Thursday, January 29, 2009

Little Pitchers

I never mince words when it comes to what's on the radio in my car. I really, really hate those kids' CDs you can buy at the Christian bookstore, or Target, or wherever else they sell CDs these days (Does anyone even listen to CDs anymore? I love me some iTunes, but I digress). It's not so much that I hate the songs, I just have this sneaking suspicion that the "choir" is not really kids. Really. If you listen closely, most of the time it sounds like grown-ups putting on a child's voice--kind of like what you'd hear on a cartoon.

Lest you think I deprive my children of their childhood "right" to the musical masterpieces of "Hickory, Dickory Dock", "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," or "Old MacDonald," I will assure you that not only do I sing these songs (poorly) with the girls, but we also have an arrangement. Really, only Natalie is aware of it because Michaela Byrd still can't seem to stay awake in the car longer than about 10 minutes. Natalie knows that when we get to the bridge on the way to preschool, Mommy switches the radio over to her special kiddie CD which is loaded with all sorts of *fabulous* songs like "Do Your Ears Hang Low" and "Jack and Jill." It takes every ounce of my being to grit my teeth, put on my biggest smile, and sing along because I unfortunately purchased one of the CDs with the fakiest "children's" choir ever. You know it's totally a 47 year old woman in a cat sweatshirt singing, instead of the fresh-faced 4 year old they want you to think is belting out "This Little Light of Mine."

The rest of the time, the radio in the car is set to my personal favorites. I like to play a variety of stations so the girls aren't listening to the same music over and over. We listen to classical on the way to Target, oldies on the way to Mimi's, bluegrass on the way to Mom T's, and current pop on the way to the gym. But--- I. Love. Talk. Radio. Conservative Talk Radio. I love hearing the perspective of Glenn Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, or Laura Ingram. They not only give the other side of the news that we don't get when watching CNN, ABC, or NBC, but they examine both sides of the argument. Intelligently, I might add, although the mainstream media likes to pan them off as a bunch of kooks.

Apparently, Natalie is also a fan of conservative talk radio. From time to time, I'll hear her repeat a phrase she hears.

"ObAma?" she'll say, emphasis on that middle "a." "I don't like ObAma. He wants to take Daddy's monies away."

"You have to be patient, my dear." (I think she heard that one from Limbaugh.)

We were on our way out to grab some dinner the other night, and I tuned in to the Mark Levin show. If you listen to Levin, you know he is brilliant, but has a tendency to do a lot of name-calling and yelling when he is frustrated with the stupidity of the other side. I was paying more attention to the road than to the show until I heard Natalie's high pitched voice pipe up from the back seat (Michaela was just saying "Go-Go" over and over).

"Cwap?" she repeated, her tone full of shock and reprove. "We don't say dat word."

Ummmm....(quickly switching to the kiddie CD)...."That's right, we don't say that word, honey." (Unless someone throws a large can of green beans on your big toe from the shopping cart in Wal-Mart and you try really really hard not to scream an even worse word, but "cwap" comes out anyways, and is muffled by the hand you have clamped over your mouth)

I guess it's true that "little pitchers have big ears." I guess it'll be "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" for us for awhile until Mr. Levin can tone down his vocabulary.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

*{LeT It sNoW}*

It's official, people! We had our first Snow Day in a looooong time as of yesterday. Jack Frost decided to continue the fun into today, and schools are closed again due to the ice from last night's freeze.

During this stage of my life, Snow Days come with a mixed reaction. My friends with school-aged kids look forward to the extra sleeping-in hours that a Snow Day brings. My little snowbunnies rise at 7:30 am on the dot each day. Their internal clocks do not seem to have a snooze button. Starting a month or two ago, Michaela Byrd learned to play quietly by herself in her crib until she tires of her stuffed animals. I should mention that I was completely taken aback by this phenomenon when I first experienced it.

The first time I walked into her room and saw her in the dim glow of the nightlight, sitting up and calmly talking to her stuffed hippo, my mouth fell open a little bit. Her older sister has always awakened with as much gusto as she can muster. Before she could speak, Natalie would just wail at the top of her lungs until I came in to get her and then she'd be all smiles. When she learned to talk, I'd hear, "Mama, hiiiii.........Hiiiiiiiii, Mama!" over and over as I put the finishing touches on my make-up in the adjacent bathroom. She does have a rare day of sleeping until 8:15, but little good that does me as Miss Rise and Shine in the other bedroom is always ready to go at 7:30. No sleeping in here. All I have now are memories of the Snow Days days from when I used to "work" full-time ("work" is in quotations because while at the time it felt like work, it paled in comparison to the 24-7 gig I got myself into 3 years ago). Sleeping in, catching up on housework, reading a book (!!!), relaxing.

The girls really seemed to enjoy the snow (well, Natalie did...Michaela Byrd just looked flabbergasted), but bundling them all up for a few minutes outdoors is an insurmountable job! They both looked like Randy in A Christmas Story (best Christmas movie ever!), Ralphie's kid brother who "looks like a tick about to pop" and shouts, "I can't put my arms down!" I didn't buy snowsuits or boots this year because it didn't snow last year! Luckily, Natalie was able to fit into her old snowsuit with no problems, and Michaela Byrd wore layers. Lots of layers.

I love the quiet in the neighborhood after a snow. I imagine my neighbors inside their houses, sitting by the fire with a good book and a good cup of coffee. Except that in my neighborhood they are probably watching Dr. Phil and sipping some Natty Light.

We didn't stay out long because Michaela Byrd still refuses to walk, but it was long enough for the girls to enjoy the crunchy blanket of snow that God sent. Maybe He knows when we need a day to slow down and stay home?

{Emma Woodhouse} Mush, Mush! Too bad she only weighs 10 pounds. She'd make a great sled dog!

The view from down the street.

If I tell them that Michaela threw this snowball, they'll totally believe me.

