Friday, 22 October 2010

Who knew there was a right way to hang the toilet paper roll?

image credit: dooby brain
I fixed the toilet paper roll this morning.  It was on upside down.   I always do.  Maybe I always will, but this particular time of year and this year in particular makes the effort much more poignant. 

I was eight months pregnant.  I worked for a hilariously loony professor of psychiatry.  For my last day my co-workers had treated me to a morning at the spa.  Facial.  Massage.  Pedicure.  Then a fun lunch to send me off.  Spoiled rotten.  I was hugely pregnant so it was much appreciated! 

Scott had called earlier in the day.  He didn’t feel well.  He never really complained even if he felt horrible.  So it was weird that he was calling me to let me know.  He had a ringing in his ears that was really bugging him.  I suggested he contact Ask a Nurse when he got in to work.  During lunch I got a call.  The ringing had gotten really bad.  He was really dizzy now.  So dizzy that it was making him throw up and one of his friends at work was driving him to a walk-in clinic and could I please start the hour-long commute home and meet him there.  That alarmed me a little.  I got right in the car and headed home.

I remember calling to him several times from the front door.  We had converted our one bedroom into a more studio-style apartment to accommodate a crib, rocker, changing table, etc.  He was lying on our bed in the living room.  When he didn’t answer I panicked.  Went running in and practically jumped on top of him.  He was lying on what I now call his ‘good ear’ so he didn’t hear me.  Plus the anti-vertigo and anti-nausea meds they had given him made him extremely groggy. 

I was incensed!  Pump him full of drugs and send him home without checking what was wrong?  Deep down I knew something was wrong, and I went into full-on mother bear mode.  Got us an appointment first thing the next morning with an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist.  I remember his reaction well.  Something, he knew was wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.  Or maybe looking at the MRI he’d ordered he did know, but wasn’t allowed to say because it wasn’t his specialty.  Maybe I should have been more alarmed that he sent us that very same afternoon to “the best neurosurgeon in Denver.”  For whatever reason it never occurred to me that the next 3 hours would turn my world upside down. 

I remember the day so well.  I was wearing a v-neck white knit maternity top that at 8 months barely covered my huge belly.  We sat in a tiny over-lit exam room and waited forever.  When the surgeon finally did come in he was so brazen and hurried.  How he could deliver the information the way he did is still beyond me. 

“Come here guys.  Look at these MRIs with me.  So here you go.  That’s your brain.  See that right there?  The good news is.  You have a small, benign tumor.  The bad news is, I’m the wrong surgeon.  The one you need to see is in surgery right now, but if you’ll hang tight, he should be back in an hour or so to talk to you.”  And then he left us alone in the over-lit room reeling with no more information than that my husband had a brain tumor and I was about to have a baby. 

I sort of remember trying to down-play it.  I’m sure it was shock.  No big deal.  Let’s not get too upset.  Let’s wait until we can talk to the doctor.  I’m sure that part was much worse for Scott.  “Look—hanging up on the light board.  There’s my name.  There’s my brain, and right there.  That spec?  That’s a tumor. I have a tumor in my head.”

The rest of that evening is fuzzy in my memory.  The right surgeon eventually showed up. He was still in scrubs and had the little paper things over his shoes. I recall his annoyance that we had been told ‘benign.’  Apparently a brain tumor is never benign.  It has to come out—it can’t be left—so it’s not benign.  We wouldn’t know about cancer until it was out and assessed.  Oh…and it would have to come out.  The whole thing.  Oh…and it was a really risky surgery because it was just above the brain stem.  Oh…and it should come out as soon as possible, but couldn’t be scheduled until the week of my due date.    

We called my parents who came immediately home from their double date in Colorado Springs.  I remember Mom bursting into tears as she repeated my words to the people in the car.  “Scott has a brain tumor.”  What?  What did she just say?  Holy cow.  Hearing it repeated was so bizarre.   We called Travis who was living with my parents at the time.  We called others I’m sure.  Stace and Jami?  My sisters?  I remember converging on the Wevodau house for prayers and tears and absorbing the shock cause I mean, whoa.  This was heavy shit.

It was a hell of a 3-4 week wait for surgery.  I didn’t get any of the rest I had planned before my due date, but I was so thankful to be available to drive Scott to the many appointments and MRIs and consultations. 

I could fill pages and pages with the life-altering events of those few weeks.  Maybe someday I will.  Some of the memories are so precious—blessings that will keep my ‘blessings tank’ full for perhaps the rest of my life.  Not the least of which is particularly poignant this ‘year of close widow friends’—he’s still here.   Some of the memories are deep wounds.  Many wounds that over the last year have finally begun to heal.  Yes, it’s taken me that long. 

