Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Things My Wife Complains About: #17 Spending an Entire Day in the City Doing Everything She Wants to Do

If you're not currently pregnant or haven't been pregnant in the immediate past, you've never heard of a "babymoon." A "babymoon" is a way to spend money on yourself, instead of the child growing inside of you, which seems sensible if you're receiving weekly emails telling you what vegetable your fetus is the size of (current size: maize). In lieu of traveling somewhere exotic with someone who let her passport expire, hates flying, is uncomfortable everywhere, and doesn't like the way she looks in anything but a Snuggie, I decided we might take advantage of the things she's long wanted to do in New York but hasn't done because those things are boring.

We started by going for soup dumplings. My wife didn't complain about the soup dumplings unless expressing frustration that the soup dumplings weren't on the menu and wondering why I'd take her somewhere for soup dumplings that doesn't have soup dumplings sounds like a complaint (note: the people next to us were loudly and obviously eating soup dumplings). Next we made it through nearly twenty yards of Central Park before my wife complained that she was tired--a reasonable claim for someone in her advanced state--so we did what anyone tired does and took several hundred photos of her belly in front of bushes.

After Central Park, we went to the American Museum of Natural History, which I will confess is not boring, if only for the floating blue whale the size of a rocket ship and Brontosaurus in disguise. Unfortunately, my wife turned into the little-understood Pregosaurus halfway through the museum. The Pregosaurus, I learned, is low to the ground and slow moving. It is unpredictable, omnivorous, and has to sit in Starbucks between feedings to complain about its feet.

American Museum of Natural History 2010
Pregosaurus and Allosaurus

For the evening portion of the "Babymoon," we took in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, sponsored by every corporation in the United States. This is the narrative arc of the RCCS for the uninitiated: Santa invents reasons for forty white women to kick their legs in the air for an hour (rising tension), some kid suddenly and unconvincingly discovers the True Meaning of Christmas (climax), Jesus--unmentioned to that point--is born in front of live camels (denouement). Before any of this happened, my wife went to the restroom. When she came out, she said, I can't tell you how many things I have to complain about in there.

Possible Solutions!

1) Turn the "Babymoon" into a "Maybemoon," in which we discuss all the things we might do; ultimately, do nothing
2) Preemptively complain about crazy things (could this sunset BE more orange?) and see how wife responds
3) Invent "Husbandmoon," which takes place in Florida during Spring Training and is greeted enthusiastically by a lack of complaints (hard)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

We tried to make the best of the beginning of the week. It's supposed to be really important to have good dental hygiene while pregnant so I went for a cleaning and check on Tuesday. As far as the dentist could tell without an x-ray, no cavities. I think I like the no x-ray system best. We also had a romantic joint eye doctor appointment on Wednesday- Kevin got new glasses but my prescription remains unchanged since 2004. Sadly the style of my glasses is out.

But anyway, we took advantage of my dentist being in the city to go out on Tuesday. We got soup dumplings after my appointment, walked through Central Park, and then went to the American Museum of Natural History.  We were particularly excited about the dinosaur exhibit after watching about four hours of dinosaur documentary with Brady last weekend.  It's a little sad that so many dinosaurs that we learned about when we were little have been "revised" and renamed. For example, the brontosaurus doesn't exist, and now it's the apatosaurus.  Thankfully, tyrannosaurus rex and stegosaurus still exist. But the real stars of the dinosaur world are now the diplodocus, closely related barosaurus, and the somewhat T-rex-looking but not related, Allosaurus. It was fun discussing how old Baby Clou would have to be before we could bring him back here.  We're guessing it won't be for a few years.

Central Park 2010
23 weeks + 2 days belly shot in Central Park

American Museum of Natural History 2010
The Barosaurus at the entrance of the museum

American Museum of Natural History 2010
Self-portrait with an old-school triceratops

Kevin was also pretty psyched to see the gigantic whale in the Oceans Exhibit, though ironically it took us a lot of effort and time to find it.  It took even longer to make cheesy videos on their email machines, but I insisted on it.

American Museum of Natural History 2010
Kevin and his Moby Dick, if Moby were a 94-foot blue whale

Videos best with sound

You can hear me complaining that it makes no sense that we're sharing a wetsuit

Afterward, we went for dinner at a Peruvian-Chinese restaurant, and then to Rockefeller for pictures with the tree and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes.  Apparently, mom and dad brought me when I was five or six and I critiqued Santa's credibility.  I don't remember it, but this has always been one of their favorite stories.

Christmas Week 2010

Then we went on a visiting-family spree, starting with my grandmother Daisy, then Christmas Eve and the day before it with my mother, visiting Chrissy's family who truly understands what we're going through.  Finally, we hauled out to the Cape for Christmas dinner with Kevin's family.  They showered us with love and presents for us and for the baby. Despite our best efforts though, Christmas without my dad has been extremely sad.

