Friday, December 30, 2005

The Rewards of Librarianship

I could never be a doctor. Despite my apparent fascination with bodily functions, I really don't like them very much, and do not at all want to be involved of the bodily functions of anyone outside my very immediate family. However, I do like the idea of helping people. So I became a librarian.

In fact, as an aside, there was a rather funny moment just before we boarded our cruise ship back in November. As you know, we were traveling with two of my friends from college, who happen to be married, and who also happen to both be doctors. Now Chris and I have sailed with Disney before, but this couple had not. So when we got to the Port, we were ushered to a special line for repeat cruisers, and they had to stand in the long line with all the rest of the plebes. I waved to them as we were being checked in WAY ahead of them (okay... only maybe by about 8 people), and said gleefully, "YOU may save lives, but WE have sailed before... who gets the better deal HERE?!"

Anyway, today, I completed my most difficult reference transaction to date. (This does not count the horribly rude and grumpy lawyers I used to have to grovel in the presence of when I worked for Dialog. Their questions weren't hard, anyway... they were just difficult people). And the best part is, I didn't do it alone. I collaborated with a complete stranger in Allen County, Indiana. Basically, a guy called me yesterday and he wanted a book on repairing golf carts. Oddly, I found we had NOTHING on the subject. So after concluding from Internet searches that the only way to obtain one from the manufacturer was to whip out the plastic, I turned to libraries outside of my system.

I searched WorldCat and found what I thought might be the particular manual the man wanted (although the model numbers were not quite matching up). I also learned that there is only ONE library in the WORLD that has any of this company's manuals. I don't know if someone in Allen County died and left his whole Golf Cart Repair Manual collection to the library, or what. But they have them, and they are catalogued for the whole world to see.

I spoke with the NICEST librarian in the world, and she graciously pulled several of these manuals for me, presumably out of storage. Because the model numbers were not really matching what our patron said he had, she scoured the books for a 9-pin connector or something, which was the major characteristic of the engine he seemed to be having problems with. (Not only am I not technical or electrically inclined, but I'm also suffering pregnancy brain, so I can't believe I was able to effectively even communicate with this very smart and capable librarian about connector pins).

Anyway, short story long, the gentleman came into the library, got his library card (he had never had one in his life) and compared a wiring diagram she faxed to us with his own notes about the cart he was repairing. Lo and behold, she had sent exactly what he needed and he left completely thrilled with how his property tax dollars were being spent. Let's hope he writes to the newspaper to tell them about it. In the meantime, I'm having a chocolate chip cookie (or six) to reward myself for a job well done. I suppose I should send a cookie to Allen County too, eh?

And Now... Your Blood

I've been feeling a bit crappy over the last couple of weeks. Not "crapulent," which in our house means that you can't really drag your butt out of bed you feel so bad, but just slightly crappy. I had a headache for three days the weekend before Christmas, which was alarming, but not totally weird since I can only take Tylenol while pregnant and my headaches are often more worthy of four Advil. So the Tylenol would kind of take the edge off for a few hours, but the headache was still there.

Then yesterday morning, I was shelving some books at work. Not super-strenuous, but lots of bending and standing up in order to deal with the bottom shelves. About a half hour into it, I had to sit down because I was so dizzy. And when I finished the complete task, it took me about 10 minutes of sitting and breathing funny to really start feeling like myself again. I attributed it to the healthy Bojangles breakfast I had indulged in, and left it at that. Well, okay, I'm also out of shape (unless "Schmoo" is considered a shape), 34 years-old and 6 1/2 months pregnant. That might also have entered into the formula. Regardless, all logical explanations and I just forgot about it.

Later that day, my doctor's office called. "You are slightly anemic" the voice on the other end of the line said. "Only slightly... we aim for a number between 11 and 14, and you are a 10." (First time I've been called a 10, and suddenly it's a bad thing!) Now, one would normally take comfort in discovering this. After all, it completely explains my overall physical crappiness and can be easily fixed by taking some iron. Problem is, I can't take iron. I mean, I CAN, if I don't mind the surprising (and I'll just leave it at that) trips to the bathroom and the horrible stomach cramps. And quite honestly, the baby wiggling around in my abdomen is enough stomach weirdness for now.

After Athena was born, I also avoided taking my iron (same reasons), but then I was able to substitute a natural supplement that "does the same thing." However, taking herbs when you are nursing is quite different from taking them when you are pregnant, so I'm a little uneasy popping those in my mouth. So what to do?!

A coworker summed up my solution very well... "I would take this as an excuse to eat steak." So tonight, we are having steak. I'm going to try to up my red meat intake over the next week, and then when I return to the doctor on Friday, they will take my blood again (oh, joy) and see where we stand. Perhaps, with any luck, I can crank the old iron up to 11. But in case I don't, I'll take my little bottle of I-X supplement and let them look over the ingredient list to see if it's okay for pregnancy. One of the things I love about my practice is they have no problem with alternative medicine and they actually have some experience with it. I'm no hippie, but when it's a choice between stomach cramps or some other way to get iron back in my blood, I'm looking for the other options.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Who Knew?!

Your Hair Should Be Orange
Expressive, deep, and one of a kind.You pull off "weird" well - hardly anyone notices.


My husband is very good about complimenting me when he thinks I look good and not saying anything if I don't. (Remember the maternity swimsuit ordeal?) Every now and then, he will give me "a look" that lets me know I currently look like a float from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but it is rare. (Honestly, it's rare that I look THAT bad, as horrible as my fashion sense is).

So it wasn't a surprise when Chris complimented my new maternity outfits that my sister bought me for Christmas. After all, that's why I asked her for them... what I have been wearing is positively dowdy. And it wasn't surprising that he said nothing today as I wore pajama bottoms and a HUGE knit shirt all day. Of course, he couldn't really comment because he was The Grey Avenger today. We were scraping the bottom of the laundry barrel, and all he could manage to put together was a grey t-shirt and grey sweats. We were clearly a couple that was not leaving the house.

But imagine my surprise tonight when I threw on an old Victoria's Secret pajama set (not from their sexy collections... rather from their "comfortable" collections) and Chris immediately raised an eyebrow and said " Nice!" I chuckled, because I initially thought he was kidding... but then I realized he was totally serious. It's just a white cotton tshirt and tap shorts. I never wear it because it's so old... but I still have it because it's comfortable and good for those nights when we are scraping the bottom of the laundry barrel. But I suppose I will wear it more often now. Go figure. Makes me think I need to dig out some other things from my closet that I never wear, just in case I actually look good in them!

Kitchen Confidential

I am a kitchen poser. After years and years of really wanting to be a true expert in the kitchen (at least at the amateur level), I am finally coming to terms with this.

Right away, I know there are those out there who will argue that I'm a good cook. My mother is one. But then, she has to say that... it's part of being a mother. My mother-in-law is another, but I think she also has a bit of the "mother" condition. I also have many friends who praise my cooking... I have very good friends... we've already established this.

Understand that I am not saying I am a bad cook, not by any stretch. I'm actually able to produce many tasty meals from scratch, and I can even bake passably. I've never made a loaf of bread that resembles "dwarf bread" of the Terry Pratchett Discworld series. I've even made some cakes that people thought were downright tasty. And the cookies I just made tonight, although they are a little softer than I thought they were going to be, are downright heavenly. But then, there is chocolate in them, and really... how can you go wrong with chocolate cookies?

Still, I am learning with every passing kitchen experience that I am really a far better souschef, or sometimes even a prep cook. A souschef, for those who don't know, is the second in command in a professional kitchen. The prep cook is basically the lackey who does all the chopping, sifting, sorting, and general preparation work before the evening even begins. Whenever I am in the kitchen with any of my friends who cook, I immediately fall into this role, even if I'm the one who planned the entire menu.

When Sophie helps me for my Holiday Party each year, I end up gathering ingredients, then passing them to her along with the recipe to make the magic happen. When I cook with Cathy... well, that's just a bad example, because as long as pronouncing French cooking terms isn't part of the job description, Cathy could actually serve as the Executive Chef, if not the Chef de Cuisine in many a neighborhood restaurant. (If all these terms are making you curious, check out the kitchen heirarchy.) And then this weekend, even with my own sister, I fell immediately into the role of hunter and gatherer rather than chef.

Granted, some of this comes from the fact that this was my kitchen, and therefore I'm the one who knows where everything is. But still, the reason I still consider myself a poser lies in the little things that happen around me when I'm in a kitchen. For example:

1) Burns - I know this happens to everyone, but it happens to me in the stupidest way. I burn my hand on the oven rack as I'm placing a tray on it. I place a pan that was broiling in the oven on the counter, remove the oven mitt, and then casually grab the handle to move the pan elsewhere. I dump the wrong thing into a pot of boiling water and immediately reach in to pull it out. Folks, this is the sort of activity that most people with an IQ between 80 and 100 would still not do. And I do it regluarly.

2) Recipe Surprise - I read through the recipes ahead of time maybe 40% of the time. This alone makes me a disaster in the kitchen. But I ALWAYS read the ingredient list. And yet, almost every other time I cook, something suddenly appears on the list that completely mystifies me. Perhaps I forgot to buy it (lemons were the culprit this week), or perhaps I never even noticed it. Or perhaps it was something I was supposed to make ahead of time that I completely forgot to make. This happened once when I was making lemon cheesecake that called for lemon curd. It's not exactly something you can run to the corner store and buy, nor is it something you can "whip up" really quick. Needless to say, I made a plain cheesecake with a bit of a lemony taste thanks to some lemon zest. At least I did buy the lemons that time.

3) Recipe Dyslexia - I have been known to skip a step and then go back to it without realizing what I've done. Needless to say, this often requires completely starting over or, more likely, giving up.

4) Bad Timing - I know this is hard for many cooks... timing. It takes a lot of experience and skill to bring out all items at the same time and have them warm and fresh. This is especially difficult if you only have one oven. But I am often so far off that we have been known to eat two hours late... or we may eat the potatoes after the dessert course.

