Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a Year. What a Decade.

In less than three hours, a year (and a decade) will be over. I wasn't going to make a big deal about it, but I just can't let this day pass without pausing to reflect (out loud, apparently) on how much has changed.

Ten years ago, I had been married a little more than a year. I lived in a darling little apartment (well, actually, it was pretty damn run down, but we loved it to pieces), had two kitties and relatively few worries.

If you had asked me then what the next decade would bring? Well, I had a vague idea that somewhere along the way we'd buy a house, have a couple of kids and I'd quit my job to stay home and raise them.

I imagined I'd live behind a white picket fence, drop in regularly on my mom and pal around with the women who had been my friends since high school. I thought I'd learn how to cook, resign myself to cleaning and become the domestic goddess I was sure I was meant to be.

In short, I had no clue what was in store for me.

A lot has happened to me in the last ten years. I've struggled with depression. Changed careers a couple of times. Left behind all that was familiar to explore the great unknown (twice). Experienced more pain than I thought I was capable of withstanding—and more joy than I ever knew was possible.

There were years I wasn't sure I was going to make it. And others where I couldn't believe my luck.

But I wouldn't trade a single minute of the last decade. You know why? Because it took every one of those 5,256,000 seconds to get me to where I am today. They shaped who I am and helped me realize who I was meant to be.

They led me to the moment where I fed my baby her last bottle of 2009, kissed her good night and wished her sweet dreams. They brought me to my Tori—the best thing that's ever happened to me.

So tonight, I wish you all a very Happy New Year—and hope the next decade finds you living a life well lived.

How to Survive a Holiday Visit Home (with a baby).

Guess what? If you're reading this, you've survived the holidays (or at least most of them). Congratulations! I think you deserve a pat on the back. We all do.

I, of course, spent the holidays in Detroit. With my family. Allllll of my family. Complete with two sets of moms and dads, various siblings, their children and even a great grandparent or two. Which was lovely. Also, stressful, emotionally draining and exhausting.


But I got through it with my smile (mostly) intact. Want to know my secret? I've got ten of them.

When traveling with a nine-month-old, bring ear plugs. Last time we went home, Tori was still at the stage where she (mercifully) slept a lot. Not so much anymore. And, let me assure you, she was not pleased with the seating arrangement. Which she vocalized with the most obnoxious of screams. For hours at a stretch. Luckily, our radio is quite loud (it almost drowned them out). Next time, there will be ear plugs.

When someone asks you if you want a glass of wine, accept. Ah, alcohol. It takes the edge off, doesn't it? It also makes it easier to ignore insults and feign interest. Errr, just as an example.

When in situations where openly drinking isn't appropriate, switch to "pop." This is something I learned from a more experienced pair of parents. See, cola can hide a multitude of alcoholic lubricants, all of which make anything more fun. But the other relatives? Will just think you're exceptionally glad to see them.

When celebrating Christmas with a multitude of children, bring wire cutters.  Nothing can change excited giggles to frustrated screams faster than an overly well packaged toy. Enter wire cutters, the instant liberator. They made my husband the most popular man in the room.

When celebrating Christmas with an infant, lower expectations.  Everyone was excited to see Tori open her gifts. Everyone, that is, except for Tori. She really didn't get what the fuss was about. Didn't even want to rip the paper. Eat the paper, sure. But not rip it. I'm pretty sure her lack of interest frustrated a lot of folks. But I? Thoroughly enjoyed opening all those extra gifts.

When sleeping in a strange bed, remember you might need help getting to dreamland.  My best friends of the past week? Tylenol PM and Benadryl. No matter what the day had dished out, those little helpers made sure I was able to make my way to dreamland without first spending hours rehashing events.

When at the mercy of other people's cooking, remember the scale will eventually forgive you.  Sure, I may have eaten more calories in the last week than I usually consume in a month. But it was all in the name of family togetherness, so my waistline had to suffer. The scale? Deserves a holiday too.

When surrounded by free babysitters, remember to take advantage of it.  You know what I did this week? I spent more than two hours inside a single shoe store (DSW, I heart you). Obviously, I did not have a baby in tow. With two sets of doting grandparents within minutes of each other, Brian and I actually got to spend some quality time together. Without baby. It was almost enough to make me want to move home...almost.

When traveling during the winter months, remember to be flexible.  We were all set to come home on Monday. The car was packed, the kid was secured, and the dog was tied in. But winter? She had other plans. After seeing the highway was down to ruts, we turned around, going into the Holiday Visit Bonus Round.

When you finally get home, remember to appreciate the silence.  Sure, it might seem a little  quiet at first. A little lonely. But it's home. And in no time at all, you'll be back to dreading the next trip to the Motherland.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wishing You All a Very Merry Christmas.



Dear readers,

As 2009 draws to a close, I'd like to take a minute to thank you all for everything you've shared with me this year.  A few months ago, no one but my very closest friends and family read this little blog of mine. And now? Now there's almost a hundred of you!

That might be small potatoes to some, but to me, it means the world. Thank you for being there. Thank you for listening to me whine, and for giving me advice. Thank you for laughing with me and for (virtually) wiping away my tears. Thank you for helping me navigate these first few months of motherhood and for assuring me it only gets worse.

Thank you.

This will be my last post for the next week or so—I'll be spending some quality time with my loved ones (and those who love to drive me crazy). But I'll be back soon (with plenty of new blog fodder, I'm sure).

In the meantime, have a very merry Christmas. May your days be filled with plenty of love, laughter, joy and whatever alcoholic beverage you need to get through all that family togetherness.

Hugs and kisses,
amber

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Ring.

For weeks, he’d been teasing me about my Christmas gift.

 “You’re going to love it,” he’d say.

“It’s something you’ve been wanting for ages,” he’d hint.

