Sunday, September 30, 2007

Novelle in shorts

  • Something I just remembered
    When Jerry and I first started dating and he knew I was at home listening to his radio show, he would say that Kelly called and requested an Ozzy song before he played it. Because he knew I hated Ozzy.
  • I don't get it
    Yesterday Jerry and I went to a fall festival. Nothing too out of the ordinary: crafts, sausages, apple dumplings. But as we milled around the booths, a faint whiff of gasoline permeated the air. Then it got stronger. And stronger. Until we spotted four old guys in flannel shirts and suspenders sitting in rusty folding chairs around a few crazy mini tractor-ish contraptions with pulley systems that made a ton of noise and farted gasoline exhaust on occasion in a loud bang. It was only trumped by the two men on a nearby stage who were hired as entertainment singing a karaoke version of "The Monster Mash." One had a supa thick mustache and the other had an eye patch. Jerry and I nearly knocked over a display of wreaths because we were laughing so hard we couldn't see where we were going. True story.
  • Jerryism
    Noticing that the 5-foot-tall tall grass we planted in the spring is now sprouting stalks with soft ends that sort of look like a whip:
    "We grew sex toys in our yard!" (Then he proceeded to rip one off and smack my butt with it until I ripped it out of his hand and attempted to shove it up his nose.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Just for fun

This is a game we played at my surprise party and everyone seemed to enjoy it so much that I thought I'd share it here. For the following baby activities, decide whether it corresponds to me or Jerry. Then decide which two correspond to both of us.
  1. Mommy delivered me more than 100 miles from home. Jerry
  2. Mommy went to the hospital to deliver me in a post office truck. Kelly
  3. Sucked my ring and middle finger together. Kelly
  4. Favorite toy was Brownie the bear and still has it. Kelly
  5. Danced in a diaper to "Copacabana." Jerry
  6. Bathed in the kitchen sink. Both
  7. Tried to ride the animals at the petting zoo. Jerry
  8. First word was "Doggy." Kelly
  9. Hated being potty trained. Both
  10. Broke a bone before first birthday. Jerry
  11. Delivered after 26 hours of labor. Kelly
  12. Drank soy-based formula. Jerry
  13. Got a squeaky pink ball in first Easter basket. Jerry
  14. Loved to sing. Kelly
  15. At age 2, packed a suitcase and said, "I'm running away." Kelly
  16. At age 2, carried a bottle around between teeth. Jerry
  17. Violently threw up first solid food -- mashed banana. Kelly
  18. Called security blanket "E." Jerry
  19. Was a daycare dropout. Kelly
  20. Walked sibling like a dog using a jump rope. Kelly
  21. Loved to play with the hose. Jerry
  22. Affectionately called "thunder thighs" and "tall hair." Jerry

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Maybe there's no such thing as easing into parenthood

When our friends who have children come over to visit, as terrifying as it is to see how demanding and destructive toddlers can be in the span of 30 seconds, I remind myself that our daughter isn't going to come out with the ability to run around grabbing stuff off table tops and screaming things like, "BUT I WANT IT NOWWWWW!"

Sure, I know that time will eventually come, but hopefully by then we'll have a little better handle on it. I liken it to easing into a cold lake pinky toe first rather than diving in headfirst. The shock to the system is far too overwhelming.

But last night our friends Ben and Val stopped over with their daughters: 3-year-old Avery and 4-week-old Addelyn.

The newborn is exactly what we're in store for, so I knew I couldn't shrug off her behavior with my lake analogy. She IS the pinky toe.

Avery busied herself by digging through the dog toy pile, chucking everything as far as she could and watching Toby sprint and hop after each launched torpedo in a very confused way that seemed to say, "Well what the hell do you want me to retrieve first?"

After much resistance for fear that I would break her, I eventually agreed to hold the baby. And, of course, her mild demeanor instantly changed to one of discontent. She scrunched up her face, curled her lips to reveal a gummy grimace and started to cry.

"I know, I'm not doing it right, huh?" I told her in my best attempt at soothing tones as I half-assed a jumbled bouncy/sway/rock motion that probably made her want to cry harder.

But then this miraculous thing happened. After switching her position a few times, she eventually settled down. Granted, it was only for a moment, but it felt like a gigantic victory.

Then she started screaming so hard that her adorable pink face turned purple with rage.

Val assured me it was only because the baby was hungry, but in the minute or so before she plucked Addelyn out of my arms and fed her, it was as if a mini Apocalypse hit our living room. And I hadn't the slightest clue what to do about it.

Sure, I can explain it away by saying I'll know my own child better and eventually be able to decipher her cries, but just knowing that a purple-faced wailing monster is about to take up residence in our home is a bit of a reality check.

I think I have to change my lake analogy. You're diving headfirst into parenthood no matter what age they are when they come to live with you.

The challenges are just a little different.

I hope we're up for it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This and that

The goal around the house the past couple days has been Operation Don't Get Kelly Sick.

Jerry's morning show co-anchor passed along a lovely array of sinus infection, fever and chest cold last week and poor Jer has been miserable. I don't think I've ever seen him go through so many tissues the entire time I've known him.

We've been washing our hands to the point we should be skinless from the wrists down, disinfecting every surface we touch and sleeping in separate rooms as a precaution. With the amount of drugs Jerry's been downing out of our medicine cabinet, I know I wouldn't want to have to battle it without the "nighttime sniffling and sneezing so you can rest medicine." And that capsule cocktail is definitely verboten when you're pregnant.

The good news is that he's on the mend. Tonight we might have to do a final decontamination of the guest room, but he's certainly feeling better and sounds a little more like my husband and a little less like an angry Darth Vader.

