Thursday, May 31, 2007

Brought to you by the letter 'B'

P1012863
Jerry and I have yet to take my 16 week belly shot, but it has
grown significantly since this picture was taken on a walk near
our house. This little river prompts our flood insurance premium.


P1012864
Speaking of babies, a momma robin built a nest in the flower vines
surrounding my mother-in-law's pool. There are four birds in there.


P1012870
Last night, Jerry and I went to a minor-league baseball game because
I won two tickets from my office. Our seats were awesome, but they
were in the direct sun for awhile. Jer and I decided to cool off with
some banana split-flavored Dippin Dots. They stuck to Jerry's lips.


P1012871
Once the sun went down, it was much better. The stadium is one
of the nicest in the AA league. It overlooks a local amusement park.


P1012874
You can sort of see the lights of the roller coaster in the background.


P1012875
When we got home, we decided to give Toby a long-overdue bath.
Here is Toby's last plea to get Jerry to change his mind.


P1012881_2
Wet dog.


of=
All of my friends must know by now that if they send me a photo,
it is potential fodder for my blog, so Gisela, um, don't hate me.
I just loved three shots so much that I had to post them. Here is
Gisela with her dog, Lola, at a beach near Philadelphia.


of=
I have been told that tennis balls are Lola's favorite.


of=
I can't possibly come up with the words to capture the caliber of
awesomeness of this photo. It may be worthy of my desktop image.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 30

I wasn't sure how I would handle May 30 when it rolled around. All month, I looked at the end of the calendar and felt a tiny pang of grief. Today would've been my due date.

It's strange, but I'm not even sure what there is to say about it.

Yes, I still mourn our child that would've been, but now that I have a little emotional distance from the situation, I really do know that something was wrong. All of the research I've done on my own, all of the explanations from our doctors about how something "just didn't click" makes sense to me now. It still hurts, but I've let go of the anger.

At the time, I had difficulty getting over how perfect a May baby would've been. Our child would've been sitting up and interacting by Christmas. We could've thrown annual birthday parties outside in our back yard. I wouldn't have been pregnant during the real heat of summer. My maternity leave would've been June, July and August. Besides having an entire summer off from work, it would've been easier to get back into shape with the weather being so accommodating for outdoor activities. There were so many pluses.

But now I see that there is no "perfect" day or week or month or year, just the joy of welcoming new life and reveling in all of the magic and wonder of discovery as they develop and learn and grow.

Now I can't wait to see how much joy a newborn will bring to our house at Christmas. And annual fall birthday parties. I'll have the entire holiday season of November, December and January off. Our baby will be sitting up and interacting in time to swim in the pool. Plus, I might be forced to join a gym -- a great motivation to get back into shape.

Sure, I will forever wonder what would've been. And I have a feeling May 30 will stick in my head much longer than I'd even like it to. Maybe until my last breath.

If it does, every year I'll send out a silent wish.

Happy birthday, baby.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fantastic!

So apparently I have freakish taste buds that relish ultra-sweet substances because that syrupy glucose test I had to drink? The one that all pregnant women talk about with a wrinkled brow and a tone of utter disgust?

IT WAS DELICIOUS!

If it came in a six-pack at a grocery store, I would totally buy it. It tasted like a bubbly liquid popsicle. Red popsicle. The best popsicle.

The downside is that my veins, as usual, did not cooperate for the blood-taking portion. It's almost as if they try to hide as deep beneath my flesh as possible. I left an hour later with three gauze pads taped to pressure points at both my inner elbows and the top of my left hand and numerous apologies from one very sympathetic technician who laughed in agreement when I said I'd make a lousy drug addict.

But even if the drink had been as horrendous as everyone made it out to be, we got to hear our baby's heartbeat again. And those 160 beats per minute still sound like rhythmic music.

Even better than that? Better than the fantastic sugar high and the baby beat? My doctor said I am ALLOWED TO PAINT OUTSIDE!

So break out the paintbrushes, it's time to celebrate!

Four months down, five to go

Today is my 16 week prenatal appointment, one that my practitioners have told me to come mentally prepared for because it involves a lot of unpleasantness.

Oddly enough, I'm still excited to go. It has been four weeks since the last appointment where Jerry and I got to hear our baby's fetal heartbeat for the first time and I am in dire need of hearing it again -- if nothing else than to reassure me that it's still beating. And even a few seconds of that is worth any poking and prodding.

We've been told that one of the blood tests I'm being offered is optional because of the controversy surrounding it. It looks for the presence of alpha-fetoproteins in my blood, which can detect any number of chromosomal abnormalities such as spina bifida and Downs syndrome.

The catch, according to my online research, is that the test often leads to false positives. In fact, out of every 1,000 women who take it, about 50 end up positive for abnormalities. Of those 50, only one or two babies will actually have a problem.

Plus, even if the blood work comes back negative, it doesn't completely rule out the possibility of an abnormality. It only determines that your chances are not as high.

Jerry and I have spoke long and hard about whether we should have this testing done. After all, our age doesn't place us in the high-risk category and neither one of us needs an extra reason to worry. We're already doing just fine in that department. But our doctors recommend it. They gave us an information sheet explaining that it helps give them a "more complete picture of the health of the pregnancy." The other side of the sheet was a waiver form. We signed it.

I guess, for me, it comes down to this: If the test helps them provide better care for me and our child, it's worth it. A positive may lead to yet another blood test and maybe an ultrasound on higher resolution equipment to study our child's facial features and spine, all of which I'm completely comfortable in doing.

I've already decided, however, that I will draw the line at having an amniocentesis done. That is where they would stick a very long needle in through my belly button, pierce the amniotic sac and extract some of the fluid surrounding the baby. It contains all sorts of vital information and could definitively diagnose or rule out a problem.

It's not even the pain that I'm worried about, although I'm sure it hurts to no end. It carries a 1 to 2 percent chance of miscarriage. And I'd never be able to live with myself if something happened because of an optional test.

At this appointment, I also get to drink a thick, syrupy liquid to test whether I am developing gestational diabetes. I've been told it tastes disgusting, so all night I dreamt that someone should invent a way to turn that test into an ice cream flavor. Then maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

I also have a slew of questions to ask the doctor. Whether I can help paint our porch. Whether we should fly or drive to Nebraska at the end of August. And whether all the weird abdominal sensations I'm feeling really is the baby moving. I guess I just want confirmation from an expert.

Plus, after all the tests are done, I know we're one step closer to our next appointment where we get a lengthy look at our baby via ultrasound. I know it's changed significantly from the stationary lightning bug with arm buds and a tail at week 8, and I can't wait to see the development that my body has fostered.

And, as Jerry puts it, we'll have the "ding dong test." Hopefully, if our bug cooperates, we'll be able to see whether it's a boy or a girl.

Three eternally long weeks and counting ...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sometimes commas just aren't that important

One of my responsibilities at the newspaper is to format a running list of the week's casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Department of Defense e-mails us the updates, and we compile them and print them every Sunday in our Nation/World section as a service to our readers.

Like any task done on a regular basis, it hardly registers anymore. I fly through the responsibility every Friday night, bolding the service members' names, putting commas where needed and changing the word "sustained" to "suffered." It's a small thing, but a big part of what I do at my job. I'm paid to get picky. Inanimate objects sustain injuries. People suffer them. But apparently our Department of Defense prefers to gloss over that fact.

There was a time in the more than two years that I've been doing this that the casualty list didn't require an entire page. Sometimes it was 15 to 20 names long, allowing me to pair it with the latest story from one of the wars and maybe a graphic or a photo. I'd title the page "War on terrorism."

