Thursday, August 30, 2007

We're off

Be back in a few days!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A startling discovery

I noticed for the first time today that when I'm standing up straight, I can no longer see my feet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Realizing why babies and pastel colors go together

I know we still have a long way to go on the nursery, namely washing clothes and organizing everything, but it's so great seeing furniture in there. Every time I pass that room I stop, stand in the doorway and smile. It's such a relaxing setting for me. I can almost feel the endorphins rushing into my blood stream.

Which is good because the next few days are going to be absolutely hectic. We're leaving for my friend's wedding in Nebraska at 8 a.m. Thursday morning and in between then and now I have two more work shifts, a lengthy doctor's appointment and need to pack. Not to mention that as part of the bridal party, I'll be busy continually until our return flight leaves on Sunday.

The payoff is a few days in Chicago with Jerry next week. I'm calling it our "babymoon." It's much like a honeymoon, only instead, it's the last trip we'll get to take as a married couple without worrying about packing diapers and the other arsenal of crap little human beings require.

During our stay in the Windy City, Jerry will be turning 30. To celebrate, we've purchased Cubs tickets and will somehow round up "a big steak" somewhere.

In the meantime, I'm trying to get as much rest as I can in between tasks. And when I get too overwhelmed, I just step in the nursery and take a deep breath. I really love it in there.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Two days of vagina diagrams

Our weekend childbirth class turned out to be much less scary than I had imagined. I'm not sure why, but I had dreams of a drill sergeant-like instructor pacing the room with her hands behind her back saying things like, "Drop and give me 20 Lamaze breaths. Now scream because it HURTS."

When we got the class material in the mail a few days earlier, including a book and information sheet outlining what to expect and when, it immediately reinforced all of my irrational insecurities. The sheet read:
9:00: Introduction
9:30: Pain circle

Of course I freaked and yelled to Jerry who was in another room: "Did you see this? Pain circle? PAIN CIRCLE?! What the HELL is a PAIN CIRCLE? ... Is it my vagina? Is it some sort of torturous birthing device? Will we have to sit in a circle and share our feelings? ... Yeah, we're not going."

But Jerry convinced me to face the pain circle. In reality, it was a large poster with a big red felt circle labeled "PAIN." And over it, our instructor placed little white felt pie pieces labeled with ways to cope with that pain. When she was done, there was only one section of red remaining.

I was just relieved it wasn't some sick nickname for my lady parts.

The teacher, also much to my relief, was a friendly, knowledgeable, relatable, funny middle-aged woman with four children and lots of experience of her own. And appropriately named Eleanor.

Eleanor immediately picked up on the fact that Jerry and I were easy targets who would participate willingly, so a lot of the first day included good-intentioned jabs at our expense. And with Jerry, I guess nothing should surprise me anymore.

We took notes, got lots of handouts, watched videos, participated in group activities, discussed many important issues in-depth and came out with a better understanding of what to expect when my uterus starts saying, "It's time." Now, instead of complete panic, it will be controlled panic.

Plus I can say I know what a mucus plug is. Mmm ...

Here are a few other highlights:

  • After flipping through a series of posters outlining the progression of birth that increased in graphic intensity, Eleanor asked, "You okay Jerry? Still hanging in there?" Jerry's response: "Yeah, but I'd like to point out that sixth grade sex ed really doesn't prepare you for this."
  • Eleanor asked for a show of hands on who was exercising. Jerry, who has been running daily for a few months now, proudly raised his. The instructor just laughed. "Well, that's great Jerry, but I was mostly referring to the ladies on this one."
  • While watching very graphic videos of two different births, the rest of the class nodded intently. Jerry and I were gagging and giggling like idiots. Yup. We're SO ready to be parents.
  • When Eleanor asked us to get up and stand in stations about how we felt about receiving medication during labor, Jerry beelined for the neutral "I don't care either way" zone while I hung back in the "I'm going to try to go without because it's best for the baby" zone. Her point was that any couple who was unable to touch from their different locations needed to talk. And, of course, she used us as an example. Jerry, in his own defense said, "THIS WAS THE SAFE CHOICE AND NOW I'M IN TROUBLE!"
  • In her post-partum discussion, Eleanor pulled out a 3-D model of a placenta and explained that if we wanted to see ours, we would have to request it, otherwise it would be whisked away. Then she went on to explain that we could take it home if we wanted to and that many cultures cook it and eat it to increase longevity. Jerry's comment: "I'd rather set myself on fire."

Jokes aside, Jerry and I really learned a lot. We feel much better prepared to handle the uncertainties of birth and are better informed about our options. After that, we'll just have to figure out how to keep our daughter alive.

But that can't be any more intimidating than the pain circle.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

This week's newspaper column

I am the worst decision-maker of all time. I’ve known this about myself since I was 7, but every once in a while, it really starts to dig at me. I liken it to a woodpecker standing on top of my head, drilling at my right frontal lobe.

I can easily narrow down my choices to two options, but from there? Oh, the agony. If it came to a life-or-death situation, my dying words would be, ‘‘I don’t know. I have to think about it.’’

Take my recent trip to a fabric store, for example. I went with a couple projects in mind for the baby’s nursery, including reupholstering a footstool. After bee-lining to the clearance rack, I immediately got to work narrowing down the prospects.

One by one, I nixed them with ease. In my mind, each fabric was given a specific justification for not making the cut: ‘‘Ugly, too bright, too loud, really ugly, not pink enough, too pink. ...’’ I ticked through the bolts with lightning speed and a critical eye.

Then I came upon a cute pastel stripe pattern. It wasn’t offensive to my eyes and didn’t make me question what the designer was thinking. In fact, I might even say I loved it.

I should have left it at that. I should’ve walked to the cutting station, requested one yard, paid and left.

But, no. Even though I was completely content, I still had to make sure there wasn’t something even better around the corner.

This is the point that things usually go awry. I find something equally as appealing and then spend the next 20 minutes (or two weeks) agonizing over it. It’s never anything of consequence. Big decisions like the answer to ‘‘Will you marry me?’’ seem to come with ease. But whether or not to get my hair styled differently? Pressure.

As usual, I came across another adorable fabric. This one had big, funky flowers in the perfect shade of pink.

Then I stood in the aisle like a deer in headlights holding up one bolt, then the other, repeating the process over and over again until my head started to throb. I would’ve remained rooted in that spot forever, but the store was closing and a woman sweeping the floors with a giant broom forced me out of her way. If I really were a deer, I would’ve been a goner.

I ended up giving myself a pep talk: ‘‘All right, you can do this. It’s really not a big deal. Both will look great, it’s just a matter of which you prefer. You can’t lose. Just pick one. I mean, it’s only a $3 investment. ... BINGO!’’

It suddenly dawned on me that I could get BOTH for less than the price of a fast-food meal. So what if I only needed one? It’s never a horrible thing to have great fabric lying around for, um, emergencies, right?

I was like an addict trying to justify my bad habit. Realizing that buying both fabrics only would prolong my misery and likely delay the project from getting completed until after my daughter graduates from college, I stiffened my spine, took a hard look at both fabrics and set down the flowers. Good.

I’d be lying if I said I left it at that. I did have a moment of hesitation as I walked to the cutting station, even turned around for a second. But I stuck with the stripes and I’m glad.

Now I just need to decide on everything else going in her room — throw rug, crib, dresser, mobile, rocking chair — and hopefully before her November due date.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

I wonder which one of us will pass out first

Off to childbirth classes to watch scary movies.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Devising Plan Q

Apparently choosing baby furniture is a lot like getting a Christmas tree. It all looks small until you get it inside your house.

Or, in our case, even attempt to get it TO the house.

