I seriously have been trying to write this blog post all week. Every time I sit down to work on it, something comes up and I get derailed until it's too late in the evening for me to have enough functioning brain cells left to write anything coherent. Assuming I do anyway, of course.
It's been a busy time, between working on the house and getting our garden produce picked and taken care of. The garden isn't producing as plentifully as I'd hoped (too many plants, not enough room, I'm thinking), but it's bringing enough in that it's taking a few hours every few days to harvest everything and then take care of it. We had chicken curry last night made with our own tomatoes and peppers and Ben was really thrilled - both with the recipe and the fact a good portion of it came from the garden. He's never been around for canning tomatoes before and I sort of regret now that I did the blanching and peeling while he was away so he didn't have the fun of squishing the tomatoes.
Anyone else reading who has been similarly deprived: you have my sympathy. Tomato squishing is the best part of doing any canning all summer. I mean, just picture a great big pan of warm peeled tomatoes just waiting for you to stick your hands in and start squishing them up. Doesn't get much more fun than that.
Since we're beginning the process of getting our building permits for the addition (hooray!), we've finally began doing some of the work on the kitchen we've really wanted to do all year, like getting the transition bar installed between the wood floor in the living room and the composite floor in the kitchen and hanging the vertical blinds. Yes, we know it's all going to get torn out again shortly. In fact, installing things pretty much ensures that. If all goes well, we should begin the foundation work in the next few weeks.
I've been feeling the baby move now and then, but it seems we have a placid one on our hands: whoever this little person is, they're not in a big hurry to start thumping away on Mom. I've been praying for a baby with a laid-back sunny disposition like Ben's and now I just have to remember not to get too worried when he or she is not too worried about being on time with things like movement milestones. One of the big differences between me and Ben is that he's not concerned when he's running late for something; I always feel bound to be absolutely on time even for things that really don't matter. Which is probably why I walked at 12 months and he waited until 15.
Having said all that, as I'm sitting here typing I'm getting probably the strongest movements I've felt yet. It feels...sort of like someone popping popcorn very gently under my skin. I'm very relieved to feel that because I've been firmly resisting using the Doppler monitor to hear the heartbeat again. I've been doing some reading and it seems there are some indications that exposure to focused sound waves from ultrasound or even the Doppler monitor can be hard on the baby's developing cells. So unless there's an emergency, I really don't want to go bombarding Peanut with focused sound waves just so I can feel happy to hear a nice little heartbeat.
All of which makes a little movement a welcome event. Today, Peanut is alive and well and cheerfully kicking me in the stomach.
Hm. That doesn't sound too good, put in those terms.
Grandma is having trouble remembering.
When I first met her she was having some trouble, but it's become much more profound over the past few months. I have moments when I'm afraid we moved her one too many times, because every move was harder on her; but then I remember that we moved her home so that she wouldn't wind up in a nursing home and that is still a very good reason. Actually, I'm increasingly relieved we moved her when she did because if we were to try to do the same thing now the upset would be exponentially harder on her, I think. The loss of memory is fairly normal, people keep telling us, and eventually it gets to the point that changes in routine of any kind so throw a person off that it can be weeks before they're not confused by the change anymore. "That's just how it works," people say. "Your mind just changes as you get older, and these things happen."
Still, it breaks my heart almost every day.
Imagine living in Grandma's place. She wakes up in the morning and has trouble knowing what day it is, even with three carefully crossed-off calenders placed in all the spots she can look at them. She does not remember exactly who the people she's living with are. She's not even sure how many of us live here. When she's reminded it's just Ben and I, that we're her grandchildren and we're expecting, she's shocked and hurt because we didn't tell her we were pregnant and everyone else knew it first. She's troubled when she can't remember why she walks with a walker and thinks it was just a little fall that crippled her, so she's terrified of what will happen if she has another little fall. She feels that I'm a know-it-all because when she asks why she has a walker and I tell her the whole long story, she can't remember the details I'm telling her and she thinks I'm either making it up or somehow deceiving her because she can't remember.
Sometimes this is frustrating (probably a hundred times more to Grandma than it is to me!), but to be honest most of the time it makes me really sad. Because one of the most terrifying things I can think of is to not be able to remember. At first I was getting mildly annoyed when Grandma would ask for the fifth or sixth time that day what day it was; but then I started catching on that it wasn't just absent-mindedness. It was true memory loss and it was really a new question each time. As that has progressed to more and more things - and even as Grandma has gotten more irate with me for things like remembering how she walks with a walker when "you weren't there, how do you know?" - I've actually become more and more patient with it. Because somewhere along the way I've realized that it's our (Ben's and my) position to be Grandma's memory. Not to be her teacher and not to lecture her on the things she's forgotten, but to be a sort of walking, talking notebook keeping track of all the things that Grandma wants to remember but just can't.
