Monday, June 30, 2008

One thing, wa-one thing, leads to another

Apparently a landscaping project is a lot like a hot and heavy makeout session.

It's kind of like when you start kissing after an amazing first date, then you start wondering how and when you'll ... ever ... manage ... to ... stop.

Well, ripping out the tree-bush has been a lot like that. And twice as sweaty.

Once that horrific stump gave way, Jerry and I haven't been able to keep our hands off our yard. It's like that average-looking person who gets a new haircut and then, WOA! Hot! How didn't I notice THAT before?

Well, with the giant green monstrosity gone, that corner of our yard looks so full of potential. Like someone we'd bring home to meet our parents. Or, in this case, invite our parents over to visit.

But we didn't want to rush into anything without really thinking it through. Going all the way and ripping up the grass is a huge commitment. We'd be emotionally invested. And if it got ugly and turned into a huge disaster, we wouldn't be able to walk away. It's not like we just have to worry about those awkward run-ins where you're forced to give a polite nod and pretend nothing ever happened. I mean, we kind of live together.

On the other hand, simply filling in the hole with dirt and planting grass would've been so anti-climactic.

There was something there. We just knew it. It could be completely amazing.

So we decided to construct a patio.

The scary part is we've never done anything like that before. And the first time is always special, so we really wanted to make sure everything was right. We got new tools, talked to friends who have a little more experience, and even took a couple practice runs by sketching it out on paper.

Then the day came.

We woke up Sunday filled with anticipation. We wanted to start things out right, so I made a huge breakfast, then Jerry held the door for me as we walked outside.

The weather was perfect. It was quiet. No one else was around.

We tore at the grass.

Sinking the shovel in for the first time was a thrill. We were doing it. Really doing it. We were finally going to have a patio.

After manipulating the ground for hours, we collapsed onto a bench, sucking down water as fast as we could gulp.

It turned out perfectly.

Now we have a solid foundation to work with. A few more days and we'll be done.

But we're already dreaming of what comes next -- introducing some new plants, inviting people over to get in on the action, maybe getting some new cushions for the chairs to keep things fresh.

One thing's for sure: Our yard is HOT in the summer.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Newspaper column

There are a few things every woman should do in her lifetime:

  • Splurge on a timeless piece of clothing that makes her feel beautiful.
  • Live alone.
  • Find that perfect go-to recipe.
  • Keep a diary.
  • Wield a chainsaw.

Sure, that last one might sound a little strange. I mean, if everyone in the world were to actually write down the things they hope to eventually accomplish, I'm sure there would be a whole lot of "skydiving" notes and very few about operating heavy machinery.

But after recently having the opportunity to rev the engine of that power tool myself, I can tell you the adrenaline rush is probably just as thrilling as jumping out of a plane -- only without all of that unwanted potential-to-plummet-to-your-death waiver stuff.

Like it probably does for most homeowners, every spring brings a new opportunity for me and my husband to give our property a critical eye. We stand in our yard and discuss all of the things we'd like to accomplish if time, finances and manpower were no object. Then we get realistic and try to tackle the projects we're able to.

The list is long, and some of the tasks inevitably get pushed to the following spring. One in particular has topped the list ever since we've owned our home, but we just didn't know how to go about it.

Kill the tree-bush.

The tree-bush is the black eye of our otherwise lovely back yard. Without exaggeration, it's probably 20-feet high and nearly just as wide. One of our neighbors, who is much more knowledgeable than we are in the greenery department, has explained to us that it's a type of tree that can be trained into a hedge.

Only no one took the time to train it.

The result? A plant with an identity crisis. It has all of the qualities of a bush, but underneath hides the thick limbs of a tree.

And because we've been unable to do anything about it, the monstrosity gets bigger and more unsightly every year. Come to thing about it, we should just call it "Audry II," the name of the man-eating plant in "Little Shop of Horrors."

This year we finally had enough. We were sick of looking at the tree-bush and enlisted the help of some friends who just happen to own a pickup truck, branch loppers, a digging spade, shovels and a chainsaw. (Forget friends in high places; seek friends with tools.)

It turned into an all-day event with at least three flatbeds full of detached branches, four tries at chaining the stump to the truck hitch before the roots were freed, and countless glasses of water.

Now we have a crater deep enough for our dog to get lost in, but I'm thrilled. Even the carnage looks more attractive than what used to be there.

But, by far, the highlight of the entire day -- the memory that will stick with me forever -- is not the overwhelming feeling of relief when that stump finally gave way. Or reclaiming a huge chunk of real estate. Or having the freedom to plant whatever I want.

It's the rush I got from powering through solid wood with rotating metal.

The guys looked a little surprised when I asked if I could have a go at it, but I'm glad I did. It was loud and powerful and messy and vindicating and maybe even a little therapeutic.