Everything else is according to schedule. It always seems funny to me that just when I think life is going to slow down a bit, something comes along to stir things back up. Now that the Summer '07 Wedding Tour is over, I had expected to have time to relax a little before the baby arrives.

But there's still so much to do during the next six-plus weeks. I don't want to even start a list because I'm afraid it would singlehandedly inflict me with carpel tunnel syndrome.

On the other hand, my doctor's appointments are becoming much more routine: measure how far my uterus is encroaching the rest of my body, check the baby's heartbeat, check my urine for sugar, get weighed and go. I have one more bi-monthly visit, then I start going weekly.

I haven't had any signs whatsoever of impending labor, so I'm assuming this baby is going to make it to my Nov. 10 due date and then some. But if she isn't out by Thanksgiving, I'll start posting eviction notices and making things very uncomfortable in there by ingesting nothing but beans and hot peppers.

In the meantime, I have a little treat to enjoy today. Timberly got each of her bridesmaids a gift certificate for a one-hour massage. I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to use it because laying on my stomach is exactly as comfortable as laying face-down on a watermelon. But when I called to schedule an appointment and informed the receptionist about my situation, he said "no one deserves a massage more than a woman in her third trimester." I wanted to reach my arms through my cell phone and hug him.

Apparently they have a few technicians who are specially trained in prenatal massage and I couldn't be looking forward to it more.

Just as long as I don't fall asleep and continue the weird dream I had last night about my daughter having a head the circumference of a large pizza.


I think I'd rather get Jerry's cold.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'd be less surprised to find out it's a boy

Weeks ago, Jerry and I received an invitation to a surprise birthday party for a close family friend. The card specified no gifts, but not wanting to go empty-handed, I opted to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies for the birthday girl.

Well, it turns out, there was no birthday. The surprise was for me. Jerry's family threw me a baby shower here in Pennsylvania yesterday.

I knew we were running a little late, so it didn't seem strange that the parking lot was already packed when we got there. It also didn't hit me that the room was full of people who didn't know the woman whose birthday I thought it was. Like my coworkers. And our neighbor. And some of Jerry's relatives from out of town.

So when the room erupted into a chorus of "SURPRISE!" I was thoroughly confused. My initial instinct was to look over my shoulder to see if the birthday girl was right behind us and we had ruined everything.

I don't think it was until I blinked a few times and focused enough to take in all of the pink tablecloths and baby-themed decorations that it really sunk in.

Then I turned around and whacked Jerry in the chest.

I must've looked like a 5-year-old trying to comprehend the intricacies of quantum physics.

As I walked around the room saying hello to everyone, I couldn't believe how many people had kept the secret from me for so long. Even my own mother. She had traveled from New York and stayed with Jer's mom the night before. Not to mention some of my friends I had discussed the fake birthday party with just days earlier.

I must've been slackjawed for a good 15 minutes. I'm amazed drool didn't escape from my mouth as my head worked to put all the pieces together.

Needless to say, the party was fantastic. I mostly enjoyed hanging out with a few people I hadn't seen in awhile and just the realization that my in-laws went through so much trouble to make the day perfect for me. I tried not to miss a single detail.

We received a ton of gifts that were still on our Oh-My-God-We-Seriously-Can't-Have-This-Baby-Until-We-Get-This List, which took a lot of pressure off my subconscious. The sleep alone that peace of mind will afford me is worth sending out a million thank-you cards for.

And I still have some chocolate chip cookies in the house to boot.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

This week's newspaper column

Anyone want a pear? How about a bagful?

They're organic, pesticide-free and currently taking up valuable counter space in my kitchen. As in all of it. I have to wrestle with precariously piled fruit just to set down a glass of water.

I've decided that the tree in our backyard is a complete freak of nature. Because despite its unassuming size, it yeilded about 300 pears this season. And I wish I could say I was exaggerating.

Even though our dog figured out how to snag the fruit off the tree himself and ate to his heart's content all summer; and even though 30 pears fell to the ground to rot or become critter food while we were on vacation recently; and even though I gave away grocery bags full of pears to my mom, grandma, mother-in-law, neighbors and co-workers, we still had four heaping bowls of pears in our kitchen as of last week.

And there's still some on the tree. (But it's pretty safe to assume that neither my husband nor I are even remotely motivated to haul out the stepladder to retrieve them.)

Not having the slightest clue about what to do with that many pears, they just sat in my kitchen taunting me. My head spun obsessing over the possibilities: pear pies, pear cobbler, warm pearberry sauce over vanilla ice cream, pear chutney, apple pear turnovers, pear pancakes, pear salad, spiced pears. Hell, throw a pear party.

It got so bad that I started dreaming about pears overtaking my life -- much like that episode of "I Love Lucy" where she's working at a chocolate factory and the treats start coming out faster and faster on the conveyor belt until she panics and starts cramming them into her mouth and shoveling them down her shirt.

I suddenly found myself considering that to be a reasonable solution.

During normal rational-thinking daylight hours, I revisited the recipe ideas. But the problem with all of them is that they take time. Not to mention ingredients that I don't have on hand. Well, not restaurant-sized vats of, anyway.

So I decided to try my hand at canning.

It seemed so easy: Just buy a few jars, cram some fruit into them and heat the metal lids until they seal. No sweat.

After going to a discount store to get what I needed, I stumbled upon an entire sprawling row of canning materials: jars of all sizes, special pots, jar holder tongs, boxes of confusing powdery mix, recipe books, sives and more.