Without any baby stores in our area, Jerry and I had planned on selecting the crib, changing table and a dresser while we visited my hometown last weekend. Thinking back, I now know we were completely delusional that my CRV and his two-door Accord would fit all that furniture AND the stuff we got from the baby shower.

The second plan was to borrow a friend's full-size van and have my mom follow me back. But, of course, none of the pieces we selected were in stock. We paid and were told it would be seven to ten business days.

In the meantime, we devised a third plan: My mom would drive down with one of my brothers while Jerry and me are in Nebraska next week and drop it off. I made her a key to our front door and thought that was that.

Then the store called after two business days and said everything was in. So we devised a fourth plan: My mom and grandma would drive it down Thursday morning.

Only the boxes were so big they didn't fit into the van. The crib box alone could house the entire state of New York. And we got a chifferobe and changing table, too. So, after much sweating and swearing, my mom came to the realization that the only way to get everything to Pennsylvania without hacking it to bits with a chainsaw (as cathartic as that would've been), was to rent a truck. Although pricey, it still didn't come close to what the shipping costs on all three pieces would've been.

So, while I was at work last night, my mom arrived in a U-Haul with my grandma following behind in another car. Jerry and a friend were waiting to unload and lug everything upstairs.

I came home to find everyone asleep and a trail of little bits of styrofoam to the baby's room. There, the chifferobe and changing table, when placed end-to-end clears the door by about, oh, one inch -- give or take a millimeter.

I couldn't believe it. The furniture looked so small and dainty and cute in the big warehouse. In fact, it seemed downright dollhouse worthy. Now that it's in our house, it looks huge. Big enough to make me question why we thought we needed both big pieces in the first place.

But it's perfect. Absolutely perfect. Another inch of width on either piece and I'd be cursing the heavens, but fortunately, that's not the case.

This morning I was able to thank my mom and grandma by running to the grocery store and getting English muffins for breakfast. My mom vacuumed while I was gone despite my insistence that she not. And although I begged them to stay, I knew they both had things to do back home this afternoon. So I loaded them up with a bunch of pears off our tree and waived them off using Toby's paw as he sat in my arms.

I honestly don't know how any expectant parents could possibly do all of this alone. Jerry and I are so thankful to have such supportive families.

I guess love is a lot like a Christmas tree, too. It might seem small until you need it. Then you realize just how big it really is.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Teaching a dog the difference between apples and apples

Of all of the lessons Toby has been forced to learn -- don't lick random grains of rice off the inside of the dishwasher, don't pee on the carpet, don't jump out a window of a moving vehicle -- he now faces his most difficult concept yet.

Baby toys vs. Toby toys.

As in, this fluffy stuffy rattle thing is fine to drool on, gnaw and generally destroy, but this one over here? The one that pretty much looks exactly the same and makes a similar noise? Not yours. May the unbridled wrath of 10,000 Greek gods smite you if you even go near it.

He got his first introduction to the baby's toys yesterday afternoon while I was organizing the gifts we received from the shower. I placed all of the fluffy stuffy things in two baskets at the bottom of her bookshelf -- perfect height for Toby's taking. In fact, I think his neck just clears the top of the pink gingham liner. It's pretty much the same thing as when grocery stores put all of the sugary marshmallow cereals at eye-level for toddlers. An open invitation to throw a shit fit.

Sure, I could move the baskets up a shelf and do away with the whole problem, but then he won't learn the difference. And I'd much rather teach him now than when he bounds over to tackle our 3-month-old daughter on her play mat in the living room and rip the lamb rattle out of her uncoordinated fist, maybe stopping to straddle her a second to further show his one-upmanship.

So, in hopes of avoiding that scenario, I started training him now. As soon as the baskets started filling up, the allure of their stuffy goodness was apparently too much to resist. Toby pranced over to sniff and inspect, which was fine, but as soon as his jaw unhinged a millimeter, I gave him a stern verbal warning.

It's not even a word. More like a deep one-syllable grunt that says, "Yeah, I see what you're doing and, um, by the way? Don't even finish that thought, let alone execute it."

Toby knows this sound well. It's the same sound he hears when a piece of food accidentally flies off the kitchen counter that he isn't supposed to have. He instantly stops whatever he's doing and gives me a look that is a mixture of angelic goodness and utter confusion.

The entire afternoon continued this way as I unwrapped and folded and organized. Toby would wait until my back was turned for a second, walk over to the baskets of unfamiliar stuffy things and unhinge his jaw.

But I kept catching him and giving him the verbal warning. Then, when he stepped back, I would praise him and offer to toss around one of his toys. Toys he no longer had any interest in -- even the miniature stuffed ewok that is so enthralling he carries it around all day every day. No matter how much I played it up before tossing it, even employing some of our never-fail tactics like placing it on top of my head, he didn't care. One by one his toys sailed into the hallway without prompting so much as a flinch to retrieve it.

I could practically see his thoughts: "Newtoysinthebaskets, newtoysinthebaskets, NEWTOYSINTHEBASKETS!"

His persistence paid off. Briefly.

When I was fiddling with the Diaper Gene II instruction booklet, trying to figure out how in the hell that odd contraption functions, Toby saw his window of opportunity and seized it. I think it happened as I was trying to find the English directions among the 45 other languages printed on the pamphlet.

Seconds later I heard the pure jubilation in the other rooms upstairs. It was like Toby was throwing his own little party. The sound of his paws racing around on the carpet was enough for me to know that he had gotten a forbidden stuffy and was now tossing it into the air with his jaw and racing to catch it.

"TOBY!"

Then the party ended. He peeked into the hallway from the guest room just enough so I could see him from my sitting position on the nursery floor. Sure enough, he had the lamb rattle in his mouth.

He looked so pathetic and cute. I wanted to burst out laughing and let him have the toy and run and play and frolic with it until the stuffing was scattered all over like little tufts of snow. But that wouldn't teach him anything. So I stuck out my hand with purpose indicating that I wanted it back and said, "NO!"

Sure enough, the toy fell out of his mouth instantly. His ears drooped from their perpetually perky stance to tuck neatly into his head and his tail nub disappeared as he crouched his way toward me.

"It's alright," I said when he got to me. "But those aren't yours." Then I got up, picked up the rattle and placed it back in one of the baskets, adding another "No" for good measure.

It was a tough first lesson, but I think he's going to get it. Maybe we'll make the transition a little easier by getting Toby a little basket for that room, too. One he can put his ewok in.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Photos courtesy of those who were bright enough to remember their camera

Of all times to forget my camera, I didn't remember to bring it to my own baby shower. You know, a once-in-a-lifetime event. I had been charging the battery, and because of that, it wasn't in my purse like it is like every other second of every other ordinary day.

Of course, right?

I immediately noticed its absence when my mom and I pulled into the driveway where the party was being held and let out a very lovely string of expletives that definitely say "impending motherhood." (Much like my KEG T-shirt from college that is ironically the only one that fits me these days.)

Fortunately, word of my memory lapse spread quickly and everyone who DID remember to bring a camera started snapping away and vowed to e-mail me copies. The few below were taken by my mom and aunt, but I stupidly forgot to ask to get my picture taken WITH anyone. So most of the photos are of me opening gifts.

I would happily bore you with shot after shot of cute outfits, baby wipes and diaper rash cream, but, um, my legs no longer look like legs. They have morphed into huge tree trunks and every photo of me in the chair looks like my mammoth limbs grew out of the carpet in front of me.

I know I've gained weight. I can tell because even my maternity clothes don't fit as well as they used to. But looking at yourself in the mirror every day and not noticing the gradual change is one thing. Looking at a image after image of your arms that now resemble an overstuffed tube of encased meat is completely another. Sausage arms. Tree trunk legs. By November I might have to staple a bed sheet around my body as the only means to cover my Caravan ass.

