Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thankfully I never gave that money to a boyfriend for safe keeping

For the first time in a long time, I'm excited about a new project I'm working on. It started as a fleeting idea awhile ago, but I recently got all of the impetus I needed to stop dreaming and start doing.

The best part is that the few people I've talked to about it have been incredibly supportive. It's tough even vocalizing your dreams out loud the first few times, but when people besides your husband and mother don't laugh in your face, it starts to take hold.

I could actually do this.

For now, I'm trying to solidify some of my ideas. Talking to other people who have done it before me. Getting what I need. I'm setting small goals and working toward them one at a time rather than focusing on a major deadline and getting disappointed in myself if I don't hit it.

My biggest concern was financing, but when I was talking to Jerry about possibly taking out a loan, I suddenly remembered that I put away some money from my high school burger-flipping days and vowed never to touch it unless it was an emergency or worthwhile investment.

After nearly 10 years, I think that day has finally come.

What could possibly be a better investment than investing in myself?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Worse than succumbing to mom jeans? Lecturing a teenager

Conversation I overheard between two employees at a girl's clothing store at the mall while I was perusing the jewelry selection:

Worker 1: "If you're having trouble saving, just take a paycheck from one of your jobs each week and put it away. Don't even touch it. That's what I do."

Worker 2: "I wouldn't be able to!"

Worker 1: "Oh, I know. That's why I give it directly to my boyfriend. He puts it away for me."

Worker 2: "That's a good idea."

Worker 1 (to me): "Are you ready?"

Me (placing my new necklaces on the counter): "Yep. I don't need a bag, though. I already have one."

Worker 1: "That'll be $11.05."

Me (handing her my card): "Hey, I'm sorry to butt in because it's really none of my business, but, um, the mom in me won't let me keep my mouth shut, so I'm just going to say it. ... YIKES! Don't give your boyfriend your paychecks!"

(Worker 2 laughs)

Worker 1: "Oh, no, it's okay, we've been together a really long time."

Me: "Well, just to give you some perspective, I was with one guy for four years and it ended. And poorly at that. You never know. Get another bank account you never touch. Or, hell, cash it and shove it under your mattress. Or freeze it in a block of ice in the back of your freezer."

(Worker 1 laughs)

Me: "Seriously, though, I'd just hate to see you have to deal with losing all your money on top of a bad breakup. Not that it'll happen, but why even subject yourself to it?"

(Worker 1 gives polite, but dismissive smile, forces herself to subdue an eyeroll)

Me (motioning to my purchase): "Okay, thanks. Just be smart."

I resisted tacking on the phrase "young lady," but it wasn't easy. That and slapping her upside the head, stealing her cell phone and calling her mother.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It was so hot, I wanted to swim with the seals

The zoo was a nearly perfect day, minus the fact that we forgot our water in the car as temps reached a sweaty 80-plus degrees and Allison had a meltdown of epic proportions. But, on the bright side, Jerry learned there are other attractions in Pittsburgh besides Heinz field.

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Every time we pointed out an animal to Alli, she nodded and growled.


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Allison is fiercely independent and often wants nothing
to do with me in public, including holding my hand.
But, thankfully, she was willing to hold Avery's.


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Because of the heat, most of the animals were resting lethargically
in the shade. But the bear, one of Alli's favorite stuffed animals,
was busy in the water, batting at a tire fountain. She was so thrilled,
she tried launching herself out of my arms and over the fence.
I had to explain that this particular bear might not be as snugly
as the one she uses as a pillow in her crib. And it would eat a bunny.


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The last ray of sunshine before a horrific shit storm.


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Let. Me. Out. Now. I. Want. To. Run. Away. From. You.


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Val's girls posed so nicely for this picture. Jerry took about 15 to get
just one of Alli even somewhat looking in the direction of the camera.
When I scroll through them quickly, it looks like she has termites in her pants.


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Avery, Addy and Ben checking out the fish.


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The aquarium was my favorite part. I didn't take many other photos
because, at this point, Allison was very hands-on. But she did love
watching the penguins dive and swim, shrieking every time one passed.


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After dumping water all over herself, an outfit change,
sloshing blue snowcone all over herself, falling and
skinning her knees and screaming in her stroller, she
finally gave in to what she desperately needed -- sleep.