Instead of realizing that I probably should've done more research, I simply purchased a few packs of jars and continued on my naive way. Who needs special equipment? For me, canning was merely a means to an end.

Well, after spending more than two hours hunched over my kitchen sink peeling and coring, I eventually figured out that I didn't have the metal contraption that would line my pot to prevent the glass jars from bursting. I also discovered the pesky little detail that even my biggest pot isn't deep enough.

Days later, when I finally had the time to get back to the store, all of those pears that I slaved over had turned to a disgusting brown mush in my refridgerator. Not even an entire grove of lemon juice could've prevented them from spoiling.

Thankfully my husband was smart enough not to say anything remotely close to resembling "I told you so." This probably was less out of thoughtfulness and more because he knows I would've gone out and bought 100 more pears just to prove I could do it.

So instead of getting mad as I shoveled the results of my botched experiment down the garbage disposal, I rationalized my way out of it.

Who wants all those cans sitting around anyway? It really doesn't solve the problem at all. I would've gone from a counter full of pears to a counter full of pears in jars. And if I'm just planning on giving them away anyway, why not save myself the frustration and skin welts and just hand them out in bags like I had been doing?

But in the back of my mind, I know I'll try again next year. I mean, I have the jars now.

Or maybe instead of investing in the rest of the canning equipment, I'll just buy a chainsaw.

Friday, September 21, 2007

One step closer

Last night Jerry and I took a soon-to-be parents tour at the hospital and it couldn't have been more worth it. A lot of our friends keep making fun of us for being overly prepared, but in my opinion, you can never have too much information. Especially when it concerns pushing a human being out of your body.

Besides, I've read a lot of books on the topic and labor slows down for many women once they get to the hospital because they're in a strange place and often feel nervous. It's part of the fight-or-flight response. If the woman doesn't feel comfortable, labor instinctively slows so she can get somewhere safer.

Keeping that in mind, I didn't think it would hurt to take an hour out of our lives to become a little more familiar with the nursing staff, procedures and location where we're going to have our baby. It was without a doubt worth it.

In addition to the three tables full of pamphlets and handouts, we also got valuable information on what the hospital allows and doesn't allow, visiting hours, typical lengths of stay for different types of births and so on.

My favorite part was the actual tour. I was especially relieved to find out that all of the rooms are private -- labor and delivery, as well as recovery. We won't even have the possibility of bunking with some crazy screamer or something. Or, more likely, I'll have the comfort of screaming like crazy in privacy.

And, to top it off, there were two completely adorable new babies in the nursery. Both pink and wrinkly and wrapped so tightly they reminded me of bean burritos from Taco Bell. The parents proudly showed them off by raising them up to the glass for the hall full of pregnant women to see. I've never heard so many collective "awws" in my entire life. And as much as a part of me wanted to gag at the sheer spike in estrogen level, I couldn't help but want to grab them and rub our faces together. Newborns are so damn small and snugly looking.

Fifty days and counting ...

Preparation for the sleepless nights?

Man, 4 a.m. should only be greeted piss drunk. Not because you have to pee for no other reason than you decided to have an ounce of water before bed.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I wanted to go shorter, but she refused

The one thing this photo says to me is:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A hairy situation

My hair has gotten to the point that I often accidentally clasp it into my bra, which also happens to be the telltale sign that I need a cut.

I've been wanting to go for weeks, I've just been so busy. A trip to my hairdresser, which used to be a quick drive, now takes an hour each way thanks to our new location, not including the time spent with my overly talkative stylist. But, like most women will tell you, finding a good hairdresser is as unlikely as getting your finger stuck in a keyhole. So when you do find one, even a 12-day trek would seem completely reasonable.

Yesterday I finally broke down and made an appointment, explaining to the receptionist who answered the phone that it was a dire emergency and asked if he could please fit me in, like, last week. He laughed, gave me a few options for today and I heaved a huge sigh of relief, thanking him profusely while explaining that I was ready to take the hedge clippers to it myself.

I actually want a real cut this time. Something with a little style. Ever since the Great Bang Debacle of 2004, I've been fairly conservative with my look. Okay, President Bush conservative. I was so thrilled to have it all one length again that I kept it that way. For a few years.

Unfortunately, I know it might take some convincing to talk my stylist into cutting more than a few inches off. Ever since I told her I was pregnant, she relayed the story about how a customer in her third trimester came in and told her to "cut it all off." Well, Pamela refused, explaining to the woman that she didn't really want her hair gone, she wanted the baby out. Months later, I guess the woman came back with her newborn and gushed her gratitude for not chopping her hair.

Thanks lady. Now I have to convince my very spiritual, embrace-your-follicles hairdresser that I really honestly want my hair cut. Third trimester or not.

I made peace with the decision a long time ago. Way before it was getting lodged in the hooks when I put on a bra. I just want something a little more manageable and less time consuming right now.

But as I was styling it for the last time yesterday afternoon before work, it suddenly dawned on me that I had wanted to get some photos taken of me pregnant with my long hair. One nice portrait that I could put in a frame somewhere. Unfortunately, Jerry had already left for the grocery store. Besides, we don't really have an open wall in our house to use as a plain backdrop anymore and our camera is for the most part broken. And I needed to leave.

As I started to obsess during my drive, wondering whether I should cancel the appointment or just give up on the idea of having a pregnant portrait of myself, it suddenly dawned on me that I could ask one of the photographers at the office to take a few shots of me in the studio that's all but 10 paces from my desk.

Fortunately a friend of mine, Pat, had been scheduled to cover the night shift. I told him I didn't want anything fancy, just a picture of me looking down at my bare belly -- if he wasn't squeamish.

