Wednesday, April 30, 2008

He might not be able to kill a bee, but that's overrated anyway

As I was backing up my most recent photos, I found a few more that just had to be shared:

I can almost guarantee by the look on Alli's face that Jerry was whistling.

And to think we used to be worried we might be holding her wrong.

Flying baby.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I should've let Toby take care of it

"When Alli wakes up, you have a job to do in her room."


"There's a bee in there."


"No! Don't be crazy. I trapped it."

"You what?"

"It couldn't fly anymore, but I didn't want to whomp it with a book or something because I didn't want to wake her up. But Toby spotted it first and started freaking out. I had to yell whisper at him, but he wouldn't leave it alone, so I just put the Bumbo seat over it and carried Toby out."

"What if it escapes?"

"It could barely move. You think it's going to lift a container a thousand times it's size?"

"It could happen."

(Allison wakes up)

"Go git 'im tiger!"

"Hi Allison! Your mom left you in the room with a killer bee! But I'm going to save you! ... AAAH! THAT'S NOT A BEE! IT'S A HORNET! ... AAAH! IT'S MOOOVING! AAAH! AAAH!"

(Thump, crash, thud, silence)

"Um, how essential was the plastic tray to the Bumbo seat?"

"Was? As in past-tense?"

"You could say that."


"Well, it started fluttering, and I thought it was going to get away, so I just started stomping."

"And you stomped on the bee and everything in its wake?"


"Whatever. Way to take care of the practically immobile HORNET. ... There. ... Does that make you feel better?"

"Yes. Breaking something to kill a hornet is much more acceptable."

Monday, April 28, 2008

When living in a bubble seems like it would be nice

I'm starting to realize that being jaded has its perks -- mostly because I haven't been able to shrug off tragic news stories these days.

And in my line of work, it's practically a job requirement.

I know it's because I'm a mother. I just look at things differently now. When a 45-year-old man got killed today because he was mowing his lawn and his tractor fell over on him, suffocating him to death, I just couldn't shake the creeping sense of despair. What about his kids? He won't get to see them graduate. Or get married. Or meet his grandchildren.

When I read a wire story about a 30-year-old man who sexually assaulted, burned and beat an 11-month-old girl to death and only got 30 years in prison because the judge "wants him to be able to make something of his life when he gets out," I was enraged. I thought, what about the life he took? What about that little girl? What could she have made with her life?

I know it's very unlike me to dwell on these things, much less write about it, but it's affecting me profoundly. I can't look at my daughter without seeing such hope and innocence and potential. And how am I ever going to protect her from freak accidents and senseless violence without becoming completely (and admittedly irrationally) paranoid?

I've always thought that I would be capable of a truly selfless act if I was faced with a split-second decision to help those I care about, rather than helping myself. But now I know, without any hesitation, I would do anything -- including give my life -- to protect my child.

But sometimes, sadly, it doesn't feel like enough.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Note to self

Go to Panera five minutes before closing more often. They might spit in your chicken and rice soup, but you'll get a bag of free bagels.

Which totally makes up for it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Newspaper column

Just a few short years ago, the desire to take a walk around my neighborhood only required that I locate a pair of sneakers. Granted, sometimes that took some effort depending on the status of my closet, but for the most part, I could be striding along in a matter of minutes.

Then I added a dog and a baby to my life, and walks suddenly became a bit more tricky.

Getting out the door is an event in itself. I've considered slapping a sticky-note checklist on the wall so I don't forget anything: dog leash, plastic bag for any messes, stroller, blanket, burp cloth, toys, kitchen sink.

Up until last week, I had been too afraid to attempt controlling an overly enthusiastic puppy while maneuvering a stroller around jagged sidewalks without the help of my husband. At least with him, we're evenly matched -- two adults vs. two miniature volcanoes that could erupt at any time without warning.

But when the weather warmed to an irresistible 80 degrees, I suddenly decided I could handle it.

After rounding up the troops, we set off in a direction that I was familiar with. Things were going so well that I decided to keep going when I got to the spot we normally turn around and head back.

After another mile, which turned out to be mostly uphill, I suddenly realized I was on the opposite end of town and thoroughly exhausted. My lap dog, who is a few pounds overweight because he's an expert at convincing us he deserves treats, was nearly ready to collapse. He kept looking up at me with his tongue drooping out of his mouth as if to say, "OK, seriously -- where's the couch?"