“Hands down, it’s the most expensive gift I’ve ever bought,” he’d crow.

Which, to me, could mean only one thing. He had bought me a ring. An engagement ring.

When Christmas Eve finally arrived, he told me he was taking me out to dinner. And that I should wear something fancy.

So, thinking I was about to get engaged, I pulled out all the stops. My hair was curled (and sprayed) to perfection. My lip liner was applied with care. And my dress? Well, it was much too short and way too tight for my comfort, but I knew it was his favorite.

At the appointed hour he arrived in his steel chariot (a red Chevy Sprint) to whisk me off to dinner. Our destination? Olive Garden (hey, we were broke college students. It was fancy to us).

I don’t remember much about the meal. I imagine I had the mushroom ravioli, because that’s what I always got, but I was too nervous to eat much. Every time he took a breath or shifted in his seat, I was sure The Moment had come.

But it wasn’t until the dinner plates were cleared that he made his move. Reaching into the inside pocket of his jacket, he pulled out a brightly wrapped box. A ring-sized box.

“Here. Open it.”

Fingers shaking, I ripped the paper off, revealing the burgundy velvet box inside. Taking a deep breath, I opened it, expecting to see the sparkle of a diamond winking back at me.

Not a plastic ghost.

But that’s what I saw. A Halloween ring featuring a smiling, Casper-style ghost. The kind you get for 25 cents out of a vending machine.

I blinked, thinking I was seeing things, but no. When I opened my eyes again, it was still there.

He chose that moment to start laughing uproariously. “You should see your face,” he said. “Oh man, what I wouldn’t give to have a camera right now.”

That’s when I started to cry. Quietly, so as not to alarm the other diners.

“What? Why are you crying? It was a joke! You’re supposed to be laughing!”

My only answer was a stifled sob.

“Come on, that wasn’t your real gift,” he said, fumbling around in his coat pocket. “I’ve got it here somewhere…here. Here it is.”

Sniffling quietly, I ripped the package open to reveal my second velvet box of the evening. This time, there were diamonds inside. Two of them.

He’d bought me diamond earrings. Beautiful diamond earrings. Earrings I later wore proudly.

But at that moment, all I could think about was the diamond solitaire that wasn’t. And at the sight of them? I cried even harder.

You know what the amazing thing is? When he finally got around to proposing a few months later, I actually said yes.

This post was written for the third challenge at Write of Passage. The assignment? Write about the most memorable Christmas gift you ever received. This, as you might imagine, wins. Hands down. Now go see what the other participants have to say for themselves!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Banishing the Baby Belly: The Don't Ask Don't Tell Edition.

This week, I have consumed brownies, Christmas cookies, fudge, hamburgers, pizza and junk food galore. Not to mention copious amounts of wine and beer.

Yep, it's the holidays.

You know what that means, right? I didn't get on the scale this weekend.

But you know what? My husband weighed himself, and he's all like, "Gee whiz, I seem to have lost two pounds. I wonder how that happened?"

Bastard.

Don't worry, he knows I'm kidding (mostly).

Oh, and I probably won't be getting on the scale next weekend either. See, I'll be seven hours away from my scale, and I don't know about you but I don't trust other people's scales. I just don't (also, it's a good excuse).

So that's my total cop out. Anybody out there share my pain?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Meaning of Christmas - A Comedy Sketch

I actually wrote this a couple of years ago, but it never fails to make me laugh, so I thought I'd post it here. Now, if y'all will excuse me for a minute, I need to talk to my mom. Mom, this is not intended to be at all autobiographical so please don't get offended at anything in here, okay? 'Kay. Love you.

OPEN on a cozy Christmas scene, with two couples, one in their late 50s the other in their early 30s, sitting together sipping eggnog.

MOM: So how was the show?

DAUGHTER: You mean church? How was church?

MOM: Well, you know. With the decorations, the candles, the singing... it’s all the same, really.

DAUGHTER: The service was very nice, thank you. Just the thing to kick off a nice holiday.

DAD: Right. Just in case Christmas has anything to do with the church anymore.

DAUGHTER: Excuse me?

Her HUSBAND pats her knee comfortingly. DAD downs the last of his eggnog.

DAD: It’s about the money. That’s all it is.

DAUGHTER: The money.

Dad: Sure. Those Christians just needed another reason to suck money out of everyone’s pockets. So they invented a holiday, threw in another service…

MOM: Fill the church with mood lighting, sing some pretty songs, give everyone a little wine…

DAUGHTER: That’s communion wine!

DAD: Whatever. It all adds up to some wide open pockets.

DAUGHTER: And the whole birth of Christ thing…

MOM: Just an excuse to fleece the congregation.

DAD: If you ask me, that whole story probably started when some disciple found himself with a problem on his hands… virgin pregnant with the son of God sounds a whole lot better than knocked up teenaged whore when you’re trying to get someone a husband.

DAUGHTER finishes her cup in one gulp, then reaches for her husband’s glass and drains it.

DAUGHTER: Looks like we’re ready for a refill. Anyone else?

MOM: Oh, I’ll get it. You’re having such a nice talk with your father.

MOM leaves room, humming “We wish you a Merry Christmas” under her breath.

DAD: Just as an example… how much did you give tonight, Dudley?

HUSBAND: It’s Bradley.

DAD: Sorry about that. I’ll get it one of these days. You’ve been married such a short time.

DAUGHTER: Yep. Eight years. The blink of an eye, really.

DAD: That long? And still no grandchildren? Dudley, you should get yourself checked out. There might be something wrong.

DAUGHTER: DAD!

DAD: Well, you know, procreating is part of your Christian duty!

DAUGHTER: How would you know, Dad? You’re an atheist.

DAD: Oh, I know all about that Christianity stuff. Don’t kill your neighbor...