I totally threw that snowball. By the way, I need a tissue.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

4 Times the Photo Fun!

I saw this over on my friend Paula's blog and knew I had to get the ball rolling with some of my bloggy friends. Here are the rules:

1. Go to the 4th folder where you keep your pictures on your computer.

2. Post the 4th picture in that folder.

3. Explain the photo.

4. Link to the person who sent you the Tag and then Tag 4 friends to share the fun!

Here is mine:

This is Natalie on Christmas morning, 2005. She was just a few weeks old, and I am sure I was so tired I could barely hold the camera up. I loved the little hat she had on (too bad Michaela Byrd missed wearing it by a week or so!). She's laying on one of those Boppy pillows, which I know you're not supposed to do, but it was on the floor at my mom's house, and she turned out okay. I think.

{I Tag}:
1. Meri at Watercolor Ponies.
2. Tracy at Bringing Up Boys...
3. Emily at The Webbs.
4. Boagie at Down on the Farm.

Can't wait to see what kind of fun, random photos ya'll find!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blast from the Past

I signed up for a sewing class at the local community center this morning. I know, this totally solidifies my place on the geek squad, but what the heck...if my obsession with LOST wasn't going to do it, this would. I am really looking forward to relearning to use my sewing machine and learning how to follow a pattern. I'd love to progress to making my own drapes, duvet covers, and clothes for the girls. I practically skipped out of the center with excitement...well, as much as one can skip with a baby in your arms.

Until I got home.

I was curious about the class, so I looked it up online to see who the teacher was. Seeing her name transported me straight back in time to 1997. If you are reading this and you went to high school with me, her name is MJK.

In my flashback in time, I am wearing a cheerleading uniform with the skirt rolled as high as it will go without causing suspicion, and my hair is sporting the unfortunate cheerleader bangs from the late '90s that we all know to well. I am sitting between BH and my friend, M, of "I (Heart) New York {2008}" fame. If memory serves correctly, BH is probably sporting his letter jacket and M most likely is studiously taking notes. She is now a lawyer, and I wash sippy cups for a living. (See kids? This is why you should stay in school!)

We are seated at a table in one of those modular units (fancy word private schools use for trailers) and MJK is at the front of the room, imparting her knowledge of Chemistry. Ick. Just typing that word made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. Because M is one of my best friends, she is doing her very best to get me to pay attention.

I am passing the time by thinking about how much more I would rather be in History class because I like History and Mr. S is cute and also how I am in love with BH, who I think is really just enjoying stringing me along. And also how cute I look in my cheerleading uniform. Behind me, JP is furiously scribbling a love note that I will later pretend I never got. (High school girls are mean!!!)

M pokes me as MJK pointedly asks me if I can name the element on the chart she is pointing to. I hold my breath and wonder why the stupid elements don't just have their names on the chart instead of numbers and letters like NGHYRP2. Even at the young age of 16, I must have some inherent knowledge that my mind is destined for things like debating whether or not Marlowe's Faustus ever had a chance, or did Dickens care for the Utilitarians. Oooooorrr...maybe I am just too lazy to pick up a book and learn Chemistry.

In her defense, MJK is a wonderful, sweet lady. She has the misfortune of making the choice to assign me a seat next to BH. I was lost from day one.

I should have failed Chemistry. I got an A on the very first test, but it was all downhill from there. 25, 39, 42 were not my locker combinations...they were very well the grades I received on subsequent tests. I am certain that MJK knew that my lack of studying and application were the cause of my poor work, but I think she passed me because that was the year my dad died, and also I did look very cute in my uniform.

I had MJK for Study Hall the next year, and she was going through her old filing cabinets.

"Oh, Amanda," she said, half to herself. "I found one of your old Chemistry test re-takes." (She used to let us do re-takes...mine were always a half-hearted effort).

"Ugh." I remember saying. "I don't even want to know what the grade was."

MJK laughed. "Oh, this one doesn't have a grade. I think I stopped grading them after awhile."

So, there you have it. If I don't study and put some effort in, MJK is gonna flunk me in Sewing Class, ya'll! Or at least give me a "D"!

I better hit the books....

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I will say again that my friend, Tracy is possibly the most creative mom I know. Her recent creative endeavors put me and just about all the moms I know to shame. In fact, Tracy, I don't think we can be friends anymore because I am going to have a complex. After attending a party for Tracy's older son's birthday today, I am not sure how anything I can come up with will compare. I'd have to fly the girls and 20 of their closest friends to Disney World, where the Disney people would resurrect Walt himself for a grand party in the Cinderella castle, complete with fireworks, princesses, and a leprechaun who pops out of a cake dipped in gold to give each girl 3 wishes. That might come close, emphasis on might.

I didn't tell Natalie that we were headed to an "Under the Sea- Mini Golf" party, because she had no idea what golf is anyways, and I didn't her to ruminate any longer than necessary about the possible alternative uses for a small club. We arrived at the party hot-spot, Tracy's neighborhood clubhouse, a few minutes late, but ready for some fun. Natalie was particularly excited to see that Mikie's "house" had a pool around back, and I didn't have the heart to tell her that I am not planning on wearing a bathing suit any time soon. Plus, it's January in Virginia. Plus, we don't have a membership. (Can you tell I am good at coming up with reasons not to wear a bathing suit?)

Tracy really outdid herself! Here are some pictures from the party:

Hours of work went into this party!

