Thursday, January 31, 2008

What goes around comes around

So I know kids always blame their parents for everything that goes wrong in their life. As in: "Remember that time you made meatloaf for dinner? You should've known I hate anything shaped into a loaf. It's singlehandedly the reason I can't sleep without a nightlight as an adult. You ruined everything."

Because of this, I am fully prepared to face the brunt of Allison's blame once she's old enough to point. I mean, frankly, I'm due for it. I used to blame my mother for even the slightest blip in my life. The reason I didn't get a perfect score on that spelling test? Mom must've routinely skipped the word "onomatopoeia" while quizzing me. The reason I almost didn't get my driver's license? Mom didn't make me practice parallel parking enough. The reason my seventh grade school picture turned out horribly? My mom wouldn't buy me that new sweater I wanted.

Even now, we joke about it. If something goes wrong, my mom just says, "I know, it's all my fault." It's not my brother's fault that he took the last cookie, it's my mom's fault for not making enough.

Last night I got my first taste of being on the receiving end. Jerry and I were eating dinner and he got up for a second helping. Allison was next to the table, completely conked out in her glider. She's gotten fairly good at napping through routine noise, so we don't have to whisper like we're at the opera anymore. Then again, I'd be lying if I said we weren't conscious of our decibel level either.

Well, as he was sitting down, Jerry's chair skidded on the floor and the back legs lifted up and crashed down, causing a loud thump. It sounded like the baseball bat I was mentally envisioning slamming into his head.

We both froze as Allison jolted awake.

And then, I watched as she slowly turned her head in my direction and contorted her face into a look of pure frustration. Her eyes narrowed, her lips pursed and her tiny hands balled into tight fists. I practically heard her screaming, "MOM! UGH! I'M SLEEPING! What does a baby have to do to get a little SHUTEYE around here?"

Jerry just stifled a giggle as she thankfully nodded back to sleep.

As I turned back to my plate and speared some asparagus with my fork, I shrugged and said, "I know, it's all my fault."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I think I'm having an affair with my camera

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Toby enveloped himself in our comforter Monday night.



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Have I mentioned before that my husband is awesome? No?
Well he is. He got me a gorgeous bouquet of flowers to thank
me for taking care of him while he was overtaken by phlegm.


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And have I mentioned before how frigging AMAZING my camera is?
I can seriously smell this rose just by looking at the picture.


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And no, Allison did not suddenly learn
how to hold her head upright overnight.



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It's her baby doppelganger on the PBK catalog. Creepy.


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Speaking of Pottery Barn, here are the latest additions to our living room.


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And this has just been bugging me. These blocks each have
an animal that is SUPPOSED to correspond to its color.
Well, last I checked, turtles are GREEN. Way to screw up
my kid, Baby Einstein. Ever heard of BLUEJAYS?

Hoping they have good CD players in heaven

Someone I considered a friend passed away Sunday. He was a coworker of mine and had been very ill in the hospital for a few weeks. Even though I was told his prospects of making a recovery were slim, it doesn't make hearing of his death any easier.

In some ways, it feels strange to admit how deeply I was affected by the news. I mean, I never really saw him outside of the office in the nearly three years we worked together and, yet, it feels like a huge loss to me.

Tom was just one of those people in life I clicked with. He was around retirement age, but I got the feeling he liked the challenge of the daily grind -- despite typical complaints about it. His job was to design ads as well as collect and inspect the film negatives for all of the newspaper pages at night and help ship them off to the press room. Although he was technically only responsible for making sure the ads were correct, he often caught mistakes on the news end. In fact, I think he saved my ass from having the wrong date published on more than one occasion.

One of the most memorable things about him was his taste in music. Whenever I went downstairs, I'd never know what genre he'd be playing. His collection ranged from opera to classic favorites like Dean Martin and Tony Bennett, instrumentals, swing, blues, Broadway musicals, and every once in awhile he'd surprise me by playing contemporary artists like Maroon 5 or Radiohead.

It was over that varying background music we'd catch up while I was waiting for the processors to spit out my pages.

Thinking back, I have sort of an incomplete picture of Tom. Granted, I don't think anyone can really get an all-encompassing understanding of even themselves, but he was a man of many hats. And despite having been given what I consider to be a rough lot in life, he had a great laugh and an appreciation for the little things.

I know his parents died when he was very young and he was forced to raise his younger sisters by himself. Because of that, he never went to college or even learned how to drive. He lived with his cat in an apartment in the city and walked to and from work every night. But on the few occasions the temperature dipped below freezing and I'd catch him attempting to trudge on foot, I made him get in my car.

The first time I drove him home, I couldn't believe how far he walked. He said it took him an hour each way, but the distance still shocked me. Eventually he got an apartment that was a little shorter of a commute, but I'll forever be inspired by his nonchalance about it. I know people with much younger and stronger bones who couldn't do that five days a week.

My biggest regret is that he didn't get to meet Allison. Throughout much of my pregnancy, I wasn't shipping too many pages. Even a flight of stairs winded me in the third trimester and I was concerned about all of the chemicals used to process the film, so the rest of my department was gracious enough to take care of the task.

