Thursday, December 10, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, and Interview on Being Gay and Having Kids

E-interview (questions and responses) with a WIU student:

1. Are you and your partner married?

Yes, Sandy and I were married in Niagara Falls, Canada back in February 2005. We had been a couple, living together, for almost two years. After doing a bit of research on line, we learned that we needed to sign documents and register with the City of Ontario as well as make an appointment with a Justice of the Peace - just as any heterosexual couple would have to do. We made two trips over the border in the process. During the first trip we went to City Hall to file paperwork and sign documents. We were treated very kindly by the staff we encountered. Then, the next day, we finished the process by meeting with a Justice of the Peace, with whom we pronounced our vows and were proclaimed married partners. She had her children with her, and they served as our witnesses. At the time, my parents were not in support of our marriage so they did not attend the informal ceremony. We made the plans on short notice, and so we went on our own. Later that summer, my parents threw a very nice party in honor of our marriage. Many of our friends and family members attended, and the recognition of our marriage as well as the show of support meant a lot to us.

Shortly after we married, we took our marriage certificate to the local Social Security Office in the hopes that we could change my name legally by virtue of our marriage. This is a right that heterosexual couples are extended (upon their marriages). We were not sure what would happen but we thought we would try - after all, the lack of recognition of our marriage in a legal context in which I would be denied the right to change my name (whereas a heterosexual woman would not be denied such a right) is a clear case of discrimination. At the office, we were initially met with disapproval but lucked out, so to speak, when the - female - office manager said, "Well, they were married legally in Canada. I don't see what the problem is," and took the decision upon herself. Surely, if she had consulted someone higher up in the ranks they would have told her to deny us on the basis that our marriage was not recognized legally by the U.S. federal government. But we managed to slip though, and my name is now Jessica Mason McFadden. I received a new social security card stating that. I don't know what other same-sex couples who have tried to do the same have encountered. If we were denied, we would have been forced to go through a much more elaborate process and to court to change my name.

2. Did you and your partner adopt your children or did one of you give birth to the children?

My partner and I hoped to have a child with the help of a sperm donor - either an anonymous or known donor. We asked friends for ideas, but had never really found an appropriate potential donor. Most potential donors wanted a fatherly role in our child's life and we weren't comfortable with that. We figured we would work with a doctor and order sperm through a sperm bank, and we knew it would cost a lot of money (it is not covered by our insurance company). After we moved to Macomb, we met a man, Adam, through a mutual friend. We mentioned our ideal situation and asked him if he would ever consider donating. He spent a few weeks thinking about it, and decided that it was something he wanted to do. He did not want the responsibility of having children but had always been curious about bringing a child into the world. Through the process of trying to get pregnant, we grew to be friends. We figured that the more positive, loving people in our child's life, the better. We planned to try to impregnate me on our own (without the involvement of doctors), and we were able to make that happen. We devised an informal document (NOT signed before a notary or involving lawyers) spelling out the nature of our arrangement, and everyone involved signed it. The document spelled out things that each of us were concerned about: that Adam would never be responsible for our child financially or otherwise and that Adam would never request any degree of custody of any child resulting from our arrangement. In other words, it defined Adam as a sperm donor and Sandy and me as parents.

We spent about seven months trying different methods, until we were successful. I had a healthy pregnancy and gave birth to a precious little girl, Dar Dar (and yes, her name is McFadden because both of her mother's share the name McFadden), nine months later. We then decided to have a second child. The two children are about twenty-two months apart. Our youngest daughter was born in October 2009. We figured, after our first child was born, that she would be covered automatically by my partner, Sandy's, insurance company because I was covered as a "domestic partner." The University's insurance policy recognizes same-sex couples as domestic partners and offers insurance benefits. The process of qualifying for insurance as a same-sex partner is different than the process that a married, heterosexual partner goes through. Married, heterosexual couples do not have to "prove" their relationship, whereas -because they do not have the ability to be married legally- homosexual couples and non-married heterosexual couples must provide elaborate documentation of their partnership before qualifying a dependent partner under the insurance policy. For instance, they must prove that they have lived together for a year - heterosexual, married couples do not have to show that they live together. Many people believe that, under the law, domestic partners will receive the same benefits as married partners but this is not true. Married couples are afforded many rights and protections that domestic partners are not afforded. For instance, if domestic partners want to be insured they can be denied on the basis that they are not married legally - this is unfair because they do not have the ability to marry legally. Even if a state recognizes same-sex marriage, federal laws override state laws - private businesses can refuse to insure same-sex couples on the basis that they are not married. It is a widespread misconception that, at this point, domestic partnership benefits are the same as marriage benefits. Many websites, including that of the Human Rights Campaign, offer detailed comparisons between marriage and civil unions/domestic partnerships that reveal the inequities. When people argue that civil unions are the same as marriages, they are displaying a "separate but equal" mentality. Separate is not equal.

We are now in the process of a legal adoption. Sandy is adopting both of our children. The main reason that Sandy is adopting the children is to ensure that they will receive health benefits through her insurance company. It also insures that she will receive complete custody of the children if something were to happen to me and I was unable to care for them. Our desire to have Sandy adopt our children was born out of a difficult and stressful situation that arose after our first daughter, Dar, was born. We assumed that since I was covered as a dependent under Sandy's insurance policy (through a domestic partnership policy), our child would also be covered. We were not informed previous to Dar's birth of any reason to doubt that assumption: naturally if I am Sandy's dependent then my child would also be her dependent. Much to our dismay, we learned a month after Dar's birth that she was uninsured and would be until Sandy obtained some form of legal documentation proving her parental status over Dar. It was truly ridiculous. According to the policy, partners of employees could receive coverage BUT children of partners could NOT receive coverage. In order to be covered by the insurance policy, Sandy must adopt Dar. We were frantic at first when we learned this fact. We had thirty days from the moment we found out to obtain documentation. Our saving grace was that the insurance company would accept temporary guardianship. Still, thirty days was not a long time to make arrangements with a lawyer to obtain documentation through court for guardianship. We were very nervous and angry at first, fearing that Darah would be uninsured during a critical time in her life (especially with high hospital bills waiting for insurance payments). We feared the worst and looked into Illinois' public funding program for uninsured children. Luckily, we had an excellent lawyer helping us through the process - she sped things up as much as possible. We also had Adam nearby, and he signed away his rights before we went to court to obtain the guardianship. We had to meet with our lawyer and with a Guardian Ad Litem throughout the thirty day period; it was a very stressful time and we just managed to obtain the guardianship in time to receive coverage. We were relieved, of course, but also angry for all of the outrageous inequities that we encountered.

We received a lot of support at the time from friends in the community and at the university. One special friend with a lot of connections brought our circumstances up to the WIU Union and put us in touch with the Macomb Feminist Network. They were very kind after learning about our situation; they even offered to have a member accompany us to meetings with local politicians. A wonderful woman from the MFN accompanied us to a meeting with Illinois Senator John Sullivan. We told him about our situation and all of its overreaching implications, and urged him to do whatever was in his power to change the legislation so that this would not affect negatively others in the future (since, after all, it was state legislation that denied our daughter coverage in the first place). He was very kind and sympathetic, and we felt very good about being able to bring our experience to his attention rather than suffering in silence. The support of various communities was very touching; we are very proud to be a part of Western and its communal spirit. We are in the process of the adoption, and will complete it in court very soon. And on that note, another example of an inequity we discovered:  A heterosexual woman can put her male partner's name on her child's birth certificate if it is her intention that he be the father of the child. He does not have to be the biological father to be placed on the birth certificate as long as they are married. I was unable to put Sandy on the birth certificate for two reasons - first, because there are only slots for one mother and one father (not two mothers or two "parents") and, second, because we are same-sex partners and our marriage is not legally recognized by the state of Illinois, or *more importantly* the federal government. As a further detail, in a heterosexual adoption case, once the adoption is complete a new birth certificate is sent with the adoptive parent's name on it. We are not sure what will happen when our adoption is processed. We are hoping we will be sent a new birth certificate for each child with Sandy's name on it, but we are not sure how it will be handled considering the heterosexual-centered forms that are used (one father, one mother) and the fact that we are a same-sex couple. Sandy will be their legal parent, just as I am; however she does not fit the criteria of "father." It will be interesting to see how it is handled. If we are not sent new birth certificates with Sandy's name on them, then that will be another form of discrimination (an extension of the core federal discrimination).

3. Who primarily takes care of the children or do both of you share the duties equally?

We do not think of childcare as duties to be divided equally or otherwise, we just consider ourselves supportive partners in parenting. It's a give-and-take - we give wherever we can and we lean on each other for support. I am with the children most of the time, since I am a stay-at-home mom. Sandy works outside the home as an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Western Illinois University. When we are both home, we tend to fall into roles that are comfortable for us. When she is home, Sandy prepares most of our meals. I spend a lot of time breastfeeding, changing diapers, and caring for the children; but Sandy also fills in with some of the activities I engage in regularly. Neither of us feels as though the other one is not giving enough of herself; each of us is giving a lot and each of us feels grateful for the support of the other. We try to build on each other's strengths. We want to make it as easy as possible for each other because we love each other very much. I try to do whatever I can to make her life as easy and happy as possible, and I know she does the same for me.

