Sunday, May 31, 2009

The paint in my hair actually makes it look better

I had no idea how labor-intensive Operation Longterm Project was going to be when I started. There are still so many things to do it's overwhelming.

But I'm inching closer.

And it feels great.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Way to be awesome eBay

When Timberly left me a chirpy voicemail about how she was off to the hospital to have her baby, the I've-been-there-before part of me couldn't help but laugh. She was two weeks early and not nearly incapacitated enough to be admitted. Afterall, I had been sent home after four hours of contractions five days PAST my due date.

But she proved me wrong. A few hours later, after exchanging texts with her husband, Dan, I got a phone call saying Miss Ainsley Violet had arrived. All 6 pounds and 20 inches of her.

I heard her healthy cries in the background and wanted desperately to be there, but the whole family will visit us in a month, so I'm trying to be patient. It helps that they've sent a lot of pictures.

One immediately became my favorite. Timberly gave Allison Bunny, so I made sure Ainsley had one too.


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Happy Birthday little girl. I can't wait to smooch you.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My inner fat kid is telling me to stop arguing and hog it for myself

When Jerry got home from work yesterday, he found a mystery gift on our porch. There was a paper plate with three slices of homemade bread covered in plastic wrap, a small bag of dough and a sheet of instructions that had been photocopied so many times that it was blurry and off center.

No note.

Since we have no idea who it came from, Jerry declared it toxic poison. Because anyone who would take the time to give us fresh baked goods from their own kitchen MUST have an ulterior motive. Like killing our entire family.

"THIS GOES RIGHT IN THE TRASH!"

"What?! You're crazy. Let me see it," I said, grabbing the recipe from his hands. "Jer, it probably came from your mom. She wraps food like this for us all the time."

"It's not from my mother," he said with false certainty. "It's poison. Someone's trying to kill us. I'm NOT eating that until we find out who it's from."

"Fine. Your loss. More for me and Alli."

"YOU'RE NOT GIVING THAT TO ALLISON."

"She eats MARKERS, Jer. I'm pretty sure ... (looked for the name of the recipe) ... AMISH FRIENDSHIP BREAD has to be better than that."

I'm not exactly sure how the disagreement ended, probably with Allison chanting for lunch, but I tucked the bread, dough and directions on top of the toaster oven and Jerry turned his crazy radar off.

After Alli's morning nap the next day, we went downstairs for a snack and I spotted the bread. It looked so delicious, I didn't do a thing to it. I just got the feeling that adding butter or toasting it would be a mistake, so I split a slice in half and Alli and I sat at the table and dug in.

It was amazing. Ridiculously moist with golden raisins and chopped nuts. The top had a layer of cinnamon sugar, which gave it a deliciously sweet taste.

Allison summed it up perfectly when she finished her last bite.

"More!"

We split another piece.

In the meantime, I payed a little closer attention to the recipe. If the bag of dough can make that, I might as well try. For the next few days, I'm supposed to mush the bag and let out any air as it rises. On the tenth day, I have to add the other ingredients and bake, saving some dough to pass on to someone else.

I'm already looking forward to using my bread pans for the first time ever.

But when Jerry came home, he noticed two of the slices were gone.

"OH MY GOD, YOU ATE IT?!"

"Yeah, it was amazing. There's one slice left, but I'm hoping you still don't want it."

"DID ALLISON EAT IT TOO?"

"Yeah, she asked for more, so we had a second piece. And I'm pretty sure Toby got a chunk that fell off the table, so you're probably going to be on your own for dinner tonight. You know, because we'll all be dead by then and everything."

"I won't even get to tell you I told you so," Jerry grumbled.

"Jer, seriously, it's fine. It's delicious. Try some. ... I mean, it's called FRIENDSHIP bread."

"If I wanted to kill somebody, that's what I'd call it too."

For a man who worships presents and food, you'd think he'd be a little more receptive to the two combined.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A few more photos from our trip

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Who needs a high chair when you can sit on the rungs underneath?


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Alli is very helpful taking photos these days.


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First time using sidewalk chalk. (And, yes, Jerry drew genitalia.)


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Teaching a dog to get the mail is overrated. Get a toddler.


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A wagon walk to the park.


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The tube needed to be sprayed with static guard.


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Alli found a whole bunch of FREE balls at the playground.


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One of 5 million shriek-filled tosses into the solar system.


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A closeup view shows how much she hated it.

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Alli voluntarily sat with Lisa. On her own accord. Progress.

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I got to meet little Bennet. The mini-me of his father.