Even though there were weeks I wouldn't see him, we always chatted on the phone when I needed to move an ad. He talked about his nieces and nephews often and I was surprised how much he could relate to a twentysomething pregnant woman. He always knew the right thing to say when I admitted to feeling my worst, and he was genuinely interested in hearing about Allison even before she had a name. I know he would've loved to have seen her. Unfortunately, I didn't bring her by in time.

His passing reminds me to appreciate the people I do have in my life and never to hesitate to tell them how I feel.

I know someone else will eventually take his shift at work, but they have some big shoes to fill. And even bigger radio speakers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Probably just trying to secure his spot in the will

This morning while I was flipping through my newspaper in a foggy haze and shoveling cereal into my mouth, I came across a story of a dog that mauled an infant. It immediately made me appreciate how well Toby has adapted to our family's new addition.

I'm not sure why or how we got so lucky to have the best dog in the universe. He is loving to a fault. He just wants to be on someone at all times. When I'm at the computer, he has to be in my lap. When we're sleeping, he's under the covers resting his head on our legs. If we close a door, he'll nudge it open. It's almost as if his lungs won't function unless he has at least one hair follicle touching another living being.

Allison recently became one of those beings.

He was always curious about her, but now it's more than just the euphoric look he gets on his face when he catches a whiff of a dirty diaper. He lays beside her while she's on her play mat. When I have her in my lap, he squeezes in, too. When she's in her swing, Toby's always nearby, centimeters away from getting decapitated.

The only thing I ever have to discipline him about is licking her face and blankets. But training a dog not to react to regurgitated milk isn't easy. The aroma is so appealing that if I accidentally drop a burp cloth on the floor, he rolls around on it in hopes of transferring the scent to his fur. Plus, it's his way of showing affection and I don't want to chastise him for that.

But the best part of all is that he knows when it's time to leave her alone. When we put Allison in her crib for the night, Toby knows to follow me out of the room. And even though the century-old knob doesn't latch, it's the one door Toby won't push open when it's closed.

A lot of people joked that Toby would be demoted in terms of affection when the baby was born, but if anything, my love for him has grown.

So after breakfast, I grabbed Allison, went upstairs and fed her in bed. Toby assumed his normal spot under the covers and the three of us took a brief nap.

I nodded off feeling all warm and fuzzy. Mostly because Toby's head was on my arm.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Newspaper column

After a week of listening to my furnace battle near record-breaking lows, I'm already daydreaming about spring. Sure, snow is pretty, but I get over it the second I have to break out a shovel.

I bet the outdoor buffs are shaking their heads as they pull on a layer of thermal underwear for a weekend jaunt down a few ski slopes, but I'm just not that enthusiastic. Even as a kid, I only stayed outside long enough to warrant a cup of hot chocolate.

It's not like I didn't give winter sports a try. Granted, it was a million years ago, but I honestly did attempt to maneuver down a mountain with those crazy slippery sticks fastened to my feet. I was in fifth grade and the ski club was my elementary school's hot spot. So one afternoon I made the gutsy move of penciling my name on the sign-up sheet.

I figured if I chickened out, I could always flip the pencil over and take advantage of the eraser.

But my parents paid the bus and ski rental expenses, so I felt committed. Fortunately, one of my closest friends was an avid skier and agreed to hold my hand through the process -- literally, as I flailed down the bunny slope.

I remember walking through the drafty ski-fitting area with trepidation. Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing except for me. Not to mention I hadn't made it outside yet and I was freezing in that open-air plywood bungalow.

As a first-timer, I was shuffled along with other novices to a free lesson. The instructor made it sound so easy.

"Just shape your skis into a pizza wedge when you want to stop," he said.

Simple enough. Pizza. No problem.

Then we were told to grab onto a handle as a mechanical pulley system tugged us up the slightest of inclines. At the top, we would ski down while intermittently practicing our best pizza formation. While I stood in line for my turn, I watched as pint-sized toddlers flew down the hill with ease. Not only did they get from one end to the other without falling down, but they didn't even have poles to help keep them upright.

Surely if they could do it, I could do it, I thought.

I was wrong. I faltered, fumbled and tumbled my way down. I had snow in places I didn't know snow could go -- like my tear ducts and inner ear cavity. For the first time in my life, pizza had failed me. I wanted to admit defeat, crawl to the lodge and wait by the fire until our scheduled departure time.

But my friend wouldn't let me give up until I had at least given the bunny slope a try. She assured me it was simple and said that if I didn't love skiing by the time I got to the bottom, she would personally escort me to get a cup of hot chocolate.

Well, I do not love skiing. If anything, my horrible experience solidified the sport in my Things Never To Do Again mental file folder. It was so bad that I took off my skis halfway down the slope after nearly careening off a cliff. Then I awkwardly trudged along in boots that were not made for walking, tears streaming down my face.

My membership with the ski club was short-lived.

Now that I have a little perspective on the situation, I'm glad I was brave enough to give it a shot. But for this girl, pizza is best enjoyed hot with extra cheese. And preferably indoors.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Me and my girl

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wondering if this is what it's like to have two children

Jerry has the flu and I may have to clone myself.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mental vomit

I'm not sure why, but Allison reverted to newborn behavior last night and got me up every two to three hours. So I'm feeling a little punchy this morning to say the least. I just got her back to sleep, which was nothing short of a miracle.