4. Have you ever experienced discrimination towards you and your family?

I expanded on some of our experiences, in the above responses, in order to review the element of discrimination. The forms of discrimination that really show up on our personal radar are the ones that affect the well being of our children in some way - they also happen to be ones that are legalistic (dealing with our federal rights). As long as homosexuals are discriminated against in federal legislation, the effects of that huge discrimination will trickle down, having various repercussions that range in intensity as well as in form (from legal to institutional to social discrimination). Some effects of the legislative discrimination are transparent while others fall into a gray area. The legal, institutional and social dimensions of discrimination that we face are both singular and intersecting. Social discrimination is more difficult to pinpoint and approach. A hate crime, for instance, may be an extreme form of social discrimination; the use of language that is not inclusive in a classroom, on the other hand, would be a less extreme form of social discrimination. Each needs to be addressed, but they require the use of different strategies. A hate crime would need to be addressed both legally and socially; whereas oppressive language in the classroom would need, for the most part, to be addressed socially (however, it could also be addressed institutionally through the use of programs and policies in academia that promote acceptance and inclusivity).

I, personally, deal with the small, social forms of discrimination by trying to be very open about my sexuality and my family status. When I feel like it, I will take a simple moment of ignorance and make it a moment of learning. By being upfront and honest about myself and my sexual/personal identity, I am often creating an opportunity for others to learn (if they are open to that opportunity). For someone who might feel uncomfortable with same-sex relationships, it might be transformative to actually encounter a REAL, live same-sex relationship - it might make an otherwise judgmental person question some of their prejudices and stereotypes about what it means to be a homosexual. So just by correcting someone who assumes that Sandy is my mother or friend, I am making them stop and think about their quickly made assumption. It's not always fun, especially when the person on the other end looks at us like we're aliens when I say "No, she's actually my partner" or "Actually, we're both Dar's mothers - we're same-sex partners." Most of the time we are met with kindness, though, which is reassuring. I have found my overly upfront approach to be helpful, in that it calms my own anxieties over situational discomfort, wrong assumptions and fear of rejection. I can overdo it, sometimes - like, "Hi, I'm Jessica and this is my partner, Sandy. We're a two mom household. We have a big age difference, too, which some people are uncomfortable with...but really we're happy. What's your name?" Naw, not really (but close!). And we do have compassion for most of the assumptions that are made. We know that its understandable for people to think that Sandy is my mother and Darah's grandmother. When we feel confident and safe, we correct the mistaken assumption.When we suspect we might be faced with violence or hostility then we don't correct the mistaken assumption. We are happy to live our lives honestly and openly, yet at the same time we don't put ourselves in a potentially dangerous or disturbingly awkward situation.

5. What is a typical day like in your life?

Well, a typical day in my life is probably like what a typical day in a lot of stay-at-home mothers' lives is like. Sandy and I usually wake up to the baby fussing because she is hungry or to our toddler's movements, who wakes up on most mornings between us. We watch the news, feed the kids, clean ourselves (if you're lucky...ha), get dressed, have something to eat, turn on the lights, check our email messages,...we get moving - sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. Sounds pretty boring, and it is, but we're very happy with it. We just enjoy each other's company, so we don't mind hanging out at home most of the time. After Sandy leaves for work, usually around 8 AM, I will start getting myself and the kids ready for the day. Dar will snack and play in her playroom and color and read books and watch movies, and I will do those things with her as well as change diapers, give baths, breastfeed every two or three hours, pick up around the house, do laundry, vacuum, check my email, make phone calls, Skype with Dar's grandparents, and so on. When Sandy gets home from work, we usually hang out for an hour or so and then she makes dinner (usually while I am breastfeeding the baby). We eat, clean up and then do whatever we feel like: sometimes we read, sometimes we go out to get groceries, sometimes we hang out in Dar's playroom, usually we watch television. We read Dar a few books before bed every night, we play with flashlights on the ceiling for five minutes and then we *try* to go to sleep.

We also have certain weekly rituals. It's been more difficult with a second baby to get out of the house (especially because we are a one car family - which we are glad to be!),  but I try to get Dar off to at least one playgroup a week. We are part of two playgroups - one is held at a church and the other is held at a Catholic school (in the gym). I try to make it out with the kids to a monthly breastfeeding meeting (La Leche League). Dar and I attend a Kindermusik class on Thursday nights while Sandy stays home with Elan and makes dinner (our usual Thursday night meal is salmon patties with mashed potatoes and corn). Dar goes to Rumble Tumble at the YMCA on Saturday mornings, and every two weeks we meet a friend and her son for a Lunch and Library outing on Saturday afternoon. In the Spring, I plan to enroll in a swim class with Dar. We had been doing this, but stopped when I became pregnant with Elan. I also may take yoga classes again, since I stopped when I became pregnant, but it will not be until Elan is a little older. Twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, Dar and Elan's biological father (who Dar calls Biodad) and one of his partner's (he's Polyamorous), Elisa, come over for a two to two and a half hour visit. They usually take Dar out for a wagon ride or a visit to the tiny lake nearby. She loves their visits and enjoys spending time with them. For the past few months, we have had a guest staying in our home twice a week - a graduate student, Sara, was staying with us two nights a week in the bedroom we have on the lower level. Other than that, we attend community and campus events when we can. We also enjoy visits to Buffalo twice a year to see my family. They visit us every three or four months, as well.

6. Do you and your partner talk to your children about having 2 same sex parents?

Well, our children are very young so we haven't formally discussed it, and she (Dar) hasn't ever questioned anything yet. She's not yet two, and Elan is only six weeks old! Dar calls Sandy Momma Si or Si (Dar came up with the "Si" portion herself...we originally intended for her to call her Momma Sandy), and she calls me Mummy or Mommy or Mom. She calls both Biodad and Elisa the same name usually (that's Elisa), but sometimes she calls him "Ba dah." It will probably be a long time before she seriously questions the fact that she has two moms and that her biological father does not live with her. Our plan has always been to simply be as honest as possible with her, while also being sensitive to her age and abilities to comprehend. I think she will feel lucky that she has so many loving people in her life - two moms who love and adore her, a biological dad who loves her, as well as friends and extended family who love and care about her. Yes, her family dynamics are different than most of her peers. But we're hoping she feels special because of that difference. We realize that not everyone will be nice about it - there will likely be times when she encounters negative messages (in school and so on) about having two moms (and one who is much older than the other). We are hoping that we will provide her with enough information, love, compassion, and support that she will be able to handle it without internalizing those negative messages. We cannot control what others say and how others feel, but we can (to some extent) control what we think and feel about ourselves AND we can choose how to react to others' negativity. We know it will hurt terribly to see our child hurting because of something insensitive another child says or does, but we also know that children can be insensitive sometimes, period. Children say insensitive things to other children for a variety of reasons, not just because of parental dynamics. We are hoping that Dar (and Elan) will grow to feel confident and be intelligent enough to know that the opinions of others do not determine their self-worth. We want them to feel capable of both standing up for themselves AND turning to us for help and support. Maybe they will even be so confident as to stand up for others, as well.

7. Have you had any legal problems facing your children? If so, could you please explain.

Please read the response to question number two. Let me know if you have any other questions about the insurance situation. Best of luck with your project.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Co-Sleeping Lesbians on a Full-size Bed

Our family lies on a full size bed. Our family currently consists of two mommies, one toddler, three stuffed animals, and a big belly that holds a baby. That makes seven of us in one full size bed, and I am even not counting the three extra pillows I require for sleeping each night (plus, I think Darah's legs need to count as an extra person since they kick us so often). It's tight. Cozy when we're watching television and reading books, cramped when it's 4:30 AM. We didn't plan for this when we decided to buy another full size mattress. Who knew that Po and Da Duck and Lambie (also known as "Wihmie") would be joining us! See, poor stuffed animals. They get all the blame for our nighttime discomforts and they cannot even defend themselves and their little, soft bodies, which, surprisingly, do pack in a lot of heat. Last week, Darah tried to add Pinkydog to her current collection of bedfellows. Luckily, though, I have managed to steer her away from adding Pd to the pack.

The real trouble, for me, with sleeping has been -what a surprise- pregnancy! I have three weeks, officially, until my due date arrives. It's kind of surreal. The days seem to be moving by quickly and the nights seem to be SO slow. The pains that I am experiencing with this late stage of pregnancy primarily occur in the night. It's amazing how lying down on my side, even with a pillow between my legs, can become extremely uncomfortable in such a short time. I usually fall asleep around 10:30 pm and wake up around (or before) 12 am to go to the bathroom and change sides. Then I wake up again around 2am with aches (that I try but fail to relieve by going to the bathroom), but it usually takes me another hour at least to fall asleep. And then Darah starts tossing and turning, calling out for "Mah-meeeeee" around 3:30 or 4 am. She ends up in our bed by 5 am, and it's usually around that time that I climb into her bed to sleep until 7 am. We have enough room in the bed, but she tends to sleep as close to me as possible. Somehow I always end up with a tiny amount of room and my belly suspended in the air over the edge of the bed. Not that the whole idea of it doesn't have it's endearing qualities, but it is hard to appreciate the coziness of it all in the middle of the night. I love having Darah snuggled into me...if only it weren't for this giant belly and all of the aches and pains!

