Thursday, July 31, 2008

Geeking out over things that slowly roate in a perpetual circular motion

This year, Jerry's annual summer office party was held at an amusement park. I wasn't convinced Allison was old enough to appreciate the rides in the kiddie park yet, but we got her an admission bracelet anyway, and she quickly proved me wrong.

First up, dingy boats. She laughed and smiled every time we came

It was completely adorable seeing her tiny little head poking out of the rides.

Beep! Beep!

I think Jerry accidentally focused on the castle walls instead of on us,
but here's another shot of my new, still-loving-it hair cut.

And this picture, taken by Voz, the overnight jock on the rock station,
proves that even though Alli had a great time, it was probably more fun for us.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Year 3

Dear Jerry,

Three years ago today, we made some pretty huge promises to each other in front of a mass of our family and friends. At the time, I don't think either one of us really knew what we were in for, but we knew we wanted to do it together.

And that's all that mattered.

We've had some momentous life changes since then. First Toby, then our fixer-upper house, then Allison. With each addition, we've accrued a heaping truckload of responsibilities, but we make it work. Sure, sometimes the dirty dinner dishes sit on the counter overnight, but that's because we looked at each other, smiled and said, "Screw it. Let's do something fun."

And whether we take a walk, watch a movie or get ice cream, I never regret it the next morning when I'm dealing with hardened barbecue sauce remnants and a pile of crusty utensils. I just smile because putting off the mundane tasks to share a laugh with you is always worth it.

For Mother's Day, my mom got me a book of advice "Mother to Daughter." In it are single thoughts for moms to help them raise amazing women. Every once in awhile, I flip through it for inspiration, and the one that stands out most in my mind is this: "Be good to your partner. It will shape the way your daughter grows up and forms relationships."

It's so obvious, but it really made me stop and think about what I'll tell Allison when she's old enough to start dating seriously. (You know, when she's 30.)

After much consideration, I've decided that I'm going to advise her to find someone who makes her laugh. Really laugh. In good times and in bad. In sickness and in health. For richer or poorer. 'Till death do you part.

Because of all of the things that I love about you -- your overtly caring nature, your insane work ethic, your resolute desire to make me happy -- the one I appreciate most is your ability to make me laugh. It doesn't matter if I'm feeling my worst or we've hit maximum capacity in the stress-level department, before I know it, my storm cloud is momentarily lifted when you're around. You're probably adding years to my life because of it, which just translates to more opportunities to leave dirty dishes on the counter.

Of course, there are times that we can't ditch our responsibilities. Ever-present bills, laundry, mowing and grocery shopping will kill even the most steadfast honeymooners. But you know what? With all of our little creatures underfoot and added household necessities, you've become such an amazing husband.

Just this week Allison got her first cold. And when I called you at work to say I had made her a doctor's appointment for later that afternoon, you didn't even question whether or not you'd come with me. It was just a given. I don't think I ever tell you enough how wonderful it is that you participate so fully and completely with our family.

We had to drive separately so I could go to work afterward, and as we kissed goodbye in the parking lot -- probably even a little inappropriately, but whatever, people can deal with it -- everything felt right in the world.

When you got in your car to drive away, you said, "I couldn't do this with anyone else, ya know."

I do know. I couldn't either.

So, for our anniversary, I want to let you know I still feel the same way as I did on our wedding day. I still just want to spend time with you. To share and do things with you. To revel in our memories and look forward to creating new ones.

And that's all that matters.

All my love,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm even allowed to leave the kitchen every once in a while

Conversation with a receptionist while scheduling a dentist appointment for me and Jerry at a new office:

"Please be sure to come 10 minutes early to fill out some paperwork."

"No problem."

"And do you have insurance through your husband's office?"

(Weighing my words carefully, trying not to go into a tirade about her setting back the feminist movement 50 years.)

"Actually, I have the insurance coverage for our family through my office. Would you like me to fax you a copy of our cards?"

Monday, July 28, 2008

Awesome Face

As I walked to my car on my way to work a few days ago, I noticed a tiny little bird resting in one of the open spaces in our chain link fence. Immediately enamored, I set down my bags to inspect him more closely.

He was very obviously a baby because he still had tufts of gray down on his head and body where brown feathers hadn't quite taken over. Plus, he didn't even flinch when I got closer -- still unaware to fly away at the first sign of any encroaching stranger.

Jerry, who was standing in the doorway with Allison, asked what I was doing. I mean, I probably looked ridiculous hunched over, creeping slowly toward the fence.

"THERE'S A BABY BIRD!" I said, resisting the urge to add, "Can we keep him?"

"Do you want your camera?" he asked.

