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Showing posts from 2009

The Lowes lady who made my day

I believe people come in and out of our lives for a reason, whether they step into your path and stay for a lifetime or a few years. Or maybe only for a college semester or a week at summer camp, or for just two days at a professional seminar -- or even for three minutes at a checkout counter. Sometimes you just need to pay attention.

Today I had one of those checkout counter experiences. I realized this morning that I'm in my 30th week of this pregnancy. Just 10 weeks left until Baby DeeDee makes his/her appearance. Which, at the pace my life has gone this past year, might as well be 10 minutes. And although I'm excited to meet this little gift, I've spent most of this past, oh, 25 weeks feeling incredibly anxious about the pregnancy and our new addition. Why would we upset the happy balance we have here in our family? Will Sweet Boy love and adore his younger sibling, or will he envy and dislike him/her? How will I be able to give my attention to two children, when one su…

How to enjoy a snowstorm

Here in Delaware (and all up the East Coast) we've been socked by what's now been dubbed The Blizzard of '09. (Why don't we give blizzards names like we do hurricanes? Isn't it essentially the same kind of weather event?) Between late Friday and early Sunday, almost 20" of snow fell on my house...and my driveway...and my deck...and my sidewalks...and my poor little Japanese maple tree.

Because I'm entering my third trimester, I had a perfect excuse to not even open the front door, other than to look out and say "oh my!" While the rest of the world freaked out over missing the last shopping weekend before Christmas, I discovered the perfect recipe for a great snow-bound day:
1) Send your husband and child away the night before to visit relatives in a non-snowy location. (This is a crucial step, people.)
2) Wake up to a quiet, peaceful house. Put on your favorite set of pajamas and fuzzy slippers, and turn on the radio to the all-Christmas-song statio…

Maternity clothes manifesto

Dear Designers, Manufacturers, & Retailers of Maternity Clothing,

We, the expecting moms of the world, have a few requests we'd like you to consider when creating your garments.
Realize that even though we are pregnant, we have not become fashion retarded. Surely you can come up with something other than empire waistlines and ties in the back. And I'd kinda like a dress that doesn't look like a mumuu, thanks.
Underpants still need to stay put even when one is pregnant. There's nothing that puts me in a bad mood faster than standing up and realizing my underwear has drooped into a bunch across my rear.Please find an alternative to the "under belly" waistband (which doesn't stay up) or full panel (which reaches all the way to my boobs...and still doesn't stay up). I am so tired of pulling up my pants!Why do all necklines plunge so dramatically? And why are these tops so sheer? Do you really think that now is a time, with the gigantic breasts and the 30…

Ohh, Christmas tree

Every year around this time, Big Daddy and I start our annual "is this our last year with a live Christmas tree?" discussion. So far, we've stuck with the live tree tradition, mostly because of my stubborn adherence to my own family's tradition. But. I'm starting to wear down. And I think this might, in fact, be our last year with a live tree.

When I was a kid, picking out a tree was a big deal. Really big deal. Remember that scene in Christmas Vacation, when the Griswolds drive to the middle of nowhere to find the perfect Griswold Family Christmas Tree? "It's not big; it's just...full." That scene makes me cry with laughter because I lived it year after year.

We'd pile into the Mellovan on the second Saturday of advent, no matter what the weather, and we'd drive to a tree farm about 20 miles from home. For over 20 years, we went to that same tree farm (and I swear the proprietors were elderly from year one), where we'd wander the rows…

Grampa memories

We said goodbye to my grandfather yesterday. I sat on the edge of the dock as we scattered his ashes on the bay -- from the very spot where Grampa and I caught a bucket full of crabs and promptly tossed them back because we didn’t like to eat them -- and memories from my childhood flooded over me. Grampa was part of so many moments of my life, present for all the biggest, most important times. It was so difficult to watch his rapid decline in recent years because he was larger than life when I was a child; a visit to Bellport was a trip into his kingdom. Everyone knew Dick Stock. He was a teacher and principal, a volunteer fireman and ambulance driver, member of the Hearth Club and local Methodist Church, library trustee, fix-it guy, fence painter, builder. We would walk through that town and I felt a special sense of pride at being his granddaughter.

