For Eric’s birthday, I got us tickets to see Jay Shetty speak at the Beacon Theater. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Jay Shetty is a well-known author, speaker, podcaster and life coach. I refer to him as a “social media monk.” Eric doesn’t so much care for this title, as he takes the teachings of Jay Shetty very seriously, whereas I see him more as a zen but business savvy dude who says fun, catchy meme-worthy shit like this:
Eric discovered him on the Calm app, a guided meditation app he uses every night before bed. As a former monk, Jay has a lot of experience in calming the mind, and Eric has learned a lot from his teachings on self care, relationships, love, and life in general.
So we went to see him speak, which was cool (if not exactly what we anticipated– we were expecting a super-inspiring Ted Talk, we got….a sort of bizarre variety show?). But Jay closed the night with a really lovely guided meditation.
He asked the audience to close their eyes and think up a moment of profound love in our lives. Whatever popped into our minds at the mention of this term, “profound love,” was perfectly fine. My personal interpretation of this instruction was to conjure up my earliest memory of profound love, which for me, undeniably, takes place at my childhood sleepaway camp, Robindel.
I pictured me and my best camp friends, age 15, at “Sing”– one of the last nights of camp during our final summer as campers. It’s an incredibly emotional night. I thought about how we all held each other tightly and sobbed, knowing that our magical days at camp were coming to an end for good, but also feeling eternally grateful for having formed these sister-type friendships that we knew would last a lifetime (and thus far have!). I remember that as the first moment of ever feeling a palpable ache in my heart because I just loved these people so much, and cherished every moment I got to spend with them.
Later, in the car driving home, Eric asked me about my profound love moment.
Me: “Being with my camp friends on one of the last nights of camp.”
Eric: “Huh. Interesting.”
Me: “Why, what was your profound love moment?”
Eric: “Watching you, my beautiful wife, dancing with our beautiful children in the kitchen, and thinking how grateful I am to have created this amazing family and life with you.”
When Nora announced she wanted to take ballet lessons, I was of course supportive, but also amused because as a child (and adult!), I was the furthest thing from a graceful dancer. Or any kind of dancer. I don’t exactly walk straight.
I was a soccer player. And generally a tomboy who partook in nothing classically “girly.”
But when your child is excited about something (that is actually productive and not mind-numbingly stupid, like Candyland or football), you hop on board. So I got her the necessary gear and dropped her off for her very first ballet class. I was pretty proud of how professional she looked in her lavender leotard, pink ballet slippers and ballerina bun. No one could ever guess her mom had to google “stuff for ballet?” in order to get her ready for class.
Then when I picked her up…
Instructor: “Hi there! You’re Nora’s mom?”
Me: “I am!”
Instructor: “In case you’re wondering why Nora’s barefoot— I had her take off her shoes for class.”
Me: “Oh, were they hurting her?”
Instructor: “No, she couldn’t point her toes in them.”
Me: “Oh. Because they’re too small?”
Instructor: “No. Because they’re not ballet slippers.”
Me: “They’re not?”
Me: “They look like ballet slippers to me!”
Instructor: “Ok. They are not, though.”
Me: “How can one even tell these aren’t ballet slippers?”
Instructor: “Well, you can tell because they’re not slippers. And they’re not, you know…for ballet.”
“Well then what kind of shoes ARE these?”
Instructor: “Pink shoes. Flats. They are pink flats. With a rounded toe.”
Instructor: “Walking? Wearing to school? Or a party? They’re for anything, really. Except, of course, ballet.”
These were the wise, educated (!!!) words of our pediatrician, who had just finished examining Nora (3.5 years old at the time) and who determined there was absolutely nothing wrong with her.
Me: “So…just ignore that she’s suddenly pooping her pants multiple times a day? Even though she’s been fully potty trained for a year now?”
“And the constant complaints of stomach aches? And that her ‘legs feel tired’?”
“Look, you just had a baby. This is classic behavior in reaction to having a new sibling. Just ignore it and she will adjust.”
So we followed doctor’s orders for about a month.
And in a super unfuckingsurprising turn of events, it got worse.
And here’s the thing– Nora absolutely LOVES her baby sister. I mean, I know all siblings love each other in their own way, but Nora loved Sophie immediately, in a freakishly angelic-like fashion. I couldn’t understand how a former only child of 3 years could be THIS cool with the helpless, screaming, spastic alien we suddenly brought home to live in our house forever. But Nora was the best.