La-La peeking out from underneath the "waterfall".
The Pink Floyd room...Natalie freaked out when the door closed. "Get me outta here!" she shrieked. I thought it was kinda trippy.
Poor Zachary. Zachary is Mikie's younger brother, and Natalie is convinced that he needs a foster mother. She mothered (terrorized) him at our Bible study last summer, and is probably still doing it at our current study. She insists on patting his head, holding his hand, and telling him what to do. Have I modeled this behavior? Tracy, if someone calls CPS on you, it was probably Natalie--gunning for the hostile takeover. (Told you she'd be a shark in the corporate world)
This is me, Tracy, and Boagie, Tracy's mom and fellow blogger. I'm a fan of Boagie's blog, and I think Natalie is a fan of Boagie now too. I love to read about farm life in Iowa. I've never been to Iowa, but I think I would like it. Natalie has also decided that she would very much like to visit Boagie's farm and take Michaela Byrd for a ride on the tractor. Poor Michaela Byrd missed the party because she had to have a nap at Mimi's. It's for the best...she'd probably cheat. Inherited it from me.
Well done, Tracy! I would like to thank you most effusively because as we were on our way home, I heard a little voice pipe up from the back seat: "Mommy, I want a party like what Mikie had for my birfday."
Thanks. a. lot. ;)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Play Date

Yesterday, I was blessed with the presence of two lovely young ladies in my home. My friend, L dropped off her youngest, "La-La", for a play date. L had a meeting over at church, and a play date sounded like a great idea. Natalie, who normally looks forward to sharing her toys about as much as she looks forward to going to get shots, was surprisingly upbeat. T picked her up from preschool, and when she got here L was already parked in the driveway.

"La-Laaaaaaa!" she called from the open front door. "Come on in!" I think the warm air she let out of the house at that moment probably added another $200 to our electric bill.

The girls spent the afternoon immersed in the arts:

Fine Dining-The play date began with lunch, although both girls assured me that they were not hungry. Trying to get one three-year old to eat is a feat unto itself. Attempting to get two three-year olds to eat is a qualification for sainthood. Natalie and La-La spent the better part of lunch talking and hopping up and down out of their seats...made me wish for seat belts. I managed to get some grapes and peanut butter sandwiches into them before they were off to their next venture.

I kept waiting for a screaming fight to break out, but other than a small skirmish over the tea party, they were very civil. La-La preferred a more formal tea service, and Natalie had a more casual party planned, but they were easily distracted. They even entertained Michaela Byrd so I could wash the dishes!

Film: During lunch, La-La asked me if we have "High Cool Moosikul." (She has two big sisters) Sadly, I informed her that we do not own that fine piece of artistry. Natalie quickly interjected that we do, however, have Cinderella, an amazing cinematic achievement. They both concurred that the script and animation are sublime, but they prefer Peter Pan's score.

Politics: The girls munched on goldfish between courses and Natalie, ever the political activist, announced that we have "a Present named Obama." La-La made a distasteful face, as she is also a budding conservative. Natalie informed us that "I doesn't like Obama because I am very smart."

Fashion: What play date could end without a fashion show? The girls tore through the dress-up trunk like a pack of wild Grizzly bears and emerged from the new room (we don't really have a name for this room-hence, it is called "the new room) as worldly, sophisticated ladies. Here they are in their finery.

What is more precious than a pair of three year olds playing dress-up?? Without fighting over accessories! After the photo shoot, they donned bracelets, necklaces, and gloves. I think Anna Wintour would be proud of the ensembles. (La-La is wearing a vintage Dior gown paired with some fabulous hot pink Jimmy Choo slingbacks. Notice the plunging neckline? A daring choice, but I think she pulls it off well. Natalie donned a yellow skirt from the Carolina Herrera Spring line. She is wearing a diamond studded, feathered Harry Winston tiara. Paired with a pink Hermes bag, and pink Manolos, she is ready to walk 5th Avenue with the rest of the socialites.)

Today showed me that maybe Natalie is growing up. It was wonderful to see her interacting so well with her friend, but broke my heart just a little to see how big she's getting. I think we're both looking forward to the next play date! Perhaps they can plan an anti-Socialism march on the White House for next time....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Gourmet

For those of you who have children, do you ever look at your child and just know what their career path will look like? Natalie will either be a skilled corporate negotiator, or she will lead a military coup on some small country and become a not-so-benevolent dictator...I just hope she has a room with a closet big enough for all my shoes in her palace. My dream is to rival Imelda Marcos. Michaela Byrd may be heading on the path to becoming a famed food critic whose reviews grace the pages of The New York Times.

Now that she's a year old, we've been gradually shifting from formula to whole milk. That's not really a problem, as formula smells like old, stinky socks and whole milk tastes vastly better than that. (I know this only from T's commentary, because I have no sense of smell!) In fact, it has gone much better than when we did the old switcheroo from breast milk to formula.

I ended up pumping with both of my girls. I wasn't sure how long I'd make it with Michaela Byrd. I pumped for six months when Natalie was a baby, but I didn't think I'd have that kind of time with a two year old and a newborn. So my goal was to take it a week at a time. I hoped to make it to three weeks. Weeks came and went, and I got into a schedule and figured why not try to make it to six months? It became sort of a challenge to myself. Type A's love this kind of stuff--maybe I am a Type A?

Natalie was such a great eater that I assumed that Michaela Byrd would also take to the formula easily. Not so, my friends, not so. We settled down in the chair together and I offered her the bottle. She acted like I was asking her to eat mashed up pickled pig's feet! She spit and yelled and flapped her little arms around. I'm sure that if she could talk, she would have said, "Excuse me, Miss, but this is not what I ordered!"

I ended up having to pump for a whole extra month in order to gradually add the formula in. So whatever they say about the second child getting the shaft is just plain silly. Miss Picky clearly thinks that her palate is too refined for the food we've been serving her. I half expect her to sniff her bottle before swirling it around and taking a sip.

"Excuse me, Miss, but this is not what I ordered. I'd like some chocolate in my milk, please."

If only I could just be the "Milk Nazi" and say, "No milk for you. Come back, one year!"
All in a day's work.....

Planning her next tepid review..."The apple puffs were slightly soggy. I fed them to the dog, and even she didn't care for them. Where can one find a decent caviar around here?"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Speaking of Measuring Up...

Disclaimer: If for some reason Sam or some other guy might be reading this post, I will encourage you to click elsewhere today. This post is about wedding gowns and bras, quite frankly. The latter being a subject that is probably a mystery to men everywhere. So if you are of the male species, I urge you to find a blog about football, grilling, or weaponry today. This one's for the girls!