But as a child I often felt nervous around my Grampa. He was a stern man, a Navy man. He was raised during the Great Depression, came of…

The only one in all the world

My son is training for a long, profitable career as a stunt man. Pretty typical kid stuff, I think, but for a newbie mom like me, it can be scary: He loves to jump off the fourth step; throw himself on the tile floor in the kitchen and pretend he's swimming; see how much air he can grab while jumping on our bed like it's a freakin' Moon Bounce. Lately he likes to bounce his little body off of anything he can and ricochet as far as possible, until he bounces into something else...and something else...until he falls down giggling...or crying. Picture a 4-foot, 55-pound pinball with limbs, and you'll get the drift.

In his latest pinball impression this morning, Sweet Boy leaped off my bed, bounced himself off my backside, then into the side of the bed. Only he misjudged where the side of the bed was, and he instead landed on his butt...and his elbow...and his head. On the hardwood floor.

First, I'm embarrassed to admit, I yelled at him (I'm a yeller, as maybe you…

Happy birthday, Baby

Today is my man's birthday. This is the 12th birthday I've celebrated with him, and he's not one to ask for a whole lot of hullabaloo. As he would say, birthdays happen every year. Maybe so, but when I started thinking about it this morning, I realized what an awful lot we've been through since his last birthday. And I was instantly awed and grateful to have this birthday to celebrate with my sweetie.

In this past year he's shown me time and again why I chose to spend my life with him. I have watched him conquer major health issues and come out stronger and healthier. He works so hard and endures a ridiculous commute, but he busts his butt to be home with us in the evenings. He is an amazing father, playful, wise, and stern in equal parts; his patience is far greater than mine. He shares household tasks (even writes cute little chores lists for himself) -- and I even overheard him say to our neighbor once this spring "It's a great day for yard work, isn'…

My little Halloweenie

Sweet Boy declared about a month ago that he was not going to do Halloween this year. Hmph, thought we, his perplexed parents. No dress-up? No trick-or-treat? No parade and party at school? Nope, nope, and nope.

For about two weeks we tried to talk him into it -- brainstorming costume ideas (SpongeBob, Peter Pan, Superman, robot, ghost, puppy, anything!), discussing favorite candies, talking about the difference between make-believe and real. Nope. He didn't want to do it. And there's something I'm learning about my son: When he sets his mind to something, that's it.

So we finally let it go. We told him he didn't have to do Halloween, but ew made it clear he couldn't decide at the last minute that he wanted a costume and send us scrambling. We made sure he understood he would miss out on the preschool parade and party, and he wouldn't get any candy from trick-or-treating. That's ok, Mom and Dad, I don't like Halloween. Hmph, again said we.

I was nervou…

Talking through the big questions

Sweet Boy and I were riding in the car last week with both cats wailing in the back seat. We were on our way to the animal shelter for annual shots, when the discussion turned to the cat we had put to sleep before SB was born. "Simon the Cat is dead now?" Sweet Boy asked. "Yes, baby, he's dead now, but he had a good life."

And I'm sure you can see where the conversation went from here:
SB: Mommy, are you going to die someday?
[Oh. Lord. Help me. This is the conversation I've been dreading since I found out I was pregnant 5+ years ago! Take a breath, Mom, you can handle this...]
Me: Yes, honey, I'll die someday. But not until I'm much older and you're much older and we have a very long happy life together.
[Whew. Maybe that's enough...please let's talk about all the animals we'll see today...]
SB: OK. When you're old? Really old, like Great Gramma?
Me: Yes, honey, really old. Probably even older than Great Gramma.
[Which is an all-out…

Know what makes me want to yell?

The headline on one of the most ridiculous NYT articles I have ever seen reads: "For some parents, shouting is the new spanking." Interesting that this appears in the Fashion & Style section of the Times, but whatever. I'll read on...only to discover that now, according to this nonsense article, we need to add yelling to the list of things we should not be doing as parents. Okie doke. That's reasonable.