One of the many bonuses of choosing to spend your life with one person is that you get to know each other so well that sometimes they can read your mind. Granted, that same skill can also be a complete pain in the ass. Like when you accidentally drop one of the last two cookies on the floor, announce that you'll take the bad one, then try to unsuspectingly pass it off and SOMEONE just KNOWS he got the floor specimen and refuses to take a bite until we switch.

But even though I wanted my camera desperately, I told him not to worry about it because surely the bird would fly away before either of us had time to retrieve it from the upstairs office. So I dug out my cell phone from my purse and tried to get a shot.

I know camera phones are crap compared to actual digital cameras. But after wielding my Nikon D40, I just get frustrated using anything else. I have been completely and thoroughly spoiled by my equipment. The image turned out entirely too dark and back-lit.

I got closer. Still crap.

Closer. Still crap.

And before I knew it, I was practically hunkered down in the fence with the bird. I might as well have climbed into the space next to his and started tweeting.

Well, hell. If he's gonna let me get that close, I've got to risk taking the time to get my camera, I thought.

I raced into the house, flew upstairs, grabbed my camera, flew back downstairs, flung open the door and speed walked back to where the bird had been. And joy of joys, he was still happily resting in the same spot all fat and round and fluffy and awesome.

He wasn't doing anything, so all of my shots looked almost identical, but he seemed to be enjoying the show as much as I was. Then, just as I was about to pack it up, he shook his neck and ruffled his feathers.

And I got a shot that is practically worthy of the cover of National Geographic. I mean, well, maybe if the bird had been a white Bengal tiger. Eating a bird. Or something.

Okay, so maybe it's nowhere near that good, but I'm still glad I was able to capture our special moment.

I think I'll name him Awesome Face.

And I hope he comes back to visit soon.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Literally peeing with excitement

Jerry and I attempted the impossible while planning our weeklong trip to Rochester: We tried to time it around Courtney going into labor.

Her due date was July 31, but everyone, including her doctor, thought she would go early.

We missed it by a few days.

In fact, just hours after we left, I got a text message from Court saying she was having contractions. After a week of talking to her belly, telling her son I wanted him to come out and play, I couldn't help but laugh. What can I say? The kid's got comedic timing.

When Allison's cries woke me up Saturday morning, I groggily turned to Jerry and asked what time it was. He reached for his cell phone, and without saying a word, turned to me after clicking a few buttons, displaying a picture of a little blue bundle.


I sprung out of bed, scooped up Allison, handed her to Jerry and ran downstairs to check my phone. Then, realizing I had to pee, headed straight for the bathroom.

And in my excitement of gazing at the newest member of my pseudo extended family, I dropped my phone in the toilet.

And it's fried.

And I don't have insurance on it.

And I lost all of my numbers and pictures.

And it's a total pain in the ass inconvenience.

But oh man is he worth it.

Now I can't wait to tell little Jackson Mitchell all about the time his aunt Kelly
was so excited to see his adorable face that she fumbled her phone into her own pee.

Welcome to the world, little man. I can't wait to squeeze you.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A scary reminder life can change in an instant

A story from our area made national news yesterday.

There was a fatal shooting at a radio station.

A mentally ill man showed up at an auto dealer, laid a shotgun on the counter and told the owners he needed money and wanted to broadcast things that were going wrong in his life. When he left, the owners immediately called police.

Officers showed up at Jerry's building as his morning show was ending. Everyone was ordered into the few rooms without any windows. They were allowed to leave when the gunman was dead.

He had targeted a nearby Christian radio station, not theirs.

But the incident without a doubt put things into perspective for us and made me appreciate everything I have on a daily basis that much more.

The story is pretty sensational as far as police shootouts go. The man was driving his white Ford Bronco erratically on the lawn and shot at officers through his window. Witnesses say he targeted the police, who were there when he arrived, and rammed into two cruisers throughout the ordeal.

He died in a hail of bullets when police fired back.

Many have been speculating about his motive. One local attorney said he thought it was "suicide by police" and pointed out the shooter, a 50-year-old man who recently resided in Wyoming, could've driven away instead of continually looping through the area.

The shooter's ex-wife said he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago and could become violent when he didn't take his medication.

A tragedy, for sure, but I'm so greatful it ended without anyone else getting hurt.

Especially Jerry.

The driver unsuccessfully attempts to run over police officers. (AP photos)

Officers cover the scene from view before the coroner arrives.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Leaning on a list

There's nothing quite as creatively stifling for me as not being able to write about the main thing going on in my life.

And, at the moment, that's precisely the case.

It's nothing bad or even secretive or dramatic, but it requires privacy -- something writing for the web doesn't exactly provide.

The reason I'm pointing it out is because it feels a little forced to come up with something else, so instead, I thought I'd make a 10 random things list and hope that the inspiration bug bites me tomorrow.

