Category Archives: Baby Girl

Related to Josie

To Be Four

(c) la luz photography 2011

She plays with her brother like they’re puppies, jumping and hiding, then pouncing and rolling. Her toys are his and she’s willing to share almost anything to make him happy. She dresses herself in the morning and prefers to wear all one color – purple, green, blue, pink. When she’s done eating, she asks to be ‘misused.’ She thinks the ‘pider that lives in her bathroom is cute. She has two imaginary friends/sisters both named Jada.

You have to ask her 10 or 15 times to take her shoes off or put them on. You can’t get her to use her fork or stay at the dinner table. She flits about the living room, all greasy-fingered and ferile while the rest of the family eats. She’d like you to think that she can’t hear you or control her body or listen to what you are saying. But when you ask her what she wants for her 4th birthday, she snaps to attention right at your feet. You squat and she looks right into your eyes and says, very clearly, without any hesitation – a doll house, a princess doll and a remote controlled car – like she’s been thinking about this for years.

Then, just like that was a dream, that girl is gone, and she is once again dancing and rubbing her greasy fingers all over the couch because she’s in a different world occupied by Jadas and spiders wearing monochromatic clothes and she can’t possibly hear you telling her to stop.

Happy 4th birthday to my favorite baby girl.

How We’re Doing

Well, awesome. The readings at Elliott Bay Book Company, Village Books and Nordstrom all had strong attendance and book sales. The Bellevue Square Nordstrom is now selling the book in their lingerie department. I guess it’s kind of like buying a CD at Starbucks. Rumor is that the distributor is upping their order quantity and the publisher is burning through their stock. Thank you for buying copies, recommending it to your friends and spreading the word.

We’ve seen some great reviews and a little love from the online world. Here’s a recap:

Shelf Awareness for Readers, Featured, Starred Review – October 14, 2011

Shelf Awareness Book Brahmin Author Interview – October 12, 2011

The Next Family Blog Post – October 6, 2011

Coffee Jitters Blog Book Review – September 29, 2011

I’ve enjoyed getting your Who in This Room love notes on Facebook and in email. It’s been the best part of this whole experience. Some of you have asked how you can help. If you want to take these love notes and post them to your favorite book-review site, I’d promise to love you and care for you forever.

Since I’m asking for things… In the midst of all this book madness, Hysterical Mommy Network, Who in This Room’s neglected pet fish, is up for a Red Tricycle Totally Awesome Award. You can vote here. I’m late to this party and the contest ends the end of this month!

While you’re at the Red Tricycle site, you can pop over and vote for Josie and Little K in the Red Tricycle Spooktakular Pumpkin Photo Contest. We’re finalists!

Thank you! Love. Forever. You.


My Life at Stack ‘n Stuff

I’m in this weird place right now. I’m kind of on maternity leave, I’m kind of a stay-at-home mom, but I also have this book thing. The official launch date of Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition was October 11th and every day that goes by, my prime book promotion window closes a tiny bit, and every day that goes by, my kids get one day older. There’s a lot I’d like to do on the book promotion front, but it all requires travel or time at my desk, which my 15-month-old will not allow. It’s an age-old parenting story. Like many parents, I want to be all things at all times. I want to be out promoting the book, but I want to be here with the kids. What’s a frustrated, driven, over-achieving mother to do?

Well, here’s one thing I do have plenty of…. Time with a toddler. I have lots of that. What can one do with a toddler? Well, one can organize her junk drawer. Then perhaps she’ll feel so satisfied she can design and install her daughter’s closet with the help of her toddler wobbling around with hammer in hand. Then she can move the spice drawer and re-organize her kitchen utensil drawer. Well, then, there’s only two more drawers in the kitchen that need help and, well, maybe she can do those the next day because it’s supposed to rain and she has this coupon and they’ll go to story time in the morning, but after nap they’ll need something to do, and there’s a playground nearby and it’s covered so the slide will be dry and so that would be just perfect. It’s just the thing!