Visiting Grandma Daisy 2010
Soon-to-be Great Grandma (bisaubuela) Daisy is 80 years old

Christmas Eve 2010
Gwen, Matthew, Chrissy, and Owen

23 Weeks
Milestones: Baby is kicking all the way up on the top of my belly now.  Kevin has developed sympathetic pregnancy symptoms (also known as the common cold) complete with fatigue, sore throat, stuffy nose, difficulty sleeping, and increased appetite. Today he almost said "I shouldn't kiss you because I'm pregnant," when he meant to say "because I'm sick."
What I miss the most: Sleeping comfortably. Being allowed to lose weight.
Craving: MILK, DAIRY, ICE CREAM, CHOCOLATE, I want to bathe in it, also yogurt, egg nog, fruit bars, sugar sugar sugar.  I am trying to restrain myself... and failing.
Anti-craving: Food without sugar or salt.
Symptoms: Acid reflux, stuffy nose,  left knee still hurts. The floor is far away and uncomfortable to reach.
Baby-size: Mango!
Weight gain: 19.5 plus? Weighing myself on Christmas wasn't going to happen

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Past 2004-2009

Some Christmas pictures with our family from the last six years.

Christmas Eve 2004
Christmas Eve 2004 with my parents

Christmas 2004
Christmas 2004 with my brother and grandmother

Christmas 2005
Christmas Eve 2005 with my parents

Christmas Eve 2006
Christmas Eve 2006 with my parents

Christmas Eve 2006
Christmas Eve 2006, my last Christmas photo with both of my parents

Christmas 2007
Christmas 2007 with Kevin's family

Christmas Week 2007
Just after Christmas 2007 with Grandma Shute

Cville Engagement Party 2008
Parents visiting Charlottesville after Christmas 2007

Sterns' Holiday Party 2008
Christmas 2008

Christmas 2008
Christmas on the Cape with Grandpa George and Uncle Dickie, 2008

Christmas 2008
Kevin gifting Grandma Ruth (Andrew and Katie sipping wine), 2008

Christmas 2008
With Kevin's mom and cousin Chris, 2008

Parents Visit Brooklyn 2009
Parents visiting Brooklyn shortly after Christmas 2008

I wrote about Christmas last year, here are some of my favorite photos again:

Holidays 2009
Kevin and his brother Andrew in NYC 2009

Christmas Eve 2009
Our first married Christmas at my parents in 2009

Christmas Eve 2009
My parents, Christmas 2009

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's been one month today

“He didn’t come out of my belly, but my God, I’ve made his bones, because I’ve attended to every meal, and how he sleeps, and the fact that he swims like a fish because I took him to the ocean. I’m so proud of all those things. He is my biggest pride.” - John Lennon.

Thanks for the bones, Dad.

22 Weeks, December 12-18, 2010

Thinking about my dad at the beginning of the week was especially difficult. It feels strange that three weeks out I was more upset than even immediately after, probably because the shock and disbelief is wearing off.

As I kind of got a grip mid-week, we got news that Kevin's father had a heart attack. He had a pacemaker put in though, and he should be fine now.

We bought a Christmas tree and I decorated it this weekend.  Baby Clou kicked a lot when I decorated the tree, probably because of all the bending at the waist that I was doing.  Brady also visited this weekend bringing with him a little good cheer (good for all of us) and Belgian beer (good for Kevin).

Brady Visits 2010
Kevin and Brady debating everything, as usual

Milestones: Baby is kicking and punching at the same time, doing flips more often, and maybe paying attention to outside noise?
What I miss the most: (New category from Chrissy's blog! Previously unneeded...) Sleeping on my right side without acid reflux, sleeping without a stuffy nose, sleeping without backache, a working knee. Also Baileys Irish Cream Liquor!
Craving: Apple juice, mango juice, Baileys Irish Cream Liquor (no, I haven't had any), beef
Anti-craving: Nothing, not even the stuff that ultimately gives me acid reflux, how is that helpful?
Symptoms: At the beginning of the week I had super evil acid reflux, my nose was so stuffy I could only breath through my mouth, and sleeping was super difficult, and my left knee still hurt a lot. By the end of the week those symptoms had subsided a lot, but I know they'll be back, and probably get worse.
Baby-size: Papaya
Weight gain: 18ish

Sunday, December 12, 2010

21 Weeks, December 5-11, 2010

People keep asking me how many months I am, which constantly makes me pause to consider because I've only been thinking in terms of how many weeks I am along.  Since pregnancy is about 40 weeks long, that means you might eventually hit 10 months, so the month system seems confusing in terms of time remaining.  In any case, simple math indicates I should be answering 5 months.  I'm clearly showing but I have the "awkward bump" where you can still see my waist fighting back in the middle of the bump.