Without second thoughts, here's what immediately comes to mind:

  1. I have a glass cup filled with pens and clicky pencils on my desk at home that I've had forever. It's the last remaining piece from a cheapo set my mom bought me for my first college apartment. The markers in it are just as old, but even though almost none of them produce color anymore, I haven't thrown them out because they remind me I need to get new ones. They're the perfect marker for adding color to birthday cards and notes, but apparently they stopped making them. Bust.
  2. A few nights ago, everyone in our entire neighborhood lost power except for our street. Jerry and I totally high-fived.
  3. I have two small dark splotches on my skin that popped up recently -- one near my right knee and one on my left shoulder. I know I need to get them looked at, but I'm stellar at putting things like that off. Unfortunately, I have a nagging feeling this shouldn't be one of those times.
  4. Polar bears live where it's cold.
    Lions like it hot.
    Tigers can run very fast.
    Hippos can not.
    ... Oh wait. Those are lyrics to a song on Alli's animal train. Right.
  5. I'm reading a sugar-coated chic lit book right now and with each page I turn, I can't help but think that if given the time, I could write one too. Something OTHER than fashionable city girls with a penchant for shoe shopping. God, I've read that book, seen that show, watched that move a MILLION TIMES. Small towns and green grass produce fabulous, interesting women, too.
  6. Normally when I eat at Wendy's, I'm all about a little grease. But a few nights ago when I ran out of time to pack something for dinner and wasn't feeling fries, I opted to get a combo meal with a side garden salad. And much to my surprise, it was DELICIOUS. Not all wilty and a few days old like I assumed it would be. Topped with oriental dressing? It skyrocketed to the top of my favorite things list.
  7. When my mom and I went for pedicures last week, I selected a color I'd NEVER buy in a million years. I figured bright neon pink would be something fun and different for summer without investing in an entire bottle. And wouldn't you know, I love it. I may just have to buy a bottle after all. And put it on my fingernails, too.
  8. Something is attacking our fabulous fruit-bearing pear tree. The top branches are turning brown and I'm devastated. I don't want it to die, but I have no idea what to do about it.
  9. I want to schedule our next vacation so I have something to look forward to.
  10. Jerry has a man crush on a meteorologist in our area. In fact, maybe I'll write about that tomorrow. Perfect.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Going B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Do you have any idea how many things start with the letter B?


Borrow my daughter for an hour and you'll find out.

Alli is still absolutely enamored with the sound "Ba." Sometimes it comes out with gusto, "BAAAA!" Other times it sounds like an instinct, muttered repeatedly to herself as she inspects something, "Bababababa." And sometimes it just escapes her mouth in pure exasperation, "Buh."

To help her understand that sounds are associated with words and objects, I started looking for things that start with "B" when she goes on her "Ba" tirades.


"Yes. Ba, ba, ball."


"Buh, buh, blue. ... Blue ball." (Followed by a silent chuckle. Because I'm so mature.)


"Buh, buh, blanket."


"Buh, buh, bear. ... Ball. Blue. Blanket. Bear."


"Lets go downstairs and have some BUH-nanas."


"Or maybe some berries. Would you like some BUH, berries?"

(Alli starts opening and closing her fist.)

"YES! Bye, bye bear! We're goin' to get some BUH-nanas! ... We'll be BUH-back soon!"


"BUH-nanas. Mmm."


"Um. BUH-banister. Right here on the staircase. See? BUH-banister."


"Yep. BUH-blue shirt. See mommy's BUH-lue shirt?"


"How about I'm BUH-breakin' my BUH-back to keep muttering BUH sounds. Can we try "Ma"? As in, 'You're MA-making Mommy a crazy person?' "


"Alright. We'll get some BUH-breakfast. But then you're getting a BUH nap and Mommy's going to read her BUH-book and try not to over enunciate all of the words that start with the letter B."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Month 8

Dear Alli,

A few days ago you turned eight months old. The changes abounded this month -- so much that I probably could've written weekly letters.

This may sound strange, but all of it added up to one climactic revelation: Your name finally makes sense to me. I struggled with the decision throughout my entire pregnancy, and it still didn't click in my mind when we brought you home.

You were milliseconds away from being Elizabeth or Evelyn, and even up until just recently, I would study your face and question which one suited you best.


I had wanted to name you Vivian so badly, but Dad nixed it because it's a mouthful with our last name, and I grudgingly conceded.

One of the main reasons we settled on Allison was because of the nickname Alli. It just seemed so fun and personable -- like someone we'd want to get to know. Everyone took to calling you that right away, but it didn't roll off my tongue the way I thought it would. It just felt strange.

Not anymore.

Now that your personality is really starting to shine, it makes complete sense. Like you were born to have that name and I must've just instinctively known when I saw you for the first time, all beautiful and soft and new.

