discovering that Santa not only brings presents, but food too....

Riding her much anticipated tricycle...

Testing out the kitchen gear received in her new kitchen...

The Christmas wrapping paper carnage...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Verdict Is...

Yesterday was the day. The 20 week ultrasound came and went like a flash. Never has 45 minutes gone by so quickly.

The parts are all in place. The spine is a beautiful curve. The face is a perfect profile. Shots of legs and arms and hands were had. And then the ultrasound declared the shape we had been waiting for, the glimpse of gender.

We should have recognized it right away. We've seen those three lines before. Our version number two (V2) is another perfect, beautiful girl.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Dots are Here! The Dots are Here!

So last weekend I finished putting the dots up on Gracie's wall. I like them and she had a great time dictating which colors went where.

Here are the crappy pictures snapped with my cell...

Similar to my great artists rendering from over a month ago, huh?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Waiting is the Hardest Part

I feel like the baby floating around inside me is getting jipped.

Grace got so much attention.

I understand the difference now between your first and second child, but all I had to do with her is wait and feel and obsess. While I could have done without the weeks of morning sickness I had with Gracie. I relished the time she was in my belly. I doted on the aches and stretches. I marveled in the changes.

Now, I feel like I am just trying to survive. Trying to get home and work and child all to play together nicely.

This week is a turning point though. V2 is making itself known, both literally and figuratively.

This time last week I felt nothing. By Tuesday I was getting inexplicable motion sickness, like I could feel the baby swimming. Thursday my belly started hopping with random kids and jolts. Today I can feel position and movements and the difference between head and foot.

Monday I am 20 weeks along. Officially half way there. Monday, we trudge back to Johns Hopkins for an in-depth ultrasound, the best one there is; the one that proposes to tell parents blue or pink.

After this week of changes, I know V2 is ready to be known. Ready to have a gender, a pronoun attached to the generic second child V2 term. Ready to show the world that it is strong and viable and anxious to take the world by storm.

Ready to put my fears to rest with pronouncements of its existence besides my slowly expanding waistline - and - recent preference of eating rice pudding and green olives mixed together in the same bowl.

I know you are here baby. I am glad you are demanding my attention.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Alternative Lyrics

Old McDonald as sung by Gracie on the way home today:

Old McDonald had a moo.
It's a moo moo there.
It's a moo moo there.
E-I-E-I-O. Moo.
On the farm there is a moo.
It's a moo moo there.

And .... ummm ... a PIG!

It's a moo moo, no oink oink there.
An oink oink there.

Old McDonald had an oink.


Friday, December 11, 2009

We're Still Here

Ok, I know I’ve been blog-less for over a week again now. I’m making up for it though. Just back track all the way to..... oh..... say the day after Thanksgiving, and go ahead and keep up with all the crap we’ve been doing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jingle Bells

Every year, my work has a plethora of holiday parties. Last year there was a lot of crying. This year went much better.

Don’t get me wrong, there were in fact tears, but they didn’t last long. When Gracie came into the lobby packed with strangers like a can of sardines, she was concerned but quiet. Until she saw me. Then she wanted to know why on earth she was still holding onto the baby rope instead of me.

The parties are deafening. Voices boom throughout the 3 story, glass walled lobby. The holiday music played on a piano in the lobby adds to the chaos. The guards’ desk in the middle makes for a formable obstacle for circulation. It is never a comfortable place to be. Now add 40 kids, ages 5 to 5 months to the mix. It sometimes makes me want to cry too. I think that is why they offer mimosas.

Luckily, Matt took a few hours to come down to the party too. He often feels deprived of these parent moments, and he remembered there was booze.

Because he was there though, he was able to hold Grace while I took pictures. He was able to sweet talk Grace into sitting on his lap near Santa. He was able to work that into Grace sitting on his leg next to Santa in order to get one of the toys he was handing out to the kiddies. Then, under that jubilation, he was able to coax her into posing for a few pictures near a tree.

And then, cookie and cat toy in hand, Grace happily retreated back to the safety of the daycare with her friends, forgetting to shed any tears. Matt retreated to the safety of his car and returned to work, shedding a pound or two in ‘holding a heavy child in a hot room’ sweat. I retuned to my desk for 5 minutes of quiet, until my next party started and the chaos began all over again. Even without the children.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I like plans. I can’t help it. I’ll say it again. I like plans.

NOTHING in Williamsburg went to plan.

We headed toward Virginia Saturday morning. As all true planners do, we had been following the weather and knew there was a chance of snow. Chance. They said chance.

