Soaring on Wings of Death

I have a friend, Reed, who is a field engineer with my company. He travels more than anyone I know, and we swap travel stories on the rare occasion that we have time for a phone conversation that isn’t a fire drill or for dinner when our paths cross.

Before I started with my company, I was terrified of flying. I savored soaring above the clouds when I was a kid but, at some point, I became too aware of my mortality. While I know the stats (“You’re 800,000 times more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash!”), I didn’t like the odds of recovering from something going wrong at 30,000 feet. I also tend to be a little controlling – shut up – and ceding complete control of my life to two strangers bumping fists in the cockpit didn’t set well with me. (I always imagine pilots bumping fists, saying things like “Smooth takeoff, bro! Hey, why don’t we simulate some violent turbulence and freak the passengers out for a laugh. Aw, yeah.” *Fist bump*)

Of course, during my interview when I was asked if I minded traveling up to 75% of the time, I lied my ass off and said, “Of course not. That sounds lovely,” and thought I would just deal with it if I got the job, which was unlikely. No point in alerting my potential employer of my paranoia for no reason.

I got the job.

The first year or so, I had a lot of cocktails on a lot of flights. (A statistic for you: at the rate I was going, my liver would likely give out before my plane fell out of the sky). I am happy to say I have evolved and can travel clean these days without the need for booze.

In one of our early conversations, I mentioned my fear of flying to Reed. He proceeded to throw out additional statistics about how most people survive plane crashes or emergency landings, quoting scenarios from a program about plane crashes on the history channel. He told me about Aloha 243 in the 80’s which, until then, I was blissfully unaware of. He said the roof blew off and only one flight attendant died when she was swept out of the hole. He then cheerfully mimicked sitting in a plane seat and looking all around you as if there was nothing there – no wall, no little plane window, just sky- and said “can you imagine?”, shaking his head and laughing.

My eyes were the size of saucers. No. No, I cannot imagine. Thank you, Reed. I know better than to watch plane crash shows on the history channel but, after his description, I had no choice but to google Aloha 243 for pictures of the plane. Oh. My. God.

Holy shit! Are you KIDDING me?!?

Reed said some passenger had noticed a crack in the fuselage when she was boarding on the jetway, but didn’t think it was a big deal and didn’t mention it to the crew. As a precaution, Reed spends his time in line to board doing a thorough visual inspection of the plane – I imagine Reed running his hand over bolts, squatting down to check a different angle, and sticking his head in the cockpit saying, “Guys, I found something I think you need to see. Come with me.”

I spend my time on the jetway staring at the console at the end, biting my lip and talking myself out of pushing the tempting big red button. (“Don’t do it, Jamie. It’s not worth it. You’ll be arrested, never allowed to fly again, lose your job as a result, and become destitute and smelly. No, you can’t get away with pretending the kid behind you tripped you and you just ‘fell’ into the console. There are witnesses. Think. THINK!!”)

Thanks to Reed, the big red button is no longer my biggest distraction. I now catch myself looking out the plane window in flight, and having heart palpatations if I think one of the flaps isn’t flapping correctly or – worse – wondering if some careless airline worker has stepped where it says “NO STEP”.

“Er…I probably shouldn’t tell my supervisor about this…”

I hope that guy can’t sleep at night when a plane goes down with his footprints on the wing! There should be a “CSI: Plane Crash” where they dust for footprints on any delicate parts of the plane that survive the blazing inferno – I picture them storming into the unassuming airport guy’s room in the middle of the night to place him under arrest, ending the episode with some smartass quip.

“There’ll be no more safety wand action for you, buddy!”

While my paralyzing fear of flying has ebbed and I no longer have to drink heavily to stop myself from yelling “We’re all going to die!!!” when the plane hits a particularly bumpy patch of turbulence, I do still occasionally break into a cold sweat and fight the urge to grab the arm of the stranger next to me. And, when that happens, I think of Reed. I think of the likelihood that he has inspected the very plane I’m on. Keeping the skies safer for all of us…

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Apocalypse Envy

My parents are what you might call over-preparers.  My Dad has a document with every item of value that they own, when they acquired it, what they paid, and a comparative item priced at an antique store (with date, name of store and proprietor) for items they inherited.  He keeps a copy of this list with a picture of each item in a safety deposit box.  This makes the old shoebox full of faded, water-stained receipts in the top of my closet look amateurish somehow…

My Mom is the purchaser of household necessities and, my God, they will never be without toilet paper or soap.  I opened the linen closet searching for a cotton ball the last time I was home and, instead, found eighteen 24-packs of toilet paper filling the top shelf.  They have enough toilet paper to cover all the poops of a lifetime and just as many bars of soap.  (How ever will they use all that soap?!)  My mom is already the owner of a “soap saver” – essentially a net with a drawstring where you insert your old slivers of bar soaps that have gotten tiny so you can make sure to get your money’s worth out of every last scrap of soap.  No, really.

Enjoy your soap for years to come!

It’s as if she thinks there will be a soap shortage sometime in the near future.  If this takes place, be sure to stop by my parents house to plead your case.  If your need of a bar of soap is convincing – really, really convincing – perhaps she will send you on your way with a fresh bar and a “soap saver” of your very own, and you can count yourself among the few, the proud, the ones who don’t stink.

This stockpiling of products brought to mind some significant differences between my generation and those before us.  My parents have a pantry STACKED with non-perishables – including Tang, which Mom uses to make “spiced tea” every winter – and enough frozen meat and pecans from their trees (shelled, ziplocked and dated) to get them through at least a year if there were an apocalypse.  All of the perishable food can be found in two refrigerators, the second one located in the garage and surrounded by baskets of root vegetables, more unshelled pecans and cases of Pepsi.  They’ve got one of the major apocalyptic challenges already checked off their list. (Supplies).  That coupled with the miscellaneous – and sharp! – farm implements my father has strategically hung in the garage (Adequate Weaponry), all they’d have to worry about is fending off the zombies…and hungry neighbors.

Food for a year? Check.

Brian and I, on the other hand, are the “go to the grocery store every night” people.  We decide what we want for dinner spur-of-the-moment, and we go to the store for that and that alone.  We are too lazy – er, busy – to make a list and go bulk shopping on the weekend.  How do you expect me to plan on Saturday what I’ll want for dinner on Wednesday? Who do you think I am? Professor Trelawney? While Beef Stroganoff might’ve seemed like a good idea in pre-planning mode, when I hit midweek, what if I want Maple Salmon instead?  Beef Stroganoff is not Maple Salmon, friend.  Not in flavor profile.  Not in texture.  Not even close.

Whew, that whole imagined scenario just stressed me out…

Given that we shop nightly, we and those of our ilk wouldn’t last more than two days with the food you can find in our pantry.  We’d be so weak from hunger that we couldn’t run, let alone fight off the hordes of zombies rotten-elbowing their way into our home. If we made it to the third day (and that’s a big if), we’d be eating old packets of taco mix and eying each other like a side of ham.

B-rian. B-urger. Close enough!

I have a theory that the generational difference has something to do with The Great Depression.  Stick with me, here.  My grandparents were also known to keep an incredible amount of non-perishables around, as well as twenty dollar bills here and there tucked in between pages of books as “emergency money”.  (Man, did I think I’d hit the jackpot the first time I found one of those.  Until I was reprimanded for potentially keeping my grandparents from getting adequate medical attention down the road if money was tight.  That’s a hard lesson when you’re 7-years-old and holding a crisp twenty, visions of adding to your LEGO empire clouding your judgement.)  I suppose it’s not peculiar, after having been through a time when most of the country was out of work and food was hard to come by, to plan ahead and sock things away.