So, here are a few photos of the party and two of me that won't make your eyes bleed. *

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All of the gigantic presents almost created a standing-room only situation.

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The hostess made a "flower" centerpiece out of baby socks.



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So cute!

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My friend Courtney got me this awesome outfit because we both wore
overalls almost every day of our senior year in high school. I think I had
12 pairs in all different colors. I can't WAIT for Little Miss to fit into it.

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This is the beautiful homemade quilt I received.

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I absolutely love this photo of my grandma and cousin Vanessa.

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How cute is this cake? And it tasted even better than it looked.

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My car filled to the brim.

* In case it wasn't painfully obvious, I am being sarcastic. I am completely comfortable with the necessary weight gain of pregnancy. Please don't come to my house and impale my sausage arms and tree trunk legs on a huge pitchfork and roast my Caravan ass over a bonfire. Thank you.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Love wrapped in pink ribbons

There is nothing quite so humbling as answering the door to family and friends as they shuffle in one-by-one carrying huge boxes and bags in your honor. Before I even started opening gifts, my eyes welled up just at the sight of the huge pile of beautiful pastel wrappings and bows.

I couldn't shake the overwhelming feeling of love and support in that room. Advice was given, jokes were shared and I felt every bit the guest of honor that the hostesses intended. In fact, a few of us I arrived early and when I offered my assistance, I was shot a look that immediately dismissed the absurdity of my even mentioning it. Then I was told to help myself to a glass of lemonade.

Everything was perfect. It was held at the home of one of my mom's closest friends and it was decorated beautifully. Of course there was pink everywhere, including my great-grandmother's pink china for dinner, a perfect single pink rose centerpiece and adorable baby-themed confetti scattered around the table.

I'm not sure why more people don't have showers on Friday nights because it created the perfect party atmosphere. Everyone congregated in the kitchen for the first hour as guests filed in and found the appetisers. Then we had a fantastic chicken Caesar salad, fruit kabobs and homemade bread for dinner and, of course, a marble cake made by my all-time favorite bakery. The hostesses had given the owner one of my invitations and he mimicked it in frosting.

When I sat down to open my gifts and everyone filled in the seats around me to watch, I couldn't help but start out by saying what a huge relief their generosity was providing me. As much fun as both of my bridal showers were, and as fabulous as it was to receive brand new fluffy towels, beautiful serving platters and fancy salt and pepper shakers, Jerry and I could've survived without most of it.

Not the case with baby showers. Everything I received, we needed desperately. I have no idea what we would've done without their help. To keep myself from full-out bawling and likely ruining the party, I tried not to think too much about it and just threw myself into the excitement of each little outfit and tube of butt rash ointment.

The gifts seemed endless. I received almost all of the major necessities including a car seat, two strollers (one for heavy travel, one for quick trips), a play yard, infant tub and a motorized musical rocker. Then there were the little things like clothes and diapers and baby shampoo. And the sentimental things like beautiful homemade quilts, a hand-typed booklet of advice by a new mom and a stack of burned CDs with soothing lullabies for the nursery.

After hugs and thank yous and more congratulations and best wishes, the party wound down. Jerry and my dad showed up to help with boxes and before I knew it, everything was loaded into cars and I was thanking the hostesses for such a wonderful time.

The next morning, Jerry and I went through all the packages together so he could see what we had received, and it just continued to strike me how lucky we are to have so many people who care about us.

And soon will care about our daughter.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Now I know what the Pointer Sisters felt like when they wrote 'I'm so Excited'

My baby shower is today!

I have so much to do between then and now it's not even funny -- namely drive five hours to the city it is being held in -- but I've been looking forward to this weekend for months. One, because it would mean that I had hit my third trimester; two, because the older (read: wiser) I've become, I realize how important it is to have your family and great friends in your life.

Sure, I know I'll feel an immense amount of relief when I come back home in a few days and the nursery actually has stuff in it to (gasp!) accommodate a baby, but as of this moment, I'm most looking forward to seeing everyone and giving big hugs. Well, as much as my protruding belly allows me to these days, anyway.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Note to self

Don't use a gigantic bread knife to get the plastic ring off a gallon of milk just because it's conveniently stored on the counter next to the fridge. ESPECIALLY don't do this in front of your impressionable child. Screaming obscenities when you accidentally miss and hit your finger is not appropriate for any audience. Except maybe the dog.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Roving Museum

There are a few remnants of Jerry's life B.K. (Before Kelly), but none so obvious as the state of his vehicle.

When we were dating, he always went the chivalrous route to open the passenger side door for me. Sure, it showed me he cared, but mostly I think it was because he needed to swat off all of the CDs and random accumulation that had gathered on the seat and floor in front of it.

I just laughed and lovingly nicknamed his car The Roving Museum. And up until very recently, it remained full of surprises. Literally.

Admission was free, but visitors never knew what to expect. After he and I moved in together, there were little bits of his life that never quite made it out of his car. Entire garbage bags full of Penn State paraphernalia, mismatched socks, loose change and kitchen utensils occupied the back seat for months.

The exhibits would change on occasion when he needed to make room in a hurry for a few more friends during an impromptu decision to go see a concert or something, but more stuff eventually and inevitably took its place.

The neat freak in me couldn't help but clean out his car on the few occasions I borrowed it. I never got to the big stuff, just stopped at a gas station and purged the gum wrappers and year-old Entertainment Weekly magazines. But try as I might, the piles just regenerated. It was as if the junk thought it was its manifest destiny to expand to the other side.

Eventually I gave up. I tried appealing to his economical side by showing him newspaper articles with experts proclaiming how fuel efficiency improves when your vehicle has less weight to haul, but he just shrugged and countered that I'm the one who cares about that stuff, not him.

Right.

So, on the rare occasions that we decided to take his car somewhere instead of mine, he just kept opening the passenger door for me and decluttered the seat. And I did my best to feign surprise when I pulled down the sun visor and a mess of crap, including expired parking passes and two-year-old mail, fell on my lap.

But not anymore. Jerry finally found a good reason to clean out his car: a car seat. (And the baby that will need to go in it sometime in November.) I found myself counting down the days to the birth of our child as well as The Great Car Declutter of 2007.

Much to my surprise and delight, that momentous event came much sooner than expected. We need his trunk space for hauling baby shower gifts from our trip to Rochester this weekend.

HOORAAAAYYY!

So, a few days ago, Jerry and I donned our HAZMAT suits, grabbed the box of garbage bags from under the sink and popped his trunk. It flew open so fast it seemed as if the latch was barely able to contain all of the contents inside.

And once we got underway, I understood why.

The motley collection really was quite impressive. We started pulling things out one-by-one and even Jerry looked surprised at most of it, often saying things like, "Ohhhh, THAT'S where that went!"