MOM enters room, bearing tray with eggnog, and begins handing them out.

MOM: Unless they’re Muslim!

DAD: And honor thy mother and father.

MOM: Unless they spend your inheritance before they die. Then you get to shoot ‘em.

DAD: Oh and let’s not forget—don’t covet thy neighbor’s wife…

MOM: But his children are fair game.

DAUGHTER: Alright, you guys. That’s enough. Can’t we just have a nice Christmas Eve for once?

DAD: Sure. Wouldn’t want to ruin what that nice church of yours started.

DAD gets up and stands in front of her, hand out.

DAUGHTER: What are you doing?

DAD: Waiting for you to pay me.

DAUGHTER: What, for the sheer pleasure of your company?

DAD: Well, money’s what Christmas is about, isn’t it? And we’ve given you a comfortable chair, some good alcohol…

MOM: There’s pumpkin pie in the kitchen!

DAD: And there’s pumpkin pie in the kitchen. I think that should be worth double what you gave that church of yours.

DAUGHTER Fine. Hang on a sec.

DAUGHTER slams out of the room.

There is an uncomfortable silence.

DAD: So, Dudley, how are things in that critter clinic of yours? Cut off any balls lately?

HUSBAND: No, but we’re having a post-holiday special next week. Maybe you should come in…. You could even bring the dogs.

DAD: (Surprised Laugh) Right, maybe I will.

Uncomfortable silence lengthens. DAUGHTER re-enters the room, towing an unkempt looking older man.

MOM: Samantha? Who’s your friend?

DAUGHTER: This is Jack.

MOM: And Jack is here because…

DAUGHTER pulls out her checkbook and begins writing.

DAUGHTER: Well, because I’m about to give Dad double what I gave the church. And the church is supposed to use our money to help the less fortunate. So I thought you two might like to use what I’m giving you…

Walks over and slaps the check in her stunned father’s hand.

DAUGHTER: To help poor Jack here.

JACK holds his hand out to MOM.

JACK: It’s nice to finally meet you…. I admire your shoes every morning when you walk past my alley.

MOM gingerly shakes his hand.

MOM: Is that the coat I threw out last year?

JACK: Probably. Red is my color, isn’t it?

MOM: Why is he here again?

DAUGHTER: Well, you’re much better people than the Christians, right? So why don’t you use my money to give Jack a nice hot meal—and maybe a bed for the night?

JACK: Oh, are y’all Jewish?

HUSBAND: No, they’re atheists.

JACK: Oh. Atheists. Well, that’s a relief.

DAD: A relief? Why?

The doorbell rings as Jack pulls a gun.

JACK: Well, I’d feel bad about this if Christmas meant something to y’all, but since it doesn’t… well, God would want me and mine to have your stuff. The meek shall inherit the earth and all that.

He opens the door and a parade of homeless men enters. A few break off from the pack and approach the family, who squawk and yell as they begin to tie them up. The others begin dismantling the room, TV, stereo, Christmas tree and all.

MOM: This is all your fault, Jerry!

DAD: My fault? How is it my fault?

MOM: All those things you were saying. You made God angry!

DAUGHTER: Oh, now you believe in God?

MOM: I never said I didn’t believe in God.

DAD: What? Yes, you did, just now.

MOM: No, I didn’t. You just assumed, Jerry. You always assume!

JACK: Would the four of you shut the hell up! You’re ruining my holiday!

A homeless man gags them with duct tape as the lights go down.

THE END

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It Ain't Easy Being Green.




For the first half, heck, three quarters of my life, my motto was something like "blend in at all costs." I wanted desperately to fit in. To be a cool kid, a social butterfly...a rock star.

So I tried.

I bought the right brands of clothes. Used the right words. Drank what everybody else was drinking. Did my very best to become one of the Borg people.

I really did try.

But you know what?  It didn't work. I am none of those things. I am a square peg in a sea of round holes. A redhead in a world that prefers blondes. To put it bluntly, I am a geek (your first clue? I know what the Borg are).

So I decided to change my motto. These days, it's pretty simple: Be yourself. Or at least try.

It's remarkably freeing, that motto.

It's allowed me to start wearing the clothes I love for the first time since I was a kid. Things like swingy polka dot dresses on warm summer days. Skirts and tights instead of jeans on comfy Saturday afternoons. Mismatched socks (when forced to wear socks), because, well, why not?

It's made it possible to finally admit that, all things considered, I'd much rather stay at home and read a book than hit the bars. After all, the action between the covers of a book? Is generally much more exciting than anything that happens while crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with stinky strangers in a club.

It's even helped me accept my wallflower status. Because let's face it. Some of us aren't meant to be the life of the party. Besides, if there weren't a few of us hanging back watching the action, there would be no audience for those who need one. And then what would they do?

It's not easy being green. But it's a heck of a lot easier than trying to change your spots.

This post was written as part of this week's Writing Workshop over at Mama Kat's. The prompt I chose, in case you haven't guessed yet, is 2.) What is one of your life mottoes? There's lots of other brilliant writers taking part this (and every) week, so head on over there and check it out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wordful Wednesday: The Christmas Tree Edition.

We have tons of ornaments for our Christmas tree. Tons. Brightly colored balls, snowflakes, bows...you name it, we probably own it. But there are a few special ones that always get a place of honor. The ones that have stories behind them, or mark a special time in my life.




This one was the first my husband and I ever bought together. We weren't married, or even engaged, but when he brought it up to the cash register, I knew we soon would be.





These two are part of a set we bought on our honeymoon. I agonized for days over whether or not to buy them - but finally decided I couldn't go home without them.



A friend gave this to us as a wedding present. It's just about my favorite ornament on the whole tree. We look so young...it really should be illegal for little kids to get married.