I should be sleeping too, but my mind always works overtime when I'm in the middle of writing my newspaper column, and this week is no exception. I think I'm finally finished, but it doesn't leave much inspiration or oomph for anything else.

Normally I would just let it go and not update my blog for the day, but other things seem to be floating around in my neural transmitters because I can't seem to relax my head. And when that happens, writing is the best outlet for me.

So, without further ado, I will start a bulleted list and see what the heck pops out:
  • I've been dreaming about ghosts a lot lately and I'm not sure why this is. It's nothing particular or anyone I know, but it's obviously something that's getting to me. Last night I dreamt that I installed cameras all around our house to monitor any unusual activity. It was one of those deals where it wasn't our house but it was. And when I saw a cup move a few centimeters on the kitchen counter, the dream abruptly ended.
  • I'm sick of the snow. I want to take a walk. I need sunshine on my skin and the feel-good endorphins it releases. I'm going completely stir crazy in this house.
  • I honestly don't know who I'm going to vote for in the presidential primaries.
  • I have 12 days of maternity leave left and it rips my heart in half knowing I'm not going to be home to put Alli to bed every night. On the other hand, I desperately need the mental stimulation of adult conversation and global politics I get at my job. I hope I can find a balance.
  • My neighbor just pulled into his spot and it boosts my mood to no end knowing that his wife probably just doesn't like going out in the cold.
  • I feel like eating pancakes.
  • Our closets and attic are bursting at the seams. I really think that stuff is like a goldfish -- it grows to the size of the container. We have a lot more useless items now that we have an attic to stow them away in. This summer, no matter how hard Jerry protests, I will hold a yard sale. I WILL hold a YARD SALE! And anything that doesn't sell is immediately going to be donated. Then maybe, just maybe, I'll paint the attic. It's the last room in the house I haven't tackled.
  • Pancakes. Must go eat pancakes before Little Miss wakes up.
  • Damn.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I really question his mental stability sometimes

At 3:45 a.m. while Jerry was packing his lunch before leaving for work:

"I like to mix the prunes and raisins because it looks like the prunes had sex in the bag and popped out lots of babies."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Forced out of maternity hibernation

Feeling safety in numbers while my parents are in town for the weekend, I was optimistic enough to leave the house for a few hours with Allison.

There were three stops on our agenda last night, and we planned everything around Little Miss, accordingly. Or so I thought. Stupidly, we stopped into my office to say hello to the weekend crew after Allison had just fallen asleep. And she wasn't happy when I tugged her out of her car seat to be passed around. But, on the bright side, it was my first time back since going on maternity leave and it was great to see everyone -- even if just for a minute.

Next we braved going out for dinner. I selected a family-friendly place (read: loud) that wouldn't be filled with people likely to shoot us dirty looks if Alli decided the appetizer course was a good time to start screaming.

But I forgot it was a Saturday. The day of the week the entire universe goes out to eat. And we arrived at the restaurant at peak meal time. Fantastic.

I found myself asking aloud, "Why did we stop at my office first again?"

Oh, that's right. Because I'm an idiot.

We didn't even make it to a table before she started crying. We found a spot near the bar and I forced myself to bounce her around in her car seat until my shoulder sockets threatened to expel my arms. Eventually my mom took her out and held her, but that wasn't enough either.

It was the boob or the highway. We refer to it as "OTB" at our house. Or "On the Boob." As in, "I think she wants a little OTB time again."

I was more than a little frazzled. I mean, how the hell was I supposed to comply when we hadn't even gotten seated yet? I wanted to retreat to the car, then retreat to our house where I would officially raise a white flag to the world admitting that I am already a parenting failure. I HEARBY VOW TO ALWAYS GO TO THE RESTAURANT FIRST.

But my mom refused to let me give up, pointing out that I was the only one bothered by Allison's breakdown. And then, as if right on cue, a big burly guy at the bar came over to inspect her more closely and say, "Aw, is that all you've got? I can scream louder than that!" And a woman sitting at a nearby table shot me a wink and told her teenage daughter, "You used to do that to me all the time."

Their reactions forced me to take a deep breath. Then I remembered that I had spotted a lone chair in a little cove outside the restrooms. So I grabbed her and a blanket and was determined to stay put until my mom came with word that we had been seated.

It was more than a little strange sitting in such close proximity to the bathrooms as a flood of people passed by, but I can now say with 100 percent certainty that, ladies, we are NOT the gender with the most bathroom visits. There were three men to every woman. The only reason our bathrooms get so crowded is because we can't pee standing up. All that squatting and balancing at a public toilet takes time. Gentlemen, please remember that the next time you go to crack a sexist bathroom joke. In my opinion, it would be totally reasonable for your female companions to return the favor by cracking a dirty toilet lid over your skull.

An eternity later, or at least the amount of time it takes for an entire restaurant of people to troop past me to empty their bladders, my mom came to tell me that we had a table. A glorious, glorious table with chairs that weren't two steps away from people pulling their pants down in succession.