About a week ago, I had an awfully painful night. It followed a moderately painful night. I thought I was going into back labor (but I was wrong - I am not yet one cm dilated). I woke up with EXCRUCIATING pains in my left pelvic region and lower back. I moaned and groaned and moved around and nothing helped. I started feeling like I had the chills and a fever, as well as painful menstrual-like cramps. I felt like I was going to vomit or have diarrhea. (And the pain was going down into my left thigh, too.) So after a while, I decided to soak in the bathtub. I moaned and groaned in there. Sandy came in and sat at the edge of the tub, feeling helpless and wishing she could do something. Then I stretched a bit and got back into bed. I moaned and groaned (hey, people, when I'm in pain I don't hold back!). Sandy thought that it must be the position of the baby. She was moving, and seemed to be posterior (front-facing, which is not the preferable position for delivery). So Sandy tried to move her around by pressing on my belly in different areas. It started to relieve some of the pain and then the pelvic pain started on the right side...which gave us the idea that my pain DID have to do with the baby's position. After a while I was finally able to fall asleep. I was so scared in the morning when I woke up and still had the chills that my nights might be like this from now on. The pain, for a few hours, was so intense that I considered calling the hospital. But since I was able to fall asleep, I figured it wasn't labor. But my mother wasn't convinced. She was ready to jump in the car the moment I described it to her. And she urged me to call my doctor.

Thinking it couldn't hurt, I called the office and spoke with a nurse who said things that just annoyed, "Well, women who are in your stage of pregnancy often have pelvic pain," to which I responded, "Yes, I know. I have been having pelvic pain for a long time but this was different. It was so much more intense and it was accompanied by symptoms a., b., and c." She also suggested that I just had contracted a flu virus, which definitely annoyed me. She said that it is happened again, I could call the hospital. I asked what they would do for me - would they check to see if I was dilated or anything like that? "Well, they could check if you asked them to check." So, I am learning - slooooowly - that when it comes to health care, a proactive approach is best. You have to ask for it or they (probably) won't do it. I was spoiled with my last ObGyn, who talked very reassuringly about all sorts of issues and concerns I might have...I did not have to ask about my blood pressure when the nurse took it. I've always had a bit of a problem with asking, but I am getting so much better. I think my fear was some form of backlash from witnessing my grandmother, Grandma Mel, DEMAND EV-ER-Y-THING, everywhere we went. Her motto was and is "the squeaky wheel gets the oil." But I don't think she has realized that if SHE is the squeaky wheel, she's likely getting a lot more with her oil than she is aware of (like a little piss and spit in her meal at Perkins). I tend to be a squeaky wheel on my blog...where it's not oil I'm looking for, it's just a chance to squeak. In fact, I may change the name of this blog from Mason is my Middle Name to The Squeaky Wheel.

Well, this may be my last blog post for a while since Elanah is on her way into the world. If it is, I leave you will the charming words of my precious first-born daughter, Darah: "Goodnight, Orange ("owndinge"). Goodnight, Purple ("puhpow"). Goodnight lights ("wites"). Goodnight, Pumpkin. Goodnight, Books. Goodnight, Zebra ("zeeba"). Goodnight, Barney ("bahney"). Goodnight, Elanah ("wanah"). Goodnight, Grampy ("dimpy"). Goodnight, Sue. Goodnight, fairy ("fae"). Goodnight, Po. Goodnight, Lambie ("wihmie"). Goodnight, Duck. Goodnight, Pooh. I love you, Si. I love Mummy. Goodnight."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pregnant Belly Art: Henna on the Belly

This henna tattoo was created by my friend, Aparna, during one of our playdates. She did it all by hand while the baby in my belly kicked her (basically tried to jump out of my skin and make it as difficult as possible for her) and while her eighteen month old son climbed all over her back...not to mention while I had to change positions frequently to keep from passing out and while Darah cried for me to hold her. Impressive, yes! And just look how huge and round my belly is - it's hard for me to believe I still have six more weeks to wait. I brought up the baby clothes from the basement, and now have to find somewhere to put them (I may have to hang some up in the laundry closet). I definitely have more anxiety during this pregnancy than I did with Darah (I was much more even and calm with Dar), but I also have more energy. During my last pregnancy, I did not bite my nails at all. During this pregnancy, I have bitten them (or at least three of them) since the third month. I think my hormones are different this time around, but Darah's presence has also energized her. I am so glad that I feel confident that I haven't scarred her or neglected her in any damaging way because of the difficulty of this pregnancy. It's almost time for Elanah to get her little tush out of me and out into the world. I'm ready.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Do It Yourself (Have Your Partner do it) Belly Casts: Belly Casting during Pregnancy

The belly cast on the left (with the right arm attached) is of me when I was pregnant with Darah. The belly cast on the left (without arms) was created about a week ago during my second pregnancy with Elanah. I am now in my eighth month of pregnancy. The cast of my belly with Darah was made slightly earlier, during the seventh month.

Coffee Ground to Coffee Ground

A couple of weeks ago, I said goodbye to one of my oldest friends, Night Night. He is a bear and he came to live with me when I was two years old (probably when my younger sister, Melissa, was born... as some sort of comfort gift). Night Night spent almost twenty three years with me, but I let him go. His actual, official, name (I found out a couple of years ago when I actually looked at the faded letters on his chest) is Nitey Night, but I always knew him as Night Night. I'm sure he was just beautiful when I first wrapped my arms around him. He was a cream colored bear, wearing a pink pajama suit and a pink night cap with a yellow star on the end. He had sweet drooping, sleepy blue eyes, a pink button nose and a round hole for a mouth. His mouth was very entertaining because I could actually stick things (and my fingers) in there. I don't have evidence (in my recent attempts to stick a finger back into his cottony interior) that I ever put anything gross in his mouth. I'm sure I gave him "medicine" a lot through that hole.

As a child, I always made my dolls and animals suffer from ailments. They all needed my love and care. Feeling sorry for them made me feel good because feeling needed felt good. Oh, but that leads me down the road of my childhood and adult issues of needing to feel needed and special, and I just want to write a little something in honor of my bear. The point is that Night Night used to be beautiful but has worn over the years, just as we all do. The times I peed and spilled tomato sauce on him may have had something to do with it. The overlapping stitches on his back are tell-tale signs of a well-earned retirement.

Many of us have those items from our childhood that we just cannot or will let to of...I understand. If Night Night wasn't so shabby and musty, I would love to have let Darah enjoy him for some time. But she will have her own new, special animals and friends to love and enjoy. If I actually had some use for him, I would have kept him. But I am not alone or lonely, and I don't need him for comfort. He spent the last few years buried away in closets and chests anyway. He was not bringing anyone joy. It's hard not to give life to what is actually a non-living object. I still have that childhood urge to attribute emotions to him, even if I do so in jest.

So I decided to let go of Night Night. I could not donate him because he was too musty and old, so I had to throw him away. That's what we do, in the end, isn't it. Even if we put fancy stones over our bodies or pile on bunches of flowers, we are - essentially - thrown away in the end, when there is no longer a use for our bodies. Luckily, our bodies have the ability of decaying and becoming part of the new earth that grows. We can be mulch and we can be food, but mostly we pollute the air when we are cremated or take up space with wooden boxes and stone shelves. Even as ridiculous as it is to want to be preserved, we often do (I know I do). I suppose my desire to keep Night Night "alive" and "preserve" him has something to do with my desire to feed the illusion of being able to stay alive and being able to be preserved or immortalized in some way.

But I put Night Night in the trash because I didn't have a better idea of what to do with him. I hugged him and took a photo with him and let Darah hug him. We all said goodbye, and then I placed him in the garbage can in our kitchen. For the next twenty-four hours, I flinched every time I went to throw something away over his body. It was hard to think of him being in there every time I passed the garbage can. I wanted to avoid it and have it be "out of sight, out of mind" for good, but I also wanted to fill the garbage bag before taking it outside. The coffee grinds were the worst. Sandy made some coffee and had to throw the wet grinds away. She asked me if I was sure about Night Night and didn't want to save him. I said I was sure.

So his body was covered with wet coffee grinds that looked like soil. Very appropriate. I probably should have been the one to dump them over him, but I let her do it. Then, at the end of the night, I asked her to take out the trash and put me out of my misery. She did so, with compassion and love. I don't have many detailed memories of my times with Night Night, but I do have a strong emotional memory of the comfort he brought me when I was scared or sad or lonely. I can picture myself holding him in my arms in the bunk bed of my aunt's trailer at Sherkston Shores in Canada. A little piece of home. A little piece of stability. A little bear, Night Night. I'll miss him every now and then.