 

We got this the year we bought our first house. It was a shack, and we were broke beyond belief, but it was one of those rare moments in time when life seemed perfect.


 

Okay, so he's not an ornament. But I love him to death. I paid $17 for him, which I remember because I only had $23 left in the bank. That shopping trip was also the last time my mom and I managed to pull off a Serious Shopping Day - so you could say his purchase marked the end of an era.


 

This is the newest addition to our tree. I can just hear her, sometime in the future, saying "is that really me, Mom? Was I really that little?" I'm going to buy her her own ornament every year. Just a little tradition I'm starting...


 


I think she'll appreciate it. After she realizes that the ornaments are supposed to stay on the tree. I'm thinking it might be a few years.

And that brings us to the end of another Wordful Wednesday. Now head on over to Seven Clown Circus and get your fill of eye candy!
 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Random Bit of Fun.

Yesterday's post was far too serious for the holiday season. So...here. Watch the Muppets do Bohemian Rhapsody and laugh.



Are you smiling? I know I am.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Best Christmas Present Ever.

It was my favorite time of the year. Christmas carols filled the airwaves, the smells of baking cookies filled the air and laughter filled the eyes of everyone around me. But although I could see the holiday lights sparkling, nothing lifted the darkness that cloaked my soul.

Depression had wrested control from me, taking the joy out of the Christmas—and the light out of life. Sure, I went through the motions, decorating the tree, sending out holiday cards, and taking part in the retail frenzy that marks the season.

But none of it touched me.

I sent out silent signals of distress. Signals unintelligible to anyone but me. The lights decorating our house that year were blue. The cards sent out were absolutely generic, lacking my usual warm chattiness. The presents? Were bought with a minimum of thought, and I really didn’t care whether anyone liked them or not.

I trudged through the season, shoulders bowed under the weight of my pain. I hated everyone. Questioned everything.

What was I doing with my life? Was I really supposed to be here, doing this? Would anyone notice if I simply stopped existing? Would they be better off without me?

But the universe refused to answer.

Finally, it was Christmas Eve. I headed to church with my husband and his family for the holiday service. We sat shoulder to shoulder in the crowded church, the packed pews necessitating almost claustrophobic closeness.

But I still felt utterly alone.

I closed my eyes, fighting back tears, and did something I never do. I prayed. “God,” I said, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to go on living. I want to give up. Is that what I should do? Help me, please.”

Suddenly, a deep calm overtook me and a series of pictures flashed through my mind. My husband kissing me on our wedding day. Us laughing as we swam in the lake. Him with a befuddled expression on his face, holding our puppy at arm's length as he peed all over the kitchen floor.

My beautiful life was laid out in front of me, and I knew that I was supposed to stay put. That I was on the right path. That I just had to hold on.

Then, as suddenly as it had come, the presence was gone. My husband squeezed my hand and the outside world returned. “Are you okay,” he asked.

I nodded, tears shining in my eyes, and for the first time in months, it wasn’t a lie.

I am not a religious woman. I don’t go to church. I’m not even always sure that I believe in an afterlife. But I firmly believe that God spoke to me that day. God spoke to me, and gave me something to hold on to.

He gave me Hope.

That was not the end of my depression. In fact, it worsened, and the months that followed were full of confusion, anger and pain. But through it all, I cradled that nugget of Hope close to my heart. It was proof. Proof that I could survive. That I would survive. All I had to do was have a little faith.

 Eventually, light returned to my life, along with laughter and joy. But the memory of that moment took up residence in my core and continues to shine—my own personal beacon of Hope.

This post was written as part of a blog carnival over at Blog Nosh magazine in support of the Tide Loads of Hope campaign. I didn't want to write it. Didn't want to expose this deeply personal moment to the Internet. But the words have been pounding at the back of my mind since I first heard of this program last week. Sometimes, the words, they have a life of their own.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Open Letter to Whoever Designed My Car.

Dear auto engineer type people,

When I bought my car three years ago, I thought I was buying a larger vehicle. After all, it has four doors, a station wagon-style rear hatch, and is called a "crossover." This, to me, means big. Or if not big, at least family-sized.

After all, it isn't fast. Or particularly stylish. Or particularly comfortable to ride in. So it should at least accomodate the average family, shouldn't it?

But you know what? It doesn't. I have one child.  One child who needs a car seat. And you know what doesn't fit in this damn car? A car seat.

Back when I was pregnant, we had to return the first car seat we bought because it was too big for my car. We ended up purchasing a seat not because of its safety qualifications, but because of its size. Granted, it is a very nice seat (the Chicco Keyfit. Best infant car seat ever),  but that's not the point. The point is, I couldn't buy the seat I wanted because of your poor designing skills.

But I was willing to let that go. I mean, sure, when we go out as a family I have to ride in the passenger seat because to make her seat fit, we have to scoot the front seat allllllll the way forward, but it's only temporary.

You know what I can't forgive, though? The fact that not a single convertible car seat will fit in the rear-facing position. At least, not if anyone wants to sit in the front seat.

My daughter is only eight months old. And she's dangerously close to outgrowing her current seat. It's not going to last her the whole year. It's just not.

But you can't let a baby sit facing forward until she's at least twelve months.

So, what am I supposed to do, oh genius designers of the Dodge Caliber? Not go anywhere for the next four months?

Lest you think my complaints have no basis, I'll have you know that I spent several hours at various baby super stores today. I took just about every model they had (at least those that fit in a normal human's budget) out to my car to test it out.

And you know what? None of them fit. Not one. So I drove two hours (there and back) with a cranky, constipated, teething baby, had my hair pulled, my shirt pulled down (in front of a salesperson) and my pants spit up on, for NOTHING.

