Tuesday, September 26, 2006
All Fall Down
The thing is, I'm a defective Weeble.

I'm round and I wobble, sure. But I do not bounce back up. My son finds this particularly hysterical, as he'll push me over and proceed to climb up over my belly, laughing and swatting at my face.

And of course, I'm laughing the whole time, so he doesn't realize that I'm actually stuck like a turtle turned over on her shell, limbs flailing, but there's no hope of righting herself.

I blame my husband and mother-in-law for this. Not for being round and unable to pull myself to a sitting position (although, technically, I suppose that is partially my husband's doing), no, I blame them for wrestling with my son. They both do it, roll around on the ground as he pummels them. Both play the part, letting The Boss think he's the victor.

Recently though, I think my son has caught on. Now, he runs to attack - only to plop himself, with great dramatic flair, to the ground, much like how my husband acts when pretending to be overpowered. And then he giggles.

It's so much fun to watch.

Watch, I tell you. Not to participate in. Though, I'm sure it's pretty funny to watch me flail on the ground, genuinely overpowered by a toddler.


Monday, September 25, 2006
First and Goal
The problem is, I'm dreaming about it.

'Tis the season of pigskin. And though my husband has never played the sport in any capacity larger than a pick-up game against winded sweaty uncles or friends, it is his favorite time of the year. Between college and professional games football steamrolls through our living room each weekend. It's background noise. It's my husbands lullaby, and I've become used to the ritual of wandering out to the living room to find his rumpled body passed out in our recliner, shirt sprinkled with Cheezit-bits, skin glowing blue-green beneath the blanket of the TV's light.

I don't begrudge him this enjoyment. He's not a beer-helmeted, face-painted, tailgating type fan, he' s genuinely interested in the intricacies of the game - the play calling, the defensive strategies, etc. And I, despite growing up far far away from the world of football (my father watches the Superbowl, sometimes. If the Patriots are in it. And even then, most of the enjoyment for him is in the commercials, I suspect) have become a bit of a football fan myself since dating and marrying into my husband's family of pigskin-mania.

We started with baby steps - getting me to sit through a game, then moving on to the larger picture, naming teams and players, understanding divisions, and onward to more complicated things, like being able to guess the ruling on the field before the ref makes the call (and being upset about it 50% of the time if New England is playing.)

The New England bias is mine, and it's the only contribution I've made to my husbands football fixation. He loves the sport for the sport itself. Before we started dating, football was about watching a battle and not caring who won, only that it was well fought. Through years of my persuasion, he's finally aligned himself with our New England teams, though cautiously. Like he's afraid of being stamped a "New England Fan" which certainly doesn't have the same elite feel as being a connoisseur of all things football.

My other bias is that I, aside from rare cases when I'm trapped at my inlaws with nothing else to do, refuse to watch college football. It's just too much. Isn't my commitment to the NFL enough? Aren't my two fantasy football teams enough? Or the fact that I can spew random facts about the Immaculate Reception or the Hail Mary?

Regardless, my husband still holds out for me to embrace is love of collegiate sports.

But I just can't. There isn't enough room in my head for anymore football. I've dreamt about it repeatedly since kickoff earlier this month. Big, hulks of men growling beneath their helmets at me. Disappointing me with poor defense. Crooked ref's pocketing games for profit. None of it real, and yet I wake up stressed and disappointed, as though I've just watched a bad game (much like I did last night.) It's too much and it's completely unproductive for me, creativity wise.

I used to dream vividly of far more interesting things than touchdowns and first and goals.

And on that note, I'm off to see just how badly my poor fantasy teams fared after the first BYE week. (And then, maybe I'll get some writing done. Yes. Maybe.)

Friday, September 22, 2006
Something other than toddlers and pregnancy...
Got my thesis advisor pairing today. I'll be working with the same author that I'm currently working with. She has thus far turned out to be an excellent and thorough reader of my work, consistently offering very insightful critiques that have helped with some much needed revisions.

As an added bonus, the reader of my thesis, who will also be giving me her critique (though not as in depth as Rachel's) will be the author I'd originally hoped to work with while in the program. It's a win-win situation for me, and hopefully my thesis will be better for it.

