Monday, December 19, 2011

A link you might like

I think she takes after Jerry a little TOO much sometimes.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Alli-isms

Mama, when's my birthday?

November fifteenth.

Yeah! That's right. ... When's your birthday?

February twentieth.

Wow. You must be really old.

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

Hey, Al, why don't you put on your bunny slippers to keep your feet toasty.

Well ... okay. They're girls.

Oh yeah?

No, wait. They're boys because they don't have eyelashes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Newspaper column

When we purchased a new dishwasher about three years ago, I had the naive misconception that it would outlast me. Now I’m convinced appliance companies have started manufacturing products to break intentionally.

And that certainly isn’t reflected in the sticker price either.

Sure, new appliances have all sorts of fancy gadgets and settings, but inside each one there is a part — a small but expensive one — that has a very limited lifespan. And that small but expensive part will probably become faulty at the most inopportune time possible.

I know because it just happened to me.

My dishwasher, which would be labeled a toddler if it was human, will never see anything remotely close to its golden years. It stopped working two days before I threw a bridal shower and a week before we hosted out-of-town guests. I guess it would’ve been too convenient for it to hang in there for the massive influx of dirty dishes.

Not even an extended warranty could’ve helped me in that case. Unless, of course, it had a clause where a repair technician would stop by in an emergency to help towel dry.

In hindsight, I guess I should’ve seen it coming. At first the indicator lights stopped working, so I never knew when the wash cycle was done. I always seemed to open it prematurely only to get enveloped with a cloud of hot steam that nearly singed my eyebrows off.

After awhile, it only worked on occasion. I would put each dirty cup and utensil in while saying a tiny prayer that the machine would oblige when it was full. Eventually I got sick of jamming at the start button to no avail and taking everything back out filthy to wash them by hand.

So I gave in and called a repair shop.

When the service man showed up, he immediately asked me if we had purchased the extended warranty. At the time I remember thinking it was a waste of money. It seemed completely reasonable to expect a new appliance to work for five years — minimum.

I mean my grandmother’s dishwasher is decades old and probably still has 10,000 cycles left in it, so certainly a brand new model with better technology would last longer, right? Logic tells me that’s a reasonable expectation.

But when he opened the front panel and explained that the electrical wires were fried and that it would be more economical to purchase a new one, my jaw dropped.

We can build rocket ships that fly hundreds of thousands of miles into space, but we can’t build a dishwasher that lasts more than five years? We can construct pocket-sized devices that respond to touch and connect people on different continents, but we can’t make an electrical wire on a dishwasher that withstands a few thousand transmissions?

Frankly, I don’t buy it.

Then again, I don’t really have much choice, do I? I’m stuck buying what’s for sale. And apparently every three to five years forever after.

Unless I can find an old 1970s model somewhere. I’d take a working olive green version over a faulty stainless steel model any day.

.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Obviously she has her priorities straight

Me: Honey, you need some rest.

Allison: So I can get bigger?

Me: That's right.

Allison: OH! And when I get bigger, I CAN HAVE WINE!!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Newspaper column

If this is the technological age, it certainly isn’t bypassing the young.

My 3-year-old knows how to use an iPhone better than I do, she watches YouTube videos of Elmo on our TV and can listen to her favorite songs in the car upon request thanks to our vehicle’s MP3 dock.

When I compare it to my own childhood and the fact that I didn’t have access to a computer until sixth grade, it’s astounding. I remember my class being broken into groups to visit the school’s lone computer lab once a week. Huddled around a handful of monstrous machines, we learned how to turn them on, what the mouse was and how to peck out glowing green letters on a black screen.

My daughter will likely be tapping out texts at warp speed on her phone’s virtual keyboard by the time she’s the same age.

I guess what scares me is that her generation doesn’t have to wait for anything. Music, movies, television, photos and games are accessible from anywhere with a WiFi connection. I can’t tell her “Your show isn’t on right now, go play” because she knows all I have to do is fire up the DVR and select any episode her little heart desires.

I can’t even take a picture without her asking to see it on my camera’s viewfinder. Forget having to wait until the roll of film is finished, not to mention getting the photos developed. Everything in her world happens immediately.