You know what I could have been doing that would have been more enjoyable? Sitting on top of a nest of angry red ants while bees stung my eyes and spiders crawled up my nose.

So next time you go to design a car (specifically the front seats of said car), pause to think about your target audience for a moment. If your typical buyers are young families on a budget (who are not midgets), then make sure they're functional for said families. Make sure you can fit a damn car seat in there.

Sincerely,

One pissed off mama.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Banishing the Baby Belly: The Holiday Edition (Week 1)

I know, I said I wasn't going to think about my weight this month. I lied.

I just got on the scale, and it told me I'm up two pounds. I'd be more worried about that if I hadn't eaten enough for three people yesterday.

First we had our holiday potluck at work. Sure, I tried to stick to veggies and fruit, but the dessert table? Would not be denied. Then my husband and I went out for dinner, and I filled my belly with yummilicious steak (and a to-die-for piece of flourless chocolate cake).

So those two pounds probably aren't completely real. And if they are? Oh well.

Yeah, I'm feeling pretty mellow this morning.

Later today, we've got to head up to the Real City to go car seat shopping for Tori. Which means fast food somewhere along the way. So there's challenge #1 for this week.

And given the fact that it's officially less than two weeks before Christmas, the office is likely to be a minefield of goodies this week. I'm going to limit myself to noshing on one munchie a day (or that's the plan, anyway).

Capping it all off will be the office Christmas party, which is traditionally followed by a pub crawl that lasts until no one can stand up anymore. So next Saturday? Is probably not going to be a good one.

But I'm just going to do the best I can knowing that come January 1, I'm going to pay for any sins I commit now.

So that's me. Anybody else want to confess their sins?

Date Night Resurrected.

Last week marked Tori's eight month birthday. It also marked the eight month anniversary of our last real date night (you know, the kind where you actually leave the house). And eight months of at-home date nights? Adds up to a lot of takeout.

So, we decided the time had come to take the plunge and re-enter the outside world as a couple.

To make it happen, we arranged for our daycare provider's teenage daughter to watch her. But since our dog is somewhat anti-social (and once nipped one of their kids), instead of the babysitter coming to us, Tori stayed with the babysitter.

No big deal...just a little unorthodox.

With Tori taken care of, we took ourselves out for a nice dinner. At the kind of restaurant where there are cloth napkins, wine glasses and real silverware. I had filet mignon. He had rack of lamb. But the main topic of conversation? Was Tori, and how weird it felt not to have Tori around.

We had gone to dinner straight after work, so it was strangely early when we were finished. We could have gone downtown to hit the bar for a while, but...it's Christmastime. And shopping with a baby? Sucks.

So we went shopping instead. That's right. Our first date night in eight months found us at the mall. Exciting, huh?

We finished off the evening at my favorite place in the whole world - the bookstore. A place I hadn't been in, you guessed it, eight months. I went a little crazy. In fact, at one point I had eight books in my arms, fully intending to plop myself down at a table and browse to my heart's content.

But just as I was getting comfortable, Brian started looking antsy.

"It's getting late. Do you think maybe we should get going?"

Secretly glad that he was the one to say it first, I just nodded. We paid for my much pared down pile of paperback goodness and headed to the car.

The time? 9:15 p.m.

Yeah. We're a little rusty. But hey, it's a start!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Great Interview Experiment: Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas.

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon The Great Interview Experiment over at Citizen of the Month. What's that? Basically, anyone who wants to play leaves a comment. They then interview the person who commented before them, and are interviewed by the person who comments after them.

It's all very random, and a lot of fun. Today, it is my pleasure to bring you Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas, The Great Interview Experiment edition.

It's very cold and wintry here today, so I kinda want to hear about somewhere warm. Where's your favorite place to go in Las Vegas?

Hmmm. Good question. It depends on the day. I could give you a really Vegas-y answer and tell you the Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio, but to be honest, I love spending warmer days feeding the ducks and geese at Lorenzi Park or hanging out at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve. If it's cold, I have a blast chasing them around the Lied Children's Discovery Museum.

Hmmm. Cold and Las Vegas. Not two things I would normally put in the same sentence...

Just out of curiosity, do people who live there actually visit the casinos?

Yes. We do. But I rarely gamble. When I'm on the strip, it's usually because I'm going to one of my favorite restaurants or to a concert. Otherwise I'm off strip unless someone's in town who wants to see it all. I do have a few friends who like to play poker on the strip, but most of us just see the strip as just another intersection in town.

I can see that. Also, they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But what about those of you who live there? Do you get to be extra bad as a general rule, or do you have to go somewhere else to do your sinning?

Funny question. Truth be told, thanks to Twitter and Facebook, etc. what happens in Vegas is on the Internet in 30 seconds or less. Am I extra bad because I live here? Some would like to think so, but I think I'm pretty geographically equanimous when it comes to sinning.

We'll just have to take your word on that. ;-)

Alright, on to blogging. Why did you start your blog?

I started blogging because I love to write and my regular job didn't afford me as much opportunity to write creatively as I would have liked. I also wanted to tell the story of being a parent in Vegas because I didn't see that perspective out there. That said, most of the accounts I write could happen anywhere and a good chunk of people who read and comment aren't parents.

It's funny how blogs just take on a life of their own, isn't it? What's your favorite part about blogging?

The people I've met. Like her, her, him, her and, oh yeah, this guy.

Who are some of your blogging heroes?

Eek. I hate that term. I try not to put people on pedestals, as they tend to fall off and squish me in the process. I will tell you that reading these folks inspired me to get started and these people keep me motivated to keep it up.

Alright, we'll call that a newbie mistake. I've actually heard that from a few people lately. The copywriter in me  needs to come up with a better word! Change of subject. What has been your biggest challenge as a blogger?