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Poor thing didn't know what to make of wild Allison, so he just cried.

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Alli really liked geat-grandma's piano.


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Then we met up with Glrr and went to the nearby fish hatchery.


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I heart lilacs. Lucky me, I got to see them in bloom in two states this year.


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The fish were cool, but WAIT! Ducks.


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You should've seen her face when she realized SHE was being followed.

Monday, May 25, 2009

So help me, if someone says they like it, my head'll explode

Despite the fact that I bought two emergency boxes of brown hair dye in hopes of saturating through the Unnatural Pitch Fucking Black, I couldn't summon the courage to use them. I had flashbacks of sitting in my hairdresser's chair at 16 as she looked at my fried bleach blonde mess with her jaw hanging agape, trying to find the right words to soften the blow that my roots were so damaged that it would likely snap off at the skull if she didn't immediately intervene.

So even though my friend's wedding was a mini reunion of sorts with some of my college roommates who I hadn't seen in almost 10 years, I was forced to suck it up and go with The Worst Box Dye Job of All Time.

The wedding was absolutely lovely. It was at a local vineyard -- a location I had wanted to book for our reception, but eventually came in second. I'm not sure what the high point was. Yes, seeing my friends was up there. Having an adult night out was great. And dancing with Jerry until I got blisters was exhilarating.

But really? What it truly comes down to? Either the chick who carried around the lobster-sized shrimp appetizer. Or the bride and her brother doing a choreographed dance that included the Macarana, Thriller and the final scene in "Dirty Dancing."

I didn't take as many photos as I would've liked -- much to Jerry's displeasure because he felt obligated to haul around my huge camera bag even though I told him repeatedly it didn't bother me -- but I did drink enough beer that I had a lapse in judgement and actually posed for a few group shots.

I'm the one who looks like someone took a Sharpie to my skull.

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My view of the actual ceremony didn't
give me much of anything in the way of
photos, but with an extreme crop, this
back-lit one was sort of interesting.


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The newlyweds.


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A few of my college roommates.


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They ordered their cake from the same bakery that
Jer and I did, which was awesome, because
we never got to eat any at our own wedding.


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The groom's cake was awesome. Also the honeymoon destination.


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My view of the reception and our favors.


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Jerry is going to be so pissed at this photo. He's never smiling in
group shots. It's like instead of blinking, when the flash goes off,
he smirks. Anyway, this was our table. Courtney in pink with her
husband, Matt. Court's brother, Chris, is next to me. And his wife,
Jamie, is on the other side. Chris and Court's mom took the picture.


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First dance.


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My view of the dance floor.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Don't be surprised when there aren't any photos of me from the neck up

The company that manufactures my regular hair dye changed its packaging. Normally I reach for the pretty brunette with brown eyes and hair captured in a perpetual windblown state. We're close me and the brunette. I mean, we have the same hair color after all.

But when I went to find her, she was nowhere to be found. I don't know what her number is. Could be 245-A. Or 322-B. I didn't know whether she's cool or warm on the color spectrum. I don't know her official name. It could be "Warmest Brown" or "Golden Brown" or "Natural Brown."

Trying not to panic, I grabbed the box that had a description closest to what I considered that color to be. "Natural Darkest Brown."

Sounded about right.

Sure, my BFF hair companion was gone, but I was hopeful that I'd get along well with the new chick. Not as much the girl-next-door type. A little more modely, but I'd try not to dismiss her just because she's gorgeous. Bitch.

So I went home with my Natural Darkest Brown, applied it, waited the required 25 minutes and rinsed.

What I didn't realize is that in those 25 minutes, my life was slowly being ruined. The dye that I only applied to my roots, hoping that it would blend seamlessly as usual so I don't fry my ends with continual applications, was seeping into my hair and turning it a ghastly black.

Black.

The box should be labeled: Unnatural Pitch Fucking Black.

So now I have two colors to my hair. The back is brown. And the top and sides are black.

Even better? I'm going to a wedding this weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cloning didn't go SO bad in Multiplicity, right?

I'm trying desperately to pack for our Memorial Day weekend trip, which necessitates laundry. And because I'm trying to be more environmentally conscious, it's much more work hanging it up on the line to dry. I'd like to dye my hair. I have to mail a package for a friend and go to the bank. I have to make dinner for tonight before leaving for work and lunch for all of us tomorrow on the road. On top of that, I have to write my column. Oh, and shower. And figure out what the hell I'm going to wear to my friend's wedding.

All before 4 p.m.