There are a number of choice quotes in this piece, but here are a few of my favorite:
"Parental yelling today may be partly a releasing of stress for multitasking, overachieving adults, parenting experts say." (Translation: Focus all your energy on your child, not on running your household, volunteering at church, or your outside-the-home job.)"Psychologists and psychiatrists generally say yelling should be avoided. It’s at best ineffective (the more you do it the more the child tunes it out) and at worse damaging to a child’s sense of well-being and…

A taste of what's to come

One of my favorite traditions at the end of my work-at-home days is to power down the computer and go for a walk around the neighborhood with my Sweet Boy. It's a time for both of us to decompress and reconnect, to notice the simple things that make us smile, to hold hands and breathe deeply. During the fall, it's also a time to collect pine cones, ooh-and-ahh and the "burning trees" maxing out their colors, listen to the high school marching band warming up on the other side of the hill.

Today Sweet Boy took his scooter out with us on our walk. This scooter is way too small for him, the kind with the two wheels on the back, but I can tell he feels much more comfortable on it than on his (much hated) bicycle. He's mastered this little scooter, and he's proud of himself when he rides it. And he feels like a big kid on it, like the grade school kids who skateboard up and down our street.

About halfway around the block we encountered three boys from the neighborho…

Winky? Hoo-ha? Who knows!

Once again we sat with baited breath (and maxed-out bladder) at an ultrasound appointment, only to discover that our unborn child is a modest little stinkerpants. Here's the exact conversation as the procedure wound down, at the big drum-rolling climax of the scene:

U/S tech: OK, let's find out if this is a pink baby or blue...hmm...here's the legs...here's the rump...here's between the legs...ummm...this is the umbilical cord...umm...hmm...
Me: What do you think, Bachman? Do you see a winky?
Chris: Um, I don't see what you're even talking about.
U/S tech: Well, here's the left leg, here's the right leg, here's the butt...jeez, this kid is in a bad spot...
Me: [Wincing as the tech digs that little wand into my belly to cajole baby out of its cozy spot] I don't see a winky...is it a...?
Chris: No, wait, I see it...what's that?
U/S tech: I'm gonna say girl...but wait...no...what's that?
Me: I don't see anything.
Chris: What is that? Umb…

When expecting, expect the unexpected

There's a lot that goes on while one is expecting that is, in fact, unexpected. For instance, there are times you sneeze and come close to peeing your pants...hmm, unexpected. Or sometimes you step on the scale and find you've gained five pounds in a week, even though you've been nauseous and sleeping most of that time...also unexpected. Bad skin is unexpected, since everyone talks about glowing and whatnot. And widening feet is fairly odd and unexpected.

But my favorite unexpected moments come when you break the news that you're knocked up to friends, family, and colleagues. Here is just a sampling of my favorite reactions to the big news, collected from both my pregnancies:
Are you sure Chris is the father? (asked by one of my husband's female colleagues at a Christmas party...fabulous)
Will you breastfeed? (asked by a male coworker during my first pregnancy, while standing with a group of people at a lunch function)Why?Oh, thank God, I was afraid you'd never gi…

New season, big news

Hi, my friends. Sorry I've been away for a while. I had to get through August, my most hated, dreaded month. I won't get into my many "boo-August!" feelings, but let's just say now that there's cooler air, I'm a happier girl.

It's been a wacky few weeks in a number of ways, and it's time I catch you up. I've been anxious and emotional, swollen and achy. I've been tired beyond reason, most nights falling asleep in Sweet Boy's bed as we say prayers. I've been dealing with 24/7 nausea and a complete lack of appetite, yet I've managed to gain 7 pounds. My exercise routine is suffering greatly; I count it as a good week if I get out for a 45-minute walk 3 days. And I've given up my two favorite beverages, coffee and wine.

However, right around last weekend, I started to feel human again (or at least not as nauseous and a tad less tired), even though I have to loop a rubberband through the buttonholes in order to fasten my pants. A…

Happy birthday to my best friend

My mom would have turned 60 today. She is in my head every day, but a much younger version. So I can only imagine what she would look like at this point: I imagine her sparkling green eyes have a few more wrinkles around them -- laugh lines, of course, similar to the lines that accentuate her smile. She's still trying to find the perfect shade of strawberry blond to cover those stubborn streaks of white above her ears; sometimes her hair is a little too blond, sometimes a little too red. She still obsesses about her chin and her pot belly. Her long, thin arms and legs are a touch more suntanned than ever before from all the time spent gardening and playing on the beach with her grandson. She'd be retired now, after all, with more time to spend in her beloved outdoors -- but I'm sure she'd still be teaching here and there, maybe volunteering in an after-school program for gifted kids or tutoring adults who need reading help. She'd stay busy. Could never sitting stil…

Waiter, there's an f-bomb in my soup!

