Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quarter(needsa)life

When I recently saw a TV commercial for a new show about a blogger called "Quarterlife," I was more than a little excited. I figured it was about time network television jumped on the blogging bandwagon. The inaugural character is a female twentysomething assistant editor at a women's magazine who lives in an apartment with two of her best friends.

But after watching the pilot episode, I couldn't have been more disappointed. It was complete crap. Either the writers didn't do their homework or the execs forced them to change the concept, but the bottom line is, there was a major disconnect between the reality of blogging and just using it as a catch phrase, or in this case "catch concept," to make money.

Here are 5 reasons the show was a total disappointment as the first foray into capturing blogging on TV:

1. The main character only posts using video. Wha? Sure, I understand that it's TV and video translates more directly, but don't tell me for one minute that having a character who writes wouldn't have worked. Two words: Carry Bradshaw. I heart the "Sex and the City" scenes of Carrie in her underwear, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee, hunched over her laptop.

2. She immediately has a huge following. Anyone who blogs knows it can take years to attract regular visitors. And yet, after the first post introducing herself, one of her roommates comes home to say her "entire acting class" had seen it. Right.

3. She posts negatively about her friends and expects them not to find out about it. The web is like Vegas. What happens here, stays here. For all to see. Bloggers know that. It's kind of the point.

4. She posts angrily about work. What blogger doesn't know not to post about work in 2008? Well, unless they're TRYING to get fired. Dooce, anyone? And the numerous other bloggers who lost their jobs for writing on the web after her? And to make it even more unbelievable, the character starts "blogging" (running her web cam) during a meeting at the office. My eyes couldn't have rolled further back into my head.

5. Everything is so anguished. Ugh. Life. What is the meaning? I'm in love with my roommate's boyfriend's best friend who's in love with my roommate. Barf. Bloggers aren't all emo idiots.

So thanks, Quarterlife, for completely misrepresenting the blogging community. I'll take real people's real web content over that contrived crap any day.

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

Update: Well, Jerry just e-mailed me some information from the news feed his radio station subscribes to and here's what it said about the show:

On Tuesday night, the NBC show "Quarterlife" tanked in the ratings, with only 3.1 million viewers. It was NBC's worst performance in that 10 p.m. Tuesday night spot in 17 years. It's pretty likely that the show will either be canceled, or moved to cable. There's word it might be heading to Bravo, which is owned by NBC.

Good. Maybe the second character who blogs will do it a little more justice.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My very own biggest loser

Jerry is so obsessed with "The Biggest Loser" that he recently asked me, in all seriousness, whether the producers would consider choosing him as a contestant if he gained 100 pounds.

When I made fun of him for even considering such an absurd idea, he defended himself the only way he knew how.

"But I could WIN!"

Right.

So because he's not heavy enough to be selected for the series, he's taken to assimilating other aspects of the show into his life. Namely the commercials within the show. To him, it's not paid product placement. It's trainer Bob or Jillian telling him these wonderful things will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

When the host announced that the show would be "going green" this season by teaming with Brita instead of using disposable water bottles, Jerry HAD TO HAVE the reusable green water containers the contestants were given.

It didn't matter that we have reusable water bottles of all shapes and sizes in our kitchen. None of them were green. And they certainly didn't have the Biggest Loser logo on them.

And when Jillian suggested chewing a piece of Trident gum with five little calories instead of gorging on a fat-laden snack? GUM! WE MUST GET GUM!

And when Bob showed his team how to make fresh vegetables without losing their nutrients by tossing them into Ziplock zip and steam bags? Jerry bought so many boxes that I wished we had purchased stock in the company beforehand.

Our inaugural zip and steam experience had me more than a little worried. Jerry flipped over the package to find a chart that indicated each bag cooks a piece of raw chicken in four minutes. So, with his new equipment, Jerry packed me dinner to take to work: raw chicken doused in marinade, lovingly sealed in a zip and steam bag.

