Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

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Me two seconds earlier: "Ooh! Stand next to that thing!"


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Carving pumpkins.


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This is the first holiday I've EVER finished something before Jerry.


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My pumpkin looks overly excited to be near vomit face.


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Toby the lobster.

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Get it. Offa. Me.

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And a big happy birthday to my brother Sean! This is the ONE DAY between now and my due date that I DON'T want to have this baby. Because I don't know how mom survived feeding us cake on top of all that candy every year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Redneck Christmas

Our little town is in the midst of celebrating an annual holiday that Jerry and I didn't even know existed. But after a few days of observation from our living room windows, it became completely clear what it should be called: Redneck Christmas.

In reality, it's called trash day. But this isn't just any ordinary trash day. It is the one Monday this year that our town's garbage hauler has agreed to pick up absolutely anything you can push, pull or drag to the curb in front of your house.

The random items started piling up outside of people's homes as early as Saturday. Then the piles got bigger. And bigger. And pretty soon entire sidewalks disappeared. Frankly, I'm glad I don't have to park on the street because it's very likely that my car would've been covered with the contents of our neighbors' apparently overly cluttered basements.

Our block alone is a catch-all of household disorganization. As I watched more and more junk being brought to light from the depths of people's closets and crawl spaces, I couldn't help but wonder what the editors of my favorite magazine would think. Every month "Real Simple" does a special section on banning clutter, and none of the houses selected for its glossy pages could even hold a candle to the crap lining our street. I think the organization experts would just pass out from the sheer volume of it all.

Right at this very moment, the haulers are breaking their backs lifting couches with bad springs, broken air hockey tables, chairs with stained upholstery and various other bulky objects into the belly of the trash compactor. I'm not an expert at logistics by any means, but it seems that even one block's worth of crap would fill the truck to capacity.

Fortunately, the collectors had help. Last night, a parade of slow-moving vehicles drove up and down our street. When they got to what they apparently considered to be a promising pile of trash, the passenger door would open, someone would hop out armed with a flashlight and scour the mound. More times than not, the passenger would signal to the driver for help and something would get tossed inside the vehicle -- along with trash treasures from other streets.

The bed of one particular pickup truck was piled so high it would surprise me to find out that they made it home with everything they pilfered.

Jerry was so amused by the entire scene.

"Are you hungry? I have a leftover banana peel," he said, making fun of the looters as he watched from inside the house. "Or maybe you could lick out the remnants of my yogurt container."

All I know is that I think we felt a little left out. As first-time homeowners, we haven't had decades to amass a ton of clutter. And although I'm always up for scouring "trash-to-treasure" finds at a flea market or second-hand store, I'm not sure I feel comfortable driving around digging through the things people couldn't wait to get rid of, knowing that they're sitting by an upstairs window, making fun of the people who ransack their castaways.

Maybe next year we'll have something to contribute to Redneck Christmas. I'm pretty sure there's a stained throw rug up in the attic.

Monday, October 29, 2007

That which does not kill me only makes me stronger

A year ago today, I was on bed rest recovering from my miscarriage surgery -- probably more so physically than mentally.

It's strange that in the midst of all of this excitement and happiness about this baby, I can't help but mourn the loss of our last one. The memories come to me in snippets when I least expect them, almost like a bad dream.

It first hit me a few weeks ago when we went to pick out pumpkins at a nearby farm. I suddenly remembered selecting a third mini pumpkin last year. Neither one of us mentioned it as we walked around perusing the selection, but neither one of us mentioned getting a third pumpkin either.

Over the days that followed, I started to remember what a hard time I had last fall. I thought about the horrific week of waiting to find out if our pregnancy was "viable," all the while subconsciously knowing that it wasn't. Then there was the surgery and the pains that followed, resulting in one of the scariest nights of my life and an emergency trip to the hospital in an ambulance.

I remember just wanting it to be over. I wanted my body back.

Ironically, I've discovered the physical feelings are very similar to the final weeks of a full-term pregnancy: I'm ready for it to be over. I want my body back.

But it's so different this time around. I want it to be over for a completely different reason. I'm ready to see my daughter and get to know this little person I've been nurturing for the past nine months. I'm also looking forward to bending over and putting on socks in relative comfort. And seeing my feet again.

Realizing that the memories were digging at me, I decided to scroll back through my blog and read everything I wrote about last October. It wasn't because I was dwelling on it, but more as a reminder of how far we've come.

It helped me put into perspective the complaints I've been having in recent weeks as I struggle to get through the most basic activities -- like sleeping and walking a few feet. Even though I'm tired, even though I'm ready for this all to be over, even though I want my body back, I know that I would've given anything to be experiencing these types of problems last year.

And it gives me strength.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Conversation with two women who work at my bank

"Do you read the paper?"

"Um, you could say that, yes."

"Well then you HAVE to read today's. There is an article written by a young woman who's pregnant. In fact, she's probably about as far along as you are, and it talks about all the old wives' tales she's tried to induce labor. It's hysterical. You really should read it."

"Actually, I wrote it."

"Oh, I'm sorry! ... That's embarrassing ... I didn't put two-and-two together."

"Pam, I was TRYING to tell you that this morning."

"That's okay. I'm just glad you liked it."

"I clipped it to send to my daughter-in-law. She's due Nov. 7, but she's about twice as big as you are."

"Well, you ladies just made my day in more ways than one. Thank you."

"Oh, and Kelly, we decided that you forgot to try a bumpy car ride."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

This week's newspaper column

My due date is just days away. And any pregnant woman who has made it this far into her third trimester without giving birth will probably tell you that she had one overwhelming thought in the final stretch: OUT.

Don't get me wrong, I'm in it for the long haul. But when my doctor told me I was considered full-term last week, my husband and I decided to try every old wives' tale we could dig up in hopes of speeding the process along.

Granted, I'm not sure who these "old wives" are, but at this point, the saying could refer to "old crazy witches" and I'd probably still give their methods a try. We even invented one of our own, just for good measure, but seeing as I'm not writing about my newborn, you can probably guess how well they turned out.
  • Walking: As if any forward momentum without the help of an engine and four tires isn't hard enough at this point, I have committed to pacing a dent in the concrete sidewalks around my neighborhood. I say "pacing" because there is no such thing as walking anymore. These days, my stride looks more like something a cowboy with 10-foot spurs would do when approaching a showdown in a Western movie.

  • Raspberry tea: I have no idea what the concept behind this one is, but I challenge you to locate a box of decaffeinated raspberry tea bags without any other ingredients like ginger or ginseng or ylang ylang. After searching every grocery store in the county, I'm convinced this one has less to do with ingesting the tea and more about the hunt. Frankly, I think the old wives intended it as distraction.

  • Caster oil: This one is just sadistic. It makes me think the saying should be "old husband's tales." Only a man would think of encouraging a woman whose insides are squished to capacity to ingest a foul-tasting substance in hopes of spurring horrible intestinal spasms that may eventually lead to contractions. No thanks. I'd rather be pregnant for eternity.

  • Spicy food: I'm guessing this one has something to do with making it uncomfortable in there for the little one. Amniotic fluid laced with jalapeno can't be as appetising as say, an entire pint of ice cream. And although I loaded my chicken enchilada with a few squirts of the random green liquid at my favorite Mexican restaurant recently, I only ended up searing my tastebuds and making my eyes water profusely.

  • Accupressure: The woman who taught our childbirth class mentioned that a spot on each foot near the big toe can help spur contractions when pressed. For a long time, we thought of it as a magic button. But after a marathon foot massage, the only result I got was pain. If my feet really were the overfilled water balloons they resemble, they would've popped.