As a parent, the concept of perpetual instant gratification is very scary. I want my children to learn the virtue of patience and perhaps even the old adage that the best things in life are worth the wait.

That said, it’s not always easy knowing where to draw the line. A large part of me wants to ban the iPhone from ever entering her little hands, but when we’re doing something mundane like shopping for a new dishwasher, I know I can hand it to her and she’ll be content, well-behaved and close by for the duration — as opposed to interrupting and running around when her patience understandably wears thin.

The small glimmer of justification I fall back on is that the games geared toward her age group are educational. Dora asks her to count before doing a little dance, a monkey rewards her with a sticker after she puts a puzzle together, and coloring pages test her eye-hand coordination. Plus, she’ll likely need intense computer skills just to keep up in school, let alone the job market when she’s older.

At the very least, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. I see toddlers everywhere using their parent’s smart phones — at the grocery store, restaurants, even at church. So I’m sure those parents have to strike a balance with other electronic devices at home, too.

Part of me wonders if each generation experiences the same concerns and fears. My mom remembers not owning a color television. She probably struggled with allowing me to surf the net without supervision when I was in high school.

I guess when I really think about it, there are a few things that don’t happen instantly at our house. My daughter’s favorite grilled cheese sandwiches don’t pop out of thin air, we can’t go outside until her toys are put away, and the water park most certainly isn’t going to happen in December — no matter how much she begs.

Technology isn’t going to change that. Well, not for her generation anyway.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Jerryisms

While making a toast to successfully eating out at a restaurant with both kids:
"To make it a full family toast, I guess I'd have to clink my glass against your boobs because that's what Evan drinks out of."

On our way home from said restaurant with both kids screaming bloody murder in the back seat:
"If I ran a vasectomy business, that would be my radio commercial. I'd just run 59 seconds of that sound and finish up with 'For a vasectomy, call 555-1234.'"

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Newspaper column

I think it's natural that holidays mean different things to us at different stages in our lives, but none of them has undergone a more significant change for me than Mother's Day.

When I was a little girl, I commemorated the holiday by bestowing my mom with drawings bedazzled with glue and glitter, macaroni noodle necklaces and other handmade gifts from the heart.

I remember one particular year in grade school that we had been instructed to grow a plant for our mothers weeks in advance. Every morning, someone in my class had the responsibility of watering the little cups by the windowsill, and it seemed like everyone's gift was thriving in time for the big day.

Everyone's, that is, but mine.

Even though I essentially handed her a decorated Styrofoam cup filled with nothing but dirt, my mom acted as if I had given her two dozen long-stemmed roses.

I repaid the favor years later by turning into a teenager who wanted nothing to do with her. She was too hard on me. She didn't understand me. And, oh, the embarrassment if she delved into what I deemed private.

During those years I was forced -- wholly against my will -- to attend brunch on Mother's Day with the rest of my extended family. I'm sure I was a very pleasant table companion filled with sighs, eye rolls and the occasional well-placed scoff.

I came to my senses sometime during college when I realized my mom might actually know a thing or two, and perhaps even be right every once in awhile. I couldn't always make it home for Mother's Day, but I remembered to at least call if I had forgotten to send a card.

After graduation, this funny thing happened. My mom became my best friend. She turned into someone I could not only rely on, but someone whose opinion I valued. Someone who knew exactly what to say whether the news was good or bad.

But it wasn't until I became a mother myself that I really understood and appreciated everything she has done for me.

I've I rocked a screaming baby for hours, changed wet sheets in the middle of the night and wiped away tears while wielding a pink princess Band-Aid. I've located missing stuffed animals, cut food into miniscule pieces and turned a couch into a castle.

Sometimes all before 9 a.m.

And when I feel like I can't possibly give of myself any more, when my patience has long since run out, I call my mom. Most times I just need to hear that it's going to be alright. That I'm doing a good job and my daughter isn't going to be ruined forever if I caved and gave her fruit snacks for breakfast.

Before we hang up, I always end up thanking her. She probably thinks it's for the advice or just for listening, but really it's long overdue for all the years she spent raising me -- years I was too young or stubborn to say so.