And all on five hours of sleep.

So, yeah, what I'd REALLY like to be doing?

TAKING A NAP.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I am destined to have poop stories my entire life

A few days ago, we got a reminder for Toby's annual vaccination requirements in the mail. When I made the appointment, they asked me to bring a fresh fecal sample so they could check for abnormalities.

No problem. I'm pretty sure Toby excretes his entire weight in poop every day. I've never seen an animal so regular. Every time I let him out the back door, he beelines for the same spot and squats.

An hour or so before the appointment, Jerry opted not to risk it and took Toby for a mini walk. If there's any place he loves to poop more than his favorite spot in the back yard, it's the yard with the pit bull at the end of the street. It's almost like Toby knows the dog could eat him in one jaw-snapping chomp, but he's such a little meat head that he wants to show his dominance anyway. By crapping every time he passes.

Sure enough, when Jerry got back, he held up the plastic bag with exuberance.

"Every time!"

What followed was nothing short of our typical chaotic cluster-fuck when everyone's trying to get out the door at the same time. Jerry and I were tossing keys and shoes and coats and Toby's leash in a frenzy.

"This is silly," I said. "You go. I'm going to take Alli to the park. She'll just be a nightmare there anyway trying to hug all the goggies."

"And Toby will be a jealous freak," Jerry said, nodding in agreement.

We still ended up leaving at the same time, but Alli and I waived them off and headed out to go down the slide a few times. When we got back, they weren't home yet, but it was so nice outside, Alli and I stayed in the back yard.

Opting not to just sit on my butt, I went inside to grab a sponge and some hot soapy water to scrub the bird crap off the bench that accidentally sat under our huge pine tree for awhile. When I got inside, I noticed a Tupperware container next to the sink with what appeared to be really old prunes inside.

I'm not sure why, but Jerry loves dried fruit. You should've seen his face light up when we bought a Sam's Club membership and he spotted a Ziploc of dried prunes large enough to double as a sleeping bag when it's emptied.

That coupled with the fact that there are often mystery containers filled with food he unearthed from the Bag of Death he carries to work every day, I didn't think anything of it. I just opened the lid and tossed it down the disposal.

Then the smell hit.

It was poop. Toby's poop. Jerry must've left it on the counter.

So there it was. Stuck in our kitchen sink. Where I prepare food. Some little chunks had already cascaded down into the disposal, but one larger log was wedged in the plastic trap. But because of the stench, I made a quick decision, turned on the hot water full blast and flipped the disposal switch while emptying half the contents of the dish soap down the drain.

It just whirred into a brown bubbly mess while I gagged.

When Jerry got home, he launched right into how Toby has gum issues -- explaining his rancid breath that could kill a Sasquatch -- and directions on how to use the new dog toothbrush we were given.

"But I forgot the stool sample."

"About that ...," I said, and proceeded to fill him in.

"HOW COULD YOU NOT TELL ME THAT FIRST THING?"

"On second thought, I wish I hadn't told you yet. I should've waited until after you accidentally dropped something into the sink and fished it out to eat."

Friday, May 15, 2009

1 year, 6 months

Dear Alli,

If I had a dollar for every time you said the word "Mommy" this month, Oprah would be calling and asking me for a loan.

I remember waiting so patiently for you to say anything that even remotely resembled "Ma," let alone an actual recognizable word that you correlated with me, but then it morphed into your go-to utterance. You say Mommy for EVERYTHING.

You wake up calling to me instead of crying, which, lets face it, jolts me out of sleep faster than a Taser. But then it gets out of hand. When you want something, you say Mommy. When you're excited, you say Mommy. When someone else is playing with your toys, you say Mommy in frustration. Sometimes you even call Dad Mommy, despite the fact that you can say Daddy just fine.

Or when things get really crazy, you just say it repeatedly. Over and over again. Until I want to cram a towel through one ear and out the other.

The whole thing has raised a conflict at our house. Dad says I'm giving into your every whim, so you're saying it in hopes of getting your way. I say I'm in-tune to your needs and respond quickly, so it's become a word that gets results.

The truth probably lies in the middle somewhere, but we'll all be glad when you start expanding your vocabulary again.

Frankly, I'd welcome a profanity at this point.

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On the other hand, it is hilarious spending time with a child trying to learn a language.

Lets face it, Bill Cosby didn't have a successful TV show called "Kids Say the Darndest Things" for nothing. It really is a blast making fun of someone who can't pronounce things right or makes some sort of word correlation that only adults would get. I just never dreamed we'd get to make fun of you so soon.

