Thursday, June 26, 2008


Gabe's on a very different work schedule for this new job. This week has been hard. I have been really tired and emotional and then I got my period too. Hooray for Nora.

Fortunately this is the last night until Monday night that he's working the crazy hours. It's a temp job anyway and there are some potentially promising prospects on the horizon... I am hoping for the best.

I can poke fun at him and roll my eyes at him and all that, but here is the truth: Gabe works hard. Gabe loves his family and he is being very strong right now in what he's doing for us, despite barely being able to spend time with us this week. Gabe is a good husband and exceptional father and he's loving and funny and warm and smart.

Liam and I are lucky.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Other Thirds, the updated version

Remember this? That was one of my favorites posts, and even though it wasn't written very long ago, I need to update the part about Liam because he's already changed so much. I don't need to update about Gabe since he's an adult and doesn't change as dynamically as Liam from day to day or week to week- although he does play fewer video games now since he sold his Playstation when we needed the money. One less thing for Liam to mess with anyway! (Sorry about your PS3, Gabe. Really.)

Liam Mercury McCourtney-Wolf
Age: one year and two weeks
Role(s) in my life: bringer of sunshine, sweller of hearts
Likes: standing at the gate in the doorway of the living room, throwing his bouncy balls over the gate in the living room and looking back at us to see if we'll get them back for him, crawling around with the edges of shape sorting blocks in his teeth, resting his head on my leg when I am sitting on the couch, crawling on me while I am napping, picking up the bottom of my shirt to stick his little finger into my bellybutton, looking down the front of my shirt to find my bellybutton, pointing, using the word "BA!" to describe many things, muenster cheese, being chased by Daddy, WALKING, and playing in laundry baskets with and without clothes in them
Dislikes: nail clippings (still), bodies of water other than the bath, sitting in his high chair for too long, drinking milk by itself (can't blame him), watching Gabe and I eat if he isn't eating too, when dogs get too close
Skills: constant beauty and cuteness (still), wearing shoes now without screaming, dancing, pointing, melting hearts of strangers, and again- love.

I guess I didn't think about it as much at first because I was busy with Jules here and planning his birthday party- but Liam's one now. One. I am more in awe of it every day as I watch him take steadier steps, watch him point to things that I didn't even know he listened about, watch him figure things out with his toys and clothes, and when he crawls onto my lap for a hug. He's not a baby anymore.

I've just been overwhelmed by it. There really aren't words for it. My heart just aches with happiness, hope and anticipation... and more hope. And love.

**sniff, aniff** I am such a softie.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Liam's Birthday Party

The party was June 7. We had a picnic in the yard and then came back into our kitchen, where it's a little cooler, for cake and presents. Considering the overwhelming amount of attention he got, Liam had a lot of fun with everyone and enjoyed chewing on the corner of the boxes his gifts came in.

This is the bumblebee zucchini-banana cake I made all by myself. I didn't want to find or make black frosting so I used licorice for the stripes and face. As it turns out, licorice bends but doesn't like to stay there so the bumblebee grimaced more than he smiled. But it was a hit.

I made him a star-shaped version of the cake for him to have fun with.

He wasn't sure what to do with it at first.

And in the end he had the frosting in one ear, behind the other, and in the corner of his eye (which you can't see from this angle).

Here's a picture of Liam playing with his new cars while I opened more gifts for him.

It was really lovely for everyone to come and celebrate his first year with us. We've had ups and downs and lived in two different parts of the country but there's nothing like looking back on it all and knowing you have a really, really awesome kid and wonderful people in his life.

When things turn out better than you expect.

This morning I was at the gallery, then Gabe, Liam and I went to the Valhalla Festival in Poland to celebrate the summer solstice. Really, we just sat with my mum and met her friends and swatted mosquitoes and listened to the bands and made sure the slightly violent dog who wasn't on a leash didn't get too close to Liam, and finally at the end watched one of Mum's bellydance classes perform (she's a teacher).

That doesn't sound very fun, I know, but it was nice. The weather was perfect and the fresh air was just what we needed. Liam, now that he doesn't scream when we put shoes on him, enjoys walking through grass, so despite the fact that he entirely skipped his second nap, he really enjoyed himself.

When we got home, he had supper and we left for the pond to feed the ducks. I wasn't sure how that was going to go because of the napping situation and the unpredictable nature of feeding wild animals. As it turns out I had nothing to worry about; the ducks were there in full, friendly, people-acclimated force, and Liam loved it. He points at things he's interested in and he did a lot of pointing.