(On another note, Darah saw a picture in her favorite "Big Book" this morning of a man with a broom. She exclaimed, "clean up." And later, while on Skype with Grampy Bill ("Dimpy"), she sniffed in dramatically and said "ew, stinky foot." That was just after I removed her socks, upon her request!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pregnancy Status Updates: My Life, as Revealed by Facebook Status Updates

Jessica Mason McFadden (oldest to most recent)

is on meds for heartburn and will soon be on beta blockers for high heart rate....hmmm...

is not the owner of this land or anything else

is not wondering why

is pleading with the gods that she not wake up inhaling/choking on her acid reflux in the middle of the night...second trimester is The Golden Period, eh?

is happy grampy day

thinks it is so funny that Darah ordered Sandy to drop the television remote to read her a story this morning by saying (or commanding/ordering), "Down."

just ate a coffee ice cream in a waffle bowl with fudge sauce and chocolate chips on top and then had three chocolate covered pretzels that sandy bought her...(uhhhh, i have to eat all of my deserts in the afternoon to avoid acid reflux incidents in ...the middle of the I really "do it up")

is grateful for the luxury three inch thick and extra dense memory foam that Sandy bought her as a "pregnancy gift" - it provides a bit of loving care and relief for my aching bones...

is whoa Michael Jackson - time to watch the news -

knows everything is an illusion - life, death, and every other concept we think of...everything we experience...every reality will eventually be dust.

wonders why Darah woke up crying and asking for "milk" in the middle of the night...for the first time ever...growth spurt?

is grateful to anyone who can save a Macomb Journal for her because Darah's picture is on the last page (thanks for letting us know, Paula!!!)

doesn't like it that companies like Verizon Wireless are in cahoots with scammers that fall under the category of "Premium Text Data" (or "Ringtones)...errrr.

awaits the arrival of Darah's twin bed

has one babyfetus and one sleeping toddler stacked on top of her and half a tub of Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch somewhere in the mix

wonders if you have any strong opinions about ("sippy") cups for toddlers...since I am trying to find the best thing out there and weighing all of the pros/cons

feels as though her pelvic bone is parting, as well as all of her organs...but it was so worth it to take Darah for a wagon ride in this never-quite stormy yet COOL climate

is distressed because Darah woke up crying hysterically and inconsolably in the night and would not communicate with us or give us any signs of what was wrong...

doesn't want Darah to have any more "night terrors" - more like Mummy Terrors.

is gonna enjoy the rain, the incense, the packing, the bathing with her family before she and Dar leave town to visit Buffalo with Adam

misses Sandy even though she hasn't even left town yet

is in Buffalo with Darah

is so tired but wishes she had Sandy to snuggle

is trying to plan what she will do for the next few days in Buffalo - call my cell or send a message if you'd like to try to meet up at any point (to, say, meet Darah)

just opened the door of the Mason's refrigerator and got covered in a jumbo size container of Frank's hot did the whole's on nearly every surface including the ceiling...too much food for one fridge and people carelessly shoving things I am hiding in the bedroom

is clean and uninjured but still neurotic and vigilant.

was afraid of the antique hatchet after seeing "Friday the 13th" when she was five years old, but Grams, she, put it on my lap and let me feel the edge to see that it wasn't sharp. She thinks she erased my kid fears by letting me feel and she tells the story with pride, but little does she know I'm still afraid (I do, however, take showers with the door closed occasionally now). I find horror films disturbing.

is sick from the neck up with a sinus infection...and Dar has a baby version of it...

is so freaking sick it's really ridiculous...cut off her head, she said!
(Yeah, it sucks. But not as badly as nausea and the chills suck. It's all in my facial/head region. It was tough raspberry picking today with it. But had it not been tough because of that, then it would have because of my big belly and aching pelvic bone. And had it not been tough because of that, then it would have because of my discomfort with the insect world. :) I am glad you got to Bob's in time. Stay away from me!!!! And thank you, Alex.)

thinks it's funny that people think I am days away from giving birth when they see my belly...and I am actually months (about four) away from giving birth...

is in Buffalo for one more day...why does Macomb have to be thirteen hours away???

enjoying a lazy day home with San and Dar...and is so happy to be with SANDY!!!

hates that she let Darah fall off the stool at the sink and smack her head on the tile...errr, goose eggs...errr, injuries...

is laughing so hard because Darah picks up the cell phone (and camera) and says "Hi Sue" (Gramma Sue) every time...then she takes it over to each of her stuffed animals and plastic little people and holds it against their heads saying, "Ah Sue" and "Ish Sue."

is gonna see a tiny appendage tomorrow morning

and Sandy are going to have another "girl" baby (a vulva appeared on the screen!) - Darah is going to have a little sister!!!!

is finding it hard to decide on a name and wonders why no one makes a tuna pot pie...

had trouble sleeping last night...was itching all over and didn't know what to do!

is hungry yet hesitant to eat at restaurants in Macomb

is going to go in the other room and make Sandy go to bed...

is gonna change a dirty darah bum and then put the darah in for her nap

dreads the idea of sleeping with all of the itchiness and aches for three more months but knows that it's a lot better than being nauseous...and would love to soar through August on into September...oh no, wait, then I would be avoiding the expe...rience of pain rather than being at peace with it...argh.

is, sometimes, under the illusion that she can control things and then, sometimes, gets angry when something happens that makes it obvious that she cannot

possibly amazed that Darah seemed to say "Paula Deen" ("Pauah teen") twice in a row when we passed her show on the Food Network this morning...even though we haven't watched her in months...could it be? Must be all the fun sh...e had with her cousins from England - intellectual stimulation, for sure.

likes a one and a half foot pool with lifeguards on all sides but thinks it should also have shade trees instead of the biggest wasp she's ever seen - ouch...

has a daughter whose pretend games include a lot of phrases like "no, please" and "banana? no banana" and who unknowingly shoplifts Macomb Bombers tee-shirts from corrupt local megastores (a lesson in retail honesty was required!)...

is not sure what to do about Darah's pacifier use....and not sure what to do about her own anxiety over it...I didn't use a pacifier for too long as a kid, but look at me: I still bite my nails at 24...argh

has gained about thirty five pounds so far and three months to go...and then she just read that the baby only weighs 2.5 lbs...funny thing.

has her eyes on something if only she could get off her bum and go to it!

's daughter, Darah, calls Mummy's belly "bobby seeter"

needs her wife to cut the pills in thirds

loves Sandy and Darah and is very, very grateful

likes cool, dark days and gentle breezes

is so impressed that Sandy can move any piece of furniture, at almost any weight, up and down flights of stairs ON HER OWN...and she just did that today...the whole family room set went down and the stuff from the lower level came up.

is now land-line free...only cell and Skype from here on out!

is finishing almost half a pound of rice crackers...mmm, seaweed.

thinks that watching Darah and Sandy dance to R&B this morning was one of the cutest things ever...Darah was grooving, she was really feeling it.

tells him that the one thing that cannot be found, given, created or taken away by any person or thing is himself.

is expanding, still.

is excited for Sandy to make her another belly cast

's daughter just pretended to call Grandma Sue and said, "Sue, how are the beagles? I love you." ("Ah Sue, how ah the beadulls, I wuv you").

looks like a little mouse...and that is all fine and good, except if someone (like my wife in a former profession) mistakes me for a mouse and removes my brain in a laboratory...then I would look like a brain or a headless mouse carcass...and I guess... it wouldn't matter would it, because I wouldn't care would I?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Whiny Pregnancy Lady : Pregancy Pains: Complaining Helps

It's been a while since I have written a post about my (pregnant) state of being. I am in my seventh month - with two months and a week until my expected due date. I did a little too much last weekend, moving small things around the house and doing a lot of bending down and picking up. We rearranged the furniture. The TV that was the center of the "family room" is now in our bedroom - that is the only television we have upstairs now. The "family room," which used to have a lot of hunter green leather furniture in it, is now a much more open sitting room. Four chairs, a wool rug and a fish tank. That pretty much sums it up. I like it very much. Sandy is very strong and good at moving large (I stress large and HEAVY) pieces of furniture. I usually try to help her, but she ends up finding it easier to work alone (my help = hindrance). I remember when she (almost) single-handedly moved all of the giant oak bedroom furniture (yes, it's big and heavy...and the drawers are cedar-lined) from the driveway into the bedroom. I'm not sure how she managed it. It seemed superhuman. But she managed it well. So it was not too difficult for her, Superwoman S, to move all of the leather furniture downstairs on her own. Still, even though I did not move the large piece of furniture, I was busy moving little things around and rearranging. I tired myself out. Then, when I was leaving the guest bathroom with Darah in my arms later that night before bed (after changing a soiled diaper), I forgot about the new furniture arrangement. I was walking straight across the room in the dark, toward the dining room window, and had forgotten about the two dining room chairs that were against the wall. I tripped over them, and I must have strained something (in my already sore pelvic/crotch region) in an effort to protect my belly and Darah from falling or crashing into the chairs. I had an awful night, tossing and turning. Or just turning from side to side, which is a monumental feat and requires much strain and effort, in an effort to get some relief.

My lower abdomen and pelvic bones were throbbing and aching all night long. Every time I had to pull myself up from the bed (or just try to dump myself over the side of the bed) to use the toilet, I was moaning and groaning. And then I started feeling, what I now believe were, Braxton Hicks contractions. My lower abdomen felt hard and I felt like I had menstrual cramps. My lower back was aching and the baby was kicking, too. It was a nightmare of a night. I started worrying that I had somehow put myself into early (preterm) labor. It didn't help that Darah wanted to spend the whole night in our bed, between us...but her calls for "mommy, mommy, mommy" usually happen every night at around two am. The next day was full of pain (of the same sort) as well. But I read about preterm labor and noticed that I never had ten contractions in one hour, so there was no major cause for concern. There isn't much that I can do about the pelvic bone pains and bed soreness at night; changing sides and emptying my bladder are the main remedies. Sleeping with a pillow between my legs has been a necessity for the past few months, but sometimes I curse the way that I was designed as a woman. The other sleep-killer has been itchiness. I itch, sometimes all over but mostly on my belly. Most of the things that are happening with my body seem terribly unnatural. My heart is troubled and stressed because it has to work harder than normal. The rest of my torso is stretched and stressed.

