The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I made it a point to carve out time for reading last week, and I am so glad I did.

the-ocean-at-the-end-of-the-lane-cover
“All monsters are scared. That’s why they’re monsters.”

The Ocean at the End of the Lane* felt familiar to read. It had the same kind of twisted fairytale feeling as Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away*, with a little bit of the old world mysticism found in Ron Rash’s Serena* and the creepy something-not-quite-right dissonance of Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People.

So what I’m saying is, this book was delightful and captivating and I loved reading it.

The narrator is a middle aged man recalling his own strange and eventful childhood.  Since having Henry, I have avoided books where children are in grave danger (I know, what a wimp), and I probably would have worried about this narrator too much to actually enjoy his story if it weren’t for the comforting and capable hands of the Hempstock women – Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother, who live at the end of the lane.

I don’t want to even begin to summarize this one for you, because Gaiman weaves the story together so artfully. Check out the Goodreads synopsis if you can’t bear to go in blind, but trust me when I tell you to stick with this one through the end. The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminded me of scary stories and fireflies from the front yard summer nights of my own childhood, in all the best ways.

Next up is Bellweather Rhapsody*. I downloaded a sample tonight and told Josh that the prologue is a cross between The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shining, which I think is a very good cross indeed.

That old bed-wetting feeling

This is a post about two things: wetting the bed, and waking my mom up in the middle of the night to ask for help.

This is not the real Smoky, but it is a very close approximation.

This is not the real Smoky, but it is a very close approximation.

I have a very clear memory from my childhood – I woke up in the middle of the night. Our family cat, Smoky, was sitting beside me on the bed, staring at me. And two things were immediately clear to me:

One, I was soaking wet.

And Two, I was way past bed-wetting age.

I can still remember the flurry of thoughts that went through my head as I tried to reason through my situation in that frantic way you do when you wake up in a puddle in the middle of the night.

  • First, I tried to find the source of the dampness. Did I seriously pee? Did Smoky come in here to pee on me? (Smoky was a weird cat anyway, so this was not entirely outside the realm of possibility.)
  • Second, I tried to determine what kind of liquid we were dealing with – which meant I sniffed my covers like a madwoman for a minute or two.
  • Third, finding that nothing about my blankets smelled especially offensive, I tried to convince myself that it was just sweat or a nightmare -
  • And then Fourth,  I rolled over and eventually went back to sleep.

You know what I never did? Go wake up my mom and ask for help sussing out the situation.

Now, as an adult with the advantage of hindsight and a little more knowledge under my belt, I think what probably happened was this:

I ran a fever (as I often do when I sleep). The fever broke and made me sweat like a crazy woman (which does sometimes happen). Smoky, being the weird cat that he was, sensed my distress with his weird feline telepathy and came to sit on my bed in case the opportunity arose for him to suck my soul out through my mouth (you know, as cats do).

OR maybe I really did wet the bed and sleep in my own pee all night.

OR maybe I was hallucinating.

OR maybe none of this happened at all and I’m recounting a completely false memory created in my own sleep-deprived mind.

Anyway -

I was reminded of this whole episode last night when I found myself, once again, awake in the wee small hours with a wide-eyed creature perched next to me on the bed. Only this time, there were three key differences in my story:

  • One, there was no puddle.
  • Two, the creature was Henry.
  • And Three, I asked my Mom for help this time.

Mom is staying with us for the week, and while she is always amazing and helpful (seriously – it’s like she’s a magical laundry-doing, house-cleaning, baby-watching fairy godmother), I don’t think I have ever appreciated her more than when I knocked on her door at 4:00 this morning with a wide-awake baby on my hip. She threw back her covers, happily grabbed Henry, looked me in my bleary eyes, and told me to go back to bed.

So I did. And when the alarm went off two hours later, she came into my room all bright eyed and bushy tailed and full of joy over the sweet snuggles she got from her grandbaby while I was sleeping. She told me she was happy to help, and I didn’t doubt it for a second.

