Friday, July 16, 2021

My birthday balloons (and a pretty lousy week)

With Rachel's birthday right around the corner, I thought it was probably time to take my birthday balloons down so we can get ready to put hers up. Miriam was the one who spear-headed the birthday balloon tradition for me (which I appreciate because soliciting kind remarks for someone else makes me a whole lot more comfortable than soliciting kind remarks for myself). She sat Zoë and Alexander down one afternoon when the kids were all finished with their homework and helped them cut out and write on some balloons. 

Alexander's balloons, of course are all full of scribbles, but one of his scribbles turned into a beautiful butterfly, so that was nice. Miriam also took some dictation from him: "I am so happy you play with me. I love you, Mommy!"

Zoë's balloons say, "Happy birthday! I love Mom because she is having a baby. And she's nice!"

She also wrote me an acrostic:

Natuory [nature-y]
Ya, she's the best!

Benjamin also chose to write an acrostic for me, but chose the word "MOM":

Marvalus [marvelous]

I told him (jokingly) that MOM was a bit of a cop-out, honestly, and that I prefer to be called "mother dearest," so Zoë quickly whipped up a balloon that says, "Happy birthday, mother dearest!"

Both their poems were better than Andrew's poem. He wrote MOM down his balloon, all poised to write an acrostic for me but instead wrote this:

M Delightful
O Wonderful
M Birthday Queen

He said he chickened out on M. So, we'll have to work on his poetry skills.

Let's see...Benjamin also wrote: "I love you because you take me to the library and you help me."

Miriam wrote: "Mom is the best teacher because she teaches us things, things that are good to learn that we might not learn in public school. I LOVE YOU!" And she made a list of the reasons she loves me as well. Because I am...

  • Careful
  • Kind
  • Patient
  • Smart
  • Awesome
  • Cool
  • Great
Rachel wrote: "You're so patient with school and us in general. You're an amazing teacher for both church stuff and regular stuff. You're so kind and loving even when you're busy with your own schoolwork or other things. You're the best mom ever!"

She also wrote me an acrostic:

Notoriously amazing
You're pretty cool

And, finally, Andrew wrote, "I love Mommy because she is a kind and thoughtful and great educator and super patient and just an all around great person."

But I think my favourite message I got on my birthday was a voicemail left by Grandpa Frank while we were having dinner. He jumped right in with a solo of the happy birthday song, which he then explained was a singing telegram from Grandpa Frank or Krampus (which he said in a spooky voice), and left me with a "Happy Birthdy, kiddo!"

And...I think I'm going to keep that recording for forever. I mean, I called him right back after dinner and we chatted for a few minutes, but I'm so, so glad I didn't answer the phone so that I have that recording. 

It still blows my mind that Andrew and I have been married for 15 (going on 16) years already. In some ways I still feel like we're a "small" family, a "young" family, just newly weds figuring out life. But I know that's not true because the real young families don't view us as young at all. Still, it's nice to feel that way, I guess. And even nicer to have someone still consider you a kiddo—a someone I'm realizing I've been privileged to call Grandpa longer than I got to call my own grandpa Grandpa (in at least one case (still about a decade to go in the other case)). 

And I think that's pretty special. 

As complicated as families are—And, boy howdy! Are families complicated or what?!—I'm grateful for the family that I grew up in and the family I married into and the family we've created together. They're good people. 

On Wednesday when one of my bathrooms decided to, you know, fall into my other bathroom (which, I'll admit is kind of a first world problem to be having at all—two bathrooms!? (we actually have four)), it was kind of a metaphor for how the whole day went. 

It felt like there were ceilings crashing down and floors were caving in all over the place. So many things were going terribly wrong, many things that aren't precisely my story to tell, but which still impact me. For one, my sweet sister wound up in the hospital (thank goodness) after some...self-inflicted medical trauma...which, like I said isn't my story to share. But it sure has been taking up quite a bit of my emotional energy. 

Another bit of news was that one of my mom's cousins, who my siblings and I grew up calling Aunt Rita, was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. She's been given a few weeks to live. She only had her scans on July 10, but the cancer has already spread to her liver (the tumor there is 15, which is...huge) and they believe it's in her blood as well. We don't know if she's been tested for the BRCA2 mutation (which increases your odds of both breast cancer and pancreatic cancer, as well as a few others), which ravages that branch of my family tree. 

I don't know if I have the mutation (though my current OB/GYN would really like me to get tested for it, pending the results of my mom's test) but I did write a poem about it once. It was one of the first poems I wrote for my book

At eleven years old 
I was thrilled
To see death sprout
On my chest

It's a tribute to...too many. But I'm glad that we're finally figuring it out so that we can have younger generations take necessary preventative measures. 

Anyway, it was a tough Wednesday. And Thursday. 

This morning I was reading an article at the table while Zoë and Benjamin did math on either side of me. It was an academic article on creating appropriate assessments for the classroom (I'm in an education program) and, guys, I was choking back tears. They were just so nice about wanting to create assessments that felt low-risk for students but which yielded high results, assessments that would happen more naturally than testing, testing, testing. And I just...was so happy to read about that and so emotionally exhausted from the last few days (also...I'm pregnant...and have been crying over weird things anyway) that I couldn't stop sniffling over it. 

Which is so silly because the article was not tear-worthy...and yet...

Speaking of pregnancy, I also fainted this week, which was fun. I've really felt pretty great, overall, this pregnancy, but there have just been a few times (like last week, for example) where I will suddenly feel really, incredibly ill for no apparent reason. Last week I threw up. This week I fainted. 

I had been writing at my desk, and Andrew came into the room wanting to talk about something, so I went over to greet him and talk about whatever it was (something to do with this horrible renovation project, I think) and then felt just so, terribly faint. So he grabbed me in a hug and I said, "Don't let go, don't let go. I'm going to faint." And then I thought I had recovered so I let go and then realized my mistake and said, "Too soon, too soon! Bed, bed, bed, bed, bed!" And magically made my way to the bed before blacking out. 

Andrew was pretty impressed (because there I was, passed out on the bed rather than on the floor). 

Now that I think about it, I think this must have been Wednesday morning (that was a doozy of a day). He spent the whole day asking if I was feeling faint, and I never was. It was just that once.

But...I've been told that I'm an excellent fainter before. Like, after I had Benjamin and I still needed help getting to the bathroom because my legs were numb for forever after that epidural (my only one; and...a big reason that I just don't think I like them very much), a nurse came in to help me shuffle my way numbly to the bathroom. She helped me stand up but I felt myself starting to black out again so I said, "Nope, sitting down," and then flopped back in the bed, and she said, "You are an excellent fainter! I can't tell you how many new mother's I've had collapse right on the floor! And I have to try to catch them and...if they would just sit down like you did, it would make things a lot less complicated!"

Anyway, I'm not sure that being called an excellent fainter is really that much of a compliment, but it's once I've gotten twice in my life now (because Andrew said a very similar thing after I had recovered).

I guess I'll count it as a compliment because it's my birthday (okay, it's not my birthday, but I'm finally writing about my birthday balloons) and because it was a pretty lousy week so I'll take the good stuff however it comes.


  1. That is a compliment--you are self-aware enough while fainting to take action.

  2. I'm so sorry about your rough week. I hope your sister will be OK and that next week is better for all of you!

  3. That is a rough week! I’m sorry friend.

  4. It's none of my business, but what does your OB/GYN say about your fainting? #worried