  • Playing with the baby's toys: In a sleep-deprived moment of borderline insanity, I suggested testing out all of the plush pastel things piling up in the nursery. I guess I thought if our daughter sensed we were having a great time with all of her stuff, she would be somewhat inclined to join us. Then I realized we were being idiots.
I'm sure there are many more methods of inducing labor naturally, but I think I'm going to let Mother Nature do her thing.

Then again, if I don't have this baby by Christmas, don't be surprised if you see a strange woman jumping on the trampoline in your backyard.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The beeps aren't frequent enough to cover my profanities

One of the smoke detectors in our house is running out of batteries. I know because it has been producing an ear-piercing shriek every 10 minutes or so for the last three days.

And damned if we can figure out which one it is.

So we've resorted to dismantling all of them, one at a time, until the culprit is found. We're on detector No. 3 and the beeping hasn't stopped.

I'm seriously starting to lose my mind.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Differences of opinion

"Jer, we do NOT need to buy 800 pieces of candy. We only had about 100 trick-or-treaters last year, remember?"

"Listen, I'm not letting our house get egged because you're too cheap to invest in a bag of Snickers."

"WE STILL HAVE SNICKERS LEFT OVER FROM LAST HALLOWEEN!"

"If we don't get them now, I'll just come back on my own tomorrow without you."

"Fine. ... But what do you want to bet that we won't even see the bottom of the candy bucket after all the kids have come and gone?"

(After giving it much thought.) "If I'm right, I get to buy this crazy mummy guy. The CANDY goes in his HEAD!"

"And if I'm right, I get to dictate the amount of candy we buy next year. No questions asked."

(Five minutes later) "Yeah, I can't wait to buy 10 thousand pieces of candy next year for the mummy's head. It's gonna be awesome."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Can't sleep for crap

This sucks.

If the doctor I'm seeing this afternoon doesn't tell me I've dialated even just a little bit more than last week, I may just jam a pen in his ear.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I honestly don't think he can help himself

Sometime in the past few weeks, Jerry and his radio morning show co-anchor, Troy, stumbled upon a few websites dedicated to "The Cinnamon Challenge." The basic idea is that the human mouth is incapable of swallowing a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon.

But when it comes to food challenges, Jerry is always up for proving naysayers wrong. (See: Pickle juice.)

So, no sooner than Jerry could declare, "I CAN DO IT," the guys were already planning the on-air event.

And, of course, they videotaped it.

And, yes, my spice rack now has an empty space where the cinnamon should be.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Taking my mind off the obvious

Yesterday was such a freakishly nice afternoon in central Pennsylvania, but we were two degrees away from breaking the 80 degree record high set in 1946. (I know this because I compiled the information for the weather page in today's newspaper.)

In effort to enjoy the day and break out of a funk caused by the miserable realization that I can no longer wear my wedding rings because my hands look like overfilled water balloons, I decided to grab my camera and take Toby on a long walk.

I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to take pictures of, but it ended up being a montage of all things railroad. This area was at one time a leader in the American rail industry, and there are remnants of it all over.

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A rusty pedestrian bridge over a river and under a railroad.

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I wonder how many times this bolt has been painted over the years.

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Underneath the railroad.

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A rail bridge that is still very active.

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Little red caboose.

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Rail wheel.

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The logo stands for Pennsylvania Rail Road.

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Gravely tracks that took some getting used to for Toby.

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Speaking of Toby ...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

37 weeks

Subconsciously, I think one of the main reasons I stopped asking Jerry to take belly shots is because my body has morphed so drastically that I don't even recognize it anymore. It's one thing to know that the majority of your maternity clothes don't fit. It's another to look at images of your flesh stretched to the point that it ripped.

I feel like a horrible person that in the midst of this wonderful thing, I'm being completely vain. It upsets me that I'm upset by my stretchmarks.

But it IS frustrating to see purple and red trenches scarring your body, regardless of the reason behind it.

The rational portion of my brain knows they will fade over time, but that skin will never repair itself completely. I know because I have decade-old stretchmarks around my thighs after puberty hormones decided to give me curves practically overnight.

And there's nothing I can do about it. No amount of lotions or oils or creams will prevent them. Believe me, I've tried. I've spent a small fortune on topical anti-stretchmark treatments only to end up discouraged and frustrated as they've gotten worse and worse with each passing week -- even if I liberally rub in four applications a day.

Clinically proven to prevent them my growing ass.

Some days it doesn't bother me as much as others. It's just hard knowing that I might have another month or so to go. Besides the obvious work of carrying around a human being in my belly for that much longer, who knows how bad my skin will get?

I'm sure it will all seem trivial in a few weeks, but right now it's just one more thing weighing heavily on my ability to stay positive. Mostly I'm just ready to start the next chapter in my life.


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37 weeks

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Infiltrating our subconscious

This morning I woke up to the sound of Jerry skidding his feet along the rug in a drowsy stupor, making his way around the bed and out of the bedroom. But when he came back a few seconds later without any indication of a toilet flushing, I asked him if everything was okay.

"I had a nightmare that the baby was puking everywhere and we didn't have any burpcloths. ... So I had to check and make sure we had some."

I just laughed.

We have an entire drawer full. In various shapes, colors and consistency. Some even boast the ability to absorb 400 billion times their weight in liquid. And the fact that he is worried about mass regurgitation is, well, just so Jerry.

"My dream was much better than that."

For the first time ever -- in my subconscious anyway -- I got to interact with her. Until now, the baby has always been this elusive thing in my dreams. Something I'm preparing for, but not able to see or touch.

There was absolutely nothing spectacular about this dream. We weren't doing anything of consequence, just sitting in our living room. And I was holding our daughter.

She looked just like her dad, only with light eyes like mine and had a thick layer of dark spiky hair.

Somehow, I think that dream is going to motivate me through labor.

I want to meet her more than ever.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The start of cervix updates! Wee!

The good news is that I'm one centimeter dilated and 50 percent effaced.

The bad news is that it really doesn't mean anything.

For those who are not well-versed in the language of cervixes -- the part of the female anatomy that essentially has to disappear in order to deliver a baby -- dilating is when it opens, effacing is when it thins. It needs to open to 10 centimeters and thin 100 percent.

Sounds easy, right? Ten little centimeters?

Now think back to your sex-ed class in elementary school where you had to watch birth videos. Remember the woman in the hospital gown walking around the halls, hunched over in pain? Yeah, that's because her cervix was dilating.

Fun, huh?

Everyone Jerry and I told about my minor progress seemed to think it indicates impending labor. As in, "Break out the office poll, I have dibs on early next week." Or, "You're DEFINITELY having an October baby."

But I refuse to get my hopes up. If I listen to what my body is telling me, I'm pretty sure she's damn content in there. I've had very few signs other than abdominal cramps, which are starting to increase in strength and frequency. I guess it's a good thing, but it's very confusing to mentally root for the pain and physically want it to stop.

Of course, it always hits at night while I'm at work. It's nothing I can't handle, but it makes concentrating a little difficult. I find myself just sort of taking a moment to breathe and relax. Otherwise I'd end up writing a headline for the next day's newspaper like, "Pending executions in Iraq causing turmoil and OWWWW."

In between, I just sort of waddle a trench in the carpet between my desk and the bathroom. If I thought I was going a lot before, now it's almost obnoxious. I might as well swap out my desk chair with a toilet.

The one ray of hope is the doctor's response to my most pressing question at my appointment yesterday: "If I go past my due date, when would I be induced?"

