I don’t have a real reason for not writing this earlier, other than a vague “I just don’t want to.” I want Ramona to be MINE MINE MINE and writing about her seems like she belongs to everyone. But, here she is anyway.
Ramona Minaret Hillery was born on September 20. I honestly don’t remember when during the day – maybe evening? I was in labor for what seemed like forever, and she was 8 lb 3 oz (much bigger than my other 3 kids!), so pushing her out was realllllllllly difficult. Ramona was only 18.5 inches, though, which made her a fairly compact newborn.
Birth story, blah blah blah, I don’t feel particularly inclined to write about it at the moment. It was altogether a terrifying, emotional, draining event. The days, weeks, and months that followed were full of anxiety that something would happen to her. But they were also full of cuddling, and adoration, and eat/sleep/repeat cycles (for both of us, I guess).
Our senior year of high school, Jarom and I were on the Academic Decathlon team because we are just that awesome. Our teammates were awesome, too. We have so many fond memories of that year. For our honeymoon, we went back to the Monterey beach condos where we’d stayed on a Decathlon team retreat. We keep in touch, more or less, with most of our teammates, and with our coach. It was also the year that we finally figured out we like liked each other. Yeah, teenagers. Ugh. This story does have a point: it was hard to decide on a middle name for Ramona, and in the end we went with the middle name of one of our teammates. It was a shout-out to all of the friendships we made that year. Also Minaret is just a flippin’ awesome name.
Ramona does not look like I expected. At all. June was born with black hair, and I figured Ramona would have brown hair. I always pictured her that way. It was SO surprising when she came out with quite a lot of orange hair.
She’s 4 months old now. Her hair is longer, but still – as Evan calls it – “mango-colored.” It does look like it might be starting to grow out blonde at the roots. As unexpected as her orange hair was, I’ll be sad if it doesn’t stay that color, for a year or two at least. And her eyes have stayed blue-blue – also unexpected! Evan and June both have brown eyes, and although theirs didn’t look particularly brown until about 8 months, theirs were definitely darker at 4 months than Ramona’s are. I kept crossing my fingers that she’d have green eyes, so I fought any comments about how blue her eyes were . . . but I think it’s time to admit that Ramona has blue eyes. Blue-blue.
Last weekend she suddenly noticed my phone while I was holding her. She’s started reaching and grabbing for objects with definite intention. And a few days ago, I was walking through the house carrying her, wondering why something felt different about carrying her, when I realized that I just had my arm under her bottom – she was holding her head up the entire time.
Stop growing, Ramona!
When Evan and June were babies, I was so impatient for every new milestone. Smiling, laughing, rolling over – I was desperately excited to see the people they were becoming. I feel oddly sad every time Ramona hits a milestone, though. Like a part of her is gone forever. Lost. I think maybe I should see a therapist or something.
But. Despite all my weird feelings, I cannot get enough of this girl. When I’m not holding a camera in her face, she smiles – all the time. She’s stingy about laughing; today was a lucky day and she laughed for about 3 minutes. Ramona has even been learning to sit in a high chair. Evan and June are NUTS about her. Even Jarom seems to like her ok, so we all agree our kookaburra belongs here!
I’ve been compiling all the recipes I use most into an easy-to-edit cookbook, since the notebook I normally use is now covered in a great deal of food-type stains. There are way too many places I stash recipes. One is this old Miquelrius journal I dearly loved – I started writing notes, lists, journal entries, recipes, directions, and everything else in it toward the end of 2004. It was mostly full by the time Jarom and I got married in 2007.
I started going through it page by page this morning to check for recipes. And, before too long, I found this gem, presented to you with minimal commentary (but also more-than-minimal embarrassment).
August 23, 2005 / The genuine Mika
I blush easily. I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 6 hrs 39 minutes. I used to make pterodactyl noises to make my sister laugh. I gave up chocolate for a while and now it doesn’t taste as good as it used to. I have six nieces and nephews [current count: 21] who call my sister “Aunt Mika” because they remember my name. I want a puppy more than any other tangible thing right now. I have put my whole heart and energy into Decathlon, learning how to cook [come again? I did no such thing], and my relationship with Jarom. I am risking everything on him because he’s worth the worst heartache in the world. I play the Glad Game. I dislike driving on the freeway. I watch chick flicks. I enjoy learning and using formulas in Microsoft Excel. I have spent a long time disciplining myself to be a positive, optimistic person who seldom complains. [I was obviously heavily drugged while writing this.] I am fascinated by genealogy. I edit well. I can be cheered up by a mug of Ghirardelli’s gourmet hot chocolate. I use a guided imagery cd to fall asleep. I am a terrible liar. I love little kids. [Ok, that goes beyond drugged. Was I naive or just in extreme denial?] I don’t want a diamond ring. I write long letters. I am just beginning to really understand myself.