This year the day snuck up on me. With a toddler and an 8-week-old in the house, I didn't get a gift together in time to mail it. And I know my mom won't mind or care because she'll understand.

She knows I'll make her proud by raving about a decorated cup of dirt when it comes my way.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Blue Steel

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Outsmarted by a 3 year old

Jerry: Lets play a rhyming game. I say a word and you say a different word that rhymes, okay?

Allison: OKAY!

Jerry: Hat.

Allison: Bat. ... My turn! ... CELERY.

Jerry: ...

Allison: I WIN!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Newspaper column

Although the idea of retirement probably sounds like pure bliss to the majority of those putting in a 40-hour work week, I now realize that the transition isn't always so easy.

Long commutes, never-ending meetings and aggravating co-workers aside, careers often define us. They provide much more than a paycheck and a sense of purpose. For some, they can result in a body of work to be remembered by.

I started thinking about all of this as both of my parents near the end of their final year of teaching. The decision to retire wasn't one either of them took lightly, but after more than 70 years of running a classroom between them, I'd say they're entitled to some downtime.

The hard part is that neither of them know how to sit still. When they visit for a few days, I have to mentally prepare for the ensuing exhaustion. Frankly, I've stopped trying to keep up with them.

My dad rips around the house looking for something, anything to fix. He checks the expiration status of the water filter on our fridge, tests the batteries in all of our fire detectors, and once I caught him inspecting the seal on our new storm windows.

If it's possible, my mom is worse. You'd think my house was uninhabitable the way she cleans. I could hire an entire team of professionals to scrub from ceiling to floor right before she gets here and she'd still head right for my vacuum and mop.

Neither have hinted that they're feeling any trepidation about the impending life change, so I'm just planning being there for them if they need to talk when the time comes.

Personally, I can only relate on a small scale. A few months ago, I left journalism -- a career I loved and cultivated for over a decade -- to spend more time at home with my children.

As I drove away after my last day at work, a box beside me filled with the personal contents from my desk, the range of emotions I felt was almost indescribable. Even though I was confident I had made the right decision for me and my family, I ended up sobbing so hard I had to pull over and call my best friend.

Responding to breaking news. The rush of meeting nightly deadlines. Satisfaction of a job well done. Even the office environment -- occasional computer problems and all. It was a lot to give up all at once.

I can only imagine adding a few more decades to the tally.

Now that I've had some time to adjust, and with it a little perspective, leaving a career isn't the end of the book. It's just the start of a new chapter.

I guess it's natural to think about the change as an ending. But eventually you realize it's also a beginning.

With that in mind, I suppose I shouldn't be worried about my parents. I should probably be more concerned about resting up for their more frequent visits.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Newborn Heavyweight Champion

I know. He's a month old and I haven't updated one bit. To be honest, I have SUCH a newfound appreciation for parents with more than one child. Hard doesn't even begin to describe the responsibility.

But when I get a few hours of sleep and can focus my eyes, I have two incredible little beings to cuddle with and love.

Here's one quick photo from the hospital. He's already benching 20 pounds.


Friday, March 11, 2011

He's here!

Evan Louis was born Sunday, March 6, 2011 at 11:11 a.m. He weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces and is 22-inches long. I feel blessed beyond measure.

Photos and more details soon.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 27, 2011

Today is my due date. As much as I'm physically ready to have this child, I'm actually worried whether I'm ready in every other aspect.

It's a strange feeling because I know I can do it. I've been there before. I've got more than three years of experience on my parenting punch-card, and if Allison is any indication at the job Jerry and I are doing, we're either extremely lucky or we've made a few good moves.

I guess part of the fear is whether I'll have enough to give. Being a mother is by far the most demanding job I'll ever take on in my lifetime. And, for some reason, I know that adding another child to the mix won't just double the responsibilities. I have a feeling going from one to two is exponentially more complicated than that.

I'm worried about guiding Alli through this huge life-altering transition. As much as we've done to prepare her for what's coming, I know there will be bumps in the road as she gets used to not having our undivided attention. I want her to know that she's still just as important as she always has been, but I'll have to make that known while I'm sleep-deprived and working on making sure someone else's needs are constantly met, too.