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She missed the kid's play area, seeing this deer defecate
and a really amazing cave with tons of fluttering bats.


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She woke up just in time to see the meerkats, which had a tunnel
that kids could crawl through to get a closer look. She got about
this far and then stood guard so no one else could go in or out.
You know, because she's thoughtful like that.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Newspaper column

When I was handed the keys to my very own home a few years ago, I didn’t think there would ever be a time that I’d look back on my apartment-dwelling days with fondness.

After all, I had suffered through some pretty bad landlords.

There was the guy who barged into my bedroom while I was sleeping to give a tour to prospective next-year renters. And the one who took more than two weeks to replace the fridge when it broke. Or the woman who said she’d be over “in the morning” after the furnace blew one frigid January night.

No, I didn’t think I’d ever miss having a landlord.

Until I realized homeownership can get very costly when problems arise.

Especially exterminators.

Earlier this week, I found myself desperately wishing we had a landlord on speed-dial when I heard what sounded like a conga line traveling through the inside of one of our bedroom walls.
I froze and listened. It was way too loud to be something as small as a mouse. And it wasn’t covering a lot of distance, so I ruled out a squirrel. But the racket was ridiculous, so I irrationally determined it to be a mountain lion.

My husband called a professional and, at my pleading, reluctantly asked if we could pay extra to have the creature humanely re­turn­ed to the wild.

Apparently the guy laughed.

Then, much to my horror, he told us to set aside $450 or wait a few days because the animal, “Would probably get so stressed out that it would have a heart attack.”

It was the wrong thing to say to someone who prefers to scoot spiders outside rather than squashing them.

So I tried to think up ways to tackle the problem myself while my husband pleaded with me not to. He envisioned me removing the cover to one of our air vents and seeing a badger charge out into the house in a rabid frenzy as I desperately tried to scoop up our daughter and the dog and make it to a door before being attacked.

The next day while he was at work, everything was quiet. I tried to come to terms with the fact that there would eventually be a foul smell emanating from the wall that I wouldn’t be able to do anything about.

Then I heard the sound again. It was in my daughter’s room now. In the wall behind her crib.
I moved the bed aside and peered into a vent near the floor to see a beautiful shiny black bird with a yellow beak.

Then, as if it could somehow understand me, I softly explained my intentions and told it to stay put as I let the dog outside, turned on some cartoons downstairs and got a screwdriver and a shoebox.

All of my gumption melted away once the vent cover came off. I suddenly I realized I was trying to grab onto a wild bird and not freak out.

What would happen if it started flapping and got out into the house? There would be poop and feathers everywhere as it bashed its head into the windows in a panic.

Inevitably, that’s what happened. Within moments, the bird was flapping around my daughter’s bedroom, landing on the highest surfaces — skewing picture frames, spinning the ceiling fan and knocking over the stuffed animals on top of her bookshelf.

With a little coaxing, it eventually flew out a window, but not until I was completely shaken. It might as well have been a mountain lion the way my heart was pounding.

But, in the end, I felt empowered. We didn’t need a landlord or an exterminator.

Then again, I didn’t realize homeownership would require so many unique skills.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Complete with a snarled lip and claw hands

We're going to the Pittsburgh zoo with some friends and their kids on Sunday.

To get Allison pumped about the experience, we've been counting down the days on our magnetic dry erase board under a crudely drawn elephant that Jerry has since added gigantic turds to.

We've also told her stories about the animals, looked at their pictures in her books and encouraged her to make their sounds.

And I think she finally gets it.

Because this morning, when Jerry brought her in our room to wake me up, they both plopped on the bed beside me discussing all of the fun things we'll do tomorrow.

And right when Jerry said the word "zoo," Alli's face lit up.

"POO! RRRRrrrrrrrrrAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaarrrrrrRRRRRrrrrr!"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blahbittyblah

I am in a F-U-N-K, funk.

Right.

I suppose I should explain that I've started spelling out certain words in front of Allison -- words that would make me look like a stellar parent if she started uttering them in public -- and it's carried over into my normal adult life. Now I'm spelling out everything all the time.

