I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Stevie Wonder Understands Me

 And so does Billy Joel, Elton John, Weezer, John Legend, Beck, Michael Jackson, Phoenix and ABBA.

 No matter what is going on in my life: I start listening to the radio or my ipod and immediately I feel like my favorite musicians are speaking out to me. Like they know me, like they understand me. I could be ecstatic or in despair, furious or elated, bored or confused or just ho-hum - and they just GET it. No one can sing about love like Stevie Wonder. I'm driving in the car and literally talking to him, saying, "I know, right?". 

Even Milli Vanilla knows how to speak to me.

Perhaps it is my ego or natural response to see the world through my perspective before any other, but doesn't it always seem like the perfect (or worst possible) song is always playing to suit your mood? After every breakup I've ever had, "our" song or songs that my ex-boyfriend liked would follow me everywhere. After someone I love passes away, their favorite songs are playing constantly. When I hear good news - Madonna or Ace of Base never fails to deliver the ultimate happy drive.

In a world of constant change, at least my mix tapes from 9th grade can still make me feel secure and understood. Thanks for always being there, my Michael Jackson and Toad the Wet Sprocket and Smashing Pumpkins disaster of a playlist. It may not flow musically, but it gets me through the day.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Rite of Passage...

 In light of all the crazy things that are going on around me, I thought I would keep it simple and just write about Ayla's new patch.

 Eye patch. This has nothing to do with pirates or a new fashion statement.

 Her condition, called amblyopia, is definitely something she can thank me for! Some eye problems run on Gregory's side of the family - but this specific "lazy eye" that wasn't that lazy to begin with - is my fault. I had amblyopia that was very severe and really, still is pretty bad. I was almost legally blind in my left eye. It is something that can be fixed at a young age, but once our eyes have stopped growing (growing eyes? gross!), we are stuck with our given prescription. The reason mine became so bad is that neither of my eyes wandered but my brain continued to support and use my good eye far more than my weaker eye. And without the attention of my brain... the eye just stopped working. And how did I pass my eye exams until I was six years old? I cheated. I was nervous about failing them and would always peek from behind the paddle when my left eye was being tested. But the nurse busted me in elementary school and I was taken to a very good doctor. The use of an eye patch and ridiculously thick glasses helped everything improve. I'm still really pathetic if I try to rely solely on my left eye... for example, they would revoke my license immediately if anything happened to my right eye. I can barely make out the header on my own blog when I cover my right eye. But oh well, right? The only thing it has restricted me from doing is getting a commercial driver's license. My truck-driving dreams have been dashed.

 A lazy eye that wanders or looks different is easy to diagnose. But it wasn't until Ayla failed two eye exams (her first two, in fact) that we took her to the pediatric eye specialist. Amblyopia was diagnosed and here I am, battling for 2-3 hours of patch time every day.

Our "agreement" that she can only play on the computer while wearing the patch is working out much better than expected. The first day I tried to make her wear it, she screamed over and over that she "couldn't see ANYTHING!" I started to think that they had gotten her prescription wrong. The other day, she cried so much up in her bed that she totally soaked the patch. It was very sad.

But the awesome designs are really helpful and tonight she wore the patch for at least two hours after getting off of the computer. She didn't mention it or even notice it until we were getting into the bath. Thank God for small favors. She may scream at me about everything else - clothes, brushing her hair, how much I hurt her feelings when I tell her not to draw on the wall with markers - but if she wears the patch and avoids near-blindless like her mother? That's all I can hope for.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Everyone else is doing it... Shutterfly Christmas Cards!

I have a difficult time resisting anything that is free. This probably stems from my college days where I would actually wait in line for a hoagie or attend job fairs and be thrilled over the number of free pens I had accumulated.

I've seen two friends recently write in their blogs that they are participating in the 50 Free Holiday Cards from Shutterfly. This is the way I've always done holiday cards, in the age of digital pictures when I actually have to remind myself to print any of the million photos we take in a year.

So I've jumped on the blog-wagon and am promoting the same thing!

Last year, I used something very similar to the Snow Flurries Cocoa Design. Our only good picture of the entire family, however, was from Halloween. Oh well - I'm sure we still got our sentiments across. It's fun to send out an automatic update to family and friends that I wish I kept in better contact with throughout the year. And the way our family has expanded from Gregory, myself and a couple of cats...to the the minivan riding family of five (plus The Baxter) in a matter of six years, updates are very necessary.

This year I am leaning towards either the Family Wall Noir or Picture Joy designs. We still don't have a good family photo, not even from Halloween. Bad things happen in this household when I have a plan to take photos. Ayla's mood disintegrates, Jackson bangs his face off of something or Elliot decides to take an epic nap just when the time is right.

 While the photographs may take divine intervention, I get a lot of my Christmas gifts along with the cards finished in record time once the kids have gone to sleep.

First of all, the canvas wall art is pretty amazing:
I'm also working on a few calendars for people; which are always essential:

And since I'm so behind on everything, this year the holiday cards might have to double as Elliot's introduction to the world!  The third kid really does get shafted. So, if you hesitated at all this year about sending out cards (I seriously did), try something easier than writing your name four hundred times on cards from Marshall's.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Parenthood. Undecided.

I'm talking about the show, not my personal experience. A few weeks ago, I would have said it was one of my favorite shows on tv right now (after Community of course, that show is ridonkulous!). But now I'm not sure.

I'm first and foremost obligated to watch the show because of Peter Krause. He will always be Nate Fisher from Six Feet Under (may he rest in peace, poor Nate) and I will watch any show that features an actor from that series. And his acting is good; my skepticism with Parenthood isn't with the actors - but with the writing and weird, random scenarios that keep popping up.

The storylines that deal with actual parenthood are great. But it's the whole Braverman family overkill that is getting on my nerves. First of all, like any tv family, none of them have jobs that interfere with every single person being able to attend every dinner, birthday, baseball game, trip to the park, holiday, moment of crisis, afterschool snack. They are always together. And it's a little ridiculous to think that every member of your family is and should be interested in spending every minute together. I know I want to see every class or event that my own children are involved in... but do I expect that other people to want to help with my kids homework every night? Not really.

Every episode seems to showcase another epic Braverman family tradition. All of the in-laws have to do it their way, because it is just THAT amazing. No one ever spends a holiday with their spouses families (except for the annoying Jasmine's mother). The show is turning into Braverman Siblinghood. It was such a lame ending for the Thanksgiving show that oh-so-conveniently it was just the four siblings that were picking through the leftovers and dancing. Where the hell did the rest of the family go? Kids, husbands, wives, fiances...they're whisked away when it isn't convenient.

But I'm not getting worked up over a tv show. I'm just disappointed. I guess there might be more families like this than I realize. A little self-absorbed and stuck in the past. I want to see more about parents being parents with their partners, not drama with their brothers and sisters. Don't let me down, Peter Krause!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for little hands

All I want for Christmas...

is Jackson's two front teeth.

I'm serious. I want my poor little guy to still have all of his teeth this Christmas.

