Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Facts about Clifton - nine days shy of 16 months

Clif is a talker. I haven’t counted up the words he uses, but I have no doubt it’s well over 40 by this point. * We are currently going through a phase of constant demands for ‘cookie’, ‘puppy’, and ‘bah-uhl’ [cookies (or cookie monster, used interchangeably and just as often), pacis, and bottles. Luckily these demands are often accompanied by frenetic lispy ‘peas!’ (please). * Clif is constantly falling. Just like Ryann, this is due to his non-stop rocketing around at top speed rather than a lack of coordination. Of course, an onlooker would probably never know this. * Every morning starts with Clif being brought into bed, wild snuggles, and requests for Cookie (the monster variety). He knows we can play the Muppets and Sesame Street on our phones. He also knows where we stash our laptops, how to pull them out, and how to open them up. Nothing is safe in his never-ending quest for more Muppets Family Christmas. * Our favorite new game is Cuddle Cuddle. As soon as I say ‘cuddle cuddle’ I’m treated to his little head snuggled into my shoulder. Sometimes he’s the one to declare a ‘cud cud cud!’. * Jared has passed on his love to dance. Clif notices the moment any background music goes silent, declaring a loud ‘uh oh!’, and will greet its return with shimmying hips and waving arms. A delicious dinner is also greeted in the same manner. And guests. And Skype. And most of all the Rolling Stones (this was discovered on accident, when a random track sent Clif shimmying in his carseat and bawling when it was changed. same reaction every time since). * Clif loves his cousin Mei to bits. He often wakes up with his first question being ‘Mei-mei?’ as he peers around for her. * One mention of going outside sends Clif running for the doors asking ‘side? side?’. He would spend his life outdoors if given the chance. * At sixteen months, he is easily wearing size 2T. He also seems to be hitting another growth spurt, as evidenced by his suddenly shorter pants and his ravenous appetite. * On the topic of appetite, for his afternoon snack yesterday he had two and a half peanut butter sandwiches. For dinner he pounded half a Totinos pizza, half a clementine, several (adult) handfuls of grapes, some pineapple juice, and his bedtime bottle. * He is crazy for balls. We play in the ball aisle at Target every time we go. He points out the balls on Christmas trees. He will play ball with Jared for a ridiculously long time (their version of ball involves Clif waiting for a ball to bounce down the stairs, into his face, and then running it to Jared for him to throw again. we are blessed with very noise insensitive neighbors). * While Clif seemed to be clear on the baby being in Mommy’s belly for a while, it has now morphed into the baby being anyone’s skin. This week the baby has been identified as Dadd’s back, Clif’s belly, and Mommy’s shoulder. But when asked if he wanted to kiss the baby, Clif will usually drop what he’s doing and run full speed into my belly with arms open wide. I’ll take it.

Photo courtesy of Chris Johnson

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Results Are In . . .

Today was our big mid-pregnancy ultrasound and we were on pins and needles to find out just who has  been rubbing elbows with my innards. However, as much as I've been looking forward to meeting this little one, a large part of me has been pretty nervous about today. Clif's pregnancy was surprisingly worry-free, even though it came on the heels of the trauma surrounding Ryann. I'm not sure why, perhaps due to the simple fact that this little one was not planned for, but I've been fighting recurring bad feelings about this little one. Every time I go in for a checkup, I strain to hear the heartbeat, half thinking it won't be there. I regularly have bad dreams that usually feature Clif in some horrible way. Today I was bracing myself for the ultrasound tech to uncover a heart defect, misshapen spine, or other abnormality. But instead she found a perfectly calm, perfectly formed little man in there.

Walden Elder Hiscock will be joining the family early to mid-May.

