Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jerryisms

While watching a TV ad for allegery medication:
"I'm like your Claritin -- longlasting relief you can depend on without a prescription."

Response after I text messaged him my work schedule for the month of April:
cool ... i like your boobs

After we had new friends over for the first time and he was assessing whether or not they had a good time:
"We could debate this all night or just state the obvious: Seriously, what's not to like?" (while motioning up and down his torso)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Letter leftovers

I didn't realize how aptly named these posts would be when I started them. The letters take so much effort that it ends up being weeks before I can get around to posting some of the pictures I didn't use.

Just one of the many things I'll have to get used to being my fault in a few years, I suppose.

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Allison, some mornings you just wake up smiling.
On these days, I hear you talking to Bunny and Bear
and laughing. It helps me wake up with a smile, too.


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One night right before bathtime, Dad got you undressed and started
rubbing your bare belly on his head. You squealed like crazy.


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You have been carrying around things that are way too big for you.
This particular morning, you actually heaved the laundry basked onto
the bed. Then you piled all the pillows inside and motioned for help
climbing in. It looked so comfy. I wanted one my size.


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For the most part, you eat like a champ. But this one made me want
to gag. You decided to put your broccoli and grapes into your
banana yogurt container and mix it up into one foul concoction.
I tried not to dry heave while you nodded your approval between bites.


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Like father like daughter: Getting all the post-cereal milk from the bowl.


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After hopefully the last of my 22 eye appointments, you discovered the
free sample pack of contact solution the receptionist gave me. I was
putting things away in the bathroom and heard you gabbing in the other
room. When I looked in, you were using it as a bottle for your baby.
(And taking pretend sips yourself.) I found it so endearing that I rushed
out and bought you some actual toy baby bottles that afternoon.
But I couldn't get over how clever it was that you made that connection.


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This one is a full story.

On an unseasonably warm day last month, we stopped at Grandma's house for lunch and ended up spending most of the day outside. Toby usually beelines for the shed in the far corner of the yard to sniff out the bunnies who live underneath, and when Dad went to retrieve him, one of Grandma's neighbor's asked for some help. The wind the night before had blown the lattice off her porch.

You, me, Grandma and Dad snuck out of the gate before the dogs could flee, but just barely. You played while Dad reattached the lattice.

But when we tried to get back into Grandma's yard, I had a hard time operating the gate because the ground was so wet. It kept getting stuck in the grass, which allowed Toby and Sparky ample time to make a break for it as Dad shot invisible daggers at my skull because he knew he was going to have to be the one to corral them.

Toby listened right away -- probably because he wanted to sleep inside on 800-thread count sheets like usual. Sparky, however, would've screamed "FREEEEEEEDOMMMMMMM!!!" if he could've. He took off in a shot, pausing momentarily to sniff random bushes, mailboxes and tree stumps.

And Sparky is fast. Dad chased him about three miles while I got in Grandma's car and drove around the neighborhood listening for obscenities.

But Sparky just made a big loop and ran right back to Grandma's house, Dad sweating and panting behind him. Then I pulled in, just in time for more invisible daggers as Dad relayed how Sparky even pooped without stopping, just so he wouldn't get caught.

As punishment, Grandma put him on a leash for awhile while the rest of us continued to use the yard, and Toby paraded his freedom by taunting him.

Sparky squealed.

And squealed.

And squealed some more.

You felt so sorry for Sparky that you gave up the big pile of pebbles you were playing in, marched up the path to where Sparky was whining and patted him on his head. Then you sat next to him, draped your little arm around his back and quietly kept him company.

There are a lot of amazing qualities you possess, little girl, but compassion is one of your strongest.

I imagine it will serve you -- and others -- well.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

There's probably an 'I told you so' in here somewhere

For those unfamiliar with the innerworkings of caring for someone who craps their pants on a regular basis out of necessity, even the most frequent Pampers rotation can sometimes lead to diaper rash.

And the best cure is letting it air out.

If you're my daughter, you look forward to those bare-booty moments almost as much as unrestricted use of the remote control or a full cup of apple-raspberry juice and do everything in your power to prolong that free feeling -- including running away as fast as your little legs can carry you, butt cheeks bidding the new, awaiting diaper adieu.

Earlier this week, I encountered just such a moment, and watching Allison run around half naked with a giant grin on her face was enough to entice me not to force it for a little while. She was busy flopping around face-first on top of our bed while I was folding laundry. And as I piled items in groups, I found myself praying she didn't pee and ruin our pillowtop mattress.

Eventually, my nerves got the best of me, so I put her on the floor where she made quick work of destroying my formerly neat piles, forcing me to come up with a distraction so I didn't have to entirely start from scratch.

And there, like a shining beacon, was her laundry hamper. Remembering a similar play session from a few months ago, I knocked it over so she could crawl inside. She immediately took the bait, bare butt backing in and out. Then she stood up and tried with all of her might to get it upright. Once she was successful, she looked at me and said, "Up" -- her catchall request for getting somewhere other than where she's currently standing.

I put the hamper diagonally in a corner so it would have less of an opportunity to tip over, sat in front of it and placed her inside.

Her grin never faded as she immediately engaged in a game of peek-a-boo by lowering herself into the hamper and popping back up repeatedly. I encouraged her by asking where she was when I couldn't see her and clapping when I could.

But one round seemed to last a bit longer than the others. I continued my diatribe of how much I missed her and wondered where she was as I finished grouping the last of the socks.

Then she popped up without a smile, holding a strange unidentifiable substance in her right hand while announcing, "UH, OH!"

Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a turd.

That last squat had been with purpose.

And right as I started screaming for Jerry, her hand crept closer to her mouth.

"OH GODDDDDDD! NOOOOOOOOOO! JeRRRRRRRYYYYYYYY! OH MY GOD! JERRRRRRR! JESUS! JERRRRRRRR!"