Now...I have a submission due on the 9th which is supposed to be comprised of new and completed short stories, which as a third-semester student shouldn't really be a problem - unfortunately, for me...it is.

My work is bits and pieces scattered across my desktop. All that's (nearly) completed has already been submitted, the rest is in my mind waiting for it's moment of birth on the page.

Time to induce labor.


Thursday, September 21, 2006
For the past few mornings my son has been waking up and amusing himself in his room until at least 9:30! This is incredible! God bless the people who invented toddler-beds and over-night diapers. Now I have no excuse for being exhausted (you know, aside from the whole pregnancy thing...)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Who Needs a Belly Shot?
34 Weeks
Six weeks left, assuming that we go to term - but please God, take pity on these tired eyes and this beaten body and let her come early.

Oh, I shouldn't really complain. In all honesty, this pregnancy hasn't been that difficult. No restless legs or aching hips, no sore back, no extreme nausea, no pimples or stretch marks (knock on wood) or anything else to point at and say see, see what havoc this baby is wreaking on my body? It's difficult, this time around, as the havoc is mostly internal - the fatigue, the hormonal turmoil, the inability to focus on anything.

But, I took this picture tonight and saw it - the intangible 'it' that this pregnancy changed about me. I'm not sure what 'it' is, exactly, but this picture is missing something, a part of me. It's either missing, or it's buried (or sleeping - I'd like to think that at least part of me is getting rest while I'm tossing and turning with heartburn and a full bladder.) In any event - I think this picture of pregnancy is far more telling than the rounded shape of my stomach, which looks much the same as it did when it held my son.

The picture also leaves me unsettled. It reminds me a little too much of my father - Not that he's an unattractive man, or because I fear waking up middle-aged to find myself with a sunburnt bald patch on the crown of my skull - but because he's the person in my life I may never find the words enough (or the emotional energy enough, pregnant or not) to write about. It's a reminder of our similarities, physical and non. It's almost enough to make me not want to post it.



Monday, September 18, 2006
Mindless Monday
It's amazing the things that filter through an awake mind at two and three in the morning. I laid last night, watching a montage of minutia spread itself over the length of my minds eye, as I waited (and waited and waited) for sleep to come and take me away.

My husband works in the hospitality industry and while he loves his job and is quite good at it, his climbing of the ladder has left him as the one whose phone rings at 10 pm because the overnight auditor can't come in. And so, after thirty minutes of calling around and searching for resolutions that didn't involve him covering the shift himself, it became clear that there were no other options.

Being that I'm a blubbering -hormonal-preggo-scaredy-cat, I broke down in tears as he got dressed to leave me at 11 o'clock to cover the stupid abandoned shift. Because he's a sweetheart, he asked if I wanted to go with him, even though it entailed packing up our 21 month old and him getting to the hotel later than he'd planned.

Long story short: Husband wound up working the entire shift while The Boss and I spent a rather sleepless night in a hotel room of our own. My son slept a little, as I watched, laying precariously close to the edge of the bed, unable to move for fear of disturbing the delicately sleeping babe, (who woke this morning at five and decided that the day was anew and time was a-wastin'.)

It's now past noon and I'm spent, sitting at the desk of my one-day a week job, typing this rather than working on 'work.' And I'm getting remarkably irritated by the most random minutia, like how the woman at the reception desk said Libary, as opposed to Library - or how the poppy seed bagel I had this morning tricked me into thinking it was just as harmless as any normal un-schmeared bagel, until I went to Dunkin' Donut's online to look up the nutrition facts and discover that it actually contains seven grams of fat on it's own!

You see the lengths I go to for the sake of procrastination? Not only do I look up the nutritional information of my breakfast, but I take the time to write an entire post about it here. For shame.

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Friday, September 15, 2006
Snapshot of Now
It's slippery, this slope we've slid into domesticity. I realized this morning, watching from the car as my husband dragged trash cans to the edge of our driveway, that we are a cliche. Husband and wife, 1.5 children. I cook and clean and stay home with our son. He works, comes home with witty stories from his day that he tells me over my latest dinner concoction. I nod appropriately, my eyes balancing their focus between him to our son, watching for flying food or spoons, or signs of distaste for my cooking.