I hope you love it someday as much as I do.


One of your father's biggest fears is raising a picky eater. It's right up there with spiders and accidentally wearing gang colors in a city after dark.

Almost everyone we know has some sort of food hangup. And for two people who love consuming everything from ziti to kiwi, from turkey to tofu, from hummus to rump roast, from sushi to salmon, in a wrap, on a bun, baked, fried, braised, hot, cold, pureed, diced or sliced, we just don't get it.

If it's edible, what's not to love?

Thankfully, you have adopted our household motto.

When we first introduced you to solids, we defaulted to textbook parenting. All of our reading materials instructed us to introduce one new flavor every four days and keep a vigilant eye for any signs of food allergies. First came sweet potatoes, then carrots, then peas, then green beans.

Then we opened the floodgates.

After awhile, you started protesting when we wouldn't give you a bite of what we were eating. So we did. And you've gleefully sucked down every last minuscule flake of chicken, floret of broccolini and crust of bread.

You're happiest when you're given something you can ingest with your own two hands, and we've been delighted to comply. It's so amazing watching you experience flavors for the first time that sometimes it's easy to get ahead of ourselves.

Like the time we went to an Indian restaurant and I opted to give you a bite of my mashed lentils. Yeah, I forgot about the zing of curry in there. Good thing you're able to drink water from a glass.

But once your eyes stopped watering, you yelped for more.

Keep it up lady. I promise to show you there's so much more to experience than the dinosaur-shaped nuggets and sugar-coated crap companies market to kids.


When you're not busy shoveling bananas into your mouth, you're on the move. You know how to crawl -- I've seen you do it -- but you apparently prefer what we call the Army method of traveling.

If you were to enlist right now, you'd blow everyone away at boot camp when it came time to maneuver under barbed wire on your belly through the mud. When you're tired of crawling, you flop to the ground and your arms take over. You paw at the floor and drag your torso around as your butt swishes back and forth in rhythm.

Your newly acquired motor skills came in rapid succession. One day you were stationary, the next we couldn't stop you long enough to change your diaper or jam a shirt over your head.

I assumed all of this independence would cause you to explore more, but only if someone is still in sight. You are very much a people-person, and checking out something new isn't gratifying unless someone else is there to experience it with you.

And if I walk from the hallway to the bathroom? You suddenly appear at my feet. From the vanity into the closet? Little fingers on my toes. From the fridge to the kitchen sink? Slap, slap, slide.

Once I deliberately walked back and fourth in the hallway until you figured out what I was doing and got pissed.

I just laughed and scooped you up and showered you with kisses.

In a few years I'll be chasing you around like that, so forgive me while I revel in it.


There are some things I know to expect. Like rolling comes before crawling and standing comes before walking.

But this month you've shown the ability to grasp entire concepts and it's completely blowing my mind.

Just the other day while we were in New York, your grandma and I took you to your great-grandma's house on our way home from shopping. When it came time to leave, all three of us were waiving goodbye to you and repeating "bye bye" like maniacs.

And then, with a hint of a grin, one of your little fists started opening and closing.

If my jaw wasn't attached to my face with skin and muscles, it would've hit the driveway.


I must've had a similar look when I watched you figure out how to elicit music from your new toy train. You've always loved music, that much I already knew. But now that you can produce it on your own, you can speed through three honkin' DD batteries in a few days.

You just sit next to the train's engine and paw at the base until a song comes on, then you sit up straight and revel in the tune. With a huge grin, you move your arms to the beat and shake your torso until it stops. You always seem so surprised that something so wonderful would ever come to an end, which is probably the same look I get when I scrape the bottom of an ice cream container, but lucky for you, your pick is self-rejuvenating.

Again and again you hit the base of the animal train.

To give you an idea of what that does to an adult, I woke up in the middle of the night recently singing about giraffes that run very, very fast.

If I didn't adore you, that thing would've found its way into the trash compactor on garbage day.

Just one of the many ways I can measure my love for you: One sanity's worth.

And you're totally worth it.



Sunday, July 20, 2008

Casa Mama

So, despite the fact that I spent much of my vacation doing this,
I have very little to show for it unless you count the 5,000,000,001
pictures I took of my daughter and my brother Dave's new puppy.

But, um, YOU try to resist this 9-week-old snuggle muffin.
And, yes, I called him that. In a syrupy sweet voice over and over again.
Here is Dave introducing Tecmo to the water for the first time.

Jer predicted Tecmo's penetrating gaze and unwavering desire to cuddle
would win me over on getting another dog, but my prediction that Toby
would go apeshit prevailed. Now Jerry is convinced Tob is happiest solo.

