Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cutting the Cake by Virginia Hamilton Adair

Cutting the Cake

Gowned and veiled for tribal ritual
in a maze of tulle and satin
with her eyes rimmed round in cat fur
and the stylish men about her
kissing kin and carefree suitors

long she looked unseeing past him
to her picture in the papers
print and photoflash embalming
the demise of the familiar
and he trembled as her fingers

took the dagger laid before them
for the ceremonial cutting
of the mounting tiers of sweetness
crowned with manikin and maiden
and her chop was so triumphant

that the groomlike little figure
from his lover at the apex
toppled over in the frosting
where a flower girl retrieved him
sucked him dry and bit his head off.
--Virginia Hamilton Adair

I heard this poem on The Writer's Almanac, and it was one of the few modern poems I've liked from that show. I've been saving it for months to use with this post.

I really meant to blog about the trip to Utah for Steve's wedding and Easter, and stuff long before this, but sometimes things don't go as planned. Sunday, I was so physically exhausted that my arms refused to pick up the baby. I've had to do some deep cleaning (the bathrooms and kitchen got really dirty while we were sick), get ready for my in-laws to visit, rewrite a manga in about half the usual time, make two trips to Huntington Beach (one with four sets of meals I'd prepared), do all the laundry from the trip, take enough naps to offset getting up in the middle of the night to force the baby to eat and relieve some of the pressure that builds up, and take care of all Elizabeth's needs, and get her back on some semblance of a schedule! Sometimes blogging takes a back seat.

So catching up, our story begins on Friday morning (March 14, 2008) as we arrived at Long Beach airport for our flight to Salt Lake. Peter dropped me off at the curb with the baby and all our luggage, and drove off to park in long term parking. I put the baby in the baby seat in the stroller with the detachable carseat base in the bottom basket of the stroller, then put the diaper bag and my purse on Elizabeth's feet. The two carry-on bags had long handles and could roll, but the large suitcase had to be lifted. So I moved the suitcase a few feet forward, then pushed the stroller with one hand and pulled the carry-ons with the other till I got a few feet beyond the suitcase, then went back and repeated the process. Finally, a very kind man picked up the suitcase for me and took it to the check in desk. I now realize that it would have been smarter to let Peter bring either the baby in the stroller or the carry-on bags with him from the parking lot, since the effort would have been minimal, and that we should have checked both our carry-on bags since the only thing we really needed on the plane was the diaper bag, but hindsight is 20/20.

Peter eventually got back from the parking lot and we got our boarding passes and went to security. We waited in the line, and when we got up to the front, the TSA guy said we had to go back and get a new boarding pass for me because Elizabeth wasn't accounted for on it. So we went back to the JetBlue desk and asked them to print a pass with the INF code on it, and found out that the guy had just been looking in the wrong place, and it was there all along. So then we had to wait through the line again. Sigh.

Going through the metal detectors was a hassle because we had to get everything out of the stroller, and collapse it, and put it through the x-ray machine along with everything else, but I had to hold Elizabeth in my arms while doing it. Luckily, the TSA guy who gave us such an unintentional hassle had just changed stations, and expedited our way through. In the Boarding area, Elizabeth decided it was time to present us with a dirty diaper, so I changed her on the floor (actually, on the changing mat on the floor, but you know what I mean). Thank goodness for pre-boarding! We gate-checked the stroller and carseat, and found our seats. Luckily, somebody was willing to trade seats with Peter who was two rows back (I bought our tickets late) so we could sit together. I had stuffed the Boppy pillow into the diaper bag, so I got that out and Elizabeth laid on it, which is more comfortable for her than my lap alone.

She did very well on the plane trip. Mostly she slept, waking up every once in a while with a confused, pained expression on her face, which I assume was because of the pressure in her ears. I'd pop the pacifier or bottle of pumped milk into her mouth, she'd suck a bit, and fall asleep again. When we landed, we misunderstood the directions for getting our gate-checked stroller and stuff, so we had to wait for a TSA guy to go find it for us since we couldn't go back once we had passed him. We finally got our luggage and made it to the Car rental place, and then had to wait something like 20 minutes for the slowest car rental people in the world to get around to serving us (they were busy with other people when we arrived, but there was nobody else ahead of us in line). When we did make it to the counter, the printer ran out of paper and the guy took five minutes to get the new paper, chat with a co-worker, and feed it into his machine. Our car was a Pontiac G6 and was, for various reasons, one of the most annoying cars I've ever driven. The turning radius was appallingly huge, and the controls were so far from intuitive, that they were actually dangerous.