Unfortunately for me, he was downstairs unloading the dishwasher in a blissfully unaware trance provided by an iPod loaded with death metal set to deaf.

In the meantime, I shook her arm over the hamper until she reluctantly dropped it with a splat. Then I rushed her into the bathroom where I used half a dispenser of soap and the rest of the hot water, and followed it up on the other end on her changing table with a few wipes and a new diaper.

And as I tossed the dirty wipes into the Diaper Genie, I couldn't help but think that name was a little boastful.

A real diaper genie would take care of shit when it happens.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thank you

If putting my inner ramblings into words wasn't enough to convince me to keep at it, your words were.

Even without using the links some of you left with your comment, I recognized so many of the names. Either that or something in what you wrote clicked and I instantly knew who it was.

And more often than not, my thought was, "Oh! I had no idea they were still reading."

It sounds weird to say it because I know we've never met, but it's good to know there are friends here.

Then there are the other mothers I've come to rely on for advice, general encouragement on days I don't think I'm doing it right and providing some sort of perspective that my daughter's desire to hit me in the face is perfectly normal for her age.

I don't know what I'd do without that.

When I switched blogging formats, I thought it would give more people an opportunity to comment because my new site didn't require a membership or log-in. Instead, the opposite happened. Maybe it's because it takes three annoying steps to get your words submitted, and if you don't do it just right, it's not accepted. Not to mention that it doesn't automatically remember your details the next time you want to weigh in.

That certainly would discourage me.

Plus, more often than not, the link doesn't work and I have no way of responding unless it's on my own page, which is good for my lack of computer time, but it also leaves me with a feeling of disconnect. I can't see your site, your words, your pictures, you.

To be honest, I couldn't wait to leave Xanga -- partially because I had a ton of ideas for this site that got lost because life gets busy, but mostly because I couldn't stand some of the traffic generated by my regular "top post" status.

It became a strange popularity contest that I didn't want to be a part of. I was sick of the Ana and emo kids only commenting in a drive to drum up comments themselves -- some outright admitting as much. And others who only stopped by to ask why my site was so popular. I mean, what could be more boring than a married woman with a full-time job who doesn't drink to excess or cut herself?

But there are things I miss. It was user-friendly and easy to navigate. The options to have photos and videos all clearly linked on one site is something I'd kill for right now. And the design flexibility and hits tracker has greatly improved since I left.

Above all that, I miss the pictures next to comments. I miss that instant identifier of who is saying what. I miss many of you who graciously reminded me that the numbers of hits and domain names I can track on my site are more than just that.

I'm not sure what the answer is. I know I go back to my sleep-sucking schedule next week and I'll be in the void of too much to do and not enough energy to do it with. But maybe I need to start reminding myself of my original intentions with this site. Maybe it will help reinvigorate what once was such a passion for me.

Because every time I am able to carve out the time, I always feel better.

There is something more to this than just words.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This was just as cathartic as any

After more than four years and thousands of posts, I'm contemplating giving up my blog.

There. I said it.

It's not for any other reason than I have trouble finding the time, and I feel some sort of odd responsibility to update on a daily basis because it's expected of me somehow. The combination seems to add pressure at a time I don't need it.

I still get immense pleasure from blogging, especially getting to know people I otherwise never would have met. Getting feedback -- sometimes brutally honest -- encourages me on my difficult days, keeps me grounded, provides advice I hadn't thought of and even helps me see things differently on occasion.

Even more than all that, writing fulfills me in ways I never thought possible when I started. It's almost like a therapy session.

In public.

But since I've had Allison, I haven't had any time to devote to it. Instead, I find myself sacrificing what little opportunity to sleep I do get just to jot down a few scrambled thoughts before I pass out. Or bribing Alli with a banana the next morning in hopes that I can slam out a post in the time it takes her to finish it.

More often than not, though, I end up with gooey smears on my pants as she whines at my lap because the computer is one of her favorite toys -- afterall, it is the magic keeper of New York Grandma via webcam and Kelly Clarkson videos.

Then there is the fact that my continued inability to post daily has prompted some not to click here as often. And comments, my second favorite part of this medium next to writing, have dwindled because of it. That and the odds of me having time to respond is right up there with lightning striking twice. Or Allison spontaneously speaking in complete sentences.

The weird thing is, I still wake up or fall asleep writing in my head. My ongoing inner dialogue is strangely in the form of blog posts. (An apparent side-effect of longterm blogging.) I've often thought that if I could invent a way to post just by thinking the words, the blogosphere would run out of space. The ideas are always there, I just can't seem to find time to get them out.

The other voice in my head is telling me to stick with it because there has to be something more to this collection of words than a bunch of URLs -- even if just a singular book I self-publish to hand to my daughter someday. Or to sit and reread on occasion when Jerry and I are retired to remind us of the time he hit me in the face with our Christmas tree stump or Toby jumped out the passenger window of his moving vehicle.

So I guess it's not goodbye. For now anyway. This post actually steered me toward continuing to make time for it when I can -- mostly because the thought of letting it go forms a little knot in my stomach that I just can't, well, stomach.

Maybe when it's time to stop, I won't feel any regret.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You'd be amazed at how many doubletakes I get for being at my desk during regular business hours

This week I'm getting a taste of how the majority lives. I was asked to oversee an annual special project at the paper, one that is very labor-intensive, and it has required that I work a regular daylight shift to coordinate with the ad services department.

Once I knew Jerry's mom could watch Allison, I reveled in the feeling that I would have even one week of 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.

Granted, it turned into Sunday through Thursday in order to make my first deadline, and 9 to 5 is more like 8 to 6 without a break, and I'm working 10 days in a row, and I'll probably have to work at least a partial night shift on Thursday to help my coworkers with Friday's daily paper, but I still can't complain.