Having both hands tied up with the stroller, I couldn't carry him, so I tried some verbal encouragement. "C'mon, buddy! You can do it. We're, um, well ... probably halfway."


I did my best to attempt a few shortcuts, but I only ended up forging up unexpected hills, which is no picnic when you're pushing around a 16-pound baby and all of her gear, not to mention that stroller wheels can suddenly lock up from a rogue piece of gravel.

Surprisingly, going downhill isn't any easier. My arm muscles were so strained that it took every ounce of willpower to prevent my daughter from careening solo to level ground.

By the time we got back to the house, my dog and I couldn't get water fast enough. He headed straight for his bowl and I almost stuck my head directly under a faucet. Thankfully, my little lady had been lulled to sleep from the marathon, so I just wheeled her into the living room where I collapsed.

The couch never felt so good. Normally I would never flop down when I was sweaty for fear of ruining the fabric over time, but at that moment, I didn't even care. I could've been covered in tar and I still wouldn't have given it a second thought.

Eventually, my dog clunked down with a thud beside me.

As we sat there, I couldn't help thinking about what I could've done differently.

Then it hit me.

I needed to add one more thing to my list of going-on-a-walk essentials: a cell phone to call for a taxi.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Best. Job perk. Ever.

One of our paper's photographers was just out shooting a fire hall barbecue fundraiser. When he came back to the news room, he was carrying what appeared to be a gigantic sandwich covered in tinfoil. It was so big that a reporter joked she saw it coming before he even rounded the corner.

"This is for you guys," he said. Then he proceeded to set down the gargantuan foil package, which all of a sudden filled the room with a savory aroma.


There were two racks and a side bucket of barbecue sauce. And, for the record, I heart ribs. I would forego perfume and dab rib sauce behind my ears if it was socially acceptable.

I jumped up and pulled paper plates and plasticware out of the office stash as a few others ripped open the package. We were like starved buzzards circling a carcass.

As I dug in, smearing sauce all over my face and up to my elbows, I couldn't help but think that sometimes it's good to be in the news business.

Don't tell my bosses, but I really would take an occasional rack of ribs over an annual health care package any day.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I'm surprised I didn't hear the screaming even without turning on my radio

Jerry has done some crazy things on the air -- gotten water balloons launched at him with a giant sling shot, donned a bikini for a car wash fundraiser, choked down a teaspoon of cinnamon -- but yesterday he came home with the repercussions of a stunt I had forgotten about.

He got his chest hair waxed.

When he lifted up his shirt to reveal his mostly bare, red and raw skin, I just cringed. It looked like the worst case of razor burn I'd ever seen with a few rogue sprouts that didn't quite take to the hot wax.

"DON'T TOUCH IT!" he said when I reached out laughing. "My shirt hurts, the air hurts ... just thinking about it hurts."

Apparently it hurt so badly that halfway through he demanded they ignore the hair around his nipples. So he is bare chested -- with two dark circles of hair in the most hilarious spots.

When I got done wiping the tears from my eyes and regained my breath, I could suddenly relate. That's how my nipples felt when I first started nursing. I wanted to die when my shirt brushed against my skin and showers were complete agony. The only relief? Nipple cream made from lamb's wool oil.

So I dug out a tube and rubbed it all over his chest.

He was glistening and relieved.

Maybe they should market it to nursing moms AND victims of bad wax jobs.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I seriously need to remember to aim my camera at other things

I'm not sure whether or not my mother realized it at the time, but
when she gave Allison her new measuring spoon, it was permanently.

Courtney, sporting a "Team Baby" shirt and 25-week-pregnant belly,
couldn't have chosen a more appropriate top for the day. It was the
first time I had seen her since she found out and my first meeting with
the adorable Hanna, my friend Jaime's almost 3-month-old daughter.

You can't tell me there is anything
you would rather do than kiss those cheeks.

What you can't see in this picture are the four adults behind me
desperately trying anything and everything to get the girls to smile.

This is quite possibly my favorite photo of all time. I have plenty
of pictures of various people holding Alli during our trip home,
but no one got quite as big a reaction as my grandma did.