Even better, OTB had done the trick. Allison was asleep. If OTB was personified, she would be a super heroine with a huge flowing red cape. Faster than a speeding bullet. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Will quiet a screaming baby in five minutes ... da, da, da, daaaa ... IT'S SUPER BOOB!

And Alli stayed conked out through dessert. A heaping brownie topped with ice cream and drizzled with a sweet layer of sleeping baby.

Then we loaded her up and sped to our final destination: the electronics store. The sound system on our computer recently bit the dust and it doesn't do video conferencing much justice. Hearing every fourth or fifth word does not a conversation make.

My dad and I beelined for the speakers as my mom pushed Allison around in her stroller. The layout literally had an oblong track for her to follow, making it my new favorite store of all time. Later, I will write to the company and ask that they start selling clothing and groceries.

Each time my mom passed, she updated us on Alli's Breakdown Barometer. The mercury was rising steadily, so I grabbed a box labeled Bose, knowing Jerry would be so happy, he'd want to molest me and my genius decision making. To him, the only thing better than the front row seats he was sitting in at the WWE wrestling event was getting a text message from his wife with one word: Bose.

Allison couldn't have cared less, however. She shared her displeasure the entire trip home, filling the car with a symphony of wails as I sung her a beautiful song complete with loving lyrics about tossing her out the window.

When we finally got her out of the car, in the house, out of her seat, out of her hoodie and OTB, I released a sigh of relief that rivaled the time I narrowly escaped a catastrophic car accident.

And people wonder why I refuse to leave the house. To hell with safety in numbers. Not even P. Diddy's entire entourage could neutralize my 10 pounder.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A reason to smile, indeed

Last month I wrote about observing one of my neighbors from our office window. I used to watch as he helped his wife into their car every morning to go to some unknown destination, but lately he has taken these daily trips alone.

I had the best of intentions to stop over before Christmas with a plate of cookies and an explanation that we couldn't finish them before going out of town, but having a five-week-old baby in the house didn't leave much time for baking, let alone packing.

My guilt has continued to get the best of me that I didn't find a way to make the time when the timing was right. The holidays really had been the perfect opportunity and I missed my window. I mentally berated myself every time I saw him walking to his car alone.

But today a different opportunity presented itself. Our neighbor had been carrying some bags from his trunk to his house while Jerry was outside shoveling our sidewalk. They exchanged introductions and Jerry helped him unload his car.

When he came inside, Jerry shared the good news.

Our neighbor is really nice. His house is beautiful. And his wife was inside, sitting in the family room, all smiles.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A few more photos

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I took this photo a few nights ago and I adore it.
People keep telling me how babies often don't identify with their
father right away, but not Allison. She absolutely loves Jer.


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This picture was taken at Jerry's sister's house in November and I
never got around to posting it. Not only do I love the looks on all
the girls' faces, but you can really see how much Alli has changed.


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Forever our first child. Here's Toby patiently waiting
for me to change a diaper and place it in the magical
receptacle that is a source of much interest.


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Playtime earlier this week in Alli's room.


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Allison in her outfit that matches her bear.


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Jerry took this from behind the couch a few days after
coming home from the hospital. Don't ask me what he
was doing back there. I think retrieving a Toby toy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wishing I could've gotten the shots for her

Allison grew an inch in eight weeks and it's completely astounding to me. I mean, if humans kept growing at that pace, we wouldn't be able to stand up as adults because we'd hit our head on the moon.

She also gained almost two pounds. Which, to be honest, doesn't seem quite as impressive because I can gain two pounds just by looking at a piece of cheesecake. And if I actually eat it? Then I can dent concrete sidewalks when I jump.

We took Alli to her two-month appointment yesterday and the whole time I had this horrible knot in my stomach knowing that she had to get her first round of vaccinations. Sure, not only is it completely terrifying to know there are a number of risks like allergy complications, likelihood of fever, the recent wave of recalls because of possible contamination and, even more scary, the belief that it may cause autism. But to top it off, I knew it was going to hurt her.

I mean, here is this perfect little being and I was voluntarily driving her to get dormant diseases pumped into her body. What parent wouldn't be concerned about that?

But I just kept telling myself that Jerry and I had the same inoculations when we were her age with no ill effects. And they've even been improved since then.

The measurements were the fun part of the appointment. She is 23 inches long and weighs 10 pounds, 11 ounces, which places her in the 75th to 90th percentile for height and 50th to 75th percentile for weight. Go boobs, indeed. My little girl is thriving.

When it came time for the shots, the doctor said she would scream and that we could pick her up after the oral vaccine was given.

I couldn't watch as he placed three needles into her thighs in rapid succession. I just put my finger in her left hand as her face quickly changed from calm to shock to pain and her mouth emitted a wail I hadn't ever heard before. Without exaggeration, it physically hurt me. A horrible achy feeling filled my chest and I couldn't prevent the few tears that rolled down my cheeks. Frankly, I wanted to sob, but I contained myself only because I was in public.

She had a heart-wrenching look on her face and whimpered steadily until we got the car moving, then she passed out.

I coddled her a little more than usual when we got home, but for the most part, she just slept. And when she woke up for her bath and last meal of the day, she was all smiles. It's as if she knew I needed a sign so I wouldn't worry all night.