For what it’s worth, I think understanding oneself is an ongoing part of one’s twentysomethings. And boy, I had no idea back then. You know what’s on my list of top 3 things I DON’T like? Noise, crowds, kids. Luckily I’ve figured that out in the past 10 years, and I can avoid all of those most of the time because my own kids fall into this magical “I actually love you” zone. I still love Jarom, too, so that’s a plus.
For better or worse, I don’t have any interest in maintaining a blog that attracts a lot of readers. I actually don’t care if anyone but me reads this (although I know my mom and dad will read it, because they are cool like that). Because I care so little about being a Big Deal Blogger, and because I’m an impressively lazy person, I don’t usually have pictures with my posts, or links, or fun recipes. It’s just me (and occasionally Jarom) writing about life.
Actually, I was skimming through the past few posts recently and overall it was pretty depressing. If I wrote more frequently, you’d have a better glimpse of what life is really like, but the blog makes it sound like I’m still in the depths of despair over Christian.
Such is not the case.
Ramona is soothing, happy sunshine for my heart. She is the joyful center of attention in our house. Certainly, having a new baby has brought up some painful feelings about Christian – the past four months have flown by, and I feel guilty for taking any moment with Ramona for granted. It’s just how life goes, though, you know? You can’t live so intensely. Not every waking moment with Ramona can be sunshine-filled, heart-bursting euphoria. And not every waking moment after Christian was despair-filled, heart-wrenching anguish, either. Thank goodness for all those regular, unremarkable moments in between the anguish and the euphoria.
Anyway, I got off track there. Or maybe I didn’t have a track to begin with.
Right now Ramona and I are vacationing at my sister-in-law’s house in Washington. I’ve never been to Washington before – so green! So rainy! It reminds me a great deal of winters in northern California. This summer, I’m coming back with all the kids, and I’m excited to see how different (or similar) the foresty wetlands are in the warmer months.
Taking a break from nearly all my responsibilities has been wonderful for me. It gives me enough emotional distance to see what I really want to emphasize as a priority in my home, and what things I’ve just gotten stuck insisting we do. It inspires me to spend more quality time with the people I love, doing things we love. And it gives me a much-needed chance to recharge and to figure out how I can be more me. Deep down, I like me a lot – it’s just so tricky to avoid getting bogged down by obligations (real or imagined or self-imposed) and expectations (the same), and body image and envy of others, their talents and their seemingly perfect lives and their got-it-together-ness. Why don’t I have it together yet? Oh yeah, I’m working on it. And this is a great reminder that even as I work on getting the all-encompassing “it” together, I have to make sure it isn’t at the cost of the Really Important Stuff. You know, Jarom and the kids and the compassion I so desperately want to show to others.
I guess this vacation is like one of those giant Pause buttons I always wish for. Life is still happening while I’m here, but I’m not in the thick of it, and my only responsibilities here and now are to feed Ramona and to change her diapers. Those are so easy that I can do one of them in my sleep. The rest of the time, I can reflect on where I am in my life and how I want to help my life continue in its beautiful direction.
This blog post has zero direction, obviously. And you don’t get any pictures, either! So there!
Since they shut down Google Reader, I don’t really read blogs anymore, which also diminishes my motivation to write blog posts. Curse you, Google! (shakes fist)
That being said, here are several things that have happened since I last blogged, in no particular order:
1. We had a new baby. Her name is Ramona and she has strawberry-blonde (or, as Evan calls it, mango-colored) hair. At some point I’ll write about her birth and stuff like that but, for now, Ramona is here and that’s what I have to say on the matter.
2. We were planning to take the train to California for Christmas, but the cost of the rooms on the train (with a new baby, we realllllly needed one) plus a hotel room plus plus plus . . . we ended up just staying here for the holidays. June got a dress-up box full of very frilly skirts and tiaras and wands and bracelets. (I am not trying to over-the-top reinforce gender roles; it’s also ok if skirts and tiaras are what June likes. That’s the beauty of feminism.) Evan got a robot frilled lizard (frilly things for everyone, apparently) and the promise of starting parkour lessons with his best friend.
3. Evan started parkour lessons today! I went in to fill out a waiver (which I DID read thoroughly before signing) and June was so entranced by the gymnastics classes that we stayed the whole hour, even though I had Ramona with me and would have liked to go home and feed her someplace comfy like my couch. Evan had SO MUCH FUN. It was adorable to watch him. He’s by far the smallest in the class. He couldn’t stop talking about how great parkour lessons are – so I think it was a success as a present. Jarom got a Fitbit (I have one too!) and a smoker (with the caveat that he is required to learn how to make really good ribs). My big gift is a trip to visit my sister-in-law, with just Ramona, no other kids – for a whole week!
4. My sister-in-law moved to Washington :( and after seeing pictures of her house and giant, giant, giant foresty yard I’m working on a plan to get us moved out there too.