He laughed and said he wasn't.

It just took a few minutes, but the result exceeded my expectations. Ironically I was wearing one of my most despised maternity shirts, but because I didn't have time to obsess over my outfit, it looks great.

Pat saved all of the photos to a disk for me and I couldn't be happier. They all look great, but there are about five or six shots that I love. And one that is without a doubt frame worthy.

Now I can get my hair cut with confidence.

If my hairdresser agrees.



Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My newest addiction

Like most Internet junkies, I've found that clicking my way randomly through the web is entertaining enough to occupy my entire day if I let it. (If it wasn't for the pesky necessity of having to go to the bathroom once in awhile, that is.)

Sure, there are sites I visit daily or weekly, but often times I find myself spending a few moments of my morning after I'm done writing just sort of going with the flow, letting one link lead me to another. On rare occasion, one will end up as a bookmark, but most of the sites I'll never revisit.

Then, on even rarer occasions, I find something that hooks me. I recently came across one that has me completely enamored and it's too good not to share. For anyone who enjoys trolling through Flickr or other photo-sharing sites, this is for you.

Google recently launched Blogger Play, a web page that shows the photos being uploaded to Blogger in real-time all around the globe. It's a never-ending stream of images that you can slow down or speed up to your preference. And it's nothing short of fascinating.

To me, it has the same appeal as a blog -- getting a quick glimpse of other people's lives. And it makes me feel small, too. Most of the images are of people and places I'll never see in my lifetime.

Most of all it's just interesting to see what bloggers are uploading at any given moment. The range of images is fascinating. Right this moment it went from a camel sitting in a space in a busy a parking lot, to an artistic studio shot of smoke, to five drunk guys arm-in-arm at a bar, to a map of Africa, to a shot of someone's Asian-inspired lunch.

Sure, it would be absurd to sit for hours on end just staring at the images, but I've found myself leaving it minimized on my desktop and just clicking back on occasion.

Now if only I could figure out how to make it my screensaver...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Inspiring the inner comedians of morons everywhere

Attention social idiots of the world: Pregnancy does not suddenly make fat jokes acceptable.

Yes, I get it, my belly is huge. And it is so hilariously funny when you compare the place that is sustaining the life of a real human being to a gigantic globule of lard.

I have an idea, why don't you call me "Slim" again. Yeah, I haven't heard that one in at least three minutes. Or maybe you want to compare my maternity shirt to a camping tent. Or maybe, when I place a can of soup and some crackers in my desk, you can say, "THAT oughtta last you, what, like five minutes?" louder so don't have the luxury of pretending that I didn't hear you.

Then there's the good ol' tried-and-true, "OH MY GOD! YOU'RE HUUUUGE! YOU'RE GOING TO POP ANY DAY NOW!"

First of all, what is this "popping" that everyone refers to? I guess I am so big people fear that my midsection is going to explode open without warning and cover them with a smattering of fat deposits and half-digested cheese fries -- much like the sticky neon green goo that oozes down the Ghostbusters after they laser the slimy ghosts into oblivion.

If that happens, I'll be sure to try and aim the carnage in your general direction.

Because if you think you are the only one coming up with these priceless gems, think again. I've heard them all at least, oh, 3,215,601 times. From my neighbor, the teller at the bank, the cashier at the grocery store, the part-time help at work, the stranger I pass on the street ... yes, believe it or not, they're all just as clever and cunning as you are -- you delightful comedic genius you.

But, hey, here's an idea. Instead of laughing along like I'm forced to do at least five or six times every single day, maybe for a change of pace, I'll just tell you what's really on my mind. Because, after all, I'm pregnant and hormonal and people like you think that I'm not able to control myself or my emotions anyway, right?

Maybe I'll just say something like, "Yeah, carrying around a 4 pound fetus in my abdomen is EXACTLY the same as sitting on my ass for nine months and getting fat off gargantuan fast food burgers and economy-sized bags of Cheetos."

Or how about, "Yeah, you're looking really toned yourself, Slim. Is that a new self-made notch on your belt I see?"

Or maybe, "Hey, since I have the camping tent already, maybe we could use YOUR shirt as a comforter. It'll be great."

And if none of that works? Maybe I'll just make like Adam Sandler and scream, "HA! HA! HA! HA! ... YOU'RE SOOOO FUNNY!"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Some of my projects

I found an old box in my closet that I wasn't using.

So I used painter's tape to make stripes on the bottom
and dots on the top. I used a half-dollar as a template.

Then I just painted over the tape and peeled it off when it dried.

When I was milling around the craft store, I found
this great do-it-yourself wooden picture frame.

I discovered it was basically the same size as scrapbook paper, so
I picked one sheet of my favorite, used spray glue to adhere it, then
used a razor to cut out the picture hole and trim the excess on the sides.

And this is just a super cute outfit I bought for Little Miss.
Speaking of which, we are SCREWED if it's a boy. He'll be
the prettiest little boy in town. At least for a year. Because
I would so make him wear this just once. It's that cute.

Toby watching me do crafts from the stairs.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Notable quotables

Jerry, while trying to listen to music on the Kanye West website:
"Aw, why the hell do rappers always do this? Play three songs at once? ... Kanye, I'm giving you two more seconds ... Eff this. I'm going to YouTube to listen to your music with the rest of the crackers."

The awesome night maintenance guy at my office, taking note of my growing belly while emptying my garbage:
"Every time I see you, you're sitting further and further away from your desk!"