Two ridiculously unnecessary falls causing trauma to the same tooth each time - and he has officially killed the root. This is one of my low mothering moments. The first time he fell, he chipped the front tooth and I took him to the dentist to have the sharp edge filed down.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was playing with him and he took a giant leap into a pile of cushions we have in our living room. Only he didn't estimate correctly and somehow busted his face on the arm of his mini recliner. His gums turned a weird whitish color and started bleeding from behind his teeth. Then his top lip swelled to at least 10 times its' regular size. This was one of those injuries where I cried more than he did.

Back to the dentist for x-rays and confirmation that he had moved the root. (And with every visit, I seem to be pushing him closer and closer to a lifetime fear of the dentist.)

I've been stressing about it for a month now, hoping and praying that his tooth somehow would be fine. Nope. The root is dissolving and it's only a matter of time before it has to go. His front two teeth have both turned a muted gray color. He's as cute as ever, but I love his teeth! I don't want to see any of them go - gray or not!

What kills me the most is that he did this while I was RIGHT THERE. He's taken harder falls outside on the concrete without any injury. So now we wait and see how long he can keep his chipped tooth.

Life - One, Me - Zero.

Friday, November 19, 2010


 My confidence has taken a huge hit recently. Hit is an understatement - annihilation might be more appropriate. I think anyone who has gone through the ups and downs of being pregnant and giving birth can understand how wacky you begin to feel about your image. I've always been a person who never gave much thought to my weight or shape - I felt healthy and fit into clothes I wanted, so no need for concern.

Having three babies in less than four years... well, it changes things. And I hate myself for saying it. A pregnant body is beautiful. It is serving a miracle in progress. What good could it serve to compare that life-giving shape to anyone not pregnant? But a mom is a woman too; who is ultimately vain and wants to look good. It's the months and years afterwards that you have to adjust that self-image. It's not easy work.

I'm not posting this to garner compliments. I'm not looking to the internet for validation. I've just had a serious day of introspection and honestly, have found that the root cause is that underneath it all, I think we're all insecure. When something in your life shifts and when something you thought to be solid evaporates - we are so quick to fall apart. I'm wondering how to prevent that. Is it possible?

 Confidence is so fickle. We look to other people to build us up. We could be having the best day, accomplish a huge goal, have amazingly perfect hair for once, getting the job you always wanted, finally fit into the jeans you couldn't button up... but something as stupid as a overhearing a person say something bad about you... that intoxicating feeling of confidence is gone.

 I could use a little bit more self-confidence and a little less other-confidence. You can't rely on it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


 Especially with my first child being a girl, I get to watch Ayla repeat so many of the things I absolutely loved about being a kid. Making friends at school, dressing up in tutus, going through all of my mom's cosmetics in the bathroom and the obsession with princesses and Barbies.

I try not to cringe when Ayla talks about "not being pretty enough" in certain outfits or not wanting to do anything that might risk her NOT BEING A PRINCESS. It's a high priority right now, and I needed to dig a little in my past to remember when that was the most important purpose in life.

 Somewhere along the way, I learned how to mix the princess idea with being a real person. I'm sure Ayla will figure it out too!

I saved my "autograph" after meeting Cinderella for years.

Ayla couldn't be happier wearing all of her birthday bling!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Diaper Change: Fail

I've had an interesting week of minor successes and failures. Elliot finally has his health insurance in order. Success. Ayla had a fever of 103. Failure. I made a healthy potato soup without incident. Success. Everyone hated it. Failure.

These are my days, certainly exciting and full of activity. Just as I'm starting to feel good, like it's "under control", I do something stupid or someone falls or another medical bill shows up in the mail (how much can it actually cost to give birth???)/

Anyways, I had an epic fail changing Elliot's diaper this week. One would think that I'm pretty experienced at changing diapers by now. It's kind of my hobby. But I had taken off a pretty poopy diaper and folded it in half. I was smiling at my baby, and he was smiling at me. Then I went to toss the diaper in the garbage, which is a mere foot away....

It flipped open and newborn baby poop went flying all over the wall. Totally my fault, totally another ridiculous mess to clean up. Did I really just throw poop on the wall? Yes, I certainly did. Thank goodness it was only Elliot's diaper - for anyone who doesn't know, newborn babies that are breastfed have the (how do I put this?) nicest poop. It doesn't smell AT ALL. It's very benign.

But that doesn't mean you want it on the wall. And for all you potential home buyers in the Leetsdale area: I have cleaned it up thoroughly and we don't ordinarily throw poop around the house.

This story sums up my experience as a parent. You're enjoying a peaceful moment, another methodical function in an ordinary day: and there's always something just waiting to flip open and create a scenario you never quite saw coming.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sleep Hitting

 Jackson looks pretty chill, doesn't he? Well - he's not! He is in the midst of his "terrible two's" (as people insist upon calling it, and as much as I don't like the stereotype... I can't come up with anything better). He's crazy; he hits and is constantly flipping over furniture, throwing toys and making a mess out of something.

I've also discovered that this behavior is not limited to his waking hours.

As for all bad habits in our house, I've been very lenient since Gregory went to Oklahoma. I'm not forcing potty training or giving up the occasional "baba" (bottle). It's traumatic enough that one parent has mysteriously disappeared - I'm trying to be a comfort and a source of consistency right now. The time for serious discipline will return once I have back-up and our family is together again.

 Therefore, I've let Jackson get used to sleeping with me. He always starts the night in his bed, but inevitably wakes up during the crazy wee hours of the night and is crying. I'm surviving here as a single parent, but not thriving. I'm getting the sleep I can - and if that means Jackson is next to me at some point every night, I'll take it.

 Only lately, his dreams or whatever semi-conscious state he is in at 3 am have started to get violent. Jackson yells out his signature "NOOOOO!" every minute, in between moments of absolute silence. It's just long enough for me to foolishly think that he's actually fallen asleep and then he is yelling again. He kicks and rolls back and forth, sighing into his pillow like an old man with back problems.

 His antics started pretty early last night (before midnight), so I was still awake to lie there and witness the action. Crying, rolling, stealing the blankets and then WHAM!, I got hit. He yelled "NO!" and took a full swing and hit my shoulder. This is not sleep walking, sleep talking or sleep eating... my son is a sleep hitter.

 It's pretty difficult to scold a sleeping child, so I just moved him back into his bed and covered my head with the pillow until his yelling quieted down. It might have even been a success. But we'll see, it's still early tonight...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Patience is a freaking Virtue

I've noticed a major theme in my life over the past couple of weeks. The major changes of having a third baby, Gregory gone in Oklahoma, preparing our house and stuff for a major move, going back to work at Azul.... I'm moving at a fast pace pretty much all of the time.

Someone is always waiting on me to finish one task and get started with the next. I'm changing Elliot's diaper, while Jackson waits with his own mess and Ayla is repetitively asking, "Can I have a drink with juice and ice and water in it?". The cats are meowing and tripping me first thing in the morning for their food. Customers at work are watching me with hawk eyes as I serve a margarita there, run a credit card here and take food from the kitchen and back and forth. I'm rushing everyone into their clothes in the morning (not every day, though, which is an amazing break!) and compulsively grocery shopping without a list in twenty minutes.