Unlike both Ryann and Clifton, who were literally ricocheting around their new digs from our very first peeks around 8 weeks, little Walden has been a calm passenger. At 8 weeks he waved a leg. By this point, the sibs were already treating me as a punching bag and had been for weeks. Walden graces me with a few kicks a day. In Ryann's big ultrasound we chased her around for nearly an hour in order to catch measurements between contortions. Clifton buried his head and followed the probe with his rump the entire visit. We were in and out within 20 minutes with Walden. He wiggled around placidly and only showed a bit of displeasure at having his feet tickled.

Which brings us to his name. Walden literally means 'wooded valley' and is of course made most famous by Thoreau's On Walden Pond. It brings to mind peace and strength, traits we hope little Wally will possess in spades.

The middle name of Elder follows the pattern of Clifton's name, Clifton Sumner. Sumner was a surname on Jared's side of the family a few generations back, as well as being his father's middle name. My father was the only son born in his family and he himself had two girls. Both my sister and I planned on retaining Elder in some form in our married names, however my sis married a Canadian and due to the complications of the paperwork thrown at them, decided to simply take the traditional married name (we love you David!). As a result, I am the last Elder on our branch of the tree. Passing on our surname as a middle name sends it on for at least one more generation.

So there you have it. A calm, healthy little boy. In the last few years our lives have been upended in so many ways, one of which was going from being parents to a girl to now planning for a home full of boys. Some day we hope to again welcome a little girl into our home, but right now we're absolutely delighted to be anticipating Walden's soon arrival.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Links that Made Me Pause

Jared and Clif - these two make me happy.

Cats are mysterious and hilarious and weird.

Jared is vigilant about protecting his hearing, and considering my family history of hearing loss, I should make more of an effort to follow his lead.

"At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again." - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed. One very apt quote from a wonderful post.
This short test showed me to be an unsurprising 96% left-brained. What about you?

Oh my word. I cannot even handle the cuteness.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy Birthday

Ryann, today you would have been four years old.

Today we celebrate and feel grateful to have you as part of our family. Wish you were here with us. I cannot even begin to express how much. We love you to bits.

Happy birthday, my girlie.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hello Again

I've been a bit MIA on here recently. I think after going through our second May 29 I was feeling a bit wrung out. We were heading into summer with a wiggly little boy and I didn't want to use this space that never fails to make me root around inside my head and study myself. Instead I spent my free time hooting at monkeys and roasting hotdogs with friends and biking through the sticky air with my little family. The summer was lovely and full and now we're undeniably in fall and Ryann's birthday is staring me down.

Four years old in five short days.

Last year was hard and foreign. We couldn't conjure the girl she would be at three. But at four I somehow have no trouble seeing a girl with limbs too long and elbows too sharp. In the past few months, all of her friends have shot up by inches and are suddenly kids and have no hint of baby left. For a while it was easy to imagine that they hadn't changed that much. They hadn't left her behind. Until we realized that the baby brother of one was passing the age that Ryann was at the end. The shock to see him next to his sister was jarring. It hurt. There's no more pretending or imagining. Ryann shouldn't be a baby anymore. And this year I can imagine her dragging Clif around the house, reading him books, helping me in the kitchen, sleeping through the night. She would be twice as tall as her brother, who at not quite fourteen months has already far surpassed her own actual size. She wouldn't fit in my arms easily anymore, although she would still end up there frequently. Bent and jumbled in order to fit. I don't know why I have no trouble seeing her this year, her first as a kid, and couldn't at year three, her last as a baby.

Part of what has driven me back here was finding myself reading to Clif through ragged cry-breathing after a particularly bad temper-cry on his part. I found myself panicking and thinking of his insides twisting and dying and us getting to the ER too late and repeating the cycle again and again and again until my insides have twisted and died and there are no more babies left to lose. I kept reassuring myself as I held him while he screamed that he felt strong and his legs were still working and he wasn't hot or cold and he hadn't thrown up. He seemed normal and healthy and mad, which is really something so strong to hang on to, as any parent of any sick kiddo knows. But my scare over it all made me realize that in being absent from here during our lovely, wonderful summer, I've been repeatedly stuffing and hiding all the little hints of trouble and worry and longing that have popped up. It's not healthy, it doesn't feel good when they finally start oozing out, and it's not necessary.