We found a blue sleeping bag and a red down comforter under the first layer and decided to place them on the ground and pile everything else on top. Here is a partial (and I emphasize partial) list of what we unearthed:
  • Four cans of Lindhurst Gallery Beige paint that Jerry said he would return to the hardware store a year ago
  • About five feet of chicken wire fence
  • A dozen or so T-shirts, including one with a velvet image of Mr. T's face
  • 9,440,038 CDs and cases, including the original Motorhead album which he lovingly set aside and immediately imported into our iTunes library
  • A fishing rod, tackle box, waders and a few empty beer cans (Jerry's most recent hobby is hanging out with his outdoorsy friend Ben "down by the RIVA.")
  • A Hallmark bag with a receipt from the card he got me for Valentine's Day circa 2004
  • The Ugliest Bath Towel in the History of Bath Towels
  • A random green flannel fitted bed sheet
  • Pennstateopoly (Monopoly for Penn State fans -- because you never know when you might need that on a road trip)
  • A first-aid kit, tool set and jumper cables buried at the very bottom -- so deep that he had no idea they were in there and would never have been able to get to them in the event of an emergency
  • Two saucer sleds that my friend Gisela and I purchased the DAY AFTER JERRY AND I MET
  • A Steelers workman's helmet
  • Two ice scrapers, to which Jerry replied, "And to think that I've been using CD cases for about three winters."
  • A TiVo
  • A pair of shoes
Lets just say it took multiple trips to get everything inside and sorted out. And multiple tissues to wipe the tears from streaming down my face in laughter.

As we stood back and took stock of what his trunk was surprisingly able to hold, it was a bittersweet moment.

The museum has officially closed. But I'm proud to say I was one of its most regular visitors.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The alligator has a home

I just wrote a whole entry that I decided to save as my newspaper column. I'll post it here after it's published. In the meantime, because my writing is spent for the day and I'm in SERIOUS need of some food, I'll leave you with an image that never ceases to make me laugh when I see it.

Jerry and I finished emptying out what will become the nursery last weekend, carting all of the Christmas lights and other holiday decorations out of the baby's closet and up to the attic. Sure, it was a bit of a crappy realization to discover that we forgot to check the paint color in there, but it felt good knowing that we'll have a place to put her clothes and belongings -- after we haul out the green paint. Again.

To celebrate the uncluttered closet, I hung up the one thing we have on a hanger -- the cool alligator onesie we got in Harrisburg. (Hopefully she won't destroy it as fast as Toby destroyed his matching alligator toy.)


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It looks so hilariously tiny in all that cavernous space.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I was almost worthy of a fry upgrade

Since when is hitting on a pregnant woman a good idea? Call me crazy, but if the diamond ring on my left hand didn't give it away that I was in somewhat of a serious relationship, maybe the fact that my uterus is now protruding past my bellybutton provided a bit of a clue?

And yet, crazy Wendy's Fry Guy didn't much seem to care.

I was at work Saturday night and found myself hankering for some of Dave Thomas' specialties: a chicken sandwich, fries, a frosty, the whole value menu. Uh, I mean meal. Value meal. *cough* Freudian what? *cough*

As always, I decided to walk into the store rather than use the drive-thru because, well, I have legs. And I like snagging a handful of their super sanitary individually wrapped plasticware for my desk drawer. Plus I can better monitor how many ketchup packets I get if I'm standing right there when they toss them in the bag. Any less than 103 and I'm so asking for more.

While I was placing my order, I noticed Fry Guy was staring. A lot. So much that I almost stopped to remind him to blink. As in, "I'd like a chicken sandwich, a small fry and a chocolate ... DUDE, WOULD YOU BLINK ALREADY? ... frosty, please."

But I didn't get a chance. He interrupted my order request before I could.

"HI! HOWYADOINTODAY?"

I think I was mid-word. As in, "I'd like a chick- ... um, fine thanks ... en sandwich."

Apparently, he was oblivious to the third party in our conversation -- THE CASHIER I WAS ACTUALLY SPEAKING TO -- because he continued screaming over the sound of hot bubbling grease.

"GOOD CHOICE! ... THE CHICKEN. GOOD CHOICE."

First of all, thanks for the endorsement. Not that I need anyone to tell me that the chicken sandwich at Wendy's is a good idea. It's not like I've been eating them at different locations all over the country for the last TWO DECADES. I mean, they're not exactly hard to come by. Not like, say, the giant blue sapphire necklace that crazy bitch threw in the ocean at the end of "Titanic." And, second, the menu isn't all that extensive. Customers have the agonizing task of choosing between chicken patties, beef patties and fish patties. Wow. It hurts just trying to wrap my brain around such staggering options. It's a good thing Fry Guy was there to steer me in the right direction.

Apparently the cashier was as annoyed with Fry Guy's antics as I was. Eventually, she turned toward him, threw out her arms in exasperation and said, "GARY, STOPPPPP! Ugh." Even better, she was still close enough to the register microphone that it sort of reverberated through the grill area causing the rest of the cooks to erupt with laughter.

But that didn't deter Fry Guy. In his best attempt at using his indoor voice he said, "WHAT? She's hotttt! STOP BUSTING MY STONES. ... STOP BUSTING MY STONES."

Because "balls" isn't appropriate to say as an employee at one of America's most beloved fast food chains, but "stones" is fine. No one will have any clue what that clever analogy is meant to imply. Especially not the line of customers in front of the counter.

And thanks to Fry Guy's fantastic declaration of love, the rest of the men in purple polo shirts oh-so-subtly took turns abandoning their posts for a momentary walk to the counter area to look in my general direction, eye me up and down then return to their station. I now know, with a certain degree of accuracy, what it feels like to be part of a zoo exhibit. I'm sure that will only solidify once I have given birth.

To top it off, I couldn't exactly see where Fry Guy was coming from. I mean, I pretty much looked like I had just crawled out of bed thanks to an afternoon spent swimming at my mother-in-law's house. I was wearing an oh-so-stellar maternity top, elastic waistband shorts and flip flops with dog teeth indents. The outfit was rounded out with frizzy pool hair and no makeup -- unless you count leftover under-eye mascara streaks as makeup. Yep. I was ready for my close up.

But putting up with Fry Guy almost had its perks. Instead of a small fry, he gave me a jumbo container. Then he ran to get my chocolate frosty and put it in one of those mammoth cups that I'm pretty sure holds an entire gallon of liquid.

Unfortunately, the cashier noticed and intervened. "What are you DOING? ... She wanted SMALLS!"

But before I could say, "Don't worry about it," in my most nonchalant voice, she dumped the large fries back into the warming tray and scooped out a small. Then proceeded to get my itty bitty frosty.

Whatever.

I took extra plasticware. So there.

Fry Guy thankfully didn't have the "stones" to ask for my name or number or anything, so our grease-filled rendezvous ended at the door with him shouting, "IHOPEYOUHAVEANICEDAY!"

Next time I think I'll use the drive-thru.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Rocka-buy-baby

This baby is only two pounds with an 80 percent survival rate outside my womb and yet she's already completely changed my life.

In an insane effort to "prepare," I find myself constantly hunting for deals because of this neurosis that I've developed. I call it All Things Baby. If it relates to a newborn, I'm all over it. If it doesn't, I don't bother. I'm like a heat-seeking missile steered by pastels and fluffy fabrics.

For the first time in my life, I don't have a clue what's in style. The mere sight of the fall fashion magazines, which I usually fawn over, now make me sick. Cute little button-down tops and hip-hugging jeans aren't even in my vocabulary at the moment. Not only do I not fit into them, but any new clothing purchases in this house these days are pint sized. At this point, I consider it a success if I wear matching shoes out of the house because I can just barely see my feet to check.

My pathetic excuse for a wardrobe isn't the only casualty. All Things Baby has infected other parts of my life, as well.

Last year at this time, I would've been absolutely disgusted that the throw pillows scattered on my front porch furniture haven't matched the rest of the house ever since we painted outside more than a month ago. Green pillows on a red brick house with a tan porch? I know. I should be ashamed. It's amazing I still have the balls to walk my dog down our street. Frankly, I think I'm high off the knowledge that I don't live in a neighborhood with a Homeowners Association. Me and my hideous unmatching sun-bleached pillows can't be blacklisted.

It's like I'm subtly giving a middle finger to my neighbors.