What? Sound cruel? We wipe up your poop. Deal with it.

Anyway, every morning when I let Toby outside, I hold you up to the window and talk about some of the things going on in our back yard. We discuss the weather, the trees, the different types of flowers in bloom, and your favorite, the many birds vying for their breakfast.

Then, out of nowhere, one morning you tried saying "birdies" back to me.

"BOOBIES!"

When I broke down laughing, you took it as a sign of encouragement.

"BOOBIES! BOOBIES! ... BOOOOOBIES!"

Now I tell people one of our favorite pastimes is checking out boobies.

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Also in the language development department, you've finally tacked on the second syllable to Toby. But, in the process, you lost the "Toe" sound, and now it sounds, well, like Debbie.

The two of you together are nothing short of ongoing entertainment. My favorite is when he steals your cookie and, in your anguish, you don't know whether to shout out Debbie, cookie or Mommy first as you chase behind him screaming.

But there is a new puppy love in your life. You've grown attached to the neighbor's black lab, Bonnie, who is outside a whole lot more now that the weather is nice. She greets you with just as much exuberance, sticking her snout through our chainlink fence to give your sticky fingers a slobbery kiss.

And, much to both of your grandmothers' dismay because you still don't have names for them, you recently attempted to say Bonnie, which came out sounding like a perfect attempt at Bobby.

So now we talk about Debbie and Bobby a lot -- your amazing sex-change dog duo.

But, even more exciting, you now understand that those are names for just those particular animals. When I took you on a walk yesterday and you noticed a dog ahead, you started to say Debbie and Bobby, but stopped yourself. Then, much to my amazement, you pointed and said, "Doggie!"

It's those little things that end up being the shining moments of my days.

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Your love of books is something we both started using to our benefit this month. The only difference is that I'm smart enough to catch on to your tactic.

In addition to music, I've started to use reading to calm you down when you're upset. All I have to do is mention reading a story and you instantly stop crying and beeline for your bookshelf.

You, on the other hand, use reading to get out of going to bed.

This next part requires a bit of a back story.

I spent much of my pregnancy with you agonizing over your nursery chair. No, seriously, I was a total shit about it. Frankly, I wanted the custom upholstered rocker in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog, but because it cost half of your college education, I tried to find a suitable alternative with fewer zeros.

When I didn't have any luck and got over being a pouty brat, I settled on a perfect white rocker that will someday sit on our front porch when you no longer have a use for it.

The funny part? Although I used it numerous times a day while nursing, we never sit in it to read. In fact, it mostly goes unused except when I'm piling things on top of it to vacuum your room. Which, lets face it, is once a decade because I loath the task.

Instead, we've found a comfy spot on the floor underneath your big window. I lean against your armoire with my legs outstretched in front of me, and you hand me a book, expertly maneuver onto my lap holding Bear and Bunny, and drape your little legs over my thighs.

You are at the perfect height that I can easily kiss the top of your head and take in your little girl smell. I love reading books with you, which is why I often ignore your wry smile when you pop up instantly to grab another one when I get to the last page.

You think you're pulling one over on me, but I calculate plenty of time into your pre-nap routine to allow for almost as many books as you can carry.

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Sometimes I wonder whether any of my traits got into your genetic makeup at all or if I'm just raising your father all over again.

I tell him that constantly. That it's like having two Jerrys in the house -- the original and version 2.0. Your differences end at your genders.

The latest example is your damn obsession with Christmas. Can I tell you that it's May and I've been singing "Frosty the Snowman" every day for the past three weeks?

I'm not sure why I didn't put the Christmas books away with the rest of the holiday decorations, but I'll know better next year. It feels so wrong to be reading about sleighs and hot chocolate when I just bought you swimmies for the pool.

But you love them. You love the scents of Christmas book, which happens to be a childhood favorite of mine. You love counting the Snowmen at night. You love the amazing illustrations in the Polar Express.

And Frosty? The gigantic colorful pages that depict the song lyrics? It combines MUSIC AND READING INTO ONE MIND-BLOWING EXPERIENCE.

When I made the mistake of actually singing the book, which I'm guessing is the idea, it rocked your world. Now you can't live without it. It gives your days purpose.

And, so, I am stuck miserably singing about Frosty numerous times a day as neighbors mow the lawn and boobies dart from tree to tree.

Meanwhile? Your father? He just pumps his fists in the air and says something retarded like "ONLY SEVEN MONTHS TILL CHRISTMAS!"