It was about this time of year eight years ago that we sat in that over-lit exam room, and I’m still fixing the toilet paper roll:  about a week before diagnosis Scott nearly came out of his chair watching me change the paper towel roll in our kitchen.  “Do you REALLY think it goes that way?!!?!” he said as he raced over and changed it to roll over the top.  I remember us collapsing into hilarious giggles as we discussed the audacity of his frustration—he had been changing the paper towels and toilet paper rolls behind my back for nearly four years of marriage.  I had no idea there was a ‘right’ way to do it. 

The morning of his surgery I watched them roll him away down the hall.  It had been hurried at the last minute.  I hadn’t gotten to be alone with him like we had planned.  I watched them wheel him away and I remember thinking, “I didn’t get to say goodbye.  What if this is goodbye.”  I went to the bathroom.  I couldn’t face the 30+ people in the waiting room all gathered there for Scott.  I sat there, stunned.  Shaken.  Confused.  I had no idea what to think or feel.  Plus I was 9 months pregnant and it had been like, 5 minutes since I’d gone so obviously I needed to pee.  I reached over for some T.P., and noticed it was ‘on wrong.’  So I changed it.  I turned it over.  And then I broke down.  I had been so strong.  So brave.  And that was the breaking point.  I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.  There alone in a funny corridor bathroom of Swedish Medical Center.  I finally lost it. 

I’m still changing the toilet paper roll.  Every time.  Even in public bathrooms and at other people’s houses.  And almost every time—especially this time of year—I  say a little prayer of thanks.  Of relief.  Of gratitude. That Scott is still around to appreciate it.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Potty Mouths

We had a hilarious conversation with friends on Saturday about bad language.  Which reminded me of my favorite recent 'bad language' story:

Since I was away having drinks with girlfriends the fellas were really enjoying a boy’s night with their daddy.  Belching and farting ensued at the dinner table—totally fair game on boy’s night.  What with all of the impoliteness the boys figured cussing ought to be included too.

“Hey Dad?  Can you tell us what the ‘F’ word is?”  one boy asked. 

“Nah buddy.  That’s a really impolite word.  I’m not going to tell you guys what it is.” 

“But Dad!  It’s boy’s night!  Come on! Please!”

When Scott continued to refuse Bridger asked, “Okay, but can you at least tell us what it starts with?”

What about you?  Any hilarious cussing stories to share? Leave them in the comments below!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Asher's birth story

Just after birth

Six months ago today I was sitting around Sara’s kitchen table drinking tea and bitching about still being pregnant.  Kelly had a watch with her constantly that day because Joel needed to apply cream to his eczema every 15 minutes. 

I had started the day at the osteopath’s office.  I was two weeks past my due date and had already struggled through several nights of long, strong contractions that after 4-6 hours would stop.  Multiple acupuncture appointments hadn’t made me go into labor, but because my acupuncturist was also a counselor they had been a wonderful place to evaluate where I was and to talk through things I was really struggling with.  

After my last acupuncture session it was suggested that alignment might have been an issue.  So I went and had an adjustment.  Sure enough my sacrum was all out of whack.  Fully aligned, but still not contracting I drove home discouraged.  Although I could really see the blessing all this processing was bringing, I was convinced I would be pregnant for the rest of my life.  After two weeks of sticking close to home ‘just in case’ Scott and my girlfriends convinced me that a day at the park was just what I needed.  We let the kids play and when it got cold, we headed to Sara’s for tea. 

At first I didn’t really let on I was having contractions.  I was used to them not being actual labor and I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up—including mine.  But Kelly had that clock.  And I kept noticing that they were getting awfully regular.  Eventually I admitted it and she started timing me.  As I remember it, they were every 4 or 5 minutes and about 45 seconds long.  Finally they got strong enough that the girls noticed.  So everyone rounded the kids up and Loulou drove me home.  I had one massively strong contraction right at the base of the Caterham Hill roundabout.  That was about 4:30 if I remember correctly. 

We got home and I told Scotty I thought this was it.  Anja said to let her know soonish if it was the real deal.  She had a speaking engagement in Tunbridge Wells at 7:00.  We went on a walk.  Down Church Road and through the graveyard.  Back behind the horse fields.  I stopped a few times.  We saw a fox.  Then back through town.  I wanted us to buy something at the Co-op I remember.  So we took Bridger’s ‘short cut’ and walked by the chip shop.  I needed chips.  Good thing we bought two, because I ate one almost entirely by myself before we ever reached home. 