I'm well rested. I get to eat an actual hot dinner with my family every night instead of something heated in a microwave or garbage picked up in desperation from a fast food place. I have way more patience with Allison because I want to savor the few hours I get with her each night. Jerry and I get some alone time once she's in bed to reconnect -- even if it's over folding laundry or watching one of the million TV shows we have DVR'd that we usually never have time to see together. And going to bed at the same time is a luxury we've rarely gotten throughout our entire relationship.

The first words out of my mouth when I got home Monday?

"People who work this shift have nothing to complain about."

But after my second day, it was a little harder leaving Alli in the morning knowing that I wouldn't see her again until 6:30 or so, factoring in my commute. That leaves so little time before her 8 p.m. bedtime -- just enough for dinner, a bath and a bottle.

And even the most well-coordinated effort to get both of us and all of our things -- my purse, my lunch, her diaper bag, a handful of blueberries because I forgot to put them away from breakfast and Alli spotted them, a toy, keys dangling from my mouth and sunglasses falling off where I propped them on top of my head -- out of the house in the morning, has so many chances to go awry.

It isn't easy to obey the clock when your toddler dumps milk down the outfit you just changed her into, forcing you to change her from head to toe. Which takes effort because that was the last clean outfit other than the backup one in her diaper bag. The rest of her clothes are in the dryer, which requires a frantic trip down to the basement to try to unearth something that matches while she screams from above, rattling the stairway gate at your absence. And another trip upstairs to take advantage of the changing table in her bedroom so she won't run away half-naked, making the process even longer.

Then, just when you get downstairs, get your coat on, put her shoes and coat and hat on, she poops.

And you have to do it all over again.

As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to each schedule, but it has helped me realize that getting to raise my little girl on my own instead of dropping her off at day care almost every morning is a luxury most full-time working moms don't have.

I guess ongoing sleep deprivation is a small price to pay for that.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Newspaper column

My mother is officially getting her revenge for all of the horrible things I did through childhood and adolescence.

It has manifested in the form of a pint-sized package with a big personality and even bigger lung capacity.

I should’ve known when my daughter, Allison, got her first teeth at 2 months old that the terrible twos would come early, too.

In the past few weeks, I’ve discovered she can turn from the sweet little girl I know and love into a puddle of temper at my feet — all in the span of time it takes for me to remove the tip of the orange marker from her mouth.

Apparently drawing a picture tastes delicious.

About a year ago, Allison’s doctor asked if we had baby-proofed our house. My husband and I dutifully ticked off the precautions we had taken, knowing that our staircase, kitchen cabinets and outlets were safe.

But what apparatus prevents curious toddlers from hoisting themselves onto a chair to reach things they shouldn’t have at higher altitudes? Alluring things like the salt and pepper shakers. Or the electric toothbrush.

Unfortunately, I need to turn in the opposite direction once in awhile or perhaps devote even a small portion of my attention to necessary tasks like emptying the dishwasher. I have since learned that transferring two plates to a cabinet is an invitation to scale the kitchen table.

When she’s not testing her boundaries, arm span and gravity, she’s usually testing my patience. I tell her that throwing meatloaf is not an appropriate way to let me know she’s done with dinner, and she gives me a wry smile while tossing the chunk that was hidden in her other palm.

Then there are the dreaded incidents in public.

Last weekend, I helped host a baby shower for my friend, and by the end, she was probably wishing she had rethought the whole reproduction thing. The other mothers in attendance with babies who napped peacefully through the event must’ve left in horror after watching mine coat her entire upper body in cherry tomatoes and veggie dip.

Not to mention that the floor around her highchair looked like a well-stocked buffet.

I try to remind myself that even though she beats me in speed, energy and agility, I’m smarter than she is. Orange marker? What orange marker? Check out this BOOK!

Sometimes I call my mom in utter exasperation wondering how she ever let me live long enough to earn the right to borrow the car. At this point, I’m already contemplating withholding Allison’s driving privileges until she’s 18 solely on the grounds that meatloaf does not belong in my hair.

My mom just laughs, encourages me with longstanding adages like “this too shall pass” and tells me horror stories of my own childhood, like the time I cut my little brother’s hair right before the family portrait to commemorate my grandparents’ anniversary.

I always know instantly what she’s getting at. She’s not trying to illustrate that all kids have moments that make their parents crazy. She’s not trying to break the mood with a laugh. She’s not trying to prove that in 30 years those are the memories worth keeping.

She’s saying that someday, it’ll be my turn.

And it’s the right of every grandparent everywhere to sit back and revel in their grandchildren’s misadventures.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It would be easier to wake a hibernating bear

Phone conversation with Jerry while I was at work:

"So I think we need to establish a new house rule."

"Okaaaaay."

"Well, not so much for you maybe, but definitely for me."

"What is it?"

"Whoever just wakes up shouldn't be responsible for a diaper change."

"Dude. IT WAS YOUR TURN."

"Yes, but I screwed up."

"How many times do I have to tell you that you can't put those things on wrong?"

"Well, after dinner, when I picked her up from her highchair, I couldn't figure out why she was all wet. I mean, I hadn't seen her spill anything. ... But she was soaked, so I took her upstairs to change her clothes and ... "

"And?"

"She didn't have a diaper on."

(Eruption of office-disrupting laughter)

"SHE PEED ALL OVER HERSELF!"

"You're lucky she didn't do anything else!"

"I wonder what she was thinking when she didn't have all that absorbent material to prevent urine from trickling down her legs."

"Probably what a dumbass you are."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Way better than anticipating green vomit

Although Jerry is particularly proud of his Italian ancestry, every year on St. Patrick's Day, he encourages me to embrace my Irish heritage -- probably because he thinks being married to someone with a family tree that can be traced back to immigrants who came to the U.S. during the potato famine gives him street cred on the holiday of drunken debauchery.