My grandparents lived in Kansas and had a basement for refuge from tornadoes and storage of musty old luggage and canned goods.  This basement was a source of conflicting emotions for me as a child – it was my cool hideout during the day and a place of unbelievable terror at night.  The sound of trickling water was constant, and dark storage crevices lined the perimeter.  I always felt like I was being watched by something hiding in those dark crevices, so I stuck to the middle of the room.  Late in the night, I’d lay in the dark spare bedroom, my eyes wide and my heart pounding, convinced that every creak was the heavy wooden basement door opening as the “Creature From The Crevice” came to seek me out… Usually, it was just Grandma’s water pill kicking in and forcing her up in the wee hours.  To wee.

Grandma would send me to the basement to pick out a can of green beans for dinner, along with a stern warning about botulism.  (Always, always avoid cans that have puffed lids).  Cans lined the shelves, the date of purchase marked with a sharpie on top so you would use the oldest one first, maintaining a fresh rotation.  Along with the store-bought version, there were also home-canned vegetables.  Mom and Grandma would go blackberry picking and make homemade jams, steaming up the kitchen for a full day as they wax-sealed jars in boiling water, red-faced.  My paternal Grandpa had a vegetable garden, and Mom would use his abundance of tomatoes to make salsa (the best I’ve ever had, hands down) and canned tomatoes.  She also pickled okra.

And, once again, I’m shown up by my elders.  My accomplishment of making brownies (out of a box) last night seems weak and ineffectual in comparison.

With all these canned goods and the true identifier of the well-prepared – a transistor radio – my grandparents could’ve maintained a decent, if vitamin D-deprived, existence in the basement (Fortified Shelter) for at least a few months.

I don’t have a basement.  I have an attic.  It’s currently about 118 degrees up there among the drooping Christmas wreaths and the bug-or-rodent-poop (we’re not sure which).  I shudder to think that’s my last option for a stronghold.  How fast does dehydration kick in?

Also distressing is the fact that our house is FULL of windows. The natural light was a big seller to us when we found the place, but now it seems like a disadvantage.  I try and I try, but I cannot figure out where we would get the wood to board up the first floor if the apocalypse were to charge at us tomorrow.  (Home Depot is closed in the event of an apocalypse.  I checked.)  The bedroom and closet doors will only go so far in covering the fourteen first-floor windows mocking me with their sunshine and false sense of safety.

That’s really beside the point.  All the wood in the world will do us little good if all we have to eat is old red and green Christmas cookie sprinkles from 1997. If we starve within the first week, all my knowledge of zombies and zombie survival would just go out the window.  What a waste.

Time to make my shopping list.

Cat barf and stray poop and mangled up lizards…these are a few of my favorite things!

One of the best compliments Brian ever gave me was that he knew I was going to be a good mother by the way I took care of the pets.  Now, I don’t know that that’s an accurate assessment for being a good parent, but I can scoop a mean litter box.

I have three cats.  I had four, but Brian “accidentally” left the garage up and the door to the house ajar two years ago and lost Gussy.  (This remains a controversial topic in our house).  We also have a black lab named Sadie.  All are rescues.  While Sadie is “our” dog, Brian is quick to point out that the cats are mine.

Today is litter box day.  I was able to trick my husband into continuing to clean the litter boxes for awhile post-pregnancy.  He eventually caught on and began shirking his litter box duties: ignoring stray poops that had somehow missed the box, waiting until our eyes were watering from the smell of cat urine before he would dive into the closet with the scooper whilst wearing a face mask.  I’m onto his game.

Brian? Is that you?

I finally caved and resumed litter box duty, if only to avoid our home becoming a biohazard for our five-month-old.  So, today, I hauled the litter boxes out back for a thorough hosing and a fresh litter fill for the first time in months. I can already breathe easier.

The cats can’t speak human, but they’ve managed to make a pact to always, always find the most challenging place to clean when they need to barf.  Even though half our house is wood or tile flooring, they feel the urge and, I swear, they run to make sure they heave on the carpet, the bedspread, in Lola’s crib, or on the oriental rug. (The oriental rug is the tricky one, because the yellow/beige flowers match the cat food and sometimes it takes awhile for Brian and I to notice a flower has become three dimensional).

The other day, one of the cats barfed on Brian’s weights.  I told him they were objecting to his litter box neglect.

I have a cleaning service that comes every two weeks.  Doesn’t matter.  My weekends are still full of cleaning. (Let me point out that the cleaning service isn’t a hoity-toity indulgence but is a necessity for my personal sanity.  Otherwise, I think I’d snap and start whacking passersby with a broom while mumbling about my cats.)

I start the weekend with a treasure hunt for the devious pile of cat vomit that has escaped my notice during the week.  You’d be surprised at the things you find hidden in the closet or in the guest room while you’ve been tied up on conference calls or running to meetings – in addition to vomit, I’ve found mangled lizards, battered spiders, and the odd sock that’s been missing for two years.

Willaby is my 17-year-old brown tabby.  Brian’s nickname for her used to be “fatty”, but she’s lost half her body weight in the past two years due to age and health.  Willaby was my first real-living-thing I took care of after moving out on my own.  She is addicted to Cosmic Catnip (the catnip that has a cat with dilated eyes floating over a rainbow on the packaging, I shit you not).  However, instead of the mellow hippie cat, Willaby is an angry high.  She rolls around in the catnip and starts growling and smacking the other cats around when all they want to do is share the doobie…I’ve even seen her pee on her stash to keep them away.

“Hi. My name is Willaby. Get your own.”

Willaby has kidney disease and, potentially, some kind of elusive cancer causing the weight loss.  Willaby does not do well at the vet – and by “does not do well”, I mean the vet’s office has bright orange warning stickers on her file encouraging the use of armpit length gloves and welding visors before approaching her.  Only I can give her medication (trust takes 17 years), and I have to give her an appetite stimulant and a kidney supplement every other day.  She doesn’t like it, but she doesn’t rip my face off, either.  Anyone else that tried that crap would be missing part of their nose.

Harvey is my 13-year-old orange tabby lovebug.  (Brian’s nickname: “Dumb-dumb”.)  Just because Harvey runs into things and has a slight overbite does not make him dumb.  Just because Harvey raises his back and hisses at the vacuum cleaner, getting in a mood all day after it makes an appearance, also does not make him dumb.  He likes curling up in a ball on my right side when I sleep, making contented squeaky snores and purring in my ear.  The baby has really jacked with his routine.  He seems surprised to find his spot taken in the middle of the night (after I’ve fed Lola and have been too lazy to take her back to her crib) and he’s running into things more often.  Harvey is the explosive vomiter of the group – he covers more ground before sun up than most cats do all day.

Harvey went into kidney failure in 2008 when I was working commission-only and was broke – really, really broke.  I put $1600 on my visa trying to figure out what was wrong with him and my husband about had a car accident when I told him.  (Even though I pay my own credit card and it didn’t cost him a dime).  Harvey had to be in the hospital for a week, and I visited him every day after work. Interestingly, I was working for a man named “Harvey” at the time so, when I got on the phone at work to tell family or friends that Harvey had explosive vomited everywhere and had to go to the hospital where they discovered he was in kidney failure, all kinds of entertaining miscommunication ensued…but I digress.