Here is what I know now, and what I wish I knew way back when I woke up in the middle of a bedwetting whodunnit:

If you can ask for help, do it. You don’t get a prize for figuring any of this out on your own. And chances are, there is someone in your life who will honestly be happy to help – whether the situation involves an otherwise cute baby who just doesn’t feel like sleeping, a bed full of what very well could be pee, neither, or both (if you’re lucky).

The Color Run

Mom and I have done a few 5k races together in the past. so when she told me that she was planning to do The Color Run with some of her Virginia work friends, I knew I wanted in! The race was last weekend in Roanoke, VA – and here’s how it went for us:

Originally, the plan was to have Josh, Dad, and Henry make the trip to Roanoke with us and wait for us at the finish line. But the drive from my parents’ house to Roanoke is about an hour, and it didn’t seem fair to ask them to do all that riding just to wait around for us to finish and then turn around and ride back home. I wanted Henry to come with us, though, since I’m still breastfeeding – and surprisingly, I didn’t respond positively to the idea of pumping in the car. So on the Friday before the race, I did some googling for a plan that would allow me to bring Henry to the race without subjecting him and his baby lungs to the clouds of colored cornstarch that billow up all over the race.

I finally found this blog post from a mom who used a stroller with a rain cover to keep her little one happy and safe during the run. We stopped on the way out of town and picked up a cover similar to this one* – and it worked perfectly. I don’t think you can possibly expect to escape the Color Run without getting at least a little messy, but the cover kept Henry from the brunt of the powder and shielded him from the clouds of color, which were really my main concern.

Here we are before the start: see how handy that cover is?

before2

And here we are after: Henry has a rockin’ blue goatee, but other than that, he was pretty much unscathed.

After

As for the run itself: I had a blast and will probably do it again next year! But if you’re considering doing the run for the first time, there are some things you should probably know:

1. It’s crowded. I’m not sure how many waves they offered – I know we saw at least three groups start the race while we were standing in the registration line. I’m terrible when it comes to estimating the number of people in a crowd – but I want to say there were at least a gazillion color runners in attendance on Saturday. There was a steady crush of people in sight ahead of us and behind us at all points in the race – I could never see the end or the beginning of the crowd.

2. It’s slowYou’re not going to beat your personal best time at The Color Run. Honestly, you probably won’t even be able to run at The Color Run, unless you’re one of the very first people in the very first wave. Aside from the occasional jog to pass by a group of slower walkers in front of us, we didn’t run at all. We were able to keep a pretty good pace while walking, and it didn’t bother us in the slightest – but if you’re going to get frustrated by the tight quarters and inhibited pace, this probably isn’t the race for you.

3. If you want to get really messy, you should try and be up front. By the time our wave was passing the color stations, they were running out of powder. We still got colored, but we didn’t look nearly as cool as the racers from the earlier groups. Some of the people in our wave resorted to rolling around on the ground to try and soak up as much colored powder as the could.  As you can tell by our tutus and knee socks, we are way too dignified for that kind of tomfoolery.

4. The color lingers. My palms were bright blue for the rest of the day. My armpits are still slightly cerulean-tinged. And the rumored “Unicorn Boogers” you might have heard about from other Color Runners? Totally a thing.

Overall, we really enjoyed our Color Run experience. I can see it becoming a really fun family tradition.

Can and Will

We had a rough night last night. Henry had his 6-month vaccines yesterday morning, and those four shots were a lot for his little body to handle. As soon as he got tired, he cried like I have never seen him cry. He was nearly inconsolable for hours until he finally fell asleep on my chest. As I crept up the stairs as quietly as I could, I wondered how I would ever get him laid down and settled in his crib without jostling or waking him. I caught myself asking Can I do this? And then I realized I can, and I will. I’ve been doing it all along.

Can-and-Will

To past Corley, from future Corley: 

From the day you first see that positive pregnancy test, and every day on after that, you will wonder if you can do this.