21 Weeks and 6 Days
Square bump, 21 weeks and 6 days (dress was shorter than it appears)

The baby's kicks are higher up in my stomach area, making me wonder where exactly my stomach is in relation to the baby.  Knowing that baby will kick and punch every day is a nice comfort that everything is okay. So much so that my doctor's appointment at the beginning of the week seemed like a complete waste of time, though they did give me the syrup to drink for my 27-week glucose test.  Luckily it's not as much liquid as I was worried it might be.  I haven't had a single soda the whole time I've been pregnant so I was annoyed at the idea of guzzling some big corn syrup concoction. Also, I got bored of What to Expect When You're Expecting, so I started reading What to Expect the First Year.

My good friend from law school Audra publicly announced that she and her husband Rob are expecting a baby as well! I'm so happy for them! I just wish she lived closer so the babies could know each other.  Though she didn't know it yet, it turns out we were both pregnant at the Sarah and Rob's Wedding!   Particularly funny since I urged her to get pregnant at the wedding. Way to follow instruction, Baby!

Burke Wedding 2010
Both pregnant, October 15th

As far as mourning my dad, this week was much worse.  I feel like it has been for my mother as well.  I talked a little to my friend Chrissy who recently went through the same thing. People who haven't been through it, really don't seem to understand so it's hard to talk to them yet. They can extrapolate that it's awful, but for example they don't understand how distant the feeling is to losing grandparent.  I imagine it's quite different than losing a parent when you're much older as well, but I don't know if that's true.

One of the things that perpetually bothers me is that I wish I'd been a better daughter.  I would probably wish that no matter what I had done, but it's hard to cope with thinking of specific things I could have done better or more.  Even when it's things dad wouldn't necessarily have cared about, it's difficult to explain, but I still wish I'd been a better daughter for my own sake. For example, having visited more before we knew dad was sick  would have been a gift to me, even if  at the time I might have thought I was doing it for my parents.  Anyway, this week was hard hard hard.

Kevin tried to cheer me up with dinner and the Harry Potter movie on Friday, and then yesterday we went to his office Christmas party.  The one day at a time thing seems to work pretty well, but I'm remiss to make future plans.  I looked forward to this time in my life for a long time, and now that it isn't turning out the way I'd hope, I'm afraid to look forward to things at all.

Milestones: Based on baby's estimated weight last week, he's probably a full pound this week. Woo! Babycenter says the baby has eyebrows now.  Our baby book says his arms and legs are in proportion now.
Craving: Apple juice, apples, protein
Anti-craving: I still crave grape juice but it gives me acid reflux so I'm afraid of it.
Symptoms:  Evil acid reflux, my nose is so stuffy I can only breath through my mouth, headaches, sleep is pretty difficult now, my left knee still hurts- my new theory is that it's from not aligning the pregnancy pillow correctly.
Baby-size: Carrot
Weight gain: Oh no, 16.5!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Connor is Home 2010!

Back in September, my friends Becky and Brandon had baby Connor, born premature at 26 weeks.  Since then, the doctors and nurses in the NICU have been monitoring him carefully for weight gain and health issues. Becky and Brandon have been bonding with him at the hospital. And just today, Connor came home healthy!  He's about 6 pounds and 2 ounces. We are so happy for the whole family!

Connor Graves 2010
Connor all dressed for the ride home

Update: Connor gained 5 ounces and is 6 pounds, 7 ounces as of Monday, December 13, three months after he was born.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jeff & Caroline Engaged! Chrissy & Dave Too!

Over the weekend, Kevin's close friend Jeff P and his lovely girlfriend Caroline got engaged.   Kevin and I just met her for the first time in October and were delighted.  I might be a bit biased since she speaks Spanish so I envision my little Spanish-speaking kids playing with theirs one day. Though I don't know all the details, word is that the proposal was extravagant including a flight from from London (where they live) to Venice for dinner and the proposal. Wow!  Jeff says that "...the Clou family blog is the Wikileaks of engagements." Nice.

Caroline and Jeff 2009
Caroline and Jeff in 2009

The engagement is happy news for his family especially since his sister Chrissy also got engaged recently to her boyfriend Dave.  The proposal took place in a beautiful Virginia vineyard and was followed by wine tasting.  The wedding planning is on!