But not lately. Ever since President Bush mandated a troop surge in Baghdad, I'm titling the page "Casualties" and fighting to squeeze all of them in.

Each entry includes a name, age, the service member's hometown, date and location of their death, a brief explanation of how they died, which regiment they belonged to and where it was based in the U.S. On occasion, it also includes, "Death is under investigation."

But today, on Memorial Day, it bothers me that I can distance myself enough from the gruesome reality of our nation's dead to search for misplaced commas. Or to make sure Arkansas is correctly abbreviated to Ark. when it comes after a city.

I know I'm not completely desensitized, though. Sometimes, while scrolling through the hundreds of photos that pop up after doing a search for "Iraq" on our Associated Press membership website, I stumble upon images that give me pause. There, in between the pictures of a soldier in desert camouflage staking out a post with a large automatic rifle, are a few simple mugshots. With an American flag hung vertically in the background, a young man or woman in uniform was likely told to sit on a chair and stare into the camera before being shipped off to war.

I always click on the thumbnail image to look at the individuals more closely and read the accompanying personal information. It's almost as if I'm drawn to them. Every face is different. Some are smiling, some aren't, but one thing always strikes me: the look of pride.

That is what pride looks like.

And they're all dead.

The Department of Defense makes the mugshots available to the media when the service members die -- whether from a roadside bomb, improvised explosive device or enemy fire.

Putting a face with the name always haunts me. It somehow connects me with their family back home. With the profound sense of loss they must be feeling. I often get choked up thinking about it.

It makes me angry at the assembly line of it all. I can't help but wonder if formatting that list of casualties would hit home more if along with their name, age and hometown, the Department of Defense included what their favorite hobby was. What kind of car they drove. How many kids they left behind.

So I guess I want to say thank you to all of them and all of the generations that served before for giving the greatest sacrifice of all in the name of freedom: their lives. All in the hope that a group of people, hundreds of thousands of miles from here, would know what it feels like to cast a ballot. To make their voice heard. To walk to a market and buy ingredients for a meal without fear. To be able to obtain an education. To worship whatever religion their faith calls them to. To enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And to show my thanks, I won't take any of it for granted.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Describing the indescribable

Off and on for the past few weeks, I've noticed a strange feeling in my abdomen that's very difficult to describe. It mostly happens at night during my most animated moments at the office — eating dinner and rushing to make deadline.

At first, I convinced myself it was gas. One of the less glamorous side-effects of pregnancy is the increasing inefficiency of the digestive tract, which often results in constipation and its partner-in-crime, flatulence.

But it didn't quite feel like gas. After all, I have almost three decades of experience in that arena, and this was different somehow.

While trying to explain it to Jerry and my mother, I likened the feeling to period cramps, but not quite that offensive. It wasn't debilitating and didn't make me want to curl up in a ball on the floor and curse my lady parts.

Of course it also had me worried. If there's anything that can crush my eternal optimism, it's concern about this baby. It's so easy to assume something is wrong when you can't summon X-ray vision and peek into your uterus. It takes every ounce of willpower not to call my obstetrician every 27 seconds of every day, but somehow concentrating on the date of my next appointment helps get me through.

Yesterday, thankfully, my mom clued me in.

"I was thinking more and more about it, Kelly, and that's the baby," she said. "You're just feeling the baby move."

All of my books say that many women start to feel fetal movements around week 15, but only those who have had children before will be able to recognize it. Most of the literature I've read describes it as "tiny flutters," but I'm not sure I would use the same term. "Flutters" reminds me of the feeling I had when I was waiting for my prom date. Or getting dropped off at college. Or the first day at a new job.

No, this isn't fluttery. It's more, well, squirmy. Maybe a little whooshy even.

After the brief conversation with my mother, I concentrated on taking in the feeling when it happened later that night. Without a doubt, that weird worrisome abdominal movement I've been noticing for the past few weeks is the baby.

Because I've been brainwashed by Jerry, the most fervent "Rocky" lover of all time, I envision our fetus re-enacting the scene where Rocky punches at slabs of cow ribs.

Only instead, it's my uterus.

And maybe if it had been described like that in even ONE of my books, I would've recognized the feeling sooner.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pushing up dandelions

Jerry is waging a war.

I refer to it as a backyard Armageddon of sorts -- a great battle between the forces of good and evil.

Jerry versus dandelions.

The conflict started about a week ago when we noticed a ton of the little yellow weeds popping up all over. We have been receiving numerous colorful fliers in the mail from one particular chemical company addressed to the former owners, so I'm pretty sure they relied on outside help to keep the grass weed-free.

But with Toby only a few inches off the ground and addicted to spending hours at a time laying in the sunshine, the last thing we want to do is deprive him of that.

So Jerry, standing in a Superman stance with his feet shoulder-length apart and his hands formed into fists placed on his hips, boldly announced, "Don't worry, I've got this."

(It wasn't a stretch to envision a red cape flapping in the wind behind him.)

He went to a nearby garden center and brought back a funky-looking tool that could almost double as a barbecue skewer, only it had a fat wooden handle on one end and a two-pronged fork on the other.

Then he grabbed our 10 gallon yard waste bucket and set out to seek and destroy the enemy.

It took him hours, but he did it. He nearly filled the huge container with roots, jagged leaves, stems and buds intact. The yard looked fantastic.

My hero.

But the next day, it confoundedly looked as if he hadn't done a thing. Little patches of yellow sprinkled the lawn. The enemy was resilient. And advancing.

A few exasperated expletives later, Jerry was wielding his weapon and on the attack. One of our neighbors, a softspoken older gentleman who lives next door, laughed at Jerry's persistence and joked, "I guess you missed a couple yesterday, huh?"

"A couple" turned out to be a gigantic understatement. Jerry nearly filled the bucket again.

This continued for nearly a week: Jerry would attack during the day, the dandelions would advance at night.

But, eventually, Jerry secured the upperhand. Fewer and fewer weeds blossomed. In fact, he got so good at detecting them that sometimes he'd catch one or two before they even flowered -- something he considered a small victory in itself.

Then one morning it happened: There wasn't a dandelion to be found. Jerry surveyed the yard in a victorious strut, mumbling, "That's right. I win."

To celebrate, I poured some lemonade and we sat outside on our bench admiring the lush green lawn.

Our neighbor, noticing our victory toast, congratulated Jerry on a job well done.

"I guess you'll have to get all those little purple weeds next," he said with a smile.

I could see Jerry's head trying to comprehend that the tiny violet flowers subtly mixed in with the grass, almost entirely camouflaged, were not the pretty lawn accent he thought they were.

"THOSE ARE WEEDS?"

I could only think to say one thing.

"I'll get the bucket."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Viscosity of warm butter

After reading this, I vow to include our baby's weight, length, head circumference and description of its first bowel movement when I make the birth announcement.

Thanks, Marina. Hilarious.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Getting reacquainted with Grace

Some new moms I've talked to recently just gush over how much they loved being pregnant. They talk about it as if pregnancy was a magical fairytale filled with nothing but pleasantries and catchy musical numbers sung in harmony by the birds outside their window.

At first I thought that made me unfit to have a uterus because I'm not of the same mindset. Don't get me wrong, I'm filled with excitement and wonder and curiosity, but dry heaves and itchy stretching skin are not my idea of a good time.