Good lord. I was taking raw meat to work.

"So, basically, I'm going to get takeout later," I said, laughing, not hiding my skepticism at all.

"Nope! It's gonna be awesome!" Jerry said. "Bob said so."

Then, as he chopped carrots, zucchini and yellow squash for another bag, he wondered aloud if the zip and steam bags had a MySpace page, because he wanted to be their No. 1 friend.

When I got to work, I informed all of my coworkers about the raw chicken I had in the fridge for dinner, thanks to Jerry's unhealthy obsession with a reality TV show. By the time I was hungry, everyone was very curious for me to try it out.

Much to my surprise, not only did it work, but it was delicious. I practically shredded the chicken into minuscule pieces looking for even the slightest hint of pink, but it was cooked all the way through. And the veggies were wonderful with just a bit of olive oil and garlic.

I ate my dinner and my pride by calling Jerry and telling him that, yes, the zip and steam bags are every bit as wonderful as trainer Bob said they were.

Today we have another episode on our DVR to watch.

I wonder what product we'll be investing in next.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It seemed completely normal at the time

Me: I'm not sure if it means anything, but I saw two huge boogers come out of her nose this morning.

Jer: Is she sick?

I don't think so. She's acting completely normal, but I noticed she was having a hard time breathing through her nose last night, and then there were the gigantic snot rockets this morning.

How big?

Coming out of her tiny nostrils? They looked abnormally large. I mean, if I hadn't personally experienced childbirth, I wouldn't think something that big could come out of something that small.

Were they runny or solid?

Um, kind of a mixture. Part of it solid, part of it goopy.

What color?

Normal snot color -- yellowish nasty. Actually, I can show you. I saved the second one on a tissue upstairs. I just wanted to get your opinion.

Where is it? I'll go check.

Monday, February 25, 2008

New threads

The term "retail therapy" doesn't even begin to describe the wonderful feeling I got when I walked into Ann Taylor for my first post-maternity shopping trip. I just sort of stood in the doorway and ogled all of the pretty new things from a distance.

None of the hangars were holding up anything that even mildly resembled elastic.

I squealed, clapped my hands together and started digging through the racks. Within moments my arms were filled -- enough to alert a saleswoman to ask me if I'd like her to start a dressing room for me.

The answer?

YES! A DRESSING ROOM! OF MY VERY OWN! ... I MIGHT EVEN MOVE IN!

Being a weekday afternoon, I was the only shopper for awhile and all of the women working at the store laughed as I literally skiped back and fourth to my dressing room in various outfits seeking different sizes as my mom entertained Allison.

I left with a ton of new clothes and an overwhelming fuzzy feeling.

And it wasn't just because of the super soft sweater I got 50 percent off.

Although, that certainly didn't hurt.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sit

722597203209_0_BG

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Memmmmries

I really do remember when I used to have time to blog regularly. I think it was way back when I was in my twenties.

Today we're going shopping for my birthday, which will entirely consist of new clothes. Clothes that don't have elastic waistbands and that were designed this season. I can't remember the last time I got clothes for myself. I am so excited I might just pee.

Also on the agenda? Getting Allison's picture taken. Because despite the fact that my camera is nice enough to take professional portraits and I have overloaded my hard drive with images, it's what parents do. Parents take their children to bad department store studios to prop them in front of a basket of fake flowers. It's a rite of passage.

And I'll be able to look back at that picture and say to Alli, "Remember that day? That was the day I realized I would never stuff my thighs into a size 8 ever again. ... But your picture was so buttery cute that I didn't even care."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

About turning 30

The best birthday present I'm getting today? Sleep.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

And they don't even charge an exorbitant hourly rate

Talking to my mom on the phone and watching my daughter sleep for a few minutes is more healing than any therapy session.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Month 3

Dear Alli,

Can we talk about the growing? Holy baby behinds, the growing. Your legs must be taking all of the nutrients you're ingesting because I swear they get longer every single day. At 11 weeks, we switched you into six-month sleepers because your feet were about to explode out of the old ones.