I'm worried about having those little quiet moments with my son that I cherished with Allison. There are far more responsibilities at home now, and I don't want our son's infancy to pass while I'm distracted by laundry, taking Allison to school and everything else that comes with running a household somewhat smoothly.

I'm worried about finding time to nurture the relationship that started it all. With our demanding jobs and crazy schedules, Jerry and I already have so little time to ourselves. I know we both feel blessed beyond measure to have created a family, but it's so easy to lose sight of each other while we're running around fulfilling our everyday responsibilities.

Despite all of these fears, I wouldn't want it any other way. I know my worries aren't unfounded. In fact, it helps me realize that I'm taking it all seriously.

Plus, I know there will be moments that make all of my fears disappear. I'm really looking forward to the first weekend after our son is born where we're all snuggled in bed -- me, Jerry, Allison, the baby and Toby -- and I know that everything I need at that moment is right there.

And the rest of my insecurities can wait.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A few days to spare!

Thought some of you would like to see the little man's nursery! Due date is in six days and I'm R-E-A-D-Y.

Incidentally, it's the same room Allison's nursery was in. We moved her into the bigger room. It's amazing to me how different one space can look. Here's a reminder of what it used to look like.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The best of both worlds: Jerryisms AND Alli-isms

After two consecutive wrong numbers in a row:
"My cell number's on a bathroom stall somewhere."

Responding to Allison, who is obsessed with gender differences at the moment:
"Music is for everyone, honey. There aren't boy songs or girl songs. ... Unless maybe you're listening to Melissa Ethridge, which is kind of a gray area."

Noting Toby's desperation while playing pancake toss games in the kitchen after I made too many for dinner:
"I might as well be juggling steaks in front of starving Ethiopians."

*****************

Explaining the nature of BunnyBear's relationship:
"Bunny and Bear are best friends. ... Best friends for hours."


Looking at the latest cover of Newsweek, featuring a photo of President Obama:

"Mom? Who's that?"

"That's the president. His name is Barack Obama. He's the leader of our country."

"Oh, I thought it was my daddy."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Newspaper column: Sometimes carnations smell better in the garbage

Although I've always anticipated Valentine's Day on some level because it's a few days away from my birthday, when I think back, more often than not, I shouldn't have.

High school was particularly brutal. I never seemed to be dating anyone in February, unlike the majority of my friends, and my district had an annual fundraiser where students could purchase carnations to be delivered to one another throughout the day with a handwritten note.

The first year, I remember losing sleep fearing I would be the only one in the entire school not to get a carnation from someone. I pictured every girl walking through the hallways with heavy armloads of pink and red -- much like Miss America during her triumphant celebratory saunter after being crowned.

Little did I know the opposite would happen.

During homeroom, I was relieved to find two pink carnations waiting for me on my desk. Sure, one was from my mother, who taught at the school, but no one had to know that but me. The other was from my best friend who I had confided my fear to. I instantly panicked because I hadn't returned the favor, but I knew she'd probably be getting actual roses from her boyfriend, so I figured the scales were even.

The next period, I arrived at my desk to find yet another carnation. This one was from "anonymous," so it immediately spiked my heart rate. How on earth was I supposed to concentrate on algebra after that? The school might have devised a great way to raise money, but I'm guessing someone forgot to factor in the level of distraction it could create for a teenager without a relationship status.

As the day went on, I found more carnations waiting for me at each class. And each time I sank lower and lower into my desk. It appeared that every guy I had ever been nice to in passing decided the dreaded carnation was the best way to ask me out on a date.

The flowers felt like lead weights. I wanted to shred them into pieces, throw them in the trash and run home. They ruined what I thought had been perfectly good casual friendships with guys that I saw throughout my day. Guys I now had to avoid. Pronto.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon ducking into bathrooms, cowering behind friends' lockers, and taking alternate routes. When the final bell rang, I instantly felt the relief wash over me. Who knew a series of shrill beeps could sound like music?