So, ladies, it may seem like a strange thing to put on your lifetime to-do list, but take it from me: Don't let the guys have all the fun.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Already waiting for the next time I can jot it on my calendar

Even though I feel completely run down and overwhelmed from my irregular sleep schedule, I got a glimpse of my old life earlier this week and it rejuvenated me in more ways than one.

Months ago, Timberly planned a trip home from Nebraska and the two of us set aside an entire day for whatever. I penciled it on my calendar as "TIMBERLY!" and looked forward to it as if it said "JAMAICA!"

Maybe more.

We didn't have any plans other than finally going to see the "Sex and the City" movie. And there aren't too many people I'd wait for to see such a major motion picture event. I mean, at one point when the series was on, I bypassed money for groceries just to pay for HBO every month. And the entire collection is the shining pinnacle of my DVD collection. Waiting for that movie was like denying myself air.

But as every SATC fan with a vagina knows, the movie is more than just spending 2 hours in a theater. It's an event. It's a lifestyle. As Carrie Bradshaw herself says in the intro, its about young women in search of "love and labels." Personally, without a budget for designer threads, I translate it to mean friendship and fashion.

And that's exactly how Timberly and I ended up spending our day. We made lunch, went shopping, grabbed a quick bite for dinner, saw the movie, got fishbowl-sized cosmos and capped it off with a junk food run on the way home at 1 a.m. -- all the while talking freely. The kind of conversations that only unfold with the comfort of knowing you won't ever be judged.

It's always hard saying goodbye because there's the underlying uncertainty of when we'll get to see each other next. But we joked that there is one good thing about living in different time zones.

For the first time ever while shopping together, we can now buy the same clothes.

And we did. A cute red skirt with white polkadots.

This morning I got a text message from her that read: Wearing the skirt.

It might as well have read: Thinking of you.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm still having a love affair with my camera, honest

Judging by my comments, I've been seriously slacking in the photo department. I've been called out for not posting an image of my new purse, no picture of Alli in her Atlantic City getup and not even the dogs we were watching. Well, forgive me. I have no excuse. Especially because I had pictures of all of them.

So here. And I've included a few extras as a peace offering.

It doesn't quite have the same effect with the hoodie
over it, but you can still appreciate its awesomeness.

Bob is just about the most laid-back dog on the planet.
But his turds are are as big as one, too.

Willow is a lot more shy and skittish, but once she warmed up
to me, she was so loving. I considered not giving her back.

Allison loved watching the dog circus from the bench.

But the No. 1 dog in this house is still Toby The Great.

Allison and I play like this every morning.

I think Alli's researching her Halloween costume options.
She may want to dress up like laundry.

And, right now, my mom just said "Aww" out loud.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I know what's going to top my Christmas list this year

I used a chainsaw yesterday.

It was faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to cut through branches in a single swipe.

I was Super Sawer.

The big green monstrosity in our yard that we referred to as tree-bush finally met its long-awaited demise. For three years we'd been looking at that hideous thing, dreaming of the day we could plant something else in its place.

But the biggest rush didn't come when I watched our friend's truck forcefully yank the 4-foot-wide stump from the ground, enabling me to revel in the resulting crater of possibility.

It was feeling the weight of that power tool in my arms, the motor vibrating my bones.

After the guys took a few swipes at the trunk-like branches, I was itching to try it. Roger gave me a quick tutorial and handed over the machine. It was heavy and hot, the exhaust spewing at my legs. I placed the saw up to the branch I wanted to cut and pressed a button on top and a lever on the bottom to turn it on.

Before I knew it, wood chips were flying in every direction, covering everything from my hair to my flip-flopped feet in sawdust. My muscles strained as I pushed through the limb, then the tension finally gave way as it fell to the ground.

I let out a scream.

"WOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo! ... THAT was AWESOME!"

If I was the type of person to wear a cowboy hat, I would've waived it over my head and slammed it to the ground. To be completely honest, a "Yee Haw!" was on the back of my lips, struggling to escape. But I squelched it.

My heart was pounding, my blood was flowing -- it was such an adrenaline rush. With wide eyes, I powered through another branch. And another. And another.

When my arms were threatening to give up on me, my back was screaming and my legs were shaking, I regretfully handed it back over to Jerry.

If my body hadn't started protesting the activity, I probably would've left a wake of limbs and leaves through our entire back yard until everything was leveled to the grass.

But it would've been worth it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Do The Hustle

When I was pregnant, Jerry did a radio broadcast at a pool company and the owner gave him a little rubber duck for Allison that lights up and flashes in red, green and blue when it's placed in water.

We call him Disco Duck.

Well, Disco Duck somehow made his way out of the bathtub and into the office where Alli was playing with him on the floor this morning.