Since February, 2008, Harvey (the cat) has been getting subcutaneous fluid therapy at home.  I pinch his back and insert an 18-gauge needle and hold him while he gets his dosage of electrolyte fluid replacement.  When I’m on the road for work, I hire a vet tech to come in and give him his medication.  He also takes Predisonal every other day for Irritable Bowell Syndrome.  Yes, I said it.  Harvey (the cat) has Irritable Bowell Syndrome.  Don’t laugh.  It’s about as pleasant as it sounds.

Both Harvey and Willaby are on special prescription food.

My third cat, Pip, is my black and white tom that was a feral kitten when I found him and his brother.  (Brian’s nickname: “Crackhead”.)  I had to patiently wait for two months while I fed them out back.  I would inch closer and closer until, finally, they would allow me to pet them.  I then scooped them up and took them to be fixed and vetted.  (A neighbor who also fed them split the cost with me).  I found Pip’s brother a home, but didn’t trust the person who wanted Pip.  Brian accused me of “playing God” when, in fact, he just didn’t want another cat.  Pip has now lived with us for 8 years.

Pip liked Brian at first but, after he was fixed, he got skittish.  Brian’s convinced that he must look like the vet that took Pip’s balls.  Pip is my cat that no visitor ever sees.  The second anyone else is in the house, he runs for cover.   The last time my parents were here, we came home from dinner and were standing in the entryway.  Pip came careening around the corner (he didn’t expect us) and shredded the top of my mom’s foot as he tried to get traction (she was wearing sandals), then dove under our bed and wasn’t seen again for a week.  We doctored Mom’s foot with peroxide.  She lived.

At this point in time, Pip doesn’t have any health issues that I know of.  Other than schizophrenia.

Sadie recently went in for her yearly shots and is significantly overweight.  The vet asked what we’re feeding her – she’s on Science Diet Weight Loss, so the vet figured she might have a thyroid problem and took a blood sample.  Guess what?  She has a thyroid problem!!  (Hell, why not add another animal who requires daily medical treatment to my routine?)  She now takes 3 thyroid pills morning and night, as well as Benadryl due to skin allergies on her belly.  I have to roll the Benadryl in a piece of hot dog.

I could’ve saved some significant dough had I become a vet.

We love our pets.  They are truly a part of our family.  (Okay, the cats are like redheaded stepchildren to Brian, but he doesn’t beat them).  I get a lot of crap for being a “crazy cat lady”, but I’m secure in my crazy cattiness and the animal hospital I run on the side.  (Let me be clear: I DO NOT dress my pets in human clothes.)

I hope to teach Lola to respect the lives of animals and to fight animal cruelty and negligence.  And I hope she’s not allergic to any of our pets… I’ll have to build a separate wing on our house for them. Brian will probably complain about how much that will cost.  But he’d better not leave the garage up and the door to the house ajar to try to avoid it…

Are Idiosyncrasies Inherited? (i.e. Is my daughter destined to be a freak?!?)

This is a fair question.

Let me back up.  Lola’s Mom and Dad have some …er…”eccentricities” that many may find off-putting.

Let’s start with Dad.  The other night at dinner, I realized the dishwasher hadn’t been run and pulled the last two clean forks out of our drawer.  Without saying anything, Brian took his fork and put it back in the drawer, pulled a dirty fork from the dishwasher, and washed it.  As my puzzled stare, he said, “I’m not eating with a cat food fork”.

To be fair, we do have “cat food forks” – forks that aren’t from our normal dinner set that I generally serve the cat food with.  However, these same forks are washed in the same dishwasher and are nestled in the same cubby, touching, in the utensil drawer.  Cleaned with boiling water.  But, it’s a “cat food fork”, and Brian won’t eat with it.  (YES, I ate with the cat food fork.  I’m not ashamed.)

There is a retarded fork from our normal dinner set with a bent prong that I refuse to eat with, but I won’t get rid of it, either.  I just roll the dice that I won’t grab that fork, end up grabbing it anyway, curse under my breath, and put it back in the drawer.  These are nightly challenges, folks.  Mommy and Daddy both have fork issues.

We also have this passive aggressive “game” we play with the wooden blinds in our living room.  Brian tends to think we need to throw the blinds wide and let the world spill in every morning and, when I complain, he says he’s not going to live in a “world of darkness”.  When he’s out of sight, I go over and slant them down a bit – we still get light, but there’s no reason to give the neighbors and potential zombies a clear line of vision into our home.  There’s a lot of messed up stuff going on in here – breast pumping, fork issues, a dog with a thyroid problem…you name it.  And I haven’t even mentioned the cats.  OH MY GOD.  THE CATS.

Food issues?  Dad has a strong aversion to mayonnaise, sour cream, milk…really, anything white and creamy.  (I have a theory this is because Brian, himself, is white and creamy-skin-toned and – with his mad basketball skills and his “make JLo jealous” backside – has always felt screwed over by the universe because he’s not a 6’7″ black athlete.)  One of the better compliments he’s ever received was when he was being fitted for his wedding tuxedo and the black salesman said “Man, they just don’t make pants for us!” and gave him a fist pump.  Aw, yeah.

Brian also doesn’t like being around people eating cereal.  He thinks it’s one of the more disgusting things to watch someone eat – the soggy flakes dripping with white, creamy milk is almost more than he can handle.

However, these idiosyncrasies are mild when compared to my own individual hang ups.  Take last night at the grocery store, for instance.  Lola is in her car seat in the cart, and we’re in the checkout line.  I happen to be in line with someone who is popping her gum.  I actually leave the line and get as far away from her as possible, all the while irritably mumbling how people who pop/crack/chomp gum look like cows and making little “moo” noises under my breath – all while my beautiful daughter stares at me and coos.  I wait until this gum popper has left the store before I head back up front, wondering how I will explain this to my child when she is old enough to comprehend that Mommy is a lunatic.  Not to mention the real question: am I going to be the Mother who denies my child the experience of gum?  No child should be denied the experience of gum…

This gum aversion caused a number of fights with my older sister, Jodi, growing up.  Jodi is a master-first-class gum popper.  I remember being 15 and practicing driving while she was in the backseat.  I kept half turning and yelling at her to “stop popping your gum!”, my Dad in the passenger seat yelling “pay attention to the road!  They will not give you a license if you’re dead!” and my sister yelling back “I’m not popping my gum!  You’re hearing things!” and promptly pulling her gum out of her mouth and sticking it to my cheek.

The shocking thing about this gum issue is how pissed off I get when I’m in a situation where I can’t escape.  (Think: plane travel, client meetings, classrooms when I was in high school).  It’s as if I believe the person(s) doing it are purposely trying to get under my skin.  I know this isn’t logical, but it doesn’t stop my face from getting red hot as I imagine bitch slapping them silly.

Now, let’s talk about crunching.

Crunching that bothers me: anything to do with people and their mouths.

Crunching that doesn’t bother me: fall leaves underfoot; the crunch of a zombie’s skull being battered in with a hammer – you know.  Normal things.

I will actually go out of my way to catch a little-attended matinee at the movies to avoid a packed night where I may have to sit by or near Mr. and Mrs. Popcorn Crunch.