Dave and Chrissy 2010
Dave and Chrissy in 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

5 Months Pregnant 2010

Baby Jeans from Grandma 2010
20 Weeks, November 28 - December 4, 2010

The 20th week started with the sonogram that confirmed we were having a boy, setting my mom off on a baby boy shopping spree.  So far she's gotten the baby 3 outfits and a pair of jeans.  The boy news hasn't made a big change for me since I was already calling the baby "he" and was pretty convinced we were having a boy. Maybe I feel guilty about drinking coffee though, because I don't want to stunt his growth and make him short.  Think tall thoughts baby. It is interesting to picture having a son and all that means.

The news that the baby was already almost a pound on Monday concerned me a bit. On the one hand, I'm glad that a full pound of my weight gain went to the baby and not to my butt.  On the other hand I don't want the baby to be doomed to a life of pudginess because of my Ben and Jerry's addiction.  The ice cream never shows up in my official cravings because I always want ice cream even when I'm not pregnant. It seems disingenuous to blame my ice cream habit on the baby. (Except in early August when I felt compelled to mix milk in to make it runny.)

The baby kicks every day several times a day, and I can also feel him doing other stuff- maybe turning or wiggling.  When I take a shower he seems like he turns.  Maybe he's trying to get away from the sound of the shower.  Sometimes he kicks a little after I eat something new and exciting.  This might be just be in my head because I read that food flavors the amniotic fluid and he can taste it.  I can get him to kick for other people by lying down and shaking my belly a little but I try not to do that because what if he hates that?  I would never know. The kicks still feel pretty minimal to other people, but they're definitely getting stronger.  Last night I swear he was kicking along to the beat when I was watching Glee to Journey's Don't Stop Believing.  I swear.

The acid reflux is getting pretty bad now and mainly strikes in the evening.  Two gulps of milk or a full glass of water helps.  I have to sleep with milk on my night table, three pillows to keep my head above my throat, and lying on my left side-- my right side doesn't work as well.  Kevin puts a glass of water and a smaller cup milk by my bed before I go to sleep.
It's only been two weeks since I lost my dad.  And it's definitely not getting any easier yet.  He was so ridiculously healthy and strong-looking in July, even after his diagnosis.  And he came home in October the best he'd been since July.  Even in his last week, he was a handsome young-looking man. If I had to pick a stage of grief, I'd say I'm in deep denial.  But obviously also really sad and  really angry.  I've only started to talk to people outside my family in the last couple of days. I worry about the stress of my sadness on the baby, not just in the last two weeks, but for the entire duration of the pregnancy, but I don't think there's much I can do about that.

Milestones: Half-way there! Baby boy is punching and kicking every day. I have to wear loose-fitting maternity tops now to be comfortable. I've been wearing maternity pants for a while already.
Craving: apple juice, red sausage (chorizo or pepperoni), milk
Anti-craving: Can't always finish my coffee
Symptoms:  Bad acid reflux, my left knee hurts possibly from the extra weight or possibly from having to sleep on my left side.
Baby-size: Banana (my mom says plantain)
Weight gain: 13.5

Friday, December 3, 2010

Letter from a Doctor 2010

Some people in this world are truly special.  One of dad's doctors called shortly after my dad died, and he sent a letter saying the same thing.  For four months (and even now) I thought constantly of the details of dad's cancer like it was a nefarious puzzle I was trying to solve.  No matter how many different ways I considered it, I couldn't solve it.  You would think that such a letter would come from an oncologist who was used to patients' families being haunted by the complicated choices of fighting cancer, but it actually came from one of his urologists.  He is an exceptionally thoughtful doctor and a kind man, and my mother and I are grateful to him.

Dear Mrs. Shute and Family:

I am very sorry about the passing of your husband, James Shute.  As you know, I did not get to know him for very long but I can tell you that he never seemed to complain despite his many medical problems.  I know it was difficult for you to make decisions about him but I think it is important to let you know that I think everything that you did was correct.  I do know that he was lucky to have such a loving family around him.

If there is anything that I or my office can do for you, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's a boy!

I've been convinced the baby is a boy for weeks.  Before we went to the 16 week appointment Kevin asked me what if the baby turned out to be a girl?  I said it didn't matter because it was a boy. But at the appointment the doctor couldn't tell because the sonogram image wasn't clear.  She zoomed in on something that I couldn't see at all and said, "See that? Maybe it's a boy."  Kevin and I started laughing because that wasn't helpful at all.  Then she typed right on the sonogram "MAYBE A BOY??"  Um, thanks.

Well the 20-week sonogram clarified it.  The sonogram technician said Baby Clou is definitely a boy, and a doctor confirmed it. This will be the first boy in my maternal line in a long time- my great grandmother had two girls, my grandmother had a girl, and my mother just had me. My mother came to the sonogram with us and was weepy with happiness.  It's been a tough week for her too, so a little bit of happy baby news was nice.  Also, I'm halfway through the pregnancy now!