And long after she had tired of him and moved onto other toys, I looked over and Disco Duck was lighting up in all his disco-y glory.

Allison's drool had saturated the carpet so intensely that it was enough for Disco Duck to swim in.

If only I had a pair of white vinyl bell bottoms.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Resisting the urge to sell my car because it's probably cursed

I jinxed myself in the most horrible of ways. I should've known when the words left my mouth that I was doomed to regret them forever after.

While on a dinner break from work about a month ago, I had to slam on my breaks to miss the groundhog that ran in front of my car just outside my office parking lot. My heart was pounding, the car screeched to a halt, my purse flew to the floor and its contents spewed in every direction. But then I saw a furry little body shoot down a hole near an electric box to my left and that's all that mattered.

The way groundhogs are built, you'd think they would lumber along with all the grace of a sandbag, but those suckers are surprisingly agile and quick. I've driven much more cautiously past that area ever since.

When I got back to work, I warned everyone about the groundhog family living under the electric box, explaining my near miss and how much it would've upset me if the outcome had been different.

Then I said it.

"I've never hit anything."

I realize my perfect track record had a lot more to do with happenstance than my driving ability, but it's something I was proud of. Not so much the fact that I had avoided my fair share of animals such as the groundhog, but that I knew in my heart I'd never taken a life just because I have the ability to climb into a speed machine made of metal.

But I can't say that anymore. In the past three weeks, Jerry and I have hit two birds and a chipmunk. One of those times, I was behind the wheel.

It may sound silly to some that it has affected me deeply. I can't shake the horrible feeling that I killed an animal, a being that didn't know any better and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All three were probably unpreventable. Well, unless we had left a few minutes earlier or later. Or had gotten one more red light instead of green. For me, the bird flew right into my driver's side door. I heard the thud before I even saw it coming. It was terrible.

I'm sure Jerry probably thinks I'm overreacting. He's always been wary of the way I brake for animals, saying how I would sooner drive off a cliff and kill everyone in our car to avoid hitting a butterfly.

But even as a child, I was deeply disturbed by roadkill. I've since learned that my father would try to distract me and get me to look in another direction so I wouldn't cry. For someone who wanted to become a veterinarian when she grew up, I guess it makes sense that it would upset me more than most.

I couldn't follow that career path because of severe allergies, but I haven't lost my attachment to animals.

The worst part is that it has stirred a horrible memory I've tried to repress for years. My dad and his girlfriend, her two daughters and my brother and I were driving back from a Renaissance festival in upstate New York. I was probably in my early teens at the time. It had been a wonderful day filled with jousting, perusing artesan shops, apple dumplings, face painting, witch dunking and throwing tomatoes at criminals in the gallows.

As we were sitting in the truck, recounting our favorite moments, my dad was maneuvering the narrow roadway. Then, from the back seat, I heard my dad's girlfriend scream and felt the thud.
A dog had wandered into the road from a nearby farm. It was stuck up underneath the truck.

Once I realized what had happened, I immediately started crying. To make matters worse, the farmer came out and thanked my dad for doing him a favor. He had been debating whether or not to shoot the dog for weeks -- not something I needed to hear at the time.

My dad was forced to climb into the car, drive and break forcefully a few times just to get the dog to drop. He apologized repeatedly, but the farmer shrugged and thanked him again.

I remember we stopped at a roadside stand for corn on the way home, but I couldn't stomach the thought of eating -- ever again.

I know the birds and chipmunk weren't anywhere near as traumatic, but I can't shake the bad feeling that has been following me ever since.

Maybe I'll go buy a big bag of birdseed for our backyard.

Just because.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


After I dressed Allison in an awesome leopard-print onesie with a scull-and-crossbones on it and red pants:
"Take off the skull and she's an old lady ready for her big trip to Atlantic City. All she needs is a bucket of quarters."

Realizing short hair requires a little more maintenance than one cut every three months:
"This is ridiculous. I'm going to have to put the salon on speed dial. It'll go you, mom, hairdresser."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Overcoming the things that grip us

Occasionally I written about my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, but even at my worst, I don't think I ever realized how severe and life-altering OCD can become for a person.

For me, it's just a feeling I get that won't allow me to leave something incorrect, untidy or unfinished. It's what makes me good at my job, but difficult to live with. I can't leave our bedroom if any of the dresser drawers aren't closed all the way. If Jerry places something in a different spot in the house, I can't relax until it's back where I think it's supposed to be. And the dishwasher? Everything has its place. Jerry could fit all of the dirty items in just fine and I would still spend 10 minutes rearranging them before turning it on.

And, ignorantly, I just assumed that was the extent of it for most people.

Until I met Amanda.

She was hired as a reporter at the newspaper I work at a few weeks before I went on maternity leave. Since returning, I've found her to be one of the most caring, optimistic and genuine people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Because of this, I felt comfortable enough showing her my blog -- something I don't announce readily to people I just meet.