Dudes, those ducks got so close, I was afraid they would start nibbling Liam's yummy little fingertips. They didn't and we got some good pictures.

I love Saturdays like this. Now that Gabe's starting a night job on Monday, we needed this to send him off, so to speak, since Liam and I will barely spend time with him four days a week now. At least we'll have long weekends!

Good news ----> tonight, after dinner I was still feeling a little munchy and I had two choices. An apple or pizza rolls. I chose an apple! And then I did some stretches and squats for dessert.

Oooh, pictures!

Liam was already excited before the feeding even started. He's really into animals lately.

We sat to break up pieces of bread. I thought it would be neat if Liam threw some bread too but he's too young to understand and wanted to eat it. It was not suitable for toddler consumption.

Look how close the freaking ducks got!

More pointing:


He ventured pretty close to the water so maybe he's warming up to it.

This is me picking Liam up, because he was tired and gets really clumsy when he's sleepy. He was getting all Tin Man on me. I am posting this because this is apparently what I look like when I pick my son up.

Did you miss that? I mean this.

What? He's heavy.

My kid is definitely MY kid.

I haven't posted lately because there hasn't been a whole lot to say. I have some pictures to post from Liam's party but I haven't gotten around to sizing them for this blog.


He's definitely a walker now. He definitely loves me, I can see it in his smile and feel it when he hugs me. He's getting better at repeating sounds from parts of words. He can find my belly button and point to my nose and mouth when asked and he's in the mood to comply. He wears shoes now without screaming. He dances when he hears music.

Last night I was reading I Love You Through and Through to him and when I said, "I love your fingers and your toes," he bent over and pointed to his toes. He was so proud of himself and tapped my arm to make sure I'd seen him, like he'd been saving it up.

He is really into the book we bought him for his birthday, I Love Animals, and frequently points to it or brings it over to me so we can sit together and look at the animals. He'll listen as I read the animal rhymes and make animal sounds (what sound does a giraffe make?). He likes the dogs and bears in it.

The other night he was playing quietly on the floor and then came over to me, pointing at the book. I said, "Do you want to read your animal book?" And my little genius pointed at the book again and said "book!" He has continued to say it and point at other books.

So... "book" is his first official word.

(For the record, he has repeated words and word fragments back to us and my parents. He whispered "piggies" once when my mum was playing with their feet, and he repeated Gabe once, saying "bop" when they were playing and being funny. He loves his new bouncy balls he got for his birthday and will point at them and say, "BA! BA-BA!" which is close but not quite right.)

"Book" is the first word he has said correctly while identifying the object and I could not be more tickled by this. I, Nora Christiane McCourtney-Wolf, may have created a son who doesn't really like swimming and looks only like his dad, but his first word was BOOK and that's enough of me to have rubbed off.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Summer of Swimming

One time, I told you about my concerns regarding my future in swim suits as a relatively new mother who definitely does not work out.

We brought Jules to Old Orchard Beach on Sunday before she went home. I wore long shorts and a loose tank top. I didn't swim. I don't have a swimsuit and I was afraid to try any on.

I watched other women in their suits. (That is not meant to sound as creepy as it does.)

There was a woman in the water with her husband and small daughter. Her daughter was probably younger than Liam. She was wearing a tank top over her bikini, but she didn't need to. She looked good. She had a beautiful body and she was happy.

A woman on the blanket next to ours was beaching with her young son, who looked about Liam's age. This lady was HOT! Her body was in perfect shape- no jiggles, no cellulite, beautiful tone. It looked like she had never had a baby or missed a wink of sleep. She could have been a model. No joke.

These two women made me think, hey. I can look like that too. I just have to try.

Then: I watched women with jigglier thighs than mine walk confidently through the sand. I think we all know how hard our legs work while walking through sand, and how that must look when we jiggle. But they didn't care. I saw ladies with more cellulite than me, and they didn't care either. There were women with bellies that had not crunched in ages, if at all, and they carried themselves so confidently that you'd hardly notice.

I'm not saying I have the perfect body. I am fully aware of the work I have to do. But being at the beach helped me see that I don't have to look perfect just to wear a bathing suit in public and I don't have to hide everything but my ankles and elbows.