So this is all to say that I'm back. Maybe not regularly, but surely more often than once every few months. It's looking like this will be a full and crazy year(s) we're headed into - Jared's graduating with his Masters in May, applying to DMA programs (fingers crossed he stays here in NE, we don't want to become a commuting family!), we're expecting a (surprise!) third baby in mid-May, Jared has his debut professional recital at our alma mater at the end of May, I will be spending the month of June hanging with the kids and my extended family while Jared is exiled to Austria (hardy har har), and the last long trudge through graduate school begins in the fall. Agh. Let's just focus on this week - date night tonight!

And of course some unrelated hilarious pictures of Clif making a run for it with his chosen pumpkin.

What the What?!

I was stumbling through the cobwebs of my blog today and realized that these pictures were just sitting in a draft post, never having seen the light of day. How could that be? What a little munchkin he was.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Mark for Our Girl

Almost a month ago, we once again passed May 29. The day that Ryann died. I never know what to call it when I tell someone. The anniversary of her death? Her deathday? All of the options seem a bit too morbid. Maybe I should just call it for what it is - The Day of Soul-Crushing Sorrow and Remembrance.

‘Oh hey, so I won’t be at work next Wednesday because I’ll be taking it off for The Day of Soul-Crushing Sorrow and Remembrance.’

Maybe a bit cumbersome. I’ll probably continue on with the shorter, morbid-ish versions.

In the two years since The Event we have made a point to spend what could be a terrible, horrible, no-good day spent wallowing instead doing things that help us remember and honor Ryann and our family. Last year we took some flowers by her grave, explored the Capitol, ate at Maggie’s Wraps, and dropped by the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. This year we had something special planned.

We started off the day by heading over to our local florist. As usual, we perused their large case in the back and hand chose several flowers that seemed fitting for the occasion. Although I'm generally not a fan of mums or daisies, I always seem to find myself choosing them for Ryann. There's just something about them that seems youthful and innocent.

We also got a matching bouquet for our table at home. I loved seeing them throughout the week and having that small connection to Ryann.

After our jaunt to the cemetery, we popped by the Capitol for a quick peek. Not only do we both love the Capitol simply for it's echoing hallways and plentiful mosaics, but it is also the site of one of our few memories of Ryann in Lincoln. It was Jared's first time at the Capitol and we spent a large chunk of it up in the topmost room. Ryann ran and squealed, testing the echoes in the room. She eventually stole Jared's empty coffee cup and proceeded to spend the rest of the time horrifying onlookers by pretending to drink out of her cup, which they had no way of knowing was empty.

The dome in the rotunda.
Big sister/Little brother

We met up with Clif's sitter at the Capitol and she took him home for a few hours while we headed to our next appointment. An appointment that we had been planning and looking forward to for just a bit less than two years.

Shortly after Ryann died I knew that I wanted to get a tattoo. I wanted to carry a outward mark, not only to match the soul-scar that I will always carry, but also as a way of carrying her forward into the future. Something she can no longer do herself.

It was a natural choice for me to decide on getting her tattoo behind my right ear. It's where she wore her sweet birthmark that I always knew was so uniquely her. I never forget which ear it was behind now, even though I did when she was alive. I knew it was behind one of them, but could never quite keep it straight. I would have to check each one in order to spot it. But now it's etched into my memory as the last kiss I gave my girl. She was laying on the huge, adult-sized hospital bed. We were getting ready to leave and I was doing my best to memorize every detail. I ran my fingers through her wispy hair - no longer baby hair, but not quite little girl hair yet - I cupped her knobbly, perpetually scratched knees in my hand, saw that she still had dirt under her fingernails from playing outside. She was only in a diaper, as long as you don't count the tube they had snaked down her throat and the iv in her arm. Her head was to my left, her feet to my right, the crunchy hospital bed paper under her. And I turned her head to the left, kissed that precious mark on the right side of her head and walked out of that hospital, leaving my daughter behind.