I know I've been fortunate. My morning sickness was very brief and only once resulted in actual vomiting. I've also discovered that the nasty prenatal vitamins that reintroduce themselves in the form of chalky-tasting burps can be quelled if taken right before bed. Plus, my inexplicable cravings and crying fits have subsided, leaving me feeling much more like a person these days and less like a host organism.

But just when I thought I'd hit my stride, when the second trimester (the one that every medical reference book refers to as the "feel-good trimester") was in sight, all these other things started happening.

Things like clumsiness and forgetfulness.

Ever since I was little, despite years and years of professional dance training, I've always been a little clumsy. Nothing drastic, but it's not unheard of for me to catch the toe of my shoe on the one-eighth of a difference in a crack on a sidewalk. For this, my mom often called me "Grace."

Well, Grace has not only reared her uncoordinated limbs, but I think she's taking up permanent residence. Well, at least until November.

A few weeks ago, I tripped walking up the back steps to our house and landed on my hands and knees stunned, wondering what the hell just happened. I was fine, not a scratch or bruise and certainly nothing to worry about, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I didn't have total control over my own movements anymore.

My clumsiness made itself known again last night when I broke a juice glass while making dinner. A no-longer-sold-in-stores juice glass.

I'm not even sure how it happened. One minute I'm straining orzo over the sink and the next minute my elbow bumps into a nearby cutting board, causing a chain reaction that I was incapable of stopping. The cutting board knocked into the olive oil, the olive oil collided with the recipe box and the recipe box pushed my water glass right off the edge. And I am convinced, CONVINCED, that the pre-pregnant me would've been able assess the situation fast enough to hold out my one free arm to stop it.

But, no, not anymore. Now I'm left with a set of 11 juice glasses. And I will forever obsess about the odd space in my cabinet and curse Crate & Barrel for discontinuing that glassware line.

The only thing worse is the forgetfulness. It appalls me. I am the together one. I am the one who remembers appointments and makes sure Jerry and I have everything we need before leaving the house. And I certainly never leave anything behind when we go places.

That was before.

Now I forget to put the milk back in the refridgerator or struggle to find my hair ties. The ones I always leave in one of two places. Well, used to leave in one of two places. Now I find them scattered all over the house. But only when I'm NOT looking for them.

Another example happened few weeks ago. After frantically searching every corner of our house to find my camera, I employed the childhood tactic of retracing my steps and came to the conclusion that I might have left it at my mother-in-law's house. One e-mail later and she informs me that not only is my camera there, but I left behind my sunglasses and a hair tie, too.

AaarrrRRRAAAGHHH!

When I explain how exasperated I am about these changes, experienced mothers just nod their heads and smile. Annoyingly, it's often the same ones who say they loved being pregnant.

As for Jerry during all this? All I have to say is thank GOD he's reading a fatherhood book which explains everything. Whether I trip or lose or break something, he's there with exactly the right thing to say.

"The book says you'd be forgetful and clumsy right about now."

And for that I could just hug him. Well, if I thought I could manage walking the two steps in his general direction without tripping or breaking something ... else.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

You're on your own, folks

That's it. I'm never voluntarily doing anything nice on my own volition ever again. I won't plan a party for someone who ends up not coming. I won't help old ladies find a parking spot. And I certainly won't tell someone that the hose on the side of their house is leaking water everywhere.

I, Kelly, hearby vow to look the other way when good Samaritanship calls.

Why? Because it only bites me in the ass. And I'm starting to get the feeling that even the people I'm helping don't really care.

Yesterday, while Jerry and I took our afternoon walk with Toby, we passed a house with a very well-manicured lawn. As I was admiring the landscaping, I noticed that the spout on the side of the house with a coiled hose attached was spurting mass quantities of water. No one was in sight and, judging by the size of the puddle that had formed, it looked like it had been running for days.

"Ooh, I'd want someone to knock on our door if that was happening at our house," I said to Jerry. "Just for the water bill alone."

I think I detected a hint of an eye roll before Jerry responded, but I think he knows I wouldn't have been able to continue our walk without obsessing about it. So he agreed.

He held Toby as I walked up the porch and rang the bell. After waiting for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time, I peeked inside through the stained glass window flanking the door and saw someone coming down the steps.

Jerry, meanwhile, assuming no one was home, had walked around to the spout and simply turned it off.

An older woman opened the door and stared at me as if to say, "THIS BETTER BE GOOD." Judging by a matted area of hair and her cranky disposition, it was very clear that I had awoken her from an afternoon nap. Great.

"I'm sorry to bother you, but my husband and I were walking by and noticed that the hose on the side of your house is leaking water everywhere," I said. "We figured you'd want to know."

She didn't flinch or speak, just stormed down the steps and beelined to the problem area.

She met Jerry mid-lawn, who explained that he thought no one was home and turned off the spout.

"I just got that hose," she said angrily. "It was the most expensive one."

That was pretty much it. I think we pissed her off.

And I'm pretty sure she put the nail in the coffin of my inner Girl Scout.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Painting myself into a corner

There are a lot of vices women are encouraged to give up when they're pregnant: drugs, smoking, drinking, caffeine and junk food, to name a few.

For me, none of these were really a problem. I don't do drugs. I don't smoke. I rarely drink -- not enough to really miss it. I only like soda with pizza and Chinese takeout and, even then, prefer the caffeine-free variety. And junk food has and always will be a rare treat in my diet.

But there is one thing that I'm having a hard time giving up: painting.

I loved, loved, LOVED painting our house all last summer. I've always been a creative type and nothing suits my anal-retentive tendencies better than paying close attention to detail on a project. Painting is both of those things combined, plus I love the thrill of making a space more beautiful. It is an activity with a million pluses: it takes very little effort, is good exercise, not too expensive and makes a big impact.

Sure, women are "advised" not to paint because of the toxic fumes, so instead of painting inside, I looked to a more well-ventilated area to do my creative work this summer -- outside. I had planned to paint every square inch of our chain link fence black.

We had been told by our neighbors that the former owner painted it forest green two summers ago to hide a few rust spots. Sure, it took him three months, they said, but he used a tiny paintbrush. I planned to use a roller for the main fence and a brush for the poles and hardware.

Jerry freaked and accused me of trying to sabotage our baby. Plus, he assumed I'd get tired and force him to do it.

First of all, painting never gets old for me. I don't WANT help. Not only is it fun, but I am also so much of a perfectionist that I am under the assumption, no matter how false, that I can do it better than anyone else. Jerry is good at a lot of things, but paying close attention to detail is not his forte. He is my roller man. When we team up, I do the trim and he fills in the big spaces. It's a perfect match.

Second of all, how horrible can wielding a small paintbrush be IN THE OPEN ATMOSPHERE? Before I knew I was pregnant the first time, I had painted our vanity. Our windowless, fanless vanity. Of course I expressed my concern to every doctor, nurse and receptionist at my OBGYN who would listen, and all had the same answer: "Don't worry about it."

And what about interior designers? Even Lori on "Trading Spaces," (you know, back when the show didn't suck), got pregnant and painted almost every day for a living. And I'm sure her baby wasn't a mongoloid.

I had made up my mind that I was going to do it despite the friction it was causing between Jerry and me. I knew I would prove him wrong. I wouldn't ask for help because I wouldn't need it. It wouldn't take me three months because I'd use more functional tools. And I'd even wear a stupid face mask if it would make him feel more comfortable.

Then my mom came to visit and, of course, sided with him, giving Jerry all the validation he needed to put his foot down. So now my fun is ruined for the summer. My painting project fun. I'll just sit in a corner and put my thumb up my ass. A corner with dry non-lead-based paint.