And I want to puke.

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Speaking of puke, the fear of a pandemic nicknamed swine flu spread worldwide this month. The crazy it unleashed was aptly described by another blogger I read regularly. She said something to the effect that if you merely mention the word "sneeze," people run in the opposite direction as if the disease can be contracted through vocabulary.

Meanwhile, as your Dad and I tried to keep some levity about the situation, he came down with a horrible 24-hour stomach bug that caused him to empty the contents of his digestive system on both ends. As he hunched over the toilet, retching more loudly than I've ever heard anyone vomit in my entire life -- and that includes college -- he just kept saying, "I HAVE (puke) SWINE FLU!"

I did my very best to keep it from spreading. I quarantined him to the living room. I kept you on the second floor. I nearly emptied a can of Lysol.

But then, a few days later, as we were heading out the door, you started coughing and all of a sudden you were standing in a pile of your lunch all over the floor.

Dad and I just looked at each other terrified. We knew it wasn't a coincidence.

I ran to the store to stock up on things you would need and went in late to work that night. I can't tell you how badly I wanted to use one of my few sick days, but it turns out I needed them for myself a few days later.

In the meantime, your Dad was absolutely amazing with you. He called your doctor. He held you as you threw up all night into a bucket. He wiped your head with a cool washcloth. He watched hours of cartoons as you sat limply in his lap, unable to do anything else. He even skipped dinner because he didn't want the smell to upset you.

Later that night, when I came home, I found you in your crib and him curled up asleep on your floor. He was so afraid of you choking on your own vomit that he wanted to listen for your breathing all night.

I thought this was important to tell you because he may not write monthly letters, but he loves you beyond reason. You two have a very special bond.

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To be honest, I wasn't sure what I'd write about this month. Partly because we've been incredibly busy and the year-and-a-half milestone sort of snuck up on me, but also because you're in a zone right now with your development. There aren't major changes from day to day, just little clues that your comprehension skills are constantly improving.

Take today, for example. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a comfy day at home. While we played with your barn animal sound toy, which mimics their noises quite accurately, after the cow played, you looked at me and said, "Moo."

Then, later, while we were coloring with your markers, you started handing them to me one-by-one saying "Yellow." I praised you for recognizing that you were dealing with colors, then I correctly named them as you went.

But as your 18 month letter approached, and I started taking mental notes of everything I wanted to mention, all of these things started jumping out at me.

You say "out" when you're stuck in the laundry hamper. I must say "good girl" a lot because you started praising yourself with "goo grr" when you get something right. When we ask you to sing, you say "Aaaaayyy Seeeee" over and over again as you attempt the alphabet song, mimicking the letters A and C. And when I ask you a favorable question, you nod and say "YEAH!"

But my personal favorite is when you put your hands up and say "go." I started saying "all gone" when I needed to take something away from you. Like a tiny bag of buttons you pulled from my vanity. It is the perfect explanation for a toddler. It's just gone. No more. Next adventure.

Now when your daily TV show ends, you come running to me with your hands in a shrug saying "go." When your cup is empty, when you drop something behind your crib, when Toby steals your lunch, when I move something you can't have ... I always get that same adorable combo of you telling me, "It's OK Mom, I get it. It disappeared into the fourth-dimension."


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On a final note, Dad and I felt so victorious when we avoided a dependency on pacifiers, but we may have celebrated prematurely.

I dread the day the tail falls off Bunny.

I noticed it was getting rather filthy around that general area despite regular washings, and Dad finally came to the conclusion that you're not just putting it in your mouth once in awhile, you suck on it as you fall asleep. Now it is so threadbare that it has no more fluff, and tiny holes are starting to form in the fabric. Plus, the tail is hanging on by a few threads.

You can't buy them in stores anymore, but I've checked to make sure they're well stocked on eBay for an emergency purchase. I've thought about having a backup just in case, but as someone who still has her childhood teddy bear for nostalgic purposes, I understand the importance of always having the original.

I guess there's no perfect segue to wrap up this rambling letter, but YOU, my dear, are nothing if not original. I have not met another kid quite like you. You are stubborn and crazy and independent and full of boundless energy.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Love,
Mom

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Which one of these are not like the others?

First off, can I say how much computer issues suck? For some reason, three of my photos wouldn't load, so I was forced to use Blogger, which has crap in the image option department ... le sigh.

Okay. Complaint over.

So, as most people know, credit card companies offer rewards programs to entice all sorts of different people to choose to spend beyond their means and rack up interest with them. Personally, we have been working toward a family cruise for a few months now, but Jerry's friend Roger went a different route.