5. June is very reluctant to start kindergarten this fall. I’m not sure what her deal is, although she’s offered excuses like “I’ll miss you too much” and “I want to go to the ivy school instead of Evan’s school.” Last year a Montessori preschool opened up in a cute yellow house covered in ivy down the street from us, and I guess I mentioned something about it to June. I was pregnant at the time, so I don’t take much responsibility for how rational I was being.
6. I can’t describe how much June loved watching the gymnastics, tumbling, and cheerleading classes at the parkour place. She begged me to let her start gymnastics. I said first she’d have to stop fussing about kindergarten, but that confused her and she thought I meant she had to start kindergarten first. I don’t know, June, we’re in the middle of a huge building with tons of kids doing incredibly dangerous things and it’s loud and I’m having lots of anxiety and can we talk about this later?
7. I switched my anxiety medication about a month ago and while there’s been a lot of rough patches with the transition, the best part is that I no longer feel exhausted all the time. I can make it through the day without a nap, I can get out of bed in the morning, and I want to paint. That’s a big and wonderful change.
8. Next month Evan will turn 7. Over the past 3 years, since we bought our house, there have been lots of room swaps. Sometimes Evan is in the bigger bedroom, sometimes he’s in the littler bedroom, sometimes he and June share the bigger bedroom. But I finally put my foot down and said NO MORE SHARING (not long before #9 happened). Evan was initially excited to have the “cozy” little room but it wasn’t long before he had very hurt feelings about it. We hadn’t moved everything out of the room from it being a storage room/Ramona’s eventual room, so there wasn’t a ton of space for his things. A few weeks ago Jarom helped clear it out and we started letting Evan have the dog sleep with him. For Evan’s birthday, we’re going to get a loft bed, move out the rest of the storage things, put up some posters, maaaaaaaybe paint a wall or two, actually organize the little closet in a way that’s useful for Evan, and put his desk under the loft bed. All in secret while he’s away for the night! I hope he loves it.
9. In a terrible bedtime drama mishap, June gouged a big chunk out of the bridge of her nose. I took her to the ER for stitches. I’m crossing my fingers that the scar fades, because it looks quite Frankenstein-y at the moment. How shallow of me is that?
10. Also, Evan broke his arm when Ramona was about 2 weeks old. That was another fun ER trip. It’s healed now, though.
11. Ramona laughed once when Jarom was tickling her, a week or two before Christmas; she laughed at her reflection in the mirror twice last week. Otherwise she makes this face that ought to be accompanied by peals of laughter, but she’s silent. Come on, Ramona! JUST LAUGH! She’s ridiculously easygoing, everyone loves her, she sleeps through the night, and I feel like we hit the jackpot here.
12. I didn’t blog when we hit 2.5 years since Christian was born/died. Partly I was caught up with a beautiful new baby, partly I didn’t want to force it on everyone, and partly – like I said before – I just don’t blog anymore. But I did note the day, and, while I wasn’t as sad as I’ve been in the past, it was still hard to think of what Christian would have been like at Ramona’s age. Or as a rambunctious two-and-a-half-year-old. What would he think of Ramona?
13. We didn’t get any family pictures done last year. :( I wanted to wait until Ramona was born, but then Evan broke his arm, and June busted up her nose, and Ramona was really jaundiced. In another shallow move, I’m waiting until we’re all a little nicer looking (and that includes my extra chub – I mean, comfy padding – from the past 3 years).
What have you been up to since the beginning of the school year?
New books: 7 ( 2,961 pages )
Charlie Holmberg, The Paper Magician
A.G. Riddle, The Atlantis Gene
Tim Westover, Auraria
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake
Stephen King, 11-22-63
Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
Woohoo! School has started!
Evan has been so excited about going to first grade that he does parkour everywhere we go. And practices doing flips on my bed. It’s one of the few ways he expresses enthusiasm.
He got up just after 7 this morning and immediately said, “I’ll get dressed so we can go!” Sorry, bud, you’ve got an hour and a half before we need to go.
Who is your favorite person in the whole world? Maggie and Trinity (two of his kindergarten classmates)
What is your favorite color? yellow
What is your favorite movie? Jurassic World (he’s seen it 3 times in the theater, not quite the record of Jarom’s 16 trips to see Jurassic Park as a kid)
What is your favorite outfit? “My Jurassic World velociraptor shirt and skinny pants.”
What sport or game do you like best? “Playing Wild Kratts.”
What song do you love? Shut Up and Dance (he loves it SO MUCH that I have begun to hate it passionately)
What is your favorite cereal? Rice Krispies Treats Cereal
Who is your best friend? Cooper (I was surprised at this because he rarely mentions Cooper, who moved away more than a year ago.)