It's been hot. I am ready to swim. So yesterday I went swim suit shopping for the first time in a couple years.

First stop: Steve and Barry's at the mall. No luck. The only one-piece they carried was unattractive, and they didn't have matching tops and bottoms in the color I liked.

Second stop: Kohl's. No luck. Their one-pieces were no less than $70, and if I wanted separates, they were at least $28 per piece. Seriously? I don't have that kind of money. I did see a really cute bottom with the cutest little un-granny skirt, but that one was like $38. Next?

Third stop: Wal-Mart. I honestly had to expectations of finding a suit here that I liked. I was looking for a one-piece that didn't have really high cut legs holes a la aerobics instructors from twenty years ago,

or a tankini with boy shorts. I didn't find what I was looking for.

I found a tube top with ties at the shoulders, and a regular bottom. I still think I am a little crazy for thinking I might actually go to the beach and not care if I jiggle. But the top does look really good. I was fortunate not to get a lot of stretch marks, and I think my stomach looks at least a little toned because I laugh a lot.

And hell, my hips and thighs could be worse. I do fully intend to make them look how I'd like them to look. And I only spent a total of $20 on this. And I might exchange the bottom, but at least I can go swimming now.

Liam doesn't care what I look like in a bathing suit, and Gabe doesn't care if I wear clothes at all so... my purchase is win/win.

Monday, June 9, 2008

huh, wha? *blink*

So tired. Can't think straight. List instead of paragraph-format post. Complete sentences not guaranteed.

...Gabe's sister Jules visited from Dallas for a week. She's so lovely.

...Mother-in-law to visit in July. Hopefully.

...Liam turned one on Friday, had his party on Saturday. Perfect weather for the picnic.

...Started walking this weekend. (Liam, not me. I've been doing it for years.) He's getting more confident and adventurous.

...Went to Old Orchard Beach yesterday. Got sunburned. Only a pale Irish lass like me can get burned in the shade.

...Ate beach pizza and beach fries... mmmmmm...

...Legs still ghost-white.

...Liam hates the ocean and sand. I can understand the sand, but my heart breaks a little that he didn't enjoy the water as much as I'd hoped/thought he would.

...Hoping we'll have better luck in a lake. At least he likes the bath.

...In love with the song "Phone Fawn" by the Dark Leaves. Hear it here: The Dark Leaves on MySpace. matt pond PA's other music.

...My eyeliner broke. Love(d) my eyeliner.

...It's all clean but the bedroom.

...Bedroom = disaster.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Everything you want to be, I can't wait to see you be.

A year ago today, I was lying in bed at a hospital in Dallas. I had monitors strapped around my belly for contractions and Liam's heart rate. Just waiting. Barely sleeping.

I used to remember everything: what time my water broke, when I got the pitocin, when I got the epidural, when I slept, what everything felt like. I don't remember the specifics any more. In brief, I went into labor on my own in the afternoon but was induced later that evening after Liam showed signs of stress during contractions. I lay in bed half hoping that it wouldn't end in a c-section, but secretly fearing the whole, you know, vaginal delivery thing, and thinking a c-section might not be so bad.

I got winks of sleep. The nurses told me I was strong for how calm I remained during the contractions, both before and after the epidural. "You must have a high tolerance for pain," they said. I thought, you have no idea how much I am screaming on the inside.

I wanted Gabe to lay in bed with me, but it wasn't big enough. I wanted to drink gallons of water but was not allowed. I wanted to punch the anesthesiologist in the face. These things I remember well.

I was scared. I was calm. I was excited to hold my baby.

I spent the night trying to get comfortable and sleepily praying. Gabe and I tried to talk but found ourselves unable to really have a conversation.

It wasn't until 9:22 a.m. on June 6 that I finally saw Liam.

I had the most amazing nurse for the delivery and am so thankful she happened to be on shift. She was perfect. And I am so glad my doctor was there too. Also perfect.

The delivery wasn't perfect. I pushed for an hour, and could do it no longer. I didn't feel that I should, I felt something was wrong and he needed to be out, NOW. I was right. I was pushing him out against the cord around his neck. I asked for the vacuum, and out he came, with a push and a cry. The doctor cut him free and held him up. I clumsily took him in my arms and cried, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" repeatedly because I was so glad it was over and I was in such awe of this tiny, pale little body.