Looking at what I've written, I sound like I'm complaining a lot, but it really wasn't a bad trip compared with what it could have been, travelling with a two month old baby who'd gotten four immunization shots the day before. It was adventure...and I wanted to remember all the challenges we had to overcome. I'm so pleased that JetBlue lets you gate check a stroller AND carseat and doesn't charge either against your luggage allowance. It would have been a LOT harder without that luxury!

We finally made it to Grandma's house in West Jordan, and said hello to everyone there: Mom and Dad, Grandpa Roly (Grandma was still in Ohio in a skilled Nursing facility), Aunt Shirley (who left almost immediately after we arrived), Heather (who was pregnant and showing nicely), Sam, Steve, Rachel (who I'd never actually met before), David, Marcelle, and Jonas. People said Hi to Peter and me, but all the real attention was on Elizabeth. Most of the people there had never met her, and even those who had (MOM) wanted to hold her again. Jonas was really excited about the BABY saying and signing the word over and over. He wanted to come and pat her on the head and show us where her eyes and nose were. He doesn't have much experience with babies, so he had to be restrained from really whacking her and poking her eyes out (he was just too excited to learn about "gentle" at that moment). Daddy distracted him by putting together a little plastic shopping cart mom had brought, and everybody settled down to talk for a while. Mom had brought a whole bunch of stuff with her from Ohio, so I looked through it to see what I wanted to bring home (I got some Eric Carle books, some other books, the photos of the five older kids sitting in the rocking chair, and a few little toys)

Mom had originally planned to spend this time fitting the skirt and jacket she had made for me. I was supposed to have the same dress as all the other bridesmaids, but as Mom was getting ready to make it, she realized that if she followed the pattern for a dress with a single zipper up the back and a little bolero jacket, then not only would I look silly with so much emphasis on my enlarged nursing bustline, but that I wouldn't be able to nurse without taking the entire outfit off. So I ended up with a skirt out of the regulation fabric, a knit blouse in the same color, and a black jacket (because though she started a matching jacket in the blue fabric, by the day before the wedding, she was far too stressed to tailor a jacket herself).

That evening, we went over to Grandpa's ward building and had a get-together with Rachel's family. We sat and talked, and read trivia questions, and ate Chinese food. Doug, Lesli and Daniel, and Mike, Miriam, Aidan, Martin and William all joined us for that. Heidi Johnson, a good friend from the Ohio days also showed up and it was great to see her. It was a fun evening. By the end of the night, the boy cousins were so wound up that they were banished under the tables to play Star Wars while the grownups talked and Mike occasionally shot them with his laser pointer.

When that was over, Peter borrowed a car and went up to Bountiful to see his friends (Brandon Sanderson, Dan, and some other guys from the old Leading Edge crowd have a writing group that meets up there) and enjoyed himself so much he didn't get back until about 1 am at which point, we went over to Aunt Mary's to sleep (because it's important to her to host guests when we all come to town). The directions we were given were a little vague in places, and a little too precise in others (you don't turn at the first street immediately after the third speed bump, you discount that one and turn at the first street you notice once you've gone over the bump and then started looking for the next place to turn) but we found it eventually.

The next day was the wedding. We got up, got ready, allowed Mary to make a big breakfast, and got on the road a little later than we'd hoped. Peter had forgotten his suit at Grandma's, but Marcelle took it over to her Grandma's house where we would be leaving Elizabeth so her parents could watch her and Jonas during the temple ceremony. So we dropped off Elizabeth, Peter changed clothes, and we all jumped back in the car. Salt Lake City is under construction, so it was nearly impossible to find a street that wasn't blocked and would let us through to the Conference Center parking lot. We did make it to the temple and changed our shoes just in time to be called to the sealing room. The ceremony was lovely. We didn't have to wait for straggling guests (though Uncle Steve did arrive late), the sealer didn't talk too much, and he did speak loudly enough to be heard. The simple ceremony is always beautiful with its promises of being together for eternity, and Peter and I were especially touched because it was just 10 days till our 3rd anniversary.

After the ceremony, we went outside to take pictures. Peter went with David to meet the people who were bringing the little ones, and Elizabeth arrived dressed in a tiny dress that matched the Bridesmaid's dresses. She looked sooooo cute! She met Mary Beth, and Jill, and several of my aunts and uncles who were there. It was VERY chilly and windy though, and she let us know that she didn't appreciate this new sensation of COLD we were introducing her to. So after the requisite photos, we hurried over to the Joseph Smith building. I fed her in somebody's office (which was very kind of them to let me use) while Peter got the stroller from the car, and then we went down to distribution to pick up a few necessaries. Then it was upstairs for more photos. Martin had convinced Sam to let him use his digital camera (which I think was extremely noble and brave of Sam). I got photos of Elizabeth with her older cousins, and then it was time for the lunch.