Before I left, I tested Toby's patience.

And every young lady needs a pink Adirondack chair
for poolside afternoons at grandma's house.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Nevermind that she was wearing head-to-toe pink

Conversation with a resident at the retirement community while I was voting in the Pennsylvania primaries with Allison today:

"Oh! He's adorable! He's gonna be a heartbreaker."

"Thank you."

"Aren't you a handsome devil! What's his name?"




"She's precious!"

Ready to collapse

After an exhausting late-night drive, I'm finally back in Pennsylvania trying to hold on to some of the good mojo I left with.

But it isn't easy.

Allison is crying, trying desperately to fall back asleep after being squished in her car seat with a crook in her neck for almost five hours. I need some of the things out of the back of my car, but I just don't have the energy right now, so I'm wondering whether I have a backup case for my contacts -- otherwise, I might just have to scrounge up a shot glass from the kitchen.

I can't help but think about everything I have to do tomorrow afternoon, including unpack the car, sort everything out and vote. Then I have a long election night at the paper including a late deadline.

But even with the hassles that are sure to come, the trip was without a doubt worth it.

My family and friends rejuvenate me.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rivaling Mount Vesuvius

Yesterday was my first solo shopping outing with the bambino, and about halfway through, I started wondering why I ever waited so long. What had I been afraid of?

Then Allison refreshed my memory.

She had been so pleasant and wonderful that I found myself actually meandering through the aisles of Target rather than speeding from one area of the store to another, frantically trying to grab everything on my list.

When she lost interest in her toes, I handed her one of the toys that I had stowed away in my purse. When she lost interest in that, I handed her the second toy I had packed.

Then, much like a volcano that's about to erupt, she started huffing and puffing.

Baby sunscreen. I needed sunscreen.



A smile, good.



Another smile. Thank you, lord.

Huff. Yelp.

Where in the hell is the sunscreen?





Sunscreen dammit. It's gotta be here somewhere.


WAAaaa. AAAhhhufff.





Oooh! Look at this toy you've totally lost interest in! Wee! FUN!


THERE IT IS! Okay. We're leaving ... PEEK-A-BOO!


By the time I made it through a line to pay, I was practically shoving money down the cashier's throat. I felt like just giving her my entire purse, saying "This outta cover it," and running out of the store.

If Alli had really been a volcano, her wails would've been deadly molten lava killing everyone and everything in her wake. First of all, me.

Then, not three seconds into our drive, she was asleep and stayed that way for two hours after I got back home.

But I'm not sure who was more exhausted -- her or me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

If you want honesty, ask an infant

Yesterday, my aunt Glrr decided to stop by on her way home from work to see Allison. Which really isn't "on the way" at all. It's completely out of the way. Like making a stop in Seattle on your way from New York to Philadelphia.

But it's good to know that I'm not the only adult who is helpless to resist the promise of baby coos, chubby cheeks and corn niblet toes.

Since they hadn't seen each other since December, I was eager to show off all of Allison's new tricks. Like how well she holds her head up, grasps things and crams them expertly into her mouth.

Not to mention the crazy sounds she makes when we're hanging out on the floor and I chomp on her sides.

Glrr, who seemed genuinely impressed, asked Allison, "Aw, do you love your mommy?"

My head was still positioned right over her to go in for another bite and then, as if right on cue, Alli got very quiet.

And farted right in my face.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Apparently nearing my expiration date

I decided yesterday to make an impromptu visit to New York and take advantage of a four-day weekend. So I packed up Allison and the two of us took a road trip late last night.

Everyone has been calling and e-mailing saying the same thing:

"I hear Allison's in town!"

If I was ground beef at the grocery store, a shelf stocker would've slapped a bright orange REDUCED PRICE sticker on my forehead.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Recipe for disaster

Allison is very regular. I can practically set my watch to her dirty diapers. So when she has a day where she's less, well, craptastic than most, I know the next one is going to be a seismic event.

I warned Jerry when he got home from work that there hadn't been much activity and to brace himself. Then, just as he was telling me that she hadn't gone the night before either, we heard a loud explosion below us where she was resting on the floor.

Then I ran shouting, "YOUR TURN!"