When we got into our car at 8am, it had just barely begun to flurry. By the time we reached the DC beltway, it was snowing. In Northern Virginia we could barely see the roads. The farther south we went, the snow turned into rain. Past Richmond, we were safely in the rain.

The rain did not stop though. At 40 degrees, it is not cold enough to snow, but it is sure cold enough to keep sane people from bringing their 2 year old out into those temperatures with pelting raindrops.

So the weather foiled our Saturday night plans. We were going to go to Busch Gardens to see their Christmas Wonderland. We had told Gracie all about it. There will be Christmas lights all over! and hot chocolate! and carolers singing! and a choo choo train! and *guess what?* penguins!

And then it rained cold pelting drops.

So penguins were forgone and the hotel pool was adopted instead. Except she didn’t forget our magical stories of trains and penguins. She kept asking about them. All throughout our Sunday morning trip to Jamestown with its Indian Village corn grinding, Settlers Village armor wearing and cafeteria ketchup eating, she asked about the penguins.

And it became clear what must be done. Matt’s dream of seeing the Williamsburg Illumination would have to be put on hold in lieu of 2 year old dreams of choo choo’s and penguins.

You know what though, it was worth it

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Team Spirit

This past weekend Gracie wore her Bears jersey for the first time in ages. She was so proud to match her daddy and was overjoyed with our rendering of the Chicago Bears fight song, despite their loss in the end.

That morning during our weekly trip to the grocery store, the Sunday football jerseys were abound. I don’t think she quite understood that they stood for allegiance to different cities and teams, but she did know they weren’t like her navy and orange jersey and spent a good chunk of her time giving other shoppers the hairy eye.

Every time we saw a different jersey she would slap her belly and declare, Mama. I wear ‘Cago Beers. Yes love, yes you are. At home, the trend continued. Every half an hour heard a same declaration of, Mama, I wear ‘Cago Beers. When Gracie went to bed that night, I confiscated the jersey with all her other dirty clothes to run through the washer. It was air dried and put away for another day.

It seems another day is already upon us. Yesterday morning, out of the blue, she demanded to wear ‘Cago Beers to school. I am told by many sources that she once again spend the day slapping her belly and telling everyone who would listen (and some that could care less) that she is wearing her ‘Cago Beers. I warned the teachers at pick up that I had a feeling they would be seeing a lot of the jersey.

Despite this warning, I myself was unprepared for this morning. My child no longer wants variety in her wardrobe. She no longer wants dresses and feminine ruffles. She only want the Bears jersey, which by the way, was still unwashed this morning, covered with a days worth of food smears and snot, and therefore un-wearable.

*Enter the meltdown*

I know, I should have just put in on her, but it had ketchup smeared on the front. I know I should have just put it on her, but she didn’t want to put on a long sleeve shirt underneath to battle the December weather. I know, I should have just put it on her, but I’d she already had a super soft light blue fleece jumper dress laid out for today’s wardrobe damnit and if I have to wrestle her like an alligator to force clothes on the body she is wearing what I want her to!

So tonight, and every night in the foreseeable future, the jersey is going in the washing machine. Someone needs to explain to this child that I don’t do mid-week laundry though. And if you’re looking for a Christmas present for Gracie, more jerseys might come in handy, 3T please.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Party, Minus the Aminals

When we moved into our home 3 years ago, I was hell bent on putting down roots.


Coming from a townhouse environment where the woman we shared a wall with wouldn’t even look up at me when I walked within feet of her, I wanted to know all our neighbors. I wanted to be friends. I wanted to love them and them us. (Three years later I am confident that the plan worked.)

A little over 30 days after we moved in we threw a party. That is the great thing about December, you can get away with things like that. We scrambled to clean and paint and organize. We spent hundreds of dollars on food and drink. We had fancy invitations printed. We went door-to-door and introduced ourselves to neighbors, personally handing out the invtes. We had the audacity to declare this an annual event.

This year should have been the 4th Annual. Notice the word should? Apparently a few of our friends have the 1st Saturday in December permanently marked on their calendar as our party day.

I went so far as to create the invitations, I just never hit the purchase button. This post wasn’t so long ago. It still stands in full effect. I am tired. Matt is tired. I just couldn’t comprehend spending the day cleaning and cooking and fretting and then cleaning all over again.

So no ‘Annual’ this year. I am sad, but relieved. Instead we decided to take this weekend for ourselves and head down to Colonial Williamsburg for the Grand Illumination. We are counting on fresh air and time away from our everyday to reset everyone’s clock.

But my big question is, next year are we still allowed to call our Christmas party ‘Annual’? And then do we skip right over 4 like it took place, so do we have to reuse this number because it is the 4th party in 5 years now?