Baby Clou at 20 Weeks 2010
20 weeks sonogram profile with jazz hand

Josh and Anna Got Married 2010!

Josh and Anna got engaged over the summer, and they've been living in Germany for Josh's job. In the midst of debating whether to have a destination wedding in Europe or get married in the states, they semi-eloped in Germany.  I say "semi" because they did it over the Thanksgiving holidays so that their parents could be present, and they are following up with parties in the U.S. this summer: a West Coast party and East Coast party! Congratulations, Josh and Anna, you're a great match.

Burke Wedding 2010
Josh and Anna at the Burke wedding, six weeks before eloping

Monday, November 29, 2010

17-19 Weeks, November 2010

Obviously you all know that these were the worst weeks of my life so I didn't keep any kind of baby diary. But here are the basic stats:

17 Weeks: November 7-13
Milestones: I feel the baby kicking for the first time. According to our baby book, the baby is growing body fat now. Baby is also starting to practice swallowing amniotic fluid.   The brain  also regulates the heart beat now.
Craving: chocolate, fruit juice, grapes
Anti-craving: None
Symptoms: Light acid reflux, bloody nose
Baby-size: Turnip
Weight gain: 9 pounds

Ramsey 2003
18 Weeks: November 14-20
Milestones: Baby kicking every day. According to our baby book, the baby is practicing yawning and hiccuping.
Craving: chocolate, fruit juice, home-made cranberry sauce
Anti-craving: None
Symptoms: Bad acid reflux
Baby-size: Bell pepper
Weight gain: I don't know, I was living at the hospital with mom and dad

19 Weeks, November 21-27
Milestones:  Baby kicking hard enough for others to feel or see- Kevin and his mom felt the kicking and my mother saw it.  According to our baby book, the baby now has vernix caseosa, a cheesy-looking substance on its skin to protect it.
Craving: any protein, fruit juice, coffee
Anti-craving: None
Symptoms: bad acid reflux, discomfort bending
Baby-size: Mango
Weight gain: 12.5

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rogers 60th Wedding Anniversary 2010

This week has been very hard. Kevin and I spent Thanksgiving Day with mom but celebrating the holiday didn't feel right. Mom made ropa vieja for dinner and we ate away from the dining room table. Dad really liked Thanksgiving, and because my mother's side is Cuban and didn't really grasp the concept of Thanksgiving, I always associate Thanksgiving with my dad and his family. We only had Thanksgiving with my maternal grandparents once and there was a full roasted pork instead of a turkey, and yucca (dad's most hated vegetable) instead of mashed potatoes.  Thanksgivings were usually spent in Upstate New York or Cape Cod with dad's parents, siblings, and nephews.  Dad would make, and often burn, my favorite dish- sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top.

But Kevin's grandparents were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving, and they'd held off the celebration to the following day so that we could make it. And if there's one thing I learned from all this is that I regret every holiday and special occasion I didn't spend with family, so off we went to the Cape.  We also visited Dad's family while we were there. I was glad to be around family, and the three Cape Cod great-grandparents were all eager to hear about the baby.  Kevin and Grandma Kathy even felt the baby kick for the first time. 

Rogers 60th Wedding Anniversary 2010
Four generations: Great-grandparents, grandma, parents and uncle, and future baby

  1950 Family Photos 140
Wedding photo from November 25, 1950

1959 Family Photos 128
Ruth and George with their four children in about 1959: 
(l-r) Denise, Mary, and Kathy, and baby Dickie in George's arms

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

I was hoping for a different Thanksgiving this year and for many years to come than what will be. I was looking forward to taking full family pictures this year with a pregnant belly and next year with the baby. But I am still thankful for some things.

On my wedding day, I remembered how lucky I was that dad had made it through his kidney cancer in 1999. I felt lucky that he could walk me down the aisle and dance with me at the wedding. I am thankful Kevin and I went to my dad's favorite place in Upstate New York with my parents last summer after we got married. I am thankful that I spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my parents last year especially since I never suspected it was my last chance to spend the holidays with both of them.

I am thankful that my dad wasn't working for the six months before his diagnosis. Even though he was depressed about not being able to find another job, he was still able to spend that time with mom and their friends and enjoying the outdoors. During that time, my parents visited us in our Brooklyn apartment shortly after my birthday, and Kevin and I treated my parents to dinner for their 25th wedding anniversary.  Before dad began treatment we had a dinner at home that he was able to enjoy.  After he started treatment I remember being thankful even at the time for the opportunity to make him a sandwich. If you are lucky enough to have your parents or children you love, please do everything you can to make them happy while they are healthy -- whether it is big or small.