All she wanted to do was help take care of “Baby Sister”– cuddle with her, feed her, assist in diaper changes and bath time. I mean we took these pictures on WEEK ONE:
Could you die?!
And while yes, there were some rocky moments….
….Nora found the humor in them and always tried her best to be a comforting big sis to the atomic bomb that was newborn Sophie.
So the whole “doing this for attention” thing wasn’t really adding up. Honestly, that’s not really Nora’s style (I can already tell it’s definitely going to be Sophie’s M.O., though, so I’m prepared to grab a hat and hold the fuck on). I had read all the literature about how older siblings often go through a period of “regression” when the new baby arrives, but something in my gut told me this wasn’t that.
Also, you know what’s really hard to “just ignore?” Shit. Like– literal shit.
Eric and I were doing our very best not to show any visible frustration or, worse, to shame Nora for the accidents, but bottom line is that we couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without bringing at least 5 changes of clothes, a travel potty, wipes, and plastic bags for poop explosion storage. Any activity outside the house was interrupted by at least one accident, followed by a 5-10 minute water-wipe “shower” in the nearest public restroom or, more frequently (and fun!), the trunk of our car.
It was exhausting.
But moreso, I worried about the social aspect, and the eventual toll it might take on her self esteem. Nora was still at the age where other kids in her class weren’t really noticing or caring, but I knew that would only last for so long. At some point, she would be the smelly kid, and I’m sorry but that shit (again, literally) was not happening on MY watch.
So Eric and I did the uncomfortable but necessary work of telling the doctor “Hey, I know you learned a great deal of science-y and doctor-y stuff during the insane amount of schooling you went through in order to become a medical professional, but we know our daughter best, so please take your ‘just ignore her’ advice and
Or maybe we said, “We feel strongly that Nora’s symptoms are not for attention, and we’d like to kindly request further testing, please.”
I can’t remember the exact wording.
We requested a blood test to check her white blood cell count and rule out anything super scary, like, I don’t know, belly button cancer (not a thing). The doctor felt this was entirely unnecessary, but, I presume, wanted us to shut the fuck up, so agreed to a blood draw. She warned us that kids her age don’t do well with blood draws, and we reminded her that Nora went through two surgeries before the age of 1— she was a badass and could handle anything.
Except a blood draw, I guess 😬. She was an absolute feral hyena.
But it was worth it. Because when the results came back, it turned out her white blood cell count was completely fine– no belly button cancer here! Her Tissue Transglutaminase IgA antibody number, however, was off the fucking charts.
“Hey, um, wtf is a Tissue Transglutaminase IgA antibody test,” you ask, because you’re not a doctor (although, as evidenced by this story, apparently ANYONE CAN BE). It’s a test done to detect elevated levels of certain antibody proteins, which would indicate an immune reaction to gluten. In an average person with no gluten sensitivity, numbers would be between 0-3 U/mL. Again, in layman’s terms– a normal, healthy number is between ZERO and THREE.
Nora’s number was over 250.
So when I said her number was off the charts, I mean her number was literally off the charts— the chart goes up to 250, and she was beyond 250, so we couldn’t even get an exact number, just a general “well this ain’t good!”
A follow-up endoscopy confirmed a clear diagnosis of Celiac Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the consumption of gluten. It is not just a “gluten sensitivity,” it’s a serious autoimmune disease– even the tiniest amount of gluten exposure can onset symptoms (which include abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea or constipation, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, fatigue, depression/anxiety, joint pain, mouth sores, rash, nerve damage– just to name a few! 🤗) and those symptoms can last for days or even weeks. Untreated, Celiac Disease often leads to complications such as malnutrition, bone weakening, infertility, mental health disorders, cancer, and nervous system problems. In other words– scary shit. Shit that I do NOT wish for my child.
Since going on a gluten-free diet after diagnosis, Nora’s symptoms have improved dramatically and her blood work looks significantly better. However, avoiding gluten entirely can be a tricky endeavor, as issues of cross contamination during food preparation and “hidden gluten sources” that aren’t as obvious (i.e. salad dressings, soy sauce, even playing with playdoh) can trigger the disease. We are on a constant journey trying to figure out how to keep Nora healthy.