That mark has been seared into my brain. She no longer wears it, so I will now wear it in her stead. And when people ask about it, I'll be able to tell them about the little girl it belongs to. When my other children ask about it, I'll be able to tell them about their beloved big sister.

Two years after I last kissed my daughter, I finally carry her mark forward.

Jared's arm in progress.
The stencil on the left and the finished piece on the right.

My mark for my girl

There are several specific aspects of the designs which make them particularly special and meaningful to us. I will do my best to outline them below.
  • A bird - we always compared Ryann to a bird. Petite, quick, nimble. Forever bright and cheery. Also a nod to "His eye is on the sparrow".
  • Birch tree - they appear delicate and vulnerable, but they are strong and hardy. They bend and whip in storms, but do not break. The survive the storms and the snows. And they do all of this with grace and beauty. The foliage, or lack thereof, on the tree is to portray fall, when Ryann was born. Including a tree in the design is also a nod to the Tree of Life.
  • Color - At our first grief support group we went around the circle and shared the color that most personified our child. There were a smattering of baby blues, yellows, and pinks. Both Jared and I didn't hesitate in saying "Red". Red is bold and daring. Passionate, decisive, and beautiful. We opted for a rusty red once again, a connection to fall.
  • Placement - I've already gone over mine. Jared's being on his arm is for several reasons. He's constantly wearing her on his sleeve. Arms tend to be a symbol of what you do, accomplish, or your actions in life, and Jared's will always be influenced by Ryann.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Links to Start Your Week

It finally feels like Spring is really here and Clif seems to have caught the bug to be off and exploring on his own. We're looking forward to a summer filled with dirt and grass and grime! In the meantime, here are some links to start your week off.

I hope that when Clif gets to the stage of playing with his food that it looks like this!

Oh my word. I want to go to there (each and every one).

I'm going to be trying these this weekend.

I have a weakness for Bill Murray and I'm loving this.

And Seinfeld.

I've always wanted to do something like this with my cats. They live such mysterious lives.

I have a few pictures that I think I need to submit here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Shirt from The Shop

In the months immediately after Ryann died I would often pop into BabyGap over my lunch break just to pretend that I was still looking for pieces for Ryann. The poor sales girls were probably confused why I usually left in such a hurry, often in tears. I still can't resist making a pass through the girls section and finding a pair of jeans or a dress in the size that she would probably be wearing by now. It's always a shock.

One day, about a month after Ryann died, Jared came home with a little package. On his habitual visit to our local coffee shop he had noticed a neighboring shop that displayed knick knacks and toys for children. He went inside and met the sweetest shop owner who we have chatted with several times since. One of the few people who didn't bat an eye the first time we told her about Ryann. Who shared her own story of her own heartache. Who waves and chats to Clif whenever we see her, and shares a smile over his head with each of us knowing that the other fully understands just how longed for this wee one was.

That first day in the shop Jared bought a little shirt with a little tie. Eventually we tucked it away in a box. For someday.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Birth - First Edition

I’ve been wanting to write out my birth stories for a long time now, but have kept putting it off. Some memories of them are starting to fade, so I have decided to finally dive in.

Before we begin, let me say that if birth stories aren’t your jive, you may want to skip over these posts. Although I won’t be sharing every single detail, I will probably be sharing more than you would like to hear. If, however, you’re like me and birth stories are your crack – Proceed!

Ryann’s Reluctant Exodus from My Womb

Let me first say that my pregnancy with Ryann was wonderful. I felt physically amazing and more sure and confident of my body than ever before in my life. I rocked it. I also just worked part-time, which may have been part of that.

