Cabin Fever

There have been many, many instances in my life when I have craved complete and utter laziness.  While busy working, studying or partaking in domestic responsibilities, I have often caught myself daydreaming of 24 hours in which I never change out of my pajamas.  No work, no responsibilities, no human interaction. Too many times to count, I have expressed my desire of a day not leaving bed, watching crappy daytime television programming or infomercials, reading trashy books, sitting at a table doing nothing but crossword puzzles and donning my favorite sweatpants.  Life gets busy and we get tired and I think it’s acceptable to pine for a whole lotta nothing from time to time.  But now…I take it back. I take it ALLLLLL back.

I’m sure it’s hardly original to write about “cabin fever” at this time. After all, it is mid-January…in Michigan…amidst a winter for the record books.  Just last week we all had the pleasure of enjoying a Snowmageddon/Polar Vortex/ Don’t-go-outside-unless-you-want-your-buttcheeks-to-freeze-together stretch that had everyone treating bona fide winter weather like the zombie apocalypse.  I know I am far from alone in my longing for sunshine, fresh air and any activity that doesn’t have to take place indoors.  Given my additional burden of bed rest, however, I feel I am a little more justified in my rant.  Several days of being “snowed in” with the masses made bed rest SLIGHTLY easier knowing that I was not alone in my inability to leave the house (misery loves company!), but now that the weather is back to its normal, almost-tolerable level of gloom, I find myself aching to get out of this mandated indolence.

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Keep it together…you’ve got this…I’m totally keeping it together…

Bed rest has been pretty wretched.  It could be much worse, of course.  For one, it’s working.  The fact baby boy hasn’t fallen out yet is the most important feat.  Furthermore, I am incredibly blessed to have had the support and patience of Nathan.  We are fortunate beyond words to have family relatively close by to care for Hazel while I am not allowed to stand or bend or lift or chase her down the hall.  Hazel quickly grew accustomed to, “No, honey, I can’t pick you up,” and will (most of the time) sweetly bring a book or toy or puzzle to me so we can read or play or snuggle upon the confines of whatever bed or couch I am currently occupying.  The time has gone slower than I would like, but we’re down to less than a week.  ONE WEEK.  Several more days of utter worthlessness and then I can finally, gratefully, return to as much of a normal life as a 9-month pregnant, sleep-deprived, equilibrium-challenged and weakened by slothlessness (I think I just made that word up…feel free to borrow it) woman is capable of having.  That is, until whenever baby boy makes his appearance via C-section and then I’ll be back to some similar dreaded restrictions, but at least we’ll have a cute new addition to the family outside my pelvis to remind us why it was all worthwhile.

I was offered many kind and creative suggests for how to fill my time while on bed rest.  One of my greatest frustrations is when I try to be optimistic and think, “Ooh I can get to that one thing I haven’t had the time to do for years,” but realize shortly after it requires standing or walking or lifting or general movement and therefore will remain on my “to do” list for another decade. Several people recommended knitting or crocheting. I loved the idea.  This should keep my hands busy, fill time, and still be able to lay down or sit to my uterus’ content.  Nathan agreed to get me the supplies and I would turn to YouTube or a creative individual to teach me the basics.  But…here I am…sans yarn and no successful pot holders or scarves or baby blankets to show for it.  Seeing as how I am incapable of sewing a button back on my pants (but can suture human flesh…figure that one out), maybe it’s better I didn’t even attempt to get crafty.

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If I’d known I would be missing out on this opportunity, I would have DEMANDED a crochet hook.

Several friends and family members kindly suggested, “You could blog more!  You could write a book!”  This was true.  I would have ample time to spend quality hours with the MacBook and plenty of time for my brain to wander and get inspired.  But since I am otherwise a waste of space, I didn’t want to spend my time at home (bedridden or not) with Hazel staring at a computer screen instead of making an attempt to converse or play or snuggle or read or whatever else is possible from a primarily horizontal or sitting position.  I’m trying to make the most of this added bonus time with her – especially before the baby comes – and don’t want my face glued to a computer screen or social media.  I think she is young enough, fortunately, she won’t remember this period of her life, but if she does I don’t want her to think back on “remember when Mom was super lazy and wouldn’t play with me for weeks and then all she did was sit around looking at her phone and laptop?”  So I have drastically limited my technology to when she is in bed and hence the few blog posts when I would otherwise have all the time in the world to write my gibberish.