My girl's a trooper.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Month 2

Dear Alli,

YOU ARE THE BEST BABY EVER! You're so good that the caps lock key just doesn't do my declaration justice, so I'll try it in bold, too: YOU ARE THE BEST BABY EVER!

Yep, better.

Around five weeks old, you decided to actually sleep at night. That first morning when I woke up and realized I had gotten about seven hours of uninterrupted rest, I wanted to run outside and brag to the world about how wonderful you are. Instead, I just ran into your room and smothered you with kisses.

Much to my surprise, it wasn't a fluke. You consistently sleep between six and eight hours a night, briefly wake up to eat, then take a nap for another few hours, freeing me to do other things. Things like appreciate the fact that you are the best baby in the entire universe, including all the other species and micro-organisms. Even amoebas.

It's not just your sleeping pattern that has me convinced. You never cry when we change your diaper. You cooperate while we tug clothes over your head and arms. You even like bathtime.

And have you seen how COMPLETELY AND INCOMPREHENSIBLY ADORABLE YOU ARE?

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Another big change this month was your first smile. It's as if you discovered the joy in using your facial muscles and now you don't want to stop.

You had been turning up the corners of your mouth while you were sleeping for a few weeks, and then all of a sudden it morphed into this big open-mouthed gummy grin. It is usually accompanied with some sort of sound like "eep," which I translate to mean "Wee!"

When you were born, I thought my heart was going to burst every time you opened your eyes and looked at me. But the smiling? I can feel the endorphins being released from my brain and flooding my veins. I do everything short of don a red styrofoam nose and ride a unicycle to get you to do it again. And when you do, I want more. I just can't get enough.

That said, please ease me into your first laugh. If not, I might keel over and break a limb.

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One of the habits you've formed is looking to the left. I know, it sounds strange to call it a habit, but I spend every waking moment with you, and I can count on one hand the amount of times you voluntarily look to the right throughout the day.

At first I assumed it was simply the direction you were forced to look in the womb, and after a few months of having your neck in one position, I can imagine that would be kind of hard to break. But then I took a harder look at your surroundings and realized we always have you in situations where you're required to look to the left in order to get the best view. Like the changing table, your rocker and even your play mat.

So I rearranged a few things, and all of a sudden you've discovered that your neck swivels in both directions.

It's a wonderful thing.

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You're starting to stay awake more during the day now, and I'm really enjoying getting to know you. One of the first things I noticed is that you're a multiple sneezer. As of now, you have never sneezed just once in your entire life. Three seems to be your favorite, but they often travel in pairs or even as many as five in a row.

I always know they're coming because you get very still, seemingly in preparation for the inevitable wave of spasms that will soon overtake your nasal cavity. Then you scrunch up your eyes and out come these tiny sounds as your arms splay to your sides and pump up and down in rhythm.

It doesn't happen often, but I enjoy them almost as much as your smiles. Mostly because it always ends with a look that seems to say, "Well, what the hell was that all about?"

It shows you have spunk. And that your father and I have no idea what we're in for.

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You're changing so rapidly that I started taking pictures every day. I thought it was enough to pull out the camera a few times each week, but all of a sudden your clothes didn't quite fit you anymore. Then I freaked out.

I couldn't believe that at six weeks old I had to dig out the three- to six-month outfits. Your legs are just so damn long. Dad was the first one to realize that you couldn't straighten your knees in your footed pajamas -- I probably didn't notice because I was in denial.

It made me so sad to retire all of the tiny sleepers, many of which I never got your picture in. Then, to top it off, I realized you don't resemble your newborn photos anymore. I had been pacing around in the dark upstairs with you on my shoulder, trying to get you to sleep, and I stopped for a moment to watch our computer monitor scroll through images on screensaver mode. When one of your hospital pictures randomly popped up, I couldn't help but notice how much your features have changed.

I almost woke you up right then to capture your look because I knew it wouldn't be the same in the morning.

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I guess it's simultaneously the most exhilarating and frustrating thing about your stage of life right now. I want you to grow and flourish more than anything, but it's happening so fast that I'm afraid I'll blink and you'll be slamming your bedroom door in my face because I won't let you go to a movie until you finish your math homework.

So it's moments like the ones where you're complete mush on my shoulder, your cheek taking on the properties of whatever texture my shirt is that day, that I close my eyes and just take you in.

I may not always be able to carry you around on my shoulder, but as long as I'm alive, I promise that you'll always have them to lean on.

Love,
Mom

Monday, January 14, 2008

Too random for an all-encompasing headline

On Sunday we took Allison to church for the first time. I've written before about how I'm not particularly religious, but I'm certainly not opposed to exposing our daughter to the teachings of the Bible.

Besides the fact that it's good basic knowledge to have, you never know when it might come up in game show trivia. And if she's ever a contestant and it's the difference between $100 thousand and $1 million? Well, then that alone could be worth spending a few Sunday mornings under a steeple.

Jokes aside, Jerry and I have been talking about attending his family church more regularly. You know, more than just on Easter. I like the strong sense of community it provides, and it would eventually give Alli an opportunity to interact with other kids her age.