I stayed quite active throughout my pregnancy – ran regularly until four months at which point the bouncing belly was just too much for me, took a water aerobics class several times a week until I delivered, walked to and from work at least twice a day. Jared and I were stupidly secure in the belief that my labor would clock in at 8 hours or less. What dear foolish people we were.

Although we were technically okay with needing to do whatever needed to be done in the moment in order to get that little girl out and into our arms, our ideal method was a completely natural birth. No IV, no epidural, no drugs. While I really don’t try not to judge those who go into labor with the immediate intention of seeking out interventions, I truly believe that going all natural is usually best for both mom and babe. Interventions too quickly lead down the road to more interventions which lead down the road to more interventions which lead down the road . . .

I started having regular, time-able contractions the evening of October 28. Every seven minutes until around seven in the morning. My sister and Mom both lived down in New Mexico at this time (Jared and I were up in Washington state) and they were planning on trying to make it for the birth, but their scheduled arrival wasn’t until November 10 since my due date was November 12. However, once these contractions started up I gave them a call and told them that they had better move up the date, Ryann was knocking down the gates (hahaha, that’s kind of gross).

38 weeks pregnant and expecting her any moment.
They moved their travel up by one week. The contractions continued. They started up every evening at seven and petered away at around seven in the morning. Every day for twelve hours, every seven minutes. We had some legitimate concern that Ryann was going to end up a Halloween baby, which is our least favorite holiday by quite a margin. Luckily we kept contracting right on by that.

Mom and Kristin pulled into town the evening of November 3 and no baby had yet appeared. We hung out with my giant contracting belly for a few hours before bed and went to sleep.

Ryann must have been waiting for her pit crew to arrive, because at 1am on November 4 I woke up to some very different contractions. These were coming every four minutes and were actually mildly uncomfortable whereas the ones I had been having for a week (A WEEK) were completely painless, they simply made my stomach as hard as a rock.

I got out of bed, walked around our teeny apartment for a bit, and then decided to go ahead and wake Jared. He does not wake up gently. No matter how quietly or slowly I try to wake him up it ALWAYS end by him snort-jump-shouting awake. You can imagine how this went.

Jared got out of bed, jumped in and out of the tub (we had no shower in our little place), and gathered our hospital bags by the door. We were still thinking that we would have Ryann in our arms well before noon. Oh you poor souls.

The contractions were definitely getting worse, but I was still able to talk through them easily. So we did what any sane couple would do at this point. We sat on the couch and watched Iron Chef episodes. Battle Tuna anyone?

Finally, at about 4am, we decided to head into the hospital. Although I could still talk through the contraction, they were getting quite painful and we were still expecting a quick labor. Once we got to the hospital, they checked me and we found out we were at a measly ‘1, maybe 2 centimeters’. Uh oh.

At this point, we decided to go ahead and go back home. And here is where we truly began our marathon. Back at home the contractions really started to amp up. I tried laying in the tub, on the bed, on my side, on my back, over the couch, walking around. I threw up several times, and so Jared kept trying to feed me bites of mandarin orange and sips of water. All of which I proceeded to spew right back out.

My Mom and sister headed over to our place around 8am. There wasn’t really a whole lot they could do, but I do remember that Kristin offered to clean our flour-doused kitchen cart, something I had been meaning to get to for ages. I’ve gotta say, this is one of my favorite memories from during my labor. As un-clean-freaky as I am, there are certain things that I am a real stickler about, and my kitchen is one of them. Just knowing that cart was getting a thorough cleaning was such a huge upper for me at that point.

In labor with the blessed
kitchen cart in the background.
We had a regularly scheduled OB appointment at 4pm, so we decided we would try to ride it out until then, all the while hoping that we would instead already have had the baby by that point. We didn’t. Just before 4, we loaded up into our cars (Mom and Kristin followed us) and trekked over to our OB’s office, which was luckily right next to the hospital. This is where I got to terrify all of the happy pregnant women in the waiting room, while I moaned and thrashed and groaned. Those poor, poor ladies.