Apparently it's like potato chips. Once you start, you can't stop.

Anyway, back to the F-U-N-K.

I stopped working out. I could care less about coordinating my outfits or bothering to accessorize. My attempt to grow out my bangs and former crop cut look like someone unleashed a lawnmower on my head. And I haven't even filed my hideously uneven nails or taken off the remnants of polish left on my toes from, oh, Christmas.

Not to mention my unhealthy attachment to one particular pair of sweatpants that has a hole in the crotch and green paint drips down the left leg. Frankly, I need an intervention.

I am the epitome of a "before" picture, only Oprah isn't lining up behind Clinton and Stacey to give me a makeover and a new wardrobe.

Until this wet, gray weather dissipates, I have no motivation to do anything other than deepen the butt groves on my couch, stuff the remaining pastel bunny m&m's in my mouth and lament about how I need a vacation.

Or even just some S-U-N.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brought to you by the lens Jerry got me for my birthday

Last weekend, we took Allison to the circus. Technically it wasn't her first time because she was with us two years ago when I was pregnant. Although, I'm pretty sure snowcones taste more delicious out of the uterus.

I wasn't really sure what to expect taking a 17-month-old to see a live performance, but she loved it. At one point, Alli turned to me in her seat while waiving her glow sticks and shot me a look that said, "Mom, why didn't you TELL me today was going to be so awesome?"

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The only place you can high-five grown men in sequins who aren't trannies.


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Her legs? Not even to the edge of the seat.
My heart? Bursting from her itty adorableness.


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He acts like it's a house cat in someone's living room.


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Only their treats are hunks of raw flesh.


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Allison looking at me frantically while pointing at the ring just to
make sure I'm seeing the "DOH! DOH! DOH!" jumping! in the air!


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Dream of running away and joining the circus?
Train Mittens to traverse a tightrope on a sparkly felt ball.


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Or overcome your fear of heights.


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I would look entirely differently up there.
Mostly because I'd be clinging to the ropes in horror.


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And because these are babies, I automatically think of their mothers
and what they had to go through during childbirth. Certainly more
horrifying than balancing on a rope 50 feet in the air.


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This is just freaky. Speaking of mothers, I wonder
what hers did when she found her swinging upsidedown
from her treehouse as a 4-year-old.


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I wonder if sex is ever gratifying for these two.
Like the only way to get a thrill would be to do it mid-air.


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Day at the circus: $48
Hot dogs and snowcones: $10
Ride on an elephant: $14
Jerry's face: Priceless


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Another good reason to have kids -- an excuse to ride an elephant.


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Highlight of the afternoon? Monkeys dressed like Britney's backup dancers.


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I'm going to get Toby one of those outfits.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tweet

I think the first one says it all.

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

If you're having trouble with the link, it's because you've accessed my site through novelle360.com, which is a domain I purchased to direct web traffic here. In the process, the directed link is apparently getting confused when asked to continue on to my Twitter page.

To rectify the problem, you can try one of two things:

1. Access my blog through novelle360.blogspot.com and click on the link above.

2. Open a new tab and copy and paste this into the browser: twitter.com/novelle360

Note: If you follow through with either one of these options, please don't send me hate mail when you're extremely ticked off that you had to go through all that for, as Jerry puts it, "My first day of Twatting." Although, Allison DID get her first-ever Allism (pronounced Alli-ism).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A bet of epic proportions

Like bears emerging from winter hibernation, our family spent the entire afternoon outside Saturday, happily welcoming the sun back to the northeast.

We busied ourselves with yard work, bringing up our patio furniture from the basement and pulling pine cones out of Allison's mouth.

And like we do every spring, Jerry and I stood back and contemplated what projects we'd tackle this summer. Among them? Planting a vegetable garden, giving our porch another coat of paint and putting down grass seed in the spots Toby attempted to show his dominance while greeting the new, much larger, dog next door.

Not to mention getting a few outdoor toys so Alli won't have to resort to playing with pine cones. Or, even worse, dog poop.

"Well, we can put the sandbox there once Amy brings it over," Jerry said, pointing to the spot on the grass that our bench always goes.

"What?! You're crazy," I said. "The bench goes there. Besides, it'll fit under the tree. That way, if any sand spills out, it won't kill the grass. Plus, it'll always be in the shade."