And, sadly, it doesn't even matter that Pottery Barn is likely having a sale on outdoor pillows right now. Being the best store on the planet, it probably has the perfect 18-inch square pillows in a tan ticking stripe fabric on clearance.

But, strangely enough, I don't even care.

DO YOU HEAR ME RETAILERS?

I DON'T CARE!

YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME ANYMORE!

Sure, it's kind of freeing, but at the same time, I'm in completely unfamiliar territory. It feels odd not to have a gravitational pull beckoning me to The Gap. Well, I still go in there, but I beeline for the baby section. Instead of ogling the latest set of ballet flats, I'm standing in the corner squeezing the plush yellow ducky and laughing at the electronically generated quacking sound. Then I squeeze the monkey. Then the frog.

Yes, I have become a complete loser.

A complete loser who is no longer in the much-coveted 18- to 25-year-old shopping demographic. I buy things like mulch and economy-sized hand soap instead of CDs and $200 sneakers. Glamorous.

Part of me wonders if the stores noticed. Whether some executive in a plush office somewhere spotted a blip on The Limited retail sales figures in February after I found out I was pregnant. I picture them mourning my loss of business, calling big all-night meetings where they order Chinese take-out and the boss screams, "No one leaves this office until we figure out how to lure Kelly back!"

But little do they know that I'm doing the system a favor. Sure, I'll never be in the target demo ever again, but I'm about to nurture something that will grow up to buy CDs and sneakers.

And just think of all the phases in between! Newborn to infant to toddler to pre-tween to tween to pre-teen to TEEN! And by then, I'll probably be well into the $4,355,065,220 they say it costs to raise a baby born in 2007.

So I guess the retailers shouldn't worry too much. Just because I'm a lost cause, doesn't mean I'm gone forever.

Pastels and fluffy fabrics are just the beginning.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Taking deep breaths before I've even attended Lamaze classes

Today marks the start of my third trimester and I'm officially getting nervous. I guess I just feel so unprepared.

There are the little things like not having a name picked out and not having any nursery furniture yet. Then there are the big things like not having any clue what to expect trying to get this baby out of me. Looming questions seem to have become more pronounced in my subconscious like: Can I even do this? Am I trying hard enough? Will I be a good mother?

The online pregnancy forum that I've been frequenting is only adding to my worries. All of the women with similar due dates seem to have everything together: names, pictures posted of their completed baby room and they're even swapping advice on diapers. Diapers! I can honestly say that diapers are the absolute last thing on my mind right now.

One of our very kind and thoughtful neighbors unknowingly solidified that worry by stopping by this week to drop off an information pamphlet, including coupons, for diapers that she got in the mail. She pointed out that they expire soon, but figured we would want to save money wherever possible.

When she left, I turned to Jerry and nearly had a breakdown. Should we be buying diapers? Am I already completely inept at this parenting thing? Is the whole "maternal instinct" term everybody keeps talking about a complete load of crap? Or is mine just not functioning properly? Because, if it was, I would apparently have enough diapers stashed away in my linen closet to open a retail store.

Then there was the scary realization that I still think newborns look gross. I guess I just assumed that at this stage in pregnancy, I would automatically change my opinion on the subject. Like my "maternal instinct" would kick in and make me feel all melty at the sight of the bloody, goopy, purple, wrinkly, alien-looking things they show moments after birth on "A Baby Story."

A few days ago, I watched an episode for the first time in months and still found myself recoiling in horror. In fact, I think I actually said, "Ugh, nasty" aloud, scrunched up my face and crossed my legs for good measure.

When I confided my feelings to Jerry later that night, asking if that makes me a freak among pregnant woman, he just laughed and reassured me that newborns are gross looking. But we'll feel differently when its our own. Then I think he compared it to poop -- nobody wants to see anybody else's feces, but you instinctually take a peek at your own every time you go.

Crazy analogy, sure, but it made sense somehow.

In the meantime, I've been trying not to let my fears and worries and feelings of inadequacy run rampant. I just take a deep breath and try to concentrate on one day at a time. Or even one minute at a time. My baby shower is next weekend. We're furniture shopping the day after that. The next weekend we'll be attending an intense two-day crash course at the hospital on labor and delivery.

So who cares if we haven't bought diapers yet?

We DID buy the perfect piggy bank this week ... and piggy banks in the perfect shade of pink without a creepy painted-on face are much harder to come by.

Diapers schmiapers.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Radio waves

There have been a rash of convenience store robberies in our area over the past few weeks and it had police going crazy trying to catch this guy.

The suspect was a tall white male who dressed all in black, including a black bandanna wrapped around his face -- earning him the nickname The Black Bandanna Bandit.

Officials got so close on numerous occasions. Even the convenience stores started to notice trends and keep a watchful eye to protect their businesses. In fact, one store manager saw the would-be robber coming and locked up mid-afternoon, obtaining hilarious camera footage of the Bandit running up to the doors, shaking them vigorously in confusion and retreating in a sprint to his getaway vehicle.

Well, after conducting successful armed robberies into the double digits, police nabbed him and his female accomplice yesterday.

The news quickly filtered to all the media outlets, where Jerry and his radio morning show co-host, Troy, had a blast with the information, saying things like:

"What a freakin idiot! Everyone knows the house wins eventually. You can't keep gambling and gambling forever without getting your jackpot wiped out. You have to know when to quit!"

"Yeah, I mean, I learned that lesson when I was 6 watching 'Press Your Luck' with my grandma! Every idiot who used all of their free spins hit a whammy sometime!"

Then they drilled it home by taking turns tossing insults.

"Idiot."

"Moron."

"Loser."

"Yeah, loser."

"LOOOOSER."

"BLACK BANDANNA LOSER."

When they got off the air, the phone rang. It was Troy's police buddy that he works out with on occasion.

He called to tell the guys that their message sometimes gets to the right people. Apparently Troy's friend was the one who was transporting the Bandit to the police station for booking. During the ride, he had the radio tuned to their morning show.

The Bandit, sitting in handcuffs in the backseat, heard the whole thing and reacted by snorting and huffing and puffing and scrunching up his face in displeasure.

A little justice before any judge.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Proof that even a yawn can be exciting

My experience at the nursing school turned out to be more informative for me than it likely was for the women in training. At least, I left with that impression. Many of them seemed very adept at wielding the ultrasound equipment. Their teacher answered a few questions here and there, but I soaked it all in.

Timberly's sister Lindsey instructed me to lay down on the exam table and prepped me by tucking a disposable sheet into my pants to prevent them from getting goopy and warned me the jelly would be cold as she squirted it onto my skin. Being such a hot day, I had no complaints. It actually felt pretty nice.

Jerry, who was able to come at the last minute, stood to my left with a clear shot of the monitor. As soon as Lindsey lowered the wand to my skin, fetal images appeared. Although there were eight or so other girls in the room, one with a newborn of her own -- six-week old Gunner, there was hardly a sound as Lindsey took her time methodically scanning the baby, pointing out what she saw and where.

The images were understandably a little more grainy than what I had previously seen at my doctor's office, but it didn't take long to discern what was what. The head. The spine. The umbilical cord. A tiny fist.

I fall more in love every time I see her.

After Lindsey finished, she offered the wand to her classmates. One by one they sat down, introduced themselves and got a glimpse of their own.

Being an open lab session, their teacher only intervened when asked, or when it appeared someone was having trouble or confused. That was my favorite part. She would explain things most moms-to-be probably never get a chance to see and hear.

The second girl, Rachel, who admitted not knowing a leg from an arm after explaining, "I haven't done this in awhile," got a lot of help.

"Did you find the crown of the head?" her teacher asked. "Establish that first. Always start with that and work your way around from there."