She started reading and got inspired to start one of her own, chronicling life with OCD, including her low point when she found herself curled in a ball in the hallway of her apartment after scrubbing herself raw with bleach. Her best friend took her to the emergency psychiatric hospital in Pittsburgh, and, in Amanda's words, she's been working to "control it with medicine and faith" ever since.

I find her story incredibly inspiring and, even better? She's a great writer. The combination is the perfect ingredient for a blog I think you'll enjoy reading as much as I do. Check it out here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Maybe he needs suspenders and that pole hook thing

Jerry and I have talked extensively about getting another dog. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Jerry: "Lets get another dog."

Me: "Absolutely not."

Jerry: "Toby would love it."

Me: "Toby would HATE it."

Jerry: "C'mon, it'd be great ... wait ... Toby! Don't lick the baby! And stop eating my socks! And, no! Don't dig at the carpet! ... OK, so what was I saying?"

Me: "You want another dog."

Jerry: "Yeah, just think how great would it be!"

Sure. Let me imagine forcing our very clingy dog to give up even more of his once undivided attention. I can picture it now -- defiantly pissing all over our mattress, ripping the heads off Allison's toys and maybe tugging down a curtain or three. Yep. Lets go to a breeder RIGHT NOW. I'm sure I'll get used to urine-soaked pillows in no time.

Jerry envisions a completely different scenario. A household utopia where Toby instantly befriends the new intruder and they walk paw-in-paw to their now community water bowl. Then they take turns doling out the kibble -- one for you, one for me. Then they retire for the evening after exchanging complementary butt whiffs.

So when our neighbors asked if we would watch their two very large dogs while they're in Tennessee this week, Jerry immediately agreed. He pictured it as the perfect opportunity to convince me that we should start a canine collection.

But after only two days, I think it's had the opposite effect.

This afternoon I stood back and laughed so hard the sound refused come out of my throat anymore as I watched Jerry try to get all three dogs into the backyard. He was running around the house like a drunk sheepherder employing any means necessary to get the dogs to comply: tugging on leashes, blockading doorways, bribing with treats, running and feigning excitement at LOOK! OUTSIDE! AWESOME! LETS GO!

Then, just when he was about to get the last one out, the two already on the back porch came barreling in, and all of them scattered in different directions.

He could've spiraled a hot pizza loaded with Milkbones out the back door like a discus and none of them would've noticed or cared.

Cap that off with a walk impeded by constantly crossed chains, nowhere to sit on the couch and not being able to take two steps without running into a body covered in fur, and I think Jerry has suddenly come over to my side of the two-dog debate.

And I haven't even handed him the pooper scooper yet.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Let the jokes commence

One of the main reasons we named our daughter Allison Grace instead of Grace Allison is because I was afraid she would inherit my clumsiness.

My lack of grace is so pronounced sometimes that it amazes me I'm even able to put one foot in front of the other.

Case in point?

I now have a lovely red gouge on my nose where my skin used to be. Thankfully, people have been very politely ignoring it, and some even go so far as to say things like, "Oh, it's hardly noticeable" when I call attention to it. You know, the proverbial elephant in the room. Only it's on my face.

A big, fat elephant on my face.

I got the elephant in the most ridiculous of ways. It's so ridiculous, Jerry had me reenact how it happened because he didn't think it was possible. Then, when it almost happened a second time, he stopped me. And sung a hearty rendition of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."

So, how'd it happen, you ask?

The clothes hamper bit me.

I was sitting on the floor, playing with Alli and folding her clothes. As I reached in to grab more, my forearm hit the lid and it came crashing down on my face. Completely stunned, I reached up to touch my nose and retrieved a hunk of skin.



Monday, June 16, 2008

Month 7

Dear Alli,

Well, I suppose I should start off with the one thing that has most defined this month: Your top two teeth poked through. And that seemingly simple change affected life as we knew it.

Being so little, rituals and habits -- especially concerning food -- are something you have come to rely on. They are the cornerstones of your days, and everything else falls around it. So when you bit me to the point that I could no longer feed you without crying, and I reluctantly had to transition from breastfeeding to pumping and bottle feeding, it wasn't easy on either of us.

But somehow we both adapted.

The whole thing taught me that you are far more patient and understanding than I give you credit for. And breaking routine isn't the end of the world. It just opens the door for making new ones.

I'm learning. Really I am.


The highlight of the month, by far, was your first dip in the pool. During the long winter when you were a newborn and I was delirious from lack of sleep and the uncertainty that I would ever feel human again, the thought of playing with you in the water and sun helped get me through.

Reality didn't disappoint.