Oddly enough, even with all these little issues, I still love cooking, and I will continue to love it. It's wildly therapeutic, which few who have really watched me cook can believe because of all the cursing and banging of pots that I do while in the kitchen. I wonder how I can continue to love it so. But I wonder even more if I can every graduate from poser and become a real cook!

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Very Full Day Off

Today was the first of four days off for the holidays, and I am stoked. I actually feel a little weird having so much time off without actually cutting into vacation time. Tomorrow, I will be in a pretty intense mode of cooking, cleaning, and finishing up the Christmas shopping (I have yet to purchase a gift for my own mother. How pitiful is that?!)

Today was no less busy, although it was full of much more fun things. My sister flew in from San Francisco VERY late last night (truthfully, she actually arrived very early this morning). She and her husband stayed in a hotel, and I really wasn't sure exactly what time to expect them. So we slept in until 7:30, when Athena woke up. I headed downstairs to check the instructions for my glucose screening. This is a test that looks for gestational diabetes. I had a doctor's appt. this morning at 9:15, and I had to drink this disgusting flat orangeade an hour before my appt. It turns out that I also was suppose to eat a balanced breakfast (one or two eggs, toast, and milk). So... I quickly whipped up some scrambled eggs and wolfed them down so I could drink the nasty sugar thing on time. Then I tossed Athena in the car with some little fruit chews (which she loves) and we headed to daycare.

At the doctor, they almost forgot to draw my blood, but I reminded them. God knows I didn't want to drink ANOTHER one of those drinks. I don't remember it tasting so bad when I was pregnant with Athena. But it was gross this time.

The actualy appointment went well. He Who Must Not Be Named has a nice normal heartbeat and seems to be on track as far as growth. Now I switch from monthly appointments to every other week. This means I'm entering my third trimester! I can't believe how quickly this pregnancy is zipping by. Whatever will I blog about after the baby is born?!

So I got home just a little after 10am. I sat down to rest, hoping to maybe get a little nap before Linda arrived. But alas, no sooner had I plopped down but the phone rang. It was the daycare director telling us that Athena had thrown up twice, and therefore we needed to pick her up and bring her home. Chris was still in his pajamas (dammit) so I headed back out to Cary to collect her.

When I arrived, she looked perfectly fine. I'm guessing that the sugary fruit snacks combined with the graham crackers they gave her at school may have just been a little rough on her tummy. She also has a head cold, and the drainage may also be upsetting her stomach. Regardless of how healthy she looked, two vomits earns you a ticket home. Period. No exceptions. She was happy to see me, though, and when I asked if she wanted to go home, she said yes... so at least she wasn't disappointed to be leaving her friends behind.

Just as I pulled into the driveway, Linda called to say they were about to leave the hotel. We made arrangements for her to pick up lunch on the way, and we settled in with Athena to wait. She was playful and showed no signs of the earlier tummy troubles.

We had a Chick Fil-A picnic in the kitchen, and then Athena headed up for her nap. Linda and I trundled off to the shops and Chris and Ron stayed behind to mind the baby. We wanted to get something in particular for mom, and then I had asked Santa for some nice (meaning "real designers... not Target") maternity clothes. It's bad enough your tummy is the size of a watermelon... you might as well get to look good. And all the stuff I've purchased to date is ill-fitting and low quality. Linda wanted to take me shopping to have me try stuff on, and ended up buying me WAY more than I expected. So for the next three months, I may actually be somewhat fashionable. I believe the folks I work with are going to go into shock.

We came home and I unwrapped the gift Cathy sent me. She sent me the Deluxe Librarian Action Figure (which I had been wanting, but never would have purchased myself) and several homemade cookies. I've sampled the chocolate ones, and they are to die for. Then we relaxed with Athena and watched most of A Bug's Life.

Next we all squashed into Chris' car and headed to the Canes/Panthers game. Athena behaved well as always, and we won, despite playing one of the worst periods I have EVER seen us play (and that is really saying something).

When we got home, we discovered that somehow my tiny dog had reached all the way up onto the highest part of our counter (my daughter can't even reach it, and she is close to three feet tall) and managed to pull down one of the four bags of cookies that Cathy sent. I'm heartbroken, because now I don't even know what they were, not to mention I didn't get to eat one. The other three packages were untouched (except for the chocolate ones that Chris and I had already partaken of) so all was not lost. But it is frustrating to be feeding your dog expensive medicine and buying her premium prescription food to make her live longer, only to have her devour 6 or 8 cookies which clearly do not meet her dietary requirements. *sigh*

Anyway, all is cleaned up now and Athena is in bed. It's great to have my sister home, and although she leaves tomorrow to stay with my mom, I'll be glad to see her again Christmas day. As the final presents are wrapped and my meal-planning comes together, I am starting to remember why I like Christmas so much. All the busy running around leading up to the holiday just makes it that much easier to relax when it's here.

Well, that, and Santa Claus is coming to our house tomorrow night! Yippee!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Overdue Thanks

Anyone who has known me for more than a year knows that I am absolutely horrid when it comes to Thank You notes. Hopefully, those same people know that it is NOT because I am not thankful, but rather, I am just irresponsible. So as I gave Athena her bath tonight, it occurred to me just how much stuff we have received from our wonderful friends and family that we use every day. And so I would like to take this post to thank as many of you as I can think of. (The hazard of a post like this is I will forget someone, but I have to take that chance. If I don't mention something you gave us, just ask me... I can tell you at least one story about it, I'm sure).

These are in no particular order. Please consider this my official thanks, not only for these gifts, but for any gifts you have given us over the last two years. Honestly, we couldn't have given Athena such a comfortable start without them. (And for those of you who are about to deliver or have friends who are about to deliver, keep these gifts in mind when you are registering or shopping!)

Petunia Picklebottom Diaper Bag - This was one of the first gifts we received. My sister sent it to me for Christmas when I was pregnant. It's MUCH nicer than anything I would have purchased for myself and it's absolutely gorgeous. Best of all, it's red and black -- the colors of MY Carolina Hurricanes. We take it to every hockey game, and MANY other events. We do have a couple of other bags of varying sizes, but this one is by far my favorite.

Bassett Crib - My mother bought this for us. It's an absolutely lovely piece of furniture and will convert to a double bed when He Who Must Not Be Named graduates from the crib. Obviously, we use this every night.

Changing Table from Pottery Barn Kids - I vowed I wouldn't buy anything at this store, as it is all lovely, but WAY out of my price range. However, after looking everywhere for a changing table that didn't look like crap and wasn't a dresser, this was the only one I liked. Chris' dad bought it for us. And my aching back thanks him every time I use it. Athena's too big for it now, but we still put her up there. Diaper changing is bad enough without also having to break your back to do it.

Little Moon nursery lamp - I registered for this completely on a whim, because I thought every nursery needed a lamp. Now I KNOW that every nursery needs a lamp. It puts out very little light (I think it's a 30 watt bulb) and the bulb is inside a plastic moon, so it glows when you turn it on. It allows us to enter her bedroom and see our way around without completely blinding/waking Athena. Staci sent this to us all the way from Washington, and I think of her every time I flip it on.

Baby Blankets - All of the blankets we received have been well-used. However, two stand out as the clear favorites. The dark purple blanket was given to us by Athena's Uncle Dave and Aunt Shelley. It was handmade by a friend of Shelley's in Virginia, I think, and it is INCREDIBLY soft and fluffy. The yarn is dyed in layers, so the blanket actually is varying shades of purple. We took this one on the cruise with us and there were two evening events we attended where we took it with us. Both nights, several people stopped to comment on what a fantastic blanket it is, and Athena agrees. The other blanket is also handmade and is a light purple. Chris' mom made it from a very soft wool she found in England. This is the blanket Athena takes to daycare each week for naptime. It's a very lightweight blanket, but is still cozy and warm. Both are the blankets Athena is drawn to when she is allowed to choose.

Baby Mozart DVD - Brian and Sophie gave this to us for Christmas when I was still pregnant. Even from about 3 months, this DVD would calm Athena almost immediately. Since then, we have purchased an entire library of the things. They are like candy for babies. She still loves them.

Step and Play Piano - Chris' sister Nicky bought this for Athena when she was still little more than a lump in my arms. She began playing with it at about five months of age, and she still loves to go over and stomp on the keys. It converted easily from a walker-type toy to a play center.

Bath cups - Kim R. gave me these at my baby shower. They were an item I registered for because I was told I would appreciate having them instead of using glasses/cups from the kitchen. They go EVERYWHERE with us. They've been to Virginia, Bald Head Island, Austin, San Francisco, and most recently, the Caribbean. We even move them between bathrooms, as Athena also likes to use them in the shower. I use them to wash her hair, and she loves to play with them. I would have never guessed such a basic gift would get so much use.

Bathtub play mat - Chris' sister Lisa sent this to Athena for her birthday. It has little waterproof pieces that she can take out and move around and tuck back into the little pockets. She adores this mat. And now that she says some words, she can identify the bird and the bee and the flowers on the mat.

"The patchwork dress" - Unfortunately, kids grow out of clothes. We have had MANY outfits that we just love, but this dress was my favorite. She wore it for the last time for Pirate Night on the cruise. I loved it because it snapped all the way up the back. It was so easy to get her in and out of it and she looked unforgivably cute in it. This was a gift from Chris' uncle Rick and his girlfriend Judy (who we call Aunt Judy just because it's easier.) :-) They gave it to us just before I delivered, and although it was an 18 month size, she was able to wear it from about her first birthday through to November.

So that hits the highlights. We received hundreds of things... literally, so I don't intend to bore you with stories about all of them (I could do it... trust me). But like I said, if you wonder about something you gave us... just ask me. :-)

And once again, thanks. We have the best friends and family in the world. Happy Holidays to all of you. :-)

Oh my GOD, it's GREEN!

Remember I told you that they provided the kids with green cookies at daycare yesterday after the little holiday pageant? Well, there was enough green food coloring in those bad boys to paint the turf in the Astrodome. And the weirdest part? The whole class was pooping green poop today. We're not talking "greenish." We're talking St. Patrick's Day green. You have to see it to believe it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Joy of Parenting

Athena was in a holiday show today at her daycare. She was also in it last year, but at six-months old, all she did was appear on a "sleigh" (stroller built for six) with little reindeer antlers on her head. Was it cute? Absolutely. Did it satisfy her star-struck mother. Absolutely not.