I know you've been here before: You're sitting at a family-friendly eatery with your child, or maybe even with your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, enjoying a nice little meal when the bozo at the table next to you starts spouting out obscenities. He's dropping f-bombs left and right...every sentence contains at least one (because let's face it, it's a highly versatile word), like it's, oh, bunny or very or pretty.

So you give him a look. You know the one: the passive-aggressive "hey, buddy, knock it off, my kid's right here" look. But he doesn't get it. Why would he? This is how he speaks, after all. Why would he notice you and your wide-eyed 4-year-old sitting to his left? So you try to talk louder to your child so as to distract yourself and your partner from the foulmouthed fool. "How's that quesadilla, love? Isn't it good?!" -- and your child looks at you with confusion because he doesn't understand why you're yelli…

Birthday party panic

There are three events that send me into a total where-is-my-mom-when-I-need-her panic:
1) Choosing new window treatments
2) Halloween
3) Birthdays

My mom was great at all of these things, mostly because of her creativity, fearlessness when it came to tackling all projects great and small, and her ability to fashion just about anything from a few pieces of scrap fabric and a sewing machine.

I, however, break into a cold sweat when confronted with any of these. Don't even get me started on curtains; I will cry, seriously. I've gotten through the Halloween thing recently because I realize that store-bought costumes are actually cheaper, easier, and often just as cute as homemade ones. This week, however, as Sweet Boy's 4th birthday looms on the near horizon, I'm sweating about how exactly to throw the Best Party Ever.

We're going once again with the Giant Family-Friend Barbecue Bash this weekend because, frankly, I lack creativity. If I was my mother, I would have thrown t…

Perfect summer evening

We chased fireflies tonight in the backyard. First time with Sweet Boy. It was amazing.
They sparkled in the trees behind our house, like Christmas lights.
He was in awe.
Stars blinked overhead. A cool breeze kissed our faces. The grass licked our bare toes. Peeper frogs serenaded us from the creek beyond.
We caught three fireflies for his little bug jar, put some grass in it. He just went to sleep watching them on his nightstand.
The world is so beautiful when I see it all for the first time again through his eyes.

Supermom and Captain Defiant call a truce

Wow, I just re-read my last whiny post. Ick. I promise to not complain too loudly anymore about my exceptionally wonderful work/life set-up. I realize that most mothers don't have the choices and options I have when it comes to balancing work and family. Sure, it's hard to work with a child at my side, but I say a thank-you prayer every day.

So. I've had a couple days since that vent session to evaluate the telecommuting situation, as well as my own parenting. I know now that much of Captain Defiance's naughtiness has been a result of feeling neglected by his staring-at-the-computer mom these last few weeks. (I overheard him tell SallyCat the other night, "Sorry, Sal, I can't play with you now because I have a lot of work to do." Zing!) And I know that I have been making poor parenting decisions based on guilt and annoyance and anger. Also, I realized I often forget that this little guy is just 3 years old -- he doesn't understand what I'm trying t…

The summer adventures of Captain Defiant and SuperMom

I made a deal with myself four years ago, when I started telecommuting in order to spend more time with my then-infant son, that I would take the telecommuting thing one week at a time. Meaning, I would never get so used to it that I couldn't adjust back to a regular 40-hours-per-week-in-the-office lifestyle. Also meaning I would assess periodically whether this work/life balance was still the best arrangement for my son, for my career, and for myself.

Once more I’ve come to reassessment point. And I'm finding that keeping the deal I made with myself is really, really difficult. I'm not sure if this summer may be the breaking point. As in, perhaps it's time to bite the bullet and just put the kid in daycare full-time...which truly would break my heart.

Sweet Boy is home with me this summer on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All day. While I work. All day. I am working a four-day, condensed week so I can have Fridays off to spend with him -- and our Fridays have been amazing! How…

My girl athlete manifesto

Yes, I'm a girl.
Yes, I'm an athlete.
Yes, I'll kick your butt.