Answer: 10 1/2 days. (What the hell the half day is for, I'll never know.)

That takes me to the day before Thanksgiving.

Not ideal, but at that point, I don't think I'll much give a damn.

Cervix, schmervix.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Overdue date

It really dawned on me yesterday, perhaps for the first time ever, that Nov. 10 isn't exactly set in stone. I mean, sure, doctors can approximate a baby's gestation with almost 100 percent accuracy these days, but, to be honest, it really doesn't mean crap.

For the past eight months, I've been viewing Nov. 10 as a magic number of sorts. A goal. A final destination. The finish line.

But due dates aren't like wedding dates. You can look forward to your child's expected birthday all you want, but that doesn't mean it'll happen. In fact, the likelihood is about 10 percent. Maybe less.

And yet, here I am, counting down. Literally. There are 23 days until Nov. 10. Twenty-three long and arduous days of hefting this baby around and attempting to be patient. Despite horrible sleep. Killer heartburn. Cramping and fake contractions. And clothes that are so restricting that I feel like Houdini every time I manage to writhe out of them.

The toughest part is knowing she is now considered full-term. If she was a Thanksgiving turkey, her little plastic timers would've popped already.

But it doesn't matter. Biology has its own time clock. And if she's anything like her mother, she'll choose to come fashionably late.

So last night when my boss mentioned making the November schedule, I felt more than a flutter of excitement. NOVEMBER! If I was Cinderella, songbirds would've burst through the windows right at that moment and started coiling ribbons and bows around my head.

"I'm assuming you'll want most of the month off?" she asked.

Gah.

The thing is, I want to work right up until I have this baby. I get 12 weeks off for maternity leave, and I'm hoping to spend every single one of those days with my daughter. Sure, I could start my leave now, but that's less time on the other end.

So I tried to think about when my time off might actually start. And I remembered that pregnant women are given a two-week window before and after their due date to help them gauge when the baby might arrive.

That's great and all, but, um, I've been concentrating on the two weeks BEFORE. Mostly because the two weeks after seem completely unbearable at this point. I'd rather stick my hand in an industrial-sized paper shredder.

But just out of curiosity and because my boss had asked what my plans are, I flipped over my desk calendar to November and took a look. Two weeks later takes me until AFTER Thanksgiving. November 24 to be exact. (Suddenly the turkey-timer analogy didn't seem quite so amusing anymore.)

That's 37 days from now. WAY more than the already agonizingly long 23 days I have somewhat mentally prepared for.

By then I don't think I'll be able to stand upright or form complete sentences. Clothes will be a thing of the past. I'll have to staple bedsheets together around my mound of flesh and hope that Jerry understands my grunts enough to get me a glass of water and a sheet pizza. You know, for a pre-lunch snack.

So, in hopes of not being disappointed when my Nov. 10 due date comes and goes without any fanfare or even so much as a false alarm, I am now concentrating on my overdue date: Nov. 24.

And if she's not out by then?

She will very likely be an only child.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm obsessed

Well, I FINALLY got the memory card I need for my camera yesterday, which means today is the first day I get to play with my new toy. Even though I was exhausted after my late shift at work, I really considered staying up and taking random shots around my house at 1 a.m.

But I forced myself to go to sleep, which wasn't all that restful. And for once, I can't blame the 6-pound being who currently resides in my midsection.

I couldn't stop dreaming about my camera.

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Aaaaand ... drumroll please ... the first batch of photos!

It is officially the most boring collection of images on the planet, but they
are HIGH-QUALITY and boring. And that TOTALLY makes a difference.

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Poor Toby got more pictures taken of him today
than Brittany Spears on a Starbucks run.


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Oh. My. God. I am officially in love with this camera.


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Water droplets on a weed in my backyard. Because I can.


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Our last two surviving roses.


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Vine attempting to take over our fence.

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Our perfect Pennsylvania pumpkins. (No. 2 producer in the country!)

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The note I left for Jerry this morning. He is interviewing a
Playboy bunny who he says has a horse face.

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Sign I got at an antique store that hangs above our stove.

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These guys sit on our windowsill.

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And, to me, this shot singlehandedly paid for the camera.
Toby, in his favorite spot, hanging out by the spare room window.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Even my wildest imagination couldn't make this up

Last night, Jerry and I went to dinner with some friends. When I got up to go to the bathroom at the end of the meal, I ended up following another woman in. She was probably in her late-50s, had very short gray hair and was wearing a colorful knitted vest.

She held the door for me on the way in, so she knew I was there, and proceeded into the first stall on the right.

As she swung the door open, she said, "MY NAME IS CORNHOLIO. I NEED TP FOR MY BUNGHOLE!"

In the Beavis voice and everything.

It literally stopped me in my tracks. I almost peed myself right there as I tried desperately to contain my laughter.

As I closed the door to the furthest stall, I honestly started to wonder if any of it was really happening. Was I dreaming? I mean, no one else was in there to witness it. Maybe I would walk out to find elaborately dressed circus monkeys waiting with fancy bar soap and fluffy hand towels.

But there weren't any monkeys. Just the crazy woman with the random vocal outburst. And as our eyes met briefly in the mirror, we just smiled in that polite "I acknowledge that you are a fellow human being" way you do with strangers in a bathroom.

Then we returned to our tables. And as luck would have it, hers was near mine.

When I sat down, I tried to quietly draw attention to the woman so I could relay the story. I mouthed the words, "OH MY GOD ... GET A LOOK AT THAT WOMAN ... HAVE I GOT A STORY FOR YOU GUYS!"

All heads instantly turned in her direction, but I didn't even care how indiscreet it was. It was too good not to share.

Everyone at the table agreed: No one would ever expect a middle-aged woman to blurt out an obscure 1994 MTV cartoon reference in a knowingly occupied public restroom.

And the Most Bizarre Statement of the Year award goes to ...

CRAZY BATHROOM LADY.

Monday, October 15, 2007

As exciting as they day I got my first car

I FINALLY BOUGHT A REAL CAMERA! Introducing my new Nikon D40:


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This has been a longtime coming. I've wanted one for years, but it just seemed like such a huge splurge -- and for someone who freaks out about one too many lights being on in the kitchen or the amount of money it takes to make a tray of water turn into ice in the freezer, I just couldn't justify the expense.

An SLR camera seemed like the equivalent of air conditioning the house in the summer by opening the refrigerator door and cranking it to the coldest setting -- a senseless waste of money.

And yet, I couldn't let it go. I found myself researching them all the time. My lowest moment came when I was visiting my parents this spring and I found an old Consumer Reports magazine in a basket in the downstairs bathroom on cameras. I was in there so long I wouldn't be surprised if my family thought my colon exploded. Rather than bring the magazine out to the living room, I just sat there on the toilet, completely enamored and immobile.

Then there were all the weddings I attended this summer. I'm not joking when I say I talked to every last photographer among them. I bombarded them with questions like: What do you use? Why do you like it? What are the pros? Cons? Is it easy to operate? Would you recommend it to someone just getting started? What? Oh sure, get back to the newlyweds. Right.

And then there are the photographers at my newspaper. More than anyone, they will be most excited about this purchase. Probably so I will leave them the hell alone about it. (Little do they know the questions are just getting started.)

It wasn't any one thing that finally encouraged me to make the investment, more like a small series of events that all pointed to the eventual realization of "BUY IT, YOU MORON."