So this year, they told us Athena's class would be singing. Now, considering Athena's vocabulary--although impressive--is quite limited, I was looking forward to seeing how she would approach singing with her classmates. Alas, it was not meant to be. Instead, they opted for the far more realistic plan of dressing the tots as snowmen and parading them out onto the stage. And this would have been great for yours truly... however, Athena immediately burst into tears once on stage.

I did not jump up to comfort her... I let her have her say. And sure enough... once the applause started, she was delighted to be on stage. She smiled... she looked around... and if the precedent had been set at any time in her life, I'm sure she would have taken a bow. They had a little paper hat on her, a little red scarf, and a snowman cutout was tied around her neck and hanging down her front. We took pictures, but I have misplaced the USB cord, so I shall have to post them later.

After their stellar performance, the toddlers went back to their classroom for milk and cookies. Green cookies, to be precise. Athena enjoyed one and a half of them, giving her teeth a nice green tint. We hung out in her classroom for a little while and then we asked Kathryn, John, and Aiden to join us for dinner. Kathryn works at a different branch of the library, and her son Aiden is almost exactly three months older than Athena. By a fortunate coincidence, we chose the same daycare. So we have gotten them together for several playdates, and we thought it would be fun if we all went out to dinner.

It was fun. We kept the two kids at opposite ends of the table just to keep their minds on food. After dinner, they ran around outside just a little bit, and then we went our separate ways. But not before Athena gave Aiden a big smooch. This is the first time I've seen my daughter kiss another child, and it was terribly cute.

So overall, I would sum up today's events as delightful. This is the reason people become parents... the joy of watching your little girl play, discover, and make friends.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

You Need to Respect My Mad Media Skillz, Yo!

Want to know the easiest way to piss off a librarian? Ask her where she got her Library degree, and then when she tells you, say... "I can't BELIEVE you need a MASTER'S degree to be a LIBRARIAN!!! What did you learn in grad school? Did they make you memorize the Dewey Decimal System?!" This will piss her off partially because it's just plain insulting to insinuate that someone's profession is so mindless that it shouldn't require an advanced degree, but it's mostly irksome because that is EXACTLY what EVERYONE says when a librarian tells them they have a master's degree. Assuming that the person asking isn't also a librarian.

And just so you know, we do not memorize the Dewey Decimal System in grad school. You can really do that easily in a couple of months on the Reference Desk at any library using the blasted system. However, we do learn to use the Dewey and the Library of Congress Subject Headings. And if you ever do wonder why we have advanced degrees, take a look at those volumes one day. Should answer all your questions. (For example: Looking for a cookbook? You should use "Cookery" in the subject line. Those librarians... they really are dorks at heart.)

Now, having told you how essential my Master's Degree is, and after clarifying how exasperating it is when people think it must be the easiest degree in the world, let me tell you what the easiest degree in the world is... An Education Degree. You've all suspected it, I know. But it's true. And before all you card-carrying Education majors get all huffy, you should know that in addition to my Master's Degree in Library and Information Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, I also hold a Bachelor's Degree in Secondary English Education.

To get this first degree, I went to the prestigious University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (class of '92. Go Heels!) Now, before Chris composes all kinds of insulting comments about UNC, let me again stress that I did have some difficult classes, and some generally tough semesters. I'm lucky I got out of American History post 1876 with my GPA in tact, and I DIDN'T get out of Marine Science with it in tact. One semester (Fall of Junior Year, I believe), I had to write 23 papers. That's more than one per week, folks. And I would have had to do another 15 had I not dropped that French Composition class like it was a live cockroach. However, I have to admit that once in a while I got a nice slide course. Introduction to Media was just such a course.

At least, I THINK that's what the class was called. It was in the spring of 91, and as far as I can tell, they no longer require the class. I checked the current course list. But when I was an undergrad, it was a required three-hour class.

So what IS this Media class that was so important and time-consuming I deserved three-hours credit for it? I am SO glad you asked. In it, I learned to do everything any teacher in any classroom in America was expected to know in order to effectively incorporate modern media into her classroom. I learned to thread a film projector. I learned to load and run a slide projector. I mastered the ever-tricky overhead projector. I learned to create a document in a word processing program (I believe it was Word. An EARLY incarnation. And incidentally, MY document received an A+ and was used by the grad assistant teaching the class to demonstrate excellent use of layout, margins, and white space. Nyah!) And most importantly, I learned to make a bulletin board.

Now, you may laugh at how absurd this is. And it was, indeed, absurd. And I haven't even mentioned that one of my assignments was to "evaluate" the educational classic "Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego," which took up HOURS of my time in the computer lab testing the game and judging its merits as a classroom tool. (My God, that was the coolest little game, wasn't it?!) But this absurdity gets even absurder (as an English Education major, I have the right to make intentional grammatical errors for humorous effect, by the way)... I took this class AGAIN in grad school.

Now, I need to step in and say that in grad school, the class was NOT required and was only worth an hour of credit. It was only really recommended for those who intended to be school media specialists. I did not intend to be one, but it was 1996, and this class was the only one that promised to expose me to the fine art of Power Point, so I took it. Media had come a long way, but I once again learned all the things I did in undergrad, but just added in a video camera and Power Point. Funny how I had to do MORE for this class, but only got one hour credit. But I digress...

Anyway, I am proud to say that over the past three days, I have put my mad Media skillz to good use. I produced a bulletin board to market our newest, "hottest" titles in the library. And it's a damn fine bulletin board, if I do say so myself. I cut paper. I laminated. I chose a nifty border. I incorporated unoriginal clip art. It's a work of art, I tell you. And I owe it all to those four hours of credit at UNC and UNCG. Thank GOD I got my degree. I couldn't have done it without those hours of training that formed the base of my knowledge of colored butcher paper and laminating film. I'm sure my father rests peacefully in his grave knowing that the money he spent on my college education is going to good use.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Christmas... er... Holiday... Quiz

You Are Dancer

Carefree and fun, you always find reasons to do a happy dance.

Why You're Naughty: That dark stint you had as Santa's private dancer.

Why You're Nice: You're friendly. Very friendly.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Vocabulary Lesson

I was going to begin this post with a little apology that this is yet another story of the cuteness that is my daughter. But then I thought... the blog is called Mommy Librarian. So either I talk about being a Mommy, or I pontificate on the merits of the Dewey Decimal System. So instead, I invite you to enjoy a post that is NOT about my librarian life, and instead, you may revel in stories of the cutest baby in the whole wide world (TM).

So tonight, I'd like to share with you Athena's growing vocabulary. I do this partially because I am curious as to how many words she is actually regularly using. And rather than a typical alphabetical list, these appear in the order of frequency (as accurately as I can)... listing the words she uses most, first. When there is nothing important of note to say about a particular word or group of words, I've just listed them together so you won't be scrolling for infinity.

More - She says this when she is hungry... which often seems to be all the time. It is usually accompanied by the ASL sign, which she learned in day care. So yes, it means "more" but it also means, "feed me you evil keeper of the pantry door!" And if necessary, she will bodily drag us into the kitchen. Sometimes it takes us a while to catch on.

Juice - This is any liquid refreshment -- juice, milk, water, beer, wine, liquor... you name it. If it's in a glass, it's juice to her. In fact, it's a constant battle to convince her that mouthwash and cooking oil are not actually in the "juice" family.

Apple - Describes any fruit... rarely actually an apple.

Done, Shoes, Socks, Ball, Hi, Bye, Eyes, Nose, Daddy, Mommy

Elmo - This kid loves Elmo. This is a recent development, but we are now watching Elmo in Grouchland almost nightly. Looking for Christmas gift ideas? Give us OTHER Sesame Street DVDs. Please, God, give us something different.

Baboo - Translates as "balloon." Shiny balloons, small balloons, cheap balloons, expensive balloons... she loves them all.

Bath, Doggie, Kitty

Poop - She has said this a few times, usually just before or after she has... well... pooped.

Pizza, Potty, Door, Head, Hair, Hat, Teeth, Ear, Down

Neena - This is how Athena says her own name. It's horribly cute.

So that's about 29 words. We may have missed a few, but this gives you a good idea of where she is. Chris tells me she formed a complete sentence this past weekend... "Want more." Sure, we can argue whether or not this is a complete sentence, but there is an implied subject and a verb... which I believe qualifies it.

Needless to say, we are really geeking out over hearing her vocabulary expand. I think she will really be nattering on by the time her brother arrives. And with her talking all the time, "He Who Must Not Be Named" will be talking by the time he's 6 months old!

Friday, December 09, 2005

I'm such a follower

Okay, Brian and Sophie are "frappin," so I am too!

Add your pushpin to the Mommy Librarian map! We'll see where all my friends live!

Isn't it nifty?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Post-Party Update

Well, I never posted an update on how the party went, partially because Chris had such a detailed post about it. However, just so you know... it was fun as always. Not as many people (although 14 kids... which is certainly a record) and not as many gifts in the exchange (20 this year as compared to the 34 last year), but still fun.

Chris and Brian (Sophie's husband) turned out to be the real heros of the day. Chris and Brian put their heads together and between the two of them (I understand Chris came up with the idea and Brian made it happen), we now have a gate at the top of our stairs. They had to go to two different baby stores (twice... long story), but they had it up and working before guests arrived.

Brian also made time to do what had to be the nastiest job of the day, which was cleaning out the cooler from last year. Chris and I had a little misunderstanding last year after our party. I asked him if he emptied out the cooler and he said "Yes." The misunderstanding happened when I thought he was actually listening to the question and giving an honest answer, and he was thinking, "I don't know what she just asked because I was watching football, but if I say 'yes' I bet I won't have to do anything else." So a couple of weeks later when I went to move the cooler from the back porch to the garage, I noticed it was awfully heavy. Lo and Behold, inside were two beers and a few gallons of water! Oh, and some nasty mold/mildew stuff. So I emptied it and left it to dry... and never really got back to it. Brian bravely donned the yellow rubber gloves this year, and armed with Tilex, a sponge, and the water hose, he scrubbed that bad boy clean. Oddly, Brian also made sure the cooler was empty and wiped out before they left the next day. Guess he didn't want to get stuck with THAT job ever again. :-)

Chris got the tree up, and with Athena's instant fascination with it, we have opted for a "Lights Only" tree this year. We'll do ornaments again next year, when Athena is older and The Nameless One is still not really reaching for stuff... well, we hope.