"Just like that?" he said, laughing. "Not even paper, rock, scissors?"

He scooped her up and headed for the changing table. The next thing I heard was Jerry's dry heaves, followed by a litany of gagging, interspersed with a few coughs.

"That bad?"


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Month 5

Dear Alli,

You have teeth! Two of them miraculously sprouted out of your bottom gums a few weeks ago and I nearly fell over when I realized I hadn't noticed any change in your temperament or behavior. I mean, having solid objects forcefully shove their way out of the soft tissue in your mouth can't be a pleasant experience. But you didn't so much as whimper. I give you two gold stars -- one for each central incisor.

I suppose I should've noticed when your drool started rivaling Niagara Falls. In a matter of seconds, you can soak through two layers of clothes, my shirt, a blanket and still have enough to make a pool on the floor for Toby to swim in.

Just yesterday we were over at your cousin Emily's house, and when you started leaking, she couldn't take it. "ALLISON IS SPITTING ON THE FLOOOOOOR!"

Never mind that their house is under renovation and it's just a subfloor covered with construction dust. You were spitting in her house. Where she might walk. In her new flip flops. And I watched as her little 4-year-old head almost exploded from the audacity of it all.

Then, as another drip cascaded down with a splat, you smiled and all was forgiven. Emily spent the next five hours trying to get you to show her your two-tooth grin.

You won me over with that smile months ago. I guess it's time I share it.


You also discovered your feet this month. Two of them! On the end of your legs! What captivating extremities!

Now you can't keep your hands off of them. Putting you in a diaper is like a professional wrestling match. I'm pretty sure that at 5-months-old you could qualify as a top contender for a WWE main event.

I can practically hear the words, "Let's get ready to RUMMMBLE!" when I catch an unsavory whiff coming from your butt. I carry you to your changing table, spend 43 minutes trying to pry your interlocked fingers and toes apart so you flop into a straight line, then I jam the diaper around you as fast as I can before your hands and feet become one solid mass of knuckles again.

You win.

I'll hang your world championship belt above your door.


Apparently farting noises are out. That was so February. You've matured since then.

Whistling is in.

Well, your father's pathetic attempt at whistling anyway. He's never been able to whistle, but he's getting damn close with all of the practice he's getting these days. I'm not sure how he stumbled upon your latest obsession, but you love watching him struggle to get a note out.

He just sort of holds you close, furrows his brow and blows his entire lung capacity of air through his pursed lips. Your hair fluffs with each puff and you smile and grin and look at me as if to say, "This guy? He's hilarious. Can we keep him?"

We can.


Most of the time you're such a quiet thoughtful baby. I look at you and think you must be pondering the laws of quantum physics. Or whether the atom really is the smallest particle that composes a chemical element.

Then, all of a sudden, you turn into a shrieking banshee who seems to simply enjoy the sounds coming out of her mouth. You're not crying or upset. You just start yelping "AAAAIIIIiiiieeeEEEE! AAAAIIIIiiiieeeEEEE! AAAAIIIIiiiieeeEEEE!" over and over and over until I can't take it anymore and I press the magical sound button on one of your toys.

Then, just as quickly as it started, you stop and listen. You love music. It doesn't matter if it's your dad's death metal, your singing stuffed pink dragon named Bernice, my latest obsession with John Legend or The Wiggles crooning about hot potatoes and cold spaghetti.

We've pressed the music button on your baby beach band drum so many times that it's already not quite able to hit the high notes anymore. The irreplaceable battery is slowly dying and I'm positive you'll want absolutely nothing to do with it once it doesn't sing anymore.

I'm not sure which one of us is going to be more upset. That thing has kept you quiet long enough for me and your father to cram a few hot meals into our mouths. In between forkfuls, we take turns pressing the music button because you're so content to listen.

I may write a letter to the company asking that they send me a few thousand more of the magical song buttons.

The toy? Meh.


My favorite part of your development this month is that you've become so interactive. Or, as your PA grandma would say, "She's people!"

You've stopped just looking behind me when I'm carrying you around and now turn to face forward. And wouldn't you know there's a whole bunch of stuff going on up there.