The first was when I found out I was pregnant. Although I'm going to try desperately not to be the type of parent who whips out a wallet full of photos of my daughter to any passing stranger who lingers in my general area long enough, it never hurts to have high-quality images to show off if the opportunity arises, right? And just because my new camera will allow me to make a wall-sized print of my baby's face without distortion or pixilization, doesn't mean I'm going to do it. But the option makes me feel drunk with digital power.

Besides, seeing a newborn's eyeball blown up to the size of a pizza box might just be the finishing touch our dining room needs. In a tasteful frame, of course.

The second indication that I should make the plunge came when my pocket digital camera bit the dust while we were on vacation last month. It still works to a degree -- enough to get a picture out of it -- but the steps it takes to get even just one image is too complicated. I wouldn't trust anyone else to be able to use it, and that's not an option in the delivery room. If I don't have pictures of our seconds-old wrinkly goopy alien baby, I'll be more than a little pissed off. I mean, that's a rite of passage for modern moms. Gross pictures of your vernix-covered infant with umbilical cord still intact. (Another poster-sized candidate for the dining room wall.)

I'd love to be able to introduce my camera with actual photos taken on it, but the brilliant sales guy at the electronics store informed me that all memory cards are universal and I would be able to use the one from my old Olympus.

Yeah. Not the case.

I'd have to shave about one-eighths of an inch off to get it to fit into the slot, and I'm pretty sure that would damage its photo-storing capabilities to some degree. (Just call it a hunch.) So I'm hoping to be able to talk Jerry into stopping at the electronics store on his way home from work today, which I don't think will be a problem. That's like asking me if I'd like a scoop of ice cream. The answer is never no.

In the meantime, I will just stare at it lovingly with admiration and respect.

But I can't wait to take it out for a spin.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It SERIOUSLY better be a girl

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Crib nook.

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This is the wall art that I made.

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I found these cute flower placemats, used spray glue to adhere them
to foamcore board, drilled two holes at the top, used a needle to guide
pink thread through it to hang, then covered it up with a pink ribbon frame.

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I heart this bedding so much.

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Baby's-eye view of the mobile. You know, just for fun.

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Dresser and changing table. Like I mentioned in a previous post,
they JUST FIT. There are INCHES between them and the door.

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Roses I got at my baby shower in Pennsylvania. The picture frame I made.
And the awesome clock/CD/MP3 player we splurged on for lullabye music.

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This shelf was the final piece. I bought it as unfinished wood at a craft store
for $6 with a coupon and simply painted it white. What a bargain!

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I absolutely adore this original artwork of Noah's Arc that Timberly
got me from an arts festival in Nebraska. Perfect for right above the
changing area. I'm hoping it will hold much interest in the coming months.

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There was absolutely no resisting this sign when I saw it.

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Rocker and bookshelf.

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Unfortunately, this photo does the throw rug NO justice.
It has cute little raised polkadots all the way through it.

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In the two pictures above, you can see the final product, but this
is what the stool looked like when I started. I painted the base white
and found a gorgeous high-end upholstry fabric remnant for 85 cents!

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Magnetic dry erase board. I may paint the frame pink, but I'm still
undecided about it. And this proves we really honestly don't have a
name picked out yet. We still call her Little Miss and Baby Girl.

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Bottom three shelves on the book shelf. I plan to put
a newborn picture in the empty spot in the picture frame.

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Top shelf of the bookshelf with the hat box that I painted.

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Top of the bookshelf. I got the green pot on clearance at a home
store for $5 and the silk flowers were less than that. A little green
anchor foam and ... LOVELY! We had the pink pot in the attic.

Now we just need the baby.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Because what's more fun than talking about boobs for three hours?

There isn't too much I'm sure about as far as parenting is concerned, but the one thing I'm determined to be able to do is breastfeed.

I didn't know too much about the topic before getting pregnant, but now that I've done the research, it's overwhelmingly clear that the catchphrase "breast is best" has a lot of truth to it.

There are so many pros:
  • You can't beat free (vs. $100 a month or more for formula).
  • It's always readily available (vs. measuring, mixing and heating).
  • No cleanup and no need to pack when you travel (vs. bottles, nipples and liners).
  • Breast milk passes immunities to your baby and gives them antibodies, often preventing them from getting sick.
  • It fosters brain development.
  • Colostrum, or premilk, encourages a baby's porous digestive tract to close, guarding against infection.
  • It has the perfect mix of properties your baby needs, leading to more tolerable diapers.
  • It burns up to 2,000 calories a day for mom, helps prevent breast cancer and discourages the return of your menstrual cycle.

But as natural as it is, I know many women have difficulty breastfeeding. First of all, it hurts. And it continues to hurt if you don't do it right, leading to a tired and frustrated mom and a hungry baby. Then formula often isn't far behind.

So in effort to prepare myself a little, I signed up for a one-night breastfeeding class. It came highly recommended from the woman who ran our childbirth class and also from a friend who has breastfed both of her girls.

Unfortunately, Jerry got a paid radio broadcast at the last minute and couldn't attend, and I stand by my opinion that he missed out. In fact, I wrote him a note for when he got up this morning saying that he could've seen the instructor feeling herself up for three hours and pointing to her nipples.

But the freedom in which she grabbed her breasts is what immediately endeared her to me. By the end, everyone in the class -- including the men -- found themselves squeezing their own chest and practicing positions with matching giant fake plastic babies.

And it didn't seem weird at all.

She provided a ton of information and made it easy to understand. Like comparing our breasts to a giant sub sandwich loaded with piles of trimmings. You kind of have to squish down on it and hold it at the right angle to get it in your mouth. Well, the same goes for boobs apparently.

And being a huge fan of gigantic sandwiches, that's an analogy I can understand.

I know holding an immobile plastic doll up to my boob for a few minutes is a lot different than a flailing hungry baby every two to three hours, but I definitely feel a little more prepared and loads more knowledgeable about how to even attempt to do it.

And if all else fails, I'll just think back to the sandwich.

................................................................................................................

Aaaaaand ... THE NURSERY IS DONE! I finished the last thing today. Had to hang a shelf. Expect a nauseating amount of photos tomorrow.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Measuring in weeks, not months

It's official -- I'm in the final stretch. I am now going to my doctor's office every week until I give birth. I am no longer going to be routinely measured and weighed and sent home. Now I'll be checked for progression of labor.

YyyyyyyyyyIIIPPPEEEEEEEE!

Ahem.

My last appointment was Tuesday and it couldn't have been better. We saw one of my favorite doctors and she took plenty of time to answer our questions. I hadn't really had any concerns for the past few months, but all of a sudden it seems I'm wondering about everything. Is she head down? Is she moving enough? Is it even still a she? Are those period-like cramps anything to worry about? How can I tell if she's dropped into my pelvis? Will it really be a noticeable difference? Why haven't I had any contractions yet? Braxton-Hicks or otherwise? Is this thing going to be inside me forever?

Then Jerry chimed in with his own set of inquiries.

The doctor just laughed and patiently dispensed information and advice. Then, to ease my worries, she navigated my belly with her fingertips.

"That feels like butt," she said as her hands slid over the upper right side of my torso. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's butt."

A huge sense of relief washed over me as I stifled a giggle. I have been watching my belly closely over the past few weeks and the activity in that area has been overwhelming. At times, a huge round bulge will push out of my skin and if I race to put my hands on it, it feels round and firm. Just like a head. Up by my ribcage.

It had me so worked up that she could be in the wrong position this late in the game that I started having nightmares about automatic C-sections. To me, nothing could be worse. I want to at least get the opportunity to try to deliver naturally.

Then, as if that wasn't good enough, the doctor suggested a quick free ultrasound "just to be completely sure."

"If possible, we like to rule out any potential surprises," she said.