Sophie and I did cook a few things. She had more energy than I, but we both rested often and Sophie actually nodded off on the couch at about 10:30 when most of the guests had left. I'm looking forward to cooking more next year, although with three kids underfoot most of the day, I wonder how productive we'll be. Life is just chugging forward, isn't it?!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

What Are the Odds?

I watch very little television. What I DO watch tends to be for kids (for Athena) or something somewhat educational (history, discovery, etc.) And on Sundays, I have a sort of tradition of folding laundry and watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition. It's one of the few shows on that I find regularly good and worthwhile. And, of course, it always makes me cry. Which I hate to do. Cry at television shows or movies, that is. Not cry in general.

So tonight, I had actually already folded the laundry and I was downstairs heating up a snack. Chris came down to watch his DVRed episodes of Lost, so I asked if he minded if I just catch the opening of Extreme Makeover while my snack finished heating so I wouldn't miss any of the back story. He happily agreed and settled down to watch with me.

Well, I didn't prepare for this episode by going online to see what the family's hardship was. I don't like to do that anyway because I feel the show is better if I just watch it. This week, a widower and his three daughters (ages 6, 2.5 and maybe 8 months... if that old) asked for help. Turns out his wife died ON MOTHER'S DAY, no less, from a heart problem that was related to the strain of pregnancy and delivery.

Now, this is the SECOND time I have done this to my husband. When I was about seven months pregnant with Athena, I dragged him to see Jersey Girl. Not having kept up with reviews, etc., I had no idea that the whole premise of the movie was that the mother dies just after delivering her first child because of a brain aneurism... again, linked to the strain of delivery. In this show, it was apparently several days (perhaps weeks) after the child was born, and this man's wife went to bed and within an hour, died in her sleep. He went to wake her, having no idea something was wrong, and she was gone.

My poor husband was clearly moved by this, and who wouldn't be? Here I am, 34 years old, six months pregnant with my second child, and constantly complaining of my aching back and how tired I am and how much of a strain this pregnancy seems to be putting on my body compared to the last one. Now, I have no idea how often women die secondary to labor and delivery, and I'm sure the numbers are relatively low, but holy crap! How terribly frightening is that to see something, especially in this case a true story, JUST BEFORE you are about to embark on that joyous journey called childbirth?! Yipes.

Sure, it scares me a bit, but honestly, I'm not really worried about it happening to me. However, if I were Chris, I would simply be beside myself. He watched the whole show with me. And he said that it was worse this time (as opposed to Jersey Girl) because he actually has a child now... and he can see better what it would be like. I think this time was also worse (certainly for me) because it wasn't J-Lo dying on a big screen while we were eating popcorn. This was a real woman with three beautiful children. It's a lot harder to put that from your mind.

So as little television as I see (I don't even watch every episode of Extreme Makeover), I managed to catch the most relevant and heart wrenching episode I could and I somehow did it on a night when Chris actually sat down to watch with me. We certainly thought and talked a lot about how fortunate we are. And he told me that if I did die soon after delivery, he would kick my ass. He would do it, too. So I think I'll stick around.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Pre-Party Stress

I debated on whether or not to post tonight, since I know the 6th Annual Holiday Party will go swimmingly and if I don't tell you what I'm thinking right now, then you will think I've been cool as a cucumber the whole time. However, a blog is all about honesty, so I will be honest about the pre-party stress. But I do understand, deep down, that it will all be fine. You believe me, right?

Seven years ago, before I met my husband, my friend Cathy and I used to have dinner parties all the time. We always got nervous that something would go wrong, but nothing every really did. I learned that I really enjoyed entertaining (and eating Cathy's cooking), but when I moved to Raleigh, my circle of friends diminished, and soon, I found that my six parties a year had dwindled to two, and then to one.

Now, the holiday party is really the only true party I have each year. Sure, folks come to dinner from time to time, and perhaps there will be a casual get-together for this or that, but this party has become the true focus of my efforts. And since it the only one, and my circle of friends is growing again, there are often a LOT of people there. This year, we are expecting about 55 people. And this year, 14 of those are children age 8 and under. Just shoot me.

The party normally involves preparing 15 or more munchie-type things, plus an "evil Santa" gift exchange. In years past, I begin planning in October and would cook every night for the week before the party. I did it all myself. Chris would help clean the house a little, but really, it was all me.

Two years ago, I agreed to let Sophie help me in the kitchen. Before that, I insisted that no one could help... partially because I wanted everyone at the party to ENJOY the party, and partially (and this is way more honest than I like to be in a public forum) because I missed Cathy and felt kind of like I'd be replacing her. Took me three years to get past that, and still I hope that one year she will actually make the drive down to make the dastardly duo whole again, if only for the one night (although she has to make room for Sophie now.)

And Cathy, that is not a gratuitous plea to make you feel guilty. Although if it worked... so be it. :-)

This year, since both Sophie and I are expecting babies in the early Spring, we sensibly decided that we would let folks bring appetizers this year. It goes against my credo of "don't do anything... just come enjoy the party" but I also know that my pregnant lard-butt cannot possibly stay upright all day and hope to be able to move at all by 7pm when the first guests arrive.

Tomorrow will be a day of cleaning, cooking, trying to find a baby gate for the top of our stairs, and wrapping gifts. Then the guests arrive, and we should be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors. The children are going to have party space upstairs, and the big people will be downstairs with wine, beer, and whatever yummy goodness Sophie and I manage to make, plus what people bring.

So here I sit, stressing about how much I have to do, and yet I'm doing none of it. And I am oddly at peace. After six years, I've learned that the party will just work itself out... we'll get it all done, and we'll have a rocking good time. Stress? What stress?

As soon as I recover, I will post pics and hopefully news of what a smashing success it was.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Murph the Immortal

Some of you may like an update on the health of my little pooch, Murphy. I am pleased to report that after about $500 in vet bills (tests, meds, etc.), Murphy seems to be doing quite well.

After her little episode, they ran some tests. Basically, they found that her kidneys were functioning at less than 25% and that her thyroid was acting up (not sure if it was doing too much or too little... I honestly can't remember). So they put her on thyroid medications and special food with low protein just before we left for our vacation. (Cha-ching!) Then, immediately upon our return, they had her come in all day for blood pressure tests throughout the day along with another blood draw to see how her kidneys and thyroid were doing. Her kidneys had improved (although we aren't talking a huge reason to celebrate... but better is better). However, her blood pressure was REALLY high, and the blood test showed that her liver was in overdrive. So they added a blood pressure medication and said they wanted to monitor her again the following week to see if the liver stayed all worked up and to see if her blood pressure would come down. (Cha-ching!)

So I took her in yesterday. I'm pleased to report that her blood pressure looks great, and the liver and kidneys, although still not within the recommended range, are also looking good. (Small cha-ching!) If there had still been a big problem with the liver, they would have done an ultrasound, which is $280. So when I wrote the check for only $80, I felt like I was getting the deal of the century.

And there you have it. Murphy is doing VERY well now. She's spry, even. She has lost over 6 pounds and she has not had an accident in four days. I'm THRILLED! What a good doggie. I guess she listened way back when she was a puppy and I told her she wasn't allowed to die. Ever. :-)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

It Must Be Something in the Water

LAAAAA! I just learned one of my friends is preggers. Not telling you who because it's early yet and she will let me know when I can spill the beans (due end of July), but I am very happy for her and her significant other. (See, now you don't even know if it's one of my MARRIED friends! I'm so sneaky!)

Anyway, it makes me think how odd it is that many of the people in my long-term circle of friends have launched their families at about the same time. Creepy, really, when you consider my friends are all ages between 24 and 38. Yet we will all have rugrats within a couple of years of each other... and many of us will have ankle-biters that are within a few months of each other. Sophie has timed hers almost perfectly with mine... due only two weeks after me.

Isn't that kind of odd? Now if I can just get them all to live within a 60-mile radius of me! Sheesh!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mais oui! Je parle francais un petit peu...

Many of you didn't know that I am bilingual. And you don't know this because it's an ugly lie. Well, it's a lie unless they have declared Profanity an official language, in which case, English is actually my second language.

However, I did "study" French for four years in high school and two years in college, which means I have a French vocabulary of almost as many words as my 18-month-old has in her native English. I also know a few phrases in Italian (spelling doesn't count here):

Dove il gabbinetto? (Where is the bathroom?)
Pianta-la! (Quit it!)
Ecco! Basta! (That's enough! Stop!)
Cosa Fai? (What in the name of all that is good are you doing?!)

Perhaps from this sampling of phrases, you can tell that my primary job while in Italy was babysitting.

So why am I telling you about my language skills? Well, because of HOCKEY of course! Tonight, Chris and I went to the Hurricanes/Leafs game. Saint Mother-In-Law offered to babysit so that Chris and I could enjoy a quiet dinner and then actually watch the whole game. It was really quite glorious. And the game was exciting... we won 4-3 in a shootout. Very fun. If you are interested in the boring details of the game, I'm sure Chris will post something on his blog. However, I am going to fill you in on the more interesting aspect of the game... the players.

Perhaps you have heard that hockey is a Canadian game. And, despite the NHL's best efforts, it still is, really, a Canadian game. The captain of the Hurricanes is Rod Brind'Amour, and he is from Ottawa. He is quite good at what he does and he has been out of the line-up recently because of a groin injury. Actually, there has been a rash of groin injuries on the team lately, which had a local radio station asking if there were some particularly energetic groupies out there causing the problem. Personally, I have a nomination -- we call her Dorothy, Mistress of the Night. She comes to each game in the opposing team's jersey, pigtails, a short skirt, and knee socks... the whole school-girl gig. Chris used to know her website, but we can't seem to find it now, although you couldn't have opened the link in any public place anyway. She had some "work done" which she is quite pleased with, and she shows it off on her site. But I digress...