I am grateful that after his diagnosis, Kevin took me to every appointment dad had with a doctor or procedure he had done.  When I couldn't make it because of work, Kevin went without me.  Every weekend that we didn't have a close friend's wedding to attend we spent with my parents in New Jersey. He helped me with talking to doctors and calling insurance.  He did innumerable favors for my parents and continues to do so for my mother.  He is truly a son to both of my parents.  I might spend the rest of my life making it up to him for how wonderful he is.  We had no idea that my dad would only have 4 months but I am so glad that there is very little we would have done differently if we had known.

I am grateful that my mother was at my father's side every single day since his diagnosis.  There was rarely a day she didn't spend 10-12 hours or more at his side.  Knowing she was there and that he had her to take care of him was an amazing comfort to me.  Everything she did, she did just for him and no one else, but what an amazing gift she gave all of us who love my father.  She was smart and strong for both of them.  Anyone who has been through cancer or a loved one's illness knows that a great deal depends on the patient's support system.  Someone has to be there to ask a million questions and fight for their loved ones- whether it be with insurance companies, pharmacies, doctors, or errant nurses.  He had wonderful nurses and PCAs when he was on the oncology floor at Valley Hospital, but my mother still learned their jobs and tried to personally do everything for my dad herself.  I assure you there is no better nurse than my mother caring for someone she loves.  I am happy to have my mother in my life, and proud that she is so intelligent, strong, and loving.  I hope to live up to be the kind of woman that she is.

I am relieved that my mother and I never left my father alone during the last week of his life. Once the doctor told us that the tumors had grown on Sunday the 14th, my mother started staying overnight so that dad wouldn't be lonely or afraid or suffer any pain or discomfort that she could prevent. I stayed at least 10 hours a day.  One of dad's last meals was his favorite chocolate milkshake that I bought him and mom fed him.  I gave him his last glass of water.  We told him we loved him hundreds of times in four months in as many ways as we knew how.  I am so glad I  told him he was a wonderful father.  

I am grateful to the friends that visited and helped, especially my mother's friend Onel.  Thankful forever to my friends that came to visit to help me personally, and to the few that sent food. It's hard to tell people what they can do for you when your world is falling apart; what a blessing for friends that do whatever they can think of to help.

I am really grateful that Kevin and I will have someone else to love soon and that we will be parents.  Though I really wish people would stop saying that it somehow makes up for the loss of my dad.  It doesn't.  On the contrary, dad was at his best with children.  How sad that our child will never know such a wonderful grandfather, and that we can never have visits or holidays all together.

Thanksgivings past:

Thanksgiving 1986
With my parents in Upstate NY in 1988

2001 11 22 Thanksgiving on the Cape new 391
On the Cape in 2001

Thanksgiving 2003
On the Cape in 2003

Thanksgiving 2004
On the Cape in 2004

Thanksgiving 2007
In New Jersey in 2007, the day after Kevin proposed

Thanksgiving 2008
In New Jersey in 2008

Thanksgiving 2009
On the Cape in 2009

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The city exists

Thanksgiving 2004
   "The harbor faces north, in shadow. The docks are high over the black water, which slams against the retaining walls; stone steps descend, made slippery by seaweed. Boats smeared with tar are tied up, waiting for the departing passengers lingering on the quay to bid their families farewell. The farewells take place in silence, but with tears. It is cold; all wear shawls over their heads. A shout from the boatman puts a stop to the delays; the traveler huddles at the prow, moves off looking toward the group of those remaining behind; from the shore his features can no longer be discerned; the boat draws up beside a vessel riding at anchor; on the ladder a diminished form climbs up, vanishes; the rusted chain is heard being raised, scraping against the hawsepipe. The people remaining behind look over the ramparts above the rocks of the pier, their eyes following the ship until it rounds the cape; for the last time they wave a white rag.
    "Set out, explore every coast, and seek this city," the Khan says to Marco. "Then come back and tell me if my dream corresponds to reality."
    "Forgive me, my lord, there is no doubt that sooner or later I shall set sail from that dock," says Marco, "but I shall not come back to tell you about it. The city exists and it has a simple secret: it knows only departures, not returns."

- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fade Away

This week is hard and sad and cruel.  Dad is no longer responsive. We're waiting when there's nothing good to wait for and no more memories to make.

This is my childhood friend Wednesday's song with her band Pigeons, who lost her wonderful mother three years ago, Fade Away.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dad's Time

We don't know how long dad has left but it's matter of days now. He's in pain and he's suffering. He's on a lot of pain medication, so he's incoherent or asleep most of the time. But we figure that's better than him being in more pain.