"It is NOT going to fit under there."

"Yes it will."

"From the base of the tree to the rock line? You're crazy. No way."

"Jerry, I'm good with spacial organization. I envisioned our entire furniture arrangement for every room of this house before we moved in and knew it would fit. ... You're wrong."

"Wanna bet?"

Jerry takes betting very seriously. We make casual wagers once in awhile just for bragging rights, but I could tell this was not one of those times. This was serious.

"What did you have in mind?"

"Name your price. Anything," he said with a premature gloating tone. 

"Oh, no, you first," I said. "If you already have something in mind, I don't want to undersell myself."

After giving it some thought, he relented. "A trip to Denny's."

"DUUUUUUUDE. No WAY! Ugh."

"How confident are you that you're right?" he chided.

That was enough. I was confident. Very confident.

"Fine. But what's a big enough sacrifice for you to counterbalance a trip to ... (gag) ... Denny's?"

"I won't mention getting an iPod nano until my birthday," he said.

My hand instantly extended to make the bet official. Jerry has been whining about getting a nano for so long that I wish I could afford one simply to shove it up his ass. He somehow manages to talk about it even as he exhales, so not hearing a peep about it until September would be WORTH another wilted salad with bullet-proof croutons. 

But, even better than that, I know I'm going to win. 

No Denny's for another five years (our agreed upon minimum in between family trips) AND no "nano nano nano" until he actually has one in his hands.

Plus, BRAGGING RIGHTS. 

I can't wait until my sister-in-law can find time to bring it over so I can say things like, "BOW TO ME AND MY GENIUS, YOU NON-NANO OWNER WHO WON'T EAT AT DENNY'S AGAIN UNTIL 2014."

Yeah. It's gonna be great. 

Nothing like pouring salt in the wound. Or, in this case, sand.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The money would've been better spent on a box of novelty vomit

The food at some restaurants is not meant to be consumed unless it’s after 2 a.m. and the person opting to eat there just spent the last few hours imbibing on enough alcoholic beverages to appropriately dull the senses.

Denny’s is one of those restaurants.

Jerry, however, disagrees.

One of the most important ingredients to our marriage is our DVR – and not for the reason you’d think. The device prevents Jerry from having to watch commercials, which also prevents him from instantly becoming obsessed with a product he HAS TO HAVE.

Or, in this case, a service.

After inadvertently pausing to watch a Denny’s commercial more than a month ago, a day hasn’t passed since without him mentioning the words “Super Bird” or “Moons Over My Hammy” or the fact that we should name our next child “Denny.”

I put up with it for as long as I did because even a continual stream of pleading for Denny’s is better than having to ingest it.

But, eventually, I cracked. I reluctantly agreed to spend money on food that makes a high school cafeteria look like a four-star restaurant just to shut him up. And to provide ammo for the next time I want to do something he deems less than desirable. Like hold my purse while I browse for new shoes.

When we walked in the door, his mood rivaled a 5-year-old on Christmas morning. But while he was muttering something about taking in my “Denny’s experience,” I couldn’t help but survey the tables. Then I realized that I had promised to eat there, but I hadn’t promised to keep my opinions to myself. So I interrupted him.

“You do realize that we’re about three decades too young to be eating here right now, don’t you?”

He just smirked.

“And it doesn’t look like it will be anyone’s pleasure to seat us,” I said, gesturing to the sign in the entryway that said otherwise after at least three lethargic-looking waitresses gave us passing glances.

He ignored me.

“IT’S GONNA BE GREAT!”

Eventually someone showed us to a booth, and Jerry could barely contain his excitement while perusing the menu. Would he have dinner for dinner? Or breakfast for dinner? THE OPTIONS WERE ENDLESS.

Wanting to nail down what Allison would have, I picked up the children’s menu first. And, I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised at the options.

But that was the high point of my “Denny’s experience.”

After that, I had a side salad with lettuce that would’ve been delicious four weeks ago, a mound of something that resembled shredded cheese but tasted like grass clippings, cucumbers that were sliced so thick they could’ve doubled as coasters, croutons that would’ve made good bullets and Italian dressing that had the consistency of condensed chicken soup.