A few years ago, when I was just getting familiar with who played for which team, I noticed that many players' surnames were French-ish. What I mean by that is that they were French in origin, but not like any French surnames I had seen before. This is, I imagine, because of the French-Canadian language, which anyone in any French-speaking country outside of Canada will tell you, is a bizarre bastardization of French. (This is not my opinion, necessarily... I'm just telling you what I have been told. Although Celine Dion does present a strong case against the French-Canadians). So I began trying to translate some of these names.

Many are rather innocuous. One of my personal favorites is Simon Gagne. His last name litteraly means "Winner." Now THAT is a good hockey name. Some I can't translate, like Jean-Sebastian Giguere or Patrice Brisebois (although the latter makes me think of a container you put the remnants of a Jewish birth celebration into... ick). But one that just made me laugh out loud was Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre. His last name literally means "Big Peter." Now, personally, I think he, or someone in his family, made that name up. But really, anyone whose jersey actually declares that he is well-hung is just classic in my book.

So now we get to Rod Brind'Amour. I knew the last part of his name meant "of love," so it seemed romantic to me, and I left it alone. Rod is built like the proverbial brick shithouse. This man has been working out since he was in the womb, and I really don't believe there is an ounce of fat on his body. His face could stop a truck (and probably got that way from stopping a few too many pucks), but the rest of him is really a sight to behold. His effect on our team is certainly noticable (his return to the ice tonight helped the team break a three-game losing streak). Having said all that, I am about to laugh at him...

My friend Sophie is, as you know from previous posts, Belgian. This means that she speaks French pretty fluently... almost like it's her native language or something. So one day a few years ago, Sophie came to a hockey game with her husband, and they sat next to us. The game started, and suddenly, Sophie started laughing and said "Twig of Love?!" When I looked at her with eyebrows raised, she pointed at good old number 17 and said "Brind'Amour" means "Twig of Love."

So in the same league where there is a "Big Peter," there is also a "Twig of Love." And Brindy has better stats than Mr. Big-Stuff. People say there is no justice in the world. Pshaw...

So for those of you who think hockey is boring... just bring your French dictionary to the game with you. I imagine that will give you plenty of hours of by-yourself enjoyment.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


This is going to sound strange to most people... especially to the women out there. I have no idea how to be a mom. What? Didn't sound strange. Yeah, I suppose not. But it is strange to me, because I was actually naive enough that I assumed pushing forth a baby from my loins would instantly trigger some deep human instincts and I would suddenly know how to run a household, hold a full-time job, remain an exciting (and maybe even energetic) lover to my husband, remember to send birthday cards to all my friends (or at the very least call them), and still have plenty of time to make homemade play-dough with my daughter.

Alas, all I got upon pushing forth a baby from my loins was twenty minutes worth of surgery to repair the damage she did while making her grand entrance. Well, and I got a beautiful baby, but you knew that.

So now I struggle with the desire to be SuperMom. The desire... check. The energy... no way. The inkling of how to manage my time in any reasonable fashion... not so much.

However, tonight, I feel a bit like SuperMom. When I got to work this morning, I realized my lower back pain, which is really just par for the course lately, was actually much worse than usual and it was not getting better. It was so bad that I almost called it a day and went home to lie down and not move. But I took a couple of Tylenol and determined I would work through the pain.

However, I did have enough sense to call Chris and tell him there was no way I was going to be able to go to the hockey game tonight. Alas, it should be an excellent game. We are playing the Senators, and they are the team to beat. They've only lost three times this season, and two of those losses were thanks to MY Carolina Hurricanes. But the prospect of hauling my pregnant ass up and down those stairs and sitting in those horrid, uncomfortable seats while wrestling an 18-month-old and dealing with the lower back of a 70-year-old... I just knew it wouldn't work.

So I decided I would stay home tonight, make some pumpkin bread for my incoming family (arriving tonight from Austin around midnight) and try to entertain my daughter. Alone. Very scary.

Well, I sit here blogging to you a changed woman. Tonight, after a full day of work (with back pain), I drove home, prepared a mostly nutritious dinner, kissed my husband goodbye (actually, he left in such a hurry I think we just waved at each other), and proceded to clean all the dishes from dinner. I turned on a DVR'd episode of Sesame Street to give Athena something to look at, and I began to gather the ingredients for my pumpkin bread.

Despite Athena's best attempts to throw me off course, including a very creative stunt on the dining room table that involved scattering Daddy's gaming miniatures all over the room, I continued to measure and mix while singing along with R.E.M. (They were the special guests and performed a lively rendition of "Furry, Happy Monsters" to the tune of "Shiney, Happy People"). When Athena saw the raisins I was folding into the mix, she shouted and pointed, "Apple!?" All fruit is "Apple" to her. So I poured some in a bowl and sat her down in her easy chair with her apple (raisin) snack to watch a little Super Grover while I finished up with the bread.

Okay, so I used the TV as a babysitter. But it was Sesame Street for goodness sake! And she didn't sit and watch the whole thing anyway.

Now it is 8:30pm. My child is in bed (although not happy about it), the pumpkin bread is cooling on racks in the kitchen (and smells divine, by the way), the guest bed actually has sheets on it for my in-laws to sleep in tonight, and I have written a fairly lengthy blog for you. And who says I'm not SuperMom?! Take that, Mrs. Cleaver!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Date Night

Before I had kids (well, A kid so far), the concept of "date night" seemed completely looney to me. Sure, I referred ot having "a date" with my husband, but I really took for granted the ability to go out and just enjoy each others' company. Not so, anymore, my friends.

Even after more than a week together on vacation, including a grand total of about 24 hours in a car together, Chris and I were desperately in need of some time for just the two of us. It's not that having a child with you is a horrible thing, nor is it a complete deterent from having a grown up conversation. However, it is guaranteed that that conversation will be interrupted and sporadic, and generally unsatisfying, if conversation is important to you.

So before we even left for vacation, I booked a sitter for last night so Chris and I could go see the new Harry Potter movie. Originally, we planned to go see it with our friends, Kristen and Jack, who have become regular double dates for us since early June. However, due to the schedule with their kids, it turned out they could not go.

So as we planned an evening with just the two of us, I realized that we had not had such an evening since my birthday... a little over four months ago. Where does the time go?! So even though it was just dinner and a movie, I was excited to spend some alone time with my husband.

Now if you are bracing yourself for a "disaster evening" blog, then you can relax. Not only did the evening go well, it was GLORIOUS. We headed to Crossroads Shopping Center for dinner (which is where we had already purchased our movie tickets in advance). Crossroads is an outdoor mall, which means there are tons of stores, but you pretty much have to get in your car and drive from store to store... it's not the most walkable place. There are a few restaurants, all of them chains, so we set our sights on Olive Garden or Red Lobster. No, not glamorous, and not even the best choices, but we could eat at either place for a modest price and find something on the menu we liked.

Unfortunately, Cary at dinner time is really atrocious, as I have stated in my previous entry about the cactus fiasco. We had hoped that by arriving right at 6 we wouldn't have a horrible wait. Our movie was at 7:45 and with tickets in hand, we weren't too pressed for time. However, upon arrival at said restaurants (they share a parking lot in this particular location), not only were we unable to find a parking space, but there were at least six other cars circling the lot.

Those who know me know that despite my penchant for Disney World, I do not like to wait in lines. I find it very unproductive. So, we start reviewing the other choices nearby and settled on Houlihan's. We have eaten there before many a movie because it is NEVER crowded. Not sure if it's the location or the food, but people just don't really go there. And apparently it finally caught up to the place, because upon pulling into the parking lot THERE, we found it all but boarded up and condemned. Time for Plan C (or is it D?).

We decided that table service was just not going to work out, so we headed to Bear Rock, a sandwich place that you more generally think of for lunch. Chris laughed at how we were spending our one evening out as adults together at a place where we could have easily taken Athena. But still, it was tasty.

Our conversation was depressing (death, estranged families, etc.), but very rewarding and grown up. I had a piece of cheesecake for dessert and didn't have to share with anyone. And then we enjoyed a really, REALLY good movie. The Harry Potter story is just plain GOOD, and the fact that the world's best actors line up to play even the smallest parts in this series really makes for wonderful entertainment. As for special effects, the Quidditch World Cup was truly delightful and real, and the dragons were perfectly done, as far as I'm concerned.

So our next evening outing is another double date in December to see Narnia. I'm excited, of course, but I think we need to do more Daddy/Mommy alone nights too. There are just not enough days in the year to get it all in, are there?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Me From A to Z

A few days ago, a girl from texas asked me to post answers to an online questionnaire. I've considered it, but the questions on that particular survey just didn't do it for me. However, another blogger, Amy, (who I discovered through girl from texas) just posted one that I do like. So I'm going to post that one instead. I hope that's okay. :-)