You will wonder it often, and in a hundred different ways.

When you feel the first twinge of your first contraction, it will be a tightening in your belly that steals your breath and stops you in your tracks, just for a moment, before it passes and you wonder if that was it. And later, when your contractions graduate from that uncomfortable tightness to an unbearable pressure from inside your bones, pushing your body to expand from your spine to your ribs to your hips until you feel like you might just break in two, you will think I can’t do this. And then you will do it anyway.

When you hold your newborn baby to your chest, both of you crying and blinking at each other, completely unsure of what do do next, the other people in the room will congratulate you and say “You did it!” In the hustle and bustle of that room, you will look at your baby and think about how this little person is your little person, to feed and protect and care for, and you will wonder. 

When the nurse leaves you alone in your cramped room for the first time, your legs still numb from your epidural, a brand new baby in the bassinet beside you, crying and squirming and looking to you for comfort, you will catch your husband’s eye and both of you will be thinking that you don’t know what to do now. You won’t sleep that night, or the next night – but you’ll get there. 

When you are rolled through the hospital in a wheelchair, baby in your arms and husband pushing your bags on a cart behind you, you will wonder. He will go get the car, and together you will strap your new little person into the car seat, tighten the straps more than you thought you would need to.  You will both marvel at how small this baby seems compared to the great big world around him. Everything will seem too big for your baby: the seat, the clothes, the hat, the car, the drive home. Your husband will make eye contact with you in the rearview mirror, anxious to get your family home safely. He is wondering, too. 

You will get home. The days will turn into weeks and months. You will figure it out, wondering as you go along – bath time and diaper rash and sleep regressions and teething. One day, you will find yourself camped out on the couch, your baby sleeping in your arms because he won’t sleep anywhere else. You will balance your computer on your knees, arms stretched under him, typing with the tips of your fingers and praying you don’t wake him before he’s ready. And you will realize that at some point, you shifted from wondering to believing.

You can do it. You’re doing it already. And you’re doing just fine.

Hello, Henry

So July was a big month for us. We closed on our house. We moved. I wrapped things up at work and survived the tail end of what was, honestly, a really delightful pregnancy.

And then, on August 2, we said hello to Henry.

There’s a long, drawn out story to read below – if you want the bullet points, here they are:
• He was born at 9:51 p.m.
• Labor was a beast and I had an epidural and there is no shame in my game.
• He weighed 6 lbs. 14 oz.
• He is absolutely the most beautiful baby ever to be born in any hospital.

Henry

I started having contractions around bedtime the night of August 1. Not at regular intervals and not more painful than I could handle – just occasional tightened-up feelings in my belly and back. I went to sleep thinking it would probably be a couple more days before things really got going.

And suddenly, it was 3:00 and I was wide awake, feeling significantly MORE tightened-up feelings and at far more regular intervals. The piece of paper hanging on my fridge told me to call the doctor when the contractions came every five minutes for at least an hour, so I opened up the Sprout app on my phone, hopped in the bathtub, and started timing.

After an hour of five-minutes-apart contractions, I woke Josh up to tell him I thought this might be it. We scrambled to finish packing our bags and I let my Mom know that she should probably get ready to start her drive down from Virginia soon. I called my doctor’s office, and the nurse who answered told me to stay at home for now, since I was still able to talk through the contractions, but to go ahead and plan on coming in to the office when they opened in the morning. I ate a Trader Joe’s pop-tart and tried to sleep some more, but that was pretty hopeless. I was too excited (and nervous) to close my eyes and rest.

Mom got to our house at around 7:00. We ate breakfast and hung around as calmly as possible while my contractions kept progressing. I called the doctor’s office back at around 9:00 and they told me to come on in.

I was pretty anxious heading to the office. What if I hadn’t progressed at all? What if they sent me home? Luckily, my doctor gave me a quick once-over and told me this was the real deal. I was 4cm dilated and 90% effaced – and so relieved that the contractions I’d been having all morning were getting some work done. We headed over to the hospital, where things got tougher (and tougher, and tougher).