When we were in Pennsylvania, Mom's cousin Sandy gave us a piece of advice gained from experience of caring for her own mother for 30 years: "When she asks over and over about simple things she can't remember, she needs mostly to know she's safe. Someone will always be available to remind her of the thing she wants to remember."
There are a few things we've been doing to try to help. We've begun a project where we're putting together some small book-sized photo collections entitled things like, "Why I Walk With A Walker" because when Grandma sees photos, she remembers. This is when Mom's penchant for documenting everything - even holiday meals - is rapidly becoming even more valuable than it already was. I'm also trying to write every little thing that I know is coming up on a desk calender by Grandma's chair. She reads it like a book every day, sometimes a few times a day. Whenever she asks a question, I answer it fully instead of just the brief answer you would normally give someone who can remember all the back details that might go into the question. If Grandma asks, "What's today?" she wants to know the day, the date, and the year, and probably anything we were planning to do that day. When she asks, "Where does everyone sleep?" she needs to know who's living in the house, how we're related to her, and to be reassured that we are there every night while she's sleeping.
It's a whole facet of life that I've never had close contact with before and it's an astonishing thing to witness. It's requiring thought and patience and care that I've never had to summon before. It's actually requiring more love than anyone has ever needed from me before. It's a tricky thing, being someone else's memory. But Grandma needs it, if only because if someone can be her memory, then she can feel safe.
Yet amid all of this, Grandma is living a life I don't think she ever imagined possible. Last Saturday is a good example. She woke up in the morning, had a leisurely breakfast (with berries on her cereal, which she really likes), then got in her transport chair and was wheeled next door, where she spent the afternoon watching her great-granddaughter playing on the floor, sharing lunch with Mom and her two granddaughters, watching all the centerpieces get put together for her youngest granddaughter's wedding, and watching TV with her son-in-law. Her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren were in and out all day. She had her favorite macaroni and cheese for dinner. People made sure she was cool enough or warm enough and took care of getting her medication to her on time. She looked through stacks of photo albums from when her grandchildren were younger (one of her favorite things to do). When it was time for bed, she went next door to her house and went to bed in her own bed, not in a room she's just visiting while she's in town.
I hope she still has the memory that allows her to know how special this really is. Because it's perfect. It's how life should be. And I am very blessed to have a piece in making it possible.
This week I can definitely tell I'm no longer in the first trimester of this pregnancy. I suddenly have the overwhelming urge to take care of all the little odds and ends I've been putting off for the past three months. So far I've been painting doors, cleaning corners of the house that have been building up dust and clutter, finally beginning to think about how to actually decorate around here, weeding the flowers, trying out new recipes, and no longer needing a nap every afternoon in order to have energy to make dinner. I notice that I can go up and down the stairs without feeling achy. How exactly does that work, I wonder, considering the baby is a hundred times bigger and heavier than three months ago?
I can also take a shower first thing in the morning before breakfast without passing out. Betcha everyone was just itching to know about that.
Furthermore, I had the energy to also be interested enough in politics again to go read up on all the candidates on yesterday's ballot before we went in to vote. I haven't even wanted to hear the radio lately; and for anyone who knows me well, this should be an indication of just how tired I was. There was an exciting bunch of skulduggery going on in my hometown...but I wasn't voting there. Bummer. Apparently there were some similar fireworks in our new hometown, but I didn't have the same kind of background to know what was going on and who to really vote for. So yesterday morning - the first big election I haven't worked in twelve years! - Ben and I sat down and read through a lot of candidate statements and news articles before going in to vote. That's when I realized the fog must really be lifting off my brain because my reaction wasn't "eh...okay...big deal..."
A lot of people have told me, "Oh, you're going to feel really good these next couple of months." It's not that I didn't believe them, but it is actually surprising to me how much better I feel. After all, I just did two first trimesters in a row between Joshua and this baby, so feeling better while still expecting is all new territory.
And folks have started with the patting-the-tummy thing. I wasn't sure how I was going to respond to that, if it would be really weird and uncomfortable or if it wouldn't bother me. Turns out...so far it doesn't bother me. Maybe because I'm so very pleased this baby is still around and getting around-er, so to speak.
Update on Zucchinis...