The Official Steelers Credit Card.

And thanks to putting his recent house remodeling projects on plastic before paying them off, he earned enough points to get a free personalized tour of Heinz field with three friends.

Jerry nearly crapped himself when he found out he made the cut.

The big day was last week. One of the guys couldn't make it last-minute, so Roger, his dad and Jerry made the trek to Pittsburgh, got the tour, had lunch at former player Bettis' restaurant and came home stuffed, exhausted and exhilarated.

And although I have a hard time looking at a bunch of photos that the camera weilder didn't take time to think about image composition or balance or making sure no random limbs are left out of the frame, Jerry's pictures rarely disappoint. So what if the camera wasn't completely focused? Or on the right setting? Or the lighting was off? He and his friends capture some damn interesting moments.

I'm sure you'll agree.

Here is the real reason our entire house spent
the last week vomiting. Roger's dad went sick.
And they didn't even make it out of town before
he asked Roger to pull over so he could puke.
He will NOT be getting a Christmas card this year.


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I think Jer said this picture was in the owner's box. This is a photo
Dan Roony took himself while flying a plane above the stadium.
Must be nice to have that much cash that your hobby can be piloting.


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Jerry taking questions from the press.


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Jerry defending his beloved team.



This filing system is on the wall outside the press box.
Apparently the Steelers were the first NFL team to have
an organized way to issue press releases throughout
the game as statistics come in. Now most teams do it.


Although not focused, still legible. Much like hot
water pipes throughout a home, the stadium has
pressurized beer pipes to avoid lugging kegs all over.

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Roger entering the locker room.


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Jerry taking his pants off in the locker room.


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Big Rog, Roger and the tour guide entering the field from
the locker room, just like the players do for home games.


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And normally I would mercilessly mock Jer for taking a picture of
GRASS, but, seriously, I would kill for that lush green in my yard.
And, no, not turf people. Real grass. That Jerry was not allowed to
touch, despite his apparently incessant little girl pleading.


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Somehow, hopefully decades from now, I'll be able to earn enough
points on my own Official Steelers Credit Card to get a free tour.
Because this is where Jerry wants his ashes scattered. I love this
picture because, screw Disney World, here he is in his happy place.


As a side note, he did text me one more photo that I accidentally deleted. It was a snapshot of the menu at the restaurant outside the stadium where they ate lunch. The contents included deep fried hoagies, deep fried meatloaf and deep fried burgers. Jer settled on the hoagie and he said the only thing that would've made it better was if the whole monstrosity had been wrapped in bacon.

And, finally, I fully expect a comment from Jerry informing me where I screwed up.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Spent my day retching into a bucket

It's 4 a.m. I think the worst has past. I'm munching on some ice to thwart dehydration, but my entire body aches like I went running with the bulls in Pamplona.

And one of them gored me in the back.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

At least once a day, I stop to watch our computer screensaver randomly scroll through the pictures I've taken over the past two years. More often than not, the subject is Allison in various stages of development, and the changes from one image to the next is often staggering.

I fostered that.

I remember feeling a disconnect to this holiday last year. Despite the fact that my days were ruled by the very demanding work that is caring for a baby, I didn't feel like Mother's Day was for me. And the year before that, despite being pregnant, it didn't feel right to get well-wishes either. I hadn't actually parented yet.

This year, I've finally come to realize that the role of motherhood is probably what most defines me. Although I have many different hats to wear every day, Mom is one I never take off. It follows me wherever I go, whatever I do -- Allison is an ever-present reality that shapes even my most simple decisions.

I guess it shows that sometimes being a mom isn't an instant fit. The instincts everyone talks about might kick in, but at the core, I think motherhood is something most women grow into. And I like to think that I have a lot more growing to do.

For me, raising a child was a responsibility I immediately embraced, but it wasn't until I faced questions about behavioral issues, teaching good manners, setting a good example, quelling temper tantrums and learning how to say no that I finally felt like I was earning my Mommy merit badges.

Much like in Girl Scouts, I envision each new challenge like the chance to earn a patch for my invisible sash. I've clawed and sometimes even cried my way to a substantial collection, but I know I still have a long way to go.

If anything, the last few years have given me an unwavering appreciation for the women I pass on the street every day. Moms are asked to do more, to be more, to constantly sacrifice. They're teachers, chefs, chauffeurs, doctors, referees, maids, seamstresses and bankers -- and that's just at home.