You immediately squealed with delight and started slapping at the surface. The resulting splash was so surprising, you had to test it out again. But figuring out how to time your blinking to synchronize with the splash to avoid getting water in your eyes is a complex task to master. So you just splashed away and blinked hard afterward, looking a little shocked and enthralled each time.

Pretty soon, your face was covered in tiny droplets and I was laughing so hard, I'm sure most of the waves in the pool were mine.

We're going to have a ton of fun this summer.


You also became a lot more chatty this month. Well, I should clarify that. It's not that you're talking more often, but your repertoire of sounds is growing by the day.

The one you've become most fond of is "ba." But instead of putting your lips together to make the sound, you curl your bottom lip all the way into your mouth, so your top lip practically meets the middle of your chin. Then your eyes get really big and you erupt into it in rapid fire. "BA! BA! BA! BA! BA! BA! BA!"

You look like an old man who misplaced his dentures and you sound like a sheep on steroids.

I've tried to get it on video at least a dozen times, but when I dangle the camera in your face, you lose all interest in your lung capacity and want to test out your arm span. If I'm successful, and I'm able to rewatch your first vocal antics in a few years, it will singlehandedly be the reason you become a big sister.

In the meantime, you're also mimicking some of the other sounds you hear. I've detected "Ma" and "Da," "yeah," "huh" and "bye," among others.

But every once in awhile, you'll use a sound in context and it makes me do a double take. A few weeks ago, we visited New York. While we were upstairs in your room there, grandma finished changing your diaper and told you, "Time to go downstairs, OK?"

You seemingly contemplated it for a moment, sighed and said, "OK."

Grandma and I just stood there slackjawed. I'm sure it was happenstance, but I'm seriously tempted to count that as your first word.


Then there are the physical antics. It is so amazing watching you discover how to use your body. Just a few days ago, you FINALLY ... drumroll please ... rolled from your back to your tummy. I had given up hope that you would ever roll in that direction and assumed that you'd be like a turtle forever -- the second you landed on your back, you'd flail helplessly until someone came and helped you up.

But just once was all it took. Now you're rolling all over the house. That basket of magazines in the office? Haven't checked out that before. The wooden legs on the chair in the living room? Lets see what those feel like. The dog toy on the kitchen floor? That looks delicious.

You're not quite crawling yet, but you're scooting backwards by pushing yourself with your arms. Once you rolled off your comforter in the living room and got on the slippery wood floors, you instantly became mobile. I watched as you slapped and pushed and spun for the first time. You looked up at me, grinning wider than I'd ever seen before, and I swear you were thinking, "FREEEEEDOMMMM!"

I'll probably see that same look when you get your driver's license.

The tougher realization is that we now have to change the way we live. Sure, we have to worry about the leaning shelves in the dining room with all of the breakable ceramic and glass on them. But, more importantly, I'm going to have to clean our floors more often.

After you tired from that first spin around the living room, I picked you up only to find black dust stains on the knees and toes of your pajamas.


But rather than stress about it, I've come up with a solution. I'm just going to staple some Swiffer dust cloths to your outfits and dispose them when you're done playing. You stay clean and the floors get cleaned in the process.



I am just in awe of you -- everything you're learning and mastering, the way you're growing, how easygoing and agreeable you are.

Some nights when I get home from work, I sit at the computer and just scroll through your pictures and videos because, well, it's either that or run into your room and wake you from a deep sleep just to smother you with hugs and kisses. It's impossible not to marvel at all of your developments. I mean, seven months ago you could barely stay awake for more than a few hours at a time.

When we're hanging out as a family, sometimes I look at your father and say, "We created a person."

Without fail, he always responds the same way.

"And she's amazing."

Don't ever forget that.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Somehow a new tie just doesn't cut it

I'll never forget the first time Jerry took me to meet his sister's family. I vividly remember sitting on the couch and observing while he interacted with her three children.

We had only been dating a few weeks, so I was still avidly looking for clues about his personality, likes and dislikes -- anything that would give me a clearer picture about what type of man he was.

Strangely enough, I found myself caring about things with him I hadn't ever cared about before. And although I wasn't sure I even wanted children, at that moment I knew he was someone I could have a family with. I could see the love he had for them. It was so natural and effortless.

Almost five years later, with a child of our own, I now know my initial instinct was more than accurate.

Jerry impresses me every day with his love for our daughter. It goes way beyond changing diapers, lugging the stroller and folding tiny pink laundry. Beyond play time, bath time and bed time. Beyond getting over his fear of vomit. Beyond being a role model, a teacher and a guardian. Beyond dispensing hugs freely and swooping airplane rides even more. Beyond putting her needs before his own.

It's how he never questions any of it. Like it was a role he was born to fill.

Happy first Father's Day, Jerry. I couldn't do this with anyone else.



Saturday, June 14, 2008

MIght as well program the local police into my speed dial

The sound filtered into my consciousness slowly.


