Thursday, August 28, 2008

My How You've Grown

This is Jonathan. In wading back through a bunch of pictures, I found this one, and it's as far back as I can access right now. I'm guessing he's about 14 or 15 months here. He's now 4 and a half, and will be starting pre-k in a few days, and while I find myself alternately happy as a clam and a nervous wreck, I've resigned myself to just not think about it the next few days, and just go with whatever hits me that first day.

But in the meantime, I'd like to do something different, and share with you Jonathan's birth story. This huge milestone in his life takes me back to the day he was born, when I held him and wondered what time would bring. And since this blog is meant to be a journal of sorts, it wouldn't be complete without a story of how he came into the world.

It was a cold, snowy morning in March in Annapolis, MD, where we lived at the time. I was past my due date, and getting more and more anxious as the days went by, and more and more uncomfortable. The previous morning, I had visited my OB who told me I was about 3 cm dilated, but because it was my first baby, they weren't ready to push things along yet. If, she said, by Friday, this baby hadn't arrived, I would come in, and we would schedule an induction for the following week. Well, the next day was Wednesday, and at 4am that morning, I woke to a gush of water - my water had broken. I, of course, didn't know this, I thought I had rolled over in bed and wet myself. I proceeded to spend the next hour in the bathroom, alternately standing and sitting, trying to decide if I was still wetting myself, or if it was truly what I thought it might be. By 5am, I woke Mark. And by 6, I was on the phone with the OB. No, I wasn't having any kind of contractions. Yes, I was pretty sure it was my water. Go to the hospital at 8, she said. So for the next two hours, I called my parents, emailed my boss, some friends, some family, and sat by with Mark, watching the gentle snow fall on an ever-lightening, but pretty gray and cold day.

By 8:30, we had not only arrived at the hospital, but they had determined that yes, indeed it was my water that had broken, had gotten me checked in, assigned to a room and ready to go. But I still wasn't having any contractions. By 9:30, they decided I needed pitocin. And by 10, I was having contractions. Mild at first, then they started getting worse. They kept upping the amount of pitocin to increase the contractions, and finally, around 2pm, I was in full-blown labor. Trouble was, I wasn't having an easy time with the contractions, go figure, and I was still dilated only to 3. I tried a pain med, but all it did was make me dizzy. So there I was, still in the worst pain ever, and now dizzy on top of it.

By now, it was 3:30 and I was in agony. The nurses wanted me to walk, but I flat-out refused - I could hardly stand up, much less walk. My OB approved an epidural and it was immediately put in by about 3:45pm. God Bless epidurals. God Bless anesthesiologists. Relief!!! It was immediate, and it was wonderful. In one hour and 45 minutes, I went from 3cm to 10cm, and at 5:30, I started to push. Little did I know, the hard part had just begun! For the next two hours, I pushed, I heaved, I played tug-of-war with the nurses with their little rolled-up towel-ropes, I pushed until I thought my head would explode. Luckily, there was no pain. Zero. But I was sucking oxygen in between contractions, and I was exhausted. When he finally crowned, the OB, of course, was nowhere to be found. The nurses said - "just go ahead and breathe through the next few contractions until she gets here", which I did for the first one or two, but after that, I told them to get that OB in that room or I was pushing that baby out myself. My, that OB did appear quickly after that!

About a minute later, Jonathan entered the world....8 lbs, 2 oz, 21 inches long. It was a little after 7:30pm and I was just wiped out. But he was here, he was healthy, and that's all that mattered. Thankfully, his birth was an uneventful one. We had some issues later 0n - I was pretty sore and couldn't really sit down for about 3 weeks. And Jonathan had some inflammation in his neck called torticollis. But 8 weeks later we were back to our new normal, and since then, I can't believe all that has happened, and I can't believe in a few days, I'll be sending him out into the big world. He'll always be my tiny baby, my firstborn, that little guy I fought so hard to bring into the world.

Good luck, Jonathan, our little son. Get used to it early, since you'll be doing it for the next 13 years!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Educational Road-Kill

We took a trip to Altoona, PA this past weekend. Needed to do some shopping for Jonathan since he starts school next week. Why Altoona, you ask? Well, it's about an hour, maybe slightly more, away from us. It has many, many large retailers all close together, it's a nice drive, and Pennsylvania doesn't tax clothing. Hmmmm, so while we spent a ton more on gas than we saved on tax, we still got a nice outing, a nice drive, perfect weather and lunch at Olive Garden, which is pretty unusual for us (unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks for $5.99 - can't beat it)!