To me, St. Patrick's Day is for college students. I remember waking up to green beer and bagels at my sorority house and drinking the day away in a sea of green feathery boas, plastic hats, fake Shamrock tattoos that always found a home on my cheeks and green eyelashes and nail polish.

Now it just seems pathetic to even give a nod to the date by wearing a green sweater to work. So I always refuse.

"AT LEAST EAT BOILED POTATOES FOR EVERY MEAL!" Jerry prods. "Or go out in the street and punch the first person you see in the face."

His idea of the Irish is apparently as culturally pigeonholed as you can get -- tubers and fistfights.

But I have to admire him for his never-ending love of holidays -- even the minor ones I have long since refused to acknowledge.

When I woke up from a nap yesterday, Allison tromped into our bedroom wearing her lime green top paired with Kelly green capris for the summer months. She looked absolutely ridiculous, but I instantly remembered what day it was. Jerry followed closely behind wearing a giant grin.

He then informed me that he had been looking up Irish-inspired dishes and settled on traditional corned beef and cabbage (and potatoes, of course) to make for me to take to work. He had the required ingredients written down on a folded piece of computer paper and planned to take Alli with him to the grocery store while I hit the gym.

It was either that or give him free reign with the green food coloring, so I just smiled. There was no use arguing.

When I got back from my workout, Jerry rounded the corner looking distraught.

"The only corned beef they had wouldn't have been ready in time, so I did my best," he said. "I got potatoes because they eat those with every meal, and salad because it's green and pork because they have to have a ton of livestock with all those rolling hills, right?"

I just laughed.

Any holiday that excites Jerry to do the week's grocery shopping and fire up the grill is worth celebrating in my book.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gisela, now it's your turn

Last weekend was so thoroughly saturated with estrogen that I'm surprised I didn't have dreams I was in a Masingil commercial. Timberly flew in from Nebraska and we spent the entire day Saturday hanging out, shopping, going out to eat and catching a chick flick. Gisela drove in from Philadelphia on Sunday for the baby shower, and by the time I hugged both of them goodbye, I had gotten just enough that I didn't feel the need to permanently lock them in my basement just so we could hang out longer.

That and I'd be terrified to deliver a baby.


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Timberly had asked if I could take a few pictures of her to hang
in the nursery. I was so flattered that she thought I could do it
justice. So when the lady at the Wal-Mart photo counter said she
wasn't allowed to let us take our prints home without a signed
consent from the portrait studio, I took it as a compliment.


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When Allison was mid-tantrum before the shower even started,
Gisela had the brilliant idea to take a walk outside. She was clutch
in more ways than one. She multitasked as a diaper-changer,
entertainer, apple retriever and most importantly, photo-taker.

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Timberly checking her answers to a quiz about her
and her husband's childhood as I reveal which one
had a teddybear with German lederhosen.


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Allison was much more content once she had a crabcake
in one fist and a mini cocktail weenie in the other.


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These girls don't know it, but they were both in the same room
at Timberly's bridal shower a few years ago. Just not born yet.


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When they weren't passing ribbons and paper confetti back and fourth,
they were enjoying the special baby shower treats just for them.


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Leah and I vowed to get the girls together before she and her husband
move to Indiana this fall where they both got jobs teaching sociology
at Purdue University. Miss Elena is four months older than Alli.


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I wanted to eat her up in her cherries.


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At the very end, after almost all the guests had left, we finally unleashed
them on the balloons that Allison had been DYING to get at for hours.
She went APESHIT screaming and batting at them and running at full
speed as the ribbons tangled around her ankles causing the balloons to
turn her hair into a conductor of so much static electricity that she could've
lit up the entire eastern seaboard. Elena was justifiably terrified.


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Then we took a picture out front to commemorate this photo we
took at Timberly's bridal shower when I was pregnant.


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Photographer Gisela passed my camera over to get in a group shot.


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Then Gisela and I went back to my place where we took advantage
of Alli's nap by taking a ridiculous amount of stupid photos of ourselves.


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And one of Toby.


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Who was only tolerating Gisela because she was
teasing him with a handful of mini Goldfish crackers.


There were so many moments not documented on camera, but I'm glad I have even a few images to remember the weekend by. And even though I wanted to cry when Allison's diaper exploded down her tights AFTER I had ripped her overly tired screaming body from her highchair AFTER she had grabbed a fistful of veggie dip off my plate and smeared it all over the tablecloth and my black pants, AFTER she stole another baby's Cheerios, AFTER she dumped her own snacks all over the floor for the third time, I'm still glad Alli went.

After all, a girls weekend wouldn't be a girls weekend without my girl -- crazy behavior and all.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

1 year, 4 months

Dear Alli,

You've officially embraced your inner hellion. And I'm surprised my eyebrows haven't turned gray from all the stress it's causing me.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want you to be the type of kid who doesn't test limits and push boundaries. It's only natural to want to see what you can get away with once in awhile. But tossing chunks of oatmeal at my face during breakfast? And laughing when a giant gob sticks to my glasses? Well, lets just say that I also control your access to animal crackers, so you may want to rethink your target.

Everything this month was a battle. Getting dressed. Changing your diaper. Reading a book. Walking upstairs. Walking downstairs. Buckling your car seat. Doing your hair. Eating. And don't get me started on Toby's proximity to your personal space. Or God forbid I want to have two minutes to myself to pee.

When you melt into a temper tantrum by violently tossing your body into a limp heap at my feet and wailing like a siren -- you know, because I stopped you from putting the tip of the orange marker in your mouth -- I try to take a deep breath and remind myself that this is a only a phase. One that will likely last until you turn into a complete ass of a teenager, but who's counting?