I left the girls with T yesterday and went out of town with my sister to look at wedding gowns. T looked slightly panicked when I walked out the door--Natalie was begging for Cinderella and Michaela Byrd has a gunky nose, and was apparently none too pleased to be without "The Precious" (me) for a day.

The first place we went was a cute little salon in an upscale shopping center, about an hour from my house. My mom met us there after several phone calls to ascertain our whereabouts (we got lost and drove through Richmond, with my sister frantically pulling into a ghetto parking lot and dialing Sam for directions). We have decided that we hate Mapquest.

While my sister tried on some gorgeous designer gowns, I found myself in the unfortunate position of sitting on a large couch in front of the three-way mirror. No escaping it. A fat chick's nightmare. I decided that if I left my new scarf on, it could possibly draw my eyes away from my bad hair (ponytail) and unfortunate hugeness.

Alison and I have very different tastes. She chose simple strapless gowns with short trains. I found myself inexplicably drawn towards anything with the slightest bit of bling. Funny, the gowns I would have chosen for myself were much different than the gown I chose seven and a half years ago. Of course, in my little imaginary game, I was still a size 6.

It wasn't difficult to discern which dresses my sister liked, and which ones she hated."Um. No." I'd hear from the dressing room, and I knew she wasn't even coming out. My mom did a fabulous job of not annoying her, a feat not easily attained, as Alison is more easily annoyed than a wolverine on a power trip.

I won't give a description or post a picture of the "winner," just in case Sam decides to read this. I'm sure for the other gowns, it was an honor just to be nominated, but you could tell which dress was "the one" when she walked out of the dressing room. A pity that most of those dresses have price tags that would compare with building a deck onto our home and adding a patio set and gas grill, but you try arguing that point with a bride-to-be.

After lunch, I decided to duck into a pretty little lingerie shop. I will admit that the underwire on my favorite bra broke last week, and whether it was due to wear and tear or weight gain (I am guessing the latter), I really can't say. I wasn't even sure what size I needed, so I headed in and asked for a fitting.

Nothing spells h-u-m-i-l-i-a-t-i-o-n like being fitted for a bra when you are the most overweight you have ever been and the salesgirl is so thin you can almost see through her tiny little Gap-clad body. The real irony is that my very first job as a tiny, Gap-clad college student was as a salesgirl in the lingerie department at Macy's.

The girl ended up being very friendly and helpful. I tried on seven or eight different bras, not because I was so excited about the variety of styles and colors (they were beautiful), but because the first one had a price tag of $109.00. For a girl who lately purchases yoga pants at Target, $109.00 was a bit steep. I ended up finding the perfect bra at the perfect price. My mom ended up treating me to a very pretty, cream colored creation for $47.00.

And I won't even tell you what cup size it was! I was pleasantly surprised that the band width that I was wearing was several sizes too big, but the cup might as well have been an LMNOP....

Cost of bra: $47.00.
Cost of torture to try on bra in front of young, fit salesgirl in order to find a new favorite: Priceless

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Measuring Up

T is a member of CBMC (Christian Businessmen Committee). He attends meetings with a small group every month, where they do everything from discuss business, their faith, sports, punch each other, and shoot wild animals. (Hey, if all women do when we get together is have tickle fights in our underwear, then this is what I imagine men do when they get together) I think he really enjoys it, and I'm sure it's nice for him to have an outlet to discuss business, since my knowledge of that world comes from watching the first three seasons of Trump's The Apprentice on NBC.

Tonight, one of the local CBMC leaders (who happens to be my brother's father-in-law--does that make sense?? He's Su-Su's dad) planned a dinner party for T's small group at the country club. Business casual, no big deal. We drove up the dark, tree-lined road to the country club and then walked (very) briskly from the parking lot up to the club.

Turns out we were the youngest couple there by several years and a lot of gray hair. That really wasn't a problem...I'm pretty good at small talk with just about anyone, but sometimes it is easier to connect with a person who has also spent her day washing sippy cups and keeping their one year old from drowning herself in the toilet. There was definitely not that connection there last night. Over salads, the CBMC leader asked us to go around the table and tell a little about ourselves, since none of the wives have ever met. I braced myself for an onslaught of insecurity. Sure enough, it flared right up.

The first wife is an actual doctor. She has elementary school-aged twins, and she runs a whole pediatrician's office. My current office location is the laptop here on the kitchen table, and there is a Disney Princesses place mat directly across from me. I think the ambiance is enhanced by the dried up milk on Michaela Byrd's high chair tray.

The second wife is a registered nurse. She also has two older children, has worked in the PICU, NICU, and currently works for a heart association. She runs marathons (for fun??!) and is planning a trip to Big Sur soon. I am planning a trip to Wal-Mart today for diapers before I travel to the metropolis of Richmond to pick my sister up from the airport.

The third wife I had more in common with, as she is a teacher (I was a teacher's assistant for a semester after I graduated college). She has high school and college aged kids, and her husband manages just about every radio station in the area. Big bucks. I manage my team of myself for the Steering Team newsletter committee for my MOPS group. They're a traveling family as well. They like to take Thanksgiving vacations to places like London, San Fransisco, and Turkey (get it?? Turkey for Turkey Day...haha). The last two big vacations T and I went on, we came home to find out a few weeks later that I was pregnant. I don't think we'll be going anywhere any time soon. The last wife manages a local Halmark store and has four grown children--overachiever!

So I sat at the table, feeling like a great big loser--literally...these ladies run marathons. The only place I run is down the clearance aisle at Target. Several of them clearly have some heavy-duty college and graduate degrees. I didn't even really use my B.A. when I was working at my pitiful little job before the kids came along. So when it was my turn to speak, I decided to just be honest.

"I have a six-figure book deal." I said. "And on my way to the spa every morning, I oversee the maid and the nanny while they care for my house and children. My girls never whine or cry, and they always eat their broccoli."