I called Anja at 6:45ish.  “Nevermind.  It isn’t labor.  I’m barely contracting now at all.”  I was so frustrated.  She encouraged me to have a little dinner, get in the birth pool to relax a little, and then go to bed early.  Maybe watch a movie lying down or something. 

Scott started making spaghetti and I begrudgingly stripped off and got in the birth pool.  And then it’s all a blur.  I remember demanding (not asking nicely—I wasn’t in that sort of a place) my cell phone around 7:20 and insisting that Anja come as quickly as she could.  I remember grabbing Scotty by the front of his Rockies sweatshirt and yelling, ‘HE’S COMING.’  I remember an absolutely primal scream escaping me while Scotty was on the phone with Anja, “Anything I need to know about catching this baby?”  Something about that scream made me relax.  She wasn’t going to be there.  We were on our own.  The baby seemed to be quite comfortable clipping along at this pace.  So I settled in and made peace with the speed.  I instinctively began pressing on my perineum and chanting ‘sloooooowwwwwly baby. Slowly baby. Slowly baby. Slowly baby.  Please baby.  Slooooooooooowwwwwly for mama.  Slowly baby. Slowly baby. Slowly baby.’  

Most of all I remember Caid.  He heard me making the low moaning noises right away from the pool and immediately sat beside me.  I remember his cool, soft hands on the side of the pool.  His calm, dark eyes looking deep into mine.  His sweet voice soothing me.  “Good job, Mama.  That’s right Mama.  You’re having a baby.  Goooooood Mama.  It’s okay.  You’re having a baby.”  I would grip hold of his hands tight during a contraction and then after it had subsided he’d gently and slowly stroke my warm hands with his cool ones.  He was incredible.  Instinctively providing just what I needed.  

Bridger was amazing too.  Present.  Kind.  Running errands for Scott and attentively watching.

Anja walked in at 8:00 and asked the boys to run to the car for her bag.  When they walked back in at 8:05 I was holding Asher and rocking back and forth cooing to him and sort of basking in that deep, calm high after the rush of childbirth ends. 

There was very little blood, so Anja let the boys get in the tub with me.  I remember them in their shark swimsuits.  Anja pointed out the cord which fascinated them.  “Isn’t it a nice, juicy cord?” she asked them.  Caid liked that phrase.  Later when we check to make sure it was indeed a boy he noted what a “nice juicy penis” Ash had.

After a while Scott cut the cord.  Not ready to leave the safe haven of the pool and deeply conscious that moving to ‘dry land’ would break the sort of trance I was still in, I opted to birth the placenta in the pool.  With so little blood it was still safe too, so Anja let me be.  I remember noting that this might be the last time my body would give birth.  The last time I would make that ‘home’ and a haven for a small person to be formed and knitted together inside me.  I knew in that heart-space that this was to be cherished.  Noted.  That the home was about to leave my body and that most likely this would be the last time.  There was grief.  I loved being pregnant.  I felt so alive and beautiful and full of purpose.  I knew something magical was ending.  But there was relief and even excitement.  Something magical was also beginning.    

The placenta birthed I moved into a more conscious space.  I laid on the couch with warm blankets tucked around me and Ash on my chest.  He nursed and nursed and nursed.  The big boys finally had their dinner which had burned a bit on the stove in all the excitement. 

Anja showed us all Ash’s little house for the last 9 months.  I couldn’t believe how small it was—she noted how big it was.  A nice, big strong placenta for my nice, big boy.  9 lbs 13 oz to be exact.  We did a little exam—nothing major.  I held the baby the whole time.  No tearing.  My biggest baby.  My shortest delivery.  No tear.  I credit the water and the slooooowly baby, slowly chant. 
After a while Scotty took Ash and I went upstairs for a shower.  I think I drank some juice.  I put on soft jammies and crawled into bed.  We were all tucked in and sound asleep by about 11:30.  Peacefully, blissfully asleep in my very own bed! 

Bridger reading to Asher for the first time
Hard to imagine it’s already been six months, and yet I can barely remember life without this new little wild man.  Asher Jonathan Anderberg.  Sure do love you.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Fat and Happy

Since the last few days have been a bit rough (fit throwing 6 year olds, starvin’-marvin’ 5 ½ month olds, husband away all week, etc.) I have decided to avoid the cleaning and go to my happy place while the baby sleeps. Specifically, my fat and happy place: Italy. We asked Bridger about a week or two ago what his favorite country to visit has been and he declared, “Italy!” When we asked him why he replied, “because they have the BEST desserts!” I couldn’t agree more. I pretty much think they have the best of everything gastronomically speaking.

