Wednesday, December 30, 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 sucks up so much of my waking time? Will my marriage turn rocky right when we seem to have hit such a good groove? On and on and on my mind reels through these anxieties.

Anyway, this morning after some deep breaths to get through the 30-week-realization panic, Big Daddy and I went to Lowes to buy paint for the nursery. (Gorgeous dusky amethyst paint, by the way -- a color I can't wait to surround myself and my baby in.) The checkout woman, a middle-aged black woman with a friendly smile and orange-brown braids, commented on the paint color, how it was so soothing and soft. I mentioned it was for our new baby's nursery, and she got all sorts of excited about the idea of a new baby -- she seemed more thrilled than some of our family. She asked about my other children, and I told her about Sweet Boy, that he's 4-and-a-half and how we thought for a long time that he'd be an Only. And for some reason, this Lowes checkout lady's response put all my earlier oh-my-god-we're-having-a-baby-imminently anxiety to rest:

"Oh, how perfect! That's the perfect age difference! He's going to be a big brother who knows how to show love. And you let him have his babyhood, gave him time to be the one and only -- but now you can give this baby undivided attention, too, when big brother goes to school. Perfect timing, mama. You all are gonna be just fine, just beautiful."

So there I was, standing in the checkout line at Lowes, smiling and nodding and feeling a bit choked up at this stranger's effusive show of happiness and support for me and my family. Maybe she wasn't placed in my path by God or the universe or any higher power; perhaps I was simply looking for reassurance from any source I could find. Regardless of how or why, this little light at Lowes was spot-on today.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

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 station.
3) Bake all your favorite cookies, sampling dough as often as you need to. Call your besties while the cookies are in the oven, so it's almost like you're together, if only briefly.
5) Pull all the gifts out of their hiding places and set up wrap-shop in the family room, in front of the giant TV. Spread out your bags, paper, tape, etc. all over the room if you need to -- go ahead, there's no one else there, and you don't have to clean up until tomorrow!
6) Watch as many cheesy rom-coms as necessary while you wrap gifts. These include favorites such as Love Actually (one of my recent faves), Say Anything (one of my teenage faves), and Mamma Mia (don't judge...it was a snow day...)
7) Call your husband and child periodically to update them of the big storm, to ask how they're doing, and to remind yourself that the alone-ness is temporary.
8) Optional activities include, napping, reading, writing letters, yoga, playing solitaire, snuggling with your cats, and staring at your beautiful Christmas tree while sipping hot chocolate.

Although it's important to stay as busy as possible on these home-alone snow-bound days so you don't feel lonely or stir crazy, be sure all your activities are relaxing. The following is a list of things you must not do:
  • Vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing bathrooms, or any other type of cleaning
  • Laundry (this includes folding and putting away laundry, too)
  • Checking work e-mail or trying to get a jump on deadlines you're worried about
  • Talking on the phone to any relative who will heap their stress on you
  • Paying bills or balancing the checkbook
  • Any type of sweaty exercise
And, most importantly, be sure to prepare a nice little gift for your neighbors who not only have shoveled and plowed out your driveway and sidewalk three times, but also have called to check on you periodically.

Be sure, too, to enjoy the gorgeous sunrise when the snow finally stops falling the next morning.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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 extra pounds that I want to start dressing so provocatively?
  5. It is not OK to charge us twice as much for a top that's half-quality. Seriously. You're just taking advantage of people in a desperate situation.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

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 and rows of trees searching for the perfect Mello Family Christmas Tree. We would each put a glove on our favorite tree, and then it was up to Dad to choose the winner. He would deliberate for what seemed like hours, as we tried to stay warm or not think about how bad we had to pee. (I finally got wise by the time I was a teenager and took an extra pair of gloves, so as to avoid the frostbitten fingers.) The best part of this tradition was that every tree really did look different -- until we got it home and decorated it with our pretties and made it ours.

However, since moving out on my own, the annual Christmas Tree Search goes something like this: Drive around to area nurseries or lots, wander around looking at hundreds of trees that look pretty much the same, trying to guess which are fresh-ish and which have been lying around for weeks, kvetching about how expensive they are. We make it a night by dining (and I use the term loosely) at Pizza Hut -- the one time per year that we eat there -- and it's usually a fun evening. We found a tree lot a few years ago run by the area Lions Club, so I feel that at least a portion of the cash we shell out on the mostly dead tree is going back into the community.

This year's search was a partial bust, though, and it's led me to believe that perhaps the faux tree is the way to go. We drove to the Lions Club lot on a snowy, slushy evening, after much fanfare and excitement building for the little one...only to discover the lot was closed due to weather. So we went to the local nursery, where they were charging an exorbitant amount for great big fat trees that wouldn't fit in our room.

We ended up at Home Depot. There's something less than magical about picking out your Christmas tree at Home Depot, amidst stacks of potting soil and piles of kitschy holiday decor. In the freezing rain. With your kid running like a maniac through the puddles, hiding behind mulch bins and generally driving you crazy. And then waiting for 15 minutes for an orange-aproned associate to help you tie up the tree. Oh, and don't forget the argument with your husband in the parking lot as you both fumble with frozen, painful fingers trying to tie the damn thing to the roof. The trip to Pizza Hut was fun as we regaled Sweet Boy with our own 12 years of Christmas tree memories, but really -- we could have done that without the rest.

At the end of the evening, when Big Daddy brought the tree into the garage, approximately 3 million needles fell to the ground, indicating that this is not the freshest tree on the block. And we won't even talk about the half-strand of lights that we spent 30 minutes trying to get to light. Or the annual chasing of the cats out of the tree water, or the yelling that takes place when the clumsy little three-legged cat skitters past the tree and sends ornaments shattering across the floor. Again, not magical.

Don't get me wrong: Hours later, once we got all the ornaments and lights and garland and beads and candy canes on it, the tree is just as beautiful and special as all others. But truly, wouldn't that be the same case with a pre-lit artificial balsam fir, purchased a half-price at the end of the holiday season? I'm starting to think that maybe the magic is in the trimmings, in being together as we pull our Christmas treasures out of the attic -- not so much in the tree-picking and setting up (and endless vacuuming and watering and cat-chasing and fear of fire). Perhaps next year we'll take our tree out of a box...and then go to Pizza Hut.