But this is not a sob story. Clearly. While we hate that Nora has to deal with any kind of lifelong health issue, we are of course grateful she wasn’t diagnosed with something worse. Celiac Disease, can, for the most part, be controlled with vigilance and self-control. We thought the self-control part would be hardest to uphold, but it is incredible how responsible Nora is about avoiding gluten. She is her own best advocate– she will never accept food from anyone, no matter how delicious looking, until she confirms it is gluten-free, and she has, shockingly, never once complained about the fact that she can’t always eat what her friends are eating. We show up to birthday parties and social events armed with our own gluten free pizza and cake (plus an emergency car trough of snacks), which never look quite the same as what her friends are eating, but she could care less. At only 4 years old, she truly astounds us every day with her maturity and flexibility.
But mostly we are just so beyond relieved that she is feeling better and thriving. We know that different phases of childhood through adulthood will present new and unique challenges for her as she manages her disease, but we are so proud to be her biggest supporters and cheerleaders as she finds her way in this often unaccommodating, gluten-filled world.
And we will never “just ignore her” again.**
**Extreme circumstances excluded. Like when she’s being really, truly, indisputably annoying.
The IVF doctor sighed deeply, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re very old and you’re quite deformed. There is no point in you having sex anymore.”
Ok, fine. Maybe I’m paraphrasing. It was more like, “Given your age, and the fact that you have only one Fallopian tube, the chances of you conceiving naturally are quite slim.”
But I heard what I heard.
This was back in April 2021, about 7 months after a disastrous ectopic pregnancy that had resulted in a burst Fallopian tube and emergency surgery to remove it and save me from internally bleeding to death.
Eric and I were trying desperately to have one more child (we had always dreamed of two girls, and by we I mean me, and then I convinced Eric it was his dream too) but, given my various mental health issues, I had been staunchly avoiding a trip to the IVF doctor, fearful of what the brutal process would do to me, both mentally and physically.
I have known many brave women who have gone through IVF, and I have always marveled at their tenacity and strength. I couldn’t imagine having to manage the slew of doctor’s appointments, surgeries, hormone shots, side effects, and overall logistics without going completely insane (particularity given that my depressive and anxious tendencies can be triggered by something as benign as a change in routine, or the fact that it’s a weekday). IVF didn’t seem like something I was built for.
But it had been seven frustrating months of natural trying, and while some of you (men. Definitely only men) , might think “Cool! Sex!”, I can promise you that nothing is less seductive than strictly scheduled, position-coordinated sex, followed by obligatory post-coital bicycle kicks (just me, not Eric, although he was welcome to join) in order to get those sperm a swimmin’. All of this culminating in half-upside-down vertical leg-propping on the headboard whilst scrolling social media to pass the 15 minutes those little champions need to find their way to your ancient egg!**
This ritual was not proving successful in making a baby, but while upside-down Instagram scrolling I did come across a useful reel about how to put a tortilla under my nachos as a vessel for all the crumbs at the end, thus creating a bonus burrito. So not entirely unproductive.
The pressure we were putting on ourselves was making us both miserable, and we finally broke down and decided that intervention might be necessary, both to make a baby and to allow us to return to a non-cyborg sex life.
In the weeks leading up to our initial consultation with the IVF clinic, I still held out hope that we could somehow conceive naturally– hope that was immediately dashed when the doctor informed me of the cobwebs in my uterus and the deficiency of my lady parts. Or however he phrased it.
The doctor was confirming my worst fear since the ectopic pregnancy– that getting pregnant again was going to be extremely difficult, and perhaps not possible at all. I could tell he knew his shit (as I like to assume all doctors do), and so I took a deep breath and tried to process the fact that natural baby-making was no longer an option for me.
The doctor walked me through the process. We discussed timelines, hormone side effects, actual chances of conceiving and the likelihood that I would have to go through the process more than once. In more disappointing news, it turned out I would need to have preliminary tests done before even starting IVF, including testing on my one remaining Fallopian tube, which he was convinced was likely blocked with scar tissue from my two previous surgeries, and might have to be removed in order to optimize IVF results. I asked about IUI, a less invasive intervention, but was told that given my ectopic pregnancy, I was a poor candidate. The only way to ensure that I would not have another ectopic pregnancy was to bypass the tube entirely.
Eric rubbed my back as I sobbed.
The doctor was sympathetic and kind, but firm in his belief that we shouldn’t waste time. “Call me on the first day of your next period, and we can get the ball rolling.”