The nicest part about being home for so long was getting
the opportunity to visit with family and friends. Allison
loved all the attention, especially from her grandma.

And great grandma. (And the list could go on and on.)

When we weren't swimming, we were gorging on wine and my mom's insane
cooking. The only way to describe the calibre of food we had is to say
that the worst meal I had the entire week was when we went out to eat.

And this doesn't quite do the hair justice, but I'd fear
the repercussions if I failed to post SOMETHING.
It actually looks annoyingly long in this picture when
there's absolutely nothing to it in the back.

What I don't have pictures of are the trip to a carnival with our friends and the amazing fireworks we saw. Or Jerry lovingly giving me the finger from 100 feet up atop the crazy slingshot swirly ride. Or my very pregnant friend Courtney and I laughing hysterically as we commandeered a men's room because she was desperate. Or getting barbecue sauce in my eyebrows when Jerry and I went to a local biker bar rib joint. Or squeezing into a packed theater to see Batman on opening weekend. Or my face when I had my mom's peach cobbler. Or her vegetable pesto pasta. Or her bacon-topped, blue cheese and walnut-stuffed chicken. Or spending an afternoon with family on my brother Joe's boat and docking at a little waterside cafe for daiquiris and a killer fish sandwich. Or getting a pedicure with my mom and spending an entire afternoon outlet shopping for fall clothes for Little Miss. Or even half of the visitors who stopped over to say hello just because we were in town.

Sure, it wasn't a cruise or a trip to a beach or even somewhere new, but it was without a doubt rejuvenating. At the end of the week, my grandma jokingly asked if we would consider coming back.

Without hesitating, Jerry set down his fork and gave the Casa Mama resort four stars.

I think all four of us -- Me, Jer, Alli and Toby -- wish we could've stayed another week.

OK, one more. Seriously, how cute is this dog?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My incestual lesbian lover, Jerri

Deciding it was fate when a free haircut coupon to a new high-end salon came in the mail at my mom's house, I made a dual appointment for me and Jerry because both of us were in desperate need of some professional attention.

My mom and I had gotten pedicures at their original location earlier in the week, so I knew it was the type of place that uses upscale products and the stylists offer to get you coffee or tea. A place where you can bask in VIP treatment -- even if just for a moment.

But Jerry wasn't so sure.

Especially when the appointment confirmation call came and I made the rookie mistake of playing the voicemail message on speaker.

"Good afternoon, Kelly. This is Stephanie from the salon calling to remind you of your 10:45 appointment tomorrow morning with Jordan. ... Oh, and I see here Jerry is listed under the same phone number, so I'll confirm her appointment with ... "

The rest of the message barely even mattered.

"HER?!" Jerry sputtered, his arm frozen in midair holding a heaping spoonful of pureed pears on the way to Allison's mouth. Her verbal protest snapped him back to reality.

But he was still shaken.


"It's a salon."


And stupidly, I continued playing the rest of the message instead of pressing "7" for delete.

"And just a reminder, after your cut, we have technicians available for waxing or makeup touch ups."


Before I could stop laughing and explain that it's not just for women, he continued.

"No, wait, I'll sign up for a wax job. They'll LOVE me. ... WAX MY HAIRY BALLSACK PLEASE!"

I didn't hear the end of it for the rest of the day. In fact, it continued right up until we sat down next to each other in the ultra modern glass and chrome waiting area chairs and he started flipping through a Bumble & Bumble product catalogue, scoffing at the effeminate-looking men wearing lipstick and skintight pants.

"If they make my hair look like that, I'm going to kill myself."

Relief came when Jordan introduced herself and invited me to follow her back to her cutting station.

I pursed my lips in a kiss to Jer and wished him luck.

He scowled.

A little over an hour later, Jerry found his way over to where I was still getting my hair blown out. His cut looked amazing and he had no wiggle room for complaint.

But seeing my drastic change apparently made putting up with being called a woman and the androgynous waiting area fashion magazines a nonissue.

Jordan razored about 10 inches off my formerly mangy overgrown look into a chic little bob.

Jerry's eyes bulged out of his head and he said he'd meet me in the car.

So, thankfully, he wasn't around to hear my conversation with the owner of the salon when I checked out.

"Wow! What a huge change," she said. "It looks great."

"Love is not the word," I said, running my fingers through what little is left on top of my head.

Noting that we were new customers, albeit from out of state, she still pressed for some return business.

"Well, your brother loved his cut, too. So maybe you'll come back?"

I just chuckled.

"He's my husband," I said.

And resisted the urge to add: "And since he didn't hear that, maybe."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Someone hand me a margarita and a trashy novel stat!

Right now, as of this very moment, I am on vacation.

Man it feels good to say that.