To top it off, I had already conceded that I wouldn't help paint the baby's room. Despite the fact that the room has two gigantic windows and a ceiling fan, it's inside. Fumes. I get it. Here's me backing off. Voluntarily. Mark the calendar.

Realistically, I know it's probably not the best thing in the world to paint an outdoor fence while pregnant, but I'm convinced that all the happy endorphins my brain would release throughout the project would far outweigh any negative side effects.

And for my final argument?

IT'S NOT LIKE I'M ASKING TO DO HEROIN.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lemonade, sea grass and a faux belly

P1012839
Yesterday, Jerry and I went to an arts festival and spent a ridiculous
amount on lunch. Damn those delicious pricey lemonade mugs.


P1012841
Afterward, we went to our favorite home and garden
place and purchased the one plant I knew I wanted
at our new house eventually: big ol' sea grass.


P1012858
We also planted white impatiens in a few pots that
I placed on the back steps. The big project we hope
to accomplish this summer is to sand down the front
porch and back deck and repaint it a dark tan.


P1012852_2
We spent the entire afternoon outside in the yard, and above all else,
Jerry was most thrilled to be able to capture this precious moment.


P1012856_2
Here's me next to the final product. And in case you're wondering,
this is where all that luscious lamb's ear was last year. Toby dug it
to hell, so we replaced it with this. It should grow to 5 feet by fall.
And, yes, nothing says impending motherhood like a KEG T-shirt.


1
Here is the bridesmaid's dress I will be wearing to
Timberly's wedding in September (sans bra straps).
Also, it won't be in this color. More of a pale green.


2
Here's what it's likely to look like by then.
(As demonstrated by the faux belly and
helpful store clerk holding the dress on me.)


P1012837_3
And here is my bumpy 15 week belly shot.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The pantsuit parade

On Saturday, Jerry and I had a rare morning and afternoon off together and took advantage of it by hanging out in our back yard.

While we were lounging, two older women pulled into one of our neighbor's parking spots. The passenger got out of the car wearing a tangerine-colored silk pantsuit and looking utterly confused. Toby, of course, immediately ran up to the fence and started barking at the menacing intruder.

When I bent down to pick him up and tell him that old ladies in pantsuits are not a threat, the woman spoke up and asked if she could park there.

I explained that it was a private lot and that I couldn't promise she wouldn't get towed if our neighbors got home and had nowhere to park. Then I explained that there was a large parking lot two blocks down. Even though I gave her very explicit directions ("Go straight, it's on the right, you can't miss it."), she didn't seem to understand. That or the thought of walking two blocks in a silk pantsuit was enough to make her want to abandon all plans.

Then, in a very helpless and exasperated tone, she explained that they had a church social to attend and "I think when these churches were built, they didn't have cars -- just horses and buggies."

I was about two seconds away from offering to move my car and letting her use our private parking area, but then I realized our other neighbors have a spot they never use.

"Ma'am? There's a spot over here. It's a little tight, but if you think you can manage it, I'm sure it would be fine to park there a few hours."

She thanked me repeatedly and I directed the driver around into the alley. The space is narrow, but the ladies had a compact car, so I didn't think it would be a problem. I had seen our neighbors park a full-sized pickup there. The major obstacles are the wood beam and gutter spouting to the neighbors' carport on the right, our metal fence to the left and a row of bushes to the rear.

Within two seconds, it became very clear to me that my idea was not a good one. I had to scream for her to stop and wave my hands frantically because she almost plowed right through the carport beam. Fortunately, she stopped just in time to only leave a dent in the gutter. But as she backed up, I watched as she scraped the entire side of her car against our fence, contorting it at unnatural angles.

"Oh, oh, oh! Your car!" I said, but she probably couldn't hear me under the crunching sound of the bushes she took out behind her.

Eventually, I directed her to block in an old garage that our neighbors don't use. The park job could only be described as horrible. It was at such a crazy angle that anyone trying to pass through the alley wouldn't be able to. But all I could say was, "PERFECT!" and silently pray that she didn't take out anything else in her path of destruction.

Oddly enough, the women were completely oblivious to any mishap. They got out, approved of the position and location of the car, thanked me at least four times and walked the few steps to the back of the church for their pantsuit social.

I would've felt terribly about the entire thing, but judging by the numerous dents on the vehicle, this was not the first, nor the last time that woman would collide with something while parking.

When I looked back at Jerry in our yard, he had both hands on his forehead and an exasperated look that said, "Why? Why Kelly, WHY?"

That look quickly turned to fury when he came out to inspect the damage and discovered that the woman had snapped the base of our two-inch thick galvanized metal fence anchor and it now was leaning precariously toward our parking area.

"Seriously? Do you have to help EVERYBODY?"

I flashed him my best smile and used a nearby piece of concrete block to prop up the fence to a nearly 90 degree angle.

"Because that's not completely ghetto," he said.

"It'll match the wooden planks we have on the other side preventing Toby from scooting out the bottom of the fence!"

Jerry made fun of me all afternoon, but I didn't back down.

"I STAND BY HELPING TWO OLD LADIES GET TO A CHURCH FUNCTION!"

And I still do. Even though our fence looks like hell.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Boy or girl?

Today I am 15 weeks along, feeling absolutely wonderful and overly excited about my second trimester. In exactly one month, we have an ultrasound appointment scheduled with hopes of finding out whether we're having a boy or a girl. And the anticipation is indescribable.

I waiver on which I would prefer, or as Jerry puts it, "If I could go to a baby store and pick one off the shelf ..."

I've heard people say that a woman's intuition is usually pretty accurate in determining gender, but I honestly don't have a strong sense either way. My dreams are the most vivid they've ever been in my entire life and I often dream about babies -- rescuing one out of a car trunk, finding one in the grass while on a walk with Toby or even adopting -- but it never has a gender. The only ongoing similarities are that it's big and healthy and only wearing a diaper.

I guess this indicates that I'd be more than content either way.

I can easily picture having boy. Forming his hair into a tiny baby mohawk and teaching him to be strong and use his head and open his heart to love beyond reason. Someone to help hang the Christmas lights and bake cookies with on weekends. To grow up to do and be what he wants with our gentle guidance.

On the other hand, I can easily picture having a girl. Forming her hair into a tiny baby mohawk and teaching her to be strong and use her head and open her heart to love beyond reason. Someone to help hang the Christmas lights and bake cookies with on weekends. To grow up to do and be what she wants with our gentle guidance.

And maybe that's why I don't care either way. I don't see life being too different just because of gender. Sure, after general socialization, a girl might gravitate more toward Dora dolls while a boy might identify more with Jimmy Neutron, but I really hope I can be the kind of parent who teaches a boy how to sew on a button and teaches a girl how to change a tire.

Yes, I would like to have a relationship with a daughter like the one I have with my mother. Someone to talk with, swap recipes with, share decorating ideas with and go marathon shopping with. I would love to have little pink dresses around and hair ties and shiny flower fingernail stickers. I think I would have a lot of advice and life lessons to share with a girl.

I would also like to have a relationship like the one Jerry has with his mother. Someone to talk with, to help lift things she can no longer manage, to shovel snow or volunteer to put together her patio furniture. I would love to have another football fan in the house (although he better like the Steelers or Daddy's heart will break).

All that said, I know we will treat a boy or girl differently no matter how hard we fight against it. According to some of the literature I've read, it happens in subtle ways like letting a boy cry a little bit longer or coddling a girl a little more. Not to mention that I already envision the nursery in the traditional pink or blue.

