Christmas 2015

Happy birthday, Ellie!

This day seven years ago brought a world of change to our family, in the form of 7 lbs 13 oz of baby girl, who now looks like this:

Little sister included for scale
Little sister included for scale.

Ellie and I got off to a rocky start. A long labor and rough birth coupled with breastfeeding struggles meant lots of changes to my meticulous, best-laid plans. Her first week outside the womb was humbling and exhausting in ways I’ve yet to experience in any other part of my life, including the birth of our second daughter.

Any motherly instinct I might have had was quashed by well-meaning and sometimes conflicting advice from my friends, family, pediatrician, midwife, and doula. I wanted desperately to do everything right which, of course, is impossible, but never underestimate the power of postpartum hormones to convince you of impossible things.

It took about six weeks before I felt like Ellie wasn’t someone else’s kid on temporary loan. I loved her, adored her, but the role of “Mom” was a tight fit. For a while, I felt more like a failed dairy cow than a Mom-with-a-capital-M. She took my orderly world, tipped it on its side and shook it like a snow globe.

…but snow globes are beautiful when shaken, and things got better. I learned to relax a little, and she learned to sleep a little, and we came to a mutual understanding — that we’d both do the best we could, and we’d probably come out all right.

What is this “cookie” you speak of, and where can I obtain more of it?

Now she’s a bright, growing kid with a mind that blows me away. She’s a voracious learner, a sponge for academics; math and reading and science are all fair game. She loves to be the center of attention, the boss. “Mama, look at this!” is a frequent refrain. She reminds me of myself as a kid, but bolder, more outgoing, more outspoken.

You are getting verrrrry sleeeeeeepy…

In turn, she’s made me braver, more empathetic, and more patient. She’s given me a perspective on life that’s entirely unique to our relationship, as I think first-borns are prone to do.

Thanks to Ellie, I’ve watched my husband and partner of 15 years become a loving, doting father. And three years down the road, I got to witness her transformation from only child to big sister, a role it seems she was born to play.

Happy_Halloween_

From a tiny, squalling baby to a dancing, laughing big girl — I’m so lucky to be able to learn from her. Happy birthday, sweet girl.

Impromptu NYC Road Trip!

My mom is a pretty regular traveler in retirement; between her Road Trek and her little yellow Honda Fit, she spends a fair amount of time on the road. She’d planned a trip to visit a friend in New York in mid December, and thought some company would be nice.

Tim, being the amazing person that he is, and without prompting, suggested I go. He’d take care of the kids and the dogs and the house for the week so I could hang out with Mom in the city.

In related news, I’ve nominated him for Husband of the Year.

So we were off! First stop: Boston, to visit my brother and his fiancée for a night. Fanueil Hall’s tree and light show were pretty, but we reserved judgment until we’d seen Rockefeller Center so we could compare.

Our visit to NYC was wandering in Grand Central Station, an evening in Times Square, dinner and cheesecake at Junior’s, the lights at Rockefeller, and a quick walk through St. Patrick’s. I hadn’t been to the city since I was a kid, so I found it amusing that everything was smaller than I remembered.

Best of all was spending time with Mom. It’s been a rough year for everyone, and being as busy as I am with work and the kids and Tim, it’s too easy to take her proximity for granted. I’m lucky to have a parent who is also a friend, and I hope I’ll have a similar relationship with my kids when they’re older.

We’ll get to repeat this trip when we go down to see Streetcar in May!

So many changes!

Fall seems to be a time of change. This whole year has been transformative, but there are lots of new things happening at Casa de Moore right now.

A couple weeks ago, Tim left his job at Automattic to become a stay-at-home parent, writer, and freelancer.

We’ve talked about this for a long time, so it’s hard to believe it’s finally come to fruition. When we originally moved here, the idea was to reduce our expenses and save money, with the end goal of living comfortably on one income.

It goes beyond our budget, though. Tim has wanted to be a writer for as long as I’ve known him. I’m sure it was one of the first things we talked about during the get-to-know-you phase of our relationship, fifteen years ago.

It’s an adjustment, but a necessary one. We’re already seeing the short-term positives to having someone on full-time house- and kid-wrangling duty, and the long-term benefits make the loss of income more than worth it. It helps that my job is secure and still fun and engaging.

Speaking of my job and big changes, I recently started a new lead role at work. Prior to this, I led a “squad” of about eight people; now that’s almost doubled, and with it, my responsibilities. I’m lucky to have a great team and a solid support system in my leads, but it’s going to take a bit for me to settle into the new role.

And finally, Gwen started pre-kindergarten this week, which is mind-boggling and exciting and scary and sad. This will be the first time we have the house to ourselves on the weekdays to work, the first time she’ll be away from us for a few hours at a time, and her first time in a structured learning environment.