There's sometimes even a line for the toilet at our house. Ayla is taking her sweet old time, talking about her day while I'm holding a dirty cloth diaper and jumping up and down because I haven't gone to the bathroom in six hours.

And I keep repeating the same request aloud (and in my head): Be patient!

Last night while I was cooking dinner, I served Ayla and Jackson their veggies while waiting for the rest of the meal to cook. Two seconds later, Ayla is making her way back to the computer and complaining that "the bacon wasn't coming!" Jeez, give me a minute!

Toddlers are one thing - the concept of patience might not even be humanly possible for them. I get that. But all you grown-ups that are frequenting restaurants, please wait your turn. Waving me over to your table to ask me for your food or tell me you need more water (which I already had noticed, thank you very much) or that you NEED the channel changed to the game that started 20 seconds ago (biggest pet peeve ever). Your interference in my chain of actions has only made your desired request take longer.

I'm always thinking about the next thing I have to do - and when that list gets to more than ten items, I start to freak out a little. My request for patience turns into swear words and I suddenly lose patience with everything else on the planet.

 Maybe that's how we truly learn our virtues: to be put to the test by toddlers and restaurant patrons! Sometimes there really isn't much of a difference between the two.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Boo! (then barf)

 It's time!

 All of our Halloween costumes are here - we have a Star Wars theme with Snow White thrown into the mix because Ayla apparently is already at the age where she gets to pick her own costume. Beware parents, you only get to choose for a maximum of three years!!! Choose those first costumes wisely. My pumpkin is half-carved and we're anticipating another great year of roaming our neighborhood for delicious treats.

 For some reason, this holiday is one of my favorites. It's short, to the point and creative. You get to dress up, be crazy and get rewarded with candy. My parents always made it fun while we were growing up and it was even more exciting once I got to college. I remember being at a bar in State College and seeing someone slowly walk down the street in his 8 foot tall Transformers costume. He literally got a standing ovation. I love seeing all of the ideas people come up with and can't get enough of  newborn babies dressed as items of food! It's sick, I know!

 I have a million fond memories of Halloween: one year in elementary school when I was dressed up like a clown and HATED it, I went across the street to Nanni's house (always our first stop) and she didn't recognize me. Later, in junior high, my Dad would take me and a group of my friends to whatever cheesy haunted house we wanted.

 But this is one of my favorite memories to recall when I really need to laugh and remember that sometimes the ridiculous and retarded days of our lives are the best:

 If I'm recalling perfectly, it was myself, my sister Eve, my father, Erin (Werner) Gibson and Phil Benner. We met up at the Twin Hi-Way Drive-In for yet another scary haunted house. It was ridiculously gory and had several scenes set up to horrify you. One was a plane crash (which does seem to be in bad taste), another was a mental hospital, etc, etc. The course took you from inside to outside and back again.

 I love these things, yet hate them. The actors always seem to get too close and take it too far. I start to wonder if the "psycho wielding the chainsaw" really isn't a psycho wielding a chainsaw.

What I most remember is the level of panic this particular haunted trail presented in us. I freaked out at one point inside the "mental ward" because some lunatic chased me and I fell into a bathtub, completely tearing up my leg. We kept screaming and running and laughing.... until it was one BOO! too many and Eve barfed in the middle of the trail. BARFED. She got over it quickly and we kept walking. Except she heard people behind us commenting on the "fake barf" that laid on the ground.

We got so scared that my sister threw up. And sorry to say it, but that makes me laugh. Thanks for the best Halloween memory ever!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Couch Potatoes

 After nine o'clock, I'm done for the day. I may have had ambitions to read a book, work on a project, sort through any given mess in our house, fold laundry or even write this blog. But most days, if the kids are asleep, I'm parked on the couch working my way through the DVR.

 But every once in awhile I have a companion - a wide awake toddler named Jackson. Some days he is so grumpy in the middle of the afternoon, that I surrender and let him take a nap. I'm hesitant to do this because he is then NEVER tired that night. It might be eight hours after he has taken that nap - but it doesn't matter, he is always up late on days that he takes a nap.

My parenting energies are spent by this time, however, and I am intent on catching up with Oprah, The Apprentice (yes, I still watch it) and Community. If Jackson wants to stay up - he now has to do what I want. Luckily, he doesn't fight or complain as Ayla would do. He happily sits on the couch for his late-night special treat of watching tv with mama.

It's the cutest thing to watch (appropriate) prime time television through his perspective. Tonight, he loved the opening credits to The Apprentice and kept saying "WHOA" every time they showed a helicopter or aerial view of New York City. He loves commercials and laughs at anything that seems remotely silly.

My growing boy snuggles up next to me on the couch and we watch trashy television. It all goes over his head and after about fifteen minutes, he is looking through our collection of books anyways. But I'll let him enjoy this special time every once in awhile, just because he's so adorable. (And he'll wreck his room if I just leave him up there instead.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"I'm Crying because I miss my Dada."

I've been hearing this statement more and more from Ayla.

She says it when she wakes up in the morning, before going to sleep at night and after, well, anything that doesn't make her happy. Jackson takes away one of her princess toys... tears of shock and anger turn to tears of sadness that she misses her "favorite Dada in the world". I tell her that she can't play computer games for more than an hour or that it is bath time or that she can't have more candy; it leads to a total breakdown about missing Dada and how it is so hard to be apart. She was even crying in school the other day because one kid told her not to put animals on the road they were playing with. The teacher knew the issue was more than your typical preschool bickering when Ayla was crying so hard. Uggghhh, the poor girl doesn't know how to handle it all.

Tell me about it. I feel the same way she does. When you are latently sad or depressed about something - life is livable. But when something goes wrong, it's usually the first thing you think about. All unhappy issues turn into the same unhappy issue - a part of our family isn't here. We're just going through the motions and waiting until everything can go back to our version of normal.

It has now been exactly one month since Gregory left for his training in Oklahoma. And since he didn't turn around in Kansas (ha!), he's doing well in his classes and this ATC thing might just stick. We have to make it to December before we can at least spend weekends together and know that Gregory is only a short car ride away.

For now, we have Veteran's Day to look forward to. My birthday present was a group effort to get a round-trip ticket for me to visit Gregory (with Elliot tagging along in the baby Bjorn). What a thoughtful, amazing, perfect present. I booked the ticket and could lift my own spirits thinking about a visit only a month away as opposed to December.

 Only the guilt nagged at me. How was I going to tell Ayla that I was getting on a plane to visit her beloved Dada without her? She wouldn't take kindly to any excuse or reasoning. So, two nights ago, I put one more ticket on my itinerary. Budget be damned. It's too hard to watch a 4 year old struggle with sadness when we can at least offer a temporary solution. (Jackson is another story. He is too young and maybe too self-absorbed to get upset about it. He's very happy to talk about Dada and Skype with him on the computer. It might even traumatize him to see Gregory and then have to say goodbye again.)