(You’re wondering if you should still be my friend, aren’t you?)

My husband is the worst.  He eats chips with every meal.  I’m not kidding.  EVERY MEAL.  Pizza?  Sea salt and vinegar chips.  Steak?  Corn chips as an appetizer.  He eats more varieties of nachos than I ever knew existed.  (When I’m PMS’ing, I just make the executive decision to eat alone in our bedroom so we don’t get a divorce).

When my mom visits, she always wants to “make a dip” for chips so we can all sit around and crunch together.  I tell her we don’t eat dips because of Brian’s aversion to mayonnaise and creamy products.  Crisis averted.

At one of our birthing classes, they served us fajitas and nachos for lunch.  The room *EXPLODED* in crunching for a solid 30 minutes.  It was even annoying Brian, and I could see him shooting furtive glances at me, wondering when I was going to snap and heave my 9-month pregnant body on some unsuspecting soul, gouging out his or her eyeballs, leaving them unable to see their newborn…

Here’s the scary part.  My parents seem pretty normal.  Noises don’t bother them like they do me – and they didn’t bother them back when they could hear, either.  My Mom used to tell me not to EVER tell anyone that gum popping bothered me because, then, they would know how to torture me if I were ever captured.  (I remember asking my mom for the definition of torture when I was little.  She explained torture as someone holding you down and “peeling your skin back with a knife – you know.  Like an apple.”  God, Mom!  I was 7-years old!)  Needless to say, I NEVER wanted to be tortured, so I kept my phobias mostly to myself for a long, long time.

The good news?  I’ve met other kindred spirits who are bothered by noises, gum, crunching, bent-pronged forks.  I’ve heard this is a known “condition” – fixating on noises, not liking certain textures, being “tortured” by these things.  And, while it’s comforting to know I’m not alone and to share some common angst, I can’t help hoping – really, sincerely hoping – that Lola does not inherit these quirks from me.  I don’t know that Brian could handle two of us yelling at him to “STOP CRUNCHING!!”

A Mumu for Mama

*For Katrin

Good lord.  I thought the weight of pregnancy would taper off at a steady pace.  Instead, I lost 18 pounds of fluid weight right off the bat, promptly gained back 10 of that eating Crunch n’ Munch (my breast feeding craving), and haven’t moved the needle since.  I’ve since ditched the Crunch n’ Munch, to no avail.  God, I miss Crunch n’ Munch…

I’m back at the gym, cringing in Zumba every time I catch my side view image in the mirror.  Who is that woman in the fat suit?  <cringe>  It doesn’t help that, when I do zumba, I look like Marla Hooch from “A League of Their Own” during poise class…

I’m not exaggerating.

To add insult to injury, my husband is one of those super athletic types that thrives on exercise.  He belongs to a soccer league, plays basketball twice a week, goes to the gym or jogs every day, and is generally an over-achiever that puts most of us to shame.  He claims he gained weight with me during pregnancy, but he still looks like this:

I’m only slightly exaggerating.

WTF.  Seriously?  You may think I’m crazy for complaining – he does look good, and I do like to look at him – but I have to push something the size of a watermelon out of my nether regions AND be fat while my husband gets to look like an Adonis?  What a crock of shit.  “Lights off, honey.  And stop fondling my back fat.  It’s not turning me on.”

It’s no surprise that I’m having trouble keeping up with my fondness for style.  (Since my big toe currently doesn’t fit in the wardrobe I’ve cultivated over time.)  I linger in my closet,  running my hand over the feel of leather or appreciating the intricacy of pattern on a favorite skirt.  Then I sigh, pull on a pair of maternity jeans (yes, still) and grumble about how snug they are.  I avoid mirrors that don’t hit me mid-chest (I’m not going to lie – my boobs have never looked better.  Thank you, milk gods!) and I wonder…will I ever fit into regular clothes again, or will I have to start shopping in the Plus size section?

Now, don’t get me wrong – I know some beautiful plus-size women who carry themselves well.  It looks good on them.  It does not look good on me.  I have limited grace when I’m normal-Jamie-size: I regularly run into walls, trip over the cat and discover bruises in places that make no sense.  (How did I get this bruise in my armpit?!)  Add 25-30 pounds to my frame and you have a walking disaster.  I shout warnings to those in the same aisle at the grocery store.  “Look out!  Here I come!  You’re bound to get side-swiped by my hip or clocked with my dangling arm flab as I reach for the tortillas, so don’t be ugly when it happens!”

I’ve discovered that the sizing some retailers employ – even favorites, like Target – would have me believe that I’m an elephant.  There is no way I’ve jumped 5 dress sizes, Target.  But thanks for the ego boost…

Other retailers go for the “make you feel smaller than you actually are so you’ll buy more” marketing ploy.  Now, I LOVE Anthropologie, but I am not currently an XS.  Yes, even I fall for this initially – my heart beats a little faster when I try on a medium and it engulfs me and I loudly ask the dressing room attendant to bring me a S and XS to compare.  Then my left-brain kicks in and I realize that of course Anthro wants me to thinks I wear an XS.  Then I’ll spend $148 on a t-shirt.

The dilemma is that I’m back at work and am occasionally in front of a client.  I have a total of one non-maternity business outfit that is comfortable (i.e. doesn’t pinch or highlight my fat rolls too much).  While I’m not delusional enough to believe I will ever again be the size I was in college – when I didn’t have any money and, hence, didn’t eat much – I would like to be able to maintain a sense of style and dignity. I don’t want to go invest in a closet-full of oversized clothes because my GOAL is to lose the weight, not succumb to the “this is who I am now” pitfall.

That brings us to today.  Today, Brian is complaining about how his jeans are “too big” and he doesn’t want to look like he’s trying to be Jesse from “Breaking Bad”.

Yo! I sell meth and can smuggle upwards of 45 pounds of it in my pants.

He’s asked me to go to the mall with him so I can watch his svelt self try on smaller jeans until he finds the perfect pair.  Because that sounds like exactly what I want to do with my Sunday – catch glimpses of my double chin in the dressing room trifold mirror while he models and shares motivational gems like “You just need to jog a couple of times a week and it will go away”  or “Most women would prefer to gain weight like you do – in their stomachs instead of their legs and hips”.  (Evidently, he’s taken a survey).

Meanwhile, I eyeball the rack of shapeless mumus and wonder if I could get away with wearing one to a client meeting.  Maybe with a cinch belt to liven it up?  Or a huge pair of dangly earrings that will distract from my outfit?  Why are there so many Hawaiian prints and loud colors?  It’s as if these designs want you to shout to the world “I’m wearing a mumu!  Look at me!”  When, really, doesn’t it make more sense to tone down the mumu?  Design a line in muted colors with nondescript patterns that don’t draw attention to themselves?  (or you?)

I realize that there may be a whole business opportunity staring me in the face: the opportunity to create a mumu with some style, some taste.  (And, no, I don’t mean spelling out “Sexy Mama” in gold sequins across the butt).  My mom is a seamstress.  Maybe I can pick the fabric and the general pattern and she can work day and night sewing a new line of designer mumus for me to sell online.*  (It’s okay.  She’s retired.)