We're visiting New York for the week, and although I would be perfectly content to waste my hours away laying by the pool, we have at least one thing planned each day. I tried my hardest to outline a trip itinerary to make sure we didn't miss an opportunity to do something simply because we thought we'd have time later in the week and never got around to it.

But, well, apparently I'm just not an itinerary type of gal. I fall somewhere between planning and chaos with a dash of spontaneity.

Which apparently translates to a scrawled list of notes and dates jotted in pencil on the back of an envelope buried in the folds of my purse. Right next to a teething ring, a gas receipt and my cell phone charger.

Of course I'm most looking forward to spending time with my family and friends, but there's an arts festival and an outdoor jazz concert and a girls-only outlet shopping trip in there, too. Plus, Jerry and I even get to go out on an actual date and eat a meal that isn't spent trying to talk to each other in between taking turns picking up toys that have been launched from a high chair to the floor. Just typing that made me pee a little.

I'm not sure whether I'll have the urge to write regularly throughout the week or whether I'll want a break from blogging too, so I'm going to leave that up to whatever mood strikes me.

But, either way, I'll be back soon.

Vacations never last long enough.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Must be the pickle juice

Jerry wants to get a tattoo.

This is the same man who readily shares the story about how his father successfully talked him out of getting something cliche like the Tasmanian devil revved up in a midway spin on his shoulder when he turned 16.


Apparently after Jerry constantly begged for permission, his dad tried to convey how permanent the decision was. So he told Jer to write down exactly what he wanted and where. Then he sealed it in an envelope and made him a promise: They would open the envelope one year later and if Jerry still wanted that exact tattoo in that exact spot, he could have it.

Well, 365 days later, Jerry discovered he hated the choice. And the realization had a lasting impact.

It was so substantial he managed to go without getting one even after he turned 18, which just happened to fall at the peak of tattoo popularity when every college student in the country couldn't wrangle themselves out of their clothes to get inked fast enough.

Hell, I even got one. On my 18th birthday. Right after I bought a lottery ticket. Because I could.

And to this day I could kiss the tattoo artist who took one look at me and my preppy friends giggling in the waiting area and realized I would likely regret it years later. She talked me out of getting it above my belly button, then on my foot, then on my ankle. Yep, my tiny star is snugly hidden on my lower back, right where no one can see it -- especially me.

It makes for a great story and an even better memory, but if tattoo removal was free and readily available, mine would've been zapped to oblivion at least four years ago. Maybe five.

Jerry, on the other hand, wants to take the plunge now for reasons I'm not quite able to grasp.

Maybe it's the new tattoo shop that just opened downtown. Maybe he just wants to see what it feels like. Maybe it's just a natural progression after chugging pickle juice.

Personally, I don't find them sexy. I love the fact that he's ink- and piercing-free. And, even more importantly, I think the two of us as parents present a pretty compelling argument for Allison someday not to get one. As in, "Dad never got one. And look how absolutely ridiculous your mother's sagging back fat looks with that droopy purple blob on it."

But Jerry's got the itch.

The conversation has presented itself almost daily for awhile now. In typical Jerry style, his ideas border on the absolutely absurd like getting our friend Roger's face on one of his butt cheeks if Roger agrees to reciprocate.

Then there was the idea of making a very public tattoo bet with his radio morning show co-anchor. I'm not exactly sure of the details, but Jerry has told me he would likely end up with Nancy Reagan's face on his ass.

And if that happens, I can tell you without an ounce of uncertainty that I would never vote Republican again. I would have enough of that party in my life on a daily basis.

I can practically hear his supporters, though. "It'll hidden on his butt," they'll say. "You'll never see it."

And then I'll somehow tactfully inform them that Jerry is more than happy to drop trou and moon me whenever the mood strikes. When he wants to make a point. On his way to the bathroom. When it's hot outside. When it's cold outside. After lunch. When he bends over to pick something up. When he's standing at the fridge. When there's a pause in conversation. Or my personal favorite -- shaking it in my face after a shower.

Now envision Nancy Reagan staring back at me each and every one of those times. Daily. For the rest of my life.

I'd rather have the Tasmanian devil on his arm.

At least that would stay covered on occasion.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Even better? She's too young to beg for souvenirs

A few days before we were planning a trip to our local stadium to root, root, root for the home team, I started singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" to Allison.

Then it dawned on me: No where in the lyrics does it mention anything about hauling a baby and a stroller and diapers and wipes and a change of clothes and toys and Cheerios.

There's a reason the song doesn't go like this:

Take me out to the ball game.
Take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjack;
I know our baby's crying, please cut us some slack.

When we got the tickets, I guess I sort of assumed we would get a sitter. I mean, how would we possibly enjoy the game while making sure Alli was content? Besides, it started an hour before her bedtime. And breaking routine is almost always a recipe for disaster.