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Meanwhile, your grandmothers find themselves feeling strangely satisfied these days for no apparent reason. And maybe even break into an inexplicable laughing fit once in awhile.

What they don't know is that at those exact moments, you're providing their revenge.

In fact, Dad was apparently so much of a handful growing up that when we ran into his best friend's mom at the grocery store last week, she giggled watching us struggle to keep you seated in the shopping cart.

"This is the beginning of my payback," Jerry told her.

"Oh, you'd need 10 kids to even begin to scrape that surface," she said.

I've heard stories that he once coated the entire living room in fireplace soot. And threw numerous cordless phones into the pool. And lovingly called his mother "Devil Woman" as a toddler. Not to mention the times he got escorted home in a police car. Or the parties he threw that trashed the house and valuable family heirlooms.

As for me? Ask grandma about the time she got called by my elementary school principal because I was found in the woods during recess with some kids who apparently had cigarettes. Or when I almost set the house on fire trying to toast pumpkin seeds. Or my first six speeding tickets. Or when I didn't come home from an older boy's prom until the next morning.

Yeah, on second thought, I guess I can deal with a little oatmeal on my glasses.

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Dad and I tried our best to curtail your sudden urge to hit and throw things by giving you a stern "No," but our dual negative childhood karma apparently morphed to create the most adorable, charming little girl with a monster rebel streak and a premature penchants for breaking the rules. The combination is damn terrifying when I let my mind fast forward a few years.

So we decided to implement consequences for your misbehavior. The tried-and-true time out.

At first I didn't think you were old enough to comprehend punishment. But when I casually mentioned that your hair was messy while we were playing and you walked away and came back with your hairbrush, I realized you understand a lot more than I give you credit for.

Like most things when it comes to raising you, we figured out the time out rules as we went along. Now you get two warnings if you opt to partake in unacceptable behavior like throwing your toys at Toby, and the third time you have to sit on your stool facing a corner for one minute.

The inaugural time out spurred a meltdown of immeasurable proportions. Although I couldn't show it, I think I was more upset about having to discipline you than you were at the punishment. It is likely the first of many times throughout your life that you are going to hate me for enforcing rules that are intended to make you a better person, but I hope someday you'll understand that all of it is out of love.

Probably not until you have to discipline a child of your own, but by then, I'll be the one laughing.

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We had a scare at your regular checkup this month when the doctor mentioned "heart" and "abnormality" in the same sentence after holding his stethoscope to your chest.

Needless to say, my pulse quickened.

He thought he heard a murmur, which spurred a very tense few weeks for your dad and me. We felt we had been taking your health for granted, and all it took was a very small reminder to prove it.

We took you to get an ecocardiogram at the hospital, which was very difficult for you, but afterward we spontaneously stopped at a buffet for lunch -- a place your father adores and I detest -- and you immediately perked up at the sight of an endless supply of beets and tomatoes and Jello and chicken soup.

We didn't get the results of your test for a few weeks, but in that time, I came around to the idea that you might have a murmur. The thought of it didn't scare me anymore. I just watched you play and run and it sunk in that you obviously weren't affected by it -- and hopefully never would be.

At the followup appointment, your doctor provided the good news that the cardiologists didn't detect a hole in your heart, which had been the worst-case scenario. It's possible you do have a murmur, and it's something they're going to monitor in the following months, but you've proved to me in more ways than one that you really do follow your own rhythm.

It only makes sense that it would be reflected in your heart.

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But this month wasn't all bad. And I got plenty of reminders from friends with children your age that although you're a handful, there are a lot of things I never have to worry about that they do.

Like the fact that you sleep like a narcoleptic once you're in your crib. You protest mildly until we shut your door, but then it's instantly quiet and you don't peep for 12 hours. Or the fact that you have an entire mouthful of teeth and you haven't so much as whimpered about it.

There were other wonderful moments too. I have been working on the word "up" with you. Every day for four weeks, every time you reached to get UP on a bed or UP in your highchair or UP on the couch or UP on my lap or UP to see something, I emphasized the word and prompted you to say it.

Then one day, you did. You reached your little arms up to me and instead of whining, you said "BOP!'

I was speechless.

"BOP!"

So I picked you up and showered you with kisses.

You don't know it, but you lift me bop too.

Love,
Mom

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Pepperoni, mushrooms and extra contempt

When our plasma TV crapped out about a month ago, I knew it would be a seemingly endless battle with the warranty company and an even bigger battle keeping Jerry's ears from spewing smoke.

The fact that we purchased it at the now bankrupt and defunct Circuit City only complicated matters. A few people tried to prepare us for what they saw as an inevitable corporate runaround, but I knew we were covered by the extended plan we had purchased, so I refused to give up without a fight.

I encountered numerous 800 numbers that only went to an automated answering service telling me to fax a short description of my problem with a copy of my receipt. So I typed up a succinct letter and sent it to no avail. So I faxed again. And again. And again. Every day.

Then this miraculous thing happened. A local electronics store owner called requesting a little more information before he would schedule an appointment to come out and fix our TV. After an annoying relay of voicemail messages, we finally got to speak and he said he would be in our neighborhood making repairs by the end of the week.

I happily relayed the message to Jerry and we celebrated. Prematurely.

The end of the week came and went. And so did the next, but not from Jerry's lack of trying. After days of leaving messages, the owner finally got back to him and they scheduled a somewhat definitive appointment -- Thursday between 6 and 10 p.m.

Jerry didn't even care that he had to get up at 3 the next morning. He vowed to stay up the entire time if that's what it took to get our TV fixed. He singlehandedly carried it downstairs from the spot we had relegated it to in our bedroom once it ceased working. He cleared a path so it would be a quick swap of cables to reconnect it. And although I had to leave for work, I knew he would keep his hand on his phone and his eyes on the street the entire time.