Given my restrictions, housebound status and depressingly limited contact with the outside world, we have had to get a bit creative to maintain sanity.  Luckily, Hazel is free entertainment, incredibly imaginative and – most of the time – hilarious.  Thanks to these fancy cellular phone camera contraptions, I am still able to take obnoxious quantities of digital pics to document our daily activities.  I hope nobody has to be put on bed rest, with a toddler, in winter, but if you DO, here are some perfectly acceptable and amusing ways to fill the hours:

Make a paper chain to count down the days of imprisonment bed rest:

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Super productive use of time and makes for a great “tail” to run around the house with.

Put together a train track:

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A derailment is inevitable.

Dress up like a “princess”:

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I assume real-life princesses can afford shoes made with materials other than plastic.

Dress up like a crazy person:

Indiana Jones meets Mad Max meets Rainbow Bright.

Indiana Jones meets Mad Max meets Rainbow Bright.

Adorn yourself with stickers (see “crazy person” above):

Accessorizing on a budget.

Accessorizing on a budget.

Build a snowman with daddy (I watched from the window in a non-creepy way):

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It finally got above -88 degrees so they were able to enjoy the snow and didn’t even lose a limb to frostbite….bonus!

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Create your own interpretation of what a “train” should be:

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Not sure how functional it is, but at least she looks comfortable?

Completely give up on your afternoon naps, but be sure to put all 46 stuffed animals to bed while telling them to “lay down, closer your eyes, and GO TO SLEEP!”:

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Miss Bossypants needs to heed her own advice.

SO…if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to the past several weeks, you can admire from the preceding pictures JUST how much I have accomplished.  Be inspired.  To everyone who generously and encouragingly says, “Oh, but hasn’t it gone by fast?!” No.  No it hasn’t.  But we are on the home stretch and I’ve had some fun, recumbent times with the kiddo and my pregnancy has been going more smoothly and lasted longer than we feared weeks ago.  And in the upcoming week, when my independence is restored, look out world!!  I might just waddle myself into some amazing and productive adventures. images-4 Or….not.

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Christmastime Revelations

Hmmm.  I realize this title implies something much more virtuous and groundbreaking than what I have to offer.  If you are expecting to encounter a philosophical or educational piece, then turn your eyeballs elsewhere.  If you want to read ramblings about the superficial insight this atypical holiday season provided my measly brain, then stay tuned my beloved victims!

I have expressed before that we’re not “big” on holidays.  We prepare for Halloween with general apathy.  Although we very much like each other, neither Nathan nor I have ever cared much about the “hallmark holidays” of Valentine’s or the buy-your-loved-one-something-or-else “Sweetest Day.”  Fourth of July is fun because it’s ALMOST guaranteed warmth and barbecuing in good ol’ Michigan.  And Thanksgiving is nice because you (usually) get a couple of days off work, spend time with family and it’s focused around simultaneous gratitude and gluttony, which is A-OK in my book.

But Christmas is another story.  Because we both. LOVE. CHRISTMAS.  The indifference and cynicism with which we view most holidays evaporates and we turn into giddy, fidgety, overzealous Christmas dorks as soon as we drive home from our Thanksgiving fulfillments.  For 11 months of the year I can’t wait to put Bing Crosby to shame (through volume or talent is up to your bleeding ears to decide).  For 340-ish days, we eagerly await Christmas parades, Christmas parties, Christmas services and specials.  Although we stick to humble white lights and wreaths (so far), we both dream of making Clark Griswold’s house look half-assed.  We love the cooking and baking, the gift-giving and gatherings, the traditions and movies and books and on and on and on.  The restraint we possess in waiting until “Black Friday” (a shopping extravaganza which we do not partake in….because we are not crazy that ambitious) to celebrate is admirable, at the least, if you knew how much waiting for Christmas makes us felt like squirmy, hungry children in line at the dessert table for most of the year.

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Psshhht. Amateurs.

The anticipation this year was no different.  In fact, it was even greater knowing we had a fun and energetic two year old to add more whimsy to our most favorite of calendar days.  However, the last couple weeks forced some unexpected turns for our family.  Pregnancy complications (I’ll post more on that fun another day) and illnesses thwarted our usual Christmas plans.  Thanks to my sudden decay in immunity and gestational well-being, our Christmas-palooza was seemingly ruined.  We couldn’t travel to our usual family gatherings.  We couldn’t head to the mall or local stores to finish Christmas shopping.  I couldn’t concoct the meals and coveted baked goods during one of the few times of year it is socially acceptable to create and consume masses of sugary, buttery-laden goodness without guilt or judgment.  The remainder of the Christmas decorations would stay in their sad little tubs in the basement storage and our nighttime winter walks through the impressively decorated downtown so Hazel could admire the lights and music would have to be pushed aside.