What do you want to be when you grow up? a veterinarian
What is your favorite book? Bunnicula (which we haven’t started reading yet. He’s just really excited for it. We’re still working on Fablehaven as a family)
What are you really good at? parkour
Where do you wish you could go on vacation? to see Cooper
What is your best memory? staying at the beach house in Monterey last summer
What would you buy if you had $1,000? “A chihuahua and a snake. A python. A pet python.”
What is your favorite food? oatmeal, watermelon, and fried rice
If you could have a wish, what would it be? “To have a baby Indominus Rex. But he’d be nice.”
What is your favorite ice cream flavor? cookie dough
Who is your biggest hero? “Pa, because he helped me across the monkey bars.”
What do you like to do most with your friends? play and swing and run
What do you hope you’ll get to do in school this year? science!
I’ve put off writing this for the past week and a half, because I’m not sure how things are going. Life is confusing and wonderful and terrifying and hilarious and sad. So, pretty normal.
Christian’s second birthday was, I’m happy to say, not looming ahead like his first birthday seemed to. It’s mainly due to the fact that a week before his birthday this year, we got to have an ultrasound of our [so far] healthy baby girl, and the good news – the excitement of looking at baby clothes, the optimism, the hope for the future – really mellowed out the sense of loss over Christian. It was really, really nice to feel like good things will still happen in my life, maybe happen soon.
Unfortunately, some of my excitement was – whether consciously or not – an attempt to ignore my ongoing grief. I’ll never stop being sad that Christian died. I will enjoy my life, but I don’t think there’s going to come a day (though maybe I’m wrong) when I think, I’m so glad this is my lot in life. Grief manifests itself far less frequently now, but it has still taken up permanent residence in my heart. Sometimes it sneaks up on me, like when I’ve spent a week or two being happy about a baby girl and then suddenly the next day is what should be my two-year-old’s birthday party.
We asked friends and family to do a good deed in Christian’s honor again for Doubleplusgood Day. My brilliant idea was to take cookies (the delicious orange chocolate chip kind!) to the labor & delivery nurses at the hospital where Christian was born. To be honest, I do NOT remember the nurses fondly, but I’m willing to concede that I was not my best self that day. So I made cookies, put them in a pretty box, wrote a nice note, and headed down to Payson with Evan in tow.
Yeah, it didn’t occur to me until I stepped off the elevator onto the labor & delivery floor that this was all a terrible idea. Have you ever experienced intense anxiety? For me it always feels like prickles – actual physical ones – all over my skin, and I want to run and hide or stop existing or curl up into a ball. I don’t know what I was thinking! Somehow I forced myself to walk over to the nurses’ station, and although I’m rarely emotional in front of people, I did get really teary. All the moms on the floor were going to have live, healthy babies that day, babies they got to take home and watch grow. And being back in that part of the hospital did not bring back very pleasant memories. Dead babies aside, the day Christian was born was really an awful day – no sleep, no food, maybe needing an emergency C-section, headaches, barfing, machines beeping constantly… the overwhelming emotion of knowing my baby was about to die, on top of all those things, made for a lousy day.
So I didn’t stay long at the hospital. One of the nurses came and gave me a hug, they congratulated me on my upcoming baby, they were all sympathetic and nice. But I wanted to cry because despite their compassion, they had no idea what it’s like. (I don’t want them to! I wish no one did, including me.) It reminded me of one of my favorite, heartbreaking moments from Christian’s birthday: when we were just about ready to go home, the bereavement volunteer (the one who put together our amazing, priceless box of keepsakes) was finishing up. She’d been there for hours and hours. She tucked the last few items into the box and turned to me. I was sitting in the rocking chair, holding Christian, who had died probably about 3 hours before. She said, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” I shook my head. I don’t remember if I looked at her, but I definitely heard the emotion in her voice as she said, “You just want him back?” I definitely started crying again then. She understood. She knew the agony I was going through, and would go through. And she wished desperately she could help.
(I should toss in a disclaimer here that it’s currently 3:30am, I’m still up because I have to finish a project for Jarom, and I am not only sleep-deprived but caffeinated and hormonal. It’s ok if you are sad because I’m sobbing – quietly – thinking about that moment.)
Anyway, I had a friend put together a floral arrangement for us to take to Christian’s grave, but when Evan and I left Payson it was about to rain. Then I had to go pick up June (who had been crazy wild fussy and was really making it hard to grieve), and by the time we all made it home, I was emotionally spent. When Jarom got home from work he sent me to bed. I cried big tears and let that anguish engulf me until I fell asleep.
That being said, Year 2 is so much better than Year 1. I didn’t feel (quite as much) like I needed to force Doubleplusgood Day on people. Christian is my son; it’s ok if other people are too busy or uninterested or whatever to remember his birthday. The world will go on. I was touched by the acts of service done in his memory, where last year I just really hated having to “celebrate” that way.
Next year, I hope, will be even better.