A is for Age – 34 (feel like 64 most days)
B is for Booze – Jack and Diet Coke is my normal drink, although Margaritas are also high on my list. And how I miss them now that I am pregnant.
C is for Career – Librarian
D is for Dad’s name – William (Bill)
E is for Essential items to bring to a party – Wine. I'm starting to sound like a lush, aren't I? I'm really not!
F is for Favorite song at the moment - Probably Beverly Hills by Weezer, although I'm not sure...
G is for Goof off thing to do – SuDoKu. And I was doing it before it was cool...
H is for Hometown – Greensboro, North Carolina, although I was born in NYC. Just didn't live there long enough to call it home. Hell, I don't even remember it.
I is for Instrument you play – I can play Piano if held at gunpoint, and I could squeak out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the violin or the viola if you could stay in the room long enough to listen. I also play the radio.
J is for Jam or Jelly you like – Strawberry
K is for Kids – 1.5
L is for Living arrangement – Me, my hubby, my baby, my dog, my cat, my pesky ant colony (which is supposed to stay outside, but apparently did not get the memo), and my considerable mortgage.
M is for Mom’s name – Cindy
N is for Name of best friend – Still say Cathy, even though I see her so rarely. I know it's wrong not to say Chris, but he is better than a best friend. Contrary to the opinion of many odd folk back in Greensboro, Cathy and I have never had sex. And the evidence shows that Chris and I have. So best friend just doesn't seem like enough.
O is for Overnight Stay in a Hospital – Only time was with Athena's birth. Unless you count the time I destroyed the lining of my stomach and intestines by taking antibiotics without food, but technically I checked in at 10pm and was discharged around 5am. So it wasn't really a whole night.
P is for Phobias – Heights when on something manmade (I'm okay on a mountaintop). Fire scares me too. And then there is that horrible parental phobia that some unthinkable harm will come to your child.
Q is for Quote you like – I have a rather long one from Terry Pratchett in my signature line at work, so I'll give you a shorter one -- "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx
R is for Relationship that lasted longest – Chris, 6 years, 8.5 months (but who is counting). Although since this is such a general question, perhaps I should say "Mother/Daughter, 34 years."
S is for Siblings – One younger sister, Linda
T is for Texas, ever been? – Yep. Mother-in-Law and a cousin live in Austin. Been there twice now, I think.
U is for Unique trait – Um, I have a broken finger at the moment....
V if for Vegetable you love – Peas! Yum!
W is for Worst traits – I'm a worrier. I think too much.
X- is for X-rays you’ve had – Broken hand in 2003, Sprained ankle two months later (although I actually did it only two weeks later. I suppose I should list "procrastinator" in my "Worst Traits"
Y is for Yummy food you make – Spaghetti sauce, chicken quesidillas
Z is for Zodiac sign – Cancer

There you have it. Hope you learned something!

More Pictures

At the character breakfast, Minnie started at our table. She was Athena's favorite.

Swimming at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island.

Daddy and daughter dancing on the deck.

Some Pictures From the Trip

Daddy and daugher in Key West with some friends...

Athena loved the fountain area, although she longed to play in the pool with the big kids. (You had to be potty trained to swim with the big fishes).

A favorite passtime was standing on the table in our stateroom and staring out the window at the ocean.

Derek and Sam at Sloppy Joe's in Key West.

On formal night, Daddy and daughter stand on deck and look out to the big beautiful sea.

The Little Car That Couldn't

So if you want details of our last few days of the trip, Chris' blog is slam full of them. Check it out. Of course, I do see one little difference in perspective, which is that once the car trouble started, I realized it was because my car didn't want us to leave Florida. It wasn't trying to be difficult... it just didn't want to go North! Makes sense to me!

And I must say that I kind of agree. I've been back for just over 24 hours and all the relaxing I did on my vacation is gone. My house is a mess (just as it was before we left), I've had to throw out two cooking vessels worth a total of about $100 because my house sitter (dear friend that he is) used them to prepare some sort of food that is apparently closely related to rust and they are now unusable. I do love him, but I will miss that pan and that cookie sheet. (It's still cheaper than boarding a dog for 12 days.) :-( My car cost $200 to fix, and they found another problem which they say would be $500 to correct. We're skipping fixing that for now. The car is once again driveable after $200... so I'm driving it. And then Murphy had another vet appt. to see how the medicine she is on is working. That was $230 plus she is now on medicine for hypertension. Add in the $23 for the rental car for today while my car was in emergency care, and we have managed to spend over $600 within eight hours, just after our not-so-cheap vacation. You would think we had money pouring out our ears. Alas, we don't.

And Murph has to go back next week for the same battery of tests to see if the new medicine is working. That's another $200.

So if you come over for dinner in the next two months, expect Raman noodles. And for Christmas, perhaps I can spare some soup from the pantry. *sigh*

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'm Falling

Well, this post will have to be short and will probably be full of typos. Why? I have lost the use of my middle right finger. How? Those who know me will not be surprised.

First, this trip has been great. If you are reading Chris' blog, you've heard various stories of Athena's cuteness and the fun we've had.

That said, yesterday we stopped in Grand Cayman. This is the only place where we purchased an excursion through the cruise line. We opted to go on the Nautilus, which is basically a glass-bottom boat. Athena loves fishes (especially pointing to them and saying, "FISH!"), so we knew it was a safe bet.

Upon exiting the boat, we had to cross a parking lot to get back to the little minibuses that were to take us back to town where we are to presumably blow a ton of cash. Again, those of you who know me know that crossing parking lots is especially difficult for me. After a hockey game a few years ago, I fell in the parking lot and broke a bone in my hand. Two weeks later, I was exiting the apartment building where I was staying in London and sprained my ankle. So you would think that I would be aware of this "walking across a flat surface" challenge and face it with more caution.

However, I was feeling great, I had the baby in my arms, and we had just had a terrific time pointing and saying, "FISH!" So I fell.

The pavement was uneven, and I didn't even notice that there was a danger until I was falling. The fall was complete slow motion in my mind. I had time to reach my other arm around Athena so her fall would be completely cushioned. It worked too! She emerged from the trauma very frightened but without a scratch on her person. I, on the other hand, put a nice hole in my knee and in wrapping my arms around the baby, I managed to crush my finger underneath my body.

Does it hurt? Hell yes. I happen to be travelling with two doctors, so they gave me a quick assessment (and didn't even charge me) and they think I have broken a bone in the top part of the finger... above the joint. Nothing to be done about it but watch it swell and turn pretty colors and take some Tylenol. I'll see my own doctor when I return to get some sort of protective wrap for it so I can work more efficiently. But the ship's doctor is not really covered by insurance and would cost a fortune. And since my doctors/travelling companions don't see it as a must-do... I'm putting it off until insurance will pay.

Now, is this a serious injury? Not really. It's not like some people I know who manage to actually cut off part of their thumb with a rope while boating, but it is a damn inconvenience. But it hasn't really dampened my spirits too much. After all, tonight is Pirates IN the Caribbean Night, and we get a real pirate show and fireworks on deck tonight. What could spoil a day like THAT? Certainly not a middle finger that looks more like a plum at the moment!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

What I've Learned So Far

My husband has already posted some of the details of our trip on his blog, so I will offer you a few things I have learned from the experience rather than provide a travelog for you...

A man who normally does not wake up for major natural disasters will actually rouse himself out of bed at 5:15am without an alarm in order to get a sleepy baby into a car early so as to be at our destination 11 hours away that much earlier. This same man is a hero for this simple fact.

Another reason I love my husband... if we had been headed home instead of away from home, he would have adopted a stray kitten from a gas station. Of course, we can't afford to do that right now, but it's just enough to know he would have. (Don't tell him that I made a mental note of which exit it was just in case...)

Babies will not sleep in the car simply because it's a long trip and there is nothing left to do. They will also not sleep in a strange bed just because they are tired... at least not without a lot of prompting.

I love watching my child eat. She attacks food with such gusto and creativity. Some kids don't want their food to touch... Athena doesn't even care that the food is on her plate. In fact, she prefers anything that's on someone else's plate. And she will make a chore out of moving food from one plate to another. It's cuter than I can explain.

I cannot remember to bring a camera anywhere... even when I'm on a cruise and am just going up one flight of stairs for dinner. Eventually, there will be pictures of this trip... but none yet.

My daughter loves to dance. I knew this already, but I know it for sure now. She absolutely loved the deck party for sailaway, and at Ron Jon's Surf Shop, she was the little headbanger.

So I know a little more today than I did two days ago, and I will learn more soon, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Amazing Transformation

I don't know if it's because he turned 30 or because we are about to take an 18-month old on a ten-hour drive, but my husband just changed from "guy" to "father."

Obviously, he actually became a father 18-months ago. That's sort of an instant thing. But what I'm referring to here is that change in attitude when you suddenly notice that a person has completely accepted and given in to his fate.

The evidence is as follows:

I called Chris at work today to see how the morning went and talk through a few pre-trip details (like the fact that my car sounds like it will tear apart every time I turn the steering wheel.) Then he asks, "What time do you want to leave for Florida?"

Now, this inquiry would be odd as I have told him about sixty times what my goal is for the morning in question, but after six years of marriage, I have come to expect these questions. So I once again explained that I would like to have the car packed the night before, so we can just get up and go whenever we are ready (preferably early, but I can be flexible).

Here is where it gets interesting.

Chris replied, "I'd like to leave earlier than we might normally get up. If the baby is still groggy, all the better... she will sleep in the car."

Now, I mentioned in a previous post that we have taken this same cruise (same ship, same itinerary) once before. That time we flew down the morning of the cruise. Even with a FLIGHT TIME that we COULD NOT MISS, I pretty much had to bodily drag this man out of the bed and roll him to the shower. (Actually, what I do is poke him in the chest and sing "We're going to DisneyWorld" until he gets up simply to get away from me. But it's just as effective.) Now he's telling ME that we need to get up EARLY to go on vacation! Either an alien has possessed my husband or he has made that switch from "single, carefree guy" to "father who wants to listen to as little whining as possible in the ten hours on the road so badly he will even give up sleep."

So we'll see if the transformation is complete when the alarm goes off that fateful day. :-)

Monday, October 31, 2005

Our Little Princess

Halloween was a blast this year. Every time the doorbell rang, Athena yelled "DOOR!" and ran to the door. We dressed her up, but didn't take her trick or treating. Before I got home, Chris had given her a Sweet Tart, which she loved, and then a Life Saver, which she also loved. So if her little mouth and nose seem sticky in the picture, you know why. And before you say anything, I know she is too young for hard candy. Someone tell my husband that, please.

Speaking of my husband, he apparently had blog envy and has started one of his own. I will eventually add links to the side of my blog so you can find it easily, but for now, you can follow this link and bookmark it.

Oh, and today Chris is 30 years old. And I didn't even say Happy Birthday to him until tonight. What a horrible wife I am. Happy Birthday, honey. I love you!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Ugly Swimsuit - Part Deux

I have the best friends in the world. And I'm not just saying that because those of you reading this fall into that category. Really. :-)

On Saturday, I went to visit my friend Karen, who just delivered a handsome little baby boy about three weeks ago. Sleep deprived and milked to death, she received me with open arms and even fed me. (Hotdogs... yum!) Makes me proud to be a woman.