It was just loud enough to wake me, then it continued.


I opened my eyes in the darkness and concentrated on the noise.


"What the hell?" Jerry said, stirring himself. "What is that?"

It was a man outside our house. Barking.

We listened for a few more minutes, then I went downstairs to make sure he wasn't in our back yard -- it sounded that close. Nothing was out of place when I turned on the floodlights, so I returned to bed and told Jerry it was at least a few houses down.

"If it continues, I'm gonna call the cops," he said.

But someone beat us to it. As soon as it left Jerry's mouth, a patrol car passed by. Whatever the early morning issue, it was quelled and we went back to sleep.

Later the next afternoon, we couldn't help but realize we had become THOSE people.

People who instinctively decide to call the cops when there's any sort of noise in their neighborhood.

Next we'll be complaining about THOSE KIDS WITH THEIR ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Circumventing the first bit of red tape I wasn't able to cut through

Target is dead to me.

When some of the fruit and vegetables in my fridge inevitably go bad in the coming week, I will have to resist the urge to pack them into bag and let them ferment even more, drive to the store at 2 a.m. some night when I get out of work and use the giant bulls-eye sign as the literal target it is.

Because hurling gooey cucumbers, moldy melon and rubbery celery at it would feel very vindicating.

Call me crazy, but when a customer has an unused item with original packaging and tags still intact, that customer should be able to make a direct exchange without much hassle.

When perusing the baby aisles a few weeks ago, I noticed that my shopping cart protective cover now comes in pink, and I had to have it. The blue one is great and all, but, um, did I mention I could have it in PINK? With tan and white stripes? And more PINK?

Having nearly ripped all of my hair out over the store's return policy after my baby shower, Jerry reminded me that it probably wouldn't be as simple as I was assuming. Because I didn't have a receipt. And the Target police only let each customer return TWO items each calendar year without one. And they keep track of it by scanning your driver's license. And next they'll put a microchip up everyone's sphincter using an anal probe attached to their shopping carts.

But Jerry was forgetting that I am a woman with finely tuned social skills. After decades of shopping, I have perfected the art of working the customer service desk. Whatever the problem -- lack of receipt, mangled tags, unscannable bar codes -- I can always talk my way into at least a store credit.

I walked into Target with my best smile and friendliest demeanor. I explained that the seat cover had been a gift and I simply wanted it in pink. Because isn't pink just the best?

Then the sales clerk asked for the receipt, to which I replied that I didn't have one. Then he asked for my licence and discovered I've maxed out my measly return allotment until 2009. And my husband's allotment. And my mother's. And most of my close friends and relatives, too. Then he asked me to print out my baby registry, but the computer terminals were malfunctioning.

Then I asked to talk to his supervisor.

She explained there was pretty much nothing she could do. So I tried to convey to her how frustrating it is that I can't take one product and swap it with the SAME PRODUCT.

We stood at one of the registry terminals for about 20 minutes waiting for it to chug through my requests only to find out that my registry has been deleted and is no longer in the system. Which is too bad, she told me, because that would make all the difference.

At that point I was fuming. Basically, I could go home, get on a computer, create a registry, add that ONE PRODUCT to it, go back to the store and they'd return it.

When I told her that, she didn't seem to follow.

"No, because it would need to show up as purchased," she said.

"Yeah, I can do that online," I said. "I could make it say I received 10,000 of them."

When I got a blank stare and a I-don't-know-what-else-you-want-me-to-tell-you shrug, I was ready to scream.

She offered to call the company's 800 number for me and let me talk to a national customer service rep. I guess talking to someone who answers phones for a living will magically make the situation much simpler than, you know, just allowing me to hand over the blue one and take home a pink one.

Sure, I probably should've given up, but it was the principle of the thing. In my mind, it was the essence of what's wrong with corporate America. Fifty years ago, a shopper with the same request likely would've been met without any resistance. It would've been in a small store downtown, without bar codes and exchanging of photo ID and phone numbers and ZIP codes. And the clerk probably would've smiled and known me by name. And I would've known his.

Instead, I was transferred to a man with a thick Indian accent spewing fake pleasantries while asking for my first name.



"What? No. Kelly. With a 'K'."


After assigning a phonetic word for each letter, we muddled through my first and last name. When he went on to my ZIP code and phone number, I lost my patience.

"I'm sorry, I don't see what this has to do with anything. You haven't even asked me why I've called yet and I'm in a hurry. I'm on my dinner break," I explained, completely exasperated.

After talking in circles, explaining upwards of a dozen times about the blue and the pink, and the simple exchange, and the handing over the item number and discussing the debacle that is my now-defunct baby registry, he asked me a final question:

"Do you have a receipt?"

"WHAT? ... No! Of course I don't have a receipt! If I had a receipt, why would I be calling?"