Jerry, waking me up from a nap, noticing that I'm almost in tears because the baby is kicking me repeatedly in the lower left rib:
"Every year on Mother's Day, I'll tell our daughter how she kicked you in the ribs for three months and then I'll say, 'So lets go get mom something nice.' "

My mom, calling for advice from Pottery Barn Kids, where she apparently can't help herself from buying things for her first grandchild:
"This is probably stupid, I mean I know she won't be having turkey this year, but they have the CUTEST little turkey and pumpkin plates. Should I get them? Or am I being crazy?"

Jerry, wallowing in self-pity because he has burned out yet another cell phone and has to wait a few days for Verizon to replace it:
"I guess if we have an emergency while you're at work, I'll just run out on the porch and yell 911. I'm sure they'll respond just as fast."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Summoning my inner Martha Stewart

I swear this baby is inspiring me to get more crafty than I've been in years.

When I was a kid, I always said I wanted to become an art teacher. It was one of my favorite classes in grade school, my favorite activity at summer camp, and I can even remember begging my dad to take me to the craft store near his house before I was old enough to ride my bike that far.

I guess I just love the possibility in those stores. Everything is in its base form, waiting for you to add your own vision and personal touches. Over the years I tried my hand at making friendship bracelets, boondogle key chains, beaded necklaces, crocheted knit caps and plastered paint on just about any surface I could find.

Eventually I became pretty good at it. I often saw things at summer festivals and instead of buying them, used it as inspiration to create something myself.

At one point, I took up sewing and made purses, headbands, curtains, pillows and slipcovers for my furniture. And my years in a sorority really took puffy paint to a new level.

I guess I never actually gave up on all those little projects, they just sort of grew into much bigger projects. These days my creativity is used to redecorate our house -- things like refinishing all of our kitchen cabinets. I have no doubt that my childhood love of painting unfinished wooden candle holders translated into a love of painting walls.

But now that I have a nursery to decorate, my creative juices are flowing again. There is nothing so inspiring as all the cute little embellishments that are acceptable for a baby, but would otherwise look ridiculous in an adult's room.

I went into a craft store last night to find a frame for an adorable Noah's arc print I received at my baby shower and decided to wander down the rest of the aisles just for fun. If time and my sanity weren't an issue, I would've left the store with a heaping cart full of projects. But I forced myself to pick the few that I'll enjoy most.

But I'm not disappointed. In fact, it just made me realize for the first time that I have years and years of fun craft projects ahead of me.

I just can't wait until my new partner is ready to help.

I can only hope her first words are "Pass me the hole punch, some yarn and a glue stick."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ticking through my to-do list

Not sure what happened, but I woke up extremely motivated today. Maybe it's because I made a to-do list last night and realized it took up almost an entire page of notebook paper. I will conquer them. One by one.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Taking care of (baby) business

Let the nesting begin!

I'm not sure what happened to me in the last few days, but it's almost as if a switch went off in my brain and I NEED to get ready for this baby. It's like I have blinders on to all other aspects of my home life. There's a pile of dirty laundry to get done? No time. I have to wash all the baby's new outfits first.

Now that our schedules are somewhat clear for the first time in months, I actually have time to devote to worrying. I just sort of aimlessly wander through the nursery looking at things, moving them from one spot to another then sometimes back again, folding and refolding. It's like everything has to be just right.

The worst part is that there's still so much to take care of in the next nine weeks. There are a few big-ticket items we don't have yet like a changing pad, baby monitor and a chair. Then there are the projects I have to get done like the homemade wall art, reupholstering a stool, assembling the strollers and play yard -- and figuring out how to use them.

Then there's the task of packing my bags for the hospital. I want to get a birthing ball and a handheld back massager for Jerry -- both recommendations from our childbirth class instructor. Then it's just a matter of separating out what we need for labor and what we need for the hospital stay, in general. Plus, I want to make a folder of relaxing music on my iPod for the big event, and we have to write out a birthing plan for the hospital staff.

I also have to send in the class reimbursement form to our insurance, sign up for a hospital tour, go to doctor's appointments every other week and, you know, TRY NOT TO FREAK OUT AT THE WEIGHT OF IT ALL.

All the while trying to go about my daily activities like working full time and managing to get a few hours of sleep in between trips to the bathroom.

Now that I think about it, "nesting" just seems like the wrong word. It's far more complicated than gathering a few twigs and forming it into a bed. Birds have it downright easy. (Well, other than inclement weather and predators higher up in the food chain.)

It's more like falling into a controlled state of crazy.

Now please excuse me while I go count how many swaddling blankets we have.


Monday, September 10, 2007

31 weeks

I've finally gotten to the point that I really feel pregnant. So pregnant that it's kind of hard to ignore.

I think I've been very lucky throughout the last 31 weeks. I've had relatively few complaints, next to no complications and have just concentrated on enjoying this time in my life. As other moms-to-be rattled off issue after issue week after week on the online message boards I've been reading, I just kept thinking, "Don't they have anything positive to say?"

But in the past two weeks I've slowed down. A lot. It's no longer easy for me to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling out of breath -- mostly because the baby is now taking up valuable lung real estate. Getting up and down has become more difficult, and sitting or standing for long periods of time is next to impossible. My separating joints to prepare for childbirth can't take it.

The other wonderful side effects I've experienced recently are swollen hands and feet. It's not bad enough that I've had to take my wedding bands off yet, but I won't be able to say that for much longer. On the other end, high heels are absolutely out of the question because of my changing center of gravity and the fact that most of them wouldn't even fit. I actually resorted to wearing tennis shoes and ankle socks with shorts while walking around in Chicago. The 16-year-old me would've been mortified to have been anywhere within a five-foot radius of that hideous ensemble.