She’ll be fine, but I’m not sure I am. 🙂

Variations on a theme

JokesterGwen: “Knock knock!”
Me: “Who’s there?”
Gwen: “The interrupting butt.”
Me: “The interrupting bu —”
Gwen: “TOOOOOOOT!”


Gwen: “Knock knock!”
Me: “Who’s there?”
Gwen: “The interrupting horse.”
Me: “The interrupting ho —”
Gwen: “MOOOOO!”
Me: “Moo? I thought it was a horse.”
Gwen: “Yeah, the cow kinda got in the joke.”

Boston!

We had a great time in the city last week, seeing the sights and hanging out with my brother and his fiancée.

Unfortunately there was no Comic Con for us, as Gillian Anderson canceled her appearance, but we had plenty to do; the aquarium and the science museum were big hits with Ellie, who demanded “more science!” Cheap tickets from a good friend meant we were able to stretch our budget, and the kids saw their first IMAX show.

But their favorite part of the trip was the Legoland Discovery Center. Most of the attractions are for little kids, but it was worth the price of admission just to see the city of Boston made entirely of LEGOs. Gwen plopped herself down in front of a bucket of bricks and basically didn’t budge until one of us prompted her to look around, while Ellie ran from activity to activity with glee.

We had lunch with E, the girls’ former sitter, and they were so excited to see her I thought they’d try to stow away in her car when we said goodbye. It’s amazing how a person can be part of your life for such a relatively small amount of time, but have such a great impact. I keep coming back to how lucky we are — and how lucky the girls are — to have the village we’ve had.

I only wish so many of our family and friends didn’t live a 7+ hour drive away. Ahh, the price we pay for living in the boonies. 😉

A letter for Dad

Dear Dad,

It’s been three months since you passed away, and I’m missing you harder than usual lately. Part of me can’t believe you’re really gone, though enough has changed in your absence that there’s no other explanation.

We had a “happy hour” in your honor at the summer party; you showed up right on time, in the form of a short-lived thunderstorm that drove us all into clusters under the tents. We sang Three Little Birds and Wild Thing. I could picture you playing the guitar alongside our friends and family, but I missed your voice singing along.

The other night, I dreamt I saw your ghost. You walked past the front window and vanished at the porch. It was more comforting to think of you that way, as a spirit; the dreams where you appear alive are harder to process the next morning. So close, and yet not close at all. Sometimes you’re still sick in the dreams, sometimes you’re not. I wake up greedy, wishing I could have more time with you.

Every time I look at the stars, I think of you. Venus and Jupiter appeared next to each other in the sky last month, and I thought you would have loved to see that. It’s the kind of thing that would have brought you outside into the night to look up, held in rapt attention. You were always fascinated by the sky.

I know this sounds morose, but we’re doing OK. You left behind a strong family. We’re not wallowing. Thanks to you, I’ve realized how little time we have, and it’s inspired me to keep going, to do all the things I want to do before it’s too late.

It catches up to me at night, though, and that’s when I write these letters to you in my head. This time, I thought I’d write one for real.

Love you,
Caroline

in june

Did I mention there was wine?
Did I mention there was wine?

The last few months have been a roller coaster of anxiety, sadness, and depression, so it was a relief when things started feeling inexplicably lighter. It comes in waves, I guess, and right now I’m enjoying calm waters.

Tim took the kids to visit their grandparents a couple weeks ago, so I got some impromptu time off. I questioned whether I might miss out on the family fun, but I’m glad I stayed. I can’t remember the last time I was truly alone for more than a few hours at a stretch, with the exception of traveling for work. I spent the time in the most mundane ways — napping, grocery shopping, making food, watching movies, plucking away at that third book. It was basically the perfect weekend.

Gillian Anderson as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named DesireI also started planning a trip to New York City for next spring, an early Mother’s Day gift to myself. A Streetcar Named Desire is coming to the city in April, and I bought tickets on a whim. Gillian Anderson plays Blanche, and seeing her in a live production is an experience I can’t miss. I haven’t been to NYC since I was a kid, so I plan to take a couple days to explore as well.

Then I discovered GA is coming to Boston Comic Con in August, so guess who’s going to her first-ever comic con? This gal! We’re not sure yet if I’ll fly down for the day, or if Tim and I will make a longer trip of it with the kids. I’m leaning toward taking vacation and spending a few days in Boston as a family; my brother has graciously offered us his guest room, so our lodging is free! Gwen is old enough to enjoy the science museum and the aquarium, and Ellie will get a kick out of meeting “Scully”.

"Work from anywhere? Just *try* to work from anywhere, you mean."
“Work from anywhere? Just *try* to work from anywhere, you mean.”