Jerry and I high-fived in the hallway on the way to the exam room. My practice doesn't give routine ultrasounds. In fact, most pregnant women there get one at eight weeks, one at 20 weeks, and that's it. So even a quick glimpse at our daughter's progression felt like a huge treat.

As her grainy image appeared in black and white on the monitor, it was immediately apparent that she is head down. And although we didn't get to look very long, her lung development since the last ultrasound was very noticeable.

"Oh good, she's practicing her breathing, see?" the doctor said, pointing to her diaphragm.

I could see it move up and down as her lungs inflated and deflated rhythmically. That brief moment made my whole day.

It's strange, but now I'm looking forward to hearing the cry that accompanies it.

I'm sure I'll kick myself in a few weeks for saying that, but right now it's something I'm really looking forward to.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pregnancy ruminations

Today, Oct. 10, marks exactly one month until my Nov. 10 due date, and I'm greeting it with mixed emotions. Although I am extremely ready to meet the person my body has been tirelessly creating over the past 36 weeks, I also know what a blessing it is to be pregnant and embrace all of the joy that it brings.

If I've learned anything throughout this experience, it's not to listen to other women's horror stories or read too much into pregnancy books. Sure, both can be a source of useful information, but they are more often a source of unnecessary stress and worry.

To celebrate this milestone, one that I am not ashamed to be proud of, I've decided to document some of the misinformation I was given about pregnancy and my personal highs and lows. I know I'll always look back on this time in my life as being very special -- and there are some moments I hope I never forget.

What I found not to be true
  • Constipation: Some books made it sound like my colon would forget how to function, leading to debilitating constipation and hemorrhoids the size of Manhattan. Maybe it's all of the fruit and fiber-filled cereal I eat, but this hasn't been an issue for me. Even with prenatal vitamins chock full of bowel-binding iron supplements.
  • Bloody gums and teeth problems: Again, maybe it's because I drink a half gallon of milk every day, but I would like to smack the woman who told me that all of her teeth nearly fell out. She had me worried I would end up looking like a dental "before" picture when I haven't had even the slightest problem.
  • Swelling: I guess this doesn't inflict everyone. I'm still able to take my wedding bands on and off. Maybe not with ease, but it's not like trying to force them over a corn cob either.

What I WON'T miss

  • Maternity clothes: At the beginning, they seemed so awesome in all of their comfy elastic goodness. Then the elastic started digging into my flesh, making me contemplate on more than one occasion whether it would be wise to simply snip a few cuts into the waistband of my jeans to create more breathing room. I look at buttons and zippers wistfully at this point.
  • Prenatal vitamins: Burping up that herbal garbage is enough to make me want to vomit my entire stomach. Not just its contents. The whole organ.
  • Acid reflux: I had never eaten a Tums in my entire life. Now I need one after ingesting something as inoffensive as a banana. And once, while I was sleeping, actual acidic liquid crept into my throat. Not even an entire container of Tums could tackle that bullshit.
  • Shortness of breath: Walking up a flight of stairs shouldn't feel like the equivalent of running a marathon.
  • Worrying: There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with being pregnant. Not knowing what my body is doing at any one moment is enough to keep me up at night. Not to mention whether the baby is developing properly. And I'll be more than happy to put fears about labor and delivery behind me.
  • Urine and blood samples: Ugh, I still haven't completely mastered peeing in a cup. And my veins do NOT cooperate. I'd make a horrible drug addict.
  • Fat jokes and the constant commentary on my eating habits: Enough said.
  • Feeling huge: Some days I just want to be able to bend over without grunting.

What I WILL miss

  • Baby movements: This is by far my favorite part of pregnancy. I am so in love with every stretch and kick that I can't help but break into a smile when she moves. Then I place my hands on my belly to experience it inside and out. I feel so connected to her. Much more than just physically.
  • Feeling beautiful: Sometimes, when I look at my profile in a mirror, I know this is the most gorgeous I've ever felt in my entire life. Even more than on my wedding day.
  • Voluminous hair, flawless skin, perfect nails: Apparently having a crapload of estrogen in my system agrees with me.
  • Indulging in a craving: Finally getting that particular random food is such an intensely satisfying feeling. I know with certainty that I will never enjoy strawberries the way I did that one night I ate an entire container and heaved a huge sigh of relief when I was done.
  • Ultrasounds: There is nothing more emotionally gratifying than seeing your baby in utero.
  • Strangers' reactions: Some people just smile. Some ask whether it's a boy or girl. Some just wonder when I'm due. Either way, people I don't even know show me they care and want to share in my excitement.
  • Wondering, wishing, waiting: A new baby is the ultimate gift to look forward to.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Concert-going Jerryisms

Korn played in our area last night and Jerry and his radio morning show co-anchor, Troy, had a big promotion for it. A few listeners got to go backstage with them and meet the band, and one guy even got to introduce Korn onstage.

In the hours leading up to it, Troy and Jerry did a live broadcast from the concert venue.

Calling me to proudly relay his willpower when it comes to other women's mammary glands:
"I just want to let you know that I could've seen a TON of boobs from girls trying to get the backstage passes. But I shut them DOWN. ... I did accept a free cheesesteak sandwich, though."

Discussing the level of uncleanliness the band exuded in their dressing room:
"Seriously? I heard the bass guitarist's dreadlocks crunch when he touched them."

When I used the loaner CR-V the Honda dealership gave us and discovered that all 12 radio preset buttons were tuned to his station:
"What makes you think that was me? I mean, it's a good station. Maybe someone likes us THAT MUCH."

Monday, October 8, 2007

The wheels on the car go splat, splat, splat

Changing a tire in the middle of a dimly lit parking lot at 2 a.m. is totally the most excellent thing ever.

Especially when you're eight months pregnant.

As much as I love my 4-year-old Honda CR-V -- which is abnormally a lot, so much so that I tap the outside of the driver's side door on occasion like it is a live being when I get to my destination -- it has been a TOTAL PAIN IN MY ASS the past month.

The trouble started when the dashboard lights started popping on one at a time. First it was the "maintenance required" light, to which I was told that it was a "routine" occurrence when I took it in for my annual inspection.

"It's nothing," the guy said as he accepted my credit card for payment. "It just comes on automatically after a certain amount of mileage."

"So you were able to turn it off?" I asked, naively.

"No."

Right.

Weeks later, after a trip to New York and back, the "check engine" light popped on. A few miles later, the "ABS" light, as in "automatic break system," as in "kind of important," popped on, too. Next came the "brake" light.

Ready to duct tape a concrete block to the gas pedal and watch the entire vehicle careen off a cliff and burst into a fiery ball of flames, I asked Jerry to make an appointment at the Honda dealership, which fortunately happens to be right next to his office.

Also fortunately, Jerry is friends with one of the managers there and a lot of the maintenance guys listen to his radio show. So we're always confident that we'll get excellent service and won't get taken advantage of.

But after three days of running diagnostic tests, they couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. Jerry's friend explained to me over the phone that nothing was actually wrong with any of those parts, just the electronic device that communicated with the dashboard. But how to fix it was putting them in a major quandary.

We left my car with them for more than a week while we were on vacation in Nebraska and Illinois. During that time, they conquered the beast, they said. But only after a special diagnostics expert traveled into town specifically to inspect and diagnose my car.

One hefty bill later and I was confident that it was now safe and ready to cart around our child when the time comes.

Until the "Break" and "ABS" lights started popping on and off like blinking Christmas lights a few days later.