By the time lunch was over, I was exhausted. Elizabeth had been very good, considering (other than in the cold, she hadn't cried at all, and was happy to be passed from one admirer to another. There's a reason I've nicknamed her Sweetness), but we hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, and I needed a nap. Peter waited with Aunt Mary while I took Elizabeth to get the car. Let me just say, that the Conference Center is so far from being wheelchair and stroller accessible with all those granite steps out front that I'm amazed that it's legal. I had to walk a long way to get around them, and never did find a ramp that would let me down to the garage entrance (I simply had to muscle the thing down the stairs). By the time I got to the car I was so tired, cold and frustrated, that I was about at the end of my rope. We had thought of visiting Peter's sister Barb between the wedding and the reception, but that idea was nixed when I collapsed into bed at Mary's and didn't get up for a couple of hours.

We went to the reception at the University of Utah Alumni house, and it was very nice. There were lots more people there to get pictures of holding the baby (I'm going to make a book of "People who love Elizabeth" with just photos of her and friends or relatives so she can learn names once she gets a little older. I think Marcelle did something similar for Jonas to great effect.). We talked (some people told me that they'd never seen Peter so outgoing and animated as he was that evening), and ate (really good food catered by Marcelle's parents).

At one point, Elizabeth very obviously filled her diaper, so I took her into the restroom to change her. I got the diaper off (very pleased to see that I had caught it before it leaked onto her pretty dress and tights with lace on the bum), and was using my last wipe to finish cleaning her off when she let loose with a high velocity, very liquidy poop. it went all up my arm, onto my skirt, and all over the changing pad. I was alone in the bathroom. I couldn't reach the paper towels or faucets from where I was sitting. I couldn't get up to wash my hands because she might roll off the bench onto the floor and hurt herself. I couldn't pick her up because my hands were covered in poop. All I could do was sit there in distress and disbelief until somebody came into the bathroom and consented to fetch my mom.She made everything all right again. It turns out that the fabric the bridesmaid dresses were made of was extremely washable, and even dried quickly enough that I didn't have to spend the rest of the evening in a dripping skirt.

After the reception, we went over to Barbie's house for a short visit. Getting there was an adventure because of the snow. It was a heavy wet snow -- perfect for making snowmen (I know because as I was pushing the stroller out to the car, the snow kept building up on the wheels as they turned). The roads were slippery and wet, and there was so much buildup, we had trouble reading street signs! Aunt Mary got stuck in the snow trying to get to the reception (she set out much later than we did). Evidently, she drove behind a plow for a while, but when he went a different way than she wanted to go, she ran into problems. I'm a little hazy on the details, but at one point she left her car by the side of the road, intending to walk the rest of the way to the Alumni house at the top of the hill! She soon thought better of that plan, and having unstuck her car (again, I'm hazy), she just went home.

Anyway, we got to Barb's house, and chatted. When I asked them to pose for pictures in Elizabeth's book, Barb was happy to, but Kyle had to be convinced. He said he didn't like babies and didn't know how to hold them. We said he'd have to learn sometime, since Barb is expecting! Peter wanted to show off Elizabeth's new smiling skills, so he put a big grin on his face and started babbling in high pitched tones, "Are you going to smile? show us a smile! Smile for Daddy!" Later, When I predicted that Kyle might feel differently about babies when he got a look at his own, Peter said, "Yeah! I never talked like that to somebody else's baby!"

The next morning, we got up at 0-dark30 to take Peter to the airport for his 6:00 flight. He took a suitcase full of stuff from Mom (we brought two suitcases, one inside the other, for that very purpose). I went to Grandma's house, and found that somebody had kindly put a blanket and pillow out on the couch for me to sleep on till we all got up for church. That morning Jonas delighted everybody by playing "Ring the bell Ring!" and other similar games where you yank on ears and noses and end up getting tickled. Sacrament Meeting was nice in Grandpa's ward. Mike, Miriam and the boys were there, and Aidan wanted nothing more than to hold Baby Elizabeth (actually, every time he saw me the whole weekend, he'd ask, "Can I hold Baby Elizabeth?"). She was very patient with his ministrations, and he was content to head for California with his parents as soon as the hour was over (Marcelle told me that one time, she heard him call the baby 'Cousin Elizabeth' in exactly the same tone of voice Mr. Collins uses in Pride and Prejudice. I'm glad that our society's rules mean that my Lizzie will never have to turn down her cousin's declaraitons of ardor :) ). Sunday School did not go so well. The microphone they were using had a constant high squeaky feedback that nobody tried to fix. Then, Elizabeth had yet another diaper blowout, and I found that I had not restocked my bag with emergency clothes, so I had to bring her back to class in just her diaper and put her into the extremely cute snowsuit that she hates wearing for some reason. At the end of the hour, both Mom and I were glad of the excuse to go home and take a nap.