But if our son wants to learn how to sew? I'll pull out my machine. If our daughter wants a skateboard? We'll get her one.

I'm not sure why I want to know our child's sex so badly. Probably because it's the one thing we have the opportunity to find out. I'll have to wait to see what color eyes they'll have, whether their hair will be curly or straight, what type of disposition they'll have.

I guess that's why children are called one of life's greatest gifts: There are so many surprises.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Yeah, well you're starting to look like you could stand to trim a few pounds yourself!

People with well-intended sentiments about my changing body need to think five more seconds before they open their mouths. Because it's getting harder and harder for me to respond with something polite instead of summoning my inner Jackie Chan and surprising them with a roundhouse kick to the back of the skull.

No matter how excited I am to see a bump emerging from my abdomen -- proof that the little life inside is growing -- hearing the words, "Wow! You're starting to look pregnant!" is still not an acceptable thing to say to a pregnant woman.

Because we hear this: "Woa! How do you even stand upright, YOU HUGE GIGANTIC ORCA WHALE?!"

As women, we have been conditioned our entire lives to be very conscious of our bodies, and regardless of having an actual need to put on weight, seeing that scale creep ever higher isn't an easy thing to adjust to. And the bottom line is, we're animals. So just like birds and bees and orca whales, our pregnant bodies are sent signals to store up fat for breast feeding. Fat that comes in undesirable places. Fat that makes us want to kill you when you say things like, "Wow! You're starting to look pregnant!"

Then there are the not so well-intended sentiments. Like when you're a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding and the size 10 dress she ordered for you now won't even zip up more than an inch around your bloated midsection. Then you try desperately not to burst into tears when you remember that you wore a size 4 dress at your own wedding two years ago.

Then, when you call the bridal shop to exchange the dress with exactly four weeks to go until the wedding, you silently pray that they agree and advise you to go up one measly size to a 12.

Instead, when you get there, the very kind woman who had helped you on the phone takes one look at your orca whale body and asks, "What size dress do you have now?" When you respond and her eyes bulge out of her head, followed by a snort of disgust and a, "Yeah, that DEFINITELY won't fit YOU," somehow a kick to the back of the skull wouldn't be gratifying enough.

When she pulls a size 16 and 18 for you to try on, you want to take both dresses and forcibly shove them, one square-inch of satiny fabric at a time, down her smug little throat.

Then you become a broken and defeated shell of your former self in the dressing room when you realize you have to order the 18 to make room for more belly. The rest of the potato sack can be altered to fit. Or maybe, by then, it won't have to be.

So after you regain a little composure, you silently vow to come back to the store with your adorable baby in a few months and shove it in that skinny bitch's face and say, "See? SEE?! IT WAS WORTH IT!"

Ahem.

Either way, let this be a lesson to all of you: Never, never, NEVER tell a pregnant woman that she looks like it -- even if the baby is ready to burst out of her. Instead, if you must utter something, try, "Wow! You look amazing, mommy!" Trust me when I say that will go over much better.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Conversation with my 3-year-old neice, Emily

"Kelly! I saved some clothes for when the baby comes."

"I know. Your mom told me. I think it's very special that you want to share."

"There's skirts and dresses and ..."

"And if it's a boy, he'll be the prettiest boy in town."

(blank stare, laugh from my mother-in-law)

"Emily, do you think it's going to be a boy or a girl?"

(confused look, seemingly weighing options)

"Boy." (whispered as if it's a big secret)

"Well, you know what? If it's a boy, we'll still put him in one of your pretty skirts just for fun, okay?"

(Insane laughter and clapping)

"And I'll take pictures to show off when he starts bringing girls to the house. Because that's what good parents do."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A smile from Sophia

There are two things destined to happen on Election Day at a newspaper: a lot of waiting and a lot of pizza.

Last night, the Pennsylvania state primaries were no exception. But during the downtime, instead of playing cards or swapping magazines, we had a visitor. A copy editor I used to work with came in for a brief visit with her 12-week-old daughter, Sophia.

Cindy is now an experienced mother of three girls and had no problem allowing the rest of us to pass her adorable lilac-clad baldy around. The other mothers I work with easily maneuvered her from one position to another, rocking her back and fourth and just handling her in general. They made it look so easy.

"Okay mommy-to-be, it's your turn," my boss said, preparing for a handoff.

"Um, no, nope, absolutely not," I said. "I'm pretty sure I'll break her."

She looked so delicate and small. Even at three months old, she only weighs eight pounds and her head seemed to be attached to her body by a limp strand of spaghetti, not an actual neck. Her head just kind of rolled with the gravitational force. If there wasn't something in the way like a hand or the crook of an arm, it looked as if it would drop directly to the floor, teeny body in tow.

I decided that my hands and arms didn't need that kind of responsibility. Especially not when five other mothers are standing nearby and could easily gang up and burn me at the stake. Or something.

"Yeah, I think I'll pass."

But they wouldn't hear of it. All of a sudden it was a chorus of "You'll be doing this in a little more than five months," and "You've got to try sometime," and "C'mon. C'mon. DOOO IT!"

Before I could protest any further, I had little Sophia resting awkwardly in my arms. Unlike all the other handoffs, she squished up her face in a very "You suck lady!" sort of way, let out a yelp like I was causing her immense pain and squirmed as if the dirty office carpet below would do a better job at comforting her than me.

Then this amazing thing happened: She just sort of stared up at me and smiled.

It was awesome. I immediately relaxed, adjusted her tiny outfit that had gotten bunched up around her neck and just stared at her while she stared right back. I fell in love.

Even so, nothing about it felt natural at all. In fact, it was completely terrifying to think that I'll have the task of keeping one of those alive in a few months.

But man, one little smile and nothing else mattered. Not my fears, not my responsibilities for the night, not even the other people standing around watching me bumble through the simple task of holding a baby.

I can't even imagine what it will feel like when that tiny smile resembles mine or Jerry's.

Hey Carrie!

My mom said she ran into you at school and gave you my website address. I know exactly what you're going through right now and would love to catch up. If you see this, e-mail me at novelle361@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Training wheels

It is absolutely true what they say about dogs being good training for kids. And anyone who says otherwise obviously doesn't have one.

Last night, Toby was acting a little more fidgety than usual when all of us were attempting to go to sleep. Normally he picks a spot at the foot of the bed, flops down and doesn't stir for hours. Instead, he roamed the bed, walking over us at random, seemingly trying to get comfortable.

"I hope Toby's alright," Jer said.

"Yeah, he's probably just hot or something."

Little did I know how wrong I was. I'm not sure if it was all the running around he's done over the past two days or whether it was the combination of that and some of the steak we gave him on Mother's Day. Whatever it was, Toby got sick multiple times throughout the night.

Although he has an abounding reserve of energy, it isn't unheard of for him to sleep 13 uninterrupted hours at a time. So when I heard him jumping off the bed at 1 a.m., I knew something was up.

Figuring he had to go outside, I got up to use the bathroom, as well. But when I opened the door, he didn't follow -- another extreme rarity. When I came back, he was curled up on the floor on a blanket -- also something he never does. He always whines to be picked back up and put on the bed.

At that point, I didn't think much of it, just picked him up and got back into bed.

A few hours later, I heard him jump off again. This time, I flew out of bed, turned on the lights and inspected the floor, thinking he had defied my attempt at letting him outside, instead deciding to go right in the house.

I found three piles of diarrhea of varying consistency and one very sick Toby cowering in the corner because he knew he'd been bad.

