‘Bittersweet’ Isn’t Quite The Right Word, But It’s The Closest Thing I’ve Got

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We had a marvelous trip for a family wedding recently to New Mexico.  The whole thing went remarkably smoothly, the airline staff was lovely, and seeing all my aunts/uncles/cousins was a great deal of fun.

One of my cousins has a strange sort of resemblance to my brother.  I say “strange” because my cousin and my brother have/had completely different coloring (one’s a blue-eyed strawberry blonde, the other dark hair/eyes) and completely different heights.  However, there’s something, because I’m not the first to notice it.  My grandmother used to mix them up at times and multiple family members have remarked on the resemblance over the years.

At the reception, my cousin was dancing with my younger daughter, who was just loving it.  Watching him swing her around as she giggled loudly and yelled “more” was incredibly precious and absolutely wonderful.  He’s really good with kids as well as a lovely person and it was fantastic – I’m truly glad to have him (as well as my other cousins) in the family.  As the oldest by a decent margin, it’s great fun to watch as they grow, find careers, get married, and embark on their adult lives.

I also had this incredible stab of sadness.  Just for a split second, my brain played a trick and saw my brother there.  The memories that I usually keep firmly stowed came flying out so fast that I had to look away for a second, take that deep breath.

I know I’m not the only one with these moments – the ones that are so very wonderful that you’d never give them up, that you’re so grateful to have, but that also pierce you right to the core because they’re such powerful reminders of what you’ve lost.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more, please head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

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Lost And Found

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I grew up traveling to Mexico City regularly as a child and teenager.  My paternal grandparents lived there (my grandmother was Mexican) and so every few years we’d go down and see them.  I played with the decorated stuffed burros and dolls we’d buy in the markets, would marvel at the painting of my great-great-great grandmother Hippolita (I was absolutely entranced by the lacy dress she wore in the portrait), eat cajeta, and we would get pastries at El Globo.

I have an enormous sweet tooth as well as a love for all things fancy, so the pastries were always a huge highlight.  I’d never seen anything like them – the eclairs, the tiramisu glasses, the pan dulce – all exotic to me and beautifully presented.  We’d walk into El Globo, grab the metal tray and tongs, and start selecting treats for both after the evening meal and breakfast in the morning.

While there are plenty of excellent panaderias these days in the US where I can and have found most of the more traditional Mexican sweets like conchas or orejas, one sweet that I’d only ever seen at the panaderias in Mexico City escaped me: the garibaldi.

Garibaldi are essentially muffin-sized pound cakes glazed in jam (traditionally apricot, though there are raspberry versions) and covered in small, white, nonpareils.  They’re well known as a breakfast treat, though I remember eating them after meals as well.  El Globo is credited with having originated the recipe, so they’re a uniquely Mexican creation.

I’d mostly relegated garibaldi to memory until I happened to find a recipe by an American married to a Mexico City native who managed to take a family pound cake recipe and made an incredibly good copy of El Globo’s garibaldi.  These even got the seal of authenticity and approval from my father, who knows these pastries well.

I’m pretty excited.  It’s amazing to go to the kitchen and make this taste of childhood I thought I’d lost.

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The garibaldi I made

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more or to participate yourself, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

The Happy Kind of Boring

We’ve been in that pleasant, uneventful in the large sense, busy in the small sense state for the last few weeks.  I find that I tend to sort of overlook these time periods in life because nothing major is happening, but in a lot of ways, they’re really the ones that make up the bulk and reality of life.  As someone who tends towards impatience, I’ve tried to challenge myself to slow down a little and savor the moments that do come.