Grabbing the wand, the instructor moved with precision and expertise to my lower abdomen and the two hemispheres of the brain came into focus. By increasing the resolution and lowering the depth, little neural folds came into view.

"Now, if the spine is here, which way is the baby laying?" the teacher asked Rachel.

"Um ... to the right?"

"Good."

"And if you wanted a profile shot of the face, how would you get it?"

"Um ... over here?" Then Rachel swept the wand to the left side of my belly and pressed hard against my skin.

Sure enough, a tiny profile came into view. I was awestruck.

"Is Chuck in here?"

A little confused, I turned and shot Jerry an inquisitive look. I hadn't seen any other males in the room. Apparently neither could he from his standing vantage point because he gave me a confused a look back and sort of shrugged.

Then one of the girls handed the teacher a tiny little naked plastic doll. I laughed. Chuck. Got it.

She used Chuck to show how the baby was laying in my belly and placed the doll's hands over his face. "That's why you're not getting a clear frontal image of the face, just the nose and mouth."

Amazing.

Either way, it was the best look at the lower half of my daughter's head that I had seen up to that point. Her nose came into focus and her lips stood out because they appeared a little darker on the screen than the rest of her face. I just kept thinking how beautifully full they are. Just like her dad's.

And then, when it seemed I couldn't possibly feel any closer to that grainy image, she yawned. I got to watch as she opened her mouth wide and scrunched up her nose.

I couldn't help but think how strange it is that I feel more connected to her after getting to see her on a screen. It's like official proof that a person is actually in there. All those thumps and whooshes I've been feeling really are tiny flailing appendages. I know because I saw the movement on the screen as it was happening. She was incredibly active the entire time.

The other girls took turns, each one pointing out something different. One used a special cursor to draw a box over the umbilical cord and hit another button to show the blood rushing through it. Another measured her skull and calculated her approximate fetal development stage and weight: 27 weeks and 1 day, almost 2 pounds. Another reconfirmed her lady parts.

They thanked me when the lab ended and the teacher invited me back, much to my delight.

"I really appreciate you coming in," she said. "You're more than welcome to come back either for another open lab or once the semester starts."

"I'd love that," I said. "This is probably way more fun for me than it is for you guys. I won't have any more ultrasounds at my doctor's office, so it's great to get to see her at all these different stages of development."

Lindsey promised her teacher she'd set up another appointment with me and everyone filed out of the room, leaving me, Jer and Lindsey to ourselves. She gave me a few extra paper towels to wipe off my belly because the one that had been tucked into my pants was completely saturated from so many different jelly squirts. In fact, it tore apart as I tried to peel it from my skin.

Jer and I thanked Lindsey over and over as we walked to our cars. I left with a few printed images that the girls had saved for me, but none of them will compare with the mental image of seeing my daughter yawn in the womb.

And knowing that she has Jerry's lips.

P1011664
Here is Lindsey giving me an ultrasound. If you look closely, you can
see the baby's profile on the screen. The blob above it is her right hand.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

In the name of science

This morning I am going to be a belly guinea pig. My good friend Timberly's sister is training to become a nurse and asked if I would like to come in so her class can practice doing ultrasounds on me.

All I heard was, "Would you like to have an opportunity to look at your baby on a screen for a few hours?"

To which I replied: "DUHHH! ... Um, I mean, yes. ... Yes, please. ... Can I still come?"

Thankfully, she agreed.

26 weeks
Speaking of bellies, here is mine at 26 weeks.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A little Toby time

As much as I want to hop in a time machine and speed to November, preferably right after delivering the baby so I just pop into the moment where I'm sweaty and panting and full of relief and joy as they place my hopefully goop-free daughter into my arms for the first time, I know there are moments during the next three months that I need to appreciate and hold onto with all my might.

Because my childfree days are rapidly diminishing, and pretty soon I'm sure I'll wish I could hop in a time machine and speed back to today and my lack of responsibilities to anyone other than myself ... just for an hour.

So as much as I have to look forward to, I'm trying my best to make the most of every day up until then. And appreciate all the little things.

Things like playing with my oddly revved-up dog at 1 a.m.

When I got home from work last night, Toby was uncharacteristically waiting to greet me at the door. (I know, I know. Dogs are SUPPOSED to greet people at the door -- it's really not a novel concept. But people who make that assumption of all dogs would be seriously underestimating Toby's ability to succumb to his love of laying around.)

Most nights, I take a little time to myself to wind down after work, even fumble around in the kitchen for a glass of water to take my daily prenatal vitamin before bed so I don't have to taste the disgusting remnants that revisit in the form of herbal-tasting burps. But even my most inviting kitchen noises never prompt Toby to leave his spot at the foot of our bed upstairs.

His love of lounging is so strong that all I get is a nub wag when I walk into the bedroom to straighten the sheets and encourage Jerry to take up three-quarters of the bed, not the whole thing so I can squeeze in somewhere. Sometimes Toby will lift his head, but usually just his tail nub gives a few involuntary thumps. I always give him a kiss on his head and tell him I love him, too.

But not last night. Last night he was fired up for some reason. So fired up that he scared the crap out of me when I opened the door. He came flying at me with front paws outstretched in a strange motion that resembled when pro wrestlers launch themselves from the top of the ropes. If I didn't know better, I would've thought he had been waiting for me on the nearby chair and timed it just right to leap out from the darkness to see if I could manage not to pee myself.

By the time I was able to set my purse and empty dinner containers down, he was skitting around the floor in race mode. Sometimes, when he's really excited, his whole body wags. It's as if he knows someone cut off his tail and to make up for it, he wags his torso.

In between bursts of laughter, I managed to let him outside. He scooped up a tennis ball on the way and didn't drop it at the door like he usually does, but instead opted to take it with him into the yard. You know, in case one of the neighbor dogs was out late and wanted to play.

I followed him outside, sat on the bench under the pear tree and just watched as he tore through the yard, leaping, abandoning his toy, sniffing everything, checking for rogue bunnies and marking his favorite bush with urine. And then more sniffing.

After awhile, he hopped up onto the bench with me and we just sort of took in our surroundings. Until he sneezed. Then he ran back to the porch and looked at me expectantly like, "Um, LETS GO. This door isn't going to open itself."

When we got inside, I snapped a treat in half and he disappeared up the stairway to shield his bounty from anyone else unlucky enough not to have one.

By the time I joined him upstairs a few moments later, he was waiting directly in the center of the top steps, head and front paws flopped over the edge. I stepped around him and he didn't move, an indication that the lazy Toby I know and love was starting to return.

He remained sprawled out on his back while I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed, always keeping a watchful eye on my movements. When I finished, even as tired as I was, I couldn't resist sitting on the carpet to spend a few more moments with him before bed.

As soon as I got comfortable, Toby broke his calm stance by racing into the bedroom. It was as if an idea popped into his head that was so great, he had to sprint to execute it. Sure enough, he returned with the gross butt-end of a rawhide bone and started gnawing with delight.

I just watched and laughed as he rolled it around expertly between the left and right side of his jaw. The faces he was making were priceless. If I thought I could've gotten away with getting up to find my camera or, better yet, the video camera, I would've done it. But I knew he'd never return to what he was doing. No matter how much I cajoled him.

So I just sort of watched and laughed as he worked the rawhide to the point that it was soft enough to pull pieces off. Then he would secure it between his front paws and rip at it with his teeth until a section gave way. And as small as those pieces were, he acted as if his mouth was full of peanut butter. He'd raise his nose to the sky and open his mouth wide, using his tongue to keep him from choking on it.

To be honest, I'm surprised I didn't wake Jerry with my laughter.