But the day came and we hadn't made prior arrangements, so it was bring her or stay home. Feeling brave, we opted for the latter.

When we found our seats, Jerry turned to me and made a confession.

"I kind of have a prediction," he said. "I haven't said it out loud because I'm worried it'll come true, but I'm thinking she'll have a meltdown by the fourth inning."

"Really?" I said, genuinely surprised. "That late?"

I guess we didn't have high expectations.

But once again, our daughter proved us wrong.

Not only was she completely well-behaved, she also had fun and learned a few things in the process. Like if she hides behind my shoulder and peeks out and smiles at the people sitting behind us, she'll get a huge reaction.

And thus our little ham was born.

She also learned about the serotonin-boosting effects of crowd clapping, big furry mascots and how great gnawing on an apple can be. She enjoyed watching fullgrown adults stand up and go crazy for a guy with a T-shirt gun, being held high in the air to celebrate a home run and dancing to the music between innings.

Before we knew it, Jerry and I were fighting off yawns. It had been a long day and we both had to get up early.

Allison, however, was raring to go.

We made it past the fourth inning, but our meltdown came long before hers did.

On the way home, we raved about how much fun Alli was to have with us. I couldn't believe I ever thought for a moment we would've had a better time without her.

In my head, I revised the song lyrics again:

Take me out to the ball game.
Take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjack;
Babies are awesome, we'll definitely come back.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Words of wisdom from a stranger

Passersby almost always have a comment when a Allison's around. Most of the time it's something as simple as "Aw" or "How old?" But an older gentleman stopped me in a store this morning and offered a slice of poignancy that really made me stop and think.

"They bring unimaginable joy don't they?" he said.

I smiled, rubbed her hair and agreed.

Then, after walking away, he stopped, turned around and came back.

"And they bring out things in you you didn't even know you had."

I have a feeling I'll be discovering that for the rest of my life.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Before and (almost) after

Here is Jerry and Alli, demonstrating the immensity of the tree-bush,
while Roger holds the chain saw. Thought bubble: "Yeah, we got this."

Sawdust still flying, Roger junks the branch I just powered through.

To prevent Allison from eating the grass, which she
apparently can't get enough of, I put her in a laundry
basket. Here, she's watching me trim a hedge.

Jerry unloads river rock pebbles -- the final step of our patio.
I don't have any photos of the intermediate steps because,
as you know, the toddlers demanded my full attention.

Placing the filler in between the flagstones.

And this is all I'm going to reveal as far as the patio goes. Everyone
knows a lady deserves to be in her best light, and it has been far too
gray and dreary to show off her best features -- like all those curves.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Still breathing

No, I haven't fallen off the wagon, planet or anything else for that matter.

My parents made an impromptu visit yesterday and I've been taking advantage of all of the extra hands around here. In fact, having my own two hands free allowed me to yank all the weeds that have been strangling the non-weeds in our yard. I ended up with five body-sized bags full of tangled roots, jagged leaves and dirt.

Plus, a sore back and an overwhelming rush of relief.

Life is good.

Friday, July 4, 2008

My declaration of independence from uneaven grass

It took a few more days and quite a few more steps than I originally imagined it would, but our patio is finished!

No more chairs sinking into the wet grass when we eat outside. No more having to move an entire patio set every time we mow. No more wobbly ground underneath our table.

Just writing that makes me want to rip my top off in victorious celebration like Brandi Chastain did after scoring the game-winning penalty kick in the 1999 Women's World Cup championship. Yes, every time I step out my back door and see flagstones, I feel THIS good.

In fact, I was so exuberant throughout the entire process that our friend Roger, who alongside Jerry did the back-breaking labor, said my reaction to each step was like getting the grand finale. The dug hole? AWESOME! A layer of shale dust? AMAZING! A layer of sand? FANTASTIC! A few flagstones in place? SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!

He couldn't possibly imagine I'd have any better reaction to the final product.

Well, unfortunately for him, he won't be here when we reassemble the yard this afternoon and I can finally see everything put to its intended use. It may possibly be the first and only time in my life that I attempt a back flip. Ranks right up there with my first bra.

And even though Jerry and I both have to work today, I can't think of any better way to inaugurate our new patio than with a Fourth of July barbecue. So what if it's dreary and gray? So what if I have to miss fireworks tonight? So what if we don't have any sparklers?

I'm going to eat a HOT DOG, sitting at the TABLE on my new PATIO.

Let freedom ring.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Day 4 in the trenches

Dear Blog,

The tiny terrorists came again yesterday. That makes four days now. And it's not getting any easier because they keep changing their warfare tactics.

I'm no match for toddlers.