So as we chatted about all things maternal, I brought up my swimsuit ordeal. Having recently been through the whole pregnancy thing (right through the summer, I might add), she was completely sympathetic. And then, she went from friend to knight-in-shining-armour in one fell swoop. She retreated to her bedroom and produced two very cute maternity swimsuits! She thrust them upon me and I gratefully accepted her gift as if it were gold, frankincense, and myrrh (although there were only two of them).

Now, how shall I say this? I am... well... big-boned. And Karen is, well... not. My big bones extend into my chest area. And Karen... again... she is just not big-boned. She is tall, however, so often we can wear the same size, as long as it's nothing too tight. Sure enough, these suits are Large, and my normal size is Extra-Large. Still, I was willing to take the chance. After all, I've lost a little weight since conception, and Karen had just been pregnant... so perhaps we would meet in the middle.

So this morning, I tried on both suits, and can I just say... what is it they say in the Marines? BOO YAH! Yes, the boobs are a little mushed in, but they do seem to stay contained, and most important... these suits have BOTTOMS! And even better... those bottoms COVER MY BOTTOM! HOORAY!

So Chris and I made the ceremonious trip to JC Penney to get our $60 bucks back and send the hideous clown swimsuit to from whence it came. And this may be a good time to mention what a good sport Chris has been through this. He held his tongue when I tried on the suit, and even after I returned it, I had to tell him, "You know, it's okay to tell me that the suit was hideous." He merely indicated that I clearly KNEW it was awful, so why restate the obvious? He's so great!

Now I can look forward to sailing the Caribbean without inadvertantly flagging down the Coast Guard. Yay! Life is good.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Preparations Are Underway

Our anniversary cruise is just around the corner, and I am PSYCHED! We have our house/pet-sitter lined up (just in case someone was considering robbing us while we're gone), we have our tickets, and now, thanks to Hurricane Wilma, we have a new itinerary!

The cruise was supposed to go to Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and then the private island. However, poor little Cozumel was pretty devastated in the storm, and the port is not open to cruise ships at the moment. Instead, we are headed to Costa Maya, Mexico. I am especially excited about this because Chris and I did this same itinerary three years ago, and although we loved it, I am completely pumped to go somewhere I've never been. My friend Susan (who was kind enough to inform me of my itinerary change) said that she has been there before and enjoyed it very mucho. I'm kind of keen to see some Mayan ruins, although I have no idea how Athena will do at such a place. We'll play it by ear.

I also have managed to purchase the world's most hideous maternity swimsuit for the trip. I vowed I would not spend more than $30 for a suit, because I am only going to be able to wear it for a week, and I never intend to be pregnant again. So there was no need for me to dump a good deal of money into this. Well, my friends, there ain't much out there for under $30. And what there IS is God-awful. Here is what I selected. Go see for yourself.

Now, when you look at the picture, you may think, "That's not so bad." Which is indeed what I thought after looking at hundreds of REALLY ugly or REALLY expensive suits. But when it arrived in the mail, I thought, "Wow. That's pinker than I thought." And then I put it on. It fits, but let's just say I am not the model in the JC Penney catalog.

Oh, and did you notice that this is just the top? Neither did I! So when it came in the mail, I thought, "Where are the bottoms?! I need bottoms!" I looked at the catalog again and dammit all to Hell, the bottoms are sold separately. So suddenly, my $30 ugly swimsuit became a $60 ugly swimsuit. And before I ordered the bottoms, I did consider sending it back, but then I still would have had no suit. My belly isn't huge yet, but it's big enough that my regular swimsuit becomes a thong now when I put it on. Again, I stress my need for bottoms. It's pretty essential... especially when you are cruising with The Mouse.

By the way, go back to that page that I linked you to for the swimsuit. Do you see that other maternity swimsuit on the right? The cute black one with the little stripe? They don't have it in my size. Just in case you were going to ask... Trust me, I checked several times hoping they had restocked for some reason.

So we'll start packing this weekend. It's gotten cold here, so we can pack shorts and sandals and ugly swimsuits early. Hopefully that means I won't be running around in a last minute rush to get packed and I can enjoy my vacation right from the beginning. And don't worry. You will hear all about it as it happens. We plan to purchase an Internet package on the ship so I can update regularly.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Life in the 'Burbs

Our little town of about 30,000 people is just great. We moved here a couple of years ago after living in Raleigh for a couple of years, and although we felt like we were out in the country, we knew we had many conveniences close by. There was a Home Depot only about three miles away, as well as two grocery stores. And the downtown (all three blocks of it) had a small town charm that we loved... several antique stores, some offices, and three restaurants: a good Mexican place, a soda shop, and a Bistro. On top of that, one of the best Italian restaurants in the Triangle area is very close by. It has perhaps the most extensive wine list in the area. So really, we felt like we had what we needed. Then the movie theater and the Target were both within about a ten minute drive. So here we had the quiet of the country with the appeal of the nearby cities.

I really don't mean to write about all that in the past tense. Because we STILL have all that. But about a year ago, our area,which we were already pleased with, turned out to be the promised land... at least for us.

As odd as this may seem, the library here in our town is actually the busiest library in North Carolina. Again... that is in the entire STATE. That figure is calculated by counting circulation... how many books go in and out the doors. Seems odd for a town of 30K, right? Well, don't forget that we border Cary, which is one of the largest cities in North Carolina... and one of the richest. And many of Cary's fine citizens who live on the south end of the city limits come to our fair library because to date it is the biggest in the area. The downtown Cary library is also quite busy, but it is quite small.

So knowing this, you suddenly see why developers began to eye our little corner of the world. Perhaps only 30K people live here, but obviously people are willing to come here to visit. And within a year or so, we saw the beginnings of paradise (for us). Just as we started planning our family, we learned that we were getting a SuperTarget. Yes... Mecca was moving in. And with it was coming a whole lot of other convenience, including a movie theater and many many many restaurants. So as the business is moving in, we see our town spring to life, and we only have about a five minute drive to get to anything we want. The only way it would be better is if we could walk there.

So recently, that prosperity has come to our little downtown, and we noticed that they were building a new restaurant. The Peak City Grill sounded like it might be a little pub or sports bar, which would certainly be fine with us. But now it's open, and it's even better.

My sister was in town last night, so my mom drove in as well and we all had dinner together. With the baby, I really have to suggest restaurants that are close by and kid-friendly, but Mom wanted something "nicer." So we headed downtown to the little Bistro I mentioned earlier... good food, a more upscale atmosphere, but very tolerant of ranting toddlers. However, upon arrival, we found they were closed. It is Monday night after all... and they are always closed on Monday night. But the pregnant lady can barely remember she is supposed to go to work in the morning, none the less when the restaurants in town are open.

However, as we looked up and down the street for the alternatives, we noticed that the new restaurant was open! I didn't realize they had completed construction and were open for business, so we decided to give it a try.

Well YAY for us! This place was fabulous. The prices were reasonable based on the menu descriptions and they had plenty of specials. The kitchen is exposed to the downstairs dining area, so you know they have nothing to hide. They seated us upstairs and provided a high chair. And without going into a huge restaurant review... YUM!

My sister lives in San Francisco, so she's been living on some of the best food in the country for several years now. It's always intimidating to take someone like that out to a local restaurant... especially one you've never tried. Fortunately, she is very tolerant of all kinds of stuff, so I knew that disaster would be hard to come by. Still, I didn't even dream that I was about to have one of the best meals of my life. Food was expertly prepared and the cuts of meat we had were really phenomenal. I just can't say enough. If you live in the area, go eat at this place. If you don't live here, we'll go the next time you visit. I think I'm taking Chris there for his birthday on Saturday. I'm just so excited to have another fabulous, adult-but-okay-with-kids place so close by. I just see my property value go up and up! YAY!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Indoor Flood Zone

Chris' mother generously supplied us with a water filter system. It sits on the countertop and uses some advanced process to remove all the icky stuff from your water, a la Brita, only much better. It has a little spicket at the bottom of it and it holds several gallons of water at a time. So you dump water in the top, and a few minutes later... Voila! Drinking water so clean you can taste it.

So I bet you know where this is going. It's not really that bad, but it IS funny enough to share.

Chris is not a typical guy. When I say that, what I mean is that he actually reads the directions if not BEFORE assembling something... at least during the process. I love this about him, because when he has directions for something, he usually does it right... even if he's never attempted it before.

Needless to say, he has never attempted to put a Nikken water filter system together. So this morning after we had our waffles, he pulled it out of the box in all its little pieces and began to follow the directions. And he did a fine job... really. In fact, this is the first project he's done where there was absolutely no cursing or swearing through the entire ordeal. And despite the fact that I was hesitant to have yet one more thing sitting on the counter all the time, I must say it looks quite nice.

With the thing assembled, we headed upstairs as a family to begin our Sunday chores. They revolve around laundry, but include such subcategories as stripping and remaking beds, changing out towels, etc. Soon after we started the laundry running, it was time for Athena's nap, so Chris tucked her in and he and I got on our respective computers to pass some time and relax.

About an hour into her nap, I realized I was hungry. (An aside here: when you are pregnant, there are only two states of being... hungry and stuffed. There is no midpoint. One minute, you are content and feel completed sated, the next you feel you could eat your way through the State Fair. But I digress...) So I headed back down to the kitchen to forage for some lunch. And there I came face-to-face with about a quarter inch of water covering most of the counter and dripping onto the floor in front of the sink. By some weird luck, the only spot on the counter not affected by the mini-flood was where I had my handmade cookbook with all my favorite recipes in it. Someone was smiling down on me today, for sure.

Of course, the cause of the flood was immediately obvious: the water filter system. Apparently Chris stopped reading the directions right at the end, so he didn't realize that having the little lever in the "up" position meant that the spicket was open. Fortunately, it wasn't all the way open... just enough to let the water sort of drizzle out. And two beach towels cleaned up the minor deluge in seconds. So we're not talking post-Hurricane clean up efforts. We didn't have to call in FEMA or anything. Still, it was a sight. Spicket is closed now.