I never got my period.
Instead I got this:
Turns out, I was already pregnant when we spoke with the doctor, but I didn’t know it yet. My one lonesome, rickety tube beat the odds. And apparently, uterus cobwebs are helpful for trapping embryos***.
So for about the 85th time in my life I learned the slightly terrifying (but in this case fortuitous) lesson that doctors don’t know everything– and despite my propensity for skepticism, I had to admit that miracles really do happen.
I said miracle. I didn’t say genius.
** I consulted an actual scientist who confirmed there is, in fact, no science to this.
When COVID quarantine first started, Nora was only 18 months old, and, given concerns about preexisting conditions in our family, we stayed extremely isolated for the next 1.5 years. So basically, Nora saw no one. Ever.
I for one reveled in couch life, fully embracing hibernation like the marmot I’m certain god intended me to be, but I worried about Nora’s lack of socialization and zero exposure to different types of people. Or, you know, ANY people. She started talking to our living room electrical outlet because I guess it sort of has a face.
I became concerned.
It was very important to me that Nora have SOME type of exposure to people who were not in our family (and who were not a wall socket), as well as an understanding that people come in all types of shapes, sizes, colors, ages, abilities, etc– and that we should respect and celebrate those differences. Her babysitter at the time, Sesame Street, was doing an ok job teaching these concepts, but I yearned for her to have some off-screen experiences that would build her social intelligence.
Cue my brilliant idea to order her a slew of multicultural dolls. Nora was in a major dramatic play phase, so I thought it would be great to get her dolls of mixed races, ethnicities, ages, genders, and abilities, thereby normalizing cultural variation for her sheltered, isolated, impressionable soul.
It warmed my heart when her very favorite toy became this basketball-playing young man using a wheelchair.
We had many discussions about disabilities, and I felt proud that she had an understanding of why people might need accommodations or certain tools to help them live their lives comfortably and to the fullest. I felt relieved that once quarantine life was over and we DID go out into the world where Nora would encounter all different types of people, she wouldn’t be confused (or, worse– RUDE) about it. She wouldn’t stare, or point, or doing anything else to make someone feel uncomfortable or marginalized. She would understand and appreciate that we are all unique, and that that is a beautiful thing.
Honestly, I awarded myself alllllll the mom points.
Fast forward a year, when I took Nora into a store for the first time in essentially forever. She was about 3 years old. As we were waiting on a long line at the Walgreen’s pharmacy to pick up my prescription, a kind-looking woman came up behind us. She was in a wheelchair. She smiled at Nora.
Woman: “Hello, little girl, aren’t you cute!”
Nora (screaming, inexplicably, at a rave-level decibel):
“YOU’RE IN A WHEELCHAIR!!”
The entire population of the store– staff, customers, emotional support animals– turned to look at us.
Nora took that as her cue to continue.
“MOM DO YOU SEE THIS LADY IS IN A REAL-LIFE WHEELCHAIR???!!!!”
Me (to the woman, mortified and bead-sweating): “I’m so sorry– it’s just, her favorite doll uses a wheelchair, and I guess she’s really excited to see one in person. We don’t get out much…”
“It’s ok,” the woman replied, while somehow, bless her heart, still smiling at Nora.
I thanked her for her understanding.
“YOU LOVE TO PLAY BASKETBALL BECAUSE YOU’RE IN A WHEELCHAIR!!”
She stopped smiling.
So if anyone is looking for some mom points, I forfeited mine and left them over there at the Westport Walgreens. Said points are waiting to be claimed by a mother whose child would have done literally anything other than what my child did that day. So if that’s you, congrats, go ahead and collect.
Oh and please pick up my prescription from 2021. I ran away and can never return.
Don’t get me wrong, we love him. We truly do. But he is dumber than a banana sandwich.
I’ll admit, we did not exactly set him up for success. The very first decision we made regarding Riggins was, after all, choosing to name him Riggins. This is in reference to a character from the amazing, deeply-revered (by us, and anyone with a soul) tv show Friday Night Lights (FNL).
You see, the FNL thing (for those of you who are new here) is a whole theme in our family, as Eric has the same name as the title character, Coach Eric Taylor, and it’s pretty much the main reason I agreed to go on a first date with him— on a Friday night, no less! After that, FNL continued to be a theme in our courtship, right up to our wedding hashtag, which was a spinoff of the FNL tagline “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”– #cleareyesfullheartstwojews (if none of this means anything to you, I apologize but also would like to know wtf is wrong with you. It’s the best show ever and god gave you a whole pandemic to catch up).