After playing with the same colorful plastic pieces for days on end, I finally came to the conclusion that their goal must be to slowly drive me to mental instability so they can take over and throw vegetables around the kitchen. And to coerce Allison to join rank.

She's already showing signs. Right now she's blabbering incessantly. Now they just need to teach her to amp up the volume.

So I fought back. I dug into my weaponry arsenal and settled on the big one: a Disney movie. I just couldn't take the questions anymore.

But just when I thought I had won, when both older girls were quietly seated on the couch with a snack and an hour and 35 minutes of blissful animation, they outwitted me yet again.

The questions continued.

Why'd he do that? Why's he scared? Why do they all live together like that? What's that say? Where'd he go? Why? What's that say? What's on his shirt? Why's he going there? How did he know they'd be there? Is he still scared? Are they friends? That's the bad guy, huh? But the good guy's gonna win, right? Can I have some more juice? And gummies? Can you open them more? What's the baby doing? Can I sit in the swing next? Why not? What movie? Can I blow bubbles?

During the movie questioning onslaught, I actually came up with a good answer that gave them pause. Even if just momentarily.

"I don't know the answer, why don't you tell me? I'm sure you've seen this movie much more than I have."

I saw the gears turning. Then the screen flashed and another question must've popped to mind. "Why's he doing that?"

I almost raised the white flag, but then it was time for them to go.

They'll be back today and I've blown every idea I've had. So I'm sure this is it. This is where they defeat me, annex the house and rule with sticky fingers and stomping feet.

I hope I'll be around to write tomorrow, but if I don't make it out alive, it's because I probably ran out of juice and gummy snacks.

Regretfully theirs,
The captive

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Said in a mock high-pitched girly voice while hiding behind Allison's body after I almost didn't make it to the bathroom during a particularly gripping bout of laughter:
"Hey, Mom, you can borrow one of my diapers if you need it."

Explaining Allison's reaction to green beans over the phone:
"Lets just say I would've gotten the same look if I had put her in a bathtub filled with ice water."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Girls gone wild

Yesterday I got a glimpse of what life would be like if we had three children under 5.

And how can I possibly convey how draining it was? Convey how completely and utterly taxing it was on my entire body? Convey how it tested every ounce of my patience right down to the molecules in my toenail cuticles? Convey what it does to a person to be surrounded by noise-making, primary color-draped plastic for hours uninterrupted? Convey how at the end of the day, I could barely walk up a flight of steps without ramming into the walls out of sheer exhaustion?

How about this: If I had access to a blowtorch, I would personally solder my uterus shut.

It's not that the kids didn't behave. In fact, they were wonderful. While Jerry and our friend Roger were working on the patio, I watched his daughters -- Kali, who turned 5 a few days ago, and Emma, 2 and a half. (And I'm pretty sure that half refers to parts per million of caffeine. Or maybe cocaine.)

They never stopped. Not once. Not even when they accidentally rammed into a bench or a tree or a toy and fell over. They would just get up and continue along on their rampage of crazy. They're like those self-propelled vacuum cleaners -- once they hit an obstacle, they just spin around and keep going.

And the talking. Oh, the talking.

What's that mean? What's Daddy and Jerry doing? Why? Can I have some milk? Can I have some more? Can I hold the baby? Why's she doing that? Why does she put everything in her mouth? Where's Toby? Can he do that trick again? Why's he running away? I want that. Can I have that? Can I throw it? Why not? Why does Hanna Montana sing all the time? Watch this! Kelly! Watch this! I know, but watch again! Watch! My HANDS go above my HEAD! Can I show you my dance moves? Wait. That's not right. OK now watch. Now. I'm ready now. Kelly? ... Kelly? Why are you stuffing the grass in your ears like that? And poking the pine needles in your eyes?

I think the most difficult part was having to be the best version of myself for so long. They demanded all of my attention and required every ounce patience and understanding and mediation skills I had to offer. When I thought I had nothing left to give, I dug into my reserves and pulled out another smile.

Sure, there were times I thought about calling a cab and simply laying down in the middle of the road waiting for it to arrive. Particularly when I asked Emma if she would like some carrots and after sweetly replying "yes," she proceeded to scream "NO!" when I placed them in front of her. Then she swatted them onto the floor.

After explaining to her that it's perfectly acceptable to change her mind, but not get angry about it, she repeated the process with Cheerios. THERE IS NO REASONING WITH A 2 YEAR OLD. End of snack time. Period.

But in between the moments of chaos and flying vegetables, the girls really were a lot of fun.

I loved facilitating a game of imagination where we turned a big blanket into a car, and the girls invented all sorts of different places to visit. It was nothing short of amazing to see their minds at work.

But by no stretch of the imagination will I ever want that many kids that close in succession.

I'd rather buy a blowtorch.