This little diddy hangs on my refrigerator on a magnet; I used to have a t-shirt with this slogan way back when I really thought of myself as an athlete. I'm bringing it back. The athlete thing, I mean.

I type this post tonight with very sore muscles in my arms, shoulders, and back. My knees are throbbing a bit, too. But I feel so great.

Big Daddy and I have started going to the gym to lift weights together two or three times a week. (This is why my blogging has been unsteady -- time is limited, with the longer work days, squeezing in gym time, and the earlier bedtimes.) He is a great trainer. And talk about personal! Who knows my body better than my husband? And who knows the parts of my body that I'm insecure about better than the one person I whine to most? I think he knows my parts better than I know my parts. So he has worked out a training circuit for me that not only works my whole body, but it reall…

Wrapped up in the number no more

I'm about to let you in on a little secret: I (re)joined Weight Watchers about 6 weeks ago. I haven't told many folks because although I was successful on WW years ago, it took me almost 2 years to lose 35 pounds. And toward the end of that weight loss journey I, frankly, became a tiny bit nuts -- gaining and losing the same two pounds for at least 5 months, getting frustrated and angry and depressed and obsessive. Not pretty. I was within 4 pounds of my ultimate goal when I got pregnant and put on 65 pounds. And there you have it. Two years of maniacal food counting and compulsive exercising right out the door.

My son is almost 4 now, and I still carry around the last 15 of those 65 pregnancy pounds. I want them gone. Not-So-Big Daddy is melting away since his illness in January -- he's down almost 70 pounds, people! -- but I've been struggling to shed my own spare tire. So I paid the money, stepped bravely onto the WW scale, started counting the Points and walk-joggin…

Parenting without fear...but with knowledge

Alright, my kid is almost 4, so his father and I have been slowly easing up on the hovering. I mean, we've never been real helicopter parents -- I often say that my parenting style is more along the lines of mindful neglect -- but lately we've been trying to give him more freedom to explore his world. The past few weeks, as the weather is warming up, we've been letting him play in the backyard...alone.

Now I'm not talking all day every day all alone. I'm talking he sits in the sandbox at the back of the yard in full view from the kitchen window. And usually I can only last about three minutes before I'm out on the deck yelling "You OK? Can I come play? Want some water?" etc. He doesn't want me to play, he doesn't want water...he just wants to play with his guys in the fresh air. And I love that.

I can tell he loves this big boy freedom. He is proud of the fact that we trust him to play on his own. But there's a little tiny voice in my head t…

Behold, the Re-generation

NYTimes columnist and author Thomas L. Friedman delivered the keynote address at my sister's University of Delaware graduation this past weekend. As we sat in the sunshine staring down upon 3,100 beaming, proud graduates stepping from their happy, beer-soaked dorm rooms into the doom and gloom of a global recession, I thought, dude, I do not envy him this task. How do you tell these kids to go forth, work hard, fear nothing, reach for the stars, be productive, yada yada yada, when everyone else in the world is wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth?
Friedman spoke well, as I'd expect, delivering grounded advice with wit and intelligence. He brought us all down a bit, of course, by indicting our parents' generation as Grasshoppers who simply consumed, consumed, consumed and destroyed the earth while destroying the economy. (I watched the Baby Boomers all around me squirm and fidget through this segment of the speech.) He then termed the graduates as the Re-generation…

If you keep feeding them, they just keep growing

A couple weeks ago, we went to the playground with the giant rock-climbing wall. I turned to grab my camera, took my eyes off Sweet Boy for a minute, and the next thing I knew, he was 12 feet off the ground, standing proudly on the platform at the top of the wall, waving and smiling to me. I looked at Big Daddy and said, "How the hell did he get up there?!" He climbed, replied my nonchalant spouse. "He can't climb up there by himself! He's too little!"

The day after that mindblowing rock-wall climb, we were sitting at lunch when I heard a tiny knock at the door. Standing on our steps was Sweet Boy's little buddy from across the street: "Can Sweet Boy come over to play?" Imagine my delight -- his first come-out-to-play request! I watched Sweet Boy take one last gulp of PB&J then charge out the door and across the street with our friend's mom. I yelled after him "just 20 minutes! I'll be over soon!" And I turned to my husban…

Evacuation plan

Around 10:30 last night, my friend up the street e-mailed with a quick message: "Did your house just shake?" Although I hadn't felt the shake, I did hear a quick boom boom, and had just brushed it off as my cats wrestling in the hallway above us -- which often does sound like boomboom. Hmph, I thought, and turned on the news.