We spent this entire Christmas at home.  No family gatherings, no travel.  I mostly enjoyed Christmas from a horizontal position consuming Tylenol and watching way too many Christmas movies to keep our busy toddler appeased.  Our usual hectic, but blissful hub-bub was dismantled.  For the first time in my life, I had less than 4 (and have had as many as 8) family Christmas gatherings to attend.  This year we have had but one Christmas – at home.  Nathan, Hazel, our unborn baby, the dogs and I stayed home.  We didn’t leave the house.  Most of us didn’t even leave our pajamas (I left the dogs out on this one because they don’t wear clothes….and the baby is naked, so….).

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9 am or 4 pm?? YOU’LL NEVER KNOW.

And despite our quiet, germ-laden, bedrest-enforced holiday, it was absolutely wonderful.  No rushing to leave the house, no pressure to look presentable.  Home-cooked meals by my husband and taking our time watching our sweet girl open every gift with an excitement and enthusiasm that can’t be reproduced was more than enough to make up for a round of Tamiflu and a finicky womb.  Being required to partake in a quiet holiday at home slowed things down so that I was able to witness some of the wonderful things in life we otherwise might not have the time or ability to appreciate.  In not being able to do much of, well, anything, I was fortunate to learn a few things this year.  Because we will most likely, hopefully, be back to our routine next year – with another baby in tow – I want to remind myself of the following:

#1: We fret about stupid stuff.

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I made an assortment of 8 different homemade cookies, but I was supposed to include Russian Tea Cakes?? ARGGHH!??! Son of a %&*$^#! Mother #*&@#*&!

I am not type A. Like….at all. I am not organized, I am generally laid back – probably to a fault – and despite the best of intentions, have a miraculous ability to not complete projects.  And yet as one of the most Christmas-adoring among us, I still find it can become quite stressful.  Worrying the house isn’t clean enough for company.  Worried about what gifts to get for family.  Worrying about being rushed, not getting to spend enough time at gathering A because you still have to make it to gathering B.  Reality is, none of it stinking matters.  Even if you drop the ball and buy Uncle Lester something he didn’t really want (truth: I don’t have an Uncle Lester, and if you do I’m sorry because he sounds creepy) or feel you can’t spend enough on cousin Snobbypants because she already has everything (naming your kid “Snobbypants” probably doesn’t set a great precedent), it doesn’t matter.  Even if you put hours into making your abode a pristine palace and your two year old and stupid dogs ruin all of your sweat-inducing efforts in less time than it takes you to say, “For the love of God please stop feeding the dog crayons,” and “why did you dump out that box of Teddy Grahams in the middle of the living room?”, it doesn’t matter.  In even more mushy fashion than I can adequately illustrate, this year has taught us the only things that matter are health and safety and family and happiness.  And because our families are graciously patient in postponing our traditions and have agreed to come to my mostly bedridden side in the upcoming days, I know they will STILL partake in the burden blessing of receiving our crappy gifts in the presently disordered home that would give Martha Stewart convulsions.   And that’s okay.  Suck it, Martha.

#2: Amazon is the bomb-diggity.

Let me defend myself for a minute here.  I put a great deal of effort into shopping local.  Truly.  In fact I abhor and strive to avoid Walmart and K-mart and any other “-mart” that drives out mom ‘n pops and seem to enjoy paying their employees in used tissue paper scraps and canned food drives (and I’m stepping off my soap box…now).  I enjoy frequenting the local stores, and when necessary even partake in the crazed crowds, hustle-n-bustle of shopping malls and department stores.  (Confession: I have a strong relationship with Target.  Because…I’m human.)  I love the decorations and the chaos and especially the people-watching.  Because people are funny and entertaining and crazy.  But we didn’t have time for much of that this year.  Our usual last minute frantic but confusingly enjoyable shopping endeavors were replaced with, ‘what can I find online and get shipped here in time for Christmas?’  I turned to my good ol’ amazon Prime account with a slight sense of guilt and ineptitude, but this quickly turned into…success!  Free 2 day shipping?  Virtually everything I want and need and cheaper than in the stores?  YES!  I wear my hypocrisy badge with pride and fulfillment!  This is the future!  I’ve turned to the dark side, and if I could get fresh produce by shopping online….I would.