For anyone who's really fascinated by plants...and I suppose you'd have to be REALLY fascinated to find this interesting...
The worms I dug out of the plants were called Squash Vine Borers. They show up only during a very short window up time, so we won't be getting a reinfestation; and I killed them off before they could burrow into the ground and become adults, so our ground isn't infected.
Furthermore, the blooms weren't dropping as a sign of distress. It turns out that zucchini plants have male and female flowers and you can tell the difference because the female flowers actually start with the baby zucchini forming at the base while the male flowers are just on a thin stalk. The fact that our plant was only producing male flowers WAS a sign of distress, but it's perfectly normal for the male flowers to drop off after blooming.
And once you've gotten rid of the worm, it's best to bury the poor mangled stem with compost so it can re-root and get stronger without getting any more bugs in the crevices. I let ours dry out so they weren't all soft and mushy anymore and complied. We got two zucchini this week and have six more in progress, one even from the plant I was sure we'd lost.
To repel the invading pests, the best method is to regularly use insecticide dust on the ground around the baby zucchini plants and on the bases of the stems throughout the month of June, which is the only time the borers lay their eggs. There is a liquid chemical you can use also, but I didn't recognize it and would probably stick to the dust since that works for cucumbers and beans too.
It's kind of funny because when I first was trying to get rid of the pests, I said to Ben, "These things are just like iris borers!"
And indeed...they are.
There are a lot of computer geeks in this world. This post (and the fact I really wanted to write it) just goes to prove that some of us end up being plant geeks instead. Oh well.
Every year, the Turner family likes to get a family photograph. This year for Mother's Day, Ben and I promised Mom we would arrange the photo shoot and buy her one 8 x 10 sometime when Stephen, Kim, and Emma were in town. Due to various scheduling things, today became the day and we fit the photo session into the only two-hour window of opportunity we could find. I was a bit worried we would have trouble getting everyone there and having Emma cooperate since Kim was doubtful the nap schedule would work out; but at 12:00 today we all got to the studio in coordinating colors and with Emma fresh from a nice long sleep.
Family pictures are a deceptively complicated process. For one thing, there's always the matter of getting the baby to smile. Emma is very adorable when she smiles and the lady taking the picture saw her smile: which then made it a matter of personal conviction on her part to get a good smile out of Emma in the group picture. We were all in agreement with this...except that it required considerable strain on the part of all our smile muscles as we had to remain facing the camera and smiling while the lady worked on getting Emma to smile. It's always kind of strange to smile until you get a cramp in your cheeks.
After some trial and error, we finally got a good group picture that included Emma staring seriously at the camera. She reminded me strongly of my sister Leah at a similar family event eighteen years ago during which the camera man all but stood on his head to get her to crack a smile and she ignored him with great dignity.
The other factor going on at the same time is the necessity to squash as closely together as possible so we can all get in the picture. Thankfully, even those of us who are new family are still family and squishing together is no problem. On the other hand, the combined body temperature rises pretty rapidly and I notice we were all a little pink by the time we got our good photo.
All this background is to set up why we were all disbanding with a sigh of relief after our group photo...only to find out that the photo studio was required to do ten poses before they would sell us our picture.
This is very effective marketing, by the way. We were there to buy one 8 x 10 family photo. When you do that many poses, though, you're almost guaranteed to buy more than one photo unless you have a very strong resistance to beautiful professional shots of your family.
"You HAVE to do ten poses?" we inquired dubiously.
"Yes," the lady said. "I really have to."
"Okay, quick," Mom said. "Let's do them as quick as we can."
So in rapid succession, we rotated each other in and out of the studio. If we'd all known we were doing separate photo shoots, I think we would've been a bit more uptight about it, but because we weren't planning on it we did it off the cuff and ended up all getting portraits done that would've been a whole lot more time consuming and expensive if we'd gone in separately. Jenny and Ken, for instance, got an engagement picture; Kim and Stephen got separate portraits of each of them with Emma. Mom and Dad did an anniversary picture. Ben and I got one with Grandma Lila.
By the time we were done, we had quite an order. If we'd described to everyone what we were going to do, it would've sounded like a huge project; but it turns out that unexpected photo shoots can go very well: and now the family photos are all taken care of for 2012. Which is an important year to have documented, because it's not every year a family nearly doubles in size as the Turner family has done this year. Counting our baby - who is just becoming visible now - there are four new members in a clan that only numbered six last year. That's what, a 60% increase?
We'd all have to be really on our toes to top that next year.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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