Although groggy and extremely frustrated, I cleaned everything up, one spot at a time, soothed Toby and put him back in bed.

A few hours later, I heard him jump off the bed for a third time. How I managed to even pick up on such a subtle noise or spring out of a dead sleep every time is beyond me. I guess I just knew he needed help. Not to mention quick action to get him outside.

This time we made it. I carried him the entire way and even walked him down into the grass. He got sick again and then started eating grass with gusto. And every dog owner knows that when dogs start eating grass, they're attempting to calm their stomach.

I let him have a little, but I stopped him much sooner than he would've liked. I don't know the guidelines on that sort of thing, but it seemed like it would just overwhelm his delicate system at the moment.

I was right. Less than 45 minutes later, we were out of bed again as he hacked up all the grass in a disgusting frothy mess.

Fortunately, that was the end of it. We slept in a little later than usual to make up for the horrible night, and Toby seems to be back to his usual exuberant self this morning.

I'm a little worse for wear, but I know I haven't seen anything yet.

Monday, May 14, 2007

16 photos narrowed down from more than 100

P1012766
Timberly and I spent Friday afternoon getting my bridesmaid's dress,
having lunch and shopping. Later, we met Gisela off the train. While
we were waiting, we decided to make "Welcome" signs in the depot.


P1012768
Gisela's exact words were: "Oh my God, please stop." We didn't.


P1012771
That night, 12 of us all went out to dinner at our friend's restaurant.
Here is Gisela giving Jerry a little love while we tried to digest.


P1012786_2
The next day was Timberly's bridal shower. Here she is laughing at
her gigantic cake. There was enough for everyone to have four slices.


P1012804
The gift table.


today's pictures 039
In addition to the cake, there were cookies and petit fours.


P1012799
Gisela filling out her 20 Qs about the bride game sheet.


P1012794_2
Timberly with a mouth full of marshmallows during the 20 Qs about
the groom game. I was particularly brutal when devising the questions.


P1012780
I also made these flowers. At the end of the shower, I passed them
out and everyone was instructed to write down a bit of advice or
good wishes to Timberly so she could always have it as a keepsake.


P1012809_2
I wasn't the only one who was pregnant at the shower. Leih is due
in June and she even let me feel her belly when the baby was kicking.
And here, some of my lovely maternity wear makes it's debut.


P1012814_2
One of the few people on the planet allowed to touch my belly.
This was a little pond outside the hall we reserved for the shower.
The local high school also had its prom that night, so all of the
students were laughing at us from the balcony during this picture.
I had to concentrate really hard not to moon them in my elasta-pants.


P1012815
Gisela HAD to take one of the helium balloons from the shower
and sing the munchkin theme song from "The Wizard of Oz."


P1012817
Afterward, we found the only smoke-free bar in town and
had an impromptu bachelorette party for Timberly.


P1012822
After that, we met up with the guys at a house party where Timberly's
soon-to-be husband, Dan, showed off his Buddha trophy beer mug
from that morning's soccer tournament. (Also, hence the sunburn.)


today's pictures 004
Here is a RARE picture of me where I allowed someone to wield
a camera before I have showered or wiped the crust from my eyes.
I guess the ruse is up. I always look like shit while blogging.


today's pictures 011
And here is one of the best pictures of Toby I've seen in awhile.
Gisela was enamored with him and took this on our back porch.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

So great

P1012769_2

Friday, May 11, 2007

Phone conversation last night with my friend Courtney

"I'm so sorry, I just called and now I'm going to be totally rude and order at a drive-thru."

"It's okay, I do it to Betz all the time."

"By the way, do you know what those things are called at KFC? Those bowl things?"

"Ew. I hate KFC."

"Me too. Despise it. But the bowl things are really good."

"Yeah, okay, talk to me when you're not pregnant."

"No, I'm serious. Someone accidentally got an extra one at work a few weeks ago and gave it to me. They're really good."

"You mean gross."

"No, good."

Welcome to KFC. Would you like to try one of our combo meals today?

"Um, I don't know what they're called, but could I have one of those bowl things?"

A potato bowl?

"Yeah."

Would you like the combo?

"No, but could I get a small Sierra Mist with it?"

The combo comes with a drink.

"Oh. Then, yes, I'd like the combo."

(I can hear laughter through the phone.)

"Shut up."

Excuse me?

"Oh, sorry! I'm talking on the phone."

Your total is $5.49 please pull around to the window.

"I'm a complete idiot."

"Mostly because you're ordering one of those nasty things."

"THEY'RE REALLY GOOD!"

"Whatever. Tell me that in seven months."

"Dude. They're really good." (muffled sounding)

"Are you eating already?"

"Oh my God. What's wrong with me?"

(laughter)

"I'm sitting in a KFC parking lot. I was totally famished. ... Actually, I was on my way to Target and then, all of a sudden, I'm in line to get one of these potato bowls."

"Like I said, tell me they're good when you're not pregnant."

"THEY'RE REALLY GOOD! ... potato, corn, a little chicken and cheddar or something ..."

"Yeah. I so don't believe you."

"They're gooooooood."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Is it Friday yet?

It seems like I've been waiting for tomorrow to arrive for ages. Not only have I worked another grueling eight-day stretch in a row and am approaching a blissful four-day off stretch starting Friday, but I will have the next three of those days to spend with two of my closest girl friends who are visiting the area for the weekend.

Timberly is returning home from Nebraska for her bridal shower and Gisela is taking the train in from Philadelphia to attend and, more importantly, test out our newly renovated guest room. Of all the people who will ever stay in it, she will appreciate the decor and how absolutely bold it is for my traditionally muted-tones taste.

I'm not looking forward to anything in particular, just having them around is enough. When I stopped to think about how long it's been since I've seen them, it literally blew my mind how much my life has changed in four years. When I first moved to Pennsylvania, I didn't know anyone. I met Timberly and Gisela shortly thereafter and we instantly clicked. It didn't hurt that we were all practically neighbors, so we started hanging out regularly. Having them walk into my apartment without knocking used to be a regular occurrence.

I miss that.

And even though we've managed to keep in touch over the phone and all the other ways that having a computer and an Internet connection bring, it's not the same as just flopping down on the couch and catching up.

Tomorrow -- before dinner plans, before pre-wedding celebrations, before other people join us -- I'll have both of them hanging out in my living room again. Just the three of us.

And that makes my heart feel full.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Notes from the underbelly

For those of you understandably babied out, I wrote a non-pregnancy post today. Then I decided it was worthy of a newspaper column, so I'm saving it. I promise to post it here after it's published.

In the meantime, feeling badly that I've sacrificed two good posts in a row, the only thing I can think to offer as a consolation is the ubiquitous pregnancy blog belly picture that some of you are clamoring for.

I wasn't sure if I was ready for the world to see images of my expanding waistline. Frankly, I'm hardly ready to see it in the mirror. But after perusing numerous pregnancy websites filled with profile belly shots, I realized that I'm pretty average as far as my bump is concerned. At 13 weeks, some have hardly anything at all. Others look as if they were supposed to give birth yesterday.

Jerry was gracious enough to take the picture for me while I was in the most comfortable stretchy pants ever. He kept instructing me to stop "sucking in," forcing me -- much to my resistance -- to let it all hang out.

So, without further ado, here is my belly at 13 weeks:

13 weeks_2

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A name game

I wrote a post this morning and was about to publish it, but then Jerry came home and talked me out of it.

It was a more serious look at the actual names we're considering, but Jerry wants to keep it a secret. We've told our parents, but that's basically it.