We’re on month four without a nanny or sitter, and working alongside an active three-year-old for most of the day has been interesting, but not impossible. I’m surprised I’ve gotten anything done at all, frankly. My expectations going into this were low. But the real challenge began earlier this month; Ellie started summer vacation!

Having both kids at home has been surprisingly OK. Ellie is good about finding creative ways to spend her time. So far we’ve built a lot of LEGOs, she and Gwen made up a play (El even designed and built the set out of cardboard boxes), and Ellie comes up with all sorts of games and stories. If anything, having her here makes it easier, giving Gwen a full-time playmate. I am so glad they get along.

Making a splash
Making a splash

On weekends we try to get out of the house; we’ve spent some time at the lake, took a trip to Bangor, and eaten more than our fair share of ice cream. So far, summer is off to a good start.

In terms of work, I’ve been so focused on home stuff that I’m feeling a bit disconnected, operating on autopilot. Grief is like a big glass wall; you can see everyone on the other side, and you can talk to them, but there’s this muted quality to everything. I’ve also been in something of a creative rut. Thankfully this seems to be mild. I’ve been working on a new WordPress theme which has reminded me how much better I feel when I’m making things.

I’m also distracting myself with X-Files geekiness and working on my book, which has almost finished a second edit. It’s been a long process, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve also been mulling over a post on fandom and my experience as a fan, in light of the upcoming X-Files revival.

The hard part

When all the food is eaten and the cards are opened and the obituary is published and the belongings are divided and the shock has worn off and the visitors have come and gone, you’re left with the same problem that all of these distractions can’t touch: The person you loved is gone. Maybe not in spirit, but in body, and you miss them harder without the noise and bustle of everyone else’s grief around you.

I keep thinking I see him out of the corner of my eye. I hear his laugh in someone else’s voice. I have the fleeting thought, “Dad would love this, I should tell him…” before I remember I can’t share it with him.

I’m all too familiar with depression, but this time the source isn’t a chemical ghost haunting my brain. I can’t go to bed with the knowledge that tomorrow will be better, that the glitch in my system will reverse itself with rest.

Instead, I hope for a good day rather than a bad one. I remind myself that it will take time — it’s only been two weeks, after all.

I shower and dress, brush my teeth, and make coffee. I watch comedies and try not to think about how much he’d laugh at them. I browse Facebook and startle when I see his photo pop up in my notifications. I plan an upcoming work trip and tend to sick kids and make shopping lists.

Getting through a loved one’s death is hard, for sure, but living after death is harder. Taking what I’ve learned and using it, rather than wallowing. Trying to move forward, even though I’m not quite ready to stop looking back.

Now comes the hard part.

A lesson in loss

It’s been a rough month.

A few weeks ago, my dad went to the doctor to treat a mild cough. An X-ray revealed a mass in his lung, and after multiple follow-ups, what we thought was a lingering virus is actually advanced lung cancer. We’ve gone from a pesky cough to hospice in a matter of weeks.

He’s a lifelong on-and-off smoker, but in that illogical way people have when faced with dire events, I never thought this would happen. The uncertainty of not knowing how long he’ll be with us has made for many ups and downs.

My relationship with my father (like most relationships) is complex, but I have always been able to count on his love and support. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine what life will look like without him.

Dad has always encouraged my creative efforts — from singing, to writing terrible poetry, to karate lessons, to drawing and photography. He gave me my first film camera — his old Pentax ME — and his Time-Life photography books.

Dad is the one who knew I would be a web developer, long before “web developer” was a common profession. What I saw as a frivolous hobby of playing with code on the fledgling web, he saw as a potential career.

He introduced my brother and me to video games like Myst and Prince of Persia and Sim City, and I am strangely proud to say I’ve raided Molten Core alongside him.

My taste in music is questionable, but I like to think the few rock-solid influences — Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, to name a few — can be attributed to his good taste. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve singing folk songs with my family around the kitchen table while Dad played guitar.

Most poignant is how he and my mom have shown me what 37 years of commitment looks like — loving, respectful, imperfect friendship — something that’s framed all my relationships as an adult for the better.

When I was 11 or 12, I went through this phase where I clung to my father’s arm and called him “Daddy”. I’m not sure what it was about; a last-ditch effort to hang onto my own babyhood, I suppose. My dad was bemused by the extra attention, eventually I grew out of it, and that was that.

That girl is still part of me. She wants me to stomp my foot and selfishly declare that he is not allowed to die, that she is not done with him, that this is not fair.

But I’m 32, not 12, so writing this is as close to a tantrum as I’ll get.

The truth is that people die. All the time. Even my dad.

I suppose the last lesson a parent teaches a child is about loss. How to endure it, survive it, and live without.

I’m not ready to learn this one.