Still writing even though I can't write about what I really want to write about because the blog is not the appropriate venue to hack through some issues.

I can't tell you how many times I've written something, only to think, "no, I can't possibly print that" before hitting the publish button.
  
Speaking as someone struggling with figuring out how much sharing is over-sharing in the blogosphere, do you ever worry about writing about your kids?

Yes and no. I've kept their pseudonyms because they're not of an age where they're able to understand enough about what I'm doing to opt out. Also, I want them to get a job and move out some day and the last thing a prospective employer needs to do is Google my son's name and read about our potty training and sleep challenges. The things I write about (at least when it comes to them) come from a pretty common place and I don't think they would be harmed by what I've put out there so far.

You have to choose one post to put up next to your picture in the Blogging Hall of Fame. Which do you choose as your favorite?

Ugh. It's like telling me to pick a favorite child. It depends on the day and where my head is at. The favored kids are always on my "best of" page.

Fair enough. Let's talk about life for a minute. Your dream vacation. Name it.

Six months in Europe with a Eurail pass and a limitless AMEX card with someone else paying the bill.

Your dream job?

Pastry chef.

You say you have a thing for drummers. If you could have a fling with the drummer of your choice, who would it be?

That's easy. Him.

Somebody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to get a tattoo. What would it be?

A Compass in the middle of my back, between my shoulder blades. No gun necessary, as long as someone else is buying.

That's cool. I have a somewhat regrettable tat of Winnie the Pooh...which I paid for. So I'd have something to write about for a journalism class assignment. But that's a story for another post.

Are there any careers you absolutely hope your kids don't aspire to?

Honestly, no. As long as it's legal and they're happy and they're able to support themselves, I'm fine. Doctor, lawyer, astronaut, garbage person, nun, tattoo artist, whatever. If they are blessed to hear a calling to a profession, have the drive to get through the education and training they need and love what they do, great. My job as a parent is to help them explore opportunities and their potential. I put the resources and encouragement behind them, but, in the end, it's got to be what they want, not what I want for them.

That's an admirable point of view. One my husband would do well to adopt (right now he wants her to be a doctor. Or an electrical engineer. Snore).

What's the one toy you hope your kids never bring into your home?

I'm holding firm on my anti-Bratz dolls stance.

I can respect that. I hate those things.


If this isn't too sensitive of a topic...what's been your biggest challenge adjusting to life as a single mom?

Good question. It's harder to get 1:1 time with them now, but we still make it happen either with adjusted custody schedules or a babysitter. Also, it's hard knowing that they're having some important life experiences without me there. But, I faced the same longing when the Day Mommies stepped in so I could go back to work. I deal. I don't have to like it, but I accept that it's part of life now.

I'm a new(ish) mom, and many of my readers are too. Any advice for us rookies?

Three things:
1. Don't take parenting too seriously. They won't remember most of your mistakes and neither will you.
2. No one else will know what's best for your child better than you.
3. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

They won't remember? Are you sure? Can you guarantee that? 'Cause I'm making more than my share...but I haven't dropped her on her head (yet) so I'm calling that a victory.

We're also mostly new kids in the blogging world. Any advice for making friends?

Blogging is as much about relationships as it is about writing. Be yourself, tell your story honestly and with your own voice. Go out and read other sites, comment, check out the sites of people who are commenting on your favorite blogs. You'll find shared interests and get involved in each other's trials and tribulations. Comment, but don't stalk. Chat on Twitter. Go to BlogHer or another blogging conference and have fun being yourself. The best relationships are the ones that happen organically.

Kinda like real life, huh?

More importantly, are there any faux pas you can keep us from making? What ticks you off more than anything?

Big faux pas? I guess the biggest ones I've seen are when people try too hard to be "big." They want what Dooce has and are willing to sacrifice their voice and point of view for giveaways they think will drive readership. The folks with huge followings have earned them because they are compelling storytellers.

Amen, sister. I just don't get the whole popularity contest side of things...

As a side note, I, personally was interviewed by the blogger behind The Adventures of Being A Dick. You should seriously go over there and check him out, because that man is hilarious. Not exactly family friendly (at least not all the time), but really freaking funny.





Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The. Worst. Pain. In. The. World.

I have broken my arm...and elbow. I've sprained ankles. I've broken and dislocated my knee. I've given birth to a baby via c-section, for crying out loud.

Those things all hurt. A lot. In fact, I often say that my broken dislocated knee was the worst pain imaginable.

Turns out, I was wrong. My fragile little brain has the ability to hurt me more than anything else I've ever experienced.

To clarify, I've always had headaches. In fact, I was diagnosed with migraines a number of years ago. But pharmaceuticals have never let me down. Sometimes, if I don't take something fast enough, it takes hours for the pain to abate. Hours I have to spend in a darkened room, with a pillow pressed tight against my head.

But it always goes away.

Or at least it always did. Until Saturday.

On Saturday I woke up with a headache. Not a migraine, just a headache. So I took something. It didn't help. In fact, as the day went on, it got even worse. So much worse that I ended up taking some migraine meds.

That worked. For an hour. Then it came back.

This cycle continued, endlessly, for days. I couldn't sleep. I wasn't hungry. I couldn't work. I began thinking that I had a brain tumor - or was about to have an aneurysm.

Finally, yesterday, when my husband realized I was sobbing because it hurt so bad, he took me to the urgent care. Before we left, I packed my glasses, some makeup - a few things my irrational brain thought I would need if I ended up in the hospital needing brain surgery.

Yeah. It was that bad.

Long story short, it wasn't an aneurysm. Or a brain tumor (I hope). Nope, the angels at the urgent care just injected my butt with a bunch of drugs (horse tranquilizers, I think), and away it went.