Like that crazy glass of orange juice you want to be a part of every morning. On more than one occasion, you've dunked your entire fist in. Or the open cabinet door you swing on its hinges. Or the remote control you want to shove in your mouth. Or grabbing at dad's disgusting bologna, salami, roast beef and ham sandwich. Or my toothbrush. Or Toby's wet nose.

You also invented your own version of peek-a-boo combined with hide-and-seek. I call it peek-and-seek.

When I'm holding you in a mirror and you turn to face me, I act bowled over with surprise, you shriek and bury your head in my shoulder. Then, just when you think I can't see you facing the other way, I turn so that you're looking at the mirror again and WOA! I'm over THERE too!

Life with you is full of such simple pleasures. I cherish every one.


Monday, April 14, 2008

So blogworthy I actually got out of bed

After ripping the entire comforter, blanket and sheet out from underneath Jerry's dead weight, stealing back my pillow and fumbling into bed in the darkness, Jerry started mumbling something.


"Imunna pee myself."

Then he proceeded to shuffle to the bathroom, dragging his feet along the carpet repeating, "Imunna pee myself."

A few seconds later, I heard what can only be described as a gorge emptying into a lake. Then he shuffled into the adjoining office where I heard a bunch of struggling and joints cracking and a few grunts. Then he returned to bed.

"Um, what just happened in there?"

In a mumbled whisper he said, "Long story short, I peed on my sweatpants then I tried to change, but my big toe got stuck in my boxer hole and I nearly fell over and I ripped my boxers in half ... long story short."

I could only think of one thing to say.

"I have to get up right now or I'll forget to write about this in the morning."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Our AARP cards should come in the mail any day now

Yesterday Jerry went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game with his brother-in-law; our 14-year-old nephew, Nate; and one of his friends from school. Well, Jerry came home with two stories proving that we are officially considered old among the teen set:

  • When a song came on the radio during the drive and Jerry started talking about the band, Nate's friend asked incredulously, "You know who Blink 182 is?"

    Jerry, blinking 182 times, said, "Yeah, buddy, they're my age."

  • When the boys whipped out their cell phones during the game and started texting like crazy, Jerry asked, "What are you guys doing?"

    Taking him literally, Nate's friend said, "This is called text messaging."

Right. Now please excuse me while I go round up my denture cream so I can put my teeth in for the day.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dreaming of something better

I like to think of myself as a pretty optimistic person who tends to see the positive in just about any situation, but lately I've been feeling the opposite, and I just can't seem to shake it.

Granted, I think almost anyone would feel the same way if they were in my shoes, but it sucks the joy out of things I normally take pleasure in. Not a great place to be, for sure.

Part of me would love to rant and explode, but mostly I'm just tired of even feeling the weight of everything on my mind. When I'm laying down at night and I hear a train rumble past, I like to envision it taking my troubles with it. I inhale deeply and imagine clean, pure air filling my lungs. Then, when I exhale, I try to let go of my anger and picture it leaving in a murky cloud -- one that's swept up in the current of the boxcars racing by.

This is the latest of my mental release exercises. I've invented different ones over the years for different reasons. It's a habit I formed when I was in seventh grade after a counselor walked a room of us through a relaxation program when I was at summer camp. I found it so freeing that I started doing it when I was having trouble sleeping and it just sort of took off from there.

It sounds silly to even put it into words, but it really has helped me cope with a variety of issues throughout my life. The counselor instructed us to envision ourselves as a stick of butter on a hill at dawn. Then, little by little as the sun comes up, the butter melts into the ground. By the end, I feel weightless and free of the skin that binds me. And my troubles don't seem so important anymore.

When I'm feeling empty and broken, I like to envision myself as a hollow vessel on a beach. As the tide comes in, it fills me with warm salt water, swirling into my extremities and pulsing with life.

And sometimes, when I want nothing more than to walk away from all of the complications that come with being alive, I imagine what it would feel like to stand against a wall and become part of it. Letting it envelop me. Becoming an inanimate object that can't feel pain or anger or hurt or betrayal or animosity or any of it.

Well, there's a train whistle now.

I hope it has a few empty cars because I have a lot of emotional garbage today.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The hat totally rocks, Gisela!

Hmm ... mom must be taking pictures of me in my awesome new hat.

What the?

It ... doesn't ... come ... off ...