"Well, I can't help you then."

"YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Forgive me, but I've had it. Why bother asking for all of my personal information, including what type of tampons I use if it all hinges on a receipt? WHY wouldn't you ask that FIRST? This is ridiculous!"

With that, I slammed down the phone, looked at the guy who originally had tried to help me, his supervisor, and the crowd of other red-shirted employees that had gathered to see the crazy woman who was losing her shit, and started envisioning their heads all exploding one by one.

Then I took a deep breath.

"I know it's not your fault, but can you at least see how absolutely crazy this is?" I asked.

They all nodded. Every one of them.

And the supervisor handed me a postcard-sized comment card.

"Oh, believe me, my complaint won't fit on this card," I said. "I'll be writing a letter."

I turned to leave, but I was so enraged, my feet took over. I walked back to the baby department, set down the blue seat cover, picked up a pink one and walked out of the store.

And I know it's nowhere near as groundbreaking as Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus at the pinnacle of the anti-segregation movement, but it felt every bit as vindicating and justifiable.

Every time I put Alli in that seat, I'll know I stood up for what should've been.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

She'll probably like this better than the actual gift I got her

One of the things my mom loves most is going to get Allison when she wakes up. And because she couldn't be here to do that today, her birthday, I decided to bring it to her.

It's a little, OK a lot, dark because, well, it's early and the blinds are down. But I think you can make out a few smiles in the fuzzy shadows.

Happy birthday Mom.

At least we had ketchup

Today it came down to writing or going to the grocery store.

And as much as it pained me to choose the latter, I can only take so many consecutive meals of hot dogs without buns.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I actually remembered to aim my camera at other things

Over the weekend, Jer and I took a trip to New York
so I could attend my friend Courtney's baby shower.

While Jamie was busy helping with gifts, I got snuggle time
with her amazing daughter Hannah -- who I'm totally in love with.

This was by far the best gift of the bunch. Court's having a boy.
And images of "A Christmas Story" immediately came to mind.

Courtney and Annie did this to my belly at my baby shower,
so, well, it was a must. Because that's what high school friends do.

Later that night, my brother Sean stopped over bearing fun gifts
that Allison took an immediate liking to. Especially this crazy ball.

My grandma came over, too, providing four-generational fun.
Maybe five if you include Toby?

Later that night, we went to Courtney and Matt's house
where I was introduced to the Wii. (So awesome.
Totally want one.) Here is Jer boxing Matt's stepmom.

Because it was 90 degrees and humid,
we spent most of the afternoons in the pool.

All of my siblings and their significant others came over Sunday.

And, somehow, after the consumption of many pomegranate daiquiris,
gin and tonics, glasses of wine, and beers with varying degrees of
hops, my stepdad donned his John Deere trucker hat. This is the same
man who says things like, "I'm not buying my next Lexus from that woman."
So when he actually posed for a picture, everyone yelled out simultaneously:
And after reviewing the weekend's photos? Yeah, I totally agree.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Wii kicked my ass

I played ONE game of boxing and ONE game of tennis two days ago and MY ARMS ARE KILLING ME!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Keep those good vibes coming

I've gotten a few e-mails asking me for an update on Shobha and Lola, and I'm happy to say both preemie and puppy are doing remarkably well. Shobha is gaining weight, taking half of her feeds from a bottle and will be moved from intensive care to intermediate care as soon as she can maintain her body temperature, which could be very soon.


Shobha and Julie


As for Lola? Well, Gisela says it best in her own words:

Kitty? Squirrel? Fly? Mouse? I'm totally going to use that taunt on Toby.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Allison thinks I'm funny

Years ago, Jerry got the idea in his head that he is much funnier than I am. So much funnier that he is always rambling on about my horrible sense of humor, which incidentally seems to happen right after he tells me a lame-ass joke that doesn't DESERVE a laugh, much less to be acknowledged with any sort of effort on my part. Like an eye roll. Or instructing my feet to carry me in the opposite direction.

But yesterday he got me.

Somehow we got on the topic of Fruity Pebbles. I'm pretty sure it came up after an intense intellectual conversation about the different flavors of Mountain Dew.

He insisted Fruity Pebbles are awesome and went on to detail the greatness of the milk when it changes color, you know, from all of its organic ingredients found in nature. Like Yellow No. 5. The mere thought of putting a spoonful of that crap in my mouth makes my tastebuds want to recoil in horror. Then my gag reflex kicks in and I start dry heaving.

I'd like to take a minute to point out that in the five years we've been together, I have seen Jerry eat a bowl of Fruity Pebbles fewer times than I have seen him get all of his hair cut off. That's right, NEVER.

But there he was, professing his love for it.

And even though we've never had it in the house, I felt the need to get my point across that I feel very strongly about Allison not being allowed to eat a bowl of sugar every morning.

