All Hail Queen Elizabeth

Elizabeth, it is your birthday, your 17th. You know I know that because I texted you first thing this morning. Then you asked for your birthday post. Why was it not up? Err, at that point I hadn’t thought about it. You are the youngest child after all. Really, it was because I woke up to patchy, then no Internet.
I did think about you and your birthday ALL day though. (even while thinking about no Internet) I found a baby picture of you…without your siblings:

Elizabeth in a sling.

Elizabeth in a sling.

That was a bit tough to find. You were born in the digital age of cameras, but before everything uploaded automatically, securely (?) to a cloud.

The picture above is pretty much how I remember you as an infant, except the closed eyes. I probably took the picture because you were asleep. Novel! Your brown eyes were always WIDE open, watching everything. You were not even two months old in that picture, but you’d already stolen my heart. You did that during my pregnancy though.

You were the baby that I used teeny tiny letters to say I was going to join the Trying To Conceive board in testing. I knew I was pregnant already. But, no one else did. You were my tiny secret. Well, Ava might have known. She’d asked for a new little sister for her birthday after all.

But, there were so many only things about you from that first moment. Let me tell you about them:

  • You were my only induced baby. All of you were post-dates, but only you got the pitocin to get your way started into the world. By the way, I made Jim Bars the night before the induction to give to the nurses. They loved them.
  • I also fought a flame war while in labor. On Dial Up.
  • But then, later that day, I got to announce your birth on dial up to thousands–ok, hundreds of people. Your nurse from the pediatricians office remembered me doing that. “You were the one with the laptop.” It was odd in those days. But, my friends, needed to know you had arrived.
  • You were the only baby to sleep in a bassinet. It was a combo pack n play with a bassinet attachment
  • But you didn’t really sleep there. So, you became the only one of my babies to share our bed from infancy. Sure, there were naps here and there with your siblings–but only you were the attachment parented bed sharing baby.
  • You were the only baby with colic
  • You were the only baby that had her life documented online from the very beginning
  • You were the only baby who I put in the pack n play in the den in front of Barney and Teletubbies with a prayer that you would nap. You rarely did. Instead I held you while I worked, while we played with your siblings, while we went places. The stroller was for show or to push Ava and Rebecca. Rarely were you in it.
  • You were the only one who I carried in a sling. And, you were carried EVERYWHERE in it. I have another picture of you, well, I know it is you, at Magic Kingdom, on Dumbo, in the sling, with Rebecca beside us.
  • You loved to wrap the sling around you long after you stopped being carried in it.
  • You coined the term Breastbed Chair. The glider rocker and My Breast Friend nursing pillow were often our home when you weren’t in the sling.
  • Speaking of coins, my penny princess, you were the only child of mine to swallow one and spend a night in the hospital. I crawled in the crib like bed with you. Denise dozed in the recliner. They couldn’t fish it out, so they pushed it into your stomach. I presume you eventually eliminated it, but I never saw it.
  • You made the same faces in early pictures that you do now.

Enough about babyhood. It makes things worse. Worse? Yes. Because this is your last birthday before you graduate high school. I know you’ve heard me whine: “I need more time” with the bigger kids. But, really, I need more time. I want to rock you. I want to cuddle you. I want to tell you all the things I think you need to know before you tackle college and the grown up world. Yes, part of me is “Yay, last winter in Chicago”–but the rest of me knows that once I have moved into our new home–empty nest will strike hard. Really hard.

You are the child who has kept me on my toes for the last 17 years. The “normal” one–but never the average one. You make me laugh. You make me sad. You make me angry. You make me melt in a mommy puddle. Sometimes you do all those things at the same time. Most of all, you’ve brought me joy.

This past year has been rough for you for a lot of reasons. Instead of bringing more evil–you melted into kindness. You love to drive. You hug. You are sweet. (Yes, you still have that evil side) And I know you get up to more things that would make me cringe than you think I know. But, you are you. I love watching you grow into a woman. I love your tenderness for children. I am so freaking proud of you for going after what you want, even if no one else agrees. Your going to the job fair and getting a summer job all on your own, increasing the hours once you started, and being responsible and good at your job speaks so well for your future. I may have told everyone I know how much that impressed me. I am proud of how you speak to injustice–whether in your family or in the world. I am proud that you are taking the time to SEE and act on those injustices outside your own life. You are the smart one.

You are growing up. Seventeen. But, you will be my baby forever. Not just my baby in the way your older siblings are my babies–but my baby baby. The third child, the sixth child, the one I wanted, the youngest, youngest child. The one that not only walks around with my heart outside my body, but swoops it up and drops it spiraling like you did when you were doing circus. And now I’ve written your birthday post…and it is probably not the one you wanted. But, I can’t condense seventeen years of the awe you have brought into our lives into a few paragraphs.