To say that he doesn't deserve this is a vast understatement. He's a wonderful and generous person. For the 25 to 26 years that I've known him he exercised and ate well and encouraged me to do the same. He practiced yoga, meditation, and tai chi. At 61-years-old, he looks ten years younger.  He helped all his elderly neighbors. He gave money to people he didn't even know who needed his help. Even now in the hospital he worries about my mother and me, and even about the nurses. Some of the nurses have cried for him.

That's the easy stuff to explain. It's so hard to explain what he's done for me and for my mother. I can't speak to the entirety of my parents' relationship, but he is the kind of husband other people envy. He worked and he also cooked and ran the household chores. He was devoted and faithful to my mother for over 25 years. She tells the nurses and anyone who will listen that he never so much as raised his voice to her. The evidence of their mutual love is that my mother has been at his side every day all day throughout his illness, and she has never considered it one minute more than he deserves.

Charlottesville, VA 2007
With mom in Charlottesville in 2007

My dad has always put me before himself. Without him, I wouldn't be half the person I am. I read the books he gave me, learned the big words from him, and followed him around the house to talk to him. I would talk to him about everything, from the possibility of alien life forms to boys and kissing. He chaperoned my enrichment trips. He came to my field hockey games even though I wasn't very good and sometimes he had to see me get hurt. He came to my concerts even though I was worse at music. When he got kidney cancer the first time in 1999, his biggest concern was that I be able to finish college. I was blessed that I got to keep him for another 11 years and that he was able to walk me down the aisle and dance with me at my wedding. (I waited for 30 years to marry a man who I thought was as wonderful as my father.)  He came to my graduations for kindergarten, eighth grade, high school, college, my masters program, law school, and to my bar swearing-in ceremony.  When I told him I was pregnant he cried with happiness and kissed my hand because he couldn't reach up to kiss me from the hospital gurney. At a foot taller than me, he has called me "Shorty" my entire life.

Thanksgiving 2004
With me on Cape Cod in 2004

Occasionally, I explain to someone that my dad is actually my stepfather, but I never once heard him call me his stepdaughter, and not once did he ever make me feel like anything other than his child completely. When I look around I see that not only do I have a wonderful father, but I have a better father than almost everyone else. The expression, "you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family," doesn't apply to us. We chose each other to be family. I love my dad.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dad's Calcium and Growing Tumors 2010

So things have taken another turn for the worst. This Friday, dad had radiation on his leg. Since then, it doesn't seem to have helped, and his leg pain increased.  Saturday morning one of the oncologists told us that his calcium had gone up due to the cancer.  They gave him very strong medicine to reduce the calcium, but it's not guaranteed to work, and high calcium can lead to coma and death.  Sometime around the same time the oncologist delivered the news that all his tumors had gotten bigger.

Previously, the doctors had said that if the Sutent didn't work we could try other drugs.  His calcium has gone down a very small amount, but at this point he is not stable enough or strong enough to try another drug.  Due to the progression of the tumors it's not likely he will be able to try another drug.  His pain and other problems have increased.  We raised his pain medications.  The pain medicine puts him to sleep, and when he wakes up he's often in pain.  The ironic part is that he looks really healthy and handsome. My mother has been sleeping overnight at the hospital since last night, and I go for about 10 hours a day and stay overnight at my parents' place.  I'm going to be living here for the time being.

Update: His calcium came down, but it's a sign of the cancer progressing rapidly. He's weak and in a lot of pain and his kidney stopped working again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dad's Emergency Leg Radiation 2010

Dad has been in the hospital since Friday. His kidney improved its function on its own. The nausea and stomach problems he developed in the hospital also improved after my mother asked for a number of interventions. But during this time his leg tumor grew very rapidly and is pushing on the bone (also noted because my mother demanded someone look at his leg). The doctors decided to send him to emergency leg radiation surgery today at the facility where he had his brain radiation surgery done. This is his third leg procedure he's had done. I'm dubious because as a rule radiation does not work on kidney cancer, which is what he has in his leg.

This weekend, I watched Joel Osteen, as I sometimes do if I come across him while changing channels. He gave a sermon about God helping those that help themselves and ask for God's help. He gave the example of David fighting Goliath with the only weapon available to him- a stick to make a sling shot. The idea is that God makes an otherwise inadequate weapon powerful. So here we are, here is our radiation stick. God, this is the part where you step in and make it work even though it otherwise wouldn't. Please and thank you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things My Wife Complains About: #16 Not Caring Enough About Her to Correct Her Grammar

It's hard teaching writing. Not only do you have to correct the mechanics of students just beginning to master the language, but you also have to suffer the grammatical insecurities of those around you, always tiptoeing around "who" and "lay." Were it not for my grueling two to three day/week schedule, I might consider doing something else entirely. Instead of constantly explaining the difference between the subjective and objective position, I long ago decided to let people speak however they wish without worrying over my interjecting (little-acknowledged rule: gerunds take the possessive).