In the next few days, we went down to Provo one day to see Steve and Rachel open their presents (which Doug and Lesli were kind enough to take home in their spare luggage allowance), and the BYU Museum of Art (which had exhibits on Pre-Raphaelites and Minerva Teichert) and another day to see Leah White at her Interfaith conference. Heather and Marcelle made Bread and Beef Brisket. Mom and I walked around the mall (and decided we really ough to stay out of cute baby clothes stores like Gymboree). Mom, Dad and I walked to the Dollar Store in search of Finger-paints (and didn't find any). Grandpa talked for hours (about his niece Joan, who died that week -- the time when he was 13 and she fell out of her crib and he caught her head in his hands before she hit the floor; about his dad -- who taught him the old music hall song, "More Work for the Undertaker"; and about his service during WWII--most of which was Stateside before he went to take part in the invasion of Okinawa) and obsessed over Elizabeth's tiny fingers. Jonas was very cute, and wore snazzy clothes from David's childhood. Elizabeth was sweet tempered and adored by everyone. One by one, everyone headed for home and our family dispersed itself once again across the country.

My trip home was even more of an adventure since I didn't have Peter to help me. Daddy carried my suitcase to the luggage line,and I checked my carry-on so I'd have less to deal with. This time I really did need the counter guy to print a new boarding passwith the INF code because the automated machine didn't do it. One of the floating TSA guys helped me through the whole process of getting through the security machines, pushing my various things down the table and into the machine because my hands were full, and setting the stroller back up so I could set the baby down to put my clothes and shoes back on. Elizabeth was happy and charming on the plane again until she emptied the bottle of pumped milk halfway through the descent. One of my ears was painfully plugged, so I totally sympathized with her when she cried, but I was tired of hearing the baby in the next row cry, so I didn't want her to add to the general anxiety level around us. I got the flight attendant to put some water in the bottle, and between that and the pacifier, we made it down without too much complaining. Elizabeth was thrilled to see her Daddy, and they made happy faces at each other while we waited for the luggage. She was DONE with traveling, though, and was NOT HAPPY when we buckled her into the carseat for the ride home. I ended up riding in the back seat and feeding her the bottle of water until she finally fell asleep.

It was really nice having the entire family together, with everyone married, and most of us starting families of our own.I love having a family so full of nice people. Peter was sad to leave. He said he couldn't remember feeling so comfortable in a large group of people, and that knowing my family liked him made him feel better about starting conversations with people he didn' know. I got the feeling that he was sad he didn't have anything like that here, so I told him that if he was willing to make an effort, we could invite people over and have a social life in our ward. He said that maybe that would be nice, so we'll start doing that.

Well, this post is already about ten pages long, and Elizabeth is pretty much done sitting at the computer, so I'll leave Easter and the Ahlstroms' visit for another day.


  1. Wow, Karen, I had no idea you went through so much to be there with us. And I was totally unaware of the incident in the bathroom at our reception! I'm glad the dress was as washable and dryable as you said.
    I'm also glad that Peter felt comfortable getting to know people during all the festivities. I've felt COMPLETELY welcomed and loved by my in-laws, so I think I can relate to Peter in at least that respect. It's nice to know I'm loved and accepted, and it made getting to know their family and friends in Utah and Oklahoma that much easier.
    Thanks for keeping this record of the week. Rachel and I are copying it and Heather's account into our records since it's nice to have the different perspectives on the week.
    We love you! Kiss Elizabeth and say hi to Peter for us.
    -Steve and Rachel

  2. Hi Karen,

    Wow, what a time. Thanks for sharing everything. It was fun to read such detail.

    Love, Kathey

  3. Oh Karen, I sympathize with all the effort you had to put into simple things like riding a plane and pushing a stroller. When we moved to NY we made the stupid mistake of saving money by switching planes (twice)! I ended up trying to move three kids and eight pieces of carry-on luggage by myself, across the entire airport, while Rob tried to find food in the 10 minute interim between planes. One of our children had just had an accident on the last plane (poor person who had to sit on that wet seat!) and the whole experience was miserable. No one offered to help me and we almost missed our connecting flights both times.

    Living here in NYC we routinely get the pleasure of trying to walk to where ever we need to go while pushing a stroller in the snow and riding on the subways takes on a whole new dimension when you have to carry a stroller up and down three flights of stairs.

    On the positive side Elizabeth was ADORABLE and it looks like the wedding went really well. I'm glad you're back home though and able to get into a routine again. Thanks for writing about your adventures.