We discussed it in the car on the way over, and I realized there really aren't any downsides. The only hesitation I have is that I want her to grow up knowing that there are thousands of different religions around the globe. And one isn't more right than another.

In the meantime, I'm not adverse to exposing her to the Presbyterian faith. Frankly, having not grown up with religion at all, I almost feel like an outsider at times. Even in my profession, where religious stories come up on occasion, I struggle to edit them for errors or even write headlines. I always have to check with someone more knowledgeable on the subject to make sure I don't screw anything up. Like the time I wrote "TGIGF: Thank God it's Good Friday" over a picture of a little girl carrying a cross and the entire congregation sent hate mail to my newsroom.

In my defense, I didn't know what Good Friday stood for and it was my first year on the job. But, in hindsight, receiving hate mail from Christians was quite interesting.

But yesterday, my biggest worry was what to do if Alli started screaming right in the middle of the service. Fortunately, it fell during her regular morning nap and she conked out on her grandmother for the first half and her aunt for the second half.

She was so good that Jerry and I decided to press our luck afterward and go out to lunch. It was the first time taking her to a restaurant just the three of us, so we were more than a little freaked out at the prospect of a meltdown.

She stayed asleep long enough for us to place our order, then her eyes shot open when she realized she was still restrained in her car seat. And she didn't like that. At all.

Plus, she was hungry.

So, I figured it was now or never as far as breastfeeding in public was concerned. Fortunately, we were seated in a corner and the tables closest to us weren't occupied. Even better, our waiter was male and gay and awesome, and it didn't seem to bother him in the slightest.

Sure, it felt more than a little strange at first, but I covered myself with a blanket and simply got over it. No big deal. She was quiet, I ate with my other hand and it felt like a major success.

But the highlight of the day was a completely superficial one: Allison looked TOTALLY ADORABLE in her pink polka dot dress.

And every time I straightened her skirt, I couldn't help but love the fact that we had a girl.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Go figure

It's taken eight weeks, but I'm finally starting to fit into some of my pre-pregnancy clothes without straining them at the seams.

And it feels really good.

Right before Allison was born, I registered a 50 pound weight gain at my doctor's office. Although it was scary to see that number creep ever-higher each visit, at some point, you just have to get over it. To help, Jerry would crack jokes about which weight division I would be in if I decided to enter into ultimate fighting. I still say my gigantic belly would've been an unfair advantage. My opponent couldn't have gotten both arms around me.

In hindsight, I could look back and say I shouldn't have eaten this or that or tried to stick to more of an exercise regimen other than just walking, but I'm not going to be that hard on myself. Being pregnant is a lot of work. It's physically exhausting at times. And if the only thing that sounded good was a vanilla milkshake to calm my heartburn? Well, I pulled out the blender and made one. And if my body wanted me to skip a walk and take a nap? That's exactly what I did.

I'm not going to say it's been easy looking at my body for the past few weeks. Although I shed about 30 pounds almost immediately, nothing was toned anymore. In fact, it was the exact opposite. I had rolls in places I'd never had rolls before. And the skin underneath my bellybutton still looks like it belongs on a shar pei.

Top all that off with my lovely purple stretchmark scars, and it was really tough not to feel completely deflated.

The clincher was when someone handed me a glossy print of a photo they had taken of me about four weeks after giving birth. It looked like I was smuggling a spare tire under my shirt. For a tractor trailer. You know, just in case one had a blowout in front of my house.

But it was the holiday season, and you try resisting the 12 trays of once-a-year cookies my mom has on her kitchen counter.

So I made a decision not to beat myself up about it if the weight didn't come off immediately.

Then, slowly but surely, I've noticed a change. I'm not in my skinny jeans just yet, and probably won't be for awhile, but I'm not in my fat pants anymore either.

And, for now, that's good enough for me.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Somewhere over the rainbow ...

My husband and his boyfriend (aka his radio morning show co-anchor Troy) pretend they're Greek gods.

gay
And I wouldn't be surprised if this moment was followed by a spanking.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Conversation Jerry had with himself

Personal diatribe after noticing Toby was snout-deep near Allison's diaper and ready to pounce in hopes of engaging her in playtime:

Toby STOP it!

...


In his defense, she was kicking him in the face.

...


In her defense, his head was in her crotch.

...


In his defense, she probably pooped herself.

...


In her defense, that's what babies do.

...


In his defense, that's what dogs do.

Moo

Now I really know what a dairy cow feels like.

Because I'm so committed to breastfeeding, I decided to invest in a double electronic breast pump to help me when I go back to work. The hefty price tag had me second-guessing the decision, but it could save us hundreds in the long run if I can avoid having to switch to formula anytime soon.

Not to mention I really enjoy being Alli's sole source of nourishment. It's an indescribable feeling.
I did some research online and found an electronic pump that is compatible with the manual system I already have. So, a few computer clicks and a day later, the contraption arrived on our porch -- in a much larger package than I had expected.

I opened the box to find the "discreet" carrying tote. Discreet my ass. This thing might as well be a suitcase. The FAA would barely consider it a carry-on.

And I'm pretty sure it weighs more than Allison.