This time, a fiery plume of smoke in a ravine wouldn't have been good enough. I wanted real explosives. Big sticks of dynamite labeled "TNT" like you see in old Road Runner cartoons.

So Jerry made another appointment. This time they had it 12 hours as my superhero husband patiently waited. They finally determined that it needs another part. One that has to be ordered for another day and runs in the three-digit arena.

I was pissed, but knew it was a necessary evil. And nothing encourages you to dump money into your vehicle like knowing a newborn will be riding in the back seat in a few weeks.

The appointment to install said part was for this morning. But in the meantime, I noticed a slight squeaking noise when I turned sharp corners. Knowing it could possibly be lack of air in the tires, I gave them a good look one afternoon on my way to work. They all appeared like they could stand to be topped off, but nothing overwhelming.

I was wrong.

Apparently my front passenger tire had a leak. And it decided to empty out to the rims the one night I had to pull the late shift this week at work.

I started up my car completely exhausted after a nine-hour shift, not noticing that it was totally lopsided. Then I proceeded to drive it out of the parking lot, trying to ignore the odd growling sounds it was making even at less than 10 miles per hour.

Knowing something was definitely wrong, I pulled around with a huge sigh, parked next to a floodlight and got out to inspect the tires. Again.

This time there was no question. I was looking at flat rubber.

Although I am well versed at changing tires, the thought of sitting outside in the parking lot by myself as all of the third-shift paper delivery drivers sped past didn't quite sit well with me. So I resigned myself to asking for help and felt fortunate that one of the sports guys and another night editor hadn't yet left the news room.

Although it was late, they didn't hesitate to come down and help me. I explained that I could do everything myself except loosen the lug nuts.

So, I led them to my car, opened up the back, pulled out the jack, got on the ground, felt around for the metal rim and started twisting the jack in place.

"KELLY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" Jay yelled.

"I'm propping the car up so we can get the bad tire off."

"I see that," he said. "GET OFF THE GROUND! ... I can change your tire, but I can't deliver your baby. GET UP."

"Dude, I got it."

"GET UP."

I reluctantly obliged to let Scotty take over. Then I went to the back of the car, unzipped the spare tire cover and attempted to loosen the lug nuts there.

"KELLY STOP! I mean it. I can't deliver a baby. I got it."

They also protested when I lifted the flat off the wheel base.

"I really meant that I could do everything myself except for the lug nuts," I said. I was exhausted and more than a little frustrated at my vehicle, but my fully ingrained "I am woman, I can do it" attitude gave me all the adrenaline I needed.

An hour later, my spare tire was in place and I thanked the guys profusely for their help as I drove home. I woke Jerry to tell him to be careful while driving it to the dealership this morning and that our service bill likely just quadrupled because I probably need four new tires.

"Better now than in a few weeks," he said, always the eternal optimist.

"And at least the fleas are gone," he added, trying his best to make me feel better as I collapsed into bed.

"Yeah, but doesn't bad crap always come in threes?" I said in the darkness. "I swear I can't take anything else. The next time I really will just go into labor."

My fear of the disastrous trifecta must've translated into my subconscious because I woke up dreaming about going down on the Titanic.

Eight months pregnant.

Fortunately, I don't have any plans to travel by cruise liner any time soon.

And if I did, I'd cancel them.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Newspaper column

You know how pregnant women are always portrayed on television and in movies as sitting on the kitchen floor at 3 a.m. in front of an open refrigerator, polishing off the last of the pickles, cold leftover lasagna and scooping strawberry jam out of the jar with their fingers?

Well, as much as I hate to admit it, I think I’ve hit that phase.

I wanted to go the entire nine months and say it’s a complete fabrication. That pregnant women really don’t get absurd cravings in the middle of the night and certainly don’t have to act on them if they do get an occasional hunger twinge.

Not so.

Now that I’m nearing the end of my third trimester, I wake up about once a week from a dead sleep, stomach growling and baby flailing inside me furiously. And let me tell you, dozing back off is a complete impossibility. I need food. Immediately.

The first time it happened, I couldn’t believe that I found myself getting out of bed after a few hours just to chow down a bowl of cereal. And uncharacteristically, I didn’t even flinch when I discovered the utensil drawer only had big spoons left. All of the regular human mouth-sized spoons were in the dishwasher and I didn’t even care.

The big ones are much closer to the size of a shovel, I reasoned. And shovels hold a lot of material.

Now to choose the material.

First of all, to say I am a cereal addict would be a complete underrepresentation of my love of crispy flakes, honey-toasted Os and whatever else happens to go into those fantastic colorful boxes. Dried strawberries? I’m in. Raisins? Absolutely. Almonds? The more the merrier.

If it can be mixed with milk and eaten in a bowl, I will consume it with gusto. It isn’t unheard of for me to have it for breakfast, lunch and an after-work snack. And now I’ve added “random nocturnal pregnancy craving” to my repertoire.

I’m not sure if my eyes are open while I’m eating (or if I take the time to turn on the kitchen light for that matter), but I can tell you that it is the best-tasting cereal I’ve ever eaten. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had it a thousand times before, it just seems to hit the spot.

Of course, my dog has taken quite well to this new habit. He launches down the stairs with exuberance the second he realizes where I’m headed. If I wasn’t so tired, I’d probably laugh knowing that his renegade tail has more energy than my entire body.

Then he just sort of sits on the floor and waits patiently in the hopes that I overfilled the bowl in my sleepy stupor, ready to lap up anything that cascades overboard.

It always reminds me of the time I ate an entire pound of strawberries in my first trimester. I had been craving them all day and finally gave in, standing over the sink, coring and shoving them into my mouth one at a time until the entire container was empty.

My poor dog just sat there looking at me as if to say, “Hey Fatty, can’t you spare just ONE?”

But I couldn’t.

Fortunately, I haven’t quite gotten to the point where silverware is too much of a bother. I still attempt to eat like a human being when cravings strike.

Then again, I still have a little more than a month to go. At that point, using my fingers to scoop peanut butter and jelly into my mouth might seem completely reasonable.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Fleeing fleas

After all of the work I did yesterday, I am confident enough to say that this house has never been so spotless before. Not even if Mr. Clean had done it himself and left shiny sparkling stars on every flat surface that gleamed in the sun.

The urge to delouse the place was overwhelming. I couldn't stand the thought of dead flea larvae hanging out in our carpet. So I started with the floors. Then I just turned into a crazy maniac with a vacuum cleaner.

I am not exaggerating when I say I covered every surface. I saw places in this house yesterday that had probably been neglected for years. I dusted every square foot of baseboards throughout the entire house. I even got on my hands and knees and sucked out the dust in the heating vents and ran an attachment through each nook in our wine rack.

Meanwhile, I had rotated through 347 loads of laundry including every washable plush material in the house. Every sheet. Every pillowcase. Every blanket and throw rug. Every bath towel, hand towel and kitchen towel. Even Toby's unwashable bedding got a 30 minute spin in the dryer to kill anything that even thought about surviving the flea bombs. I even ran all of his rubbery toys through a cycle in the dishwasher.

By the time Jerry got home, I had all of the furniture pulled away from the walls in the living room and was sucking up the dust on the inner windowsills behind the couch.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?"

"Decontaminating."

"Stop. ... Kelly, stop. ... STOP!"

"I can't stop or I won't be able to finish," I said, yelling over the hum of the vacuum as I continued with the baseboards. "Seriously. If I stop I'll realize how much I'm ready to collapse."

Knowing there was no way he could talk any sense into me, he just joined in, trying to take over the brunt of the physical moving. Like lifting the couch. To which I repaid him by accidentally ramming the edge of vacuum cleaner into his big toe on his left foot and nearly severing it in half.