Or, I could launch a reality TV series where the designers fight to create the most blend-in-able mumu that “husky” professional women could legitimately wear to a board meeting – and not get fired.  (That could be part of the judgement criteria).  If the CEO looks at your mumu and says “get out”, you don’t make the cut to the next round.  I’m actually surprised there’s not a reality TV show with this premise already…

Until the mumu line has improved, however, I’ve determined I cannot allow myself to purchase one.  As comfortable as it looks, I could never live with myself.  What kind of role model would I be for my daughter wearing a mumu?  Indeed, probably the same kind of role model that hefts around an extra 25-30 pounds and bellyaches about it.

Time to lose some weight.

*If you want to invest in the designer mumu line, post a comment and we’ll chat.

Dodge the Cockroaches!

I do this all the time.  I go to bed telling myself I’m going to get up at 5 a.m. and do something productive.  Yet, when 5 a.m. rolls around – even though I’m often up feeding my daughter at that time – I’m like “screw this” and I cuddle up with Lola instead, and we go back to sleep.

Clearly, I did not get the “early” gene from my Dad.  That man was up at 5 a.m. every morning when I was a kid to get his daily jog in before work.  What a flippin’ show off.

I have long admired those who can get by and do amazing things in life with little sleep.  Martha Stewart was my hero for a time in my early twenties.  (She was my hero for the sleep-three-hours-a-night-and-run-a-multimedia-empire trait, not the crazy-raving-bitch trait).  Though I’ve little doubt that the one has to do with lack of sleep.

So I’m not a crazy-raving-bitch.  Most of the time.  At least I can take solace in that.  I still find myself making the list of things I could do if I gained one or two more hours to my day.

  • Exercise more and lose this god-awful baby weight.
  • Write that series of novels that will be the next major franchise.  My heroine, Lola, will give Harry Potter and Katniss a run for their money.  Not to mention those pale vampires…
  • Learn a language using Rosetta Stone, or some such program (I’d learn Spanish so I could talk smack to the guys in Texas who think I don’t understand what they’re saying about me – because, right now, I don’t understand what they’re saying about me.)
  • Watch an early morning news program so I can stop admitting that I get all my news from Facebook.
  • Walk Sadie, our Black Lab, who continues to shock the vet with her weight gain every time we take her in.  (“Dear God, 90 pounds?!?  What are you feeding her?  Does she ever move?!?”)  Brian and I look down and shuffle our feet, guiltily.
  • Organize my closets.  Right now, I manage to pull a few things out on the weekend, look at the stuff for awhile, scratch my head, and shove it all back in, overwhelmed.

But, no.  I hit “snooze”, sleepily question why I would want to get up when it’s still dark outside and my bed feels sooo nice, and I slip back into dreamland.

Dreamland is one of the reasons I like sleep so much.  I have very vivid, offbeat dreams.  (Imagine that.)  A typical Jamie dream sequence follows.  Enjoy.

Last night, I dreamt I was at a company event. (Our company picnic was Friday in Seattle, and I had to miss it because I work remotely).  Clearly, I resent this because here it is showing up in my dreams.

Anyway, I’m at this company event and it’s at a fairly nice hotel.  I’m roaming around looking for the food (typical), and I see a few plates on this table outside of the hotel restaurant with some fancy-schmancy food on them.  There were only 2-3 plates so, as I begin nibbling on the food, I’m thinking to myself that the company really skimped on the buffet this year.  Granted, this wasn’t hot dogs and burgers but, when other people got hungry and this wimpy spread was gone, chaos was going to break out.

Suddenly, the concierge yells at me from across the lobby.  “Stop zat!  You are eating ze restaurant ‘specials’ display!”  (Concierges are always French in my dreams.  Why is that?)  I grab another carrot, shrug at the concierge, and head off – even more ticked that my company appears to not have provided any food at all.  Cheapskates.

I head out to the courtyard and find a galvanized tub full of ice and half-empty bottles of soda.  (God, company.  What the hell?)  I grab one – a Peach Nehi – and join a table with a girl I waited tables with seven years ago, a tall redheaded boy I had a crush on in tenth grade, and my best friend, Stephanie.  The girl I waited tables with – known for being the…er…”for a good time call” type – is flirting with the boy I had a crush on in tenth grade and feeding him cheesecake.  I wonder where they got the dessert.

I then notice Steph has several empty bottles of liquor in front of her and begin scanning the area for the bar.  My inner drunk gives up when I realize that Stephanie appears distraught.  I learn she’s stressed because the mob is after her.  She thinks SHE has problems.  I just ate the freaking hotel display tray, for Pete’s sake.

I notice an SUV across the street with a couple of tall, white-haired Norwegian’s getting out and staring straight at us.  I grab Steph and we begin to run around the front of the hotel, but – apparently – the Norwegian mob has developed the skill of telekinesis and Stephanie is pulled from me and dragged across the porte cochere and directly to the SUV. The mob doesn’t even have to move!  I call “FOUL!” and look for the refs, but there are none.

And, then, I’m in a multi-level department store.  This time I’m watching the events instead of participating.  A photographer, who likes to wear flexible black dance shoes (?), is snapping photos of shoppers at random.

Imagine this is our photographer…

Without realizing it, he accidentally snaps a shot of an alien who has deep black eyes with no whites around them.  The alien knows the picture has been taken and trips the photographer down a back staircase into a dusty storage basement, where the alien has set up a projector and shows the photographer a slide show of his own photos.  The photographer begins noticing aliens interwoven with people, with only slight oddities that set them apart.  Barely noticeable, but there.  He chillingly realizes that we are all surrounded day to day by aliens.  They have infiltrated the human race.  The alien with the black eyes then morphs his own image on the projector screen into a picture of Hermione.  (I think this happened because I was looking at pictures of memes online the other day and saw this: http://www.veryfunnygifs.com/pictures/emma_watson_morphing_into_richard_dawkins_8921.php?page_id=3)

I am then back with Stephanie.  Mob issues forgotten, she has come to visit me from Kansas City and we are in line to try on clothes in the department store.  I mention that “Men in Black” is on TV tonight (aliens) and that we should grab some snacks (food) and watch it.  She seems hesitant.

There is a family in front of us – a mom, a dad, two girls and a boy.  They are discussing what to have for lunch (“no corndogs!”) and the Dad keeps telling the little boy to “put down that bra!”, as the little boy has found a sales basket with lingerie near the dressing room. They aren’t carrying any clothes, so I’m not sure why they are in line.  The sales associate offers up the next room, and no one moves.  I’m annoyed.

Suddenly, Stephanie is telling me that she’s going back to Kansas City.  She finds “Men in Black” too dark in subject matter, and she’s worried that the negativity will somehow affect her son.  Who isn’t with us.  (The Dad in front of us nods in understanding.)  My try-on pile forgotten, I explain that “Men in Black” is only one option – we don’t have to watch it.  We can watch something “less dark”.

She says she’s lying.  She really prefers how she looks under the yellowed fluorescent lights of the dressing room area.  The lights in my house are “just too white” and she’s not comfortable under those lights.  So she’s going home.

I’m now being chased in a college dormitory.  Instead of running downstairs, I grab the metal banisters, lift my legs, and slide down from floor to floor.  I can hear my pursuer not far behind me.  I pick a floor and run into the bathroom, which starts as a bathroom, complete with janitor mopping the floor, then turns into a restaurant.  (Gross).  I’m running through the bathroom/restaurant and notice people from my company dining and waving at me to join them.  I hide under their table and they sneak me food.