"I volunteer my summers reading to blind orphans in Guatemala. In Spanish." I continued. "And I am currently having our home redecorated by Nate Berkus."

Okay, not really. I just sort of filled in the gaps that T left when he introduced us. Everyone smiled politely, and even nodded in recognition when I mentioned my MOPS group, but I couldn't help but wonder if they were all thinking, "My goodness, what a loser."

I know I'm supposed to be cherishing these years I have at home with my girls, and that is something I am working on. Enjoying the little moments I have with them, instead of sitting in the middle of a pile of toys wishing I was sitting on a beach on Paradise Island. But when I think about my accomplishments, putting together a newsletter that maybe three people read or folding a load of laundry just doesn't match up to nursing sick people in the remote areas of Uruguay.

I sometimes wonder what life has in store for me when my children are all in school. Will I find another dead-end job that I suffer through? Or will I finally find my passion and excel at something? We'll see....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

99 Random Questions on My Blog, 99 Random Questions...

Here's my list of 99 Things, borrowed from my friends Meri and Tracy.

Bold--Things I have done
Italics--Things I want to do
Things I don't really care about are left plain

01. Started your own blog --well, glad I did! This is a great way for me to practice writing--haven't realized how much I missed it, even if I'm not analyzing Pope or Virgil's masterpieces

02. Slept under the stars--I don't sleep outside. ick

03. Played in a band

04. Visited Hawaii

05. Watched a meteor shower

06. Given more than you can afford to charity

07. Been to Disneyland/world-- done DW twice and LOVED it...I am a sap for that kind of stuff, their prime target-I mean client. I can't wait until we take our kids when they are old enough to enjoy it. I love Peter Pan's flight!

08. Climbed a mountain--I have been hiking, but I think I have blocked most of it from my memory...

09. Held a praying mantis-- see # 8

10. Sang a solo--only in the shower...I win Grammy's in there

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris--je 'taime Paris! beautiful city...I got to see it when I was 17. I think Parisians are, for the most part, fairly polite and welcoming. They are kinder if you attempt (however pitifully) to speak the language

13. Watched a lightening storm at sea--I don't remember...I was too busy drinking French martinis....

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child--

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France--yes, from behind 54 Japanese tourists, then I went shopping in the mall underneath the Louvre

20. Slept on an overnight train--

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked--No way!

23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill

24. Built a snow fort--built a snow castle once, our fattest cat got stuck in the door

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a marathon--

28. Ridden a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse--

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run--baseball is boring

32. Been on a cruise= baby #2

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors-does Nashville count if my grandmother was born there...hey, she's almost 98!

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37.Had enough money to be truly satisfied--sadly, no

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person--on my list

39. Gone rock climbing--ew, why?

40. Seen Michelangelo's David in person

41. Sung Karaoke--

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight--I am scared of the crabs that come out at night

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted--

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris--Yep! rode the elevator though!

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling--scuba diving in a pool once, wasn't a huge fan

52. Kissed in the rain--

53. Played in the mud--played soccer in the mud- HATED it!

54. Gone to a drive-in theater--

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout cookies--the bane of my existence in childhood, I was so painfully shy, but my mom made me do it

62. Gone whale watching--do they have French martinis there?

63. Gotten flowers for no reason-- T likes to do this

64. Donated blood--

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp--saw Dachau outside of Munich when I was 15...a real eye-opening experience

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy--yes, my Barbies and all their accessories are waiting for the girls...I am saving them until they are older...I think I will probably play with them too

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar--

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square-- so busy!

74. Toured the Everglades--

75. Been fired from a job--got demoted b/c there was no money to pay me in what was my current position

76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London--

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle--T used to own a speeding motorcyle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person--

80. Published a book--does a photo book from Shutterfly count?

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House--been inside several times, been past it on foot many times

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating--dear God, no

88. Had chickenpox--it was my dream in 3rd grade to get them and stay home, my dream came true and turned into a nightmare

89. Saved someone's life.--

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous

92. Joined a book club--the short-lived MOPS book club--I think I am the only person to read both books

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby--2 girls!

95. Seen the Alamo in person-- I "remember the Alamo!"

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake--

97. Been involved in a law suit--

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

Your Turn!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Adventures in "Babysitting"

Why do fathers always refer to watching their own children as "babysitting"? Is it only T? For a dad who loves his girls as much as T does, you'd think he'd really look forward to spending some quality time with them. I think it's not necessarily the bonding, but the work that comes along with children (dishes, laundry, bath time, diapers, fixing meals), that incites fear into the hearts of husbands everywhere. And it doesn't matter how many times T has "babysat" the girls, he has no clue as to what constitutes their daily rituals.

"Okay, are you looking at me?" I'll say before I leave. "Focus, please." I stand in between T and the television.

"Yes." he replies, even though he has sort of a glazed over look in his eyes. He is thinking about sports or you-know-what. They all do.

I run down the schedule for the girls' evening. How much milk to give the baby, what time to feed them, who goes to bed first, that sort of thing. I even make it easy for him and find the "special occasion" Gerber raviolis for Natalie--a food so disgusting, but so beloved by preschoolers.

"Did you get that?" I ask, pausing for a breath, and looking at the clock. If he would just remember this information, I wouldn't be forced to subject him to this lecture.

"Uh huh." he says. "When are you coming home?"

"I haven't left yet, T." I reply. I launch into my rehearsed speech on how I have readied the girls' rooms for bed assembly-style. Bath items prepared, pajamas, pull-ups, diapers, combs, bedtime stories, blankets, and stuffed animals are all lined up and ready. The dog could put them to bed, really.

"I have to give them a bath?!" Now I know he is actually listening, although I think all he heard was "blah blah blah dinner yadda yadda eight o'clock yippy skippy bath."

"Yes," I reply. "They've been running around all day, and they're dirty."

He sighs resignedly. "Okay, but do I have to wash Natalie's hair?" Anything to decrease the workload.

After some more negotiations I am on my way. Thirty minutes later, my phone rings.