 Here's to Veteran's Day (a Thursday holiday), the generosity of friends and family to buy my ticket in the first place and Discover Card to handle the rest! We can't wait to visit and make the rest of this separation bearable.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

We all fall for Fall

 Fall is my favorite season. It's for selfish reasons - I love anticipating my birthday in October, enjoying my birthday and getting a little bit of both worlds with the weather. It is cool at night, but beautiful in the afternoons and we can still entertain ourselves outside without stuffing our bodies into snowsuits.

 It seems appropriate that my last season here in Pittsburgh is the fall (unless we can't sell our house, then this is only the beginning of the end!). It is bittersweet. I'm taking in the colors of the changing leaves, the scenic drive through Sewickley and its' rows of mansions and all of the familiar "landmarks" of my hometown.

But more on my sappy, teary-eyed, philosophical drives around town later... here are some photos of Ayla, Jackson and Elliot enjoying fall for their own reasons.
Oh, how good it feels to jump into a pile of leaves!

This is while they were both still happy playing together.

Then I turned into a target.

Amazing! Ayla is looking at the camera.

Had to capture the snot.

Ayla tries to rake leaves directly from the source.

Pockles disapproves?

Next year will be different for you, Elliot, I promise!

Add caption

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ladies Man

 It started out as just another normal trip to the playground. We were climbing steps, swinging, rushing down the slides, playing hide and seek, laughing, chatting with a group of teenage girls...

 Wait, chatting with teenagers? Yes, one of my kids was captivating an entire group of tweens and it wasn't Ayla (or Elliot)... leave it up to my ladies man Jackson!

He walked right over to a group of girls and parked his butt in the middle of their conversation. They were so nice to sit with him and giggle at his one word answers to their questions.

"Baby." "Momma" - pointing over at me with my camera.
"Neeno". (That is his word for lightsaber.) Showing off his temporary Star Wars tattoo on his stomach.

Squeezing his tiny butt into the mix.

Just me and my ladies! Yeah!

I think this might have been the start of a dance performance.
I'm just pleased that he wasn't hitting anyone.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's Cuter than a 2 month old?

 A 2 month old sitting in an armchair, that's what.

So serious!

Jackson may be passionate with his brotherly kisses, but always gentle.

Rocking the double chin!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Family is the new "F" word?

 It's not coincidence that I've heard basically the same statement from two different people in the same week - that they've come to know the word "family" as a negative one. What I mean is that the word family is now being used as a weapon to fight anyone different, anyone who doesn't fit the stereotype - Mom, Dad, married with children.

It baffles and saddens me that people have the ability to turn the concept of family into something exclusive - as if only some people deserve it. If you aren't 100% normal (and news flash, NO ONE is normal), then watch out! The term "family values" is about to get thrown in your face.

My opinion might not matter much since I am living that typical society-sanctioned life. I have somehow followed life's acceptable plan - I got married to a partner of the opposite sex and then had kids. We've both remained healthy and together and at the moment, do not have anyone else living in our household.

We are blessed - but we are not necessarily the only way to do it. We are not "right", therefore making anyone else wrong. I love my life but I'm not going to use it as ammunition to stop other people from living their own way. If there is love and respect - do what you will. A family is who you love and who loves you. Gay, straight, white, black, adopted, estranged, real or imaginary.

Today, on my 30th birthday, I had a moment of retrospect. I never quite imagined this is the life I would be living. I have three beautiful, healthy, inspiring, amazing children and I am married to quite possibly the most perfect person on the planet. I live in suburbia; I cook dinner and cut coupons. I obsess over a garden and care about household cleaners.Who knew I'd turn out to be such a housewife? :)

 My family is a product of doing what felt and feels right. I love them and try to do the best for them. It just so happens that it is considered acceptable by some people's standards. I want to honor all of the families out there - may you have the joy you are searching for and the rights to pursue them!

Eff this idea that family is an exclusive club. That's boring.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fly on the Wall

 I've been spending a lot of time alone with Jackson lately, with Ayla at preschool and Elliot almost perpetually napping. He's quite an interesting character. Almost every interaction begins or ends with some sort of manly swordfight / light saber battle / crayon stand-off / being wrestled to the ground.

 Jackson really turns up the antics at bedtime. He'll go straight to sleep for every other person on the planet, but I have to yell at him twenty times to stay in bed or lie with him until he's finished talking to himself, kicking or trying to continue the mischief of the day.

The other night, I was sitting quietly in Elliot's room, holding him until he fell asleep... and I was watching Jackson avoid bedtime by messing with the dog. I had attempted to put Jackson in my bed so that Ayla could get to sleep. Instead of sleeping, he unloaded almost every drawer in the room, dumped all of my books on the bed and drew all over himself with a marker. (HOW DID HE GET A MARKER???)

 But the boy knew to stay in the room.

He didn't know I was watching, but he was engaging in a serious marker battle with our dog, Baxter. Jackson wouldn't step over the carpet line from our bedroom into the hallway... but he was waving that marker like he was defending the ends of the earth. He kept losing his balance as he tried to fight Baxter and would nervously step back into the bedroom. He would look around to see if he was going to get yelled at and then resume taunting the dog with his weapon of choice.

I couldn't be angry, but just marvel at how his personality is budding into a little man. I'm not rationalizing that a "little man" gets to be violent, but that by engaging in battle - that's the way he knows best how to interact with other people. He doesn't talk a lot, but it's a universal truth that almost anyone can have a light saber battle without conversation.

I was a little fly on the wall - seeing how he chooses to entertain himself: with a marker and a defenseless dog.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Now that's Multi-Tasking

The International Breastfeeding Symbol
This icon is posted in the front window on our house. I put it up when Jackson was first born because I loved what it stands for: the recognition that breastfeeding mothers should be welcome to feed their babies anywhere they may need. Because as ludicrous as this may sound: it is not a protected right. Women have been kicked off of airplanes (and not kindly), asked to leave public shopping malls and restaurants, etc. because they were feeding their babies. Breastfeeding doesn't have to be weird: in fact, if we were thinking naturally or in an evolutionary standpoint - bottle feeding is weird. I firmly believe that women should be allowed to breastfeed in public. It's a sad state of society when we are comfortable oggling boobs all day long with women walking around with low-cut shirts but we want a breastfeeding mother to hide herself in a dirty public restroom because we are uncomfortable with it. And it has to be protected by law. If you're interested in seeing what different states protect, go to the Mothering magazine website.

Some women choose not to breastfeed, believe me, I'm not judging. But I sometimes think that the same courtesy is not returned to those that breastfeed. I personally was not always comfortable nursing my kids outside of my home. And then... I had more than one kid. I have things to do - I can't hide in the house 24 hours a day and pump milk for a bottle in case I'm going to be in public when my kid gets hungry. But I got an Udder Covers cover and now I can modestly feed Elliot anywhere. And I have to, he's not predictable and it really wasn't my design to have to bare my chest every time he's hungry. Take it up with God... that's what boobs were ultimately made for. 