But once Allison was in bed, his limited patience started to unravel.

While we were on the phone, I envisioned him pacing the living room. Then, in the middle of his profanity-laced diatribe about how he hates being jerked around, he got a beep.

"It's an unknown number ... I GOTTA GO."

I placed the handset back in the receiver at my desk hoping that it would be good news. A minute later, it rang again.

"UGH! IT WAS HONDA ASKING IF I WAS PLEASED WITH THE SERVICE I RECEIVED LAST WEEK."

How dare they call and inquire about their customer service. Wasn't it clear to everyone in the solar system that he was waiting on our TV technician? To restore his beloved box to its original glory? So he could watch college basketball playoffs the way they were intended? On a screen the size of our living room wall?

"Jer, I'm sure he just got tied up at another house. It's not as if it's an exact science. He has no idea what he's up against at each place. Besides, he's our only source to fix it and --"

"I gotta go ... someone just pulled in!"

I hung up the phone once more and wished with my entire being that the guy carried a magic wand in his toolbox. Or pixie dust. Or an entire pixie to shake her ass over the TV or fart on it or whatever it is that pixies do.

Then my phone rang again.

"IT WAS A PIZZA HUT DELIVERY GUY. FAT-ASSES NEXT DOOR ORDERED PIZZA HUT. I'M LOSING MY MIND."

Then the sound of a whistle broke my laughter. I wasn't there to witness it, but I'm convinced it was Jerry's head releasing pressure like a tea kettle.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Unintentional proof of my cereal addiction

Holy freezer box I had no idea so many people haven't ever seen a refrigerator before. I mean, here I was assuming it was a common household appliance, but apparently it is a species the likes of a unicorn -- a mystical apparatus only documented on the internet.

Well, hold onto your lunch meat, you're about to get a rare glimpse:


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This before photo really does nothing to capture the gross factor
because I didn't think to commemorate it with an interior shot.
Looking back, it seems slightly bigger than the mini unit I had
in my freshman dorm room. And, yes, Allison still loves Santa.

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All of a sudden my white cabinets that I slaved to repaint a few
summers ago don't look so gleaming anymore. They're lost in the glow
of wonderousness that is my Whirlpool. Next up? Hideous floor.

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And just because no one complained at my absence
this week while I prepared for Timberly's baby shower,
here is a bonus shot of my Fucking Bangs. That is how
I refer to them. With great detest. And an eye roll.

Monday, March 9, 2009

So much more than a cooling unit

Some sickly looking appliances came with our house, but at the time, I didn't even care because they were mine. Particularly the dishwasher, which meant I didn't have to scrub my own plates anymore.

But after the kitchen boxes were unpacked and most of our things were assigned a cabinet, all of a sudden the appliances lost their luster. The oven didn't hold a temperature because the door wouldn't close all the way unless we rigged it with a bungee cord. The dishwasher developed a foul ring of black mold inside around the base. And the fridge was too small, was missing two shelves and a door to the butter slot. Not to mention the lovely pattern of rust creeping up the front.

Not being able to afford to replace them all at once, we picked our battles. The oven got the boot immediately, enabling me to ruin meals and cookies on my own terms by forgetting to set the timer or botching the amount of certain ingredients. Which, come to think of it, was probably stupid. It would be nice to be able to blame the oven for my occasional inedible concoctions.

The dishwasher took a bit longer, but it became a necessity once we realized we were going to be filling it with baby bottles. I mean, cleaning dishes in close proximity to black toxic mold is fine for two adults who have the option of picking up a sponge, but a newborn? We knew it would be months before our daughter would be able to do the dishes for us. So we welcomed home our pink bundle of vocal chords and a shiny new Maytag the same week.

The fridge took much longer because it carries a much larger price tag. Every time we went to a home improvement warehouse or a department store, Jerry and I would peruse the selection and try to get realistic about choosing something. Frankly, anything would've been an improvement over our 19-cubic-foot monstrosity, but then we'd lustily eye the grandiose models with water and ice dispensers in the door and decide to wait until one was more within our reach.

That, of course, meant putting up with the fridge we did have. The filthy who-knows-how-old fridge that barely coughed out cool air when cranked to the highest setting, had a singular plastic-coated warped wire shelf that barely withstood the weight of a gallon of milk and a big gaping hole right down to the bottom where a cracked bin sat mounded with the majority of our groceries.

Making a meal became a routine game of hide-and-seek as we dug through the contents of the bin to find what we were looking for. And if we got frustrated and opened the door too quickly, the butter container would come careening down on our heads because there wasn't anything to hold it in place.

For three years of birthdays and holidays, my mother relentlessly asked if I wanted money toward a new fridge. But inevitably there would be a cute pair of shoes or a new purse that I wanted, which, lets face it, seriously trumps getting something as boring as an appliance. Those are things divorces are made of had it been Jerry’s suggestion.

But age has a way of changing your perspective. And, eventually, I wanted to take a baseball bat to our fridge “Office Space” style. We got so desperate that Jerry and I drove to a discount appliance outlet that was having an “everything must go” flood sale after a bad winter cold snap in January burst the store’s pipes.

So when my mom made the annual request for birthday present suggestions, I shocked her by taking her up on her longstanding offer.

We were getting a new fridge.

I don’t think it really sunk in until Jerry and I made the official trek to pick one out. We did some research online but opted to take a look at the floor models to really get a feel for what we wanted. And there, among the rows, was a fridge so perfect, so filled with water and ice dispensers and shelves and butter doors that we almost peed ourselves.

Then Allison sealed the deal by climbing inside the open doors and looking up at us with an overwhelming expression of joy. She must’ve known she would be stealing grapes out of it in no time.