I love you baby girl. I love you so very much. That never changes.

Anything. Anywhere.

I Facebooked…but should have blogged!

So here are the things I should have blogged:

Dog Newssickpoodle
Skeeter Bess–most beautiful and smart poodle and treeing walker coonhound in the world got sick last week. Really sick. She went from having some soft stools to shooting liquid blood out!

So, she went to the puppy hospital. (Blue Pearl , which I HIGHLY recommend. It is a chain, so check in your area–Skeeter has ended up there several times. The staff is SUPER. The staff is diverse. The prices are sometimes cheaper than our regular vet (who we do love) She stayed overnight, had bloodwork, ivs, meds. They tested her on food but since her digestive tract was empty when she came in–they didn’t get any fresh stools during her visit. We have been watching her like a hawk since she came home on Saturday for her to poop. Last night she did–it was black. I blamed it on old blood/meds. This morning it happened again. Denise called the vet who said “No, not normal. Take her back to Blue Pearl. Sounds like she needs the ultrasound and we will send her there anyway for that.”

We took her back. They took her to the ER part (where the pet people do not go.) and did a rectal exam which looked…NORMAL. But after talking with us, she came home on another med.

My Younger Sister’s Birthdaybirthdayshots

Mama coaxed me to take my younger sister out to dinner for her birthday. My sister lives in a nursing home and has considerable medical needs. She has gotten to the point where she can transfer to and from the wheelchair to the car and spend some time in a smaller “portable” wheelchair. (Portable in quotes because it weighed a ton and was hard to fit in the back of the puppywagon) So, anyhow, we ventured out with her and I was nervous. What if she got sick? What if she had a seizure? What if she fell? What if we did as we often do and turned into the sisters who act like they did when we were small?
Denise picked Toby Keith’s Grill for dinner. The drive there took forever because of traffic. Then the parking situation/driving up to drop off my mother and sister situation was totally insane. Add in the ACEN 2015 conference down the block and well, I was sort of a mess by the time we got there. (mostly the dropping off–a lot of walking for Mama. I’d left her walker at home, so the wheelchair would fit. Then I was pushing the wheelchair, helping steady Mama and carry her purse while Denise found parking.
By the way–the area it is in had some really interesting looking restaurants and entertainment options. It reminded me of sort of Harborplace meets South Beach or something. There is also a Outlet Mall nearby.

Then I got to Toby Keiths and wasn’t sure of the menu. Was there something Julia Rose would eat? Mama? Me? I also pondered the scantily clad staff that looked like UF co-eds and country music. Hmm. Why were we here? I did get a “specialty cocktail menu” mentioned on the main menu after asking after a drinks menu and being handed a beer menu. (Bleck)

The waitress was likely tired of our delays in ordering drinks. Denise finally came in. We ordered drinks. Then food. (Even after convincing my sister that it was indeed acceptable to order an appetizer for a meal) The brisket was good. The okra was good. The loaded freedom fries were good. Julia Rose enjoyed her meal. We all enjoyed our beverages. Julia Rose had held her meds–so we got the experience of sharing a shot together. (Birthday Cake Slice–some sort of birthday cake vodka with a TON of whipped cream and sprinkles–very festive.) The music was a bit loud but the restaurant wasn’t. Denise found a quicker way to parking and was able to pick us up with less walking. (though they made a pit stop in the bathroom which was quite a trudge to the back of a large restaurant) All went well and I think everyone enjoyed it, even though Denise was super tired.

Mama Sick

On Mondays, in a normal week, Mama goes to visit Julia Rose at the nursing home. She was feeling fine when she woke up this morning–but not long after getting to the nursing home–she texted saying she was unwell with tummy troubles and I had to come get her right away. So, I fetched her, brought a shaky, sick Mama home–I’d taken a chuck and nausea and diarrhea meds and water with me to help her as soon as possible.

She took a shower when she got home and was too shaky to get back to bed on her own. Scary. Especially since it wasn’t just she FELT too shaky–but actually was and I was definitely put into service to keep her from falling. That rarely happens.

Long enough…to be continued.

 

An American Love Affair

I didn’t get my license until I was over 21. In fact, I had already celebrated my first wedding anniversary before I was licensed to drive.

My children are curiously part of the millennials who don’t look forward to driving at ALL. Except for the youngest, she is chomping at the bit to be licensed. I love her for it. (even though part of me goes “her brain is not developed enough! Wait for 18!”, though there will be no waiting.