Anxious to get started, I immediately dug out all the parts and began washing and sanitizing everything while flipping through the instruction booklet. Because I was already familiar with the product, it didn't seem too daunting. The only difference is I would be pumping both breasts at the same time and allowing an electronic device to do all the work for me while I looked down and freaked out at the strangeness of it all.

I plugged the unit into the wall near my favorite spot on the couch while Jerry was watching TV. Although insanely curious, he knew not to inspect the process too closely because I completely reamed him out when he asked to watch the first time I tried to use my hand pump a few weeks ago. I guess I just needed to get comfortable with it before he reacted to watching milk squirt out of my nipple into an awaiting receptacle.

So Jerry just stared straight ahead at the television as if his life depended on it while I loaded my boobs into the suction cups and turned on the pump.

Holy hell is it weird.

Here is this thing, with indicator lights and pressure-forming tubes, connected to my body while it contracts and releases my areolas.

I could only think to say one thing: Moo.

Jerry just started laughing hysterically on the other side of the couch, sputtering and doing his best not to turn his head.

I gave him the go-ahead.

"LOOK AT THIS THING! Gah! ... I mean, don't get me wrong, it's totally working, but I feel like the victim of a horrible science experiment or something."

The equipment is designed to remember my personal pumping pattern and strength and repeat it until I shut it off. Well, I must've pumped too hard on my own because after a few seconds, I realized it was about to suck my nipples right off my body.

"AAAAH! AAAAH! Ow!"

Not remembering exactly how to shut it off other than violently pulling the plug directly out of the socket, I opted to quickly break the suction and set the pumps down.

Then I broke into laughter as it just kept right on going -- lapping at the air.

I know it'll get more comfortable the more I use it, but one thing won't ever change.

I'll always feel like I belong in a stall on a dairy farm.

Chewing hay.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Crap shoot

There are a few things I expected about dealing with a newborn. I knew there would be dirty diapers. I knew they would overflow on occasion. I even knew to plan on poop in the few seconds it takes to scoot a clean one into place.

But I didn't expect it to spray so expertly and all-encompassing around a room.

I can now say I've been pooped on.

So can Jerry.

And Toby, too.

After moving Allison from her bathtub to her changing table last night, I must've let go of the bottom fold of her towel -- at the exact moment she decided to let her bowels loose.

Poop dripped all the way down my right pantleg and smeared on my sweater. I, of course, didn't notice until the smell hit my nostrils.

"Oh God, I think she pooped," I said to Jer.

Sure enough, the bottom portion of her white towel was covered with brown and her legs were sticky. And because I set her down, it transferred to her changing pad, making an even bigger mess.

"DON'T DUMP THE BATH WATER!" I yelled to Jer, moments too late.

"Crap," he said as the last remnants swirled down the drain.

"Exactly what I'm dealing with in here, too. Ugh. This is GROSS!" I said. "Fill 'er back up!"

Not noticing the mess on my clothes, I leaned into the table, smudging some of it on her furniture. Toby, meanwhile, was underfoot and it rubbed all over him, too. Then Jerry came in, and while he was laughing hysterically and taking photos, I'm happy to say he didn't get out unscathed either.

After giving her a second bath, changing my clothes, cleaning Toby, wiping off the furniture, swapping the changing pad cover, treating the towel stain and putting her in clean pajamas, Jerry and I looked at each other wondering what the hell had just happened.

I didn't think it could've been any worse.

Then I discovered crusty hardened poop on the carpet this morning.

And Toby seemed to have a look on his face that said, "See? It happens to the best of us sometimes."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Sunday, January 6, 2008

One day at a time

Although I'm finding it hard to write because of time constraints, it's also partly because each day seems to blend into the next without much fanfare.

Being on maternity leave has completely blurred my concept of time -- sometimes I don't even know what day of the week it is. Sure, the thought of having 12 weeks off probably sounds like a vacation to most office dwellers, but I can assure you that's not the case. In fact, the only difference is that I'm on-call 24 hours a day and my boss is 25 inches long and screams without reason.

In a weird way, this time at home reminds me of the two months I was unemployed after losing a job in 2004. Although none of my days stood out and I struggled not to feel wretched and worthless, I recall much of that time very fondly. There were so many wonderful moments spent with Jer taking sub-zero walks in the snow, dancing in the kitchen to music while making dinner and renting tons of movies.

My maternity leave feels vaguely similar. Although I struggle with my inability to get out of the house -- mostly because I hate leaving Allison even for a moment -- and I'm spending most of my time in sweatpants and baggy T-shirts covered in spit up, I know I'll look back at these few months with nostalgia.

And although there's seemingly not a lot to write about, the big picture of how we're spending our days in this house is something I don't want to lose to time and memory lapse.

It's nothing spectacular. In fact, it's probably best described as ordinary. I've found my favorite spot to feed Allison during the day is on the right side of the couch, and because of that, I've taken to watching much more TV than usual.

"CSI" reruns to be exact.

Thanks to the writers' strike that has every major network airing a dismal abyss of reality garbage and uninspired game shows, I found myself searching for something, anything of substance.