Why should it have to be so uniquely painful to carry a baby? Part of the problem, I realize, is that I am so short and small, but STILL. And then there are all of the pills. I am not used to this. I am taking Prilosec for heartburn. I am also on a heart medication because I was experiencing a racing heart rate (and irregular beats). I had my heart monitored for twenty-four hours on some kind of heart monitor, and the results showed that my heart rate was soaring at a dangerous level one or two times during that period. So I take a ("something-pranolol") heart pill to regulate my heart rate. The same medication is said to treat high blood pressure and anxiety. So it lowers blood pressure - but I already have low blood pressure...which means that one of the side effects of taking the medication is that my blood pressure sometimes dips and I become weak and dizzy and faint. The daily or tri-weekly episodes of weakness was already happening, so I cannot say for sure if it occurs because of the medication. The worst for me is that I have to take an iron supplement because I am anemic. It's important that I take it, but I HATE taking iron (because I HATE nausea and it causes that). I am trying my best to suck it up and take the iron. I refuse to take the pills that the nurse recommended, and am instead taking an over-the-counter, slow-release pill at a lower dose. I am supposed to take a prenatal vitamin WITH the iron, but I haven't been able to force myself to do both yet. Iron causes constipation so now I need to add "Stool Softener" to the list of pills I need to take. At least it is only for a couple more months!

Pregnancy brings on a lot of complaining in my personality - I do realize this. But it's my reality and I am just sharing it. I know that, aside from a torn, wounded and stitched vulva, my body will be feeling so much better after I deliver little baby Elanah (we're thinking one "n" rather than two now).

Darah has me talk like "Elmo" multiple times a day. She usually won't finish her breakfast cereal unless "Elmo" feeds her. So it's now Mummy ("Mommy"), Elmo ("Melmo"), Momma Sandy ("Momma Si"), and Darah...and Elanah. Darah has quite the sense of humor. She just threw a bunch of Cheerios on the floor of her playroom and I said, "no Darah, not acceptable" in a stern tone. She pointed her finger in the air at me and said "no, you" and then raised her eyebrows as if she was surprised by herself and waiting to get into trouble. She looked like she might start laughing, too. I guess that's like me: I have always smiled and laughed excessively (annoyingly, at times) when I felt nervous. When I was little my dad would look at me and make a funny face when he thought I was lying. If I laughed at the face he was making, he interpreted my laughter as an admission. I remember feeling so frustrated because I could not help but smile and laugh...even when I wasn't lying. But he wouldn't believe me if I smiled. I guess that's where I got one of the nicknames he had for me -"the bug"- (my Nana called me her "wart"). I always felt compelled to make my case and be heard and believed. I would stop at nothing if I felt I wasn't being believed or understood. It didn't work, but persistence and nagging were my ways of dealing with it. Darah is now standing, holding her babydoll, in the bathroom and hiding from me...she's trying to start the "Where's Darah, Where did Darah Go?" games.

Sometimes she is very loving with her babydoll, and at other times she struggles. She has strangled, smushed, suffocated and sat on her babydoll ("Bobby"). One time, she started hitting baby. She said, "ah hit, ah hit." Sandy said, "where did you learn to hit?" And, of course, she said: "ah mommy day." Very funny. There are times she starts to hit (babydoll or other objects), and we will be able to see her struggling. "Ah (I) heet (hit). Ah heet? No heet. No" Right now she is trying to rock her babydoll in her orange chair. And stuff babydoll into a bag (she actually said purse this morning when she was reading a book and saw a picture of some sort of bag). She really surprises us with some of the words she knows. We wonder, where the heck did she learn that? She picks up language very quickly. I am impressed. And she likes to be helpful. Yesterday morning I was showering and forgot to bring a washcloth in with me. She was playing outside the shower, so I thought it was worth a try: I asked her, "Darah can you bring me your yellow washcloth." And she did! This morning she said (her version of) "Hickory Dickory Dock" when she picked up the book we took out from the library yesterday (The Completed Hickory Dickory's fun). We only read it once (although she has heard the rhyme at other times) and she was able to recognize a picture of a mouse on a clock as the rhyme.

I am so glad that Darah loves trees. She's been hugging the trees around our house lately. And she feels so proud when she hugs a tree, because of my praise and my beaming face. Last night we watched part of "Ratatouille" - it was really cute. I'd consider owning that one (for Darah...ahem, yes). Darah has also started trying to wash me when I take a bath with her. It's almost as if she is trying to get revenge for having to have her hair rinsed. She pours water on on my belly and each of my breasts (I say, "rinse the belly...rinse the booby"). And then she tries to dump it on my face and head. I guess it's only fair!

So I am off now to play the part of Elmo (to talk in "Melmo" voice) in order to brush Dar's teeth (she requests it when she sees the toothbrush). I was talking like Elmo at Long John Silver's the other night (to get Darah to eat another green bean) and a girl who works there who was on her break said, "Wow that's freaky how much you sound like Elmo. My dad used to pretend to be Yogi Bear for us." I'll take any compliment I can get - it's been years since I've been on the stage. Darah and Sandy are my only audience members...the only ones that would matter anyway.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Barking Beagles of Chasewood Lane: Darah meets the Beagles, Stella and Scamper!

Googled Compliation Name Profiles

Darah - DAARah - Darah is a variant of the Hebrew name, Dara, which means "pearl of wisdom" but it also has African origins. Dara has several Hebrew meanings, including "compassionate," "nugget/pearl of wisdom" and "son of the oak tree." The name "Dara" also has Cambodian origins, meaning "stars." Its aboriginal African-Hausa language of origin defines it as meaning "big and fine" and "laughing". According to its African-Efik origin (Darrah), it means "one who causes joy and rejoicing." Another African meaning for the name is "princess." In the Bible, Dara was an extremely wise male figure (a descendant of Judah); however, it is widely considered a feminine name today. According to its Islamic origins, Dara means "possessor." Darah, in Hebrew, has both the feminine and masculine meanings of "generation" and "House of the Shepherd or of the Companion." The English nickname, Dar, is actually a diminutive of Darby, meaning "place where the deer graze." The name Dara has multiple origins: in Sanskrit, Dara means maiden or virgin. In Daruk, it is a noun, meaning tooth; in Ilocano, it is a noun meaning blood. As a Hebrew name, Dara could mean pearl of wisdom or compassion and wisdom. In Modern Hebrew, though, Dara is part of the verb "to live." In Aramaic, Dara means pearl, father-of-pearl or marble. According to folklore, people with the name Darah have a deep inner desire for love and companionship, and want to work with others to achieve peace and harmony. One numerology website claims that "people with the name Darah are excited by change, adventure, and excitement. They are dynamic, visionary and versatile, able to make constructive use of freedom. They fight being restricted by rules and conventions. They tend to be optimistic, energetic, intelligent, and to make friends easily. They may be changeable, restless, untidy, and rebellious."

Sage - SEYJH - Sage's language of origin is English and it is also predominantly used in English. Derived literally from the ordinary word sage. It represents the transferred use of the vocabulary word as a given name. Sage is of English, French and Latin origins. As an English word and name, it denotes either a type of spice (an ornamental and medicinal plant in the mint family) or else a wise person. Its origin, as a healing herb and as "wisdom," is Latin. It also is known to mean "prophet." The sage plant is regarded by many to have special healing and cleansing properties. Sage leaves are burned at the beginning of many Indian ceremonies to cleanse and purify the air. In Old French, sage meant ‘learned,' ‘sensible,’ and in Latin sagus meant ‘prophetic’ (akin to sagax, or ‘sharp’ and ‘perceptive’). According to folklore, people with the name Sage have a deep inner desire for a stable, loving family or community, and a need to work with others and to be appreciated. One numerology website claims that "people with the name Sage are excited by change, adventure, and excitement. They are dynamic, visionary and versatile, able to make constructive use of freedom. They fight being restricted by rules and conventions. They tend to be optomistic, energetic, intelligent, and to make friends easily. They may be changeable, restless, untidy, and rebellious.