Needless to say, I didn’t make it past a few forkfuls. And that was being generous.

Then, our waiter, Captain Clueless, brought me a meal that was one-third correct. Yes, I had ordered chicken fingers. Thankfully, he at least got that right. But instead of barbecue sauce and blue cheese, I got them smothered in buffalo sauce with a side of ranch.

“Um, is that ranch?”

“Yes.”

“I asked for blue cheese.”

“Oh yeah, right. I’ll go—”

“And, this one’s harder, but I also ordered barbecue. The problem is how long will that take to fix? I’m actually on a dinner break from work and I don’t have a lot of time.”

“A while.”

Nice. “Okay, well, I guess I’ll just eat it then.”

“Okay.”

No attempt at an apology. No offering to bring me something else or take a portion of the price off our bill. Not even an acknowledgement that we could’ve eaten anywhere else and gotten food that was fit for human consumption.

After that exchange, Jerry knew his prospects for a return family visit had just diminished to somewhere right around his prospects for winning the lottery in Switzerland – no matter how many commercials he fell in love with or how many times he whispered the words “Super Bird” in my ear as I slept.

Not in a boat. Not with a goat. Not in a house. Not with a mouse. Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not here or there or anywhere.

I DO NOT LIKE DENNY’S BEFORE 2 A.M.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Letter leftovers

I had an obscene amount of photos to go through this month. Even when I do a picture post, I usually set aside the best shots of Alli for my letter, but I had so many I didn't know what to do with all of them. With that in mind, here are just some of my favorites. I put the cap at 20, but I probably could've posted so many even my mother would've needed to take a stretch break.


1207
I couldn't wait to show N.Y. grandma your slide aptitude. She was wowed.


1235
Reason No. 5,032 Toby is so lovable.


1247
When you're old enough, you'll have to fight Dad for snuggle time.


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Just for fun, I pulled out the Steeler's hair a few weeks ago.
You thought it was hilarious and Dad got a blurry shot.


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You had your first bubble bath this month.
It took you awhile to get it. Then you went C-R-A-Z-Y.


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You allowed me to resume pigtails. THANK YOU.


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To keep you busy, I give you something of mine to play with.
You've definitely taken to my necklaces and like wearing them
around the house. This particular one has become yours because
you bit off all the tiny connecter beads before I could stop you.


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I couldn't run to get my camera fast enough when you peeked
through the inflatable steering wheel on your inflatable school bus.


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We visited the Easter bunny at the mall and, um, how should I put this?
You would have preferred being placed in a vat of boiling water.
And, no, I'm not flashing you in this picture. I was taking my coat off
to show you how it's done. And the camera people took a picture while
the two of us were on the bunny's lap -- me in my wreck of a hairdo
and you screaming profusely. We happily paid 30 bucks for that keepsake.


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Fortunately, the train was a much bigger hit. And because we went
on a weekday afternoon, you had the whole thing to yourself.


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I took this picture while we waited in line for Orange Juliuses.
The employees looked at me like I was crazy when they saw
the flash going off. To which Dad cringed in horror and I laughed.
Thankfully, they didn't spit in our cup. And you and me sucked it down.


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You find the coolest little nooks in the house. I wish my butt fit there.


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I know. It makes no sense that he refuses
to let you stand on the kitchen table.


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No sense at all.


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OH. MY. GOD. Would you PLEASE leave your hair accessories in?
It's like I didn't think you could get any cuter and -- BAM! Accessory.


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I may have lied about books being your second-favorite toys.
Your three baby dolls are right up there, too. You give them kisses,
say "baby" constantly and even let me clip your nails after you watch
me pretend to clip theirs first. I felt like a parenting genius that day.


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We got a package with styrofoam peanuts this month.


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It was awesome.


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And at your first-ever Easter egg hunt, you liked the slide best.


I have a few more non-image anecdotes that didn't make it into the letter, so hopefully I'll be able to update with them sometime later today.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

1 year, 5 months

Dear Alli,

I'm not sure what magic switch I flipped that made you become my sweet little girl again, but I am grateful each day I don't have to threaten a time out.

Which had been almost constant last month.