Sure enough, there had been an explosion at the giant Sun Oil refinery that sits on the river about 6 miles from our house. Any other night, and I would have been snug in my bed, unaware of this excitement. But this night, I sat in front of my computer and my television, trying to comprehend. All I needed to hear were the words "extremely toxic and dangerous when ignited" and "evacuation possible for residents within a 10-mile radius" and my brain went into high alert.

I stayed cool, but my thought process was weird. At least it wasn't what I would expect when faced with evacuating my family from our home. Big Daddy calmly stoo…

Got dirt?

I'm hot. My face is streaked with dirt, fingernails caked with mud, knees grass-stained. My back aches, my arms burn. Sweat drips down my forehead, soaks my shirt. My hair is frizzy from the morning mist and drizzle. But...the scent of rosemary lingers in my nose. I am smiling ear to ear.

We just turned over our veggie garden, prepping it for planting. Although we'd borrowed a (very old) roto-tiller from our good friends -- the friends who time and again bail us out with our home and yard issues -- we just couldn't get the tiller moving long enough to actually turn the soil. So, we did it the old-fashioned way: hoe, rake, hands, back.
We pounded the hell out of the weeds with a hoe, hacked at and yanked up clumps of grass with an edger, evened it all out with the rake. Sweet Boy "saved" all the worms by lovingly picking them out of the earth, collecting them in a pile then moving them to the far edge under the tiny dogwood sapling (that has remarkably survived not…

Top 5 Reasons Why My Husband Is Awesome

5. He not only washes and folds all our household laundry, but he puts my clean clothes away if I whine about doing it myself at the end of a long day. (He may not guess all the drawers correctly, but he tries -- and that's what counts.)

4. Instead of complaining about my spiky legs, he hands me one of his expensive uber-razors. (Ladies, don't be fooled by the pretty pink packages -- men's razors really are better!)

3. When we eat out, he never tells me what he's going to order. He lets me pick my own meal, then he gets the dish he knows I really wanted, and he swaps with me mid-meal.

2. He surprises me with a pair of purple Chuck Taylor sneakers he saw me eyeing in the mall weeks ago. (Because he knew I wouldn't get up off my wallet for something so silly.)

1. He calls me in the middle of a busy Monday to talk about mundane stuff like garage door openers and lawn mowers and all the phone calls he's made about each...then mid-sentence pauses and says "I can…

Moms all around me

I'm thinking about the moms in my life on this Mother's Day. First, of course, I remember the mom who raised me to be the person I am today, the one I look and sound more like with each passing day. Not a day goes by that I don't wish I could call her on the phone. I imagine today what she would be like as a grandmother, and I smile.

I think, too, of her mom, my own grandmother, the woman who spoiled me with frilly dresses and girlie gifts as a child, who traveled the country ringing a bell in the stands at my basketball games. She has stood tall by my side through happy and sad times as an adult and I'm so blessed to be standing by her side through next chapter of her fabulous life.

I think of my husband's mom, as well, the woman who raised the most amazing man I've ever known. She has taken me into her family without hesitation, with an open heart, and loves me as her own daughter.

I think of the moms who have filled in the gaps for me, the women who have lifted…

The grass is always greener

Once upon a time, Big Daddy and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a large apartment complex. A quiet building full of retirees who looked after us and doted on us like their grandchildren. We would call maintenance when the washing machine overflowed and flooded the kitchen, or when the window leaked and stained the wall, or when the air conditioner unit froze up, or even when we locked ourselves out. They would come within 24 hours, fix the problem, accept a cold beer as a thank-you tip, and be on their way. We lived there for four years. Yet I complained about it every week -- hated that we had nothing to call our own, longed for a backyard and garden, felt sad that we didn't have enough space to store the bread machine we received as a wedding gift.

Then we moved to a condo, a nice little place with three bedrooms and three levels, a pretty little balcony on the living room level and a patio through French sliders on the ground level. Nice big rooms, but…