The funny thing is, you're still small enough around to fit into newborn onsies. So the larger outfits have so much extra material in the middle that I invented a game to put it to good use. When you're laying on your back, I grab all of the fabric at your sides, gently lift up your butt while making an airplane noise and let you plop back to the floor. I call it the I'll Never Entirely Fit Into These Clothes game. And I'm not sure which one of us loves it more. Maybe me.


DSC_0418


You also outgrew most of your swaddlers this month, which posed more than a major dilemma for your father and me. You see, the only time you sleep without being held is when you're wrapped up so tightly that your arms don't flail around and accidentally punch your face, causing you to wake up angrily, glaring at us, wondering who would be so rude as to hit you while you were napping.

The swaddlers, otherwise known as The Greatest Invention of All Time, velcro you into a straight line and allow you to wriggle and writhe in your sleep without your face paying any of the consequences. You're so cute when you're swaddled up. I call you a baby burrito. Your father calls it a straight jacket.

But your legs recently decided they didn't want to take orders from any strip of velcro, so you started kicking out of it. Then your arms followed suit. Now when we come into your room after a nap, we never know what portion of your body will have freed itself, leading to your first nickname -- Teeny Houdini.

Fortunately, they make bigger swaddlers.

I'm hoping they'll fit you until you're 18.


DSC_0386


This month marked the end of my maternity leave, and I had to go back to work. I was so terrified of everything that could possibly go wrong that I spent the last few weeks worrying.

What I forgot to realize is that you are an incredibly easy-going baby. You take things as they come and tend to adapt very easily. Switching to bottles at night wasn't a big deal. I could practically hear you rolling your eyes at the non-momentousness of it all when I called from the office to make sure you weren't starving.

Fast forward a few years and I can see you getting on the school bus for the first time, shrugging your shoulders and sighing defiantly as I take your picture so many times that you can't see to find a seat.

Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful that you're thriving without me, and I realize that's the general idea behind parenting -- raising you to be a well-functioning, self-sufficient adult. But sometimes you're going to have to let me make a big deal out of even the smallest things. Okay? You drinking out of a bottle is A BIG DEAL.


DSC_0470


I didn't think you could get more enjoyable to be around, but every month you prove me wrong. You're gabbing more, smiling more, making more eye contact and moving your limbs with much more accuracy and purpose.

The biggest improvement by far is your ability to occupy yourself for more than 30 seconds at a time. You are completely content to sit in one of your chairs and watch what's going on in the room. You follow us with your eyes and smile when we pass, making it almost completely impossible to get anything done, which is the purpose of setting you down in the first place. But when you smile, I can't help but stop and crouch down to gobble your cheeks.

It's a good thing you're not smothered in barbecue sauce because the bite marks would be tough to explain to a jury.


DSC_0243


Your favorite place to be right now is in your swing. Parents of older children who see our contraption remark on the beauty of it being battery-powered. Then they explain how they used to have to turn a hand crank to get their swing to work, waking their baby up every time.

But even better is that your swing has six settings of increasing speed and two types of sound -- classical music and nature tones. We started you off at the "1" setting listening to waterfalls and crickets, but you quickly let us know that you prefer going faster. Much faster.

Pretty soon you were swooshing along to setting "6," or as we like to call it, "the speed of light," and that seems to suit you just fine. You like your swing fast, thank you very much. And crank up the Mozart.

You're so content to watch the living room woosh past that your father and I have memorized the order of the songs. There's the bridal song, then the tune that plays at the end of "Oceans 11" and a few new ones we hadn't heard until the swing became a permanent fixture in our lives.