They cleaned him up as Gabe and I held each other and cried. As my doctor stitched me up I kept asking if Liam was ok. He was; he just needed a little oxygen, then he was bundled and put back in my arms. His color was right now, and his eyes were all squinched. He squeaked and blinked and I couldn't stop smelling him and kissing him and telling him how much I love him.

So- 9:22 a.m. on June 6, 2007, Liam Mercury arrived in Dallas. He weighed seven and a half pounds and was 20 1/4 inches long. He was AMAZING and continues to be amazing.

I can't believe I am now the mother of a one-year-old and that we've made it through this year already. Where has that time gone, and when did my itty-bitty baby turn into a tall, sturdy toddler who's on the verge of walking and talking?

He's really something. Gabe and I are so lucky.

Liam, know this: we are so glad you are here. It's been a quick but wonderful year and we love your sense of humor, your curiosity and intelligence, and your touch and smile. We love your soft hair and yummy skin. We love YOU.

Happy birthday, my bumblebee, my angelface, my baby bear. My Liam. Gosh, you are so lovely.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Amber is the color of your energy.

I didn't talk about it earlier because I am not sure how to talk about it. I am winging it.

When I was seventeen months old, my mother gave birth to my little sister, but my little sister had already left this world. When my mum hadn't felt her moving around for too long, she went to the doctor and there was no heartbeat. She was induced, and my sister was dead before she was born.

I can't remember exactly how far along my mum was. I *think* she was due in August. Amber was born on May 30, 1983. Two days ago was her twenty-fifth birthday.

(I said a few entries ago that I don't use real names here, but honest to goodness, my little sister's name was Amber. I don't want to change that. It's a beautiful name.)

Of course, being seventeen months old, I don't remember that day. But for as long as I can remember, I have been aware of Amber's absence. We visited her grave site while we still lived in Gardner and after we moved, we went to it at the end of every visit. There are pictures of her coffin at her funeral at the end of a photo album I used to look at a lot. First you'll find pictures of Karsten, then Karsten with Scott, then the two of them with me, and on the last couple pages is Amber's obituary, the ribbon from a wreath that sat on her grave, and there's a note.

The note is from a stranger who put flowers on her grave. She said she had been to the cemetery to visit her husband's plot, and she saw Amber's new tiny headstone with little angels. She brought flowers from her garden for Amber and left a note to let my parents know she thought of them.

Amber's birth and death have always affected me. Mum, of course, went on to become pregnant and give birth to my brother Isaac (his birthday is almost exactly a year after Amber's) and I dearly love all of my siblings, but the feeling that someone was missing has always been present.

When I was little, I drew her into my crayon portraits of my family. Sometimes she was an angel sitting on a cloud, sometimes she was standing alongside us, and she looked as I wished I looked: she had vibrant red hair that reached the floor and bright blue eyes.

Every year around her birthday I cry a lot. Especially in the past few years, the crying has started the week before May 30 arrives. I miss her. I never saw her, I don't remember the funeral and I don't remember seeing mum's pregnant belly, but I miss the sister I never actually had.

I remember that on every May 30, the sky at sundown is particularly breathtaking. More than the day before, more than the day after. The setting sun splashes the sky in pinks, purples and golds and ambers. The clouds pause and hang there like a painting and for a little while I feel like the sunset is saying, Amber's ok. She knows you think of her. She's taken care of. She loves you, too.

Last year, I knew Liam was going to make an early entrance (but not too early). I was afraid I would have him on May 30. I didn't want my son's birthday to be the same as my dead sister's. I wanted each birthday to have their own significance and reason. I wanted to cry on their birthdays for different reasons. Gabe pointed out that if Liam was born on Amber's birthday, it wouldn't be so bad. It might be symbolic, like a recycling of spirit and love. I cried (more) when he said this. Anyway, Liam was born a week later.

This year, I didn't cry as early as I usually do. In fact I barely thought of the day until it came. I have a child to care for this time around. I think in some ways that grants me a tiny bit of closure, with a little (well, a lot) less emptiness and absence.

I feel that this year Amber was close by, and I feel this way because of some of Liam's behavior. I can't explain it and I don't want to, not on the internet. It won't come across right. But I feel that he saw his Auntie Amber because he's a baby and he hasn't been taught not to see everything.

I stayed up late on her birthday and in the last few minutes before midnight, I heard the name Amber on TV like five times. They kept saying it. And I knew: the sunset was always right. She does know I think of her. And she knows there's love here for her.