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Only Jerry

Sometimes Jerry and I find ourselves in such random situations that he is convinced he's the unsuspecting subject on his very own "The Truman Show." For those who didn't see the movie -- which, incidentally, I consider to be among my Top 10 all-time favorites -- Jim Carry finds out that his entire life is a reality TV show and he's the only one not in on it.

Well, yesterday afternoon was so nice that we decided to take a walk and run a few errands around town. After Allison reminded us that we should start to head home, I spotted two small animals a few blocks ahead.

"Are those loose dogs?" I asked.

"No, they're too small," Jerry said, squinting to try and determine their shape and gait. "Cats, maybe?"

So we kept going. And, sure enough, when we got to the block that we had seen the animals, two tiny terriers came flying at us, barking and growling. To be honest, they were completely adorable even though they were trying to be tough. I could tell both of them were puppies -- one about the size of Toby and the other a little smaller. Neither of them had collars, but they looked well cared for and fed.

We tried to ignore them and keep walking, but they were determined to take issue with Toby and had him surrounded. I know he could've held his own, but I didn't want him getting hurt, so I suggested that Jerry simply pick him up, which he did.

Then we kept walking and tried our best to continue ignoring them, figuring they would either get tired of not getting a reaction from us or we would reach a distance they weren't comfortable venturing past.

But that never happened. The dogs kept yipping and growling and Alli started crying at the commotion. Toby handled it like a champ, but the raised fur on his back told us he could freak out at any moment, so Jerry was doing everything he could to keep him calm.

And just then, out of the corner of my eye, I watched as the bigger of the two leaped up and firmly bit Jerry in the ass.

As Jer let out a shocked "YOW!," further startling Toby and Allison, I thought, "Aw, HELL no! No dog's cute enough to get away with THAT." So I turned around and got defensive.

They immediately took off when they saw my demeanor change, but I still couldn't believe they had gotten that bold.

"You alright?"

"That asshole bit me!"

When we got home, Jerry immediately pulled down his pants and had me inspect his left butt cheek. It was red, and will probably bruise, but the skin wasn't broken.

"Well, on the bright side, it gives you something to talk about on the air tomorrow."

"People must think I make this stuff up."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hoping for better by dawn's early light

I had a colossally bad day. So colossal that if I took the time to rehash everything that went wrong, it would likely take three years and my fingers would wear down past the second knuckle to become little worthless stubs.

Then I wouldn't be able to give anybody the finger, and sometimes that's the only antidote to a day like I just had.

But after stewing about it for hours to the point that I was able to feel the tension pulsing in my temple, I overheard a reporter relay a story in the news room that forced me to put things into perspective.

Apparently a 9-year-old girl was scheduled to sing the "Star Spangled Banner" a capella before the first pitch at our city's minor-league baseball stadium. Well, she fumbled the lyrics. Even though she was visibly shaken, I guess she managed to compose herself, restart from the beginning and complete the song to a standing ovation. Having sung that song at my college graduation, I can't even begin to say how commendable it is that she stuck with it.

But as she was walking off the field toward her mother, tears streaming down her face, she got so upset that she vomited all over the grass.

My heart just broke for her. My bad day will someday be a fleeting forgettable memory. She'll probably never forget that moment as long as she lives.

I just wish I could give her a hug.

And maybe show her how good it feels to give the world the middle finger sometimes.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Appeasing my mother

So my mom's not that great at dropping hints. All last week she was attempting to gently prod me to post some new photos of Allison. First it was, "No post today, huh?" The next day it was, "Have you taken any new pictures lately?" The next day she said, "I had to scroll back pretty far to find a picture of Allison." And finally, when she apparently couldn't take it anymore, she said, "Would you put up some pictures already?"


Alli always scoots down her wedge as she sleeps, which Jerry
more appropriately calls a "ramp." Every morning I find her in
the same position: sideways with her feet up in the air.

Toby has gotten to the point that he whines if I don't take his
picture. Whenever I pull out the camera, he demands equal time.

This is quickly becoming a favorite toy because it plays music.
Although, you wouldn't know it by the way she can launch it across a room.

Crocuses are my favorite flower because they're the first to pop up
in the spring, they're really vibrant and too small to be picked.
This one makes my day every time I pass it in our backyard.