So we get on Rt. 220 North toward Altoona, and the road-kill begins. A squirrel here, possum here, porcupine up a few miles....this is nothing unusual, for some reason Pennsylvania doesn't get to their road-kill very quickly, if at all. We generally do see a LOT of dead animals along this route - maybe because a lot of trucks rumble through at night, but that's just a guess.

So we're crusing along, and we pass what looks like a fairly large animal, dead, of course, but we whizzed by so fast, we didn't really see exactly what it was. It started a debate between Mark and I for at least the next 5 miles. It was big, yes. Not a deer though - the fur was too long, too shaggy. A bear? Wrong color. Around here we have black bears, not grizzlies or brown bears. Ummmm, a rug that fell off the back of someone's pickup truck? :-)

Unable to reach a conclusion, we let it drop. Until late that afternoon, on the way home, when all the sudden, we remembered. Luckily, we hadn't passed it yet. We started looking, we slowed down. There it was. Wow. Bear. Definitely bear. But....again....wrong color. What the heck?

Well, guess what? Black bears do actually come in different colors, one being what they call "cinnamon". And upon researching it when we got home, we found that only 1% of the bear population in Pennsylvania is cinnamon in color. It isn't often you see a road-kill bear. It's not often you see a bear, period. So, road-kill aside, it was pretty neat to see one, particularly of that color.

And if you haven't blogged about road-kill, you just aren't blogging!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Did You Hear THIS Olympic Story?

Yeah, I indulged in a little of the summer olympics. Despite all the negative propaganda about the Chinese government, under-age gymnasts and the computer-enhanced opening ceremonies, you can't deny that watching the games and getting to know a little about the athletes is just plain interesting. And growing up in Baltimore, I'm especially fond of Michael Phelps, I mean, who wouldn't be? The guy is amazing. So it was with a bit of disappointment the other day as I was reading a commentary from Amanda Beard...remember her? Swimming sensation herself from either Athens or Sydney - can't remember, but probably Athens (2004 Games). Anyway, I remember watching her swim and of course, like many Olympic atheletes, hadn't heard another word about her in the mainstream media since then. Until a few days ago.

Amanda Beard just recently posed nude for PETA. Why PETA needs someone to pose nude is beyond the scope of my intellectual capabilities, but I digress. Anyhow, during a subsequent interview, she was questioned about her "dealings" with Michael Phelps. Only being privy to a very short segment of the whole interview, one is led to believe they are talking about romantic dealings, and presumably those that may have occurred during the Athens games. The interviewer asked some pretty personal questions, let's just say the question was as personal as you can get with dealings between a man and a it? Okay, so here's Amanda. I don't know the girl, don't even know much about her. But her response was something akin to "No way. Ewwwww. He's nasty...."

Real nice, Amanda. I mean, sure, not EVERYONE can be Brad Pitt. But let me tell you something, sweetheart, you ain't no Angelina Jolie yourself. So before you go calling someone else "nasty", take a good long look at yourself in the mirror...and not just your looks. Give your character a once-over as well. Because despite how you may feel about someone, it's really not nice to say such things, and trust me, nobody thinks you're cool. About all you accomplished is making yourself look like an ass.

A tip for Amanda: next time, let's try to have a little respect for our peers, shall we? Never know when it's going to come back and bite us in the (bare) butt.

Friday, August 22, 2008

LaVale's NEW McDonald's

Imagine this: you pack the kiddos into the car, promising McNuggets and fries for lunch, head to the local McDonald's, and when you get there, the McDonald's is....a pile of rubble. Yes, this actually happened to us - April or May I believe it was. No worries, at least, not too many. There are 4 other McDonald's within reasonable mileage of our home, and we could wait a few months while they renovated. Why did they renovate? Well, apparently, the MickeyD corporation felt the structure was outdated. Since it had been built before the drive-thru era and the drive-thru had to be subsequently retrofitted, the parking lot configuration was a bit awkward, and evidently, so was the interior since the employees had to go down steps to enter the drive thru area themselves. This, plus it seems many McDonald's are getting a face-lift these days I'm guessing triggered their decision to knock the whole thing down and start again from scratch.

Well, guess what? They just reopened. Must've happened just as we got back into town. On Wednesday, I took the kids to see what it was like. Oh boy. Not sure what Ronald was thinking here. First of all, it's smaller. This is not good. If you've ever seen this particular McD's the morning of a WVU home football game, everyone and their brother on their way to Morgantown wearning navy and gold piles in and you can barely get in the door. And when Fall color starts in the mountains. And when summer weekends begin at the lake. This is a busy little place, all year round. And not only did they make it smaller, the seating configuration is just...stupid. Where they could've put in a ton of seats, they've got this artsy, semi-circle configuration of booths and tables facing a giant-screen tv...hmmmm...just what I needed as I ate my fast food, more television.