"I didn't have sugary cereals growing up, and to this day I don't miss them," I said.

"Well I had fun cereals growing up, and to this day I'm MUCH MORE FUN THAN YOU," he said.

If I had been eating Fruity Pebbles, they would've shot out of my nose like a colorful burst of fireworks.

Tally one in the Jerry column.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Spoke too soon

Either my boobs are exceptionally sensitive or I just haven't been breastfeeding right for the past six months.

At the advice of my lactation consultant, I returned to feeding on one side when it healed a few days ago. Sure, it made it harder -- warming up half a bottle, feeding the bottle, breastfeeding on one side, pumping the other side and washing all the parts -- but it seemed like the right move at the time.

Now, a mere six to eight feedings later, I have developed an open gash on that side again and it feels like someone took a razor to my nipple. The other side is healing. Sort of. It's a deep wound that I'm sure will end up looking like a permanent dent in my skin once the scab falls off, but at least it's sort of numb at this point. Or maybe I'm just desensitized to it.

For the first time through all of this, I'm considering the idea of switching to formula. Once I've healed on both sides, which now could be another two weeks, I plan on contacting my consultant again and asking to visit with her so she can watch what we're doing.

It's requiring all of my patience and effort to stay optimistic at this point, but there's a small part of me that still thinks it's going to pay off.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wouldn't be surprised to see a FOR SALE sign in their yard today

When Jerry and I went over to our neighbors' house a few days ago for a brief visit, we should've cut it shorter. To like not at all.

Within a few minutes of walking in the door, their son, Nicholas, ran over to show me his latest toy. I'm not sure why -- maybe it's because I genuinely think toys are cool and tend to give a big reaction -- but Nicholas loves showing me how his stuff works. He would be happy spending hours demonstrating one plastic contraption after another from his shark fishing expedition rig to the working construction crane in his living room.

The latest toy was a transformer figurine -- Optimus Prime.

"Hey KeLLLy," (it always comes out sounding like a lot of extra Ls) "check out my new transformer!"

"Woa, awesome," I said, immediately grabbing it and manipulating his limbs.

Then the left leg snapped off at the knee.

Oh crap.

"WHAT'D YOU DO?!" Jerry said, looking at me as if I'd just slapped our neighbor's child in the face.

"Oh my gosh, Nicholas, I'm so sorry!" I said. "I think I just broke your guy."

Fortunately, he just sort of shrugged it off and said it was alright, but I felt like a total shit.

"Would you like a lighter so you could torch the place on the way out?" Jerry asked, laughing.

"I'm sorry, I thought transformers were supposed to, I don't know, TRANSFORM," I said when Nicholas left the room.

His parents laughed it off and told me it was fine because he has a million other toys, but I promised to replace it.

Then, when Jerry went to leave momentarily and come back, he started yelling about something from the back door.

Not hearing what he said, Dave, Laura and I just sort of exchanged quizzical looks until Jerry came back into the kitchen saying Toby had been waiting on the steps.

Sure enough, a little brown blur was running around underfoot, jumping up on their two dogs, helping himself to their food and water bowls.

Apparently when Toby saw us walk over, it was too much to resist. And because I had accidentally left the side gate open, he ran out, around two other houses, finagled his way under Dave and Laura's fence and waited patiently for us to let him in.

They had been having a quiet evening at home until we came over, broke their son's new toy and our dog invited himself in and was currently running rampant in their upstairs bedrooms.

Next time maybe we'll bring a bag of garbage over, empty it on their couch, then take all of the condiment containers in their fridge and spray them around the walls, paying careful attention to get some on every surface. Then Toby can top it off with a big steamy dump in the middle of their living room carpet.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Proof that I probably worry too much

Allison was baptized yesterday. Having only been to church a handful of times in my life, it was a very interesting process for me. I stressed like crazy trying to get everything right because I know it's important to Jerry. But, thankfully, everything went smoothly.

It took me and my mom 20 minutes to get Allison into her dress.

Slippery dress + wiggly baby = all-hands-on-deck situation.

But, aw, totally worth it.

Surprisingly, Allison did not scream at the top of her lungs.
You could've knocked me over with a feather.

Her socks and shoes (which my mom and I searched for weeks to
find the RIGHT ONES) stayed on for about 0.3 seconds. OF COURSE.

Because I am pumping exclusively right now, other people have
been able to feed Alli for the first time -- much to the delight of my
niece Emily, who spent the rest of the afternoon talking about it.

Afterward, we had a party at our house
and Allison loved playing with the big kids.

Alli loves the tickle game. (Pay no attention
to our pear/garbage bag tree in the background.)
I think everyone, including Little Miss, had a great time.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sort of feels like I'm cheating on my husband

Check out Jerry's supa sexy new hair cut!