Elannah - IYLAAN-ah - Elannah is most widely known for its Hebrew origins, meaning "oak tree" or simply "tree;" however it also means "bright one" or "shining one" in Old Greek. It is a feminine name of Slavic, Hebrew, Greek and Celtic origins. Its Slavic meanings are "spirited" and "oak tree." Other Hebrew and Greek meanings of Elannah and its various spellings are "sun ray," "shining light, " and "tree." Elanna's aboriginal origins signify the meaning of the name as "love." Alan(n)a, which is very similar to Elannah, is a name of Old German and Hawaiian origins that means "precious" and "awakening." It (Alana) is also of Celtic origins, meaning "little child" or "dear child." If the form "Alana" is used, the meanings attached are "little rock," "harmony," and "peace (Celtic); as well as "an offering," "light," and "buoyant" (Hawaiian). "There are a number of derivations, and - therefore - a number of meanings attached to Alana and its many forms. According to folklore, it is thought that people with the name Elanna have a deep inner need for quiet, as well as a desire to understand and analyze the world they live in, and to learn the deeper truths. One numerology website claims that "people with the name Elanna tend to be quiet, cooperative, considerate, sympathetic to others, adaptable, balanced and sometimes shy. They are trustworthy, respecting the confidences of others, and make excellent diplomats, mediators and partners. They are often very intuitive. They like detail and order, and often find change worrisome. They may sometimes feel insecure or restless."

Jade - JHEYD - Jade is the English name for the precious green stone derived from the Spanish (piedra de la) ijada meaning "(stone of the) flank," relating to the belief that jade could cure renal colic (gastrointestinal distress). As a given name, it came into general use during the 1970s. Jade has been considered a precious stone for thousands of years, used in jewelery, weapons, and grave goods. "Jade" was also slang for "nag" or "prostitute", and is so used in literature up through the 19th century. Confucius believed it had properties encouraging purity, bravery, and honesty. Chinese emperors were buried in suits made of the stone because they believed it would make them live on forever. Jade has African, English and Spanish origins, signifying "green gemstone." According to folklore, people with the name Jade have a deep inner desire for a stable, loving family or community, and a need to work with others and to be appreciated. One numerology website claims that "people with the name Jade tend to be idealistic, highly imaginative, intuitive, and spiritual. They seek after spiritual truth and often find it. They tend to be visionary and may inspire others. If they fail to develop their potential, they may become dreamers, or misuse power."

Is it a girl? "Well, it does have labia."

I haven't posted in a while. I guess I've been busy or just preoccupied with other things. Darah and I traveled to Buffalo with her biological father, Adam, a couple of weeks ago. His best friend, Bob, lives twenty minutes from my parents so it worked out quite well that they would visit while I had a nice, ten day visit with my family on Chasewood Lane. We missed Sandy, of course, but she was at home working hard on a NSF (?) grant that she and a few of her colleagues were submitting. I think that grant is going through the process of being accepted right now, which is why Sandy is at her office today - making minor revisions for a second or third time and organizing paperwork. I don't like grants. You put all this work into it and if it is not funded (and is, instead, rejected), you either revise and resubmit or trash it. At least if one of my poems has been rejected (and they ALL are!), I still have the poem to stare at or put back on the shelf in the hopes that someday it might be seen by someone, somewhere. But I'd prefer not to think about the unread and rejected poems right about, instead, I'll think about something else that's growing inside of me and who has nothing to do with publishing work:::my second (well, third, if you count Sandy) baby.

And we just found out that she is "a girl." Which really means that she has outer labia. We saw them. We have them in a new photo album in her honor. Of course labia, I realize, don't indicate necessarily what her chosen GENDER will be (note: differences between sex and gender), but it locks us into that GENDERIZED LANGUAGE for a while. And now I have an answer (though possibly a somewhat dishonest one?) for that questions that pops up in long and short conversations - do you know if it's a girl or a boy? Well, not really. Maybe it is not either. Maybe it is both. Maybe it is actually one or the other. She will decide. But for now I can just say, "a girl." And if she decides she is, indeed, a girl...then that's great. I love women, and I'm happy to have a whole family of women: two mothers and two daughters. If one or two decide to identify as something other than women, so be it. And if we get a puppy, I'll be happy to have a female dog. I always think of dogs, whether they are female or male, as being masculine. Isn't it funny how we attach gender to EVERYTHING, both living and non living things. We are so nuts. You and me, baby. So that's the big news: it's a girl! Ha. At least now my mother will not have to worry that we are going to put all of the feminine clothing that was given to us on our boy, because we threatened to do so as a way of encouraging gender neutral clothing when Darah was born. It didn't work. We have lots of dresses and frilly-ish things that people have given us. Oh well, we'll be able to use all of the clothes without anyone making a fuss. What does it matter whether a pink or blue cloth covers a penis?

We have been having Darah say the names on our final list of baby names. Even though we already decided on a name, Darah had a clear favorite all along. Sasha. She loves to say "Cha cha." Maybe our next goldfish or puppy or stuffed animal can be named Sasha, since we decided not to name the baby Sasha. Until a few days ago, Sasha was at the top of my list, too. But we are very happy with the name we chose for Darah's sister. Sandy dreamed it up and I found it on line, and then we came up with an adaptation of it...and we found that it compliments Darah Sage VERY well (in sound AND meaning). Choosing a name is hard, especially choosing a name for something you have hardly seen and never met. But, based on her womb personality, I think it fits. She moves around but is pretty gentle. Darah kicked and she still kicks.

Here are some lists of names we were working with for a while. I am pretty sure if the baby had a penis, we would have gone with the name Mason Gray McFadden. We both really likes the way that name sounded, but Sandy felt Mason was too harsh for a labia. So we worked with some others.

For a penis:
Mason Gray McFadden
Sam Xander McFadden
Basil Sefton McFadden
Tenn McFadden

For a clitoris:
Emma Lee McFadden
(alternatively Emma Blu/Gray McFadden)
Lillee (-?-) McFadden
(maybe Lillee J/Jae/Alana McFadden)
Nova Blu McFadden

Other ideas:

Alexi or Ellexie or Elexi
Alana or Alanna
Lianna or Liana


(from an email Sandy sent me)

my current preferences:
Mason Gray McFadden
Basil Tenn McFadden
Sam Xander McFadden
Sasha Alyx McFadden

Emma Lee McFadden
Alexi Gray McFadden
Nova Blu McFadden
Nora Lee McFadden
Sasha Alexi McFadden


Emma - German for whole or universal or all-containing;
Sasha - Greek for defender of mankind; Russian translation for defender and helper of mankind
Alexi - Greek for defender (helper) and protector of mankind; Russian translation; English for helper or defender of mankind;
Nova - Latin for new; in Astronomy it is a star that releases a tremendous burst of energy (temporarily becoming extraordinarily bright);
Gray - English for pleasant;
Blu(e) - English for blue;
Lee - English translation of "meadow;"
Nora - Hebrew for light; Latin for honor;
Alyx - English and Greek for helper and defender;
Vania/Vanya - Latin for "brings good news;"
Alana - Old German and Hawaiian meanings of precious and awakening;
Dilana - American for "of the light;"



Emma - German for whole or universal or all-containing;
Sasha - Greek for defender of mankind; Russian translation for defender and helper of mankind
Alexi - Greek for defender (helper) and protector of mankind; Russian translation; English for helper or defender of mankind;
Gray - English for pleasant;
Lee - English translation of "meadow;"
Alana / Alanna - Alanna is the Greek name for "light;" Old German for precious and Hawaiian for awakening, offering, light and buoyant; Gaelic for rock; Irish form of Alana means attractive and peaceful (alternative spelling: Alanah) and Celtic forms of Alana mean "little rock," harmony and peace.
Alanya - English form of Alana
Jae - American English name (based on Jaden, a derivative of Aiden); French version of the name "Jay;" Jael is the feminine Hebrew name for mountain goat and climber;
Elanna - Elan is the masculine Native American name for friendly and the masculine Hebrew name for tree; Elana is a Greek form of Eleanor - meaning "light;" Lana is Latin for "woolly" and Irish for attractive and peaceful
Elanya - Modern versions of Alana or Elan
Elania -See above
Zanya - Zan or Zander are short forms of the Greek name Alexander; the Chinese name, Zan, means support, favor and praise; Zan is also the Italian word for clown; Anya is a Russian form of Anna - which means gracious
Zaniyah - See above
Zania - See above

FULL NAMES (spelling and middle names may vary)

Emma Lee McFadden (Em, ELM)
Alexi Gray McFadden (Lex, Lexi, AGM)
Alana Jae McFadden (AJ, Lana, AJM)
Elanna Jae McFadden (EJ, E, Ela, Anna, Lanna, EJM)
Elanya Jae McFadden (EJ, E, Ela, Anya, EJM)
Zanya Gray/Jae McFadden (Zan, Z, ZJ, Anya, ZGM or ZJM)


1. Zanya Gray (Jae) McFadden
2. Elanya (or Alana/Alanya) Jae McFadden
3. Sasha Alexi McFadden
4. Emma Lee McFadden
5. Alexi Gray McFadden

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pregnancy Photos by Erica Clark, Photographer

Erica Clark, my friend and photographer, took these photos of me a few days ago.

The photos feature my five month pregnant belly.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Erica Clark Photography

Check out some of my friend, Erica Clark's, work on her website ...

Here are two beautiful photos she took of Darah at the Heritage Days Parade (in which we marched with La Leche League last weekend). I had to ride in the wagon with Darah and be pulled for nearly half the parade because of the 90 degree weather and my pregnancy lightheaded state.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Young Fan Letter to Angela Lansbury

This is classic - I think I wrote this when I was about seven and tried to send it over the course of three or four years. Angela Lansbury, my first love and first obsession (I loved her from age five until ten or eleven). This is proof. And this is proof of some other things: my childish imagination and delusion as well as my spelling talents!