Showing it was fate, the fridge was in stock, the tag highlighted a temporary sale price, and we landed a special promotion for free delivery. When I added up the savings, my frugal gene spasmed in such a manner that I’m surprised it didn’t cause a chain reaction that ended in my passing out.

The morning of our scheduled delivery, I came downstairs to find a final note from Jerry on our magnetic dry erase board that summed it up perfectly: SEE YA FRIDGE.

When the installers left, I eagerly organized all of our food into drawers and non-wobbly glass shelves. Then I capped it off by putting the tub of butter in the awaiting receptacle — much like the star on a Christmas tree.

And that’s exactly what it felt like. When everything was resting snugly inside, I opened the side-by-side doors, stood back and stared at its beauty.

Then I snapped on the dry erase board and wrote: YAYYYYYYYYY!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Broken television Jerryisms

Ever since our 42-inch plasma screen bit the dust, we have been forced to -- gasp! -- use the 36-inch flatscreen Jerry got for Christmas in the living room, instead of in the bedroom as it was originally intended. And I've gotten twelve earfuls about it:

"It's like watching an iPod."

"I have to squint when I'm playing video games."

"On the bright side, having a broken television just saved us 20 bucks. The guys were going to come over to watch the fights, but on this TV it's not even worth it. The blood spatter wouldn't be lifelike."

"I think it's ruining my eyesight. I'm going to go in for my annual checkup and the doctor is going to say I need glasses."

"Allison probably can't even tell what she's watching anymore. She thinks it's 'Yo Gabba Gabba,' but it's really 'Larry King Live.' "

"Is that Tina Fey or Steve Carrell? WHAT SHOW IS THIS?"

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A record high indeed

Today was the first in days I've had time to blog. But the temperature here hit an unbelievable 73 degrees for mid-March in central Pennsylvania, so I soaked up every minute outside. It's expected to rain tomorrow, so my butt will likely be back in my computer chair.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Letter leftovers

The Month 15 letter leftovers are so stale, Allison barely resembles the way she looks in these photos anymore. But I took a ton of pictures last month, and the only way most of my family gets to see them is on this blog, so I went back through my files this morning while Alli is inexplicably sleeping past 7 a.m. and dug out a few to share.


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In the beginning, when we first asked "Where is your nose?"
you crammed your finger right up an unsuspecting nostril.


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You love wedging yourself between your closet and your crib.


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You and Toby are still best frienemies.


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I'm not sure why chairs are so exciting, but you are.


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This was after you pulled all of the blankets off your shelves.


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Your favorite place to play is on top of the bed.


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I get all of your garbage rejects. Mostly crap you pick up off the floor.


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I couldn't figure out where in the hell all your socks were
disappearing to. Then I found about 20 behind your bed.


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I didn't take enough pictures of you with pigtails. You rip them out now.


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Grandma came to visit and taught you how to say "tickle."


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My two favorite beings who beg for food at my lap.


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Your big cousin Emily came over for a play date
and you couldn't have been more excited.


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The next day, Dad and Toby were exhausted.


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More pigtails.


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We took you outside after a particularly good storm
and watched Toby chase snowballs.


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You mostly just wanted to eat it, though.


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Dad was a good sport and stopped making faces
long enough for me to get a good picture.


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Dad was asked to take a picture of your Sunday school class to
hang on your classroom door. Needless to say, you thought it sucked.


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And when you're older and a huge Steelers fan like your Dad,
you can know that when you were 1 and Pittsburgh won the most
Super Bowls of any NFL team, you were appropriately decked out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Practically killed myself burning off the equivalent of a hot dog

I just got back from the gym.

My first attempt at physical exercise since childbirth.

Even an untrained observer would be able to tell. Not from my beet-red face. Not from the sweat rings on my T-shirt. Not from my still-labored breathing. Not from my ghetto workout gear. Or the way I collapsed onto the bed in a heap because my legs feel like cement weights.

Nope.

They'd be able to tell because I couldn't contain the feel-good endorphins from 50 minutes of making my body operate the way it was meant to.

"I'M GOING TO TURN MY FLAB INTO FAB!"

I owe much of the credit to Jerry. After months of making excuses, he finally convinced me to go by unintentionally guilting me into it. You know, saying things like, "You said you wanted to go today. I'll watch Allison. Go. Really. Go."

Even still, it wasn't easy getting out the door. I would've much preferred sitting on my ass and eating the rest of the Girl Scout cookies. And finishing off the last brownie my friend made for my birthday.

"It's so much easier being fat. Can't we just get fat together?" I asked.

But then I remembered that more than half of my closet is bordering on not fitting anymore. And shorts season is fast approaching. Not to mention the bathing suit that I wouldn't put on right now even if it had $1,000 bucks pinned on the bikini top as an enticement.

I started to come up with valid reasons to wait another week. Timberly's baby shower is two Sundays from now and I'll want to have cake. I could start the week after that.

But then I remembered I had done that with my birthday. I had vowed to start the week after we got back from Rochester and the inevitable caloric intake that comes with my mother's amazing cooking. Then I got a cold and a built-in excuse.

Before that, I had vowed to start after the Valentine's Day cookies were gone. After the holidays. For the New Year. Even the need to pull out my fat pants didn't motivate me the way I thought they would.

I know it's not going to be easy to find the time on a regular basis, but I made the giant leap of walking into a new gym full of people with toned abs and thighs that don't rub together when they walk. And not only didn't I immediately turn around at the door, but I managed to sign up, get a tour and even mustered through a full workout when I thought I was going to pass out after three minutes on an elliptical.

If nothing else, I'm guaranteed to make it through one month because that's what I paid for up front.

And if hanging my skinny jeans on the back door of the bathroom can't motivate me, I'm guessing my inner cheapskate can.