I sat there awhile longer, just watching Toby enjoy his treat and eventually looked down the hallway into the now empty nursery. I couldn't help but wonder if these private moments with my dog will fall by the wayside when I have a child to look after. Or, at the very least, get cut short when she starts crying. Or maybe I'll just be too tired to appreciate anything that late at night other than the feeling of my head hitting a pillow.

Either way, I made a mental note and decided to made a conscious effort not to wish the rest of my summer and fall away.

Our daughter will get here eventually.

In the meantime, I have a lot to appreciate.

Monday, August 6, 2007

My very own personal Victoria's Secret angel

I really am a frugal idiot when it comes to the weirdest things. I have been refusing to spend money on myself -- especially when it comes to the clothes that I'm rapidly outgrowing -- but I'll drop $20 on a nightlight plus shipping because it's for the baby.

(In my defense it really is the cutest nightlight on the planet and completely matches the nursery. Plus, it's no longer available in stores so it's practically an antique or something. Aaaannnddd, I got it on eBay, so I keep telling Jerry that I WON it, which just sounds better.)

In the meantime, Jerry has been listening to me complain about how tight my bras have become every night when I peel them off my skin and inspect the temporary red indents they leave behind and again every morning when I reluctantly put them on even though I crave the bit of support they give me.

So after catching a matinee on Sunday, Jerry practically dragged me across the street to the mall to get a few bras. I reluctantly agreed to get out of the car, but only on the condition that I found cheapo bras on clearance. I am still holding on to the hope that my boobs will return to their previous barely B cup state, which I now know to be pure bliss in the bosoms category.

We went to a department store first and it was absolute chaos in there. There was only one woman working the lingerie section and she looked beyond frazzled as one particular customer plagued her about finding a convertible bra without underwires, which apparently doesn't exist. So Jerry and I waited patiently at the counter while he kept joking under his breath how unnatural it felt to even be in the vicinity of all these "underthings." He said it much in the same way you'd say "writhing mass of maggots." Like the mere act of uttering the word caused a little bit of stomach bile to erupt into his mouth.

Eventually, the saleswoman came around and I explained that being pregnant has done really strange things to my chest and asked if she could measure me so I had an idea of what size I should be looking for. When she announced that I am now a 36D, Jerry thankfully managed to control his mouth from saying anything even moderately celebratory sounding, but his eyes nearly bugged out of his head.

"They're HORRIBLE I tell you," I said when we walked away to scour the racks for something appropriate for my rack.

It was like my first trip to the bra store all over again -- an awkward, floundering mess. Only this time, instead of having my mother with me who was doing her best to gently steer me toward all of the very conservative looks, I had my husband with me who was doing his best to subtly steer me toward all of the very racy looks. And, of course, because my life wouldn't be right without a heaping serving of irony, I wanted the opposite both of those times: racy when I was a kid, boring can-wear-under-anything beige now.

After much digging, I grabbed a bunch of clearance styles, but not without noting how readily available 36B is. Again with the irony -- I would've killed for bigger boobs in my younger years, now I curse them.

Jerry, being the trooper that he is, offered to hold my purse when I went in to try them on and wished me luck.

But finding a good bra is just as hard as finding a good man who will hold your purse in the underwear department. As I rejected them one by one, I felt my self esteem deflating. They were all uncomfortable. Whether the straps were too narrow and digging into my shoulders or the elastic was too constricting, none of them felt anywhere near the supportive relief I craved.

And, of course, because I needed help, the saleswoman was nowhere to be found. When you don't want them, they're up your ass; when you need them, they're sipping coffee in the break room.

I emerged blinking back tears and told Jerry that my old bras would have to do for a little while longer. And, again, being the awesome guy that he is, he immediately translated that to mean: "I need to go to Victoria's Secret, but I can't be the one to suggest it because I really don't want to spend that kind of money, but if YOU suggest it, I will reluctantly agree."

"Victoria's Secret?"

I nodded.

"C'mon," he said, tossing an arm around my shoulders.

Unfortunately, Ms. Victoria discontinued my favorite bra. Just when I needed it most.

Fortunately, I found the best saleswoman in the store who completely understood what I was going through. She was the only one over 19 and had three daughters of her own, who also had daughters. Therefore, she was very knowledgeable about out-of-control pregnant boobs.

She also measured me to be a 36D and Jerry's eyes again popped out of his head even though the information wasn't new this time, then she further proved her expertise by leading me over to the sale rack.

"These are all 40 percent off. If you have three months left, you may need bigger bras eventually, so I'd recommend something cheap, basic, a nude color and comfortable," she said.

Forget those fake wing-clad, skinny-ass models in the catalog. This woman was the real Victoria's Secret angel.

With her help, I found the perfect bra. It supports without leaving red indents on my skin and wasn't scratchy or gougy or ridy-uppy. And it was on sale.

I've always said that there is no better feeling than putting on new underwear, but now I know I was wrong.

It feels downright AMAZING when you're putting on new underwear that actually FITS for the first time in months.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

An apple a day keeps the friends at bay

The minor league ballpark in our area, like most ballparks, has awesome food. More specifically, it has awesome caramel apples. Coated with rainbow sprinkles.

Unfortunately, I'm not such an avid fan of root, root, rooting for the home team. I mean, sure, I hope they win over, say, I don't know, um, the traveling team. (Can you tell I couldn't think of another team in our division?) But I won't ever be investing in season tickets. Not even if I won the biggest lottery jackpot in the history of lottery jackpots. I really enjoy attending one, maybe two games a season, but I'm content leaving it at that.

But not those apples. I am not content with one, maybe two of those apples a season. I love them and all of their gooey goodness.

Lucky for me, I work at the newspaper where the ballpark is a regular workday stop for some of our reporters and photographers. All I have to do is look at the gigantic game schedule magnet slapped on my desk drawer to see if the team is at home, check out the photo book schedule and call the photographer on ballpark assignment and ask them to pretty please pick me up an apple. With sprinkles on top.

Last night, Jason was on apple duty. When he returned to the newsroom, I started clapping, and I'm pretty sure a "YAAAAAYYYYY" escaped out of my mouth.

He placed the apple on my desk with the advice to put it in the fridge for awhile because it was hot, but I chose not to heed that advice. I had been looking forward to that apple for hours. There was no way anything or anyone was going to get it before I was. Especially not the fridge where it might "accidentally" get picked up by someone other than me. Not that something like that has ever happened before, but why risk it with a tasty treat as coveted as my caramel apple?

No thanks.

I gave him the cash as he sat down to transfer his baseball images into the system and thanked him again. Then I dug in.

Hot or not, those things are delicious. It completely hit the spot and revved my energy more than enough to finish my shift.

By the time Jason started printing out proofs of his favorite photos, he walked past my desk to see the remnants of my treat: an empty plastic wrapper with blobs of caramel, a discarded twist tie and a gnawed apple core with a wooden stick jutting out of it.

"YOU ATE THAT THING ALREADY?"

"Um, YEAH. ... They're GOOD."

"Yeah, but you finished it already?"

"Dude, do I REALLY have to point out the gigantic mound in my flesh that hinders me from tying my shoelaces properly these days to let you know not to fuck with me and my eating habits, or would you just prefer it if I stuck this pointy wooden apple stick in one of your eyes?"

He just walked away laughing, shaking his head while the other women in my department stuck up for me by shouting, "She's PREGNANT!"

I just wish I had been more on my toes. I would've shouted after him, "YOU HURT MY FEELINGS. YOU OWE ME ANOTHER APPLE!"

Friday, August 3, 2007

First comes love ... then comes a breakup, then more love, a few more breakups

If you had asked me even six short years ago if I planned on getting married, I would've given you a quick, definitive "no." And babies? After I finished laughing, I probably would've choked out, "Absolutely not."