Thank you to Sandy for scanning this for the world to enjoy. Click on the images to enlarge them for easier reading...This letter never grows old. Is it possible to be a seven-year-old stalker. Well, I had good intentions. But the letter reveals a lot about my "thinking" (the processes of my mind). I think I needed some guidance; my parents just let me try to send it as it was. Now I am SURE if Angela had read it she would have showed up at my grandmother's condo (in Jupiter - ha ha - FLORIDA). "He" is my Uncle Tommy Walsh, who is a drummer and had met Angela a couple of times (when he played the opening for "Murder She Wrote" and sat by her at an award ceremony).

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Funny and Precious Toddler Moments: Things Toddlers Say

Darah, the other night, exclaimed "what happened" (well, more like "waat happeeeen") after the cardboard toilet paper roll that she was playing with fell off the couch. Now she says it often. Like, for instance, after she puts food down her lap she will say "waat happeeeen" before putting more food in her secret place.

She has just learned to take this command: "Kiss your foot." She will hold each of her feet to her mouth and say "mmmm muh."

I announced to Darah that we were trying to call Gramma Sue, and she sang "tap tap tap" to herself..."tap tap tap" is part of a song that Gramma Sue sings to her over Skype ("Wind, wind, wind the thread...tap, tap, tap...Mr. Shoemaker mend my shoe, have it done by half past two...")

If I say "are you going to sing a song," she will start to sing a song to herself (granted it's usually one that I am unfamiliar with).

She has a tennis-player doll with blue hair named Sue Blue (after her Gramma Sue)that she carries all over the house. She makes Sue Blue climb the floor lamp, ride the pony, sit on the toddler chair, and sometimes she puts her on the table and then looks at me to let me know that she knows Sue shouldn't be on the table.

The other night, we were watching a movie with Darah (she was sitting between us on the couch). It was too scary for her (A Night at the Museum), and as soon as the displays at the museum started coming to life she said "Ut oh, ut oh, ut oh." Well, we turned it off pretty soon after that. She was very anxious about it but could not keep her eyes off of the television. She was very serious about it and very upset. A few minutes after we turned the movie off, she said "ah pooey, ah pooey," which we soon figured out meant "I pooped."

And just now she opened her dresser drawer, took out a pair of shorts, shut the drawer, and walked the shorts across the room where she placed them on the floor. She repeated the behavior, and on the second try the drawer did not close totally so she gave it an extra push. Oh, she just shut her fingers in it. "Ohhh" she whined. She went back for more. She pulled out a pair of pants and said "pint," and then proceeded to put them on her head. She will surely take every item out of the drawer. She loves clothing. We don't have any fun costumes for her (I guess we need to take a trip to the thrift store for some scarves).

Darah's sweet nature comes out so often, especially when she hugs her animals makes them kiss each other (and us). There is a lot of kissing going on in our house. It seems to be a (or The) central experience in our house.

She calls marshmallows and some other things "chimies," for some reason.

She loves clothing, and frequently wears Sandy's bras around the house - petting them lovingly as they hang over her shirt.

She is in the process of figuring out the difference between "all gone" and "all done." Sometimes she gets it, but she definitely prefers "all gone."

During most meals, she blows on some of her (cold) food items and says, "hot." We say, "cold," and she repeats "hot." We are convinced we scarred her when we had a plate of candles burning on the coffee table. I said "No, HOT. Be careful. Hot. Ouch..." when she approached the candles. She was very concerned about the candles after I scared her, and ever since she has been saying "hot" all the time, quite indiscriminately.

Well it's no surprise, but she is obsessed with ice cream. We started buying ice cream for me for dessert. I share mine with her. But now all she thinks about and wants is "iye ceem." If Sandy goes in the freezer for something, Darah starts begging for "iye ceem," saying "pees" ("please") and visiting each of us, frantically. The other night, though, she shocked us both. She took a box of waffle bowls out of the cupboard and brought them to me and said "iye deem?" It took me a second to figure out that she was asking me for ice cream. I didn't know how she would make the connection between the waffle bowl box and the ice cream since she had never seen the box before. But there on the box was a picture of an ice cream sundae covered in sprinkles and the works. She must have recognized the image as ice cream somehow.

She pulls animals out of her pop up books (rips them out) and then frets - "ohhhh" or "ut oh" she says and brings them to me with a very concerned expression on her face. She doesn't know how to NOT rip them out of the book but she recognizes that something bad happened once they are ripped out.

Darah loves to play "Minkey" with Momma Sandy. "Minkey" or "Mink" are Darah's words for monkey. She loves to have Momma Sandy go all out and be a crazy monkey. She giggles and throws her head back. She has trouble when Sandy tries to end the game, though. Before Sandy even finishes her impression of a crazy monkey, Darah is already asking for more. "Moa, Moa, Moa Mink."

Darah is very good at making cat and kitty noises (like "wow," "weo," and "yeeeow,"). She makes other animals sounds, but not as well as she makes her cat sounds. She can do a "ruff" for a dog, an "ah" or "ooh" for a monkey, a "baa" for a sheep, a (very good) "moo" for a cow, and a few others, as well. She loves making animal sounds and reading about animals.

And, impressively (to us) Darah can point to many of her body parts/regions - such as her nose, head, hair, mouth, teeth, ears, eyes, feet, belly button/belly, hands, and fingers. She thinks she is having a baby, though. When I ask her where the baby is, she points to her belly.

Her interest and curiosity is endearing. The other day I was sitting, naked on the bathroom floor cutting my toenails. She started to point to my breasts with great interest. I called them "boobs" and "boobies." I think she thinks I have three boobies, one that is called "belly button" or "be bo." My pregnant belly button sticks out like a third nipple, so I am not surprised by her desire to connect all three nipples. I would think she might have some fixation with my breasts since she loved them and drank from them eight times a day for the first year of her life, but I think she only vaguely remembers them. I wonder what she will think when her sibling is breastfeeding.

While Darah was helping me put the crayons back in the box, she put on in upside down. She then said "ut oh," pulled it out and put it back in, right side up.

Darah is into make-believe and has been for a while. Today, as I was trying to put her down for a nap, she bopped me on the head with Beatrice Bunny. Then she said, "ut oh...chientow (gentle)" and pet my head. It was like she was teaching Beatrice to be a nice bunny.

Darah also managed to figure out how to (try to) open the Pella blinds. I never knew she was around when I opened or closed them (well, I never knew she was paying attention). To open/close the blinds, you have to twist a small piece of plastic that sits at the bottom corner of the windows and doors. Ever since we put the baby pool on the deck, Darah has been obsessed with looking out the window and begging for "Poo." I went to get her during one of her latest obsessive moments and found her, sitting on the floor, trying to turn the knob to open the blinds so that she could see her pool.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pregnant and Caring for a Child: Happiness, and I guess

My daughter, Darah, is extremely cute and smart and sweet. I feel so honored to be able to spend some of my life journey with her. She is a little ray of sunshine, and brings warmth and light to those around her - even at the young age of sixteen months. At this moment, she is bringing a pile of miniature books to her other mother, Momma Sandy. Two of her favorite things this week (it changes weekly and sometimes daily) are to point to her head and say "heh" and to hug her arms around herself (often her animals and sometimes her moms, but mostly herself) and say "huck." It's almost too much preciousness to bear. I have very little energy and feel very tired, but she is happy to do simple things with me - like read book after book after book (mind you, the books are about five cardboard pages long). She is happy just to hand me each of her stuffed animals and have me say their names and "thank you." She is also happy to play on her own at certain times during the day. Usually, she makes the biggest messes and the cutest noises when she plays alone. I am glad that she is not clingy. I feel we are doing a pretty good job; she enjoys our love but doesn't feel too much anxiety. She doesn't need to be clingy! Every so often she comes to one of us for a hug. Sandy is holding her right now, because Darah came to see her at the dining room table and said "boo dee huck" while reaching her arms up for an embrace.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pregnancy Week 18: Nausea and A Brain that Fascinates

Some things that I have been and am experiencing during this pregnancy that I do not recall experiencing during my last are jaw and tooth pain (especially along the right side of my mouth and neck. It seems a little too severe to be caused my all of the Altoids I have been chomping on after each meal. I also have been having headaches periodically throughout the day. It's very strange but my lips are extremely dry (and have been for the past three months). I have been trying to put on a neutral-flavored Chapstick (which is difficult), but it doesn't seem to help. They dry up and crack. It's really gross. Not only that, but I am also congested all the time. I seem to be feeling a lot more soreness in various parts of my body earlier on than in my last pregnancy. My neck aches, my pelvic region aches, sometimes even my elbows throb. Today my right arm is in pain, as if I pulled a muscle. But I am SURE I did not pull a muscle. I spend almost all of my time sitting on the couch, lying on the bed, or lying on the floor.

I am approaching Week 18 but I am not feeling well yet. The nausea and weakness (and heartburn) prevail.