My favorite dream as of late was a few months back.  My friend Steve and I had created the latest non-tech game fad that was sweeping the nation.  We would dress up in soft cotton muslin from head to foot and go full-body sliding on the freshly waxed hallways of area high schools, much to the dismay of the high school custodial staff.  (Insert annoyed sweaty janitor here, shaking his fist).

I remember he and I, in different hallways, yelling a reminder to each other to “dodge the cockroaches!”

Now, why would I want to wake up when I have this much fun dreaming?

Social Media Marketing Tips – Tip 1: Don’t Suck

As I was feeding my beautiful cherub daughter at a bright and chipper 4:45 a.m., I spent some time browsing Facebook on my iphone through half-open eyes – as I often do in an effort not to give up and crash back into my pillows, letting my three month old fend for herself in that treacherous drop to the floor.  (NOTE:  I have not dropped my daughter in a sleep stupor.  Yet.)

I started looking at “Fourth of July” posts done by brands I have “liked” on Facebook for a variety of reasons: 1. I actually like them.  2. Someone guilted me into liking them. 3. They’re prospects that I have liked to see what their social media strategy is so I can point out the flaws.  4. I’ve accidentally hit the wrong button and “liked” them and have been too lazy to go back and remove them in my settings.

What struck me is how many times I saw, “What are your plans for this Fourth of July?” – and how many non-responses there were to that question.  Now, granted, that may have been because the post auto-populated over night and most (sane) people weren’t up checking Facebook and commenting at 4:45 a.m.  Or, it may have simply been that the question is BORING.

If the goal of brands using social media is to engage with their customers, I think they should be asking far more creative questions than that.  Know why?  NO ONE CARES what you’re plans are for the Fourth of July.  (“I’m going to make a pineapple cheese thing and go to my sister-in-law’s, where I’ll drink too much and debate with the conservative grandmother about gay rights.  I’ll end the day taking photos of my svelte husband swimming with my daughter because I shudder to think of my post-pregnancy fat rolls going anywhere near a swimsuit.” <Yawn>.)

If brands really want to get some responses from customers, they need to ask questions with humor (if that fits the brand).  For instance, “If a zombie outbreak occurs in the mass of people around you watching fireworks tonight, what handy weapon* would you use to defend yourself and your family? *Note: this has to be something that would naturally be found in the park or in your picnic basket – you probably don’t take an Uzi with you to watch fireworks.”  In fact, as a test, I’m going to post that to Facebook and see what kind of response I get.

I’m back.

Perhaps posing a moral dilemma is more in line with your brand.  “You have an infant daughter and the zombie apocalypse is knocking on your door.  What do you do?”  This is a question I wrestle with constantly.  Would I sacrifice my child, a la “Sophie’s Choice”, in order to make my own selfish escape?  I couldn’t realistically sacrifice myself for her to escape, as she can’t walk, let alone run, and likely wouldn’t realize the magnitude of what’s happening.  So, what?  Flip her into the Baby Bjorn, stick a pacifier in her mouth, grab a shotgun and run like the devil?  And what about the pets?  WHAT ABOUT THE PETS?!?

See how much more engaging that is?  It gets your customers thinking and – if they respond – they really have something to say.  And their answers will be much more intriguing than “Eating BBQ Potato Chips and watching ‘Independence Day’.  That Will Smith doesn’t take any crap from those aliens! Lololol!”  (That comment is not ‘lololol’ worthy.  Frankly, no comment is ‘lololol’ worthy.)

So, you say, zombies just “aren’t your thing” – they don’t fit with the brand guidelines and you could get in trouble.  Okay.  Then, for the love, think of something other than “Take a picture of you with our gas station on Instagram and we’ll post it on our Facebook page!”…  Well, I have always wanted a picture of myself with a gas station…  And having that picture posted to said gas stations Facebook page would be realizing one of my lifelong dreams…

No.  No, it wouldn’t.  That does nothing for me other than make me roll my eyes and mock you.

Find something that resonates with your audience – something they’re passionate about.  Is your brand nostalgic?  Ask for favorite Fourth of July memories of your customers from days gone by.  (Mine?  Eating watermelon on my Grandpa’s porch and spitting seeds in his front yard while watching the fireworks go off in Sooner Park, convinced that next year we’d have a whole watermelon patch in his front yard to play in.)  Is your brand music oriented?  What song triggers strong Fourth of July memories of a certain time in your life?  (Mine?  Aimee Mann’s “4th of July”.  College.  Senior Year.  Lot’s of heartache and fears about cutting ties and going off into the world.  Listening to it now brings back a familiar pit in my stomach.)

Pet lovers?  What tips do your customers have for keeping pets safe and calm while those pesky fireworks go off?  Gas station? Ask what your customers ‘fuel up’ on for a day of fun, and give them a list of common things not to forget – ice, bottled water, beer, propane.  Nothing sucks more than getting to a campsite and having to trek back to town for supplies.

I am not a social marketing expert, but I feel compelled to make this plea to marketers learning how best to use this platform.  It seems it’s understood that social media shouldn’t be used to “hard sell”, but rather to have a conversation with customers.  But, by and large, those conversations suck.  Give your customers something to talk about.  Make them laugh.  Make them cry.  Make them think.  But, for the love of god, don’t make them yawn.  If you bore them, you lose them.

I’m up to about six comments on my Facebook post in ten minutes, but I have to bail to go make the pineapple cheese thing and mentally prep for today’s festivities.  Have a safe and happy Fourth!  And don’t forget to pack something that can be used as a weapon if the unthinkable should happen tonight…

Learning to Live One-Armed

First of all, my apologies to those who have actually lost a limb in some sort of trauma and are directed to this post by “Google Search”.  This is not meant for you and will appear insensitive on my part if you continue reading, so please don’t.  My sincerest hope that things get better for you. Go ahead and close out.  We’ll wait…

Okay, so this pertains to having an infant who has discovered that it is the BOMB to be held all the time and that being put down anywhere for longer than .025 seconds is the equivalent of Chinese Water Torture – hence the demon shrieking that has the neighbors contacting CPS.

There are simply things that are extremely difficult to do whilst holding a baby with one arm.  What follows is a partial list.