Although I made no mention of the disaster later that night during dinner, preferring instead to assume that ignoring the situation would make it disappear, my mom found the pile of bent carnations in my garbage and inquired.

Apparently I should've burned them to get rid of all the evidence.

So I told her everything. Then she made me call each and every one of them to thank them for the flower and say I'd prefer to remain friends.

It was absolute agony. I hadn't read all of Dante's "Inferno" yet in English class, but I figured his seven rings of hell would be downright pleasant compared to my day.

There was still one silver lining -- the carnation from Mr. Anonymous. But one quick phone call to my best friend to lament about the situation killed that glimmer of hope, too. She said her boyfriend had filled that one out just in case I needed an extra boost, but she figured I'd recognize his handwriting.

A pathetic cherry on top of a disaster Valentine's Day sundae.

Those memories are one of the main reasons I never take for granted being married to my best friend this time of year -- no chocolate, jewelry or carnations required.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

GOOOO STEEELERRRS!

Jerry has been freaking out for two weeks that I would go into labor today and he'd miss watching the Super Bowl.

So I did what any loving wife would do.

I called him at our friend's house, where he's pre-gaming, and told him my water broke. And really sold it with tears and all.

Yes, his reaction was priceless. And, yes, it was as much fun as it sounds.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's my pity party and I'll cry if I want to

Exactly seven days ago, I was complaining about how difficult it was to get around with what I'm assuming is going to be a 32-pound newborn and a pulled groin muscle.

Then I fell down the stairs.

The overwhelming first response that everyone has is "Oh my gosh, is the baby alright?" I know I've been a vessel for the past 35 weeks, but never is it more apparent than after an injury. When I respond positively, the matter is seemingly resolved. Nevermind that I required an emergency room visit for myself and am completely unable to care for my daughter, get up a flight of stairs or even shower.

Growing frustrations aside, that, of course, was my first concern, too. In hindsight, it may have been what caused my primary injury. My overwhelming instinct to protect my midsection led me to fall in such a way that contorted my leg. I felt my right heel graze and miss the step, and as I fell, I used all of my strength to grab onto the handrail and wall to prevent myself from going down belly-first.

My right leg ended up bent behind me, and I landed with all of my weight on my ankle over and over again as I bumped down the remaining steps until my other foot hit the floor and stopped the momentum.

It's amazing how much clarity you have after an injury like that -- even at 3 a.m. on only a few hours of very uncomfortable sleep. I'm sure it's the body's natural surge of adrenalin, but I had enough coherence to mentally assess myself and know that the baby was fine before the pain took over.

Fortunately Jerry heard the fall. In any other circumstance, he could without exaggeration sleep through a parade marching through our bedroom. But, as he put it, "The thump woke me up."

Normally I resist seeking medical attention at all cost. My skin could be melting off my face and I'd be holding my lips together long enough to get out the words, "Lets give it a day or two and see if it improves."

But after Jerry helped me limp to the couch in tears and I saw the shape of my ankle, I immediately agreed to go to the hospital with a secondary ulterior motive of demanding an ultrasound if nothing more than for peace of mind.

After my mother-in-law arrived to be there for Allison when she woke up, we made our way to the emergency room in the dark. It wasn't exactly the trip to the hospital that we had been planning on. Strangely, I found myself wishing I was in a completely different type of pain.

The difficulty that my pregnancy posed was immediately obvious. The receptionist didn't know whether to send me to the maternity ward upstairs or admit me into emergency. Ultimiately the maternity staff said they weren't capable of dealing with an ankle injury and agreed to send someone down to run some tests once I was in a room.

Next came the X-ray talk, which left me in tears. Again. Normally it wouldn't be a question. Ankle injuries are apparently very tricky and almost impossible to diagnose without them. But they're also a risk to the fetus because it could lead to increased risk of cancer later in life, which immediately had me shaking my head and refusing to cooperate.

The physician's assistant didn't seemed to be surprised by my response and added that I could always give it a few days and call an orthopedic surgeon if things regressed.

When I asked for a rundown of the worst-case scenario, she said a very bad sprain or break would require surgery in which they would induce labor because I'm almost full-term, allow me to deliver then immediately move me into an operating room to cut open my ankle.