The whole thing tells me that you're going to like roller coasters. Frankly I've never understood the desire to voluntarily make your heart palpitate like that, but your dad will be thrilled. One of the sole reasons he wanted to have kids was to be able to go to Disney World as an adult and not look like a creepy pedophile when he really just likes amusement parks.

And, don't worry about that "You Must Be This Tall To Enter This Ride" sign. At the rate you're growing, you'll be on Thunder Mountain by the time you're four.


DSC_0389

Love,
Mom

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Something I'm probably devoting too much time to

So, my latest dilemma, or maybe neurosis, is how to deal with all of the bottle and pump parts on a daily basis. For those not in the know, it is a heaping mound of tiny plastic pieces that require all sorts of attention between each use.

As with any apparatus that comes in contact with my daughter, I felt compelled to read the instruction manuals word for word and even considered flipping them over and seeing if I could decipher any additional useful information on the Spanish side.

The thing is, some of them offer conflicting advice. For example, the bottles need to be boiled for 10 minutes, but the pump parts say 5 minutes. And they're both the same brand, so which is it? And why do I have to boil everything in the first place? Is my dishwasher really not getting things clean enough? Even if I use hot water, a heated dry and turn on the "sterilize" function? What could POSSIBLY be left to boil off? It's not like I'm dipping them in dirty toilet water and calling it a day.

And the pump parts are supposed to be sterilized between each use too, but I'm also supposed to be pumping three times each work shift. I don't know about other offices, but mine doesn't come equipped with a stove. Not that I'd have that kind of time in the first place, so I've been forced to simply rinse everything off as best as I can between sessions.

Then when I come home I have to start the process all over again. And because we don't go through a ton of dishes every day, I'm torn whether to run the dishwasher. The environmentally friendly side of me knows it's wasteful to run it if it's not full.

At first I started looking for things to fill it with -- Toby's bowls, the sink rack, plastic placemats, sponges. Now I'm wondering if I should just handwash the bottles and boil rather than worrying about filling the dishwasher.

Then I sit back and slap my head that these are the kind of things that keep me up at night.

Life really does change when you have kids.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A new game we're playing

"I have good news and bad news."

"The bad news is that I ate your leftover Chinese food."

"The good news is that I liked it."

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

"I have good news and bad news."

"The bad news is that I accidentally left a wet towel on the bed."

"The good news is that it was on your side."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Everything's gonna be alright

If my reasoning skills were running on all cylinders, I wonder what conclusion I would come to about my first week back at work. Successful? A complete disaster? Somewhere in between?

The truth is, I'm purely functioning on adrenaline, so I know I'm not quite able to take an accurate analytical look at my life. There are certain moments that stand out from the rest, though.

As much as it pained me to leave Allison that first day, it was nice to get out of the house and converse with adults. One of my coworkers made me a "Hello My Name Is" tag as a joke, but it ironically came in handy when a reporter who had been hired while I was gone asked who "the new girl" was.

Part of me was surprised how quickly everything came back, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't struggle at first to remember where certain files were stored or which computer commands did what. I likened it to riding a bike -- you never forget, but you'll probably fall off a few times if it's been awhile.

Much to my relief, pumping turned out to be a non-issue. All that stressing and worrying for nothing. Frankly, I could slap myself. I guess it's true that mentally concentrating on what could go wrong is almost always worse than how things actually end up. I am more than capable of pumping enough to feed Alli the next day. And now I'm reminded of my neurosis every time I open the freezer and see the heaping supply of frozen breast milk I stored away over the last month. Sometimes you just have to relax and trust that you won't let yourself down.

On the other hand, the worst part of the first day was a call from Jerry. I remember looking at the clock when the phone rang, seeing 9:15 p.m. and saying aloud, "That's a good sign!"

It wasn't.

I immediately detected a furious cry on the other end as Jer said, "I didn't call to worry you, but I just wondered if you had any suggestions. She gulped down the bottle and I can't get her to relax."

We had broken routine. A cardinal sin as far as babies are concerned.