When we finished, nearly six hours after I had started, I felt normal again. I wasn't grossed out by the mere thought of putting my bare foot on our floors. After taking a shower, I collapsed on the couch with a PB&J.

"I know this might not make any sense at all, but when I'm in labor saying something like, 'I can't do this anymore,' I want you to remind me of this day."

"Okaaay."

"Not the physical aspect of it, because I'm sure that's nothing compared to labor, but the determination aspect of it," I said. "Even though I was exhausted and I hurt all over, I was determined to finish. I had a goal. ... Just remind me of that."

"Deal. But I'll probably also mention something about how my toe still hurts."

"Then you'd better hope I don't rip your face off before the next contraction hits."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Oh, it just keeps getting #@*%ing better

Toby has fleas.

Which means our house is infested with eggs.

That will hatch in about four weeks.

Right around my due date.

Awesome.

Lamaze breath in ... Lamaze breath out ...

Over the past week or so, we had noticed that Toby was digging furiously at his backside. He would spin in panicked circles trying to get to the area right above his tail. At first, we didn't think anything of it. Then it became more frequent. Then it got to the point that we couldn't stop him from "tossing his own salad" (as Jerry so lovingly put it), so I called the vet.

We took him in yesterday afternoon, explaining the problem. As the nurse shoved a thermometer up Toby's butt, she said she noticed a few fleas and guessed that was the problem. Then she ran a fine-toothed comb through his fur and there they were.

I wanted to die. I felt like a negligent dog owner. Who suddenly had the intense urge to dry heave.

When the doctor came in, the words coming out of his mouth kept getting worse and worse: Eggs. Infestation. All plush surfaces. Must treat animal and environment.

My head was spinning and I felt itchy all over just thinking about it. Must. Not. Vomit.

Fortunately, he was calm and understanding and spent almost an hour with us devising a plan of attack. He gave us a few canisters of concentrated "leave the house immediately" flea bombs and a less-intense aerosol version to spray in the hard-to-reach corners before setting off the other ones.

Then he placed a topical treatment on Toby that will kill their source of food over four weeks and make the fleas unable to reproduce, inevitably leading to their not-soon-enough demise.

But I guess I should be grateful that someone somewhere has spent enough time researching this sort of thing to invent a little liquid gel that, when placed on a small spot on an animal's back, renders the flea reproductive system useless. If you ask me, that's Nobel Prize material.

So, Jerry and I retreated home feeling utterly guilty, carrying a hefty vet bill and bag full of substance that promised a flea annihilation.

Then, even though I had just spent the last two days laundering everything in our damn house, we piled all of the sheets, blankets, towels, absolutely everything in the baby's room and both of Toby's beds in the basement for another round. Because, thankfully, fleas and their eggs can't withstand even 30 minutes in the dryer.

We also closed all the windows and rearranged much the upstairs, placing all of the baby's other items in a closet that Toby rarely goes in. Downstairs, we piled the strollers and play yard in the kitchen where there aren't enough plush surfaces to warrant a ton of flea-killing attention.

Then I kissed Jerry goodbye, wishing him luck on his mission and left the house waiving to one very confused Toby who had been relegated to the yard.

After a two-hour lockdown, Jerry returned to the house to air everything out, opening all of the windows and turning on all the fans. It was safe to inhabit 30 minutes later, but I didn't get home from work until six hours after that.

Now, over the next few days, I have to stay away from Toby as much as possible until his topical treatment really sinks in and we can bathe him. In the meantime, I will be scrubbing this house from floor to ceiling, shoving everything into the washer and dryer that will fit and vacuuming the carpets until they're practically threadbare.

Then I'll do it again.

Nothing kicks nesting up a notch like a flea problem.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm sure there's a knock-knock joke to be told in here somewhere

We have become the semi-regular target of ding dong ditch.

And it's driving Jerry crazy.

Apparently it has been going on almost nightly for weeks, but because I work late, I'm never around to be bothered by it. Jerry, however, is ready to kill.

I didn't really believe him until it happened a few days ago when I had the night off and we were attempting to put together the strollers. All I heard was a muted mumble of laughter on the porch, a light pummel of multiple fists on the door and more laughter as the culprits retreated.

I don't know who got worked up more: Jerry or Toby.

"Ugh, I'm gonna KILL THOSE BASTARDS!" Jerry said, leaping to his feet, a set of rubber stroller wheels in hand, as Toby started barking frantically with fur raised at the base of the door.

Before I even understood what had happened, Jerry yelled, "C'MON TOBY!" and picked up the dog, stroller wheels still in hand, and ran outside to investigate.

I just sat there on the floor, still struggling with the stroller, shaking my head. Boys.

"THEY KNOCKED OVER OUR GARBAGE CANS!" Jerry yelled a few minutes later when he finally returned to the house. "I chased them into the alley, but then I lost 'em."

"And what exactly were you going to do?" I asked, trying not to laugh. "Chuck the stroller wheels at their heads? Maybe let Toby bite at their ankles?"

"It's every damn night with those bastards. ... I'm gonna sit outside and wait on the porch the next time you have to work. It's always before 9 because they probably have a curfew."

At that point, I couldn't contain my laughter. "And when they show up, will you waive your fists in the air screaming, 'You menacing kids!'"

"Shut up."

"Frankly mister, I have very little sympathy for you because I know you pulled the same crap when you were their age," I said. "Don't you remember what it's like to be 15 and living in a small town with nothing to do? ... And if you think for one second that we're the only house they're hitting, you're crazy. But if you give them a reaction, they'll be even more inclined to show up. It'll become more fun for them. Just let it go."

"They still did it with the porch lights on and everything. And we were standing right inside the door!"

"WOULD YOU LISTEN TO YOURSELF OLD MAN?!"

"I'm just saying."

But as much as we joke around about it, I know he's completely obsessing over some sort of retribution. In fact, he even brought it up during his radio show the next morning, asking listeners for suggestions.

One caller had the brilliant idea of waiting on the porch in the dark with a giant supersoaker filled with red dye. Then Jerry would jump out and attack -- their clothes apparently.

Inviting more retribution.

Later that night, Jerry even mentioned it to our neighbor when he brought his dogs over to our yard for a play date. Dave works at a corrections facility, so he knows a lot about crime, charges and penalties.

"If they smash your pumpkins, it's a second-degree vandalism charge," he said.

I tried not to laugh as the two of them got all worked up about the possibility that our temporary $4 porch gourds might become untimely pavement pulp before they would rot on their own a few weeks later.

Oh the horror.

And what if we accidentally give those undeserving pests a piece of Halloween candy when the time comes? Gasp!

But I didn't dare bring that up. The mere thought would make Jerry's head explode.

Because apparently I'm the only one with the rational thinking capacity to realize that as soon as the weather gets colder and the bikes are put away for the winter, the prank knocking will come to an inevitable end.

I just have to deal with Jerry's neurosis until then.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Assembly required = Have gasoline and matches ready

Putting together baby gear is not for the faint of heart.

Or directionally challenged.

Now that the nursery is almost done, Jerry and I have turned our attention to other responsibilities like getting all of her stuff out of boxes. We correctly assumed that they would take up less much space in their original packaging, so we put it off as long as possible to maintain somewhat of a semblance of organization in our house. We figure we only have a few more weeks of an adults-only living space before it explodes and becomes overrun with diapers, burpcloths and pacifiers.

But with my due date quickly approaching, the fear of not having the car seat and stroller ready was enough to put the wheels in motion. Literally.