You can imagine my incredulity, then, when my wife leveled the complaint that I don't care enough about her to teach her correct grammar. Since there's some thinking that fetuses may be able to hear from the womb, my wife further complained that I don't care enough about my powerful seed to teach him/her correct grammar.

My wife and I have been dating for over four years. We've been married for over a year, and she's been carrying my powerful seed for four months. At what point will she be secure that I care about her? Will it be our tenth wedding anniversary? When my powerful seed graduates from college? When we ease into retirement at the age of eighty? Oh, the complaints she'll have then. If I cared about her, I'd massage her rheumatism. If I cared about her, I'd help her find her teeth.

Possible solutions!

1) Correct every grammatical mistake, quietly biting my bleeding tongue while she complains about the way I correct her unfairly/gratuitously/cruelly
2) Only speak in Spanish, where her grammar is far better than mine
3) Insist she only speak when spoken to--don't speak to her (hard)

Looking professorial

4 Months Pregnant 2010

15 Weeks, October 24-30, 2010

Over the weekend I went to a clothing swap at Becky's and tried to pick up larger size clothing or stuff that would stretch with me. I also went on a chemical-free snack-buying binge. Some big changes happened at work. Then our friends Adrienne and Pete had their baby girl Lenore!

And most exciting of all dad came home from rehab! He went up the stairs himself with a cane. We all ate dinner at the table together, though dad is still feeling side effects from the Sutent so he couldn't completely enjoy dinner. In about two weeks, he takes a break from the Sutent so we have big plans to make sure he enjoys his favorite food then.

Milestones: Our baby book says the baby is practicing breathing and swallowing with the amniotic fluid.
Craving: Ice cream (but since this was a pre-pregnancy craving, I'm not sure it counts, on the other hand I don't usually keep 5 different flavors in my freezer)
Anti-craving: Coffee
Symptoms: Acid reflux, bloody nose
Baby-size: Apple
Weight gain: 7 pounds (I probably should not already be gaining a pound a week!)

16 Weeks, October 31- November 6, 2010

I had some more unfortunate symptoms this week, such as breathlessness. It happened twice during the week for about an hour each time. My acid reflux was also really bad this week. We even resorted to this disgusting natural home remedy: a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a teacup of hot water. Not only does this smell like dirty feet, but it burns, thus negating any potential acid reflux cure it may or may not provide. By the end of the week I just did what my mother said and tried milk, even though the web insists that this will not actually help. Well, it did. Mom: 1, Internet: 0.

On Wednesday, November 3, I definitively felt the baby moving. Before that I had felt one or two gentle movements that were probably the baby, but this was the first time it was so clear that I knew it had to be the baby. Baby's twitter was updated accordingly. I felt the baby a few more times later in the week. Most notably Saturday after half a cup of coffee. Baby went crazy for a few hours after that. Sorry if I just gave you ADD, baby.

On Friday we had our 16 week, alphfetoprotein (AFP) test. I don't really know how I feel about all these tests, but my doctors act like it's nonnegotiable so I try not to think about it. I also got the flu vaccine including the H1N1 vaccine with no mercury.  I know I'm supposed to, so I did, but it makes me nervous nonetheless.

One of my doctors also said that he would throw in a free sonogram at this appointment so we could tell if the baby is a boy or a girl. But because it was free they used the low-technology sonogram machine that's used for the 8-week appointment. We couldn't really tell what gender the baby is, and the sonogram looks like random squiggles.  But the doctor took a guess. Not helpful.

Baby Clou Gender Prediction at 16 Weeks + 5 Days
Come on now, what is this? And look at the Dr's caption: "MAYBE A BOY??"

The week ended on a sad note. Dad had been home from rehab for almost a week, when his kidney symptoms returned so we all took him back to the hospital on Friday. We had him admitted to the oncology floor again (last time they sent him to the renal floor which is not best for all of his related problems).  The doctors suggested that the kidney problems were pretty minor, but since he's been in the hospital he has also developed nausea and extreme pain in his leg due to the tumor there. The tumor had been getting smaller for a few weeks, but it seems bigger again. Mom is doing everything in her power to help dad with the nausea and pain, while we wait to see if his kidney symptoms will abate again on their own.

Milestones: I can feel the baby moving. Our baby book says the baby's eyes are working now and that baby is becoming sensitive to belly touches.
Craving: Red meat, Italian hero (cold cut rules be damned), corn
Anti-craving: None
Symptoms: Acid reflux, breathlessness, headaches, round ligament pain, bloody nose
Baby-size: Avocado (Mom says it would be more like a small Haas avocado)
Weight gain: 8 pounds
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