Darah is just amazing. I couldn't have asked for a more forgiving and loving presence to be in my life during this time. She is so good at bringing me things to play with -- books to read to her, stuffed animals to hug and dress up. And she seems to enjoy being with me, despite my utterly boring state of existence. Just a moment ago, she brought me Sweet Pea and a pair of her pants. She wants me to put the pants on Sweet Pea (a little Sweet Pea in a pod). I tied them around her and handed them back. She was pleased. And she says "Swee-pee" very well. Then she cleared off the couch and asked to come up. Now she is sitting beside me playing with a barrette for her hair and singing a song while watching a farmer remove pollen from a male flower and rub it on a female flower (PBS, of course!). She can say SO many words - any word, I am convinced. As long as I tell her "Say ..." before the word, she will (usually) try to say it. She just started saying "I love you." Or, well, one of her versions "ah joo" or "low oou"...for some reason, she loves to say and wave "bye." She will say bye to us many times a day, usually when she is walking away (not far, though). Sometimes she will just say it randomly. Her brain fascinates us.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Verizon Wireless Bathrooms Customer Service, and Grandma Mel

Just a short story, a very short one, about my grandmother - Grandma Mel. Like others approaching their eightieth birthdays, she has some minor issues with incontinence every so often. When ya gotta go, ya gotta go. When she has to go, sometimes the police get called. The first time her potty problems required law enforcement was in Vermont in 2002, when I was a Freshman at Hampshire College. She stopped at a store (a gas station, perhaps?) to go to the bathroom. She HAD to go, it was about to come OUT. So she ran (really ran, and probably holding her bum all the way in)into the store and asked the clerk to use the bathroom. The clerk told her it was closed to the public. She probably started screaming, "I have to go. It's going to come out. Please! Do you want me to go on your floor? It's an emergency." And I am sure she was more than a bit demanding and wild, making a huge scene for those around her. The clerk refused her, telling her it was not a public restroom. So she did what anyone else would do, right? She called the cops to demand that she be allowed to use the restroom. I think it worked. That time.

The second half of this story takes place in a Verizon Wireless store in Buffalo, NY just a few weeks ago. She is (or was) a Verizon customer and was buying a new phone when she had a sudden urge to GO. She had to go IMMEDIATELY. The feeling just came on strong. She asked the salesperson where the bathroom was located, and the salesperson informed her that it was not a public restroom. "Well, I have to go. What do you want me to do? I am customer here, and you will not even let me use the bathroom. I am going to go in my pants. I need to use the restroom." And, again, I am sure she added a few more - obnoxious and angry - sentences to that list. The salesperson refused her and said that she was just following store policy. Grandma Mel gave into her animal instinct and started running toward the bathroom. The woman ran in front of her and blocked the bathroom door. Grandma Mel, still in Animal Mode, shoved her forcefully out of the way and managed to get into the bathroom and on the toilet. The salesperson then proceeded to call the police. The police came and warned Grandma Mel that she could have been charged for assaulting the woman. Needless to say, my grandmother is no longer a Verizon customer.

I ask, what might YOU do in a similar situation? Yikes!

Monday, May 4, 2009

How to Make Buffalo Wings: First off, Buffalo Wings Should be Wet

Darah is sitting in her orange vinyl toddler chair, watching "Clifford" on PBS. I need to feed her breakfast this morning, since Sandy left for work early, but I am putting it off for a few more minutes. The back of Darah's head is very adorable. She looks back at me every so often. Maybe she is checking to see if I am still here or just to see what I am doing. She does that a lot. I probably reinforce it though. By smiling and saying, "give me a kiss." She is now singing a song, "da da da da da da da." She likes to say and sing "da" and "daddy." We like to joke that she calls every man "daddy."

Sandy, Darah and I went to Chicago this weekend - by train - to Sandy's MPA conference. The three and a half hour train ride was pretty long for Darah because she cannot roam around and has a limited number of activities available to occupy her attention. She really wanted to do her favorite thing - to empty out my wallet and throw my credit cards around (she collects and distributes them whenever she has the chance), but she couldn't do that on the train. I think my wallet was her favorite "toy" on the trip. She likes to make messes with her toys, to spread them out all over. But not on the train. So Sandy and I had the task of entertaining her by singing and reading books over and over. It went pretty well, considering what could have happened. Our friends and Sandy's colleagues were sitting in front of us on the train ride to Chicago, so they had the joy of holding Darah for at least a half hour. Darah had a great time; she likes new people. We passed supplies over the seat, but they seemed to do just fine with her (and they had a cool cell phone that she was very interested in).

Our stay at the Palmer House Hilton was very nice. The bed was luxurious. I spent a lot of time in it. We all did. Darah wanted to be on the bed with us at almost all times. She likes to jump around and test the boundaries. She would crawl quickly to the edge of the bed and then look back at us, smiling, as we warned her to "come back here right now or we will put you down on the floor." It was nice to be surrounded by down pillows - at least six of them. I wish I could transport the fluffy bed and smooth linens into our bedroom. Our bed is fine for me, but my uncomfortable pregnant body finds some comfort in the Palmer House bedding. Darah ate a lot of bananas during the trip. She managed to eat small amounts of food at restaurants, but not as much as I would have liked. She did well for one or two meals out a day, but usually the third meal out was difficult. We had some trouble with her at the Miller Pub, when she was cranky and didn't want to sit in the high chair. She smacked her cheekbone (just under her eye) on the table and cried for a while. That was after she was throwing every item we gave her onto the floor. The place was cramped and we were in the way of servers. It was pretty unpleasant. But Sandy really enjoyed the cold beer (Blue Moon, was it?) and I enjoyed the piece key lime pie that I ate in bed at the hotel later that night.

We took Darah to the Navy Pier on Thursday afternoon. We just caught the end of a children's concert (Darah got to sway to the last song by Jeanne and the Jellybeans or something like that?). She had a great time at the Children's Museum. Hands down, her favorite activity was playing in the water. But she also enjoyed running around other stations and throwing pieces of shredded rubber into the air at the Dinosaur Digging Exhibit. On our way out, we ran into a character, Maya, who was dancing to music with some kids. Or trying to. It is amazing how self-conscious kids can be about dancing. I don't know at what age that self-consciousness kicks in, exactly, but it seems to kick in early. I know I was highly self-conscious as a child. I don't know why. I will be so sad if there comes a time when Darah's self-consciousness interferes with her ability to do something she enjoys - like dancing. Darah danced with (or in front of) Maya. She swayed and bounced. She is a great dancer. The people running the show all thought she was a boy. "See, he knows how to dance!" Well, she (or he) DOES know how to dance. S/he's a natural! It's amazing how an orange tee-shirt with tiny monkeys on it and gray sneakers can confuse people so easily. Well, Darah didn't care. She just wanted to dance. The character, Maya, was played by a person who did not have much charisma or rhythm. The body inside the costume looked very masculine, and we think we noticed a bulge in the pubic region. I really wonder who was under there.

The other fun activity for Darah that we did while we were in Chicago was swimming at the hotel. She loved it. When I was taking classes at the YMCA with her, she kicked her legs and was a lot more adventurous (she was younger and her brain was smaller). She did a lot of splashing water in my face with her arms, but did not kick her legs this time. I sat her on the edge of the pool and had her "jump" in (lean forward as I helped her into the water). She liked that, and would repeat after me before leaning forward and making a scrunched up face. "Ready?" I said. "Ready?" she replied, as she froze in the forward-leaning position. Darah became a bit constipated over the trip (maybe it was the bananas), but yesterday (Sunday) she recovered. She made four large deposits into her diapers yesterday, to our surprise!

Oh, and I must mention the "buffalo wings" that my poor Sandy ordered. We tried to eat at the Lockwood restaurant in the Palmer House on Friday night, but I was feeling sick and the menu did not appeal to me. On top of that, it was an upscale restaurant and Darah started screaming at the top of her lungs shortly after we sat down. But before we left the restaurant, we overheard a man behind us raving about his dinner. He said to the waiter in a very sassy and confident voice, "I lived in Buffalo for four years, and these buffalo wings are far better than any I ever had there. And I don't have messy hands!" I should have taken it as a warning rather than encouragement. His snotty tone should have been the warning. And then, if I missed that, I should have been warned by the fact that he wasn't a native of Buffalo. Most people have bad taste in food, anyway. They settle for less. Or maybe it is me - I have the bad taste. Either way, I am finicky about food and very difficult to feed.

Well, we ordered room service (served from the restaurant we decided not to stay at). What a mistake. It was gross. I ordered an individual deep dish pizza (simple, I thought...impossible to mess up) and Sandy ordered Buffalo wings (hey, wings even sounded good to do you mess up Buffalo wings? They are so simple). Well, the Lockwood messed them up. They were the worst wings Sandy has ever had in her life. She felt sick while she was eating and after she finished (even the next morning). They were dry. They were breaded chicken wings. Buffalo wings are not breaded. I think it's a Midwestern Mishap - the breading of wings. The breading had spicy seasoning in it (the seasoning was supposed to emulate the traditional Buffalo wing sauce). But they were dry. They were served with a dish of creamy blue cheese and a couple of sticks of celery. I would have loved to have celery dipped in wing sauce and blue cheese dressing, but there wasn't any wing sauce. It was a great disappointment. I did not like my deep dish pizza, either. I almost gagged when I took my first bite - but that may have been because pizza doesn't sit well with my nausea. That was probably the low point of our trip.