In my remote control travels, I stumbled upon a "CSI" marathon on Spike. An obscene amount of DVR recordings later, Jerry and I are hooked. And because it has been one of the most popular shows for over a decade, we have more than ample catching up to do. Sure, we don't get them in sequence, but we're starting to put a pattern together -- much like the investigators on the show.

When we're not talking in our newly discovered crime jargon, we're usually splitting the duties that come with owning a house, having a baby and a dog, and catering to the necessities in life like eating and sleeping.

Although Allison is an awesome baby, she really likes to be held, which leaves one of us with our arms tied up almost all the time. Fortunately, Jerry has found a way to balance her on his chest while she's napping that also allows him to get in a little video game time. Even better, it allows me to walk around the house freely.

Those are moments I think all three of us enjoy. Well, four of us if you include Toby who is usually curled up on Jerry's lap.

But my favorite time during the day is when we play with Alli. We put a blanket on her floor, place her in the middle, read her stories, hold up toys and just talk to her. I think Toby loves it too because he has access to sniff her freely.

Eating dinner has gotten a little easier in the past few weeks. I've found that if I feed her right before we sit down, Jerry and I have a little more time to actually converse at a normal tone instead of attempting to enjoy a meal over a symphony of screaming. We've actually made it through without her crying on a few occasions, and each time we wonder what we did to deserve it. Regardless, we certainly don't take it for granted.

I wouldn't say we've quite fallen into a routine, but it no longer feels completely overwhelming. Allison's biological clock still varies from day to day, but much less than it did at the beginning. I've found that if I can get her to midnight, she'll usually fall asleep for a significant period of time, leaving me feeling much more rested and able to handle the curveballs.

That said, I'm starting to stress about returning to work. I have four weeks left and wonder how the hell we're all going to make the transition. I'm worried about leaving her. I'm worried about Jerry getting enough sleep. I'm worried about me getting enough sleep. I'm worried about Jerry and me getting time together and to ourselves. I'm also worried about continuing to breastfeed and all of the hurdles that come with it -- pumping at the office, keeping up my milk supply, keeping up with the bottles and sterilizing everything.

Ugh.

But just when my head starts to go crazy worrying about the "what ifs," I try and remind myself how much she's changed since we brought her home. A lot could happen between now and February.

I'll just do my best to enjoy every moment. As uneventful as they may seem, I know I'll be wishing I could get them back in a few weeks.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Already talking back

Taaaah.

No way. Really?

Aaaahhhhhheeep.

No? She said that? ... Well, what did you say?

Bpppphhht.

Yeah, I definitely would've said the same thing. In fact, I would've said it twice -- just to make sure I got my point across.

Bpppphhht.

Exactly!

Aaaaahhh hah.

Thanks! I like these earrings, too. Your father got them for me for Christmas. You must've been sleeping when I opened them.

Htttaahhh.

No, you can't have earrings until you're 12. For your birthday.

Pfft.

Keep it up and we'll make it 13.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants

590167702209
How DARE you wake me up with the camera flash!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Life is like a box of chocolates

I have mixed emotions letting go of 2007. It was such a wonderfully memorable year for me -- mostly thanks to Allison and all of the traveling we did attending weddings.

This year promises to be full of just as many firsts as we do our best to foster and encourage our daughter to grow. I can honestly say I'm looking forward to it, but I know there will be some challenging days ahead.

To help close out the year, one of Jerry's good friends stayed with us last weekend. He was visiting from Illinois, and the guys got plenty of reminiscing time. So when Rob left, I couldn't help but ask Jerry if he missed his bachelor days.

"It's easy to remember the fun parts," he said. "But each stage in life has a lot of difficult parts, too. I wouldn't give up my family for a little more free time."

I understood. I guess that's why I think it's so important to use most of your twenties to be a little self-indulgent -- live on your own, find your own rhythm, answer to yourself.

This year I'll start a new decade as I enter my thirties.

Thirty.

Oddly enough, I find myself feeling ready for it. Someone asked me recently if it was going to bother me. After giving it some thought, I realized it won't. Mostly because I feel like I'm in a good place in life. I never had a grand plan of where I wanted to be at this age, but this just feels right.

That said, we rang in the new year exactly the way we plan to spend it -- as a family. It was a little tough not inviting a bunch of friends over or accepting one of the party invitations we received, but our mini celebration turned out to be perfect.

We welcomed 2008 with a rousing game of Scrabble on the new deluxe set Jerry got for Christmas, made fun of the fact that we're old and out of touch because we didn't know half of the performers on Dick Clark's rockin' New Year's Eve broadcast, and toasted at midnight with sparkling white grape juice because I'm breastfeeding. Oh yeah, and in between we folded laundry and watched CSI reruns.

In fact, the highlight of the night might have been crawling into warm pajama pants right out of the dryer and breaking into the box of assorted chocolates Jerry got at work that morning.

Sure, the 21-year-old me would've called my night incredibly lame, but the 29-year-old me found it perfectly suitable.

I'm not sure what's in store for us this year, but I'm looking forward to Alli's first steps, her first dip in the pool and maybe finally getting the ceramic tiles that are stacked in the basement onto the kitchen floor.

DSC_0221

Happy New Year.