Because as strong of a proponent as I am for marriage now that I found the right person, I was an equally strong proponent of solohood in my younger years. So strong that even if my little sister, Lisa, came to me today to show off a sparkly diamond on her left ring finger, I would have a hard time not telling her she's too young. As a new college grad, the world is hers for the taking. She just has to figure out which part of it she wants -- and that is much easier when you only have yourself to answer to.

I try hard to live my life without regrets. Sure, there are a few biggies like not going to London for a semester through my college's exchange program. And not calling in sick to work the night my ferret, Zeke, died so I could've been with him. But, for the most part, I do my best to follow my gut instinct and it usually serves me well.

It was that instinct that allowed me to falter through the dating world with somewhat of a chip on my shoulder. I rarely let anybody in so I didn't get hurt. My first serious boyfriend in college got so attached that he bought us matching silver bands to wear on our wedding ring fingers to symbolize our commitment to each other. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I reluctantly accepted the gift and wore it on my thumb.

Apparently my hesitation hurt him so deeply that he found solace in the arms and crotch of another woman. No matter. My freshman year was ending. He was graduating. I left the ring and a few other crappy things he had given me on his doorstep on my way out of town. He called crying his apologies for weeks. I shrugged and had a great summer with my girlfriends.

I didn't get out of my next few relationships completely unscathed. I got attached. Then dumped. And it felt like my world was ending. I remember the act of breathing was a chore. But even in my most pained retrospective post-breakup moments, I knew it was for the best. I knew those guys weren't right for me. They couldn't handle me. In a weird way, I sort of took it as a compliment.

Then I turned it into a catalyst.

I used that hurt to propel me into some of my best years. I was woman. And I was roaring.

I boldly decided to move to a new state and start a new job in my mid-twenties. With the help of my friends and family, I was able to embark on a life-defining journey. I lived on my own for a full year in a fabulous apartment and batted away the occasional request for a date because I was more than content rediscovering who I was as an individual. Boys didn't exactly fit into the picture.

Until I met Jerry. Then the picture changed. Drastically.

But it was that year that allowed me to take stock and grow into adulthood. I was self-sufficient. I proved to myself that I could rely on my talents and the knowledge I had collected in my younger years not only to survive, but thrive. I didn't need a man to take out my garbage or tell me I was pretty. I had my health, two arms and legs, and after paying some serious attention to my hair, I knew I could look damn good.

I look back on that year with fondness. And I wouldn't change it for anything.

So now that I have some perspective on the situation, I see that all of the relationships I fumbled through did serve a purpose. They taught me life lessons I couldn't have gained from any book or classroom. Not only did I grow from causing heartache for some and being heartbroken over others, it makes me appreciate what I have now that much more. I know how rare this kind of relationship is, and it makes me want to work hard to keep it.

Above all, I guess I realize what a huge mistake it would've been to settle. Sure, I know 29 may seem late to some to start a family, but I wouldn't want it any other way. I had my twenties almost all to myself. And now I know how smart of a decision that was.

Because of that, I have a lot of life experience to offer to a child. And, more specifically, a lot of dating advice for a daughter.

But not until she's 25.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Novelle in shorts

It's another one of those random tidbits kind of days:
  • I'm in the homestretch! According to my pregnancy ticker at the bottom of the page, there are now 100 days separating me and my Nov. 10 due date. HOOORAAAAY! ... ahem.

  • Jerry and I love our new furniture arrangement upstairs so much that it sort of feels like a new house all over again. It's like we've gained a room. And Toby loves it, too. While I'm on the computer in the morning, instead of clamoring to get on my lap by scratching at my shins, he just hops up on the bed and peers out the window. He is so content there that he sometimes falls asleep. But Toby isn't the only one. When Jerry comes home from work and I'm still on the computer, he flops down on the bed, too. After we chat for awhile, I notice how quiet the room has gotten and usually turn around to find Jer and Toby sprawled out with pillows scattered everywhere. We've nicknamed it the "day bed." It's the perfect spot for afternoon naps.

    P1011655

  • My mom is such an avid magazine subscriber that many publishers show their thanks by rewarding her on occasion with a free subscription for her or a friend. I am often that friend. But when the year is up, they send her notice, asking if she'd like to resubscribe for me. Apparently Bon Appetit posed the question in such a way that had her laughing out loud: "What would you like to do with Kelly?" She called me later that afternoon, still laughing: "I felt like writing them a letter saying, 'People, I've been trying to figure that out for 29 years.' "

  • My doctor has explained that fetuses have their up days and down days just like everybody else, but when the baby had two somewhat inactive days back-to-back this week, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little nervewracking. So, in effort to see if I could spur a little response, I laid down and pressed my hands into my belly. Not only did she push back, but I could feel all sorts of low-key squirming and rolling around that isn't evident from just gently placing my hands on my abdomen. And, even better, I felt the rhythmic thump of her heart beat very clearly. It's nothing short of amazing. When Jerry got home, I didn't explain anything, just sort of pushed his hand deep into my flesh. His face looked sort of quizzical at first, then shocked, then enlightened. "THAT'S THE HEARTBEAT! Holy crap that's amazing! WE'RE TOTALLY HAVING A BABY!"

Totally.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Battle of the bulge

My belly has officially taken on a life of its own. It's almost as if it has become a separate entity, functioning on its own accord, but allowing the rest of me to stick around like an unfortunate kid sister after mom and dad said, "She goes to the movie too, or you don't."

According to my cell membranes, my own head and limbs are now less important than The Belly. Sometimes it sends a little messenger to one of my ears to relay messages: "That spear of broccoli you just ate? And the milk? You can have the leftover nutrients. The Belly will be taking its cut first. And don't expect much. The Belly is a crude business-savvy type. If it offers you a 90/10 split ... TAKE IT."

Not only is The Belly moving on its own these days, but it has its own feelings, too. When I go about my day-to-day routine, I sometimes notice these weird sensations that are completely foreign to me after almost three decades of existence. Strange pulling sensations. I have no idea what it is, but I'm pretty sure The Belly is like a Spanish conquistador trying to conquer more skin territory and force it under its reign. When the skin doesn't submit willingly, it gets taken by force.

Then there is my outward appearance. I am no longer Kelly. I'm pregnant. The Belly precedes me. Strangers no longer see a tall female twentysomething with brown hair, they see a pregnant woman. A big lumbering pregnant woman with a wide girth.

What scares me is that my third trimester hasn't even started. I'm days away from the last leg of the race, but The Belly has already won. How much more does it want? My ribcage? To spread around my sides and start bulging out of my back, too? Maybe by November I'll just be an indiscernible mound of flesh. A circle. A ball. With a bloated head on top and tiny flailing hands and feet. Kind of like Violet in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" after she ate a piece of the turkey dinner-flavored gum.

Only I don't have any oompa loompas to roll me around.

So it could get ugly.

Kind of like my bellybutton. I think The Belly has hired experts to see if they can coerce it to start communicating with the outside world. Any day now I fully expect that little indent in my midsection to develop linguistic skills and shout a command like, "ICE CREAM, WOMAN! THE BELLY WANTS SOME ICE CREAM!"

And if I don't oblige and instead decide to muffle the screaming hole with a thick sweatshirt? I'm pretty sure it would chew right through layers and layers of fabric to continue dispensing orders until I dutifully horked down a bowl of Tin Roof Sundae just to shut it up.

I'm still fighting the good fight. I'm trying to hold onto the part of me that was there before The Belly. The part that remembers what zippers are and how they function.

But it's getting really hard.