"Wonder who that could be?" I comment sarcastically to my friend, J. She smirks.

It's T, frantic. "Is the turkey in the fridge okay to eat?" he asks. I think T has a secret fear of eating rancid lunch meat, being poisoned, and dying. I alleviate his fears, and hang up.

The phone rings again some time later. "How many tablespoons of cereal does Michaela get?"

"Where's her fruit?"

"Where do you keep Natalie's vegetables?"

T sounds worried the last time. "I asked Natalie if she wanted to go to bed, and she said 'no.' What do I do?"

I explain to him that our preschooler is taking advantage of his weakness, and that bedtime is not negotiable. (Natalie will make a swell corporate negotiator some day. She has killer instincts.)

When I arrive home, the dishes are piled in the sink, there are toys all over the floor, and the dog looks hungry.

"How did the girls do?" I ask.

"They did good." he replies, looking up from the latest issue of The Book of the AR-15. He looks completely exhausted, and I feel pity for him. Poor guy.

A mom would have fed the girls, changed some diapers, bathed them and washed their hair, read a story, sang some songs, tucked them in, done some laundry, washed the dishes, put up the toys, folded the laundry--all while completing a dissertation. All in a day's work, right, ladies? But we can't give the guys too much grief--those girls love their daddy!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ode to the Dog Water

Ode to the Dog Water
by Michaela Byrd, age 12 months

Oh, Dog Water, your murky depths sing to me from across the linoleum.

How I long to splash with reckless, joyous, abandon

But Her restraining arms pull me away yet again.

From the confines of the high chair, I gaze at your cool, glassy surface.

She can place me in the playpen, strap me in a car seat, or banish you to the sideboard,

But She cannot take away our love.

Someday, sweet Dog Water, we shall be reunited...

When She is not looking.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


My good friend H always looks so put together. Even at nine months pregnant and in labor she looked fabulous. It's not fair. So when she gave me a gift card to her favorite local salon, I was really excited, and planned an appointment (which I later had to cancel due to TheGreatSickness). That's when I chanced upon a real find: a new boutiquey salon so frou frou and sheshe that you just know you want to try it, even if they all speak French inside and look down their noses at you.

The proprietor, Miss Nollie, is a bit eccentric, but I've heard that she has exquisite taste. When I walked in, the salon was already humming with activity. Imagine my surprise when not only were my brother and my sister-in-law (J and Su-Su) there, but my mother (Mimi) as well! They heard the word on the street earlier about this new hot spot and wanted to get in before the rush. I guess they forgot to tell me. Sniff.

When she saw me, Miss Nollie, the salon owner, held up a hand. "You wait over 'dere." she told me. She has an odd way of speaking. Like I told you, she's eccentric. So I followed directions and sat down on the plush leather ottoman in the waiting area. (Didn't I say this place was posh?!) The hair dryer and all of the make-up had the Barbie brand and pictures of Barbies on them. Classy!

While I waited, I observed business in action. Miss Nollie, it turns out, is actually something of a tyrant. She rarely lets a client choose his/her own beauty regimen, but I suppose her creative vision is so grand that she couldn't possibly leave it to mere customer to decide what he or she would care for. She also keeps her money and tips in a small tupperware bowl on her counter. I secretly wonder if this is so she can catch thieves in the act and then chase them and beat them down with her hair dryer. Su-Su was the first client and politely asked how much Miss Nollie charged for some nail polish and how much to do her eyes.

"Um, hold on. I go check to see how much." Miss Nollie replied. She ran into the other room with the nail polish. Hmm...seems like Miss Nollie should know how much she charges for her services. Miss Nollie returned.

"Uh, a dollar one." she said with finality.

"Oh, okay," Su-Su agreed. "That sounds doable."

Except Miss Nollie only painted one of Su-Su's fingernails on one hand and then insisted that Su-Su have a blowout. Then she proceeded to charge her upwards of eight dollars for her services.

"But, wait!" Su-Su protested. "You said you'd only charge me a dollar one and now it's eight dollars and you only painted one nail."

Miss Nollie pretended not to hear her and moved on to her next customer: my brother, J, who I believe was only there to see if there was food being served. With the exception of Miss Nollie's special five dollar spa water, there was no food.

"What color you want?" Miss Nollie asked J, holding up her eye shadow/blush palette.

"Oh, uh, I guess blue." J answered.

"Nooo, you want pink and green." Miss Nollie told him and she proceeded to paint his wrist.

"Hold on a second!" cried Su-Su. "I told you that I wanted green." Her comment spurred a lengthy argument. I thought the customer is always right, right?

At this point, I had been waiting for quite some time. Frankly, I was beginning to think that Miss Nollie was just like many other business owners-just out to make money without a care for her clientele. When I asked Miss Nollie what the hold-up was, she told me to choose a nail polish.

"Well, I'd like hot pink." I decided.

"Dat's not hot pink." Miss Nollie retorted. I could see where this was headed. She charged me "firty dollars" to paint three finger nails and swipe some blush on my eyelids. She took a long look at my eyebrows. "Deez are messy. I'm gonna shave 'em off." she said with some finality, picking up what was actually an eyelash comb. What? I was not sure how to feel about this new, cutting edge, boutique salon experience.

In the gift shop, she charged Mimi eighteen dollars for a Tinkerbell doll I know for a fact she bought at a cost of zero dollars (Su-Su and J gave it to her for her birthday). She doesn't currently offer gift wrap for boutique purchases, and I have a feeling when she goes in the back to retrieve an item from her stock, she is secretly replacing the nailpolish with glue and Kool Aid.
The last straw came when I got up and realized that there was no beautician's licence to be found anywhere on the premises. What's worse, she is operating a pediatrician's office in the back. I am positive I saw her wipe her snotty nose on her sleeve before checking a baby's blood pressure.

I left the salon with an empty wallet and an unmade face. She insisted that I did not need "make-ups" on my face. Is this the new face of the salon experience? What do I know? I think I will put H's gift certificate to good use soon and see how it stacks up to the interesting little salon on L Avenue.