 But my point tonight was not to get into the legal logistics of breastfeeding, but how often I find myself doing the oddest things while I am feeding Elliot. I have to keep two other impatient children occupied, and on a normal day - I am feeding Elliot almost every hour.

 Here's some of the serious multi-tasking I've been up to while trying to nurse a baby:

-  Defending myself in a light-saber battle with Jackson.
- Stirring boiling pasta on the stove.
- Eating my own dinner (without spilling it, too!)
- Getting the mail.
- Reading many, many books to Ayla and Jackson.
- Writing thank you letters for all of the amazing baby gifts we've received!
- Breaking up wrestling matches and fights over toys.
- Putting on and tying my shoes (I was NOT successful with this one).

 I'd be interested to hear of anyone else's breastfeeding experiences and the crazy ways you've had to do it to get through the day! And one more note, I'd like to express my appreciation to my friends that are NOT weirded out by it. It means I can still have a nice, normal human interaction when I sometimes feel like a farm animal. :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Saying Goodbye

 Today was the day. Gregory got in his car and left for the air traffic control training in Oklahoma City.

We've been talking about it, stressing about it, planning for it, theorizing about it for two years - but today was the day it happened. It's surreal, to say the least.

What is the quote, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life"? Something like that? It's hard to feel that sentiment when the "today" we're speaking of is just another 24 hours that passes quickly and we do nothing out of the ordinary.

But we woke up at our new early time to get Ayla dressed for pre-school - only knowing that we were about to experience a shift, a tilt in our lives that we haven't felt since having children. It really felt like maybe the morning you wake up when you are getting married, maybe upon hearing that someone important in your life has passed away or on the way to the hospital in labor with your first baby... you know something big is happening, but you feel very ordinary about it.

It's September 16th, big deal! A Thursday. Bo-oring. Only today Gregory was leaving to venture on a huge career change. Goodbye bartender, hello vitally important federal employee. (Not that bartenders are not also vitally important parts of society.) Our small and young family about to experience a separation we are in no way accustomed to or prepared for. I am suddenly in charge of a household and three children for every minute of the day. I'm a mother that's used to walking away when their father is watching the kids and not worrying about a thing. While I have an incredible support system - I still feel ultimately responsible to make sure that every minute of the next three months is figured out ahead of time. 

Days like this always put me in a weird spot. I'm both living my life and watching it at the same time. As we prepared for his departure, feeling the pain for Gregory as he had to first say goodbye to precious Ayla, as she says, "But I'll miss you, Dada. It's hard to be apart." and then Jackson, who doesn't and DOES know what is happening at the same time. And me, holding a newborn Elliot who will never remember living here in Pittsburgh, and trying to console myself and my husband for what we both know is a going to be a long time apart..... what will we think of this morning ten years from now? A fantastic no-looking-back decision or the beginning of a series of changes that will take us to many cities and many challenges?

I don't know for sure, but I think what I know is that we are willing to risk it. Don't all of life's huge changes ultimately happen on ordinary mornings on ordinary days? That's how we all left home for college or the first time we rented our own apartments or moved in with our partners for life. Big decisions carried through little, insignificant changes.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Muppet Philosophy

 When asked on the meaning of life...

" Message? I got no message! I'm a puppet, man. This is all sham... make believe! Like everything! Everybody! We're all puppets! That's why we gotta boogie boogie boogie!!!"

- Dr. Teeth

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

TLC Therapy

 The deadline is approaching for Gregory's departure to Oklahoma... and while I'm worried about the logistics, how my kids will react, how Gregory will deal with the immense amount of silence and calm he is going to experience... I'm also worried about my own mental state.

My plan is to immerse myself in TLC Therapy - yeah, watching The Learning Channel. Or more appropriately, it should be called "The Perspective Channel". No where else on TV can you watch more shows about parents crazed with too many young children. I know when I'm here alone with three kids, I sometimes feel like my life couldn't get more ridiculous. I'm holding a crying Elliot near boiling pasta, while Jackson is having one of his blue-outs over nothing and Ayla is screaming in her room over her outfit not being "princess enough" and the dog just peed on the bathroom floor. Exaggerate much? Yes, but I do have a moment every day where I feel overwhelmed.

But TLC is a quick fix for that attitude. Seeing parents rush around to take care of one year old quintuplets or the listing of all of those Duggar children gives me a quick dose of perspective. I may think my life is busy and that I don't get the time to pursue many activities other than cleaning, but it really is nothing compared to the people on these shows. I used to like Jon & Kate Plus 8... but I think the world can agree that Kate is the definition of the obnoxious, know-it-all woman.

The Duggars are a little too perfect and religious for me - but I love Quints by Surprise and I Didn't Know I was Pregnant is just fascinating. On a bad day, I can tell myself that at least I didn't show up at the hospital and drop my newborn baby into the toilet by accident!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Preschool Counts!

 Ayla is off to school!

 This Monday, she started the Pre-K Counts program at Osborne Elementary. It's another full circle event, which one often finds themselves if living near Sewickley, as I dropped Ayla off at the same school I first attended in 1985! Of course now it has been renovated and looks more like an outlet mall than a typical elementary school.

The program is five days a week, starting at 8:45 am and lasting until 2:45 pm. Coming from her pretty lackadaisical existence in our house for the past four years, that is a big transition. She's attended group activities like library story time or her dance and swim classes - but to be away from home for six hours at a time, eating meals there is almost like taking on a full time job.
Faithful fuzzy was taken to school, too.
The new tutu dress from Eve helped us to get her dressed without a fight.

Good thing Ayla isn't grumpy in the morning! Check out that cool backpack!

But in reality, I was more stressed out about it than she was. It's hard to extract information from Ayla when she gets home. I try to use the open-ended, "School must have been fun today..." conversation starters... but she usually responds with a "yep". I ask about story time, lunch, new friends, the teacher and so on. Should I assume that no news is good news? She has no complaints and was so involved with talking with the other kids that she didn't even notice when I came to pick her up the first day.

I'm so curious to know what and how she interacts with people all day long! Does she actually take the nap for rest time? Is she grumpy when she wakes up like at home? Does she say excuse me after burping at lunch? It's hard to believe that at four years old - I'm already sending her out into the world.

 Along with her transition to school, we are enjoying some extra time with Jackson and Elliot on their own. Jackson finally gets some control over the toys, TV and how he gets to spend his day.

We are also shifting our schedules to what "normal" people tend to be... last night I had everyone in bed by nine thirty. Ayla passed out around 8:45 (after a little resistance to taking off her princess tutu) and Elliot was snoozing as well. Jackson spent some extra time awake watching TLC with me until he was grumpy enough to fall asleep. It has been a very rare occasion for me as a parent, to be sitting alone on the couch that early in the evening.... thinking about how to spend the rest of my night.

However, Baxter is not pleased about this whole school thing.

 Preschool has been a success this week - I hope it continues to stay that way!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mommy Cam

 I'm being spied on... by my own husband.