So anyway, to continue with the FNL theme like the cheeseheads we are, we named our dog Riggins, after FNL’s beloved character Tim Riggins.
Here’s the problem with that: Tim Riggins is a certifiable dingbat.
Yes, he’s a fantastic character with a heart of gold, but he is the resident dunce and also a classic, reckless bad boy. He fails out of school (because again– very dumb!) and lands himself in jail (because again– not smart!). He is the king of destructive decisions and bonehead antics.
Enter our Riggins. The eyes of an angel with the brain of a snow cone on hot pavement.
If you ask Eric or my mother in law, they will dispute the fact that he’s a nitwit, but they are blinded, I believe, by the missing hole in their hearts where a son/grandson would be. I never particularly wanted to have boys, so I have no such hole, and therefore no such soft spot for his endless and maddening shenanigans.
Said shenanigans can not be summed up in one post, and therefore creatively titled “Dog” will likely be an ongoing series. Presently I would like to focus on his most annoying trait– the barking.
When we first brought Riggins home, I was 7 months pregnant with Sophie (if you’re scratching your head thinking, “The last thing in the world I would do while 7 months pregnant is get a puppy,” then congrats, you respect yourself!) I immediately noticed that, while cute and fluffy and all that fun nonsense, the dog had a major flaw (pissing on our floor and licking it up aside)– he was very barky.
If he saw even a hint of movement outside the window (I’m talking a leaf gently blowing in the breeze), he’d bark as if someone was being murdered (ironically, if one of us were to be murdered, I guarantee you the dog would do jack shit, other than maybe find a good pillow upon which to sit and lick his penis.)
“This is a problem for me,” I said to Eric. This is how I begin most conversations in our house, so understandably, he did not respond.
“You need to train him to stop barking before this baby comes. If he barks at everything he sees, he will wake her. And if he wakes her, I will kill him.”
Eric rolled his eyes. “You can’t train a dog not to bark at perceived danger. It’s instinct. It’s what they’re supposed to do.”
This sounded suspect, as I know many a barkless dog, but I trusted that Eric knew what he was talking about, as he had spent the past 7 years on dog blogs and poring through Dog Training for Idiots with a highlighter and post-it pad, preparing for the day I finally relented and let him fulfill his dog-owning dreams.
In contrast to Eric, I put in roughly (and I’m estimating here) zero minutes of prep work for this puppy. But I had a yellow Labrador as a kid (for whom I did NOTHING). That felt like a sufficient prerequisite.
So I trusted in Eric’s research and countered, “Well then, if he can’t be trained to not bark at danger, he needs to be taught what actual danger is. Like, not a leaf. Or a squirrel. Not our car pulling into the driveway. Basically, I need you to train him to not be such a pussy.”
Eric: “Ok well that’s not really a thing.”
Fast forward a few months. The baby is born. The dog barks. The dog wakes the baby. The baby screams. I contemplate murder. Rinse, wash, repeat– every day, all day, leading up to present day. Eric and I send no less than 10 texts a week on this exact topic. Sometimes I can keep a sense of humor about it:
Other times I’m just done:
Then recently, I went to visit friends who got their same-breed dog at the same time we did, and you know what happened when I rang their doorbell?
Their dog stood there and promptly did NOT bark. At all. “Oh my god, how did you get her to not bark?!” I asked said friend.
“I trained her to not bark.”
“Well you know how you train dogs to sit? And stay? And not eat socks? And shit outside? I did the same thing, but with barking.”
I then googled “get dog to stop barking,” and no less than 893274987219847893247 links appeared with tools, tips and tricks for how to do just that.
I fear, however, that it is too late for us. The dog has become accustomed to his manic barking ritual, and the only solution is to lock him in the basement while Sophie naps. This felt cruel (to Eric. I clearly didn’t give a fuck), so Eric decided to move his entire home office from the large, sunny upstairs room to the dank, underground cellar-dungeon, so the dog has a friend during nap time. And thus, this is how we are currently living our lives:
And this complete rearrangement of our entire lives and schedules and bladder/bowel movements in order to work around the dog’s dumbness is a completely reasonable solution to the problem, right? RIGHT….?!