Then there's the fact that my ribs and hips have become launching pads for little feet and hands. I can't ever be too sure of what's going on in there as far as movement is concerned -- sometimes my entire belly warps from one side to the other all on its own. But I do know when my bones are being assaulted. She loves the spot under my lower left rib, and I keep expecting a bruise to show up there any day now.

Another lovely side effect is acid reflux. My stomach capacity has greatly diminished, forcing me to eat smaller meals more often rather than three squares a day. This in itself suits my nature just fine. I love grazing. Having a bowl of cereal when hunger strikes is something I did years before this baby started dictating my caloric intake. But if I do splurge and eat a normal meal, it doesn't have anywhere to go, so it revisits in the form of acid reflux. All night. Thus the jumbo container of calcium-fortified Tums on my nightstand.

In addition to popping those into my mouth in the darkness, sleeping has become very difficult in itself. I can't stay in any one position for too long and any time I shuffle, the baby stirs and starts kicking me in the ribs again. Then there's the fact that I've been insanely thirsty lately, chugging 16-ounce glasses of water one right after another, causing me to take multiple trips to the bathroom in a sleepy stupor.

But despite all of these wonderful third-trimester woes, I know deep down it'll all be worth it. Even the ongoing nightmares of having a really difficult labor. Who knows, maybe reality will feel much less scary by comparison.

And I guess all of it is preparation for what's to come: sleepless nights, not caring if my shoes look ridiculous and getting kicked in the ribs and hips from the outside.

The only part that I can't seem to wrap my head around is that I have nine (NINE!) weeks left until my due date. And she's likely going to double in size by then, putting on about half a pound each week. My stomach feels stretched to capacity. I'm outgrowing my maternity clothes. Getting up from a horizontal position is already next to impossible -- sometimes it feels like my muscles might just tear in half.

I guess that's why they call it "the miracle of life." It'll be a miracle if we make it to the point where she and I become separate entities.

But oddly enough, even with all of the swelling and rib kicking, I'm not quite ready for that yet. I still marvel at all of the motion inside me. Feeling really pregnant at all times isn't all bad.

31 weeks
31 weeks

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Hurricane toddler girls

So, um, it's probably too late to change our minds on this whole "having a kid thing," huh?

Yesterday we had a few people over to the house -- partially because Jerry missed out on celebrating his birthday with his family and partially because tickets to see the Penn State/Notre Dame match up were running upwards of $500 each. So we took advantage of the fact that we have a plasma screen TV with a high-definition sports package and invited a few people to watch the game with us.

We spent the morning preparing food and just sort of enjoying each other's company. Then it got crazy.

Sure, any time you have 10 extra people in your house it starts to feel a bit like grounds for a talk show, but it was the three pint-sized girls who made it feel like an episode of Jerry Springer.

I had no idea two 4-year-old girls and one 1-year-old girl could shatter glass just by opening their mouths and shrieking.

They were like little hurricanes. And just when I thought we got to the calm eye of the storm with one, another would strike with fury. It was endless questions and grabbing at things and running places they shouldn't be and constant motion and commotion.

I found myself saying one warning after another like, "Oh, Emily, don't stick your pom poms in the back of the fan, try the front so it moves around like this ... no, no, Emma, you can't touch that, it's hot ... Wait, that's Jerry's cell phone ... Don't poke Toby in the eyes, be gentle ... Cherry tomatoes aren't a toy, honey, here, have this ball ... Hold your hot dog higher or Toby will get -- I'll get you another one.

And the funny thing is, I wasn't the only adult keeping a watchful eye on them. There were many others ready to pounce to prevent catastrophe or a complete meltdown.

I mostly gave up trying to watch even one complete play of the game. It was impossible. Frankly, I'm amazed I found time to eat.

But at one point, when the girls seemed on the verge of tears, I suddenly remembered that our house now has a few toys to combat that exact type of situation. So I led them upstairs to the nursery and pointed them toward the baskets of musical, rattling, stuffy things that so far have gone unused.

And wouldn't you know those two little baskets were a hit. It was like calm washed over the house. The girls suddenly got quiet and content just inspecting the new toys. I would buy a mountain of colorful plastic if it could work that kind of magic every time.

Sure, it didn't last long. Moments later they were downstairs conducting a screaming parade from the front door to the back door, leaving a trail of Chex mix and pom pom streamers in their wake.

After they left with birthday cake frosting in their armpits and eyebrows, Jerry and I turned to each other and didn't have to say a word. I know what we were both thinking: WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO OUR LIVES?

It was a good reminder to watch TV shows with adult content and enjoy the relative lack of disarray in our house and appreciate the quiet downtime we have now before everything changes.

And, right on cue, my belly started jumping around when I finally sat down for the first time all night.

Our own hurricane is brewing, she just doesn't have a name yet.

Toys, glorious peace-bringing, quiet-providing toys.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

My kind of town

Chicago got off to a bit of a rough start. I felt a little out of place in our fancy schmancy hotel that we got for a steal off one of those discount travel sites. The room was fantastic and I'll never complain about heated marble floors in a bathroom, gorgeous granite countertops, luxurious bed linens or a high-tech temperature system. But the concierge had a giant stick up her ass. A Sears Tower-sized stick.

After a day of traveling, missing lunch and only having a light breakfast, Jerry and I were famished. So rather than just aimlessly wandering the streets and hoping to find something appealing, we asked for a recommendation from the concierge on our way out.

"Well, I hope to do better than a recommendation," she said. "Lets make a reservation."