I woke up this morning thinking of how nice it'll be to wash our sheets, for them to smell fresh and clean and feel warm on my hands as I spread them over our mattress. By the time my son goes down for his nap, I'm making a mental catalog of our kitchen cabinets and pantry and fridge. What can I make for dinner?

The sink is clogged. The trash smells. The cat pee'd outside of her litterbox. There's a spider behind our toilet. All these fall under his responsibilities. Without realizing it, and without any provocation from family or society, we've given ourselves over to a sort of old fashioned existence, the 1950's cliche of men and women living together and raising children.

But more surprising, is that I really don't care. I'm quite happy with the way things are. Though I could snake a sink or squash a spider with a wad of scrunched up toilet paper, I don't particularly want to. And I'll gladly choose loading and unloading dishes over lugging around garbage bags full of chicken parts and The Boss's leftovers.

And would I rather work eight to nine hours a day than spend time with my son? Absolutely not.

It's just interesting to me that this is where we've landed. Where we are, for the moment. Someplace I hadn't thought much about - an existence I hadn't ever thought I'd be settled into. Though, I know that time is going to have it's way with us, and in ten years (heck, even in ten months) we may have slid to another existence entirely. The kids will grow up and I'm sure I'll be working again and life won't be as simple as what to make for dinner and Honey can you take out the trash?

But for now, this is interesting. This place. I'm taking mental snapshots to remember it by when we've left. (Though, in those, I'm wearing an apple-red apron with nails to match and my hair is perfectly coiffed. I think I'm allowed a little creative license here.)

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Thursday, September 14, 2006
Tiny Bubbles
Clarity comes in a jacuzzi tub, surrounded only by silence and the swirl of soft bubbles. I may never be willing to move out of this house for that tub alone.

In other happy news, my son has had dry sheets (and pants) for the past two mornings. We made the transition to a toddler bed a few weeks ago and while he took to it with great delight, he's been waking up each morning - soaked (something that hasn't happened in the crib for months and months and months.)

But, these past two nights he's been armed (er, legged, I suppose) with overnight pull-up potty-training pants and I haven't had to start a load of pee-sheet laundry at 7 in the morning.

Very nice.

Monday, September 11, 2006
What Was My Point Again?
I'm walking for walking's sake tonight. Not out of guilt for having eaten more than I should have. Not out of fear of some number on the scale, or out of the desire escape something. I'm just walking in place, toward the glow of the TV screen with its sitcom reruns and food network specials, until I can't remember why I got on the machine in the first place. Boredom, perhaps?

These are the last few weeks, and my time is limited. My time. I bury my face beneath blankets during my son's naptime, tired or not, I force myself to be still. To embrace the stillness of the house, the slow dripping of the faucet, the click of acorns falling from their heights and clattering across my roof. All the while knowing that my time is running short.

Less than two months to go now, before we become awash in three-am feedings and float through our days, eyes cloaked in sleep, hands fumbling through cabinets for bottles and bibs and burp clothes, legs carelessly banging into chairs and table corners, hair unwashed and wild. All of it a blur. But this time, worse. This time, we're not alone - no longer a contained unit of three swimming through sleep-deprived insanity. This time, there will be a toddler to contend with, and as though my body knows that it's no match for this impending doom, I walk. In training, perhaps. In anxiety.

Should I be walking pointlessly tonight? Probably not. I should be writing, preparing my final two submission for the semester so that it won't be another stress after childbirth. But I'm not. Perhaps, I'm walking away from that. From the pressure of needing to perform.

My husband is playing basketball tonight, and I'm jealous. Not that I want to sweat it out on a court with middle-aged men attempting to resurrect some high school athletic high. No, it's the mindlessness of it that I want. Not to be without thought, but to be utterly clear in my thinking. Uncluttered. I want the ability to focus on something so simple and singular. Ball. Hoop. Go.

This is what I'm craving. Why I'm walking. Maybe.

Because right now, I'm utterly lost in the state of mind so eloquently described as "preggo-brain" - nothing is focused. Nothing is clear. And even walking, for miles and miles, mindlessly as it may seem, isn't helping. Perhaps the only cure is birth. But then, there's the whole bleary-eyed, sleepless nights state of being, which also offers very little in terms of mental clarity.