It's just a memory now. A memory of a nightmare. One that could return at anytime. One that is immune to the most powerful weapons in my medication arsenal. And you know what? That's frightening.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Sign.

Fighting to keep her writing steady despite the lurching of the bus, she carefully lettered her sign. As she did, she gulped back hot, shameful fears. Who would have thought her life would end up like this?

She dotted the last exclamation point and looked up. It was almost time.

Gathering up her ratty backpack, she clutched the flimsy piece of paper to her chest and pulled the cord. The bus slowed and she stood, hunching over herself as she walked to the exit.

With a hiss, the door opened. As the shock of the icy morning air passed through her, she hesitated. Could she really do this? Was it worth it?

As if in answer, a vision of her daughter sipping watered down chicken broth popped into her head. Yes. Yes it was.

She took a deep breath and stepped down and out. As the bus pulled away, she looked over at her chosen spot. Good. It was still unclaimed. But it wouldn’t be for long. She jogged over to the crosswalk, hitching up her holey sweatpants as she ran.

They had been her husband’s. The pants were the only thing that no good dirty rat bastard had left her when he hit the road last year. If only she had known…

The walk sign flashed, bringing her back to earth.

Shoulders sagging, she walked to the grassy median and thunked her backpack down in the frost. Then she turned to face the oncoming traffic and, sending up a silent apology to her younger, more hopeful self, held up her sign.

“Family in need,” it read. “Anything helps.”

But that’s not what she wanted it to say. She wished it read, “I’m not a drug addict. Not an alcoholic. Just a single mom who lost her job and can’t find another. I’ve got four cans of food left in my pantry. I’m three weeks behind in my rent. I’ve already lost my car and soon I’m going to lose my home. I’m terrified that if anyone finds out, I’ll lose my daughter too. Oh, and I never thought I’d be this woman, either.”

Fifteen minutes went by. Then thirty. Then forty five. No one stopped. No one made eye contact. Once, she saw a woman glance at her. Saw her face contort in sympathy. Saw her reaching for her purse. But then the light turned green, and the woman drove away.

Her fingers were frozen. She could no longer feel her toes. The tears coursing down her cheeks were the only spot of warmth on her body. Should she just give up? No, she couldn’t. She didn’t have enough for the bus fare home.

As despair flooded her veins, she heard a tentative, “hey!” The woman was back. Her hazard lights were flashing and she was getting out of her car.

Getting out of her car? Why would she do that?

The woman walked over, clutching something in her fist.

“Hey,” she said again.

“H-Hi,” she answered. “How are you?”

How are you? What kind of question was that?

The woman smiled. “Good. Real good.” Then she reached out and grabbed her hand, folding a wad of paper into it.

“It isn’t much, but I want you to have it. I’ve been where you are. I’ve been there, and I know how awful it feels.”

“Th-thank you. I…”

“No, don’t thank me. Just know…it can get better. It will get better. You just have to hang in there.”

The woman squeezed her hand and walked back to her car. As the car pulled away, she looked down at the crumpled wad in her hand. It was money.

She unfolded it, counting as she did. Twenty, forty, sixty…a hundred? All told, there was $123. And in the middle was a business card. “Haven’s Cross Women’s Center,” it read. “Counseling, Financial Assistance and Career Services.”

For the first time in what felt like years, she smiled.

This post was written for the first challenge at Write of Passage, a new network for bloggers who want to work on the art of writing. The topic was "character." The directions? Study someone and make up a story about them. How'd I do?

Check out the other entrants:


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Card Dilemma.

For each of my 11 married years,  I've sent out your standard Christmas cards. The ones you find at Hallmark and Target and Borders. And I like them.

But now that we're a "family" and not just a married couple, I thought we should create a photo card, like all the other happy families do. Right? Right.

I even dragged my husband and baby to Sears to have the formal family holiday portrait taken (yes, I'm making myself barf from the saccharine too). Would someone remind me not to do that again? It was a nightmare.

But that's a story for another post.

At the end of the day, we came away with two pretty decent pictures. Pictures I fully intended to use on our holiday card.

This family portrait:



And this picture of Tori dressed in her Christmas finery:

 

 But yesterday, we were checking out the downtown Christmas decorations and snapped this picture:




Pretty adorable, right? And just begging for the caption, "Yes, Victoria, there is a Santa Claus."

So now I'm torn. Cheesy family portrait or this more creative option? I don't know what to do, and I have to decide fast. So I'm asking you, Internet. Which would you choose?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Banishing the Baby Belly: Holiday Break.

You know what, kids? It's the holiday season. I'm busy, you're busy...the whole world's busy.

I did get on the scale today, and it reported no loss. But no gain, either. But given the season (and the fact that I've had house guests two weekends in a row), I'm going to call that a victory.

I'm also going to call that the last official weigh in (at least that I'm going to admit to) until after the holidays. That's right. Banishing the Baby Belly is going on break until January.

When January comes? I'm going to hit it hard. This weight is going to come off.

But for now, I'm happy with maintaining a holding pattern. I simply don't have enough energy to keep up with it right now.

Yeah, that's a cop out. But it's my blog and my challenge, so I'm allowed, right? Don't answer that.

So how about you? What are your holiday goals?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Santa, Could I Have a Minute?

Dear Santa,

I know you're a busy man. You've got millions of names to check off lists, billions of toys to wrap and a whole lot of reindeer to feed. But I was hoping you could take just a minute or two to read this letter.

It's not for me. I don't really need anything. Well, a baby translator would be nice (what do those screams mean???). As would a faster metabolism. And, since you asked, I really would like a kindle.

But that's not why I'm writing.

I'm writing on behalf of some people I know who could really use some holiday cheer this year.