It's like you suddenly got it. You understood that life would be so much easier if you followed the rules once in awhile. Throw your crazy, well-intentioned parents a gimme on occasion because it's exhausting watching them rip their hair out all the time.

You stopped struggling with us every waking minute and instead only protest on occasion. You know, over really important things like continual access to your first cup of chocolate milk. Or keeping the giant bouncy ball you pulled from a bin at the grocery store.

And because you stopped hitting me in the face when you're mad or throwing whatever food your tiny fists contain at the moment, I'm more than happy to concede to an extra swig of chocolate milk or shell out a buck nineteen.

It's called give and take -- and I imagine we'll be doing a lot of it in the next couple of years.

Eventually, I'm hoping you'll mop the kitchen floor in exchange for a ride to the movies, although I'm not holding my breath.

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Holy linguistics, your vocabulary exploded this month. It's like now that your body mastered everything there is do besides jumping rope and riding a bike, the part of your brain that controls speech took over.

I'm not exactly sure when it started, but at some point, I realized you were learning a new word every day, which significantly expanded on your constant uttering of Tob, baby, up and Mom -- in that order. Intermingled with "no" and "tickle" when the mood struck.

It all happened very naturally. One morning, as you were reaching for the spot where you had thrown Bear and Bunny from your crib, you said, "BEAR!" The next day, you extended your arm at the table and said, "CUP!" When I handed you an apple, you repeated the word. Then, when I smelled a funk in the air and asked if you had pooped, you took off running in the other direction yelling, "POOP! ... POOP! ... POOP!"

I was really proud of that one.

What's even more amazing is how you use the words in context. When you drop something, you say "uh oh." When you're having fun, you say "Wee!" When you walk around with my cell phone, you say "Hello." When your block tower crumbles, you say "crash."

You've also picked up "mine" from the kids at the library and like to use it when we withhold something dangerous like my shaving cream during bathtime.

Next I'd like to work on the phrase, "You're absolute perfection Mother."

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You've become very good at occupying yourself, and I often find you sitting on the floor, flipping through the pages of one of your many books.

I love to stand back and watch as your eyes dart across the images, listening to you jabber while you attempt to read to yourself.

Books have become your favorite toys, next to Bunny and Bear of course, and there's one in particular you love. It's called "Just Me and My Mom" by Mercer Mayer. It's about a little boy who rides the train to the city to spend the day with his mom. You don't remember, but you got it for me as a Mother's Day gift before you were born. In fact, it's signed "Love Fetus" in Dad's writing inside the cover.

We read this book numerous times every day, and the pages are crinkled and worn from it. I have the text memorized, but you continue to find new and exciting things in the illustrations.

I think the reason you love it so much is because I turned the book into a game before you were patient enough to sit through the entire story. One of the best things about the Little Critter books is that there are, well, critters on each page. This particular book has a frog that ends up in the pocket of a hot dog vendor, on top of dinosaur bones at the museum, swimming with the fish at the aquarium and checking itself out in the mirror at the tailor.

I discovered that if I prompted you to find the frog on each page, I could read all of the words before you felt inclined to flip to the next one. Since then, we've gotten many more Critter books, but that one continues to be your favorite.

And even though I should be bored with it, I'm not because you're content sitting in my lap, and there isn't anyplace in the world I'd rather be.

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A few weeks ago, it got warm enough that Dad and I were able to take you to the park near our house for the first time.

We had been planning to take a walk, but when you saw other kids running around and having fun as we attempted to pass by, you started lurching your body toward the giant plastic apparatuses and scrunching your face into a fit of rage when we didn't stop.

The walk didn't continue much after that for fear that the neighbors would think we were shoving toothpicks up your nailbeds.

We couldn't unhook you from your stroller fast enough. You arched your back, slid to the ground, stood underneath the kiddie swings and ordered, "UP." Incidentally, when you were born, someone sent us an e-card that declared you our new boss. At the time, while I was laughing, I don't think I realized how right it would be.

The swings were a hit, but the slide was even better. At first, I walked up the steps behind you, put you on my lap and we went down together. After a few rounds, I felt nauseous and my hair was so charged with static electricity that I could've powered our dishwasher through an entire sterilization cycle.