Lets just say I wish I hadn't asked that question.

Nurses came and went with ice packs and orange juice in hopes of getting the baby moving. Another woman wheeled in a computer to record all of my medical coverage information. And eventually a nurse from maternity found a strong fetal heart rate after struggling amidst a wildly warping belly.

When the doctor arrived, she took the ice pack off, gasped and said, "You're getting an X-ray" all in the matter of seconds. When I started to protest, she added, "I have two kids, I completely understand your hesitation, but if your baby was born prematurely right now they'd do an X-ray directly on its chest to see how developed the lungs are."

She continued to explain that the low dose of radiation used for an ankle isn't likely to even be an issue, especially considering it's on the part of my body that's furthest away from my torso.

I conceeded. And requested five of those heavy protective aprons but was happy when I was given two.

The diagnosis was a bad sprain, and at the time I felt a great sense of relief. But after a week of complete inability to put any weight on my right foot at all, zero progress and being confined to a couch when I have about a million things I should be doing ... I'm having second thoughts.

All of the research I've done online leads me to the conclusion that clean breaks heal much more quickly. Stage-three sprains can take up to six weeks to moderately heal (which takes me exactly to my due date) and up to a year or more to fully heal.

Even typing that makes me angry. I'm so mad. I'm mad at myself for not staying in bed. I'm mad at myself for not being able to care for my daughter. I'm mad at myself for causing such an inconvenience to the rest of my family.

I've been on the couch for seven days. Seven entire days. I use crutches to get to the bathroom and back, which even this morning left me in tears from the pain that shoots up my leg and stops mid-calf. And that's from doing nothing. Just holding my foot in the air behind me and lightly resting it on the floor for a few seconds so I can go to the bathroom and hobble my way back to the couch.

The swelling is still pretty ugly even though it has improved a little. The brusing is yellowing, which is about the only positive sign I have at this point. Everything else has me down today. I tried pouring myself a glass of orange juice while Jerry was getting ready for work and ended up sobbing because I couldn't find a way to carry it in my teeth back to the couch.

I hate that I've had to cancel all of my portrait sessions. I hate that I can't get Toby food when he's looking at me and whining to eat. I hate that I have to "take it easy." I hate relying on everyone else for everything.

I just want to go back to waddling around. Desperately.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jerryisms

Anyone who gets within five feet of Jerry for more than five minutes knows he wants an iPhone. Ever since I got him an iPod Touch for his birthday two years ago, he's been obsessing, but with the majority of our friends and family on the Verizon network, it just didn't make sense for us to switch for the sole purpose of him getting a particular phone.

In the meantime, he's been stalking online tech talk forums, over-analizing every bit of news to be released from Apple and praying. I won't even get into the whole "if I had a penny" thing because our house would've been crushed from the weight of all that copper.

So when Apple announced yesterday that Verizon would be taking pre-orders for the iPhone in a few weeks, his enthusiasm was, well, full of Jerryisms.

***********

Never mind that my birthday and due date are next month:
"FEBRUARY IS GOING TO BE AWESOME NOW!"

After I reminded him as much:
"Oooh! Maybe it'll come on your birthday, then we can BOTH get presents! ... And mine will be better than yours."

"Right around February 16th, you'll be like 'When's this baby coming?!' and I'll be like, 'WHERE'S MY FRIGGIN' iPHONE?!!!"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

newspaper column

Everyone has a few undesirable moments in life that they're never going to live down, regardless of how much time passes and how many great things they accomplish.

I'm sure Bill Clinton, Martha Stewart and Michael Vick would be nodding their head in agreement.

Fortunately mine all fall into much less severe categories, but every once in awhile, my parents, friends and husband like to remind me of things that make my nose instantly scrunch up in embarrassment. I know they love me and that it's all in good fun, but I wouldn't mind zapping them with a memory obliterator either.

The one that seems to come up most frequently is the time I nearly killed my husband with salmonella poisoning on our third date.