Toby sharing the love the only way he knows how.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

We'll never joke that he can't get any closer again

We've long since accepted that our dog has major attachment issues. It usually translates into nearly stepping on him if we're not careful, never having a free lap and dealing with him sleeping underneath the covers between our ankles.

But last night Toby took his neurosis to a whole new level.

Jerry woke up with Toby inside his shirt.


With Toby's head poking out his right sleeve.

If Jerry hadn't woken me up to witness it myself, I never would've believed him. Then I watched as Toby yawned, popped his head back into the shirt, tried to crawl out the neck hole and eventually Jerry evicted him forcefully when Toby decided to take a pit stop -- literally, when he started licking his armpit.

So I won't be surprised when Toby gets out a needle and thread and surgically attaches himself to Jerry's torso.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

Jeff Foxworthy would be proud

Well, it's that time of year again: Redneck Christmas.

And this time, we participated.

I had meant to keep an eye on the calendar to alert myself to the spring trash cleanup, but I didn't even need to. The gigantic piles began forming way before garbage day.

Jerry and I got so excited when we saw heaps of indiscernible trash lining the sidewalks in town that we immediately started taking inventory to see what we could part with. We decided to start in the basement and work our way up to the attic.

As someone who gets sentimentally attached to things, it was harder than I thought it would be. When Jerry pointed to my oversized boombox that I've had since college, I immediately wavered.

"We haven't used it in over a year," he pointed out.

"Yeah, you're right. And someone will take it."

I decided to view it as a great way to recycle the things we no longer use. And I could finally get rid of all of the stuff I had intended to donate to charity a long time ago but never got around to. Not to mention it would save our marriage because we wouldn't be fighting all summer about holding a yard sale -- something I see as a good way to declutter and earn cash, while Jerry says he would rather "hand me a buck fifty and be done with it."

Once we started hauling things to the curb, we got ruthless. To be honest, it's kind of contagious. After awhile, we put Allison in her swing, leashed Toby to a table, propped open the front door and started carrying crap down from the attic. We just sort of yelled our decisions to each other.

"I'm taking the old office chair!"

"Whatever! I'm taking the throw rug!"

So it was bound to happen that we set out a few things that were completely valuable without really thinking. Like the surround sound speakers to my stereo system.

By the time I realized what had happened, they were already loaded into the back of someone's pickup truck, heading off to who knows where. Two guys had showed up while Jerry was carting them out and waited until they had the entire set.

Later we watched as an old guy opted to take a celestial box with a candle in it. And a young girl and her boyfriend took my old alarm clock -- the same one that Meg Ryan has in "You've Got Mail." Oddly, I still remember noticing that when I saw the movie.

Someone else cut the cord off the otherwise broken lamp base we set out. And I really was intrigued that my old monogrammed jewelry box made the cut. If I had to look at someone else's initials every time I reached for a pair of earrings, I would drive myself crazy trying to come up with variations of names that would fit the letters.

Kathy Lauren Pennington
Katie Lynn Parson
Kasandra Lizzette Pantaloons
Karen Lisa Prendergast
Kujo Larinx Puddlehopper
Killme Letmedie Please

All told, everything but the lamp base disappeared before the haulers even got to our street. It's weird to say, but I hope everything went to a good home. I hope right now someone is sitting on our old office chair at their computer, blogging about how they scored it for free.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A penny saved is a lesson learned

For more than a few reasons, I've decided to go on a spending fast for two weeks.

It's not that I'm an obsessive shopper. In fact, I've become a very conscious consumer ever since a mortgage and a baby changed my financial priorities. Now instead of splurging on expensive clothes and shoes, I splurge on a warm house and fancy diapers because they tend to prevent leaks a little better overnight.

I know. Totally glamorous.

I was reminded of how much my life has changed when I got a little free time to myself this weekend. I returned a pair of pants I had gotten for my birthday that ended up being too short. When the sales woman handed me the cash, I had to blink twice. Money. To spend on me. Not on bills. Not on the the house. Not on the baby. Just me.

So I went to one of my favorite women's clothing stores. Being near the Penn State campus, it was crawling with fashionable young women. Their hair was immaculate. They were wearing heels and coordinating jewelry. They didn't have a baby puke stain running down their sleeve.