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I need eggs….STAT!

#3: My husband can cook.

It seems Nathan has been deceiving me for 8 ½ years.  I am grateful I don’t have a 1950’s-esque chauvinistic spouse who would stink-eye me and yell, “That’s woman’s work!” if I asked him to transfer the laundry.  I am fortunate that – especially since Hazel came along – he helps with domestic responsibilities. But for the most part, he handles the outdoor demands and I handle those within the walls.  We’re both compromising, we both have our preferences, and I think we’re both okay with this system.  As a result, his cooking repertoire is limited.  Breakfast foods, hot dogs and take-out encompass most of his expertise.  Once, in our earlier days of marriage, he offered to grocery shop and cook dinner as a surprise.  He came home with the following: frozen corn dogs, shrimp cocktail and two bags of oreos.  Fortunately, I knew well before then I hadn’t married a Mario Batali.  But his well-intentioned “meal” solidified I should maintain my position as head meal planner and preparer.

When I found out I had to go on full bed rest, I was filled with many rational fears and frustrations.  Because food is always among my top priorities (babies, breathing, food…), I pictured weeks of reluctantly choking down fast food and cheap reheated corn dogs with a label that is two ingredients away from creating mutant ninja turtles.  But like a culinary superhero, Nathan has exceeded and slapped my pessimistic expectations right in the kisser.  He has created not only edible, but really, REALLY good meals for our family.  To keep the Christmas spirit alive, he talked of baking gingerbread houses and cookies, he volunteered to roast chestnuts and make Hazel and I breakfast.  And on Christmas night, in a state of grateful bewilderment, I consumed one of the best meals of my life: homemade prime rib, potatoes with carmelized onions with a side of greek yogurt/horseradish sauce. What the…who IS this guy?  It has been amazing.  And unfortunately for him, I now know his potential and will likely guilt him into shrimp cocktail-less meals for years to come.

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“Please don’t be one of those people who posts pictures of their food.” – Nathan
TOO LATE. Wa ha ha ha ha

Ultimately, I was reminded on this holiday – more than any other –  just how stinking good we have it.  I was forced into the very necessary reminder that, when it comes right down to it, even the prettiest and most celebrated of holiday traditions are a bunch of unnecessary fluff.   Sick or not, I was blessed with an amazing, relaxing Christmas at home – and that is more than I could ever really ask for or deserve.  I hope you all had a safe, healthy and frazzle-free Christmas.

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We will quickly learn if her new dollhouse is durable. And comfortable.

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“Me ‘n Elmo just hiding in our house!”

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And I look forward to getting back to the fluff next year.

SAP ALERT: Celebrating the two best years of my life (so far).

It’s hard to believe now, but for a large portion of my life I didn’t want to have kids.   True story.  It wasn’t because I didn’t like children or babies – I’ve always adored tiny humans.  Procreating just wasn’t something I thought I needed or desired in life.  I had different plans.  I was, after all, going to be a pediatric cardiologist, and I would spend what little free time I had from my lucrative practice volunteering to perform open heart surgeries on needy children in third world countries.  It wouldn’t be fair to put my own offspring on the backburner while I prioritized the success of my work and helped needy orphans in India (because apparently they have heart defects AND no parents? – yeeesh).  If that didn’t pan out, then I would probably fall back on being a photojournalist for National Geographic.  This would require frequent and extended travel to obscure locales with limited communication, and what if I contracted Dengue Fever or Hepatitis A from residing with the locals?  How selfish would I be to put my own health in such jeopardy when I should be focused on the health of another?  And if THAT plan didn’t work out, then…well…you get the idea.  I had an ongoing list of illustrious and adventurous career choices that were neither conducive to nor favorable for childbearing.

I remember telling Nathan in our early days of courtship (do people still say ‘courtship’?  Probably not…) that it was too bad I liked him so much because marriage and kids just weren’t in the cards for me.  He smiled smugly, responded with something overly confident like “Oh, we’ll see about that,” I rolled my eyes and we went about our dating ways.

But along the way – obviously – something changed. Maybe it was the overwhelming love we shared for our nieces and nephews.  Maybe it was seeing friends and family around us having babies and seeming, surprisingly, both happy and successful.  Whatever it was, after several years of marriage, multiple moves, completing my education and a couple blissful years of being D.I.N.K.’s, Nathan and I came to the intelligent conclusion, “Why not?” and thought we’d give baby-making a go.