This happens to be our routine. Morning, play around the house, naptime where I spend a few minutes at my desk, trying to get some shit done. Then afternoon snack and we head to the mall. We go to the playground first so K can blow off steam, and then to Storables so that I can. He has his fun then I have mine. The result: I’m in that store pretty much every day. I should wear a sign that says “Hi, I’m an over-achiever mother who should not be staying at home but is staying at home. Please excuse me (get out of my way before I run you down) K THX BYE! J” But, then I think, why would I need a sign? Is this not self-evident?

At the store, they greet K and me with a friendly smile and a wave. They notice and comment on his cute haircut. I load up on containers and baskets; then I go home and start getting dinner ready. When Paul opens a drawer in the kitchen, he raises his eyebrows and asks how everyone is doing at “stack ‘n stuff” today. We both know that he knows it’s called Storables but I correct him anyway. Everyone at Storables is fine, I say. Thanks for asking.

Then while Josie stands in her cape on the armrest of the couch and jumps to the floor, while K reaches up to the counter to grab whatever breakable or sharp item he can find, I reach into my supremely-organized utensil drawer and let out a contented exhale as I retrieve the forks and knives for the table, because while I may not be able to control my superhero, my counter-reaching monster, or the trajectory of book sales, I can most definitely, control the contents of my kitchen drawers.

Books and Babies

2011 has been a big year for us. Legendary. We met little K in June. Five months later Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition is being published.

Perhaps one could say that in 2011 I was expecting two babies. But there are some very distinct differences. For example, Little K is much cuter than the book. And the book doesn’t ask me to rub its head while I drive. The book doesn’t pee through its diapers at night and occasionally scream out with night terrors. The book doesn’t throw peas on the floor then burst into giant tears when you tell it to stop. The book doesn’t shriek like a baby pterodactyl when it’s tired. And, more notably, the book doesn’t pull up my shirt and try to give me zerberts on the stomach.

Conversely, Little K doesn’t sit quietly on my desk or in a box on my floor. He is rarely misplaced and never forgotten (although I can’t say the same for his shoes). He doesn’t have 139 neatly formatted pages and, so far, he doesn’t have nearly as many words, but I know he will someday.

Really, there is only one baby.

But there are some similarities. Both feel like once in a lifetime events. Both are epic creations. Both bring me joy. I am so lucky, fortunate and grateful that they both exist.

Since becoming a parent, my goals for my children have changed. No longer do they need to be the leaders of the free world. After watching them speak with bits of food falling from their mouths, throw tantrums over already-chewed pieces of gum, and dress themselves in brown polka dotted leg warmers and yellow striped socks, I’ve learned that they are who they are. What will be will be.

Now, I simply hope my children will find things – subjects, sports, activities, hobbies – they like and that they’re good at. I hope they can earn money in an endeavor related to this interest or some other career they enjoy. In short: I hope my children find their place in the world and people that make them happy.

My hopes for the book are similar. WITR had to be written. During and after treatment I was obsessed and consumed by those stories. I thought about them 24×7. I was working it all out, creating art from grief. It had to be done and now that it is done, I hope people discover its strengths and that people connect with it. In short: I hope it finds its place in the world and the people who love it.

That is all.

Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition is out! You can buy it anywhere good books are sold.

The Foster Mother in My Head

We met our daughter for the first time in an Intensive Care Unit. She was four days old, and a healthy 6.5 lb baby girl who was getting preventative antibiotics. When the nurse placed her into my arms, she was wrapped in a purple hand-knit blanket and had an orange bow stuck to her head. She was the prettiest baby I had ever seen and I wrapped my body around her and told her that we’d been looking for her and trying to get to her for so long, but that we were here now and it was all going to be okay.

I did all of this, I said all of this, while a handful of nurses and social workers watched. These people were strangers to me and my husband but they’d been caring for our daughter in those crucially important first few days of her life. They had grown to care about her and to hope that a good family would come for her soon. They were pleased we were there and encouraged us, but they were WATCHING. They were evaluating us and forming opinions, hopefully positive, about our family.