But wait - they've got the McCafe now. Now you can order Cappuccino and McLatte. And Iced McMocha. Which I tried, only because I was given a free sample. Now I'm not a fan of iced coffee to begin with, just wasn't that great. Very sweet. Too sweet. So when the guy passing out the free samples noticed me tossing mine into the trash (oops!) he approached me. Asked me what I thought. I told him - too strong, too sweet. He says "too strong coffee or too strong chocolate?" Chocolate, I told him. He smiles and says, well, that's because they're putting extra shots of chocolate in all the mochas so people will "like them better". Whaaaattt? People who LIKE mocha or iced mocha like them because they like them, not because they're as sweet as a cupcake and loaded with chocolate syrup. Oh well, I guess they figure most of the clientele at McDonald's isn't going to like a reasonable rendition of mocha or latte or whatever...and I can't see why not, after all, their paletes are discriminating enough to enjoy the finer things in life, like a Big Mac.....

Oh well. Maybe they'll do okay. Maybe the WVU fans will stick with the new and improved drive-thru, now that they're certainly not going to be able to get a seat anywhere. And maybe they'll figure out that McCafe just isn't going to attract the crowds they're thinking about, and they'll convert that area to more seating!! Hey! Great idea! Ronald, are you reading?

Some Texas Pics

Just a few pics from Texas - the top one is Mark's family - his mom and dad, his sister, Donna, niece Chloe and brother-in-law Peter. As it's almost impossible to get a good picture of everyone, including the over-sugared 4 year old, I'm posting this one, because even though Jonathan is looking away, trust me, it's better than the other one! The others? Just a few random shots. Mark loves to take nature pics, so the butterflies were all his work. Jonathan even had a little butterfly land on his head - that was at the zoo. And the pic of my little guy sitting all by himself in the Japanese Tea House? That was actually taken in Austin at the botanical gardens. We were taking a break from the heat and the sun and it was cooler in the little stone house. A word to the uninitiated: if you don't like the heat much, don't travel to South Texas in August.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mexican Coke?

So while in San Antonio, we were staying in this nice suite courtesy of the Marriott Corporation, which had a nicely equipped kitchen. To save a little money and to save our waistlines from 21 straight meals restaurants, we managed to eat most meals in, which required several trips to the local market for supplies. On one of these trips, I happened to stumble on Coke which looked a little different than usual - I picked up one of the bottles and noticed it was bottled in Mexico. Hmmmm, interesting, but not being much of a soda drinker, I didn't pursue it farther. Until dinner that night. For some reason it came up in conversation, and BIL Peter said that the Mexican Coke was made differently - in this case, it was made with sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. Well, knock me down with a feather, how cool is that? I mean, anyone who reads this blog knows that we are at least making an attempt to eliminate that crap, along with hydrogenated oils from our diet. One of the major reasons we stay away from soda in the first place. Not that PURE SUGAR is like, good for you, but you get my point.

So we couldn't resist. As soon as we could, we hit the market, grabbed a six pack and decided to do a taste test. The verdict? Well, not having much to compare it to (we opted against getting a regular Coke and doing a blind test!), we couldn't tell a huge difference, but there was definitely a slightly "cleaner" taste? What do I mean by "cleaner"? Well, the only thing I can compare it to is a hoppy beer. If you drink beer, you know what full-bodied, well-hopped beer is. You drink it, you swallow it, and the taste lingers in your mouth. With Mexican Coke, after you swallow, the taste is pretty much gone - none of that heavy, sometimes cloying after-taste you get with a regular soft drink.

Calories? I have no idea. Didn't read the label that far. Didn't much care - after all, even with a chemical-free version, I'm still not going to drink all that much soda anyway, even if I DID live somewhere where it would be readily accessible. I just wish other manufacturers would take the hint and start producing more chemical-free and healthier alternatives to the usual crap most everyone eats. Seems like there's been some change for the better lately - after all, there's much more organic and natural foods available, but it still isn't enough, and definitely not on a scale to meet the demands of a nation. I just wonder when the public is going to wake up and say "gee, that's a toxic chemical, maybe I shouldn't INGEST IT." Maybe if they did that, and put these guys out of business, they'd have no choice but to produce healthier products, rather than substituting cheaper alternatives, which boosts their profit, but ironically, isn't passed onto the consumer. No, see, these companies actually charge more to poison you.

And with that happy thought, I'm off to the farmer's market to stock up. Came home to an empty fridge and am dying for some fresh, locally raised, healthy foods!