This is Miss Nollie's assistant, Byrdie. She speaks some strange European dialect-sounds like Hungarian gibberish. At any rate, she is very glamorous. They told me she wears a feather boa to work every day. Miss Nollie is not the most benevolent employer. She pays Byrdie in old crackers, and never lets her use the blow dryer.

I am pretty sure I saw Miss Nollie sell this exact same perfume bottle to a customer. Byrdie doesn't make enough at the salon to eat lunch at the local cafe, so she often sneaks things. This only fuels my suspicions that Miss Nollie replaces her stock with water and/or Kool Aid.

The illegal pediatrician's office Miss Nollie runs in the back room. That poor child has been left unattended!

Operating in such deplorable conditions?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Make Haste to Target!

My favorite "boutique" store, Target (pronounced "Tarzshay" for those of you who aren't in the know), has marked down their Christmas wares to 75% off! If your local Target hasn't ditched Christmas for Valentine's Day, head over because you can find some real steals for ChEaP!

StEaL # 1: 4 Christopher Radko soup bowls for a grand total of $4.00. They were originally $16.00. I've been collecting the CR Christmas patterned stuff for several years now. We use it once a year or so, usually because I forget that it's stored away in my sideboard. (Goal for 2009: Use it at least twice!) I never open the sideboard because I had to use some classy packing tape to secure the doors. Babyproofing devices don't work on cheapo IKEA pieces, and Michaela Byrd finds the clanking of the breakable items inside to be sweet music to her ears. Hence the packing tape and my forgetfulness.

STeAl # 2: 2 Christopher Radko cereal bowls for a total of $2. They were marked at $4 each, originally. When I can trust the girls to eat cereal out of bowls that do not have cartoon characters printed on them and are not plastic, they will be a cute addition to our Christmastime breakfast routines.

StEAl # 3: Adorable advent calendar with a snowman and Victorian farmhouse print on the front for only 75 cents! I'm not sure if there is a quote or picture on the inside of each flap, but for 75 cents I am willing to let Natalie and Michaela Byrd find out next December. This went at the top of my attic Christmas boxes so we don't forget about it next Christmas.

STeAL # 4: A box of tiny children's "antique" ornaments (rocking horse, snowman, gingerbread man, etc.) for $2. They are the kind we had on our "kid tree" when I was growing up, so this was a sentimental purchase. I can almost hear the screaming fits my sister and I had over whose ornaments were whose, while my brother stood by in complete oblivion....

I done good! Did you find anything worthy on your clearance trip?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Who Won the Gold Star for "Best Christmas Gift for Nannie"?

So many of you were amused by my Nannie's hilarious and true exploits, that I feel compelled to share some more with you. Sometimes when I remember that she is my grandmother, and thus related to me, I get a little nervous about what may be in store for me 70 years from now.

My sister wins the gold star this year with her choice of gifts for Nannie. (I'll make the big reveal later) Nannie is one of the most difficult people to shop for. She is 97 years old (98 this May!!). This means that she has most likely received every gift known to man over her lifetime. I have spent many a Christmas vacation scouring Macy's for the perfect brooch, the softest scarf and hat set, or the book with the best plot. Eh. Turns out she really likes stuffed animals, so for a few years we would just look for the cutest stuffed animal we could find. One year I found a stuffed Schnauzer that looked just like her evil dog, DeBe, who went to dog heaven (or hell??) when I was still a child. That elicited a slight favorable response--at least stuffed Debe has a home on Nannie's bed.

So what, you must be asking yourself, was Alison able to find to win the unofficial Christmas contest? First you must consider Nannie's varied interests and hobbies.

-Was it a bullet proof vest to protect her body when the Red Chinese inevitably cross the borders, conquer America, and turn us all Communist? NO
-Was it a pair of sequined square dancing shoes to adorn her tiny little feet when she goes line dancing every week? NO
-Was it a new make-up case to replace the magenta-pink one she has been using since before I was born? NO (The current one is "perfectly good" even though she uses an old dog leash for the handle. I guess this is how you view possessions when you have lived through the Great Depression. Everything, even a Styrofoam party cup, is fair game for reuse.)
-Was it a gift certificate to Sephora to choose some new make-up? NO (She has some eye shadows in that magenta-pink case that could very well be from the Nixon era)
-Was it a signed copy of Glenn Beck's The Christmas Sweater to mark her glorious conversion to conservatism? NO (This is completely unnecessary as the Clintons are planning on taking over the U.N. and dominating the world, in which case we are all going to hell in a handbasket anyways.)
-Was it a new time share in Acapulco? NO (Nannie collects time shares the way my dad's mother collected Hummel figurines. She is a sucker for a *good* sales pitch, and we have lost count of how many vacation spots she has in exotic places like Florida and Baja, California---rolls off the tough, doesn't it?)
-Did it have to do with her RecentDiscoveryofSpecialWater? Hmm...that could just be it!
I foolishly thought that a repeat of last year's favored photo calendars would do the trick. Not so. It was Alison's shrewd choice of special water accessorizing that won.
This is Nannie with her plastic water bottle for her "special water", lovingly chosen by my sister. Darn it. Next year, I am going to get her a lazy susan from the Dollar Store for the 60 year old spices hidden in the back of her cabinets and call it a day.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

{OnE YeAr AGo ToDaY}

One year ago today, we welcomed our second daughter, Michaela Byrd, into this world. Her sweet disposition is such a blessing and joy in my life. She is living proof that sometimes God decides to bless you whether you are asking for it or not.

I can't believe that 365 days ago, I was riding next to T on the way to the hospital, crying silent tears. I was filled with anxiety. Getting pregnant with this little one had come as quite a surprise. Natalie wasn't exactly scheduled either, but we had both pretty much agreed that we had another year or two to go before we thought about having any more children. Apparently, God had some other plans.... I spent most of my pregnancy moaning over where to put the baby (the guest room, duh), how we would afford the next C-section (God provided!), and how could I possibly love another baby as much as Natalie (how could I not?)?