But, I have a confession; I’m not an appropriate crier. You say the words newborn baby to my mother and she’ll probably burst into tears right then and there. You tell me that my dog just got run over by a truck and I’d probably say something like oh, alright and walk away. That doesn’t mean that I am not sad. I will travel deep inside my head. I will think about this. I will imagine how it all happened and at some point I will cry and cry and cry. But probably not in front of anyone. I don’t cry at sad movies, I don’t usually cry right away when I hear sad or happy news, and I didn’t cry when I met my daughter. Thinking about it now, I want to weep like a three year old who has misplaced her blanket at bedtime, but there were no tears that day. And it was weird. It felt weird to me then and I’m certain it felt weird to our audience. What kind of mother doesn’t cry the day she meets her newborn?

We went through this again with the recent adoption of our eleven-month-old son. Instead of four days of care, K had received eleven months of care. There had been eleven months of people loving this kid. Some of them I know about. Some of them I do not. The last two months he was in nursery care with the adoption agency and his foster parents became very attached. They were there when we met K for the first time along with a social worker we had never met and will never see again.

Then and during the week of transition that followed, I was busy thinking about what was happening, processing his every move, studying and learning him. I did not cry once.

His foster mother spent the week sobbing and sniffling in the corner while we played with K. She had done this exactly eighty-eight times before (!) but, as she said, that doesn’t make letting go any less painful. They were happy we were adopting him and she thought we were the ideal family. But she was protective. As the week wore on, we got to know each other. The transition was going very well. We bonded with our boy but also with the foster parents though I still wondered if, in their eyes, anyone could be good enough.

We’d been advised to stay home in the weeks following K’s arrival, but a week after we returned to Seattle we decided to go to our cabin. The list of reasons is long and we felt like K was doing so well and that this would be the best thing for him and our family in the longer-run. Word got back to the foster mother via email and, yes, the unthinkable happened. She accidently forwarded me a message criticizing our choice, saying we hadn’t “allowed him time to adjust” and outlining how this would be detrimental. The email had been meant for her husband. There it was. The ultimate judgment. Parenting test failed.

In the weeks that followed I felt the foster mother looking over my shoulder. I questioned my instinct. I wondered if what I was doing was good enough for K and if she would approve. I felt less like he was mine and more like I was taking care of him for someone else. As if the new white mother of a black one year old boy needed more pressure.

Then I would scold myself for feeling this way. My experienced-parent, rational voice would say, of course I am right, I am his mother, but the self-doubt was there whether I acknowledged it or not. I tried to remind myself that all we could do was to keep going, continuing, and trying to make the best decisions for our family.

The other day, while I was watching J and K roll around in the grass, I had a hard time convincing myself that he hadn’t been with us since his birth. He’s brought the family into a perfect balance, a natural symmetry. Sometimes, when he melts down at the end of an over-scheduled day or I put him in front of a baby video so I can take a shower, I hear the foster mother’s disapproval. But I’ve learned that the more baby kisses, loves and hugs I receive, the quieter the foster mother in my head becomes. Pretty soon, I suspect she’ll develop a terrible case of laryngitis and be silenced forever. When that happens, you can be sure that I won’t shed a single tear.

Only 41 days until Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition comes out. The launch party is at Elliott Bay Books on October 2nd, mark your calendars!

This Girl’s Motor

Josie’s always been a strong girl. At her 2 week check up, the doctor did a test of her neck strength. She was on her back and he wrapped her little fingers around his index fingers and pulled her into a sitting position. Most newborn’s heads fall to the side but Josie held hers perfectly straight. He said it was “remarkable” and that he’d never seen anything like that before.

Gradually she grew into a chubby baby while retaining that strength. At 18 months she was FAST with no concept of danger or sense of self-preservation. Even as she moved toward three she still had a layer of chub that created a misleading façade, a pink princess wrapper on a V6 engine.

Just in the last few months, Josie has lost most of her baby chub. Gone are the delicious dimpled thighs and, the part I notice most, the creases at her wrists. Gone. There are bones there now. It is SO strange.