My favorite thing to do in the whole world is to go out to eat. Breakfast, lunch, dinner—I’m not bothered. Just out! Could that be declared a hobby? If so, it’s my favorite one and if I do say so myself I’m quite good at it! Plus in terms of spousal/hobby compatibility I married the perfect man. He loves to go out to eat as much as I do.

Going out to eat is far more than a hobby when we’re traveling, however. What’s the use of visiting every local monument if you never really experience the country they’re in? How on earth are you going to really learn about a new culture if you’re only ever around other tourists? What better way to encourage your children to try out the local language than through ordering their food or asking the sweet, non-English speaking server where to find the bathroom? Especially when their sweet “dov’e la toilet?” earns “ahhhhhhhh’s”…from every nonna (grandmother) within earshot. What better way to brush shoulders with the locals than by sitting side-by-side with them allowing them to introduce you to their favorite foods? You can learn a lot about a country through their food—but that’s a different post.

Bearing all that in mind, Scott and I feel you can never really experience a culture unless you eat out! We love to discover the tucked away hole-in-the-wall restaurant with good local grub and local people. I feel suspicious of places in foreign countries that advertise an ‘English Menu’ (and don’t even get me started about ‘air conditioning inside’). Where’s the adventure in that? Sure I may end up with frog intestine or mosquito eye balls, but if that’s the local delicacy isn’t that what I ought to be eating!?!? Here's the thing: If the parking lot is full? Line around the corner? Stuffed to the gills with folks speaking a totally foreign language? I’m there! I have even been known to hail a local walking down the street of a place we visit and inquire about the best place to eat. There’s nothing better than a local’s suggestion.

So imagine our chagrin when our first night out in Italy was a totally bust. Well, not total. The food was delicious, the service wonderful, the restaurant packed with locals. Try as we might though, bedtime is bedtime and baby Asher didn’t care that Italians don’t even begin eating dinner until well past his! The proprietors were very accommodating. Ushering me into the room with desserts (yum!) to bounce him and feed him, and turning off the lights to soothe him. Scott and I took turns bouncing and soothing and walking. At the end of the night we were bummed. How on earth were we going to really experience Italy if we couldn’t go out to eat? We decided we needed a new plan.

Thankfully local food can be found in places other than restaurants and Plan B can be nearly as fun as Plan A! More fun, if it takes a crying baby out of the equation!

We discovered (again by a local’s suggestion—namely our hosts, Gil and Ken) where all the best local food was sold. No need to be disappointed about not having a server to suggest the best thing on the menu. The 20-something guy at our deli was happy to play the same role. He sent us home with stacks of locale prosciutto and bresaola. The hilarious restaurant game of “I wonder what we ordered? Can’t wait to find out"--solved in the pasta section! Cartons of handmade pasta so local it didn’t even come with a label. We were never quite sure what we were getting, but it was always delicious! Gnocchi and ravioli and tortellini. Vats of Pesto Genovese. Balsamic vinegar so smooth you could have drunk it plain.

The tiny grocer was full of Italian produce. Six types of garlic, gorgeous Roma tomatoes, apples, and cavalo nero. Huge, ripe peaches and delicious pears.

The sweet lady at the bakery thought it was hilarious to try and figure out what we were ordering. We’d jabber away at her in English and she’d jabber away at us in Italian, and though we never quite got what we planned to order we always left with something incredible. Measuring with our hands the amount of foccacia to saw off the slab. Inquiring after which items were chocolate. Stocking up on fruit tarts for Caid and vanilla filled cookies for Bridge. We also managed to communicate what village we were staying in--thanks to Bridger's interpreting skills--and find out a bit about where she lived--again thanks to Bridger. Making friends with the locals!

It doesn’t get more local than picking ripe, luscious figs off the tree right behind your villa (with permission of course). We ate like kings. Every night. Washed down by €2 bottles of local wine so delicious it broke your heart to not be able to bring a drop of it home.

Plus, we never wanted for ambiance on our picturesque covered balcony—many nights looking out at the rain. Put the baby down to bed. Heat up the food, poor the wine, and sit. And visit. And be together. Add a sweatshirt or a fleece after a while and sit some more. Then when big boys start rubbing their eyes we’d get the book out. One boy on my lap and the other on Dad’s. We’d read and snuggle. Then we’d tuck them in and turn off the lights and sit a bit longer. Sipping the delicious wine and listening to the village clock chime away the hours.