Every time I hear a child utter "Mom," I know the moniker is not one that's earned easily. But the rewards of a hard-earned invisible motherhood sash are far greater than any actual trophy or plaque or fancy job title.

That said, Happy Mother's Day to all of the badge-earners out there. Take a look at your beautiful children and celebrate all of your accomplishments.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Trying to avoid the barfs

Jerry got a puke virus and heaved his way from Tuesday to Wednesday. And as much Lysol as I sprayed around the house, I didn't think it was possible, but Alli got the puke virus and heaved her way from Friday to Saturday.

So I'm spending today trying not to inhale.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Jerryisms

Explaining Allison's particuarly erratic behavior one afternoon:
"She's acting like a drunk on payday."

Having way too much fun with the iPhone commercials:

"Kill your roommate and need to dump the body? There's an app for that."

"Having trouble shaking the cops? There's an app for that."

"Hemorrhaging blood from a bullet wound? There's an app for that."

"Come down with a case of AIDS? There's an app for that."

"Homeless? There's an app for that."

"Need sex and your wife's in a coma? There's an app for that."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

You down with OLP? Yeah, you know me!

What I have come to dub "Operation Longterm Project" is officially underway.

And I feel amazingly good about it -- even though my body is protesting wildly from all the manual labor.

Sometimes my vision gets way ahead of me, so it was nice to put the first phase into action instead of anxiously creating to-do lists in my head. More than once over the last few days, my thoughts have kept me staring at the ceiling long after the two sleeping bodies next to me have settled into rhythmic breathing patterns. And, twice, I even suffered through toxic Toby farts -- something I'd much prefer to do subconsciously.

The first step was to clean out our third floor to give me a work space, and let me tell you, that was no easy feat. At one time, we had envisioned turning the main room into Jerry's man cave -- even set up his poker and Foosball tables -- then we considered a play area or even our master bedroom.

But all of that came to a halt when the space turned into a glorified dumping grounds for baby crap as soon as Allison outgrew everything. Pretty soon it was clogged with a bassinet, a swing, a Bumbo, a Boppy, my breast pump, bottles, pacifiers, toys and mountains of clothes. Not to mention the futon, coffee table and random chairs from apartments past and anything else we didn't have an immediate use for.

Before we knew it, my once organized system for storing holiday decorations turned into a gigantic disaster because what was the point? Just shove it anywhere. Nudge that box aside. Shove that other thing over there. Wedge it ... just a little further ... Good.

I had plans to clean out the third floor sometime this spring and have a yard sale, but Operation Longterm Project got me moving a little more quickly than I otherwise would have. And it was a good thing because if someone had crammed in one more box, I wouldn't have any space to move things around. Imagine those one-dimensional games that you have to slide the squares around to form a picture, only my attic wouldn't have had an empty square.

I started with the smaller of the two rooms, which was mostly filled with junk left behind by the former homeowners. There were random pieces of '70s linoleum, yards and yards of lacy window drapes, a lamp base that was so big it probably has its own gravitational force and some sort of strange mixing contraption. Perhaps a torture device. Oh yeah, and lots and lots of dust.

Cleaning that half of the space took almost an entire day, but by the time I was done, I felt accomplished. Jerry helped cart down the garbage, and pretty soon I was able to sort through all of our stuff and put it in our newly reclaimed room.

But that presented a whole new set of challenges. I had no idea how much shit I've been carting around with me since I graduated from high school. Like a poster of ballet slippers I had on my wall when I was 12. Why would I keep such a thing, you ask? Because I'm stupid. I'm a stupid sap who can't bear to part with something that creates even an inkling of nostalgia.

In my defense, the ballet slipper poster was behind a few others. So it wasn't like I was intentionally keeping it. The poster just happened to be there, so why create extra hardship on my garbage can when I could just leave well enough alone?

I also found sorority T-shirts, my sweet mood-setting college lava lamp, tons of old craft projects and a collection of celestial items so vast that all I would need was a little incense to open a hippie shop.

Then I found the incense.

God, I was such a shit.

Then, moving right along in my boxes o' crap timeline, I discovered enough newspapers to fill a recycle bin up to my boobs. Which I did.

Apparently I thought it vastly important to save every story that ever had my byline. Like that one about the crow problem being debated at city hall nearly a decade ago. Or how gas prices hit $2 a gallon for the first time and everyone was complaining about it.

Then I got to a pile of pages I designed. It's a good thing I saved the one outlining children's costume options for Halloween. Because cartoon characters like Buzz Lightyear never go out of style.