Like my grandma. I know she's a nasty woman, Santa. I mean, yeah, she's made my mom cry on every Mother's Day since I can remember. Heck, even her compliments kinda feel like a slap across the face. But she's all alone. She's been alone since my grandfather died...almost 35 years ago.

You can see how that might make a person bitter, can't you? She says that he was the only man for her. That she wouldn't ever want another one of those hairy beasts cluttering up her life. But you know what? A little flirtation might do her good.

So, instead of presents, could you maybe bring her some flowers? Maybe take her for a twirl around the Christmas tree? Maybe even give her a little peck on the cheek? I'd give anything to see a real smile on her face (plus, it would make Christmas a whole lot more merry for the rest of us).

Also, all the working stiffs I know up in Detroit. I don't know if you've noticed, but about the only thing that could make the situation up there any worse is if a bomb went off (yes, I know portions of the city looks like several hundred already have. But that's just neglect).

Anyway, could you sprinkle some magic reindeer poop around and fix the auto industry? Or maybe just wrap up several hundred thousand bundles of cash and stuff them in everyone's stockings? If nothing else, could you at least make the winter slightly less nasty? They're already depressed. They don't need five months of sloshing through urine-stained slush under leaden skies to make it worse.

Lastly, my dog. Despite the fact that he gets organic dog food topped with specially cooked chicken breasts, sleeps on cushy couches and even has his own queen-sized bed (well, it's the guest bed. but really, it's his), that dog is depressed.

He's been depressed his whole life. Sure, sometimes we get a tail wag, or a half-hearted smile, but I swear that dog needs some Prozac. So...could you bring him some? Or maybe a light box (we've often wondered if our dog has SADD). It'd be nice to see him really happy for once.

Also, my husband would like a new car. And a Blu Ray player. And whatever gee whiz super cool gadget is about to take the world by storm.

But like I said, I don't really need anything. Except maybe eight uninterrupted hours of sleep. Make that twelve. Or at least, maybe a two hour nap, curled up on the couch on a sunny Sunday afternoon?

Do you think you could handle that? You'd have my ever-lasting gratitude.

XOXO,
amber

P.S. I'll make you those peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses in the middle. I know they're your favorite.

This was written as part of Mama Kat's Writing Workshop. The prompt I chose (obviously) was to write a letter to Santa. I'm sure there's tons of brilliant entries for you to read over at Mama Kat's, so head over there and check them out!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Me and My Sunshine.

I realize I'm a little biased. But my Tori? Is ridiculously adorable. So adorable, I sometimes wish I could freeze time and treasure moments like these for just a little while longer.







 

 

These are the moments that make all the screaming of the last few days worthwhile.

How to Spend More Than $200 in Less Than Five Minutes.

In case you haven't noticed, I've been feeling kind of sorry for myself lately. Do you know what I like to do to cheer myself up? Buy things. So I got on the Gymboree website and filled my cart with all the cute little baby things I could stand.

Things like this gorgeous dress, which can be yours for only $32.75.















And this tutu skirt, a bargain at just $28.75.


But as every good What Not To Wear watcher knows, you can't buy just one piece. You have to get a whole outfit. So into my cart went this adorable little bodysuit, just $16.75.



Of course, it's cold in Indiana, so I figured she'd need a sweater to keep her warm. Cue this number...



And these tights (those are ballerina shoes, in case you can't tell).



Back out into the virtual shopping arena I went, only to find this ridiculously cute penguin hoodie (which makes the register ring to the tune of $24.75):


Which obviously needed this shirt ($19.75):

And these pants ($26.75):




Finally, just for shits and giggles,  I added this coat (a whopping $39.00):
















The damage? Two hundred thirty four freaking dollars. And I didn't even get the polka dot shoes, or faux leopard print boots. Luckily, it was a virtual shopping cart, so I could abandon ship  without anybody seeing my embarrassingly bare wallet.

And that, my friends, is why I shop at Target.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts.




I have been staring at the computer screen for more than half an hour now, trying to think of something interesting to say. But you know what? It's not coming. It's just not. So, instead, let's have some Tuesday Randomness, shall we?

I can't remember where, but I know I've read that a mother is biologically wired to come running when her baby cries. And yet, we're supposed to let them cry it out when they won't go to sleep. Can someone tell me how that's not supposed to feel like torture? Because right now? She's screaming.  My husband's glaring at me, telling me to let her be. And I feel like the worst mother in the world.

Also, that thing they call Mommy Guilt? Sucks ass. I hope it gets better as she gets older, because right now, every stupid thing rips me to shreds. You could tell me that baby pandas are dying because I buy her baby food instead of making it and I'd believe you (yes, I know that doesn't make sense. That's the point).

And why the hell does it cost $18 to sit on Santa's lap? That just seems wrong. And not at all in the spirit of Christmas. Yet people stand in line for hours to pay for the privilege of making their child scream with terror at the sight of that bearded stranger...and proudly take home a glorified Polaroid to remember the occasion.

There's a thing called Photoshop, people. Use it and save yourself the twenty bucks and hours of agony.

Baby update? She's still screaming.

You know what else seems pointless? Making a Christmas list for an eight month old. Her needs are very few. And at this point, she has very little. You could buy her a set of measuring cups and she'll be happy. In fact, she'll be ecstatic when she realizes that all that shiny paper is hers to shred.

My brother is threatening to buy her a drum set. Which I'm kinda okay with. But cymbals? Not so much. Although, I suppose I could use the cymbals to drown out the sound of her screams...

Speaking of Christmas lists, I don't know what to put on mine. A bottle of Jack Daniels, maybe? A liposuction machine? A winning lottery ticket? I'm going to have to get creative.

The baby is no longer screaming, but only because my husband gave in and went upstairs. I think I'll take advantage of the silence to check out some of the other linkies over at The Un-Mom. I suggest you do the same.