As I lay on the big table in the OR while the doctor cut and tugged and yanked, those same thoughts rushed through my head. Yet somehow when Dr. S pulled a screaming Michaela Byrd out from the incision (she was clearly unhappy to be introduced to the world two weeks early), those thoughts scattered like pebbles on a dirt road. God filled my heart with a love for her so big, my heart could almost burst these days.

She had a rough start with a week-long NICU stay due to some sort of infection, but she's healthy as a horse (or a very small pony) now. She is smiley, friendly, smart, and loves her family unconditionally. She can certainly hold her own. There are tales of her exploits from the MOPS nursery that involve her ganging up on a roomful of baby boys, and she always shows righteous indignation when a precious toy is snatched up by a bullying older sister. Her chatty, sunny personality is a delight to me.

Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with this beautiful girl. I am most undeserving!
Gotta love that grin!

Happy Birthday, baby girl!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hey, Good Lookin', Whatcha Got Cookin'?

I stumbled upon a neat newlywed'sblog tonight, and the blogger sent out a request for some menu planning advice. I have a loose plan...more of the kind of thoughts that you'd jot down on a restaurant napkin, really; but a plan nonetheless. I'm actually grateful to Melissa for posting because it reminded me to sit down and think about some goals for 2009.

One of my goals is to do a better job with more regular trips to the grocery, doing my best to make frugal choices, and making meals more regularly so that my husband doesn't have to eat Ramen noodles because the kids' screaming in Super Target was so unbearable that we had to leave without buying any chicken. In my defense, T works some odd hours, and it is hard to chase after the kids all day, put them to bed all by myself, and get him another hot meal on the table after 9 pm without falling asleep and burning my face on the stove. Not exactly the microdermabrasion treatment you'd get at the spa.

Regardless, I want to do a better job of having a nice meal for the family to eat together on the evenings he is home at dinner time.Melissa, if you are reading this, you might have an easier time with this if you start making a habit of it now. When children come along, they have a way of making grocery store runs and cooking long, complicated recipes-ah- a bit more time consuming. Now that we have a freezer, I plan on making use of tips from my friends L and Meri and doing some make-ahead meals that I can keep in the freezer and pop in the oven in time for dinner. I am pretty sure L recommends ThisBook for some freezer meal ideas.

I don't think I'll have time to make meals for an entire 30 days, but it would be nice to have meals for a week or so at a time.When I am better about being organized, I do try to make a menu for the week and then prepare my grocery list from that. I try not to be rigid about my menu ideas because you never know when something might pop up and throw a wrench in your plans...we might be invited to dinner with Mimi or T might run off to France with a beautiful, young sales rep. (Ha! That would never happen because there are never any beautiful, young sales reps. Besides, T hates France, and even if he did decide to go there then I wouldn't have to worry about my meal plans anymore)

I'd love to start sitting down on Saturday or Sunday evening and thumb through my collection of cookbooks for inspiration. I didn't realize how many I have and how my collection is growing! But for now, I'll settle for a quick list of daily meals jotted down while the girls scarf their breakfasts down. The Sneaky Chef looks like fun, but Better Homes & Garden's Dinnertime Express may get more of a workout in our house these days.
Sooo...thank you, Melissa, for sparking my memory. This is something I need to think about more often. Hope you found some ideas here!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now?

I have some very bad news, ya'll, and it is a shame that it comes on the cusp of the New Year. My sister, Alison, has been diagnosed with Hyperverizonitis. The doctors at Seymore Butz Memorial Hospital told us that she will have to have her cell phone surgically removed from her right ear as soon as possible to save what little brain waves remain. The nerve endings in her fingers are damaged, and permanently crippled from all the texting she has subjected herself to.

We are hopeful for a positive outcome, but deeply saddened by this news. When Alison was home for Christmas this year, the little red phone rarely left her side. I felt like one of Pavlov's lab aides-whenever the phone rang or beeped with a new text message or voicemail, her demeanor visibly brightened. I think we should have set a place at the table for Christmas dinner for Phone.

At one point, I wrestled her for the Phone. She didn't like that. I lost. She is freakishly strong.

Alison's relationship with Phone goes back some years. One of the worst nights of my life involves Phone. I can't remember why I got stuck sharing a bed with her at my grandparents' house, but I did. I must have offended the gods in some way, because they really got back at me. Sharing a bed with Alison can be dicey to begin with. She is very particular about what side of the bed you can sleep in, how many covers you can have, how much you can talk to her, etc. She also usually requires her bedmate to get out of bed and turn the lights out. Why do I listen? You might be wondering. Because she is scaaaaaarey. Read on.

So I was all tucked in bed in one of the guest rooms at Granny and O'pa's house. So sleepy. I had just nodded off when a horrible, droning buzz shook the bedside table. I opened my eyes to see Alison grab her lit-up phone and flip it open. She proceeded to click away a response to the text she received. Click, click, click. Rapid fire--her fingers fly over the tiny keyboard like an Apache helicopter on the battlefield. (Sam, did you get the helicopter reference?) This only occurred about 17 more times, each time after I had just fallen back to sleep.

When I finally worked up the nerve to confront her, she hissed something so nasty at me (I honestly don't remember what it was-it must have been so horrible that I have blocked it from my memory) that I jumped up and ran out of the room...after stealing the comforter and turning the lights on for spite, of course. I spent the night on a makeshift bed of couch cushions on the family room floor, where my grandfather found me the next morning, so traumatized that I can only now speak of the incident.

Alison's ties with Phone run deep. I wonder if the Betty Ford Center offers some sort of rehab for people affected by Hyperverizonitis. If anyone knows, please leave word in the Comments section. My family is desperate to help her before her wedding in September. If she can't have the surgery and rehab, we might have to have the florist place Phone in her wedding bouquet so she can have quick access during the ceremony.
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