He made an analogy comparing it to a wedding dress. It's best left as a surprise.

I can live with that.

In the meantime, just for fun, anyone have any name suggestions that you think would suit us? Or guesses as to what we're considering?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Just slap a 'Kick Me' sign on their back and be done with it

I know the trend in baby names is something completely unique and individual and different like "Jackhammer Concrete" for a boy or "Banana Tastycake" for a girl, but, um, well ... I think it's absolutely ridiculous. That's what pets are for. If you like the name "Grass" that much, go buy a dog.

In our absolute jubilation at me being pregnant again, Jerry and I spontaneously purchased a baby names book before we even started sharing the news. It's titled "50,000+ Best Baby Names."

On the drive home from the store, I pulled out the book and started reading aloud some of the suggestions for boys.

"Hooker"

"Jagit"

"Rugby"

"Seriously? Hooker?" I asked. "As an actual name? For a boy?"

"I wonder if 'Prostitute' is in there for girls," Jerry said, laughing. "Or maybe just 'Street' as the first name and 'Walker' as the middle name."

"This book sucks," I said. "What happened to names like Mark or Jessica?"

"Apparently they died."

My frustration grew as I continued browsing.

"Johnny-Dodd" (Born with overalls and a toothpick in his mouth.)

"Kance" (Just like France, only with a K for fun!)

"Manley" (And what if he turns out anything but?)

Okay, maybe the girls names would be better.

"Baba" (As in, what's likely to be among their first words as they attempt to say "bottle.")

"Buzzie" (Why not name your kid after the sound that a bee makes?)

"Davisnell" (Because throwing random syllables together is FUN!)

"That book should be named '1,000 Actual Baby Names and 49,001+ Bullshit Words," Jerry said.

Then I saw it. The coup de grace.

"Oh my God," I said.

"What?"

"That's it. This book is total garbage."

There, among the "B" names was the WORST NAME EVER for a child: Bacon.

"BACON? BACON? SERIOUSLY? YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST NAME YOUR KID 'PIG FAT'!"

We didn't look at the book much after that. Anything that suggests something that cruel for the little being inside of me is not worth consulting.

We'll do just fine on our own.

And if our child grows up to hate our choice?

I'll just say, "Be thankful we didn't name you Hooker or Bacon."

Phone conversation before Jerry's pay-per-view boxing party

"Um, I have some 'oops' news."

"Oops news?"

"Yeah, as in, 'Oops! I ate all of the Doritos you got for your party.'"

"YOU ATE THE WHOLE BAG?"

"Well, in my defense, I made it through most of the afternoon. I didn't cave until almost 3 o'clock."

"YOU ATE THE WHOLE BAG?"

"Well, not the whole bag, but definitely more than half of it. I saved you guys some."

"I would just like to point out that if I had eaten any of your desserts before the bridal shower you threw last weekend, you would've killed me."

"Yeah, but that's different. That chocolate pie thing took two hours. A bag of Doritos takes two seconds."

"I'm just pointing out the discrepancy."

"Well, you can take it up with our baby when it's born."

"Oh yeah?"

"Well, I figure I haven't had or wanted Doritos in about, oh, two years. And now, all of a sudden, I HAD to have them ... so yeah, it was the baby. The baby likes Doritos."

"Well, I'll just stop at the store on my way home and get another bag."

"Cool ranch."

"What?"

"Get the cool ranch flavor. The baby totally likes those better than the original nacho cheese."

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Considering getting this tattooed on my forehead

I'm feeling great.
I'm in the fourth month.
I'm due November 10th.
We don't know whether it's a boy or a girl.
Yes, we would like to find out.
But I don't really have a preference either way.
We have a few names picked out, but nothing definite.
Don't even think about touching my belly.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Saying goodbye to zippers and buttons

Because of my expanding waistline and stagnant wallet, my mother generously volunteered to visit for a few days and take me shopping for maternity clothes.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I do know that my regular clothes are getting uncomfortable. My pants dig into my belly, sometimes forcing me to unbutton them in public for a little much-needed relief. And because of my bigger belly, my form-fitting tops no longer look quite so streamlined. Not to mention how my button-down tops pucker at the chest now, eliminating much of my closet.

I had asked friends with kids where they had shopped for clothes and was given quite a few suggestions.

The first stop was a department store in a nearby strip mall. I quickly discovered that, when in doubt, look for the maternity clothing next to the baby stuff. Makes sense, I suppose.

At first I was horrified. Everything is elastic and synthetic. EVERYTHING.

"Oh, I am SO not wearing any of this," I said, holding up a pair of pants that would've stretched to fit a rhinoceros. "Absolutely not."

My mother just laughed, grabbed the pants for me to try on and whispered, "Oh yes you will."

The tops were hideous. Nothing that said, "I'd actually want to buy and wear this on a regular basis if I wasn't metamorphosing into a bloated manatee."

I am of the less-is-more line of thought when it comes to clothes. I don't need ties and straps and buckles and brass studs and frayed edges and seizure-inducing patterns. I want simple and classic, perhaps with a little subtle detail.

After a quick browse around the racks, I was convinced that no such thing exists in maternity land. And I hands-down refused to shimmy into a T-shirt with sparkly pink lettering that says "Princess is having a princess." If someone forced me, I would puke on it, preferring instead to wear my regurgitated stomach bile. Because a vomit stain would be better than that logo.

Putting up much resistance, I eventually headed into a dressing room with a few capris and two tops that actually came in black and white. Nothing that doubled as a doily and screamed, "Now that I'm going to be a mom, I vow to give up all sense of style. ... Please pass me those tapered-leg jeans."

Somewhere in between unbuttoning my tight pants and stepping into the maternity wear, a miraculous thing happened: I felt comfortable for the first time in a week.

Granted, they were hideous. There was a fake zipper flap and button for looks, but the entire top was a solid band of stretchy cotton-ish material that went up to my bra line.

BUT I DIDN'T CARE.

"Oh, I am SO never taking these off!" I said, trying not to notice what I looked like and instead enjoying the pure bliss of not having a restrictive waistline digging temporary marks into my flesh.

And oh joy! When you pair it with the synthetic flowy tops, you'd never know there was 45 yards of stretchy fabric underneath! The fake zipper flap and button say, "I'm totally normal. See? The button? Normal."

After reluctantly putting my jeans back on, we settled on a few pieces. I had officially started my elastic collection.

The next stop was an actual maternity clothing store and the selection was vast. Much to my delight, it had more fashionable offerings and even a professional and formalwear section. I quickly claimed a dressing room and one of the clerks devoted herself to bringing me the entire store, one piece at a time.

Then I saw it.

The faux belly.

As if on cue, the clerk explained through the door that I was to Velcro that hideous thing around my waist and it would add about three months to my belly, taking me to six months, so I could see what the fit would be like on everything.

After taking a deep breath, I mentally committed to it. As I wrapped the Velcro around my back, time sort of slowed down. When I looked up, my spirit was instantly crushed.

Oh. My. God.

Would I really look like this? Like a 20-pound bowling ball took up residence in my abdomen? Like the chick on "Alien" right before that slimy creature thing erupts out of her chest cavity? Like something that looks like it shouldn't be able to walk upright?

I grabbed the stuffing-filled monstrosity with both hands, forcibly ripped it off and threw it to the ground. No. Nope. I don't need to see that. I'm fine expanding gradually. I don't need a fast-forward button. Too graphic. Too scary. The clothes will expand to fit. I get it.