  1. Putting on makeup.  Seriously.  Try doing this with one hand.  Particularly if you, like myself, use liquid eyeliner.  At some point, the baby will spew forth used milk, distracting you, and you will walk away only to realize later that half of your face is done and the other half isn’t.  I have routinely opened the door to the UPS man with one eye lined and the other eye naked, likely conjuring up images of me reenacting scenes from “A Clockwork Orange” in my living room.  “Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well.  To what do I owe the extreme please of this surprising visit?”
  2. Typing.  I mastered the art of the type when my father encouraged me to (i.e. made me) take a typing class in eleventh grade.  He did this so I wouldn’t be a slave to the “hunt and peck” method for the rest of my life.  (I didn’t want to take this class and am eternally grateful that I did.)  However, with a baby in tow, not only is it back to hunt and peck; it’s back to hunt and peck one-handed.  I’ve tried balancing her on the desk betwixt me and the computer, her head supported on my arm, so I have the use of both hands.  She thinks that’s a bunch of BS and calls me out on it immediately.
  3. Pumping is similarly challenging, though I’ve finally invested in one of those convenient (and sexy!) double pump bras that frees up your hands and makes you look and feel like the factory cow that you suspected you were.  “Hmmm…Bessie only produced two 3-oz. bottles today.  We’re going to have to put her down.”
  4. Eating.  No, seriously, try cutting up poor Bessie-the-steak one-handed.  (or chicken or fish or pork chops, for that matter).  Impossible!  Even if you can convince your husband to cut up your meat for you, there is the drippage issue.  I’m not the most graceful eater with two hands, and now that skill is further diminished.  (I found a piece of tomato lodged under my breast when I showered the other night.  I didn’t even know it was there).  Lola has had steak sauce, salsa, wine and gravy dripped on her at regular intervals.  When you catch yourself licking wine off your infant’s forehead, you know you have finally hit bottom.
  5. Cooking.  This is a tough one.  The other day, I pulled a dish of maple salmon out of the oven with an oven mitt, set it on the counter, turned off the oven, and basted the salmon with the lovely maple au jus – all one-handed and without compromising the safety of my companion in the other arm.  I started moving dishes around for space and grabbed the fresh-out-of-the-oven dish with my bare hand to shift it.  HOLY MOTHER OF $*)@%#*!!!  It’s like part of your brain softens when you give birth, discombobulating you.  This defect found it’s way to my husband’s brain, too.  He backed my new car out of the garage and ran right into a metal tool chest with the front right fender, all while looking back carefully to make sure there was room for the side mirror to clear.  $1114.00 worth of damage.  We both keep wondering if we’ve become mildly retarded…
  6. Doing dishes.  I have one of those baby slings as well as a Baby Bjorn, but I can’t see over the Baby Bjorne and the sling comes between me and the sink.  Hence, the drippage issue rears it’s ugly head again, except this time with soapy, greasy water and discarded bits of food.  (Lola doesn’t seem fond of potato peelings sticking to her cheeks or watery leftover guacamole dripping into her ear.  She’s such a prig.)
  7. Going to the bathroom.  I’m talking about in public, ladies and gentlemen.  If the child is in his/her infant seat, it’s fine, but what do you do when you’re carrying the little booger?  You can’t leave them to roll off the changing table while you cop a squat (assuming there is a changing table to speak of).  So,  you fling them over one shoulder and you pee, and you try to keep them from wiggling loose and falling in the toilet as you struggle to get your pants up.  I’m certain the negotiating you do during this wrestling match with your baby and your pants is alarming to the other stall patrons.
  8. Flinging a cat that’s about to vomit off of the bed.  I don’t think this needs any additional descriptors.
  9. The stripping of, washing, and putting on of sheets and blankets (when you haven’t reached said cat in time).  Also very difficult.
  10. Figuring out how to work the remote control.  Don’t judge.  When Brian leaves the house and I hit the wrong button on any one of the three remotes required to properly work our TV, we have a problem.  Particularly if I can’t figure out how to get it off of the sports channel.  Take away one of my hands to deal with the situation and all hell breaks loose.  I’ve been known to throw the remote control across the room and unplug the TV, fuming, much to my husband’s chagrin.

Learning to live one-armed is no easy task.  It takes a lot of patience with yourself, and support and understanding by your loved ones.  When you’re feeling overwhelmed at the loss of your independence, talk to someone.  Don’t bottle it up inside.  And, for heaven’s sake, don’t take it out on the little one who has incapacitated you.  He or she just wants to be by your side at all times and feel comforted by your presence.  One day, this will pass and you might just miss it.  For now, just be thankful you don’t have twins.  (Unless you have twins.  Then God be with you.)

What I Learned on Maternity Leave: Tips for the New Mom

I head back to work on Monday.  In some ways, it seems like I’ve been gone a long time.  In other ways, it’s like I just blinked and maternity leave was over.

In light of the impending adjustment – juggling a full time job with full time motherhood – I thought this might be the only opportunity I have to share what I’ve learned during my time off.  Considering the number of friends who are with child, I hope to impart some wisdom:

On birth:

  • If your water breaks in the middle of the night, your half-asleep husband may question if you’ve got this wrong (as in maybe you just wet yourself a little).  Tell him to go look at the bed.  When he says, “Well, either your water broke or you’re the most disgusting person I’ve ever met”, don’t take it personally.  He’s freaked out, too.
  • Your husband may be much more involved in the birthing process that he expected to be.  Check in with him once in awhile, even though you’re preoccupied.  When he’s holding your leg up and his eyes are the size of saucers, nudge him until he focuses on your face and give him a wink.  Tell him it’s a magic trick – like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, except with a baby and your vagina.  He will appreciate your humor.  (Note: it’s easier to have a sense of humor if you’ve had an epidural).
  • Get the epidural.  You will be in plenty of pain when it wears off to know that you’ve “experienced childbirth”.  There’s no reason you should be feeling what you can see reflected on your husband’s mortified face.
  • Don’t get a mirror to “see what’s going on.”  Really?  Your focus needs to be on getting this baby OUT, not worrying about how you’re going to finance vaginal reconstructive surgery.
  • For God’s sake, don’t videotape it!  This is not the sort of thing you share at the family reunion over Aunt Shirley’s blackberry cobbler.
  • When you’re in the after-the-epidural-wears-off pain, keep in mind that the human body is an amazing thing that bounces back from trauma quickly.  You will be able to walk like a normal person – without tears streaming down your cheeks – in a few days time.  I gave birth on Monday afternoon.  By Friday afternoon, I was shopping at Target.  (For a much-needed breast pump – see below).
  • They will tell you not to drive or have sex until after your six-week check up.  Ignore them about driving.  Trust them on the sex thing.
  • When your doctor says “nothing in your vagina for the next six weeks” the day after you give birth, you may throw up a little.  The thought of anything in or near your vagina right now will convince you that you will be abstinent the rest of your life.  Your husband will be so traumatized by what he just witnessed that he won’t even object.

On baby purchases:

  • If you are considering breastfeeding, buy or rent a breast pump before your milk comes in.  Don’t dilly dally on this.  Your boobs will swell up to the point of obscuring your vision.  While this may sound appealing to those of us who have never been voluptuous, it’s really morbidly uncomfortable.  Your nipples will already be bruised and beaten from the baby learning to nurse and will hurt like a mother for the first week; there’s no need to add insult to injury.  Have the breast pump ready.  It will bring you much needed relief.
  • Get some breast pads.  Your breasts will leak.  If they become over-full, they will spray like a hose. Try not to hose your baby down in the face.  This tends to distress them.
  • You don’t need the $30 battery-powered nasal aspirator.  Get one of the cheap little blue nose pumps – they may even give you one in the hospital.  The $30 battery-powered nasal aspirator isn’t needed unless your child is made up of 95% mucus.
  • You don’t need the $30 ear thermometer.  Your baby’s ear canals are too small to get a reading with this, and your doctor will request a rectal temperature anyway.  This will make you cringe – you are not alone.  We all think we’re defiling our baby when we stick a thermometer up their butt.  That the Dr. tells you to use a little KY Jelly or Astroglide doesn’t make it feel any less dirty.  Your child is fine and doesn’t feel violated.  But the thermometer may stimulate a big poopfest, so be prepared.  (I’m using the ear thermometer on the cats for the time being – to get my money’s worth).
  • Get a vibrating bouncer chair or a separate vibrating device that can attach to the crib, car seat, or rocker.  The baby will find this soothing.  However, try to refrain from referring to this as a “vibrator” – as in “Where is Lola’s vibrator?”  Dads don’t think this is funny…
  • If the nursery is upstairs and your bedroom is downstairs, get a pack n’ play with an attached changing table and cradle to keep the little one in your room for the first few months.  This will save you from tumbling down the stairs and breaking your neck in a sleep-deprived stupor after the 3 a.m. feeding.
  • If the upstairs/downstairs scenario applies to you, get a second “diaper wonder” pail of your choice for your bedroom.  (Use the money you saved on the $30 nasal aspirator).  Make it easy on yourself – the baby isn’t going to.
  • Glider chair + glider ottoman = a little slice of heaven in an uncertain world.  Do it.
  • Don’t get too many newborn outfits, as they will outgrow these at warp speed.  For the most part, stick with onesies, no matter how tempting that newborn faux fur coat is.  If you take the baby to the opera, the ballet or the theater, you will be shunned by polite society.  And possibly shot.
  • Get disposable changing pads for the changing tables – they can be placed over your fabric pads.  This will keep you from washing a fabric changing pad every other day and save you much-needed time while you’re washing off the poo that was sprayed on you.
  • Your baby will ooze more stuff than you could ever imagine coming out of something so small.  Be prepared.  Have lots of burp cloths, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer at the ready.  Wear clothes that are non-sentimental and won’t bother you if they can’t be rescued. (Hint: It’s probably not a good idea to do a Mommy/Baby photo shoot in your wedding dress.  And – if you can fit in your wedding dress at this point – I hope your baby sh*ts all over you.)
  • Contrary to belief, most babies sleep.  A LOT.  It’s just not when you sleep.  The innate connection you have from them growing inside you is like the tide – they can tell when you’re horizontal and relaxed.  And they don’t like it.
  • Same goes for sex (after your Dr. clears this).  The baby knows when Mommy and Daddy are up to no good and is already grossed out by this.  He or she will object – loudly – at the most inopportune moment.  This may be a form of pre-sibling rivalry.
  • Be sure to give a few extra treats to the pets.  They will be suffering from attention deprivation for awhile.
  • Be sure to give a few extra treats to your husband.  He will be suffering from attention deprivation for awhile.

This is truly a beautiful time in your life.  Savor it.

Home Is Where The Conflicted Emotions Are

There’s no place like home.

Like Dorothy, I share this sentiment, though I use the term “home” loosely.  My parents moved out of my childhood home 12 years ago and I’ve never forgiven them.  (My Dad refused to exhume our pets graves and move them to the new house at my request.  That’s the least he could do for our loyal companions.  I learned a lot about my father that day).  The new owners have caught me on their property several times, grieving.

Details aside, when I return to the stomping grounds of my youth, my guard goes down and I breathe a bit easier.  This place is familiar.  I feel safe here.  The scariest thing seems to be the number of mullets on the average trip to the local Walmart. (High count this trip: 13).

When night falls in Northern Oklahoma, the darkness that descends is unlike anything you can chase down in Dallas or the surrounding sprawl.  The stars *pop*.  Sitting on my parents front porch with a cup of joe, swallowed by big, leafy trees alive with fireflies and the purr of frogs, I feel at peace…in spite of mosquitoes the size of flying monkeys.

Inside the house is a story at the other end of the rainbow.

My parents are getting older and can’t hear each other very well, let alone us, even with the use of their high tech hearing aids.  There are six TV’s in the house (SIX!!) between the two of them.   At least three or four of these TV’s is on and cranked at any given time, in direct competition with two people who can’t hear the requests being yelled at each other from different rooms.  Even without a baby,  you have a decibel level that rivals a techno club at 2 a.m.

The second I walk in the door, my mother is on me like a munchkin on a lollipop. Getting that first bathroom break challenges even those of us who take pride in being elusive.  There’s a knock at the bathroom door almost as soon as it closes.  “Jamie? What are you doing?  Can you open the door? I have a first edition book by Aristotle I want to show you.” Right. Now.  Does she actually read Aristotle?  I’m not sure.  But it’s a first edition Aristotle, folks.  That is one OLD book!  It might be worth something on Antiques Roadshow.  (Which they were on last fall).

The laundry list of births, deaths, diseases and random facts winds along like the yellow brick road:

“Do you remember Mrs. Whatsitwhosit?  She worked at the fabric store in Eastland Center – Will Rogers Fabric, they had them in Tulsa, too…they went out of business – in the 70’s.  Her granddaughter, Thelma Whatsitwhosit, sings with me in choir.  She has such n’ such disease, which covers her in red spots that look like the one on the back of Lola’s head.  She had to have surgery because the spots moved to her organs…Lola’s spot probably isn’t the same thing.”*

“Oh, look!  A roly poly.  I had a roly poly in my ear once.  My mother took me to the doctor and he said ‘you have a roly poly in your ear’ and got out the tweezers.  (Random segue) And that’s a striped geranium!”*

“I saw this bowl.  It looks like you!  There’s green in it.  You like green.”*

“Did you see my gray hoodie?  Isn’t it neat?”*

My head implodes.

The bowl conversation is when the gifting begins.  (This is my husband’s favorite part, as he thinks we have enough crap and we always end up hauling more home).   Last time, my parents managed to unload a boatload of my childhood toys from the attic on us.  Our car leaned to one side.  Brian shook my Dad’s hand as we were leaving and said, “You won this time, Bob.”

I think my Dad secretly enjoys his brief respite when my sister and I arrive and the focus shifts away from him.  I see him in flits – filling up the birdbath, lounging in his hammock.  He moves like a shadow; silently, undetected.

Now that I, too, am a mom, I think I’m beginning to understand.  The love our mother has for us builds up to bursting over the preceding months in anticipation of our return to the nest.  The need to fill us in on every detail of what has happened since we last were home is being documented in her super-computer mom brain.  Suddenly it’s “My daughters are home!  My daughters are home!” and it’s like catching up to a train that already left the depot.  It doesn’t matter what’s being said – she just wants to talk.  About her neat gray hoodie,  about roly polys, about Mrs. Whatsitwhosit and scary diseases that I can worry about Lola having.

When they moved out of the house I grew up in, I rebelled.  My mom tried to convince me that it wasn’t the house that was home, it was the people.  Their things would be the same, and we’d have more room when we visited.  Nice try, lady.  Uprooting my memories and spinning it to sound appealing was a cheap trick I wasn’t buying.  It was as if they felt they had the right to sell the home they bought, paid taxes on, fixed up, and outgrew.  To that I say “pshaw”.  My playhouse, 4750 1/2, was on the property. I deserved a vote!

When my original objections had no effect, I tried one last stab at convincing them not to move.  I told my mother I wasn’t going to visit anymore.  It wouldn’t be my home.  (I’m nothing if not dramatic).  My Dad let me know, quietly, that this made my mom cry.  Nothing like a parental guilt trip to snap you back into shape.

So, I caved.  I still “come home”, like clockwork, twice a year.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have a special place in my heart for my hometown.  I love cruising around and visiting the old haunts.  I love the zaniness of my family, I love the traditions, I love the memories and I love the food.  I love it for about three days.  Then, I am utterly and completely defeated – and about five pounds heavier.

That’s when I click my heels three times and repeat Dorothy’s mantra – and return to the peace and relative quiet of my own home.

*Snippets of actual conversations