I had invited him over to dinner at my apartment, and because I really liked him, I went all out. I ironed my only tablecloth, Googled how to fold a linen napkin into an impressive shape, and prepared my best chicken recipe with chocolate molten souffle for dessert.

By the time Jerry arrived, my little place looked incredible and the food was ready to be put on the table. When we sat down to eat, everything was going great until he politely said, "Um, I think the chicken is a little undercooked."

Until then, he had been dutifully trying to stomach what was obviously inedible. But when he got to the center and the chicken was completely raw, he spoke up. I hadn't noticed because I was probably too preoccupied making sure all the other details were perfect.

Knowing what I know about him now, it's nothing short of astounding that he didn't spit the chicken out and run to the bathroom gagging. A few years earlier, he was hospitalized when he and his his college roommates ate undercooked chicken from a George Forman grill. Even though it had nothing to do with the product itself, Jerry still gets nauseous just passing them on display at a department store.

Embarrassed and apologetic, I quickly put the chicken back in the oven, and we made the most of the meal by eating the side dishes first. Eventually I pulled the chicken out again, presuming it would be cooked to perfection and reserved it.

Jerry took another bite and I saw his eyes widen. When I checked my piece, it was inexplicably as raw as when I had put it in the second time. Then I discovered that I hadn't remembered to turn the oven back on.

We got a good laugh out of the oversight, and the chicken was finally edible on the third try, but little did I know it would become the standard by which my cooking would be judged.

I have literally made us thousands of meals in the seven years since then, but the infamy of the undercooked chicken lives on. On the bright side, even my worst culinary disasters aren't as bad as "The Salmonella Dish," as we've dubbed it.

Granted, it might be easier to get over if Jerry wasn't a great cook himself, but I think I've more than proved my kitchen prowess.

I suppose if one incidence of undercooked chicken is the worst black mark I have on my record, I should willingly embrace it. Maybe by delicious meal No. 500,000 I'll have outgrown the teasing.

If not, I'll tell him to stick a fork in it. It's done.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Baby Jesus has nothing on my kid

About a week before Christmas, Allison's nursery school put on a Christmas pageant. I had zero idea what to expect other than probably a laugh, because the only instructions I was given from her teacher included "dress her in red or green and drop her off here at 6."

I tried getting details about the performance out of Alli, but even though she's fully capable of communicating, she's much like a teenager who can't be bothered to pass along any vital information. I expected having to play 20 questions in order to find out about her day when she's 14, but 3? JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU COLORED DURING CIRCLE TIME. Honestly.

On the night of her pageant, she was very excited to wear her "beauuutiful" new Christmas dress. And because I hadn't taken any photos of her yet for family, which I do every year to give as gifts, we got ready a little early, went up into the studio and played around for a few minutes before we left. She even let me curl her hair for the first time ever, which let me tell you, is like a major culmination of all of the times I played dress up with my dolls as a little girl. My heart nearly burst out of my chest.

And if that wasn't enough, watching her perform with her class turned me into a puddle. I was brimming with tears as I laughed, then I'd get angry because I couldn't see through all the moisture in my eyes.

Because she's in the school's youngest class, they went first. Her teacher escorted them down the aisle to the stage, each of them carrying an instrument and looking a little shell-shocked even though I'm sure they practiced for weeks. Allison lit up when she passed us sitting with her big cousins and Jer's mom, and it was almost as if you could see the switch in her demeanor. She was ready to perform. She beamed, started taking big marching steps and shook her tambourine in rhythm.

When she got on stage, I noticed for the first time that she's literally a head taller than everyone in her class, but what struck me most of all was how overly animated she was. I know she comes from a long line of performers on my side of the family, but it's almost as if she had no nerves at all. It was incredible to see.

They sung a few Christmas carols including "Away in a Manger" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" complete with hand gestures. One of her classmates tried stealing baby Jesus out of the cradle in front of them, but Allison carried on as if the distraction wasn't happening, dutifully placing her hands together when she was supposed to and swaying her hips to the music.

When they finished, she basked in the applause -- jumping, squealing and clapping along.

It was honestly the best Christmas present I've ever received. I miss the tiny infant I used to hold in my arms, but watching her grow is nothing short of incredible.