Monday, March 2, 2009

He would probably disagree about the exes

It recently occurred to me that I haven't written about Jerry in a long time. And right when he was probably about to let a content sigh of relief escape his mouth, I found this questionnaire that delves into the minutia of our relationship. And although I divulge more about myself here every week than some people would ever want to know in their lifetime, these are the types of things I never think to mention.


What are your middle names?
My middle name is Lynne, and Jerry's middle name is Louis. (No, I'm not making that up.) And it just occurred to me that our first names end with the same letter and our middle names start with the same letter. What's that spell? FATE.

How long have you been together?
Five years.

How long did you know each other before you started dating?
About a minute. It was instant attraction for both of us even though we were casually seeing other people. So we did the mature thing: I stopped returning local cop's calls and he dumped what's-her-face via text message. We sleep at night by telling ourselves that it's okay because we got married.

Who asked whom out?
I asked Jerry out, and it's a good thing because he has since told me that he never would've worked up the courage.

How old are each of you?
We're both 31. Born seven months apart, but I like to think that I hit my milestones first.

Whose siblings do you see the most?
Jerry's older sister, Amy, because we live in the same state.

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
Probably our schedules. Since we work opposite shifts in very demanding industries, we have very little time together when we're both awake and well-rested. We try our best to make quality time every afternoon when he comes home from his job and before I leave for mine to sit down as a family and have lunch. It's just a few minutes before the chaos starts again, but it's something I look forward to every day.

Did you go to the same school?
No. And he reminds me about it every time a Penn State football game comes on. I went to New York State University at Cortland, which barely had a team, let alone a nationally ranked one. We were the Red Dragons, but he likes to ask things like, "How'd the Cortland Apples do this year?"

Are you from the same home town?
No. Jerry grew up in the town next to where we live now, and he's still best friends with his high school buddies, who also still live here with their families. His mother's house has been in the family for four generations. I, on the other hand, moved regularly throughout my childhood and early adulthood. I'm not even sure what's the longest time I've ever been at one address.

Who is smarter?
When it comes to math? Jerry. When it comes to everything else? Me.

Who is the most sensitive?
Good lord, Jerry. If sensitivity was measured in ounces, Jerry would be an ocean.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?
I guess the family Italian restaurant a few blocks from our house. Thankfully, the owner has forgiven Jerry for calling him an asshole the first time we ordered takeout from there.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
By car, South Carolina. By plane, Nebraska. By cruise ship, the Caribbean.

Who has the craziest exes?
Let's just put it this way: I've been told that Jerry's Jewish ex-girlfriend's mother brought Cabbage Patch dolls to Christmas dinner. Then there was the girl who ripped his VCR from the wall and slammed it over his head while he was tying his shoes.

Who has the worst temper?
Remember that time that Jerry called the owner of the little Italian restaurant a few blocks from our house an asshole?

Who does the cooking?
I do the majority of the cooking in the winter, but Jerry is excellent in the kitchen. He always offers to make me dinner if I neglect to prepare something to take to work, and he occasionally falls in love with a big cut of meat at the grocery store that just begs to be slow-roasted. In the summer, Jerry takes over when he reignites his annual man-crush on his grill.

Who is the neat-freak?
It's amazing how adding one little girl to the mix throws my neat-freak tendencies into a tailspin.

Who is more stubborn?
The saying shouldn't be "Stubborn as a mule." It should be "Stubborn as Jerry."

Who hogs the bed?
Toby.

Who wakes up earlier?
The obvious answer is Jerry because his alarm goes off at 3 a.m. five days a week so he can get on the radio and help other people start their mornings. But the real answer is me because if left to his own devices, Jerry would sleep until 3 p.m.

Where was your first date?
This is actually a tough question because we never really defined ourselves as dating, it just sort of morphed into a relationship very effortlessly. Our first time out together was as part of a double date at a basement bar at a dimly lit table covered in initials from decades of carvings. The next night, Jerry came over to my place to watch a movie, and we stayed up the entire night talking. His cell phone alarm jarred us back to reality when it went off at 3 a.m. and he had to run off to work. I stayed up and listened to his entire radio show that morning in a show of sleepless solidarity before heading to work myself.

Who is more jealous?
Perhaps it's a result of former boyfriends cheating on me, but I still have to remind myself that it's okay for Jerry to have female friends.

How long did it take to get serious?
I'd say an engagement ring at six months proves it was serious from the beginning.

Who eats more?
Jerry, but that's not for my lack of trying.

Who does the laundry?
This was pretty equal until someone lost his mojo after turning his favorite long sleeve white T-shirt blue. Although I refuse to touch his Steelers jerseys. I can't imagine the fallout if something were to happen to his authentic Roethlisberger. The polar ice caps would melt instantly. Cities would crumble. The Earth would fall off its axis.

Who's better with the computer?
Neither of us is particularly adept with our electronic equipment. Although, we do have a longstanding duel to see who can make the best desktop background. I'm pretty sure I won last week when I found an old photo of his bare ass.

Who drives when you are together?
I have given up fighting for the keys. I save all my driving up for when we go to New York to visit my family. If I drive, we get there in half the time, and not because I'm speeding. Because I don't get lost.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Another Facebook reference, so take a collective breath

Longtime Facebook members know there's all sorts of random crap floating around on the site to help you waste even more time on the vortex that is the internet, but as a music lover, I found this one in particular to be really fun.

CREATE YOUR BAND NAME & ALBUM COVER:

To Do This

1 - Go to Wikipedia. Hit "random"
or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to Quotations Page and select "random quotations"
or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to Flickr and click on "explore the last seven days"
or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use Photoshop or similar to put it all together.

Here's mine

album

Although completely random, the title alone hits home.
The only thing I'd change? My own name instead.
... and make it a book cover.

If you decide to play along in the blogosphere instead of on Facebook, feel free to post a link in a comment. I'd love to check them out!