The boxes were many:
  • Play yard (all-in-one travel contraption that serves as a changing table, bassinet and play area)
  • Rocking chair (after all the furniture was in the nursery, it finally dawned on me that a large upholstered chair wasn't going to fit)
  • Mega stroller (for the fall festivals in life)
  • Collapsible stroller (for the quick go-anywhere times in life)
  • Car seat (which awesomely fits into both aforementioned strollers)
  • Mechanical rocker (seat that moves back and fourth and sideways to hopefully encourage fussy babies to relax)
Jerry had put together the mechanical rocker on his own while I was at work, so I didn't have the luxury of hearing his mumbled expletives. He even went out that night and purchased the mega batteries required to run it, just to see if it worked. And after much confusion and toiling (and recanting the horror story to me), it is now baby ready.

We decided to attempt the rocker next. It came from what had looked like a reputable chair website and required only moderate assembly. But only after we lugged it upstairs and tore open the package did we realize we had to construct it on a table. So we lugged it back downstairs to the kitchen and tried our best to save the foam packaging, as instructed, to use as padding to protect the product during construction.

Then, after our kitchen was a gigantic mess, we discovered that the box didn't contain the little bag of hardware it was supposed to come with. Instead, we got two packages of glue. So, as I got on the phone to attempt to politely request the missing parts, Jerry set each piece of chair aside in our dining room, including every scrap of foam, and tried not to give in to the overwhelming desire to toss all of it into our fire pit and douse it in gasoline.

Stupidly, we didn't just accept our losses for the day and decided to attempt the play yard next. The pieces were many. When laid out in our living room, it took up most of the empty floor space. But we took inventory, and all of the parts we were supposed to have were there. At that point, we considered it a small victory.

Then we got completely rattled on step one. The directions instructed us to snap the base into place, but even with one of us on each end, it refused. We pried, we folded, we pushed, we pulled -- nothing worked. Eventually, we realized a nondescript button on the underside of the contraption needed to be in the "open" position, then pushed "closed" once the sides were in place. Right.

After all that, I wanted to simply step inside and let it collapse around me, leading to my tragic demise.

The next few steps proved a little less difficult, but eventually we got to a faulty piece. Part Q was supposed to "snap" into Part X ... blah, blah, blah ... it didn't fit. There was something very clearly wrong with Part Q. Like a big piece of plastic where a hole should be.

So, I gave it the middle finger and got on the phone. Again.

This time I waited a blissful 40 minutes just to talk to someone who barely understood English and lied through my teeth that we opened the box and discovered we were missing Part Q. I figured it was easier than trying to explain to her that the piece was faulty.

Days later, all of the new parts arrived and we attempted round two of Baby Gear Assembly.

The chair went together with only minor frustration and we were glad we had the extra package of glue. We inadvertently overfilled the first few holes and wouldn't have had enough for the final few. And once we placed the chair on the kitchen floor and I sat in it, I can honestly say I've never felt so accomplished in my life. Maybe even more so than the day I received my college diploma.

The play yard wasn't so simple. As I had suspected, the new Piece Q snapped right into place without struggle. Mostly because it had a hole where the metal pole was supposed to go. After feeling another huge surge of accomplishment, we frustratingly discovered that the new piece was now missing the pole that is supposed to attach to the side of the play yard and hold the bassinet in place.

And NOW because it's already snapped onto the bassinet piece and won't detach, we need THREE new pieces to get it to work. Jerry is so frustrated that he said we should demand to speak to Mr. Eddie Bauer himself.

As in, "I think Mr. Bauer should come to our house to personally attempt to put this together for us."

Round three of Baby Gear Assembly will come when I calm down enough to sit on the phone for another 40 minutes.

In the meantime, we put together the strollers and car seat. These proved much less difficult, but the stress of getting it right was overwhelming. I mean, images of our daughter being catapulted out of her seat because we screwed up one little step were more than enough to encourage us to read everything three or four times.

Granted, we skipped over the whole "where to place the baby" stuff, but at least they're in functioning order. We'll figure out how to use them later. Frankly, neither one of us had the intestinal fortitude to attempt to learn which leaver does what and which handle to grab to collapse them.

Because if we hadn't been able to figure it out, I think we would've simply rolled them down to the nearby train station and high-fived as an old Conrail melded them to the tracks.

Instead, we placed everything in a corner in the dining room, turned off the lights and considered it a job well done.

Babies HAVE to be easier to take care of than putting their stuff together.

At least that's what I'm telling myself at the moment.

Monday, October 1, 2007

34 weeks and counting (desperately)

I've had a couple bad pregnancy days recently. They're much like bad hair days, only instead of just affecting your head and your mood, it affects your entire body and psyche.

I'm sure it's not uncommon at this stage of the game. I mean, I feel like I've been pregnant forever. And really, when I think about it, I have been pregnant almost the entire year.

The toughest part is my changing body. I've slowed way down and even the simplest tasks have become difficult. Just carrying a basket of laundry up a flight of stairs makes me winded. Hell, even without the laundry I struggle for breath sometimes. The baby is now taking up my entire midsection which has encroached on my lung space. It's almost like a constant asthma attack. Sitting up overly straight is my only line of defense.

To top it off, her nutritional needs have taken over. I'm often hungry a few hours after eating, and ignoring it is not an option. My stomach starts growling loudly and the baby starts flailing. I'm not sure which is weirder: Feeling something inside you demanding food or feeling your stomach rumble in your ribcage.

Then there's the fact that I can't move the way I used to. Bending over and picking things up requires my utmost concentration. And I kind of have to bow out my legs to give my bulging belly a place to go. I've noticed that I'm even walking differently. I sometimes arch my back to overcompensate for the load I'm carrying out front.

The only time I really have any get up and go is when I'm literally getting up to go. If she rotates or moves anywhere near my bladder, I feel it. The pressure is enough to send me immediately to the bathroom, where it is always disappointing at the lack of liquid that had me so worked up in the first place. I expect Niagara Falls. I get a rain drop.

The nights are the worst. Finding a comfortable position is almost an impossibility. I am hyper aware of my belly and its contents, and it takes a lot of work to move it from one side to the other. Not to mention a 180 degree turn is enough to stir the baby, and I have to wait until she settles to doze off again.

The other small internal changes don't seem like much until I add them up. Things like popping vertebrae have become a regular occurrence as my bones and ligaments loosen in preparation for childbirth. My hands and feet swell like tightly packed sausages on the rare occasion that I do attempt to walk around for a bit. And then there's the gas. Oh my God the gas. I would think the smells coming from my ass were those of a 450 pound trucker who just ingested a deep fried jalapeno sandwich and washed it down with molten lava.

Externally, I'm trying not to place too much emphasis on the small purple stretchmarks digging trenches into the skin around my sides. I know from experience that they fade, but it's difficult to watch them grow and realize there's absolutely nothing I can do to stop it. Not even the four applications of anti-stretchmark cream I'm committed to daily.

Then there's the weight gain. I've honestly been okay with it up until my maternity jeans stopped fitting last week. When elastic pants become too constricting, you know you've hit an emotional low. I now have two pairs of long pants that allow me to sit in comfort. Relatively speaking, of course.

But as I fought off the urge to cry on my drive to work one day last week, I tried to remember what it's all for. And how hard I've worked to get to this point.

Then, as if right on cue, I felt a little arm or foot or butt or something stretch the boundary of my belly. Those are my favorite moments. When I'm alone in my car thinking about who knows what, she moves and reminds me she's there.

And I know without a doubt that she'll be worth it.