  • Since we moved, because of various issues, it’s been a bit of a challenge to develop community. At this point, we’ve bought a house and plan to stay for a while, so I’ve been looking for some opportunities to find and hang out with people.  This, as you might imagine, is not the easiest thing – for a world that is hyper-connected by the internet, it’s surprisingly hard to meet people in real life.  Especially since we’re also searching for a new church community.  So I took a cue from Loribeth at The Road Less Travelled and checked into the local library offerings.  Happily, they have an adult book club that meets near my house on a weeknight that I can attend!  First meeting is next week and we’re reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
  • We’ve been watching “Big Dreams, Small Spaces”, a British show about gardening/landscaping. It’s pretty soothing and I like the fact that people are realistic about the labor and financial costs of putting in a dream garden.  Budgets range from “almost nothing” to “over $25K in US dollars”.  What’s most fascinating are the things people find when they start digging – usually some form of concrete or stone, but in the most extreme instance, a live, unexploded WWII hand grenade (the bomb squad and then military ordnance disposal had to be called).
  • Having watched too much gardening, we decided, in a rash of wild overconfidence, to dig in a couple of mulched beds around our patio area where the grass looked horrible and patchy. It’s mostly shady, so the lovely garden/wildflower meadow/herb garden I had in mind was quickly shot down by my (botany minor) mother.  Instead, we’ve got a couple of mulched beds with coral bells and hostas (also known as plantain lilies).  It’s not real gardening but I’m happy to report that so far, the plants are alive and thriving and the area looks much better.  In true “Big Dreams, Small Spaces” fashion, we found seven large pavers buried in the area, along with a bunch of gross plastic.  Probably explains why the grass refused to grow there…
  • Nice as the back now looks, the front needs work. We have two bushes next to the house that we neglected to prune properly and have metastasized into oversized disasters.  There’s probably no saving them, unfortunately, we’ll probably have to go ahead and take them out.  This gives us through the fall and winter to plan (and save) to replant the bed in the spring.
  • As final item in the plant department, I am also happy to report that I bought two hanging baskets for the porch a few weeks ago and both are still alive (no one is more surprised than me). They look lovely and give me a little pop of happiness every time I see them.
  • Currently doing swim lessons with the kids, thankfully in an indoor pool. We are not having a warm summer so far – last week we had a day in the 50s-low 60s.  It’s also rained a ton.  I am so ready for nice weather!
  • I really can’t believe it, but we’re starting to talk about kindergarten and working on settling a pre-K plan with daycare. E won’t go this fall but the plan is for fall of 2020.  It’s a little wild, mostly because I still have a tendency to think of her as 2lb 8oz (1190 g) baby, but in reality, she’s actually a pretty typical 4-year-old with lots of opinions who loves “Frozen” and “Moana”.  She’s progressing in literal leaps and bounds with riding her balance bike, climbing on stuff, and doing somersaults off the couch.  I’m often torn between pointing out that we don’t do somersaults off the couch and wanting to cheer because it’s obvious how far her stamina, balance, and strength have come.  M loves climbing as well.
  • Saline infusion sonogram at the RE’s office on Monday.

A Bit of Earth

I love flowers and plants, but alas, lack a green thumb.  Growing up, my mother always had plants in the house including the orchids she had owned since college and carried the flowers as her wedding bouquet.  I always figured that plants were pretty easy until I tried my own hand at them after I moved into my first apartment.

The first plants to fall to my attempts were a couple of cyclamens.  “Just water them, but not too much,” people told me.  “They’re easy.”  These lasted a couple of weeks.

Then there was the container garden I attempted on the porch, which had the unauspicious beginning of a severe allergy attack in the garden center as we were picking plants.  I was sneezing, my eyes were swelling, and we wrapped it up about the time the hives started breaking out on my chest.  The tomato plant produced three miniature tomatoes, which I still dub the most expensive produce I’ve ever bought at $1.25 apiece.  The pepper plant shriveled and died.  The basil was the most successful of the bunch but still had a tendency to develop an unhealthy shade of yellow-brown on and off.

When we moved into the house, I realized I was going to have to figure out the care of the landscaping or risk being the house that had the dead/messy plants.  This has been a bit of a mixed bag.  The day lilies in our front bed around the light post are overrun by grass that I haven’t managed to successfully weed out.  My mother took a look at the various plants and explained that a few of them had most likely been put in during the selling process to make the house look nice and weren’t in optimal spots for that kind of plant.  She was right, during the first spring/summer, most of those weren’t healthy and didn’t make it to the fall.