After seven stores and much trial and error, I now have an elastic collection that should take me well into my third trimester. Although its early to be wearing any of these things, they're so damn comfortable that I don't care.

It's hard to imagine that even my new clothes will be tight eventually.

And when that happens? I'll just safety pin some bedsheets around my huge ass and talk about the good ol' days when pants had actual zippers and buttons that functioned.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Music to my ears

Although our prenatal practitioners gave us a detailed breakdown of what to expect for each visit, I had forgotten to check the information sheet before we left, so I went in pretty much prepared for anything.

I had been waiting for Monday's appointment all month: week 12. A milestone of sorts. The point where the chance of miscarriage reduces dramatically. It couldn't come soon enough.

Because of that, I woke up early and was ready to go. Jerry surprised me by driving home from work a little earlier than usual so we could travel together instead of just meeting at the doctors' office.

During my March appointment, I had been given a little twist-cap plastic cup with instructions to collect my first morning urine for the next visit. I had looked at that damn cup every time I opened the medicine cabinet in the upstairs bathroom for the last 30 days and couldn't wait to get rid of it. I placed it on the windowsill next to the toilet the night before as a blatant reminder -- something I couldn't miss no matter how groggy I was.

But when I woke up at 4 a.m. for my usual halfway-through-the-night bathroom break, I suddenly wondered if I was supposed to use THAT pee. I guess the whole point is that the hormones are most prevalent because they have a chance to build up while you're sleeping. As I felt my bladder draining, I convinced myself it wouldn't matter. I barely had coordination to find the toilet, let alone aim into a tiny cup at that hour. I'd use the pee when I woke up for the day.

Then the worries set in. What if I wouldn't have enough pee? What if I didn't need to go? Did I just miss my window to give the doctor what she needed? Would she know if I gave her afternoon pee instead of morning pee? Would the test results be skewed? What are they even testing for with my pee anyway? Is it life-threatening? Is it monumentally important?

All those thoughts got me out of bed again and I found myself in front of the fridge, chugging vitamin-fortified orange juice for good measure. I would NOT let my doctor down! I would pee! I made sure of it.

Sure enough, hours later, my cup could've runneth over if I hadn't been very careful. I put it in a plastic baggie and set it in the fridge, as instructed, next to the deal-making orange juice jug.

Jerry and I made it out the door and halfway to the car when I screamed, "WAIT! I FORGOT MY PEE!" and ran back into the house to get it. And a snack. You know, just in case.

A nurse weighed me in at a whopping 162 for a total first-trimester gain of seven pounds. I silently blamed the two-week span I wanted nothing but mammoth bagels slathered in cream cheese.

Turns out the urine sample is used to test for gestational diabetes and I passed with flying, um, yellow. The appointment was very brief. We were told to wait in a very small room that didn't have any ultrasound equipment, much to our disappointment. I had been so excited to see how our little lightning bug was progressing. I couldn't wait to see a more human-like figure, rather than a cashew nut with appendage nubs.

While waiting for the doctor, Jerry was busy looking at a poster that detailed the nine months of fetal development.

"Did you know that our baby has muscles and is moving around like crazy right now?" he asked. "And it even has eyebrows!"

The doctor came in and it was nice to see her again. She didn't indicate that she remembered me at all, but seemingly nodded in understanding when I talked about "being worried because of our last experience."

After looking over my chart and announcing that all of my bloodwork came back normal, including an HIV test, she asked me to lay back on the examination table and fold down my jeans. Then she lifted my shirt a few inches and slathered a cool jelly on my lower abdomen.

She placed the tip of a small device over the jelly and loud crackling noises instantly filled the room. I heard it immediately: a faint whoosh, whoosh. But as soon as I heard it, it was lost with more crackling.

I had been looking at Jerry sitting across from me in a chair and his eyebrows were raised in expectation.

"Sounds like he's movin' furniture in there!" he said.

I giggled.

The doctor remained focused, moving the wand around, listening. "I think it moved onto its belly," she said. "That makes it a little harder."

Then, just as soon as it had gone, it was back -- loud and clear this time.

My jaw dropped and the room fell silent as we listened to that little heart beating wildly. To me, it sounded like a distinct whooshing sound over and over again. The beat sounded so musical for some reason. It's something I definitely would've tapped my toes to if I wasn't frozen in concentration with my mouth hanging open.

"Everything sounds good!" the doctor said, snapping me back into reality. I tried to discreetly wipe the tears that had escaped from the corner of my eyes, but Jerry called me on it.

The doctor left after making a few notes in my folder and handing me yet another urine sample cup for the next appointment.

Jerry and I just sort of sat there staring at each other.

"That was amazing," he said.

I could only nod. It certainly was.

I had gone in prepared for anything. But nothing could've prepared me for that.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The few photos I took in between my hostess duties

P1012736
The night before Jen's bridal shower, she celebrated
her bachlorette party. Here she is with a tiara.


P1012737_2
We ate at her favorite restaurant, Olive Garden. And here, if the
picture was closer, you could see how absolutely round I look already.


P1012740
Jerry was absolutely perplexed that a guy was invited to the bridal
shower. I explained that Jen wanted to invite him, so we did. Jerry
kept saying, "You need a ticket to get into a bridal shower, and that
ticket is a vagina." Well, turns out, he brought that ticket after all.
In the form of his adorable almost 2-year-old daughter, Paige.


P1012746
Here is Jen opening my gift: a platinum bar set.


P1012747
I got Nicole a little something, too, because she is
moving across the country. She wanted to try out
San Francisco, so she quit her job at the paper and
went. That takes a lot of guts. I admire that.


jvoz
And, no, this did not happen at the shower. Jerry recently set this
as our desktop photo, and I can't explain how much I love it.
Maybe it's Voz nearly tonging Jerry's right ear. Maybe it's Jerry's
"I'm king of the world" stance. Maybe it's the boob grab. Who knows.
Regardless, I'm pretty sure I'll want this photo around when I'm 90.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

There is so much to write about today and so little time. Why you ask? Because my mom is driving down for a quick two-day visit and she should be here any minute. We're going to check out baby furniture and circus tents -- you know, maternity clothing -- because I'm already bloating out of my pants. It makes me wish I had taken a picture of my waist three months ago. I suppose I should take a picture now before it's completely unrecognizable.

So instead of a full-blown update on any one thing, here are a few little tidbits that I hope to remember to expound on a bit in a few days:

  • My being angry at inconsiderate people is NOT due to pregnancy hormones. Just like it's not related to the weather, the status of my car's gas tank or the color yellow.
  • The party really was great despite two no-shows. The desserts came out uber amazing and, on the bright side, we have leftovers. I have a few pictures to share.
  • I heart Country Time lemonade mix these days, but it's really hard to get the perfect ratio of lemony powder to water. Okay maybe this won't be a complete post, just felt the need to share.
  • I am so super excited about the month of May. Not only is my mom visiting, but I get to hang out with two of my best girls: Timberly, who is visiting from Nebraska for her bridal shower in a few weeks, and Gisela who was invited to the shower and will travel from Philly to spend the weekend at my house. I am WAY overdue for one of that girl's pick-me-up-off-the-ground bear hugs. I haven't seen her since my wedding.
  • Last but certainly not least: I, Kelly, hereby vow to relax a little (just a little) about this pregnancy. I have made it to the 12-week mark and the second trimester is just days away. And yesterday at our latest prenatal appointment, Jerry and I heard our baby's heartbeat for the very first time. And I can tell you that it is indescribably amazing.