Gregory has been preparing for his move to Oklahoma City for ATC training. This training is going to last until December and we are not going with him. This is going to be hell. Along with figuring out all of his housing and travel details - he purchased a web cam so that we can talk and "see" each other. Ayla understands that she has to talk into the camera and she'll be able to see her Dada while he is away at school.

But with Gregory and technology, there is always a twist. He connected it to a program on his cell phone that he can remotely turn on and off. The camera light will turn on when he is doing this - but if you aren't paying attention, he could catch some of my crazy Mom antics.

  I yell. A lot. I'm yelling before I even think about what I am saying. Mostly the yelling is directed at the dog, because he always knows how to chew on the wrong toy or bother me when I'm trying to clean up, etc. He takes every situation from a 10 to an 11. But I also yell at Ayla and Jackson. "Sit down while you are eating dinner!" "Stop hitting each other!" "Stop touching the TV!" "JUST LISTEN TO ME!" My normal default mode is to yell and scream to get my point across, but I'm working on a calmer approach, I promise.

I've been warned a few times when Gregory has turned it on to take a peek at our family life while he is at work. But I know he's been watching us! Either I'm breastfeeding on the couch (so NOT the naked pictures anyone is hoping for) or the kids are jumping onto a pile of cushions or I'm screaming at them to help clean up the toys.

The new Mommy Cam has been keeping me on my best behavior. While I'm self conscious of being caught in a bad parenting moment - I totally see the point of watching the kids in their normal daily play. Who knows, maybe that's how Gregory will get to see them most. I envision fights over sitting in the computer chair and utter confusion on Jackson's part as to why he's talking to his father on a screen.

 And it also works as a puppy cam or puppy-sitter cam. Eve's boyfriend was kind enough to sleep over with our stupid, overly anxious dog while we went out of town. It was the perfect chance to try out the camera! Poor Matt was sitting, watching TV and we were just watching him. Eve sent him a text message that said, "It's rude to put your feet on the furniture". He looked confused for a minute, looked over at the camera and figured us out. He called us creepy, and he was right!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Stanton Family Wedding... what is that?

 Last weekend we drove to upper Michigan for my cousin Austin's wedding to his amazingly cool fiance/wife Khaylen. I've been so pumped about going all summer long, along with the anticipation of Elliot's birth. Austin was kind enough to let us tentatively accept our invitations with the option of backing out at the last second if we couldn't make it. My due date was August 13th and the wedding date was August 21st. That didn't leave much room for error or late babies!

 Not only was I excited to see my cousin get married, but attending this event felt even more important when you consider how many weddings I've attended on my side of the family recently. How many do you say? None. The last Stanton family event that I was either invited to or able to attend was in 1997. Nearly half of my life ago. Not cool.

 I've been to at least one wedding a year for Gregory's family. Granted they are more at the marrying age and a much closer knit family - but it was starting to get absurd that I've been married for six years, had three kids and Gregory still hadn't met some of my family. I'm not talking about distance relations like my grandparents' siblings' children (he's actually met those people!), but aunts, uncles and cousins that were a huge part of my life when I was growing up.

But the wedding-less streak is over. And we had a great time! My sister, Eve, made the roadtrip more exciting since I was sitting in the back seat on baby duty. My brother drove from Minnesota and we hit up the town of Traverse City for two nights. The night we arrived, Gregory had picked a random brewhouse for dinner - and it turned out to be the site of Austin and Khaylen's rehearsal dinner. So we lucked out with some extra time to see the groom and the chance to actually talk without the pressure of wedding etiquette.

The wedding itself was at Black Star Farms. Beautiful place! But I had known that for months because right after Austin had told us about choosing Black Star Farms, I read about it in my Food & Wine magazine - I felt really cool knowing that I was going to be enjoying some first class wines! If only we had shown up early enough to buy some bottles for later...

The ceremony was perfect (with Elliot remaining quiet in my arms and Austin crying like I knew he would!), dinner was delicious and the dance floor did not disappoint. I reconnected with family I sadly haven't seen in years or since my own wedding, which anyone knows is not the ideal situation for actually catching up. I've never seen a bride and groom so thoroughly master the dance floor and they are truly a perfect match for each other.

 I had a glimpse of what I hope our family can become in the future - more connected and so much fun with all of the new marriages and children to be had. :) Congratulations Austin and Khaylen for a fine event!

Even though Ethan and Eve look like they are posing for prom, this is a great picture.
Two guys just enjoying "simpler times, before those Bartles and James".
My cousin Melissa caught up in the baby fever!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"This is where you die"

 This post is dedicated to my sister, Eve. "This is where you die" are her exact words when we checked into our hotel room this past weekend in Traverse City, Michigan. We drove there for my cousin Austin's wedding (which deserves its' own post) and booked a room at the Traverse Bay Inn.

 Number one reason? The price: $64 a night. It turns out that Traverse City, MI is quite the boutique, touristy beach front, wine region hot spot. It was certainly a cool place to visit and we could see why every other search for an affordable hotel room had listed prices well over $150 a night. I suppose that isn't ridiculous when you consider staying in New York City or any family vacation spot during the summer time.

 But we're used to low and lower hotel rates. I used to work for Hyatt Hotels. That meant free hotel stays - including the Stanhope Hotel in NYC, where Gregory and I stayed before we got married. Gregory now works (freelance) for a Sheraton Hotel, so we are hooked into their $50 employee rates.

So when we were looking at hotels for my cousin's wedding, we were bummed to see that not only were there no Sheraton Hotels within four hours of Traverse City, but our other options were pretty pricey by our cheap-ass standards.

The Traverse Bay Inn looked very tantalizing with its' low price and the fine print on the website claiming "shared bathroom" didn't really concern me when I reserved two nights on my credit card. "Shared bathroom" could just mean that the two queen beds had to share a bathroom in the middle of the room, right?

 Ooohhh, turns out that a "shared bathroom" DID mean a shared bathroom - with one other room and any person venturing off of the lobby. Yes, Captain Obvious, I shouldn't have been surprised. We all had a moment of panic walking into our entrance around the back side of the hotel. (When everyone else at the motel gets a door in the front and you have to take a stone path around the back, it's a little disconcerting.)

 Our bathroom was at the bottom of a steep set of stairs and our room was at the top. The room was actually very nice - much how you would feel staying at either your Grandma's house or how I remember many of the hostels in Europe. You are just paying a lower price to stay in the extra space in someone's house. There was a sitting room with a pretty nice flatscreen tv and then a separate room with two beds, microwave, fridge and plenty of space for our Pack n Play.

 But it was still a little creepy - giving the feel of a sad situation in a lonely, extended stay hotel. Like someone who was kicked out by their family and just trying to make due with the cheapest place in town. And Eve put it best with her "This is where you die" summation.

 We never actually saw another person use our bathroom and didn't have any embarassing moments. But I owe Eve a new shampoo, since hers was thrown away when the hotel-keeper cleaned "our" bathroom.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Week of Firsts

 Elliot has been experiencing a lot of new activities in the past couple of weeks - first of all, being out of the womb is something new! But he has taken trips to the park, rides in the minivan, had a first bath, worn his first cloth diapers and has shown quite an appetite.