We told her we were in the mood for seafood and she whipped out a full-size leather-bound menu to a place called Devon. And even though we said repeatedly that we wanted something casual, the prices indicated anything but. In my opinion, any restaurant that offers side salads a la carte for $9.50 is not an appropriate place to wear shorts and flip flops.

Besides, even though it sounded delicious, we knew we would be splurging on Jerry's birthday dinner the next night. We just wanted a place we could talk openly and laugh freely without spending a fortune.

But Ms. Stick Up Her Ass was persistent. She made reservations. For two hours later. Then she drew us a rudimentary map and explained that we would take a left, then a right and start looking for the "street with no name." Seriously.

WHAT IN THE HELL KIND OF PROFESSIONAL DIRECTS TOURISTS TO A STREET WITHOUT A NAME? A woman who wears pearls and a silk neck scarf at the same time. That's who.

Well, we didn't find it. And we started getting snippy with each other. And the hunger and our disorientation and the fact that we were exhausted didn't help.

But, after mutually cursing Chicago to hell, we stumbled upon one of the deep dish pizza places the Windy City is known for. Perfect.

Sure, the wait time was an hour and 30 minutes, but after smelling the aroma permeating the air outside the building, we would've waited until dawn. And we almost did.

More than two hours and many rounds of drinks and trips to the bathroom later, we finally got seated. We had pre-ordered our pie, as recommended, and it really was fabulous. Granted, even the rotting carcass of week-old road kill would've tasted good at that point, but we still gave it our conjoined seal of approval. And, frankly, it re-established Chicago in our good graces.

The next morning we beelined past the thankfully empty concierge's station and opted to set off on our own. We found the Hancock building just a few blocks from our hotel and enjoyed gigantic Jamba Juice concoctions while sitting next to a fountain.

Our walk led us to the Navy Pier where we immediately hopped on a boat tour highlighting the city's architecture. One thing not many people know about me is that I am an avid fan of gawking at gorgeous buildings, particularly ornate works of the early 19th century. And because of that, the tour did not disappoint.

Next we grabbed a low-key seafood lunch and it appropriately felt like giving that stupid Devon place the middle finger. Then we just walked the pier, stopping to take a ride on the farris wheel and see the skyline. On the way back, we opted to go inside for the air conditioning and stumbled upon my favorite part: a stained glass exhibit including original Tiffany works. I was in heaven.

That night we celebrated Jer's birthday dinner and went with a few people's recommendation to go to Hugo's Frog & Seafood Bar where we found the largest portions of food on the planet. Jerry got his "big steak" and even a gigantic vat of creme brule with a candle in it after casually mentioning to our server that the one thing he wanted for turning 30 was a good cut of meat. Instead, he got a scary shouted rendition of "Happy Birthday," too.

The next day we window shopped and retreated to the hotel a few hours later after I thought I was going to give birth almost 10 weeks prematurely in a weird eighth-story food court. We had simply been in search of a bench and ended up riding escalator after escalator then chugging a bottle of water next to a Taco Bell. But at least it was air conditioned.

A three-hour power nap later, we rode the redline train to the Cubs/Dodgers game where we scrounged up a ballpark dinner and had awesome time rooting for the home team. It was a ton of fun even though they lost miserably.

On the way back, despite the fact that it was late and we had an early flight to catch, I had a little energy and suggested we walk through a nearby park area. And wouldn't you know we found Devon. Right there on a street without signs. The same street the subway let us out on.

Then we laughed our asses off.

It just seemed like a fitting end to our time there.

Our hotel room rocked. We had turndown service and tons of free chocolate.

Our fantastic Chicago deep-dish.

We learned all about the Sears Tower on our boat
tour, but didn't make our way over to look out the top.

And here is the bridge that the Dave Mathews Band dumped their poop
all over a tour boat below -- much like the one we were riding in. Mmm.

This was one of my favorite buildings. It's so big the
post office gave it its own ZIP code. Amazing.

Hanging out on the ferris wheel.

View of the Navy Pier from the top.

City skyline on Labor Day. The weather was perfect.

One of the Tiffany stained glass windows on exhibit.

I could've stared at some of them for hours.

Jerry with his "big steak" and equally large baked potato.

Our favorite spot for breakfast in front of the Hancock building.

A water sculpture there.

This is the guy that RUINED the picture I was SUPPOSED to get
of Jerry's name and happy birthday wishes on the scoreboard at
Wrigley Stadium at the bottom of the fifth inning. Ironically, his hat
says CME. Yeah, I saw you buddy. Because you STOOD UP
right as my husband's name flashed across the screen. Asshole.
(Special thanks to Chicago-native Matteo for making it possible.)

Devon. We finally found it. Three days after our reservations.

Just a really cool building.

I've always wanted to take a picture out of an airplane
window but never have. I'm glad I finally did.

Jerry reading a Sky Mall magazine on the plane. You
have no idea how dangerous this really is. He is the type
to see a crazy apparatus and say, "WE NEED THAT!"

Friday, September 7, 2007

Thank God for waterproof mascara

Timberly and Dan's wedding was absolutely perfect. (Not that I would expect anything less from a bride who paid such close attention to detail that she printed out copies of the readings for the ceremony in the same paper booklet as the programs and added a different color ribbon to them so the readers could tell them apart when they were closed.)

From my perspective, the event was practically flawless except for a few minor technical glitches here and there. Oh yeah, and the fact that my toast SUCKED.

Of all the weddings I've been to this summer, this one was the most emotional for me. Maybe it's because I know how hard Timberly worked on it. Maybe it's because I was there the night she and Dan met. Maybe it's because Dan asked Jerry to get Timberly's phone number from me, and Jerry managed to squeeze into Dan's exclusive fantasy football league by bribing him with it. Or maybe it's because, deep down, I know Timberly and Dan really are meant to be together.