My heart broke listening to her. She needed me and I was miles away sitting at a desk under fluorescent lights. I felt like a complete failure. I somehow managed to hold back my tears and prevent my arms from methodically grabbing my car keys. If I had followed my initial instinct, I would've run out of the building without taking the time to grab my purse and coat.

It wasn't a lack of trust in Jerry, it was more a physical gut reaction. My baby was upset and I needed to comfort her. Instead, I offered a few words of advice and made Jer promise to call me back when things settled down. It was agony waiting, but she eventually fell asleep and, from what I understand, each night has gotten a little easier.

The same could be said for me at work. By the end of the week, I felt much more confident.

But, secretly, somewhere deep inside, I have a small voice that's asking, "Do you really have what it takes?"

The doubt tends to creep in at 4 a.m. when I'm sitting in the rocking chair in the nursery feeding Alli, a wedge of light cascading in from the hallway. I worry that instead of doing everything well, I'll fail miserably at both. I won't have enough to give to my daughter or my job. I'll always be wishing I could do more. Be there more. Have more to offer.

It's merely a thought, but more than enough to creep into my psyche and fester if I don't stop it.

Fortunately, I remembered a magazine advertisement I saw recently. It was an extreme close up of a baby's face, and anything pertaining to infants stops me in my tracks these days, so I read the fine print. It was for an auto company. I don't remember which one, but the idea behind the ad was that the reason their engineers are so good is because they have families. And they design their cars knowing what precious cargo goes into them.

I think the same can be said for almost all fields. Doctors with children know what it's like when they're sick. Teachers with children know how important their education is. Police officers with children know who they're protecting.

And journalists with children? Just one step closer to understanding the human condition we strive to capture and report on every day.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What we woke up to this morning

DSC_0390
View out our front door.

DSC_0394
Jerry taking on the task of shoveling.

Friday, February 8, 2008

TGIF

That is all.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Summoning my inner superhero

Oh, what I would give for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Our entire savings account maybe? A pinky finger? Certainly a little toe.

Right now, Allison is crying. It's nothing drastic, just her way of voicing her opinion about how much this new routine sucks. And, at the moment, I agree with her.

The past two days have been challenging to say the least. At times, though, I feel like Wonder Woman. I've known for a long time that I excel under pressure. In college, my schedule was so packed that I couldn't exist without my daily planner, and yet, I thrived trying to juggle all of my responsibilities. It was almost as if I overburdened myself to see if I could handle it.

Parenting and holding a full-time job feels oddly similar. I am amazed at how much I can now accomplish in 15 minutes at home. That's enough time for me to make sure Alli is situated in her glider, get the mail, empty the dishwasher, sterilize all the bottles, start a load of laundry, feed the dog, go to the bathroom and eat breakfast.

Those same 15 minutes before I was a mom? Just breakfast. And, actually, it was probably more like 25 minutes. Getting that last Cheerio used to take EFFORT.

These days, I have brief moments of calm where Allison is content to sit in her swing or inspect the toys on her play mat, and that's when I spring into action. I speed around the house like a madwoman. If a neighbor were to peek inside a window during those times, they probably would think I was being attacked by a swarm of bees.

But all of it isn't without consequence. If I allow myself to really stop and think about it, I'm completely exhausted.

I'm sure everything will get easier once we've all adjusted to our new schedule. Speaking of which, Alli has finally given in to her own exhaustion and drifted back to sleep.

That means it's time for me to do the same.

Here's to hoping she allows me another solid three hours before I have to don my big red cape again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Phew!

Well, we survived. No time to write, of course, because I have to squish laundry, cooking and bottle-boiling duties into half the time I used to have. Not to mention packing my pump and food for work, getting a shower, finding clothes to wear and maybe slapping on some mascara.

But by the end of the week, we should have this thing down.