We did, however, have some volunteer tulips and grape hyacinths that came up last year, didn’t flower, and I decided that I’d dig them up in the fall and plant something that would flower and look nice.  Well, I forgot, and sure enough, this spring, the plants came up.

And there were buds.

To my absolute surprise, the flowers all opened.

It’s been quite pleasant to see them on a daily basis.  As someone who can get rather cynical at times, I think it’s probably a good reminder for me as a more overarching lesson about life: sometimes it surprises in beautiful ways.

Ticket In Hand

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We had our RE consult today and it did not take me long to realize that in the fast-moving world of reproductive endocrinology, I’m definitely a blast from the past.

When I did my first FET cycle in early 2014, I used Lup.ron, oral estrogen, PIO, baby aspirin, a short burst of Medrol, and valium for the transfer.  Today, the FET we’ll undertake in September/October will involve injected estrogen every four days, PIO twice a day (!), dexamethasone, baby aspirin, medrol, and predisone.

My response: “I JUST got feeling back in all the areas of my butt and now PIO is TWICE A DAY?!”

Apparently, this protocol results in much higher implantation rates.  Dr. E explained that there’s too much variability with oral estrogen to be comfortable – apparently some women really struggle to get levels high enough even with high doses – but with the injections, it’s been much more consistent.  The steroids lower the immune system a bit to allow the embryo to implant and the different types plus longer dose periods than before seem to really help this process more effectively.  No more valium for transfer either.  Two days of taking it easy, like before.

I asked how likely the blastocyst we have in storage was to thaw properly and Dr. E told us since it’s frozen with the newer cryopreservation methods, it’s around 98% certain that we’ll have a transfer.

I am…a little overwhelmed, to be honest.  Not so much by the protocol itself (though it certainly is different than any other fertility protocol I’ve undertaken) but simply by the fact that this is it.  As weird and f—ed up as this sounds, the RE’s office and fertility treatments and reproduction (or lack thereof) have been this huge part of my life for about seven years.  Whether or not this FET or anything else results in a pregnancy, my reproductive years are coming to a close.

I won’t miss the worry, the miscarriages, the fertility treatments, the incredible sadness of failed cycles, the two-week wait, or any of that stuff.  Infertility, high-risk pregnancy, loss, and NICU inflicted real wounds that are still healing and scars that still ache at times.

But there were silver linings that I couldn’t appreciate in the trenches.  Dealing with infertility and the associated complications also moved me from being someone who looked over her shoulder for another person when someone asked for an adult to someone who says “here, me, I’m an adult”.  I can battle with a ferocity I didn’t know was possible and also know when it’s time to walk away from a fight.  I know how to talk to an insurance company, how to marshal my resources, and who to call.

It’s more that I’m letting go of something that consumed vast amounts of time, resources, emotions, and despite the fact that this is, inherently, not a bad thing, it’s a change and a door closing.  It’s moving into an entirely different landscape – where I won’t chart my cycle, pee on OPKs, alternately (depending on where I am in an attempt to get pregnant) hope for or dread my period, or take pregnancy tests.  I’ll get rid of the maternity clothes and the baby stuff.  Labor and Delivery will go back to being a department with no more significance to me than Endoscopy or Medical-Surgical.  I’ll change into whatever lies ahead and deal with it, hopefully gracefully.

It’s strange, though, being here.  It’s like waiting in an airport, ticket in hand, and not knowing exactly where I’m going next or how many transfers or bits of lost luggage, but knowing that my flight will depart soon for somewhere.

This post has been a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more, please visit Stirrup Queens‘ blog.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

Good Stuff

Content note: Child-centered post

Yesterday marked the first day in quite awhile that the weather was fine enough for a good walk outdoors.  The temperature was in the mid-40s, which, given cold this winter, felt downright balmy.  The sun shone and we took a short walk to the park down the street.  E rode her trike and collected rocks.  We came home tired and a little muddy (the trike tipped in a puddle) and it was wonderful to finally get outside again.