Ever since my first highway driving alone, I’ve loved it. Today, I had to drop Denise off to pick up her car. We technically have two cars, but only ever really drive her car–except now I am driving the car Santa gave to Ava that Ava has NEVER driven after she got her license.  I only get to do that for short errands. We live a city life. There is no highway driving in our lives really.

On the way home though, she got out of the car. I sat behind the wheel of the nice blue Dodge (aka Fun House Car) with a REAL engine and great seats. (yeah yeah the Prius makes more sense but whatever) It even has a nice sound system. Thunder Road started to play as I pulled on to the access road. 40 miles per hour and clear road. That is blasting fast roadway around here. I rolled down the window just a bit. Bruce Springsteen told me to let the wind blow back my hair. I accelerated and lost myself back into the strange meditation that is driving a strong car all by myself. The only particular place to go was home. I took the long way and enjoyed every minute. (even as the strange DJ said Pearl Jam was like as old as Buddy Holly)

Denise beat me home. She thought I had gotten lost or was dead in a ditch or something. I wasn’t. I was just being a girl who loves the road, who loves a car that loves the road.

No, the Dodge isn’t environmentally friendly. (though it does pass emissions tests with flying colors) It isn’t beautiful. It does have quirks and is old. But, it thrums with power, life, and music.

Falling in Love…

Today because of some news, I pm’d a friend a mine that I had questioned last week about something. I wanted to reassure her that no, it had nothing to do with the news at all. She understood and had never thought that, but I am me.

I then babbled about Denise, and offhandedly mentioned that I fell in love with her community skills, before I fell in love with her. I then promised to tell that tale at some point. I forget that it has been a long time. I forget that many of the first hand observers are still forged in our relationship, in some cases stray children who were old enough not to know they were stray until they had us as mommies, in some cases the yoda like advisors who talked me down from the ceiling and talked me into a crazy mushroom dish. Some of you just keep popping into our lives, as Internet grows, changes, and stays the same.

This will be a WAYYYYYYYYYY back story though. You see, when I worked for iVillage, I sometimes got sent on projects codenamed in my house “Siberia” –officially called a competitive set. Usually this coincided with me having too many questions, opinions, or being just generally useful at this thing called Internet Community. In the very beginning, it was mostly the last. I could go look at a community and give a read on it, write a report, and hit all the right points. So, I would wander our competition and check out their communities. Women.com was one of them. (No state secret there) I would go and poke around and look at their numbers. I would open their message boards. I would analyze what was going on.

I would duly pan their message board layout. I would talk about their numbers. Then I would add in that they had a great community moderator whose message boards just sang. They were lively, had great numbers, and really connected. It was beautiful community. That moderator was Denise. I was still better and had a bigger empire (in my mind) but wow. What a catch she would be and Women.com was lucky to have her.

Things happened. Women.com got sold to iVillage. Denise had left the company, I don’t remember those details. Then she showed up on iVillage as a CL. (volunteer community leader–they were the lifeblood of iVillage IMO) At that time, I was the Message Board Coordinator at iVillage. (or as some said “Message Board Godddess) I tended boards. I did major flame war management. I took over difficult boards. I turned around slow boards. I taught the CLs how to do the same. I did great work. I loved it. But, I was the only game in town really. At that time the world was small for community management.  But this upstart cl caught my attention. I saw her taking over and getting great numbers from boards that were…slow. I started talking about her in the weekly phone meetings. “Have you seen this CL-Smiely?”(we all had weird names then.) Maybe we can find a job for her. Then she showed up on my behind the scenes coaching board for message board cls. Suddenly the board blossomed. And it blossomed with a lot of competition from the two of us. Not the ugly kind, but the challenging each other was stimulating to me. (no more coasting with Denise saying “so why don’t you…”) And I became ever more desperate to get her a job ANYWHERE in iVillage or somewhere else, before someone noticed that not only was she good, she was maybe better than me. Or maybe, just because she would be an asset in any online community.
WebMD came along and gave her a cool job there. She did amazing things with that community.

Then Lisa Stone came calling and after much crazy decision making, Denise became the Community Manager at BlogHer. She was worried on her first day that she wouldn’t find enough to do. She did…and has for the past 7.5 years. In the past 14 and a bit years, I have watched her work. I have seen her flow with changes. I have seen her make things that looked unworkable–work great. And still I am in awe of her work. Every damn day. Because…she is better at it than me. I could be better than her…but I am not. I am not the only one that thinks so. I can’t really tell you how many people have come up to me and gushed about how great it is to work with Denise, how smart she is, how patient, how intuitive, and more. I agree.