 Tomorrow he will be three weeks old, and he's been kind to us so far (i.e. we are sleeping...somewhat.)  I can tell that he is gaining weight, although he doesn't have another doctor's appointment until next week. When Elliot cries - it is LOUD, but purposeful. He stops as soon as he gets whatever he is lacking at the moment.

 Hopefully he will follow Jackson's example and be a good sleeper. He is awake for short bursts during the day and other than a few burps and fussing, he goes back to sleep at night when we need him to.  So far, so good. (Knock on wood!)

 Ayla and Jackson are liking our "cute little baby" (as Ayla puts it) too. As can be seen in Gregory's Facebook video, Jackson expresses his love with serious lick-kisses and intense hugging. I have to watch closely or put Elliot out of reach because Jackson will not hesitate to pick up his little brother by his clothing and drag him around the house. (I've caught it at the early stages, so no need to call the authorities!) Ayla loves being involved with all of the baby-tending activities - even changing Elliot's diapers. She asks to see his poop EVERY time. If it keeps her entertained...

Say what you want about the inconvenience of cloth diapers... but they're the only ones we've used that have NOT leaked yet! 
 Our transition to a family of five people is going as well as can be expected. We've done the newborn scene before, so I think our expectations are right where they need to be. Every day activities are just a little bit more complicated... but it's all relative when you are dealing with kids.
 Ayla has said it best, when Elliot is sleeping calmly in my arms that, "I like this little baby. We can keep him."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ayla, it's your birthday!

How could this day have already been four years ago?
A little baby girl is now a big sister to TWO brothers? 

Happy Birthday, Ayla!

To my sweet girl, always full of BIG emotions. I've been so lucky to have you as my daughter. We love you and obsess over you and can't wait to see how much you grow in the next year.

And on a side note, I'm sorry that you have to give up the babas (bottles) now. It breaks my heart to hear your sadness about giving them up and how "it's hard to be a big girl! I'll never have babas again!". 
I know it's hard to grow up - but you are so good at it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To Buffalo? To Buffalo!

 Here is the official blog announcement: we are moving to Buffalo, New York.

Yes, Buffalo! To make a long story shorter - Gregory will soon be training to become an air traffic controller (ATC). He's been involved in this hiring process for, say, over two years now. I'm not exaggerating. He went for the "entrance exam" a few weeks after Jackson was born in 2008. Then we went to L.A. in January 2009 for the interview and other formalities. The job offer for the Pittsburgh airport came a few weeks after that. And then the waiting began. Waiting for either someone to retire or for the need for a new hire.

Anyone who has been through the Pittsburgh airport lately can see that it is sadly not what it used to be. With the move of the US Air hub to Philadelphia, our poor city has really declined in the amount of air traffic coming in and out. Hence, anyone waiting for a job opening in the airport tower was apparently going to wait forever!

Luckily, we've had a good contact through this entire process - a friend of the family who works in the Pittsburgh area as an ATC. He has been kind enough to follow Gregory's file through the never ending journey of government procedures and paperwork. This past March, our friend called to ask if we'd be willing to relocate to Buffalo. It was either relocate or sit and wait for a possible opening in 2012. So we said, basically, why not???

 And now it's really happening. When you sit on an idea for so long, it starts to become just that - an idea, not reality. But the day before Elliot was born - we get another call from the FAA. Gregory has a start date for his training (which by the way, is NOT in Buffalo but in Oklahoma City! We will not be going with him, which is an entirely different issue.)

  The training starts on September 20th, lasting for a little more than three months, and then it's straight to our new city. In the dead of winter! I explained the whole process because for those that don't know why we are leaving our pretty much perfect existence here in Leetsdale, we get a dumbfounded "What the hell are you thinking?" look when we mention Buffalo. 

 It's scary, it's intimidating, but it's what we are going to do! 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Leave my eyelashes alone!

 As if Viagra commercials weren't enough, there is a new prescription product being advertised that grosses me out on a whole new level.

 Latisse - "When your lashes grow, your lashes show."

 For more than $100, you can buy some "FDA Approved" (quotations for sarcasm, everyone!) gel that you brush on your eyelashes to make them grow longer. The world is moving beyond mascara. The bothersome part about this is not only the side effects (may darken eyelids, cause red, itchy eyes), but that a drug that was probably created to help patients going through chemotherapy is now another cosmetic, superficial way to mess with your face.

And the spokesperson is Claire Danes! My So Called Life would not approve.

Can't we just be content with our eyelashes? Honestly, just putting on mascara everyday is already pretty toxic. (Regular makeup is loaded with lead and tons of unapproved chemicals). But if you are an ordinary person who hasn't lost eyelashes to disease... what's so wrong with looking like... well, everyone else on the planet?

 Yuck, yuck, yuck. These new drugs are always introduced with a huge FDA APPROVAL stamped below the cleverly marketed name. That buys me no assurance. The same thing was said for antidepressants that had horrible side effects for teenagers, for Gardasil, for high blood pressure meds, etc. The approval lasts for a few months before enough people get sick or die for the drug to be thoroughly reviewed or taken off of the market entirely.

 I guess this post reveals my distrust in the pharmaceutical world. We are so foolish to believe that just because a doctor writes us a prescription, that our medicine is always safe. Often times it is - and when you are facing an illness, a lot of medicine has been tried and true and can save your life. I would try an experimental drug for cancer... but for my eyelashes? No way. Especially if Claire Danes is involved.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I laughed, and Elliot was born...

 It's true: I kind of laughed Elliot out of the womb.

 For anyone that's had a difficult time in labor or an otherwise bad experience in the hospital, please know that I've been there. My labor with Jackson was one of the most exhausting, painful, terrible experiences I've had. There wasn't any time for medication and he was born all natural!

 This time, my third experience with labor, a mixture of good luck and the epidural made giving birth to Elliot (almost) easy.

 Last Thursday morning, I woke up around 5 am when my water broke. It wasn't dramatic at all, and I wasn't feeling any contractions. This is the exact same thing that happened with Ayla - I waited nearly twelve hours before going to the hospital with her because I was feeling great and pain-free. So, at 5 am when I knew that Elliot was on his way, I went back to sleep for a few more hours. Babies or not - if I can avoid getting up that early, I'm going to do just that.

 I finally woke Gregory up around 10 am to tell him it was "go time." Ayla and Jackson were both waking up just like any other ordinary day. We called Gregory's family - which was perfect timing - Rachel, Raul and Noella had just arrived the night before. They came down to our house to get our kids, and after packing up all of our sleepover bags, we were off to the hospital.