Without the wrapper, the engine is on display.

Clearly, I need to find this girl some more athletics. Is training a four year old for an ironman excessive?

Only 50 more days until Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish and Demolition comes out. Get your copy today!

First Few Weeks With Little K

I’ve been struggling with what to write about our transition with Little K, but I think I’ve identified the problem. See, I tend to write posts from the point of tension, conflict, grief or some new knowledge. It’s that creative writing 101 anthem of where’s the trouble. This is the problem. There is no trouble.

Little K is just pretty much perfect. The transition time in Dallas was great. The foster parents (FP) were so loving and caring and they had fallen madly in love with him. After the first day when we met him at the agency, we went to the FP’s house and we all played on the floor while he moved between us. He was so accepting and it was nice to be able to bring him back to his safe place at the end of every day. You could see him relax, exhale, sleep when he got home. It just gave us all a little breather and took the pressure off for a few hours. By the end of the week, he’d cry when we left the FP’s house without him.

The flight home was trying at times but nothing unexpected for a 1 year old. At home Josie was waiting for us outside and beside herself with excitement. She hugged him and kissed him and continued to play with him even after he captured two fistfuls of her hair. She bought him a red fire truck with sirens and lights and showed him how it worked.

Over the next few days, she gradually came to understand that she did not get to feed, change, and diaper the baby by HERSELF. She, of course, could help or, she could change her own baby while I changed K but that was never good enough. So, we’ve been spending some time coming up with a job description for a big sister and we’re open to your suggestions. What are the big sister’s primary duties?

The first week we were home, Josie went to school as usual and Paul and I watched him while he slept. He slept a lot but he also seemed to be adjusting just fine. He was fascinated by the dog and his favorite thing to do was stand on the couch and stare at her in the back yard. He likes to cuddle after his nap and he loves it when I chase him out of the kitchen. He giggles and shrieks and pats his hands on his chest as if to say hey, how do you like me now? He’s recently started clapping and he’s so pleased he can make that clicking sound with his tongue.

Things were going so well that first week that we decided to take long-scheduled vacation to the island the following week. The weather was awesome. We walked on the beach, swam in the lake. What more is there to say?

We see occasional glimpses into the difficult transition he must be feeling. Sometimes he has a hard time falling asleep at night or wakes up in the middle of the night, looks around and for his FP’s or previous caretakers. There’s lots of rocking then and if he really can’t settle down, we try the baby carrier (oh, my aching back!) or watch some Baby Einstein (awesome) at 3:00 in the morning.

Now Paul is back at work, Josie is back to school. I’m here folding laundry, weeding the garden, chasing the baby out of the kitchen and watching Baby Einstein and maybe an episode or two of The Office when I can’t fall back to sleep.

Confinscated at Security

More on Little K soon, but for now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The last time Josie and I flew anywhere together alone she was almost exactly a year old and she had a stomach bug. She was young enough to be my ‘lap child’ so I didn’t have to pay for another ticket but Josie has never been much of a ‘lap’ anything. She was pushing 30 pounds and fighting mad the whole flight. She ripped magazines out of strangers’ hands. She threw toys. The movie on my laptop was of NO interest. She slept for 30 minutes of a 10 hour trip. By the time we arrived in Chicago, I’d been shit upon so massively (through her diaper) that I had to buy a new t-shirt in the airport.

We hadn’t flown together since and the short hop to San Francisco to visit my sister and family seemed like a really bold move. But, Josie is 3 now and it was her cousins 4th birthday and there was a bouncy house and cupcakes involved so we decided to give it a try.

The flight down was perfectly fine. She wheeled the luggage through the airport. When it was time for takeoff she yelled, This is so FUN. And all the well-seasoned business commuters had a good laugh. She was charming, well-behaved, a pleasure. Well done. Congratulations to us!

We had three days of cousins and sunshine and princess dresses. But she’d had an understandably hard time going to sleep in a new place with all the excitement, and by the time we left, she was a sugar-amped, over stimulated, sleep-deprived mess.