Either way, the tears started falling as soon as Timberly started walking down the aisle and stupid me forgot to stuff the front of my bridesmaid's dress with a few tissues. So there I stood at the front of the ceremony, bouquet in one hand trying frantically to prevent all of my eye makeup from running down my face. I was flanked by her mom and sister, and they just looked at me and did their best to stifle a laugh.

The waterworks returned in full force when it was time to give my toast. Ironically, I hadn't been nervous about it. I am completely comfortable speaking in front of crowds and didn't hesitate even a millisecond when Timberly asked me to say a few words on their behalf. But, knowing me and knowing that I'd turn into a blubbering mess -- likely uttering things like "I LOVE YOU GUYS!" over and over again -- if I didn't prepare something, I opted to write out my speech.

And it still sucked.

I couldn't even get through the first paragraph without tearing up. The words and lines that I had printed out in oversized 18-point type blurred and swayed. I bumbled through it, pausing at one point to blame the pregnancy hormones (to which I graciously received a hearty laugh), but when I sat back down, I had this overwhelming feeling like I had screwed everything up and completely embarrassed myself.

It didn't matter how many people came up to me the rest of the night saying what a lovely job I did and how it showed how much I cared about my friends, I still get an awkward uncontrollable urge to vomit every time I think about it. Ugh. I will never give a wedding toast again. Never. Never ever.

The afternoon before the rehearsal, Timberly hosted a bridesmaid's
luncheon at her house and even thought of decaffeinated tea for me.

Jer and me at the rehearsal dinner later that night.

Me with the bride.

Bride and groom.

On the walk back to our hotel, Jerry got lewd with one of the buffalo
statues poking out of a building. Someone walked past and laughed
saying something sarcastic about it being "highly inappropriate."

The buffalo herd continued around to this amazing fountain.

The next morning we got our hair done by Jodi,
who completely rocked. I absolutely loved her.

I wish my hair had looked this good for my own
wedding. This is hours later right before I took it out.

Timberly and Dan met for photos before their ceremony.

Timberly's bouquet.

I adore this photo. This is right after they fed each other a piece of cake.

My date for the evening, looking mighty dapper.

My other dates for the evening: Gisela and Geoff. I miss them tremendously.

On next summer's wedding list: Mike and Sue.

And here, my favorite photo of the entire day.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A bit of a zoo

Playing catch up with everything we've seen and done over the past week seems like an impossible task. Our trip was absolutely fantastic.

Paring down the hundreds of photos I took into might be even harder. The fact that I even have any to share is somewhat of a miracle because my camera broke with three days left of our trip. Fortunately, I was determined and managed to cajole a few more out of it by removing and replacing the battery for every single shot. It was a complete pain in the ass, but I wasn't about to have a pictureless babymoon. I'd rather have a tailless dog. ... Oh, wait. I already do.

To make the images more digestible, I'll break them down into neat little bite-sized pieces. Today I'll post pictures of our first day in Omaha. I'm not sure what I expected to see when I got off the plane, but I'm pretty sure I had envisioned an old man in a worn flannel shirt playing a banjo while rolling around a piece of straw in his mouth. And lots and lots of corn fields.

So, it probably goes without saying that I was surprised to find a bustling metropolis after making our way out of the unassuming airport. There were people! And stores! And traffic lights!

My friend Timberly had recommended going to the zoo, and even though I had been up for nearly 24 hours other than the fitful sleep I managed to get on two brief plane rides, I was determined to go. Jerry and I found our way to the hotel, mowed down the free chocolate chip cookies we got at check-in, took showers and hailed a cab.

Our driver seconded Timberly's recommendation by saying that the Omaha zoo is among the top 10 zoos in the country. And although we were dead on our feet, we didn't regret the decision to forgo a nap.

Afterward we met Timberly, her family, her husband-to-be, his family and everyone else who had flown in early for dinner. Then I think my legs somehow went into automatic pilot mode and steered me back to the hotel. I collapsed on the bed and was drooling on the 16 pillows I claimed before Jerry could even turn the lights out.

The first exhibit we went in was a giant desert dome. It had beautiful birds
and plants with details of which part of the globe they are typically found.
Sometimes they were hard to spot. This South African bird was quite large.

Of course everything with legs reminded us of Toby. Especially these
crazy things. I wish I could remember what they were called, but they
look like miniature deer. They also hail from Africa. So cute.

The meerkats were by far my favorite desert-dweller. I think
the dinner truck was right behind us. Can you tell?

Underneath the desert dome was an amazing nocturnal exhibit with
tons of bat caves and a huge bayou with beavers and an albino alligator.
Photo-taking was a little difficult in this area, but it was spectacular.

Jerry's favorite was the penguin exhibit in the aquarium. There were
all different kinds. We probably sat there for almost 20 minutes just
watching them zip through the water and have stand-offs on land.

The jungle building was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was
a two-tiered dirt path that wound around waterfalls and gigantic trees.
There were little secret lookouts and animals at every turn. Parrots,
monkeys, hippos, butterflies ... but this guy was one of our favorites.

I could make a hippopotamus joke, but I won't.

Jerry on a rope ladder that crossed a waterfall.

This was my favorite moment of the entire day. It was quite a hike to
get to the gorilla exhibit from the giraffes, but I was so glad we found it.
This mammoth male and I just sort of sat and checked each other out
for a few minutes. Everything about him was magnificent. The dirty glass
does him no justice. I felt so humbled by him for some reason.