Monday, August 18, 2008

We're Baaa---aaacck!

Betcha didn't even know I was gone. Well, maybe you suspected something since I haven't blogged in about a week and a half or so. I was GOING to say something about going away on vacation, but I recalled some of the conversations from earlier in the summer about security and blogs and people knowing where you I wasn't about to announce to the world - hey, guess what, you know where I live, you know who I am, well GUESS WHAT? We're going away for a week!

Anyway, all a moot point, since we're now back. We were in Texas, San Antonio to be exact. Vacationing with Mark's family. We had originally planned this trip around Mark's niece who was going to be performing her music on Riverwalk, but plans went a little awry so while no music was played, at least not publicly, we still had a great family visit and managed to do lots of things, even though it was HOT!

On one day we went to Austin and toured the Austin Nature Center. We saw lots of butterflies and had all kinds of fun with a big snake in the Japanese Gardens. Another day we visited Cascade Caverns and another day we went to the San Antonio Zoo. We also saw the Alamo and ate a few meals on the Riverwalk and took a boat tour. So all in all, a pretty good vacation - and we have lots of pictures which I'll post....someday!

Did I mention we left Matthew home with my mom and dad? Kind of a bummer of a decision, but in the long run, an extremely wise one. Matthew is very "2" right now, we were sharing a suite with three other people, and it was so hot he would've been miserable and made everyone else within a 100 foot radius miserable as well.

And while Jonathan was pretty well-behaved overall for a 4 year old, he had his moments. One of which was at the San Antonio airport. I leave you with a story - and it's called "How to Board an Airplane Well Ahead of Your Fellow Passengers"

The story: we flew on Southwest Airlines. For the uninitiated, Southwest doesn't assign seats - you can sit anywhere you want. And they don't have first class. Getting on the airplane first? That's a different story. There's this complicated little set of rules they have: starting 24 hours before your flight, you can log in online and get your boarding passes and print them. Or you can wait until you check in at the airport, but if you wait that long, you'll be sitting in the middle seat all the way in the back. So if you're good, and you log on exactly 24 hours before your flight, you'll probably be in the "A" boarding group, and you get your pick of seats. Like my in-laws who were on the same flight as us. THEY logged in early, got in the "A" group, promised to try and save us good seats (although saving seats really isn't allowed...). We were actually in the "B" group, but because we had Jonathan with us, and he's 4, we were allowed to board with the "Family Boarding" which happens after all of "A" has boarded, but before "B" boards. So there we were, standing at the gate, waiting for the "A's" to board. Here comes Grammy and Grandpa. They give the guy their boarding passes, smile at us and start walking down the jetway. That's when Jonathan starts to freak. "GRAMMY! GRANDPA!" WAAAHHHHH!!!!! Mark and I are already at the "oh crap" stage after a few previous outbursts from Jonathan, so just as we're about to smother him with a carry-on and drag him to the nearest restroom, the boarding pass guy gestures to us and stops the rest of the "A's" and says "Just c'mon, you can board now!" So we got to cut ahead of everyone else and go chase Grammy and Grandpa down the jetway and grab our seats. Gotta love Southwest. And for those of you whose children can be persuaded to make a stink at the gate, here it is - the lowdown on cutting your way into line. I'm considering trying this to get OFF the airplane next time - nothing like a kid screaming his head off to part the sea of bodies.....

Pictures later this week I promise. Right now I have about a ton of laundry to figure out!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Let's Go to Vegas, Baby!

I'll bet most of you had no idea I was a closet slot machine freak. Yeah, yeah, I know. But seriously, the first time I played a slot machine was on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, when I was on a business trip way back in....whew. I don't know, 1997? It was fun! $20 worth of quarters netted me $150 more after only about 20 minutes, and I walked away a happy woman. Key phrase there: "I walked away". That's the tough part.

Over the years, I've tried my luck elsewhere, only sporadically, though. After all, we still have a mortgage payment. Once we went to Vegas in 2005 and I limited myself to $80 $120, which I promptly lost so fast I wondered if I'd been robbed. And I've visited Charlestown Races and Slots a few times...with my parents, no less. Appallingly, my parents have decided that slot machines are FUN! But that's another blog entry! Once I went with them to Charlestown, I took and lost about $100, but the next time I went, still pregnant with Jonathan, I took in $20 and walked out with over $300.

Now, I know and you know that in the long run, you can't beat the slot machines. How many Vegas travel guides and gambling manuals have been written about this very topic? But that doesn't keep people from trying, those of us, say, without mortgage payments...oh, WAIT, you mean, some people play these things even when they're in debt? No. Don't believe it.
ANYWAY....I was lamenting to my mom the other day how wouldn't it be cool if you could play these things just for fun - you wouldn't have to use your own money and it wouldn't matter if you won or lost. Her take? Well, what fun would that be? But a day later, she calls me and tells me I can play online....for free. You just log in and pull that little handle click that little mouse to your heart's content. Thanks, Mom.