Eventually, I came to a few worth saving. Like the Q&A article with Jerry on the day we met. And a few opinion pieces I wrote that had me laughing so hard, I had to run for the bathroom. Lets just say my thoughts on kids have changed vastly in five years.

In the end, Jerry helped me haul out a pile of trash to the curb that was so high, I thought it should come with a plate of brownies. Mostly because our garbage men would deserve a treat for heaving so much into the back of a truck, but also because I was afraid they would reject some of it. And, well, a little bribery never hurt.

Now I have a big open space for my big ideas.

Only 9,999 things to go.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pardon me while I dust off this soapbox

It really pisses me off when people make general, all-encompassing statements about the media.

As in, "The media is just trying to ______."

... scare us into thinking there's a swine flu pandemic.
... push their leftist political propaganda.
... cause a panic with all the gun violence coverage.

Yes. If only we could push all of those media-elite types into a giant vortex and close our ears and eyes and minds to the world around us.

Because I guarantee the people in power would follow all the rules if left unchecked and unquestioned on a regular basis.

Because the fear of not having access to information would be better than fear raised by too many details that we're free to sort through and process on our own.

Because the media must have an ulterior motive other than disseminating information and earning a paycheck.

As someone who has spent the last nine years in a news room, I can tell you there's no goal other than reporting the news. The vast majority of the professionals I've worked with at three different newspapers do it for the love of knowledge. For the thrill of getting a story. Writing a good headline. Nailing down that last detail. Making sure the public has the information it needs and wants to make decisions.

Yes, it's easy to blame the media. Sure, at the heart of it, our corporations are in it for numbers. For ratings. For profit. For subscriptions and single-copy sales. And, at times, certain stories may seem sensational for that purpose only. But I'm also guessing those stories are the first ones people mention when making small talk throughout the day.

And, here's a little secret, if you think your regular news outlet is too far left, chances are there are an equal amount of people who complain that it's too far right. People remember the coverage they disagree with.

So the next time you find yourself blaming the media for fear mongering or being politically minded or sensationalist, try and imagine a world without it.

Imagine what it would be like to live in a country where your government warped the facts and controlled what could be published, aired or talked about.

Imagine what it would be like to know there was some sort of new deadly disease, but you would have no idea what the government was doing about it or what your likelihood was of contracting it or how to protect yourself.

Call me crazy, but I'm guessing you'd take too many details rather than relying on whispered word-of-mouth rumors and falsehoods.

Complain all you want, but the media reports facts. Blaming us isn't going to change them.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

As I'm dancing, I'll say, 'But you used to LOOOOVE this!'

I tried to tackle the world today and, thankfully, Allison was agreeable.

After cooperating while I ran errands all morning, I allowed Alli to have her first cookie from the deli counter at the grocery store. It's a service for those who have to entertain a toddler while suffering through painstakingly slow personalized service for a few pounds of meat and cheese.

Normally I cringe when one of the hairnet-clad ladies offers her a "C-O-O-K-I-E," choosing instead to request a slice of the Colby Jack they just weighed for me before sealing it into a bag with the price label.

But this time, as Allison gabbed and waived and high-fived the other customers in line, I felt she deserved a treat for not unleashing her inner crazed maniac like she did last weekend at the zoo.

"Would you like a cookie?" I asked, tousling her bangs that I hacked again the night before.

Her eyes bulged and her head began a slow and steady nod that could keep time more accurately than a metronome.

"COOK-KEY."

The woman graciously walked all the way around the counter to hand-deliver what turned out to be the largest cookie Allison ever received in her lifetime. It was an adult-sized cookie. One I would've broken in half, if not smaller, had we been at home.

Alli was speechless for once, but she kept nodding her approval even after she had taken the first few bites.

Her good mood prevailed through the store, mostly thanks to the chocolate chips that were now smeared across her face and fists, but she also found the background music agreeable, bopping her head back and fourth and protesting with an "uh oh" each time a song ended.

Somewhere around the cereal aisle, I was so pumped by her mood that I found myself egging her on, shaking my head, making funny faces, singing what few lyrics I knew and otherwise making a total fool of myself.

She loved it. If the shopping cart seat wasn't designed to be so constricting, I would've expected a standing ovation.

But as I put a box of Mini Wheats behind her, I leaned over and whispered into her ear, "You may find this hilarious now, but in a few years, it'll completely mortify you. So instead of doing it when you're good, I'll reserve it for a special type of punishment -- parental public humiliation."

It's as powerful as the "Because I said so" card.