The problems started in security where Josie was dancing and singing while I piled our stuff on the belt. I had a hard time keeping her near me. Our line was stopped until the attendant checking boarding passes asked the person on the baggage scanner to expedite our line to get Josie thru. Bless her.

While we waited to have her cup of almond milk tested for explosives, she stuck her fingers in the nearby fan. When I asked her to stop, she ran across security to put her fingers in a different fan.

By the time we left security I was holding her hand, tightly, and she was screaming her head off and dragging her feet. Yes, we were that mother and child cliché and our fellow travelers were giving each other the requisite glances, speaking the universal language of god, I hope they aren’t on my flight. I’d been there. I wished I wasn’t on my flight too.

My goal became survival.

We managed to board early and kept our shit together through takeoff. Then I set up a movie for her on my laptop and plugged in her headphones. I took a deep breath. She was content. For ten whole minutes. Then she took off her headphones and pronounced that she was done. No. You. Are. Not.

What came next was one of my proudest moments as a parent. I offered her a piece of candy. Not a new toy, not a sticker, not a cookie, but a piece of candy – if she kept watching the movie until it was time to descend. I bribed my child. With candy. To watch TV. I’m super-proud.

But it worked. She watched until the flight attendant told us to shut it down. Then Josie shunned my bag of tricks and turned her focus to banging the tray table up and down. The guy in front of her turned around and gave me that look and I returned with a look that said something like – seriously, do you have any idea what I’m dealing with back here? I’ve got a sleep-deprived, sugar-amped three year old coming off a two day over-stim bender of bouncy houses and dance parties. She’s a fighter and a runner, who, just a few hours ago was bent on cutting her fingers off in the airport air fans. Count yourself lucky that a bumped chair is all you had to deal with. If that bribe hadn’t worked out, we would have had a new terrorist threat on our hands.

The Peanut Puzzle Part II

To continue where I left off the last post, this is all summarized from “The Peanut Puzzle: Could the Conventional Wisdom on Children and Allergies Be Wrong?”

Since the conventional wisdom about when to introduce solid foods to babies was overturned in 2008, Doctors Sampson and Sicherer have continued to study food allergies. They have been experimenting with giving children low doses of the food they are allergic to, sometimes in a different molecular structure, to reeducate the immune system that the food is acceptable.

They observed, “…for example, that baking caused milk proteins to change shape in a way that could be less provocative to the immune system. The allergic person might be able to eat the altered proteins and become tolerant of them in all their forms.”

The article also follows Maya, a little girl with an anaphylactic reaction to milk. In spite of her parents’ vigilance she’d had some frightening reactions. On a family outing she struggled to breathe and lost consciousness after eating something labeled “vegetarian cheese.” Another time she was rushed to the hospital after eating a hot dog that contained milk protein.

Under the instruction of Sampson and Sicherer, and in the presence of a nurse, Maya was given a muffin that contained a small amount of milk. She took one bite and had no reaction. Then she ate the rest of the muffin and after a few minutes the vomiting started and hives appeared. They gave her an injection.

When the reaction stopped, they sent Maya home. Her parents received specific instructions to feed her baked goods containing milk every day. Maya came back six months later and they inserted an IV and had epinephrine at the ready. They gave her a slice of pizza. She ate the entire thing without a reaction.

“It was nothing less than miraculous,” her mother said.

Maya returned the next day and drank a glass of milk. As soon as she finished drinking she began vomiting but they were able to control her reaction with Benadryl. A few months later, Maya was able to eat macaroni and cheese but still unable to tolerate a full glass of milk.

“Even if she never progresses past this,” Maya’s mom said.  “I have no regrets about being in the study, because now she can go to a birthday party and have a slice of pizza. It’s huge.”

It is miraculous. So miraculous that I was considering doing some baking. Then I remembered Josie’s food allergies – egg, whitefish, soy and tree nuts. Codfish pecan muffins, anyone?