You, however, were just warming up, so we decided to let you attempt it on your own. It seemed crazy to let a 1-year-old tackle a slide by herself, but you continually surprise me, so Dad and I poised ourselves around the slide's twisty curves, ready to stop you if something went horribly wrong.

Much to our amazement, you climbed the steps on your own, walked to the edge, sat down, scooted closer on our prompting and wooshed past us wearing a huge grin. Then you did it again. And again. And again until your hair was standing straight up.

Gel users would kill for that type of hold. And most adults would kill for that type of unbridled joy.

I think that's why so many people have children. It's good to have a reason to go to the playground and just get silly.

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Your bedtime routine has changed over the months, but the end result is always the same -- we put you in your crib wide awake, we close the door without any inkling of a protest and you fall asleep effortlessly.

If I could've picked one trait to bestow upon you during baby and toddlerdom, I'm pretty sure this would trump everything. And don't think for one second that I take it for granted because every time I walk away, the first thought in my head is how incredibly lucky I am -- for you and your love of naps.

Some parents read books to their children before bed, but since we read constantly, we opt for something a little different.

We high-five your stuffed animals.

Dad or I hold you up, and we work our way down the row of stuffies on your shelves. Sometimes you add sound effects like "Woa" for each slap, other times you make Bunny and Bear do the high-fiving for you. In the end, we walk to your crib, set you down where you high-five Bunny and Bear, then me, then Dad, then we hold up one of Toby's front paws and wait for the laughter to die down before we ask for kisses.

You usually squeeze in another high-five before we're able to close the door because, inevitably, your little hand will be cocked by your ear, waiting for just one more willing recipient.

You love this ritual so much that all I have to do is suggest it when I notice you're getting tired. Your cranky mood is instantly lifted as you smile and start chuckling to yourself while beelining to your room. When I catch up, I always find you at the base of your bookshelf, waiting to be picked up to commence Operation High-Five.

Sometimes the habit spills over to other aspects of life, like when we were waiting to pick up my glasses at the optometrist's office last week. Somehow you got on a high-five kick and walked the circumference of the room, taking turns slapping hands with me and the two other women in the room -- a stiff-looking administrator at a very affluent all-girls school and an 88-year-old woman whose daughter owns the floral shop Dad always buys me boquets from. I know all of this because nothing gets a room talking like a little girl who wants to share her sunshine.

Just wait until you get to football season, lady. In this area, Steelers fans are always poised to slap hands. You don't even have to know each other. If you're wearing black and gold, that's reason enough.

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There have been a few tragic stories in the news this month that have affected me deeply at work and at home. Plus, I read a wonderful book called "The Secret Life of Bees" about a girl who grows up without her mother. It easily became one of my all-time favorites.

Although seemingly unrelated, they have reminded me just how much I love you. How in as little as 17 months, you have completely changed the course of my life and how I see the world and everything in it.

I'm thankful for every day we get to spend together. You instantly became my sun when you were born. Every decision, every move, every plan revolves around you -- much like when I married your father. We became a team. And that team became a family.

One that I will sacrifice myself for.

A fellow mommy blogger recently wrote a post about how she always wanted to be an expert in something, but eventually settled for being good at a lot of different things. Then she had her daughter, and she immediately knew what she was meant to be an expert at.

I might be good at writing. And designing newspaper pages. And decorating Christmas cookies. And painting stools. And taking pictures. And procrastinating.

But I am an expert at being your mother.

I don't need you to tell me what you want, I read your body language. I know when you're tired before you do. I know how to invoke a smile after you've bumped your head. I know which toy you want when you wildly gesture toward your toybox. I know you'll pull off your socks when you get frustrated. And wipe food in your hair just to clean off your fingers.

I'm not sure what I did to deserve being this blessed. Perhaps I paid my dues in another lifetime, if you believe in that sort of thing. Or maybe I just got lucky. Or made some good decisions in between all the bad ones.

At the risk of sounding pessimistic or morose, I know I can't be certain how many days we'll have to spend together, but I'm certain I'll do my best to appreciate every one.

Like one of your books says:

You're my star,
My moon, my sun.
Momma loves you,
Little one.

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Infinite high-fives,
Momma