The girls will turn two and four shortly.  They’re no longer babies, but instead children who are more interested in running ahead, picking out tiny treasures for their various collections, and reading books.  It is, of course, a little bittersweet – after waiting so long for them, it feels like the days have sped up – but it is also marvelous to watch them grow and change and begin to fill in the contours of their personalities in demonstrable ways.

M waited a long time for words but suddenly now in the last few weeks began speaking in full sentences: “I want more milk.” “Don’t go that way.  Go there.”  “It’s time for snack.”  She’s almost discharged from developmental therapy (for the speech) and knows her own mind well.  Books are her favorites, particularly Paul O. Zelinsky’s gorgeously illustrated Rapunzel, along with almost any book that has flaps to open.

E also is doing well.  Every time I think about the tiny 2lb 8oz (1190 gram) baby in the NICU incubator and stare at this child who is still quite petite in stature but huge in personality, it almost makes me want to cry with happiness.  She’s at age level in most skills except for some gross motor that needs to finish catching up.  Her favorite thing is stickers and making cards for people that she happily scribbles all over and explains to me what she “wrote” there.

Together, as much as I dislike the term itself, the girls are the definition of “frenemies”.  A sample interaction: E yanks a toy away from M, who tries to push E but doesn’t quite manage to do more than brush E’s shoulder.  E flops on the floor and starts sobbing loudly.  M goes over and pats E, making soothing noises.  E yells at M and stomps off.  A few minutes later, both girls are cuddled on the couch with E explaining a book to M, who is listening with great attention.

In other words, they’re siblings.  But I also know how much they genuinely care for one another.  E worries about M, M searches for E when E’s not in sight, and they play together well a surprising amount of the time.

They’re small children and there are days that don’t look nearly this idyllic, but every day, I’m grateful. 

2018 Year in Review: Books

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Every time I put on the Rent soundtrack, one of the ways I consistently answer the question “how do you measure a year?” is “In books I read!”  Naturally, there are plenty of others, but books are a marvelously quantifiable answer.

Fiction:

Two Dark Reigns – Kendare Blake

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

Kingdom of the Blind – Louise Penny

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld

Sisterland – Curtis Sittenfeld

Rapid Falls – Amber Cowie

Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey – Alison Weir

Three Wishes – Liane Moriarty

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror – (Daniel) Mallory Ortberg

Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

One Dark Throne – Kendare Blake

The Young Queens – Kendare Blake

Origin – Dan Brown

The Family Next Door – Sally Hepworth

The Long Drop – Denise Mina

Small Great Things – Jodie Picoult

Nonfiction:

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start Up – John Carreyrou

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder – Caroline Fraser

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa – Adam Hochschild

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things – Jenny Lawson

Year of No Clutter: A Memoir – Eve Schaub

Between the World and Me: Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter – Margareta Magnusson

Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men – Harold Schechter

Siblings Without Rivalry: How To Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too – Adele Faber

In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence – Kayla Aimee

Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark – Addie Zierman

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandburg

Life in a Medieval City – Frances Gies

The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock – Lucy Worsley

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith – Barbara Brown Taylor

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling

The Blood of Emmett Till – Timothy B. Tyson

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again – Rachel Held Evans

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings – Alison Weir

Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America – Alissa Quart

The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster – Sarah Krasnostein

You’ve Been So Lucky Already – Alethea Black

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI – David Grann

Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century – Peter Graham

Dead Mountain: The Untold Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident – Donnie Eicher

Infreakinfertility: How to Survive When Getting Pregnant Gets Hard – Melanie Dale

The Cross and the Lynching Tree – James H. Cone

When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith – Addie Zierman

Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess – Rachel Hoffman

The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game – Mary Pilon

More Than Halfway Through, and Still Reading:

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down: Colin Woodard

World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made: Irving Howe

Reread:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End – Atul Gawande

Ready For Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood – Kate Hopper

Juniper: The Girl Who was Born Too Soon – Kelley Benham French, Thomas French

I’m looking forward to reviewing a few of the highlights on the list and looking forward to more books in 2019!

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.