And one by one I watched as they piled their arms high with anything and everything. I used to be them. I used to shop and buy with abandon.

That was my old life. Before I had to worry about whether the heating company was going to raise rates. Before I needed an emergency fund for unexpected household problems. Before I bought a family vehicle and gas prices spiked.

On the other hand, I appreciate the few things I'm able to buy for myself so much more. I treat them with more respect and tend to think through my purchases. Even just a few short years ago, I would buy something on sale just because it was a good deal, then it would sit, unused, in my dresser with the tags still on for months.

My new shopping sprees are buying household items in bulk. We got a Sam's Club membership after noticing the astronomical price of diapers, and now it has become my mission to buy everything in mass quantities to save.

Each room in our house has a mini store of sorts. Backups of deoderant, shampoo and toilet paper in the bathroom. Backups of dish soap, paper towels and sponges in the kitchen. Backups of wipes, garbage bags and diapers in the baby's room.

And now our kitchen is overflowing with pasta sauce, Cheerios, stewed tomatoes and oatmeal thanks to my new psychosis.

Other than that, and my increasing worries about the economy, I just want to see if I can do it. I want to see if I can avoid the vending machine for an occasional treat at work. Or grabbing a burger at Wendy's on Friday night. Or running out for one thing at the grocery store and ending up with a full basket.

I'm sure it's going to take some discipline, but hopefully I'll get more out of it than a few saved dollars.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

When she handed down her recipe box, it should've come with a translator

My mother has a tendency to call things by odd names. It used to drive me so crazy that I finally sat her down and explained that "creme rinse" is actually "conditioner" and a tailored button down is not a "blouse." A blouse is made of flowy material. Or "blousing" is what you do when you tuck your shirt in and pull it out a little so it forms a reverse mushroom cloud around your waist.

Well, I thought I had straightened her out until I discovered another word association problem last weekend.

As usual, I was having a tough time fighting off my desire for chocolate, so I decided to dig into my mom's old recipe box and make her famous Congo Squares. Believe it or not, the issue wasn't over the name of the dessert. Granted, I'm not sure why they're called that. I mean, as far as I know they have no affiliation with the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Southern Africa, but it's my mom's make-believe language were talking about here, so I just go with it. I think they should be called Awesome Squares, but that's just me.

It was my first time making the recipe myself, but I figured it couldn't be that difficult because they're basically like a giant chocolate chip cookie in a pan. I was on my way to the store to pick up a few things anyway, so I perused the ingredient list to make sure I had everything in stock.

Flour. Check.

Brown sugar. Check.

Eggs. Uncheck.



What the hell are nutmeats?

A speed dial call to my mom revealed that they apparently are chopped walnuts. And she doesn't ever use them. Right.

"And how much is a 'container' of brown sugar supposed to be? I mean, I'm looking at my two-pound bag and that's enough to bathe in."

"Two and a half cups."

I felt like taking issue with her form of measurement too, but I let that one go.

After my trip to the store, I got right to it. The first task called for one and two-quarter cups of shortening, so I dug out the container of Crisco labeled "vegetable shortening" and scooped out the required amount.

The last direction instructed me to "pour batter into pan," but there was no pouring to be done. My Congo batter was not anywhere near the consistency required for pouring. It was more what I would call clumpy. I could transfer it to the pan in a giant lump and then smash it down to fit.

I hit my mom's speed dial number again.

"What did I do wrong? I followed your crazy recipe!"

"Did you melt the butter?"

"What butter? It calls for shortening!"

"Yeah, you know, margarine."



"WELL IT DOESN'T SAY THAT. It calls for SHORTENING, which is what I used."

All I could hear was laughter on the other line.

"Well what am I supposed to do now?"

"You know that round container you have next to your fridge?"


And as she continued to try to explain that "shortening" is actually "margarine," I forcefully smashed my clumpy dough into the pan and crammed it in the oven before Jerry could swipe any more before running away yelling about it tasting awesome anyway.

"Mom, do we need to have a conversation about creme rinse again?"

"That's a very old recipe. It used to be your grandmother's."

"Well, I'm fixing my copy so Allison doesn't run into the same problem I just had. But there's no hope for you two. You guys need to get your nutmeats straight."