Let's see...perhaps another six months from now I'll be a little more clear headed.

Stay tuned.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006
The Birth
(I'm living in revision-hell...working on cleaning/cutting/revising various stories, making them shiny and suitable for my thesis that will be due before I'm ready, I'm sure. Here is one of the stories on which most all of my creative efforts are currently being spent. An earlier version of it was posted a few months ago on The Stealing Season.)

Stillborn. It was the week before Christmas and they couldn't bury her because the ground was frozen. Her small body was cremated instead and Mom ordered a silver pendant to hold some of the ashes.

That was how my sister came home from the hospital, encased in a heart shaped pendant strung around Mom's neck and resting on the ivory ridge of her collarbone.

Before the birth, the house had been humming with anticipation. A Christmas baby, like baby Jesus, Mom told us. Her belly button was nubbed out and poking through her turtlenecks and nightshirts. It's the baby's toe, she said while pressing our hands to her swollen stomach. This one, see, she reached down and squeezed our big toes. My brother and I giggled with her, wee wee wee, all nestled together in her bed.

We were allowed to sleep there when Daddy was away. We almost hated for him to return, knowing that we'd be sent to our cold little beds, apart from her soft skin and warm breath.

Daddy made trips to the city for business. All of the money's in Boston, he said, nothing up here but potatoes and craft stores. In the summers, we'd pack up and go with him for the eight-hour stretch down I-95. Mom would take us to museums or the beach while Daddy worked. And on the weekends, we'd drive down to the Cape for a taste of the best clams on Earth before making the trek back north to Presque Isle. Willy would sleep against my shoulder on the ride home. I'd stay awake with my cheek pressed against the cool glass, listening to the soothing cadence of my parent's hushed conversations and the constant hum of the wheels meeting the road beneath us.

We never went with Daddy in the winter. The icy roads and threats of Nor'easters kept us up north, between white skies and thick layers of snow.

Being big, Mom spent the last couple of weeks of her pregnancy sitting beside the window in the living room knitting or cross-stitching. She soaked her feet in plastic tubs and drank mugs of tea swirled with cream and sugar. I helped around the house, fetching whatever she needed and sneaking sugar cubes to Willy. We ate them together in the hallway. He'd stick three or four in his mouth at a time and chew until his tongue was heavy with a shiny pile of dissolving mush. I ate mine slowly, sucking them down to grainy bits that tickled my throat when I swallowed.

Gramma came in the afternoons to help with supper. Here, Sarah Jane, she'd say, putting a bowl in front of me and cracking the eggs inches from my face. They stretched before me in wobbly translucent globs that caught the light just before splattering onto the pile of pink meat.

Mash. She told me, twisting her hands in front of her apron to demonstrate. She stood at the counter beside me, chopping onions with hard deliberate strokes. The juice misted between us as my fingers wriggled through the bowl of meat and eggs. Here, she slid the white bits into the bowl with one scrape of her knife down the cutting board. I pushed them down, burying the crisp pieces in three quick squeezes.

When I was a girl, I knew the name of my dinner, she said without looking at me. Gramma had grown up on a farm. Her hands were hard from it and the skin on her face was weathered. Deep creases framed her eyes and lips, her brows were forever furrowed. She had been witnessing pigs to slaughter and plucking chickens since she was as young as Willy.

I tried to imagine doughy little Willy working on a farm, his milky cheeks flushed pink and dirty. Suspenders slipping down his narrow shoulders and mud caked on the knees of his dungarees. His wispy blond hair, dusty and matted against his head with the exception of a defiant swirly cowlick, pointing sunward.

All set? Gramma asked, looking down at me. I'd stopped mashing. My hands were soft and slimy with cold meat. I pulled them out from the bowl, meat sludge was wedged under my nails. I nodded.

Wash up, then go see if your mother needs anything. She lifted the bowl from under my nose and scooted me from my stool. You'll need to be helping her with things when they bring the baby home. She said as I ran my meat-mucked hands beneath a stream of hot water.

William! She called to my brother in the living room as I dried my hands. Come and help your Gramma in the kitchen!