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Baby T-rex in utero

We had miraculous, fortunate – and faster than expected – success.  I’m ashamed to admit our initial reaction to the pink plus sign on the first pee stick  – and the 6 that followed – were words of the four letter variety.  It wasn’t because we weren’t happy, excited, or grateful, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t overwhelmed.  We couldn’t help but feel denial with a side of panic.  What were we thinking?  Clearly, we were idiots.  Why did we think we were qualified to create, sustain and nourish a life?  Did we have the credentials? Who were we to put this poor, innocent child through the burden of having us as parents?

But shock and denial quickly turned to bliss and gratitude and anticipation, and before we knew it, parenthood became an overwhelming reality.  Along the way, I presume the physical and emotional changes of procreation took over our feeble minds.  I am convinced nature does a brainwashing of sorts – the changes in hormones, neurotransmitters, electrical impulses change not only your desires and priorities, but your overall thoughts, personalities, demands, circadian rhythm, conscience and even consciousness.  Since Hazel arrived the last day of November, 2011, Nathan and I’s lives have never been – and, of course, never will be – the same.

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Most people cry the first time they meet Nathan and I.

I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in over 2 years.  I can count on one hand how many movies I’ve seen in the theater.  I can count on that SAME hand how many times I’ve left the state.  We haven’t taken any extravagant vacations, haven’t been on an airplane, and haven’t left the country.  Our DVR queue is filled with movies and shows I am certain I will never see.  With the exception of fashionable maternity necessities, I can’t remember the last time I shopped for myself.  In 24 months, I haven’t tried any exotic new foods, learned any new languages, taken on any new hobbies or expanded our social network.  And you know what?

I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Because despite the sleeplessness, homeliness, reclusion and overall loss of freedom, I am more happy, appreciative and patient than I ever thought possible in my previous 27-ish years of life.  I have given and felt more love than I deserve.  I like to think I had a big heart before procreating, but in my sophisticated mind, I often liken the changes of parenthood to the Grinch.  “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!”  This cheesy, Christmas-y, childhood story quote seems – to me – to so accurately describe what happens the first time you see your child.  I in no way want to convey or insinuate that true happiness and love only occur when you have kids.  That’s not true. I am confident Nathan and I would be very happy even if we had decided not to remove the goalie (his affectionate term) and make babies.  There’s no question we’d be a lot wealthier, healthier and sociable if we hadn’t.   But since having Hazel 2 years ago, it’s as though another dimension of happiness has been opened to us and we have a much greater appreciation for life, health, family and time.  Our previous goals and driving forces have been replaced with whatever allows us to spend the most time together and with our beautiful daughter.

I'm smiling, but please help.  These people are always watching, always smothering me.  I can't walk yet, so I need assistance escaping.  Please.

I’m smiling, but please help. These people are always watching, always smothering me. I can’t walk yet, so I need assistance escaping. Please.

Hazel, in 2 incredibly fast years, has amazed me and taught us what truly matters in life.  I have laughed, smiled, snuggled, and hugged more than one should merit in a lifetime.  I have cried and worried more, as well.  Mama bear instinct has kicked in and I’m more protective than I ever thought I was capable of.  When someone relates they would take a bullet for another, or risk their own life for someone they love, you agree.  And with your own child, you know there is no hesitation.  If someone offered me a life of poverty, pain and destitution to guarantee our babies would never endure heartbreak, illness or suffering – I would leap at the opportunity.  I spend perhaps too many free moments wondering how I can keep her safe, happy and untainted by the world.  I occasionally find myself daydreaming of giant bubbles (Crazy? Yes.)

Per usual, I have gotten carried away with this post.  I blame my fingers and the sticky, crumby keyboard (Apple Larabar remnants?) beneath their tips.  I could go on and on – more than I already have – about how much we love and adore Hazel.  My inadequate words don’t do justice, but we are indescribably grateful for our sweet daughter and the 2 years of utter happiness she has provided us.  I can sense the eyerolls and fake gagging of the few people who have stuck on to read this far and will try and bring this solilioquy to a necessary close.  We are anxious and excited for the what the future brings, we hope and pray we can provide our sweet, healthy, smart, funny and affectionate little girl the life she deserves, and are filled with even more anticipation to see how bringing a baby brother in the mix will alter – and augment – our lives.

And with that, feast your eyes on a barrage of birthday pics.

I’m sure I’ll be back to my cynical self in the next post.

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Party preparations are too intense to wear a shirt.

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She generously offered to let Curry blow out the candle.

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