Once they took us back to the exam room and checked me, we found out that those ten hours had progressed us all the way to a 3! I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed and discouraged. At this point our OB recommended that we go ahead and check into the hospital so that I could get an IV, since I was fairly dehydrated by now and it was probably contributing to my slow progress. He also strongly recommended an epidural. I was disappointed, but by this point, I was ready to go for it. Jared did his previously agreed upon duty in trying to get me to wait for a bit longer, but I was ready for some help and gave the team the go ahead to place the epidural as soon as the anesthesiologist was ready.

There isn’t much more terrifying than being told of all the dangers and possible complications of getting an epidural and then being told that you need to hold perfectly still or they might hit your spinal column right in the middle of body-wrenching contractions. It is impossible to hold still. I still don’t know exactly how they got it in, but they did. And sweet, blessed numbness swept over me.

Once the epidural was in, I was able to talk again, to see faces and chat and even chuckle a bit. My blood pressure also dropped (it tends to be quite low to begin with), an oxygen mask was brought out, and everyone was hawkeyeing Ryann’s monitor. Luckily, that’s as far as ‘complications’ from the epidural went for me. I continued to progress, my BP didn’t continue to drop, and Ryann didn’t suffer and ill-effects. I was grudgingly okay with the epidural.

For about 20 minutes I was myself again. And then everything started coming back. I was panicky from dread of those terrible contractions and kept asking the nurses if the epidural was supposed to wear off like it seemed to be doing. They had me hitting the dose button but I couldn’t feel any benefit from it and the contractions quickly came back full force. After the epidural had been in for about an hour and I had been re-moaning for about 40 minutes, they checked me again and I was at a complete 10. Hallelujah! They also noticed that my epidural cord was kinked behind my back, as soon as they straightened it out, my legs were dead again. Thanks guys.

I was prepared for pushing to be exhausting and long. They say that the pushing portion lasts an average of 20 minutes with it frequently stretching well over an hour. Ryann popped out in three contractions. Our OB said that we were some of the most pleasant laborers that he had ever had and that he had never before delivered a baby to the tune of Bob Dylan.

We had a slight scare when just her head was out and our OB said to stop pushing. The umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around her neck twice. He had to work it loose and cut her cord in order for her to actually come out. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Clif and talking with my midwife that I realized just how lucky we were. If her cord had been wrapped with just a bit less slack, she very well could have hung herself on her way out and there’s no way we would have known what was happening until it was too late.

She was very blue and calm. She just whimpered, didn’t cry. It took a very long time for her to pink up, the whole while she was just looking around. I remember my Mom asking the nurses and doctor over and over if she was okay because she was just so blue. Eventually she did pink up, but it wasn’t until the next day or so that she seemed truly newborn-pink.

Prodromal labor began on October 28. Active labor began at 1am on November 4. Ryann was born 8 days early at 8:41pm on November 4, 2009. She was 6lb 11oz and 19 inches long. 

And our life began.

Look at that glorious hair!
And just for fun - Thai feasts have become somewhat
of a tradition surrounding the births of our children.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Five Months

My little bub is now five months old and although he's still duking it out with those stubborn teeth and an addict for nightime snacks, he's usually as happy as can be and continues to be an absolute joy. As you can see below, he's also perfected the art of the pacifier-clench and is becoming a master at smiling, talking, and gurgling out from behind it. Just like a certain other fluff-head we knew in days past . . .

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pastry Orders

I've been getting quite a few questions as to how to order pastries of various types. Well, here's the info you need. Unfortunately, right now this is just for local yokels.

Email me at damie.elder@gmail.com with the subject line 'Pastry Order'. In the order, make sure to specify the date you need the pastries, the number you are ordering, as well as flavors that interest you. I will work with you as to what exactly is available.

Macarons - Boxed
4 for $8
6 for $12
12 for $20

Cupcakes - Filled
begins at 12 for $20

Cakes - Single layered to tiered
price dependent on size and flavors