He bounded past me, a blur of blond energy. His shiny pink tongue wagged from the corner of his mouth. He was no farmboy.

In the living room, Mom had her hands on her belly. Her eyes were closed and I stood for a moment, watching her from the doorway. She was beautiful, even while pregnant and swollen. She had chocolate hair that held curls and round green eyes framed in a wreath of dark lashes. I liked to imagine that I'd look like her one day. We shared the same delicate dotting of freckles over our noses and the same ivory skin. But, I had Daddy's hazel eyes and wheat blonde hair that fell limp as wet straw over my shoulders.

When her eyes opened, she smiled and patted the couch beside her. I think the baby's sleepin' she whispered. She lifted her arm and pulled me close to her soft side. We sat quietly, her hand gently smoothing over my hair. I listened to her slow breaths and felt her heart pulsing against my arm.

I tried imagined her as a girl, curling up beside Gramma's small hard waist, wrapped beneath her wiry arms. No soft place to rest her head.


Tucked and bundled in scarves and mittens and puffy snowsuits zippered and pinching the soft skin of our chins, we went outside to wait for Daddy. Willy wobbled down the steps crunching snow under his moon boots and whining that he couldn't bend his knees. Mom and Gramma and I stayed on the porch, waiting. Our noses were ruddy and my toes pinched with cold. Mom shifted her weight from side to side and clicked her tongue. Her breath sent curly wisps of steam into the sky, the next car will be him. Dusk settled in around us, swallowing us in its purple haze. The streetlight clicked on, sending light shimmering across our slick white lawn.

C'mon, Mom finally rubbed her gloved hand on the top of my head. Supper will be cold if we wait much longer. She turned to Gramma, shoulders slumped, then called for Willy to come in.

We ate dinner without him. Mom's soft voice lilted over the scratch of the knife as she cut the meat on Willy's plate. Lavender's blue, dilly, dilly. Lavender's green, dilly, dilly. When you are King, dilly, dilly. I shall be Queen. The lullaby wavered gently across the table as I picked at my supper. Gramma watched Mom from the head of the table, her plate untouched.

It's just the snow, Mom said catching Gramma's eye. He'll be here soon.

And he'll stay for a long time. Willy chimed in as though reciting the next line of a poem, his cheeks round with potato.

That's right, this time he stays for a whole month. She nodded at Willy, who smiled and swung his legs under the table, kicking my knees.

Gramma tightened her jaw and looked down at her plate, her eyebrows arched. She acted like this whenever Daddy was late or when he didn't show at all. She acted like this when he asked us not to come down over the summer. It seemed the bigger Mom got, the more often Gramma pinched her face with disapproval at the mention of my father, the more often he gave her reason to.

She even frowned when he eventually made it home for Thanksgiving. As we hugged him, our faces pressed into his cold jacket, Mom's belly bumped over my shoulders, Willy squirmed and squeezed closer and closer, pushing until we were mashed into one being, eight-legged, huddled tight. Rising above our happy breaths was the scraping of silverware on plates, cold gravy and stuffing and turkey skins, the sound of Gramma clearing the table.


He didn't make it home before we left the table. He didn't call until after we were tucked in for the night, each in our own bed.

The explosive ring of the phone startled the house. I heard Mom gasp and pull herself from the couch. Gramma stopped running the dishwater in the kitchen. The entire house held its breath in between the hollow rings. I sat up, clutching a fistful of blanket to my neck and watching as shadowed footsteps passed beneath the crack of my bedroom door. One step. Two steps. Three.


I slid my feet from the warm sheets and crept across the wide wood planks to the door. There, spread to the floor, flat on my belly, my chin pressed on a grainy board, I strained to listen.

Car. Bangor. Broke-down. Mom spoke to Gramma in hoarse whispers as I heard the reciever settle back into its cradle.

You can't tell me you really believe this. Gramma's voice was not hushed. I listened as she followed my mother's footsteps down the hall, Not this time, Carrie. Not again.

Keys scraped down the length of the table and I heard the muffled sounds of a coat zippering, then boots pacing. There were more whispers, followed by the heaving sound of the front door opening, sucking in the night air. Carrie, please. I heard Gramma plead before the door shuddered shut and the house fell silent.