So, tonight, for fun, I tried it. I tried it because I literally have 5 pounds of green beans that my husband's co-worker brought him from his garden, and I spent an hour this morning cleaning them and snapping them, and tonight, I'm parboiling them, getting them ready for the freezer. So I had a little time on my hands while I waited for this gigantic pot to boil...twice. So what's the harm in a little slot action? Well, for one, it is truly kind of boring. I mean, yeah, you're not losing your money, but guess what? You're not winning any either, and that's half, well, heck, ALL the fun! And for two, YOU WIN TOO MUCH! In 20 minutes, I went from $75 (credits) to almost $2000 - now I KNOW this wouldn't happen in real life. Trouble is, Joe Nimrod and Sally Idiot don't know this. They'll sit there and watch the numbers climb and start thinking "Well ain't I one lucky dawg, I think I'll go play slots for real!" And then you and I know what happens...they'll trot themselves out to Vegas where the bank-account emptying will begin. Somewhere behind is some big name like Harrah's or Tropicana, take my word for it. Have these people nothing better to do?

So I guess my free online slots experience wasn't so great after all. It did pass the time while boiling beans....but unfortunately that's about all I can say about it!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ramblings of a Sleep-Deprived Blogger

Somewhere between when your kids are tiny infants, and when they get to be, say, 4 1/2 and 2, you come to appreciate, REALLY appreciate a decent night's sleep. We at our household, are very fortunate in this department, son #1 was in bed for 12 hours last night, son #2 went for a whopping 14. But that's not the norm - they just played a little too hard in the pool yesterday. So I can't complain about the kids keeping us up. Not this time anyway.

Let's go back a week. Friday night a week ago, someone near us, perhaps even in town somewhere decided what a great idea it would be to have a fireworks show. Fabulous. They must've paid a LOT of money, because these were the big ones. We couldn't see them, but we could hear them. And when they finally had their grand finale at about 11:30pm, we had been TRYING to get to sleep for half an hour or so, and it did nothing but make us even more awake. We'll call this sleepless night number 1. The very next night, sometime around 4 in the morning, Mr. Skunk decided to spray somewhere VERY nearby. If you've ever been awoken by an odor, you know it's possible - to be sleeping peacefully one second, and the next, wide awake, gasping for fresh air, trying not to gag. This skunk was CLOSE. Like right outside the window close. And it took forever for the air to clear. Say hello to sleepless night number 2. The next night, we got a reprieve. That's not saying we slept great, but at least nothing woke us up. The next night was Bat Night (read below). Sleepless night number 3. The night after Bat Night was "Wake Up 10 Times Looking at the Ceiling Because You Think a Bat MIGHT Be There Night". Sleepless night number 4. The next night was a double-whammy. Mr. Skunk was back. Luckily, he hit us this time at 11:30, shortly before lights-out, and the smell only lingered until sometime after midnight. But then at 3 am, some fool in some fool truck comes roaring up the driveway, causing the dog (who was asleep on our bed) to start barking. I got up to look out the window, and the fool in the truck is shining this huge, powerful spotlight on our HOUSE! At 3 am! Once he spotted our house number (I guess), he drove off. Try getting back to sleep after that one. Sleepless night number 5. And then there was last night, the crowing glory. Or maybe the grand finale (let's hope). Thunderstorms. Tremendous, severe, unending thunderstorms. The first one hit around 11. It finally stopped rumbling around midnight. But at 1:30, it kicked in again and rumbled loud and often, off and on until 3. Back to sleep, only to be awakened at 4:30 by the worst one of all. By 5:40, I had to get up and check the radar to see if it was EVER going to stop storming. It did. At 6:30. Son #1 got up at 8. And jumped on me. Sleepless night number 6.

The fool in the truck? We still have no idea. We did call the state police and inquire as to whether perhaps someone was looking for an address in the middle of the night. They said it wasn't them. A bit disconcerting, but no harm done, just another sleepless night.

So tonight. Tonight we want to sleep. Please, mother nature, skunks, bats, idiots with fireworks and fools in trucks, leave us alone! Because tonight we'll probably have kids with belly-aches to deal with!

And it did occur to me that perhaps IF we had air-conditioning in this house of ours, and IF it would've been running and all the windows shut up tight, we probably would've slept GREAT this week! Just another reason to install A/C....but I digress.....