 Now, Gregory is going to be mad that I'm sharing this - but we made a few stops before getting to the hospital. What can I say? I felt absolutely great because my contractions hadn't kicked in yet and we were a lot less nervous about having our third baby than we had been with the other two. Gregory got his breakfast and we picked up some stuff at the drug store. Obviously, we had time to kill. :)

 Checking into the hospital was easy - we walked ourselves up to the maternity ward after going through the emergency room entrance. (Like I said, things have not always been this peaceful. With Jackson, my water broke full force in the emergency room and I threw up all over the place.) The nurses took us into the delivery room and confirmed that, in fact, my water was broken.

 Pitocin got my contractions consistent and I finally started to feel them. I had been unsure what I was going to do about the epidural up to this point. On one hand, I had felt groggy with medication during Ayla's birth but alternately had felt amazingly good right after giving birth to Jackson all natural, as hellish as that experience was. But once I started to feel the contractions again (imagine a charlie horse in your stomach), I knew I wanted the epidural.

 Honestly, getting the epidural was the worst part of the experience. I had three huge contractions while I had to sit completely still and listen to the doctor explain to his intern where and how far the needle was being pushed into my spine. But once the narcotics kicked in, I could just wait it out until Elliot was ready.

 (Stop reading now if you're grossed out by birth stories, it's only going to get more detailed.)

Often times, the effect of the epidural helps a woman to relax and makes the labor work faster. I went from 2 cm dilated to 7 cm and finally 10 cm - all in the course of two hours. At one point, the nurse checked and said, "Hello, baby!" because Elliot had moved so far down.

 My doctor came in the room (they don't often sit and wait for the "pushing phase" to start, the nurses call them at the last minute) and I got ready to push. I was all geared up for the hard work that I had had to do in the past. But seriously, I pushed for five minutes max. I pushed once, was told to stop, and then the doctor told us a joke. I laughed.... and next thing you know, I have a baby boy looking at me! Gregory had missed it because he had turned around to get the camera ready.

 Easiest birth EVER. I sat there, holding a baby that looked just as surprised as I did. We hadn't found out whether we were having a boy or girl... so we spent the next fifteen minutes stressing out about a boy's name.

 If there's a name that means easy entrance to the world or most laid-back baby, I didn't know it - so we chose Elliot because it fits him well!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Introducing Elliot Stanton Abell!

 Here's the short version for those who are squeamish or not interested in the full birth story. I'll be posting more details later.

  Elliot Stanton Abell

Born on July 29, 2010 (fifteen days ahead of schedule) at 3:08 pm

7 pounds, 4 ounces and 20 1/2 inches long

He's happy, healthy and very, very cuddly.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

R.I.P. Zucchini

 I read a book this summer called Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter. I was completely inspired by this self-proclaimed crazy person who used a vacant lot in Oakland, CA to start a community garden. It wasn't limited to fruit trees and vegetables, but also an apiary (bees), turkeys, rabbits, ducks, geese and pigs. Her dedication to following through with every difficult task was amazing. She battled slugs and mustered up the courage to kill and skin her own bunnies for food. I found myself devastated every time a plant didn't thrive or when some jerk would come into her garden and steal her prized heirloom vegetables.

  Needless to say, one of my goals in life is to become an urban farmer. I may not be able to go as far to slaughter my own animals - but I could keep a beehive or tend to a flock of chickens in the yard.

 But it's trickier than one would think. And I don't know if I'm mature enough yet to handle the responsibility. Animals constantly try to escape (the author eventually gave up on her turkeys and they roamed the ghetto freely). I can't quite deal with our dog and his escapades. Gardens need specific spacing and soil PH levels to succeed. That's another weak point for me. And bugs always attack.

 This year, a very specific moth has killed the zucchini plant AND my chances at making unlimited amounts of zucchini fritters for the rest of the summer. Sure, I can go to the farmer's market... but it just isn't as satisfying and honestly doesn't taste the same. The annoying bug is called the squash vine borer. It lays eggs on the bottom of the leaves and then I believe works its way down the stem of the plant and kills the root. I didn't know the warning signs and found out too late. I ripped up the saddest looking part of the roots and saw some really gross white, grubby bugs. Thanks a lot for eating my zucchini!

 I did some research from other people's gardening blogs and they were proactive enough to start zucchini seedlings from their original plants after the month of June - which is apparently when this bug attacks.

 Live, garden and learn, right? I will after I make my last batch of truly homemade and homegrown zucchini fritters.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Minivan Madness

 This post is long overdue. I must discuss our "new" minivan.

We bought the 2007 Honda Odyssey this past March after my final debacle with the cursed Dodge Neon. The troubles I've had with the Neon date back to before Ayla was born, but like any sucker, I kept having to fix whatever ailment it decided to have because I was stuck in a car loan. But I worked like a maniac to pay that loan off early and trade in its' sorry ass to the Honda dealership. (And if it remains a lemon, I have no guilt in taking the maximum trade-in value because they are the ones that sold it to me in the first place.)

The minivan has changed my life. There wasn't ever a moment of mid-life crisis... I never had an awesome sports car pre-children -  so I didn't really care about leaving behind my days of carefree, sexy driving.  Having a minivan that starts every time I want to go somewhere, not leaving me stranded in a parking lot with two kids, is pretty sexy on it's own.

 Obviously we needed to upgrade because a family of five needs more room. Regardless of my loser Neon, we had to obtain some third-row seating. The first amazing thing is that I can strap the kids into their car seats while standing inside the car. This may not seem revolutionary, but the space is very helpful when it is (1) pouring rain or (2) when someone is having a massive, squirming temper tantrum about getting into said car seat.

 The second amazing change has been our roadtrip potential. We used to squeeze everything into Gregory's Hyundai Elantra (which dear Hyundai, you never failed us) and hope that I could get my butt in between the kids in the back seat to manage snacks, books, throw-up and 12-hour restlessness. Now we can use the spacious "trunk" AND have additional passengers!  If all of this sounds pathetic and sad, you have to understand where I was coming from. A CD player, automatic windows, dual climate control and back-up sensors were NOT features on the Neon.

The third amazing feat is that the Honda minivan has seemed to cure Ayla's motion sickness. She routinely threw up on every long trip we took... and voila! we just drove to and from Holden Beach without incident.

In honor of our upgrade (and second most valuable possession after our house), I compiled a playlist for my Ipod. Not a cassette mix-tape like I used in the Neon, but a real grown-up Ipod playlist. Check it out:

1. Selected songs from Yo! Gabba Gabba. It puts Jackson (and the rest of us) in an instant good mood.
2. "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" - Billy Ocean
3. "Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" - Ghetto Boyz  (think of the scene from Office Space)
4. Theme from An American Tail - it has amazing family sing-along powers.
5. "Human Nature" - Michael Jackson. It is my all-time favorite driving song.
6. "I Need A Dollar" - Aloe Blacc. Bigger car = bigger payments.
7. "My Baby's Got Sauce" - G-Love & the Special Sauce. Bringin' back the good stuff. It's what I would have listened to if I drove a minivan in junior high.
8. "That's Not My Name" - The Ting Tings. Ayla's choice.
9. "The Sign" - Ace of Base. Most people know how much fun I had blaring this in my first car. The sentiment hasn't changed much since then.