~ ~ ~

The next morning, we were up before dawn.

Gramma pulled us from our beds and bundled us in coats, scarves and gloves. She pulled boots over Willy's footed pajamas as he whined and asked for Mom. I wore pants beneath my nightgown and boots still cold and soggy from playing in yesterday's snow. Gramma was nearly silent, saying only what needed to be said. Button up. Get in the car.

Outside, the pre-dawn world was in a vacuum, so strong it sucked the breath from my lips as the door slapped behind us. The world was dusky blue and frozen still, as silent as death. Even the snow had stopped.

The sky changed from behind the frosted windows as the car slowly crunched over the bumpy roads to the highway. The sun emerged in slow streaks of light seeping through cracks in the charcoal clouds and breathing life back into the world. We began to pass houses with lights on and diners with cars parked in front. We weren't alone afterall.

By the time we reached the interstate, Willy was asleep with his head on my shoulder. I carefully leaned forward and whispered, Gramma? She didn't turn to me, but in the rearview, I saw her lips twitch and her brows lift. Where are we going?


When we arrived at the hospital, Daddy met us at the car. His face was tired, his skin sagging. The whites of his eyes were dull and streaked with red. I hugged him hard, pressing my nose into his chest. His scent was sweeter than I remembered, his arms felt limp on my shoulders.

Let's go. Gramma walked ahead of us, stepping quickly with her sharp elbows bent and swinging, her hand clutching the thick strap of her purse.

Inside, the room was white and empty. No signs of a baby or a birth about to take place, only Mom, sleeping with plastic tubes dangling and feeding into her arm. She looked small in the bed, a sliver of color in the bare bleached room.

Gramma swooped beside her. She spread herself around my mother, a bird protecting her nest. Her angled shoulders curved around Mom's chest, her usually sharp elbows softened as her arms spread wide stretching the length of the my mother.

What happened? I asked quietly, turning to my father, did she have the baby?

Daddy looked helplessly to me then to Gramma. She remained quietly perched over my mother, not meeting my father's gaze.

Mommy was in an accident. My father finally spoke, and the baby was hurt.

Is Mommy ok? Willy asked, pressing his head beneath Gramma's outstretched arms. He rested his chin on Moms legs.

She's going to be fine. Daddy's voice cracked. He stepped toward the bed. Gramma bristled.

I suppose it all depends what you consider fine, she said firmly before her posture collapsed and she poured herself across my mother. Her thin arms draped over my mother's chest. Her head rested on the soft bump of my mother's stomach.

Why couldn't you just come home? Her cries were muffled in the soft folds of blanket, her voice both strong and weak.

I turned to my father. His jaw clenched then softened and his lips fell apart, wordless. In his silence, I slowly placed my hand in his, curling my fingers into the soft heat of his palm. I stood, watching his eyes and waiting for an answer that didn't come.

Instead he squeezed my hand, What do you say we go for a little walk? He took a step back, stretching my arm. But I slid my hand from his and stood for a moment in the space between, feeling the weight of their silence as it smoothed over my shoulders and down the length of my body and to my feet, damp and itching in yesterday's slushy boots.

At Mom's bedside, Gramma moved to pull Willy beneath her arm. Where did they take the baby? He asked her, lifting his hand to the curve of my mother's stomach. Gramma's lips opened then closed and she moved her chin to his forehead without saying a word. Her eyes stayed on Mom.

I turned to my father, leaned against the doorframe. His eyes following the dulled squares of linoleum that stretched beyond Mom's room, his large hands hanging uselessly at his sides.

It's too cold for a walk. I finally spoke, looking down, watching my words as they drew a line to my father's feet. His black boots moved upon their arrival, two steps into the hall and then disappeared. I could hear them, even over the hush of my grandmother murmering into Willy's forehead and over the bustle of the nurse's station. Over gurney wheels scraping down the linoleum and the shuddering of doors opening and closing, above the strains of curtains pulling and televisions chattering. Beyond the walls and the shuffling of the corridor, I heard them, as though he were beside me still. The simple strength of his footfalls, walking away.

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