One day, perhaps we will get the hang of home ownership... The next project is to fix the huge holes in our wall where we tried to put a dog gate up and ended up merely tearing out chunks of dry wall.

Friday, October 21, 2005

And the Game Goes On...

Chris just posted a list to the comments field of my previous post, but I thought I'd bring it front and center:

Malcolm (Malcolm or Mal)
Alexander (Not sure)
Andrew (Drew)

We've been chatting a bit... and here are some thoughts on these that we've already discussed:

I have an issue with a first name that ends in "N" since our last name also ends in "N." This bumps Gavin (one of my personal faves), Ian (another name I love), and Donovan to the bottom of the list. The pisser is... all of these go GREAT with my maiden name. If only Chris had changed HIS name instead.

Malcolm - In the years following naming my dog Murphy, everyone who learned it commented "Oh, like Murphy Brown?" dammit. No TV names.

Alexander - I love this name and have lobbied for it since Baby One was of an unknown sex. However, even though it is a family name (Chris' side), he already has a cousin with the name, who may very well go on to be a professional football player. So this violates our "no names of specific family members" policy. However, that is not enough to eliminate it. And wouldn't a kid named "Lex" be the coolest kid on the block? It should also be noted that it's a very popular name at the moment, although the tendency is to spell it weird since people think that's the best way to justify the nickname "Zander" or "Xander."

Philip - Let's just say I know a Philip, and ... well... no.

Andrew - GREAT name. And millions of others think so too. I can't mark it off the list yet, though. I do like it.

Marcus - Great classic name. And we'd have a Roman to go with our Greek. However, it's not my favorite.

This leaves Bryce, Nash, and Drake. I like them all, but I have to say that Drake is really speaking to me. It means "dragon" and it reminds me of that great character from that series of books... you know... the one with the wizard... oh, what's it called? Yes, currently Drake is my favorite. How about you?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Banana Fanna Fo Fanna

We are in the midst of the name game at our house. We have three baby name books (two from the library, one from our personal collection) and we have begun the hunt. I've vetoed a name or two immediately (Hannibal?! Come on!) and so has he (Geoffrey and Sting... although I really was just kidding about the last one). So far the front runners are Ian, Liam, Andrew, and Donovan. I also still like Alexander, but Chris isn't sold.

So why don't you tell us what YOU think? Any suggestions out there? Remember, the middle name is set... it's Findley. Fire away. I can't wait to hear your suggestions...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

No More Drama

Folks, pour yourself a cup of coffee and sit a spell. This entry may very well win a world record for length. I have much to tell about the events of the day. So much, in fact, that I'm not convinced today has only been one day.

When we last met, I told you about my ultrasound, the sex of my child (with illustrations) and the little calcifications on his heart. Because these calcifications are a "soft marker" for Down Syndrome, they wanted to schedule me for a Level II ultrasound (or in layman's terms, an ultra-ultrasound). Fine by me. More chances to peek at the little fellow in my belly.

So I waited all morning on Wednesday for someone to call me from the doctor's office with info on when my appt. would be. I was guessing for sometime next week. Just when I started thinking that I might need to call THEM, I got a phone call. It was my doctor's office... more specifically, it was one of the doctors. She was calling to tell me that they got the results of my AFP test and the score indicated an increased risk of Down Syndrome.

I won't bore you with the details of the test and how it is read, but you should know that this test is almost as likely to give a false positive as a false negative. It is merely a tool to determine if more testing is needed... it is by no means conclusive on its own. So, she wanted to schedule me for... you guessed it... a Level II ultrasound. *sigh* And even though I know this about AFP tests, I still found that getting results that are off of normal in any way is the single best way to terrify a pregnant woman.

Anyway, the doctor passed my file on to an appointment specialist (apparently she had it all morning which is why no one had called me yet to make the appointment) and they called me back within minutes. "Go to this office (address) at 2pm tomorrow. "

Egads! Tomorrow? Thursday afternoon? Why the rush? And dammit... I'm off Thursday morning and all day Friday! Why did they have to pick the afternoon?! So I called the office where I was to go to see if I could reschedule. No go. The next opening they had was next Wednesday, and my doctor really wanted me seen this week. Okay, now I'm scared.

So one of the ladies at work (without me actually asking her) offered to switch schedules with me so that I could work the day shift, thereby not having to come back to work after my ultrasound. Have I mentioned how great the people I work with are?!

Okay... so now we get to today. I went to work and spent all my time working desks because we were short-staffed. Ever since Friday (the Day of Bleeding), that level of work activity has been completely wearing me out. All the standing, sitting, walking, bending, lifting, stretching... it was killing me... causing great discomfort and generally draining my energy. Not today, however. Today, I felt like I wasn't even pregnant. No pain... no heaviness in the belly, and I was even breathing better. I was so excited to be feeling good that I almost forgot about my appointment. But I didn't.

I met Chris for lunch and we headed to the office together. Over lunch, we discussed some of the things that could happen today, and I relayed a conversation I had just had with my friend Staci. Staci has been my inspiration through all these difficulties with the pregnancy even though she lives almost as far away from me as possible while still residing in the continental U.S. She is my inspiration because when she was pregnant with her daughter, she failed every pregnancy test you could possibly take. She was driving three hours to Seattle once a month at least for ultrasounds while they monitored her baby for every defect known to man. And today, she has a perfectly healthy, happy, 16-month-old girl. Take that, you "soft markers!"

Anyway, Staci was very reassuring and gave me some pre-Genetic Counseling coaching, which I shared with Chris. And indeed, I was very prepared for the coaching session as a very pregnant counselor talked us through the risks. Basically, with the AFP results alone, she felt my risk factor was .4%. That's a 4 in 1000 chance I will have a baby with Down Syndrome. The calcifications, if the doctor today confirmed they were there, might bump me to 1.4%. So 14 in 1000. And I'm thinking, "Why the hell am I even here?! I wouldn't bet on those odds anywhere!" So the question of having them stick a needle in my belly to withdrawn amniotic fluid just to see if the baby really had any problems just floated right off the radar. Especially when she said that the risk of a complication with amnio is 1 in 200. I'm not seeing why I need to take a 1 in 200 chance of harming me or my unborn child just to confirm a 14 in 1000 chance. My math skills aren't good, but I'm thinking that's just silly.

Anyway, she left Chris and me alone to talk about it, and we both agreed that the only reason an amnio would even be a topic for further discussion is if the ultrasound showed some problems that we hadn't seen before. And considering how good the tech is at my doctor's office (well, in the Raleigh office... not the Cary one with the dino-sound machine), we really didn't expect to see problems.

And we didn't. What we saw, however, was extraordinary. We actually saw our son sucking his thumb. Better than that, we even got to watch as he moved his hand around in an effort to get his thumb to his mouth first, and then saw him succeed and enjoy the fruits of his labor. Our son is brilliant... even in the womb. The tech got a great picture of it, but unfortunately it doesn't scan well. Otherwise, I would have shared it.

Basically, they measured and evaluated every inch of him, which took a long time considering he's only a few inches long at this point. There was a calcification there (they called it an echo-something), but we once again saw all ten fingers and all ten toes. We saw a normal brain and a normal nose. We saw a heart that was beating well and plenty fast. And of course, we saw that little sign that confirmed once again that we are having a boy. The doctor released me saying that he doesn't feel my risk is any greater than the .4% we started with. We agreed with him, based on our extensive medical knowledge. And we are overjoyed.

So as I am driving home (Chris went to pick up Athena), I think about how glad I am that the drama is past. I'm feeling good, I have a healthy fetus sucking his thumb inside me, and life is good. I couldn't wait to get home and blog about it.

But when I got home, I went straight to the kitchen, where we keep my 13-year-old dog penned up during the day. There were two places where she had vomited, and she had also peed in a another part of the room. This was alarming enough, but then I saw her.

I don't know if I can describe this... basically... she had her head tilted all the way to the right. Her eyes were darting from left to right. And when I opened the gate to let her out, she could barely stand... and then she went the wrong way and ran into a wall. Clearly, this was not good. When I left her this morning, she was perfectly healthy. Now she didn't even seem to know where she was.

I called the vet (fortunately it was only 4pm, so they were open) and they told me to bring her right in. I carried her to the car completely convinced I would be putting my dog to sleep tonight. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the vet, and Murphy's condition was unchanged. She threw up again in the car and was clearly very nauseated.

They saw her immediately, and to make a long story short (?!) they felt sure it was a brain lesion... either a tumor or an infection. The vet started throwing cost estimates at me and explaining the sort of care Murphy would require for the next several weeks. This included a $1200 MRI to discover what was growing inside her skull.

So I'm trying to figure out what I can sell to come up with $1200. Is a kidney worth that much?! They took Murphy away to have blood drawn, which is a requirement for the MRI. I went out to my car to clean up the vomit. I returned to the exam room only about one minute before Murphy. And you will not believe this...

The technician returned with a huge smile on her face. I looked at Murphy and her eyes were no longer flashing back and forth. Her tail was wagging. The tech said that as soon as she drew the blood, the head tilted back up and the eyes stopped flicking. Sure enough, she put Murphy down on the ground and Murph came right up to me with tail wagging and no trouble walking. She followed me as I walked around the room and basically was right back to her normal self. The vet was completely flabbergasted. All she could say was, "I'm calling Neurology [at NCSU vet school] at 8am tomorrow. I have no idea what just happened."

This reminded me of an incident about two months ago when Murphy seemed to have lost the use of the whole right side of her body. I called the vet then, but within the two hours between the time I called and the time the appointment was for, the problem went away. I guessed that maybe her foot had fallen asleep or something, but now we think these two incidents are related. She will call me tomorrow after she talks to NCSU.

Mom thinks it was a stroke. I tend to agree with her. Of course, we have as much medical training as your average 5-year-old, but I still think that must be it. We'll see what they say tomorrow.

So this day has been full of ups and downs. Yes, I'm still scared that we are close to the end for Murphy. And no, I don't feel there is even a .4% chance my son will have Down Syndrome. He seemed perfectly healthy and happy. So not everything is resolved, but at least the coaster seems to have pulled into the station. May tomorrow be uneventful and boring. Amen.