Fat and happy. So happy. Who needs Plan A?

Not so bad for ambiance eh?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

This moment...

I’m doing that thing. That thing where I don't go to bed. I do this when Scott is away. I always have, but these days it’s also because I'm terrified of the night. It’s near torture. Desperate for sleep but knowing in 5 seconds I’m going to have to wake up to a crying baby who for about a week now has been needing to nurse every hour around the clock. And that's so totally true. But so is the reality that he smells good. And he's sweet. And he's so grateful when I lift his little squishy body from his bed and snuggle him up and feed him. And his sweaty little head against my arm is delicious and fulfilling in it's own way. So I will persevere. And go upstairs. And quit doing the thing. And remember that this is a season. That I won't always feel so sucked dry and mind numbingly, life alteringly tired. I will remember that there will come a day when he's too big to sleep on my chest.

I will go upstairs and kiss the big boys before I crawl into my bed and I will remember the leaf and pumpkin paintings the six year old and I painted instead of the insults he hurled. The “this is sort of like an at-home date!” instead of the “you’re the worst mommy ever.” I will remember the biggest boy who pressed my hand to his face when I tucked him in and said, "oh Mama, I MISSED you today." I will remember the 6 year old who wanted to sit by me in the sunshine. Whose solution to the fact that "we just fight. Every. Single. NIGHT!” was "to snuggle more and do less chores except the cooking and the unloading of the dishwasher."

I will remember that they are mine, but only for a short, short time. That I will get more sleep and have more sex and be skinnier and have a cleaner house, but I will also be more lonesome and long for their loud, wild voices. I will remember that there will only be a very short time when I can solve every one of the baby's problems with my snuggles and my breasts. I will enjoy days they stay home sick from school even if it dissolves into complete freaking out meltdowns. Because I love them. And I do know it is an incredible privilege to be their mother. To be a mother. And I remember that it is not all that I am. But for this moment, this one right now…it is enough.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Fall and Autumn

I love Fall--all damp earth and rubber wellies and wet dog. Its wood fired cinnamon scented yumminess. Its pumpkin flavored deliciousness. Its wool sweaters and down vests. Its greedy insistence on all the year’s best colors—pumpkin orange and cranberry red, and plum, and deep, deep browns. I. Love. Fall.

Something about it makes me pull out all my cookbooks. I want to spend every spare moment baking spiced cakes and standing over my red Dutch oven turning out hearty stews and soups with hunks of brown bread.

I tend to clean the house really well (who made the rule that Spring should get the best cleaning?). Organizing closets and throwing things away. Bringing out the sweaters and putting away the shorts. Well, who am I kidding really. I live in England. The sweaters are needed year round and I think I only wore one pair of my shorts twice this summer—and that was when I was home in Colorado.

Strangely I’m coming to appreciate the English ‘Autumn’ as they refer to it. At home Fall hits all of the sudden. The days are warm and the nights are crisp. The aspen leaves turn in September and everything is a blaze of color. We spend the weekends going to corn mazes and pumpkin farms and driving up Highway 285 to see the trees. We drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes and eat a lot of green chili and plan costumes for Halloween.

English Autumn comes on gradually. You wake nearly every morning to mist. The fog is ridiculously beautiful, but must be complained about incessantly. The leaves change slowly, slowly. Only small patches of yellowish leaves until a big storm hits much later in October and blows all the leaves off the trees. Until then there’s still so much green and the fall flowers are bright and pretty. Weekends are for wellie walks and roast dinners. We eat leeks and potatoes and thick pork sausages with gravy. London Starbucks baristas may say “Ew, NO! Pumpkin?!?!” when you ask for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, but there’s nothing like an English bitter ale on a cold, wet day (even if I am one of the only women drinking beer).

Here Autumn is marked by the length of days. They rapidly get shorter and shorter and even the boys note that it’s hard to tell when to get up because it’s all the sudden dark in the morning. Halloween is only barely celebrated, but I can’t wait for Bonfire Night and fireworks!

Fall is one of those halfway places. Where I long for the familiarity of my old home and all of my ‘old’ favorite things, and yet I revel in the comfort of my new home and all my ‘new’ favourite things. It’s funny to me how much I ache for Colorado this time of year and yet how dearly I love this little village.

Leave it to Fall to teach me to love this cold, damp country.