The doctor came in to break my water, and my contractions quickly ramped up from mildly uncomfortable to the most intense pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I had to stay in bed for a long time — the nurses kept telling me they needed to monitor me for “20 more minutes,” which wound up lasting a few hours. I think having to stay still made my discomfort a lot worse than it would have been if I had been able to move around and use all the cool poses and positions we learned in our classes. Once I was allowed to move, I was too far gone to do anything other than sit in my rocking chair and make animal noises. I was out of my mind – I couldn’t talk or move or do anything other than try and survive the contractions. They were coming fast and furious – I was NOT getting the three minute breaks I was promised in childbirth class!

When the doctor came back in to check me, I hadn’t made nearly as much progress as I had hoped – and so I asked for an epidural. No second thoughts – I knew I needed help if I was going to survive this. Unfortunately, the epidural only worked halfway – meaning my legs were numb, but I could still feel every bit of every terrible contraction. I felt pretty hopeless at that point – completely unable to move AND in just as much pain as ever.

Luckily, something big happened then – the nurses had their shift change. Into my room breezed an angel named Meleena, who took one look at me and declared that none of this was going to work. Up until this point, my nurses had been scarce –  pretty much only coming in to read the printouts from my monitors and change my towels. When Meleena showed up, she saw that we needed to make some changes, NOW. Her first move was to start rocking me back and forth to get Henry turned around into a better position. Unfortunately, my contractions were so intense that I threw up from the pain.  When she realized I was still feeling my contractions that extremely, she called the anesthesiologist to give me more medicine. She tucked more warm blankets around me and told me things were going to be ok soon – and she was right. Within 15 minutes, the epidural was working (for real this time) and I was human again. I introduced myself to Meleena and pledged my undying love to her. Mom and Josh couldn’t believe the change – I know they were glad to see me back to myself again.

No more than 20 minutes after my miraculous transformation, Meleena checked me and told me we were ready to start pushing. Lucky for us, I was a pushing PRO. Three contractions later, Henry was crying and squirming in my arms, beautiful and healthy and hungry and the most perfect little thing I have ever seen in my life.

Henry

The praying mantis in my bed

Poor Josh.

He was sleeping. Our sheets soft and cool, our room exactly the perfect temperature. He came home from work and immediately started working from home, grading quizzes and reading essays until finally he had checked enough off his to-do list to earn his reward: a few short hours of sweet, blissful sleep.

It couldn’t have been long after he came to bed that he was jolted awake. By his wife. Who had clearly lost her mind.

I blinked my eyes groggily and looked over at Josh, sleeping so sweetly beside me. I wondered for a second why I was awake, but my thoughts were interrupted by a soft scratching noise. Confused, I struggled to focus — and then I saw it. It was big, and it was green, and it was crawling just inches from my beloved’s face. I sprang into action.

I sat straight up in bed and threw the covers off of both of us. I scrambled for the light, knocking things around on the night stand until I finally found the lamp’s pull-chain. Josh blinked, bleary eyed and half asleep, as I threw my pillows off the bed and then started clawing at his, grabbing at his shoulders and shaking to try and move him out of my way.

“Corley, you’re dreaming!” he tried to tell me. “This is a dream!”

But I wasn’t dreaming. I was wide awake and chock-full of adrenaline and sure of one thing: there was a praying mantis somewhere in our bed.

“It’s REAL this time!” I kept shouting. “This time it’s not a dream! This time it’s REAL!”

All he could do was try and talk me back to rational consciousness. He tried to grab my shoulders, but I dodged, busy running my hands over the fitted sheet as if I had lost a contact. Only I hadn’t lost a contact. I had lost a praying mantis, and I needed to find it NOW.