Just in time for next week.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Phonetically speaking

Although it's a close call, there's probably no bigger fan of Alli than her 4-year-old cousin Emily. I'm told that she asks about "baby Allison" constantly, stashes away clothes she's outgrown for "baby Allison," and wonders when "baby Allison" can come for a sleepover party.

Even the slightest hint of anything relating to her younger cousin, Emily is already ten steps ahead.

Which is why none of us should've been surprised when she made a recent humorous connection. Her father, an avid fan of old-school metal bands, recently spent an afternoon watching a new live DVD of Alice In Chains.

Being four and overly curious, Emily started inquiring about it.

But she didn't hear "Alice In" when her father explained what he was watching.

Emily just squealed, "LIKE BABY ALLISON!"

I'm sure the remaining members of the band who sky-rocketed to fame during the 90's grunge movement with songs like "Dirt," "Bleed the Freak" and "Angry Chair" would love to know that they are now being equated with a cute and cuddly 11-week-old infant.

And I think Emily has a new favorite band. Although I'm pretty sure she'll rename it "Baby Allison Chains."

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The final countdown

As of this moment, I have 55 hours of maternity leave left. I return to work Monday night.

Sometimes, when I'm not sure where the time went, I look at my little girl and realize how much she's grown. Then I know exactly how I spent it -- the way I was supposed to, caring for her.

I thought I'd be more of a puddle by now, but surprisingly, I feel ready. Well, as ready as I can be, anyway. When I thought about work two months ago, my heart started beating up in my throat as I struggled not to let tears spill over and run down my cheeks.

I'm not completely sure what's changed, perhaps just my hormone levels, but I have a suspicion it has something to do with my outlook. Whenever I feel overwhelmed at the thought of leaving her, realizing that I won't be around for her nightly bath and tucking her into bed, I take a few deep breaths and concentrate on all of the positives.

The biggest plus is that I'm not leaving her in the arms of a stranger. I'm sure many working moms would love to be able to say that. With Jerry and I both on odd shifts, someone will always be home to care for her. I won't have to worry about needing extra time to pack a bag and drop her off at daycare, wondering what type of attention she'll be getting and whether or not she'll get sick.

That alone allows me to relax my shoulders a little. Sure, we'll both be extremely sleep-deprived, but I'm hoping to be able to accustom Allison to a routine afternoon nap so Jerry and I can pass out, as well.

Then there are all the other pluses like the fact that she's on a schedule now and has taken to bottle feeding without struggle. Not to mention I'll be getting out of the house on a regular basis and interacting with adults. My mind will certainly welcome taking a break from the alphabet song in exchange for more complex tasks.

I guess my only real concern is continuing to breastfeed. I worry whether I'll be able to pump enough at the office to sustain my milk supply. It seems like we've finally hit a rhythm, and now all of it is being upended again.

I guess it's a small hurtle if I really analyze it. Sure, I'll have to worry about what I'm wearing and if it's conducive to pumping, leaking all over my clothes, taking scheduled breaks, wondering if someone will walk in on me, and even hoping a coworker doesn't mistake my breastmilk for creamer in the office fridge.

Then there's the physical aspect of it. Sometimes I wonder if I'll be able to relax enough to foster my milk to flow. I've become pretty successful at pumping, but only when I'm completely engorged. Taking the initiative every three to four hours on my own when I'm away from Allison is a completely different responsibility. I have to hope I can pump enough to feed her for the next day.

But then I take a deep breath and realize it won't be the end of the world if I can't manage to continue breastfeeding. I feel an immense sense of accomplishment for being able to do it for this long. Plus, I have all of the supplies I need, a supportive workplace and a backup stock of milk in the freezer if I happen to have an off day.

I know the first week is going to be tough, but we'll get through it the same way we get through everything in this house -- by working together.

Besides, I already have a photo of Alli printed out and waiting in my purse to put on my desk. Frankly, that's more important for my first day back than air.

Well, that and knowing our phones are working.