I know why I kept telling him “It’s real this time!” — because crazy dream Corley is self-aware. She knows that her testimony is shaky in these situations. Since we’ve been married, I have done this to Josh no less than ten times. I have dreamed about our bed being infiltrated by spiders, snakes, mice, birds and (my personal favorite) a lobster. Each time, of course, I have been proven wrong by logic and a thorough search of the bed. Bt this time. THIS TIME. All those other times were just drills for this time, because THIS was the real deal. Code green with big front claws and skinny legs and an alien face. Initiate PRAYING MANTIS PROTOCOL.

I remember my frantic search, but I don’t remember coming to my senses. Eventually, I guess, Josh got through to me and convinced me that there probably wasn’t really a praying mantis lurking beneath our pillows. Reason must have won out in the end, because we did fall back asleep, giggling this morning over my crazy mantis-hunting nocturnal adventure.

Honestly, I’m still giggling. It’s pretty ridiculous, right? A praying mantis in my bed. Of all the random nightmares.

I’m sleeping with a flashlight and a flip flop tonight, though. Just in case. Provided Josh doesn’t banish me and my nighttime extermination gig to the guest room.

No use crying over parmesan cheese

If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed I took a fall last week:

 

 

 

When I say I fell, I mean I FELL. All the way down. The bags I was carrying flew through the air. There was a nightmarishly loud THUD as I hit the ground – knees, then elbows, then the rest of me. I heard a ringing in my ears. I felt my pulse in my face. I thought I might vomit. It was humiliating. It was painful. I gathered myself up from the cold tile floor, assuring people  (and there were so many people) as I left that I was FINE and the baby was FINE and I just wanted to GO HOME, PLEASE. I limped to my car. I called Josh to tell him what happened. He left work right away. I did not cry.

I stopped for a milkshake on the way home, which I ate with a spoon on the back porch, my leg propped up on a chair, mom on the phone. I told her the whole terrible story. I still did not cry.

Josh got home and sprang into action. He got me ice for my knee, set me up on the couch, propped a pillow behind my back, started cooking dinner. He let me vent about how embarrassed I was, he was appropriately sympathetic to my already swelling  and bruising knee. I told him the whole story again. And still, not a tear.

Eventually, Josh headed back into the kitchen to finish dinner.

He called to me from the stove – “What do you want on your pasta?”

“Butter and parmesan cheese,” I answered. “Lots of parmesan cheese.”

“You got it,” he said. I heard him open the fridge. And then there was a terrible pause.

“…Corley? Did you buy parmesan cheese?” he asked.

I should clarify something here: I didn’t ask him to buy parmesan cheese. I hadn’t mentioned that we needed any cheese. Short of reading my mind, Josh would have had absolutely NO WAY of knowing we needed parmesan cheese for dinner.

“I thought YOU bought it,” I replied.

There was another pause, and I could tell Josh was choosing his next words very carefully.

“I don’t think we have any, babe,” he said gently.

You guys, this next part is not an exaggeration. When I heard that we were out of parmesan, I threw my arm over my eyes like an overwhelmed debutante from the early 1900s and cried out “I CAN’T BELIEEEEVE IT.” And then I burst into tears.

And here’s what a champion my husband is. He calmly walked over to the side of the couch. He sweetly gazed down at me, a sniveling, roly-poly mess of tears and matted hair and smeared mascara. He tenderly placed his hand on the side of my face. And he said this:

“I know your knee hurts really bad, and that’s why you’re crying.”

HE GAVE ME AN OUT. He could have called me on the absolute craziness that is crying over cheese. He could have laughed at me. He could have told me to suck it up. He could have pointed out that healthy, responsible grown-ups shouldn’t eat pasta with butter and cheese for dinner. And instead, he gave me the chance to pretend I wasn’t crying over the cheese at all – that I was in the throes of injury, a warrior whose pain was simply too much to bear any longer.

“Stay there,” he told me. “I’ll be right back.”

“Where are you going?” I sniffled. And then Josh, my darling hero of a husband, stood up straight and said the most beautiful words I have ever heard.

“I’m going to get you some cheese.”